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#2029161 - 02/08/13 05:26 AM Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell?
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
I think this Stephen Hough blog "Gay pianists, can you tell?" may be of interest..

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100006381/gay-pianists-can-you-tell/


Thanks for that entertaining link!
From the comments:
Quote:

Fascinating. Since you're willing to explore beyond the scope of usual music issues, perhaps you could enlighten me on something puzzling me for some time, namely the lack of comment on or recognition by critics of the fact (as I see it) that some pianists have soul and others do not.

Example: Within a relatively short period last year, I heard Yevgeny Kissin and then Andras Schiff play at Carnegie Hall. Both got the not unusual multiple standing ovations, and both got good reviews in the Times. To me, though, the Kissin was the most elegant and expressive music I'd ever heard, while the Schiff was prosaic plodding; I didn't even stay for his encores.

I've discussed this with two pianist friends and they agree with me - I'm not crazy. But why do the critics not distinguish between the two types of performance? Don't they see the difference? Is it possible that they do but are bound by some unwritten law that you can't knock a famous artist for something the public can't sense? Has anyone else out there experienced the same frustrating difference, so you can't tell from a review if the pianist is someone you should go hear or someone who will just waste your evening?


In the Jazz world people have no qualms about saying which artist " swings " and which one doesn't. Among master pianists, there are some I would say have " soul " while others do not, but I don't talk about them with others in this way. I wonder why not.

Thoughts?

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#2029162 - 02/08/13 05:31 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5282
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
First question, do we judge with eyes opened or closed?
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#2029164 - 02/08/13 05:35 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: Dave Horne]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
First question, do we judge with eyes opened or closed?


The pianist behind curtain #2 or what's in the box.

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#2029166 - 02/08/13 06:00 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
trigalg693 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 687
Originally Posted By: theJourney

In the Jazz world people have no qualms about saying which artist " swings " and which one doesn't. Among master pianists, there are some I would say have " soul " while others do not, but I don't talk about them with others in this way. I wonder why not.

Thoughts?


Herd mentality?
In my experience, many good teachers I've talked to will openly dismiss the "masters". I think it's just jarheaded critics and people who go to concerts to feel sophisticated who blindly praise everyone.

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#2029167 - 02/08/13 06:03 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
First define soul please.

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#2029178 - 02/08/13 07:08 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
"Soul" is not typically used in descriptions of classical playing so you need to tell us what you mean by this. I don't think the article you posted defines "soul". It just lists a few adjectives(e.g.boring, prosaic, elegant) which are also extremely vague.

The article also seemed somewhat silly because the author assumes that since he and two of his pianist friends viewed the concerts in a certain way this must be the correct opinion.

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#2029191 - 02/08/13 07:49 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: theJourney
Among master pianists, there are some I would say have " soul " while others do not, but I don't talk about them with others in this way. I wonder why not.

Thoughts?


I think it's hard to talk about, because you are not only dealing with the performer, but with your own perceptions, and your own perceptions aren't some kind of absolute law (at least they shouldn't be, I don't think).

I have had the experience of moving from thinking that certain pianists had little soul in their playing to thinking they have a lot. The change was in my perception of what they were doing, and how to listen to them. The same sort of thing has happened with composers. For me, that shift in my perception has totally undermined judgement of who has soul and who doesn't.

But...

I still hear some pianists as being relatively shallow in their interpretations (not much soul, in other words), and I think I'm hearing what they are doing fairly accurately. But if you want me to describe how I figure that I can tell that sort from the ones where I was the one who just didn't listen on their wavelength, I'm not sure I can.

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#2029198 - 02/08/13 08:06 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
jdw Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 1038
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Like wr, I suspect this difference is often in the ear of the listener rather than the soul of the performer.

I love both Kissin and Schiff, though they're so different.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2029204 - 02/08/13 08:35 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: jdw]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: jdw
I love both Kissin and Schiff, though they're so different.


That was my first reaction about these two pianists.

However, I would tend to say that, for my ears, Maria Joao Pires has soul while Helene Grimaud does not, for example.

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#2029220 - 02/08/13 09:14 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5561
One man's meat is another man's poison, as they say.

I don't believe in souls, but certainly some pianists sound soulless to my ears, even though others rave about them.

I also realize that some critics who don't want to be (or are fearful of being) unkind use the adjective 'musical' to apply to some pianists as a euphemism for 'soulless' or 'boring'.......
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2029229 - 02/08/13 10:07 AM Re: Soul: What pianists have it and how do you (dare to) tell? [Re: theJourney]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Something I learned as a beginning piano player is that regardless of the piece you can play and phrase the piece countless ways, how you feel at the moment. This is particularly so when you play the piece countless times day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

It is also true of scales, played slowly, etc.

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