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#2043150 - 03/05/13 02:06 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: vers la flan]
Louis Podesta Offline
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Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 703
vers la flan:

Thank you for this beautiful recording. When I initially posted to this site, my purpose was, through examples of arpeggiation and asynchronization, to introduce those without prior exposure to commonplace performance practices of the 19th century.

That is why I have continually cited Neal Peres Da Costa's new book, entitled “Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing."

His chapters are entitled:
1) "Early Recordings: Their Value as Evidence"
2) "Playing One Hand after the Other: Dislocation"
3) "Unnotated Arpeggiaton"
4) "Metrical Rubato and Other Forms of Rhythmic Alteration"
5) "Tempo Modification"

Is this what Alfred Cortot did and what we can hear in his recordings? I definitely think so. Was he the only one doing so? I think not.

Remember, his teacher was Emile Descombes, whose teacher and associate was Frederic Chopin. In my world, that is what is called "taking it to the bank."

So, for those who might choose to actually read (not Google) Peres da Costa's book, I will now give you the link to its companion website at Oxford University Press. It contains over fifty recorded examples of this type of playing which are cross-referenced from practically every page of his highly detailed text.

Enjoy.


www.oup.com/us/offtherecord. Username Music3, password Book3234.

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#2043569 - 03/05/13 08:32 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 350
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I'm hoping someone can post a few really good YouTube recordings by Cortot to help convince me he was more than a great teacher.


The 1933 version of the Chopin Preludes is amazing, certainly one of my favorite performances of a big Chopin work. I don't know whether it's on YouTube. YouTube-surfing might not be the best way to appreciate Cortot. He made a great many recordings, some when his powers were waning, and he recorded several works multiple times.

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#2043705 - 03/06/13 01:36 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
RachelEDNC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/09
Posts: 79
I remember my undergrad teacher made a very good comparison when talking about recordings and pianists today. He said that people nowadays have such an unrealistic perception of beauty due to photoshopping of almost every magazine cover we see, and the same has happened with the recording industry. We (specifically pianists under the mid 30 age range) are so sensitive to mistakes, because most recordings we hear have them edited out.

I have also heard from another older pianist that while the rise of technical proficiency and greatness in pianists (pianists referring to students in schools as well as concert artists) has increased in the past 50 years, musicality has had a direct decline in proportion to this.

I am just saying both these statements because,
1) Cortot has an excellent sense of musicianship that in my opinion far outweighs any wrong notes.
2) I think the rise of the recording industry (and other things) has placed an emphasis on note perfect performance that was not there during Cortot's time.


Edited by RachelEDNC (03/06/13 01:39 AM)

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#2043932 - 03/06/13 01:17 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: RachelEDNC]
Louis Podesta Offline
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Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 703
An excellent post, very well thought out.

The reason people got on boats and trains and travelled from all over the world to study under this man was his ability to teach people how to make beautiful music.

It is not the recording industry that has killed musicality in classical pianism, it is the music schools.

With their total emphasis on Herculean feats of wonder at the piano, they have produced a cadre of contest winners, most of whom don't have a musical bone in their whole bodies. That is why within a few years after they graduate, you never hear from most of them again.

Alfred Cortot has been universally described as one of the greatest Chopin players of all time because he was!

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#2043942 - 03/06/13 01:38 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
Mark_C Offline
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Cool -- something we agree on. grin
I'm with you on Cortot and with much of the rest, although "most of whom don't have a musical bone in their whole bodies" is way strong, and way not true. Things don't have to be overstated to make a point.

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#2043950 - 03/06/13 01:47 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
BDB Offline
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There is a lot to be said for this. With the discussion of Van Cliburn, I found myself thinking about the negative aspects of his win at the Tchaikovsky, which is an over-emphasis on competitions and the way that it has polarized audiences. There is too much emphasis on what can be measured, like the number of "correct" notes, in disregard of Charles Ives' advise to avoid playing all the wrong right notes, and not enough emphasis on making the sense of the music clear to the listener. There has also been too much "winner take all" attitude among audiences, as if only contest winners are worth considering, to the exclusion of anything else. This has also been pushed by the recording industry. Overall, it has been bad for the entire classical music industry.

Other industries as well, as this page illustrates: Fotoshop by Adobé.
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#2043989 - 03/06/13 03:08 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: BDB]
Louis Podesta Offline
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Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 703
God bless you. If I had said something like that about Cliburn, they would have come out of the wood work at me.

You are exactly correct on your assessment of the anti-music aspects of contests.

My late piano teacher, this website being the exception to the rule, used to ask his new students to name two of the last four Cliburn competition winners. When they couldn't, he would say: what does that tell you about those who came in second and third?

With rare exception, most contest winners have to form their own record label in order to get anything recorded. Further, when you look at the soloists for the major symphony orchestras on the east coast, most of them are from Europe. They are not Americans, who have won some contest.

When the concert pianist Frederic Chiu, who responded most positively to my video, didn't make the final round of the Cliburn, half of the audience got up and walked out in protest. Yet, Fred had to move to France for ten years in order to earn a living.

Finally, I have been to recitals of competition winners, one of whom won the Cliburn, and they didn't have a musical bone in their whole bodies.

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#2044007 - 03/06/13 03:37 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
Hakki Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2467
Originally Posted By: Louis Podesta
Finally, I have been to recitals of competition winners, one of whom won the Cliburn, and they didn't have a musical bone in their whole bodies.


You know what ?
It is easy to talk like this about pianists who have achieved remarkable success. But this is only empty talking, right.
What have you done? Did you win any major competition ? What makes you think that you are authorized to make such a comment ? IMO, nothing. So actually it has no value.

Instead learn to respect the hard work that those young pianists are putting everyday in a very competitive field.
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#2044037 - 03/06/13 05:03 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
bennevis Online   content
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I've been to recitals by several Van Cliburn winners over the years, and they were all good, some even great.

Among the best of them are Radu Lupu, Cristina Ortiz, Olga Kern and Alexander Kobrin. And those are just the first prize winners - I've also heard several of the runner-ups who are also excellent.

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#2044059 - 03/06/13 06:06 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: Louis Podesta
....I have been to recitals of competition winners, one of whom won the Cliburn, and they didn't have a musical bone in their whole bodies.

Pardon my saying, but from what you've shown, you don't have the ear or the knowledge to make a meaningful judgment on that. You know what you think, and that's about it.

Still waiting for you to say anything about that note in the Schumann that you were sure wasn't there. Not holding my breath, though. grin
One might think such a thing would give you pause about what you think your eyes and ears tell you, and some restraint about these expertly judgments that you think you can make. Evidently not.

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#2044062 - 03/06/13 06:14 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted By: Louis Podesta
[...]
Finally, I have been to recitals of competition winners, one of whom won the Cliburn, and they didn't have a musical bone in their whole bodies.


While I have reservations about the ultimate value of competitions, with the public perception that the "winner takes all" and the rest are insignificant, I think that a comment such as the above has little real value. And while technique seems to be taking a front seat these days in the judgment of many, anyone who wins a competition of some stature cannot be said to be without "a musical bone in their whole bodies." Perhaps the comment says more about its author than about the musicianship of the performers in question.

Regards,
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#2044080 - 03/06/13 06:46 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
pianoloverus Online   content
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A very high percentage of the major pianists from the last 50 years have won a prize in a major competition. To claim that most have poor musicianship seems plain wrong.

In fact, I'd argue that because the general technical level of pianists today is so high, this means that in order to win a competition one must have qualities beyond terrific technique.


Edited by pianoloverus (03/06/13 06:49 PM)

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#2044083 - 03/06/13 06:52 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: BDB]
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 703
A "semipro tech" has a highly gifted and trained ear. I have a highly gifted ear.

What is at stake here is that we are challenging your entire collective pianistic existence. And do you know what?

I am a highly functioning autistic, and it is impossible for me to "care" what you think of that statement or me.

As I shared with the senior classical music critic for the entire United States today, I was present at a rehearsal when the conductor announced to the soloist, and the orchestra, that Van Cliburn had cancelled on him 15 years earlier "because he had a hangnail."

Do you have even the faintest idea what it means for the summer conductor of the New York City Opera to make a statement like that?

Piano competitions are the death poison to the peformance of classical piano music. And, the sooner you accept that reality, the better.

Then, we can all focus on the music, and bring that true joy to all those who long for this fine art.

And, for those who want to delve into the recent performances of Radu Lupu, Christina Ortiz, and Olga Kern, I beg you to go there. I beg you.

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#2044101 - 03/06/13 07:26 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5012
Originally Posted By: Louis Podesta

I have a highly gifted ear.

Click to reveal..
Really ??
Could have fooled me.




I am a highly functioning autistic, and it is impossible for me to "care" what you think of that statement or me.

Click to reveal..
That speaks volumes.




And, for those who want to delve into the recent performances of Radu Lupu, Christina Ortiz, and Olga Kern, I beg you to go there. I beg you.



No need to beg. At least do Ms Ortiz the honor of spelling her name correctly, whatever you think of her playing.

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#2044164 - 03/06/13 09:10 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Louis Podesta]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19715
Loc: New York
Louis: It was good and brave of you to share the personal condition -- very good and brave. It would be still better if you could more fully take into account the limitations that might result from it, and not be so absolutely sure of your own conclusions.

But be that as it may, I want to tell you that despite our disagreements, I have a great deal of sympathy for you, I very much admire your having shared the issue, and I greatly admire what you have been achieving in spite of it.

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#2044282 - 03/07/13 12:23 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6114
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
recordings by Cortot to help convince me he was more than a great teacher.


You aren't convinced he was a great pianist?

I was listening to my collection, which may not all be on youtube, and found some of the playing to be quite remarkable despite being riddled with finger slips, and probably more often, memory slips. One of the funniest ones is right before the fugue in the Liszt B minor sonata, he ends the two scales with the lowest A octave instead of the G. Did he just want that really low note and not think anyone would care or notice?
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#2044301 - 03/07/13 01:43 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Damon]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8850
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Damon

You aren't convinced he was a great pianist?

Are you? You said earlier you were 'not a fan', though admittedly that does not necessarily indicate that you didn't think Cortot a great pianist. I've certainly read a ton of stuff by people who certainly think so.

It was Cortot's recording of the Chopin Etudes which initially created a bad impression as a very 'impressionable' 17 year old. I simply couldn't understand what all the fuss was about; he could barely play the notes, let alone put them into any coherent musical statement.

Recently I had listened to Ashkenazy's first recording of the etudes, so perhaps the bar was set almost impossibly high. Browning and Pollini subsequently gave us super-human recordings, yet I have read that the latter was a patchwork of edits. (Don't know about the Browning.) Neither recording affected me so profoundly as Ashkenazy, and that is the only recording in my library along with Perahia.

I will keep an open mind re Cortot, though perhaps his most staunch admirers might recommend I start elsewhere.
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#2044425 - 03/07/13 09:34 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Damon]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Damon
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
recordings by Cortot to help convince me he was more than a great teacher.


You aren't convinced he was a great pianist?
Not really and the Waltz performance I gave in the opening post seemed so horrendous(not just technically)as to make me have serious doubts about Cortot. How could a professional allow such a performance to be issued? I do find some of the other Cortot performances I and others have posted considerably better than the Waltz but so far, for me, not outstanding enough to put Cortot on the stratospherically high level that many seem to place him.

I just read Dubal's description of Cortot's playing in his The Art of the Piano and it is so outstanding that I certainly will not give up in listening for the
Cortot that others hear.


Edited by pianoloverus (03/07/13 09:50 AM)

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#2044683 - 03/07/13 06:25 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: argerichfan]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6114
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: Damon

You aren't convinced he was a great pianist?

Are you? You said earlier you were 'not a fan', though admittedly that does not necessarily indicate that you didn't think Cortot a great pianist.


True. I think he compares favorably to others who are considered great pianists so if I were to take that title away, I would also remove it from Cziffra, Paderewski, Wild, Kentner, and a few others. Cortot does a lot of interesting things despite the multitude of errors. I'm not a fan because he trashed his Liszt pieces. smile

On a side note, I think I read somewhere that he made the first recording of the Liszt sonata.
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#2066018 - 04/17/13 01:30 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Online   content
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Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1730
Loc: Helsinki, finland
I realize this is an old thread, but as I was just reading a wonderful article on Cortot, I found out something I didn't know, and something most probably don't know. Cortot is as we know best known for his Chopin and Schumann recordings, many of them done in the 30's when he was around 50 years old. Guess what? During the limited time frame of 5 days, he recorded the following:

Four ballades
four impromptus
two sonatas
12 etudes op 10
fantasie
barcarolle
tarantelle
polonaise nr 6
24 preludes


FIVE days! 4-8th of july, 1933. During 4 days in 1934, he did some re-takes of the preludes and also recorded:

12 etudes op 25
14 waltzes

Now, when people complain about wrong notes here and there, perhaps it's worth remembering you're hearing a pianist in his 50's (who apart from performing was extremely busy teaching, administring a conservatory, writing books, editing scores, touring) who in a time span of just a few days recorded more repertoire than anyone of us would ever dream of playing. Can we perhaps be forgiving of poor old Cortot for not doing full justice to that Chopin waltz that was posted in the beginning of this thread? And can we also consider the possibility that the incredible spontaneity, freshness and boldness in many of his recordings perhaps is a result of him caring less about perfection - which would require endless re-takes - and more about musical flow?
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#2066034 - 04/17/13 01:56 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: argerichfan]
fnork Online   content
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Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1730
Loc: Helsinki, finland
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
It was Cortot's recording of the Chopin Etudes which initially created a bad impression as a very 'impressionable' 17 year old.

As I pointed out already...more like an impressive 50-year old or 61-year old, depending on which recording you're listening to. Not to mention that his days were busy with more than just practicing the piano.

Quote:
I simply couldn't understand what all the fuss was about; he could barely play the notes, let alone put them into any coherent musical statement.

Indeed, recording around 3-4 hours of Chopin's most demanding piano works during a period of 5 days leave some performances unsatisfactory when it comes to dexterity and perfection. Given the circumstances under which the etudes were recorded howeve, I'd argue the opposite to what you're saying - I have new-won respect for Cortot for his to my mind extremely coherent musical statements and for his overall stunning virtuosity, clarity and pedal wizardry. THIS guy could barely play the notes?






What are you talking about?


Edited by fnork (04/17/13 01:57 PM)
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#2066045 - 04/17/13 02:16 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Seems like Cortot made some choices that affected, at least for his detractors, the view of his playing for future generations. I don't think he had to record so much repertoire in such little time. He apparently had numerous other musical responsibilities and little time to practice but again that seems like his choice.

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#2066053 - 04/17/13 02:44 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1730
Loc: Helsinki, finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Seems like Cortot made some choices that affected, at least for his detractors, the view of his playing for future generations. I don't think he had to record so much repertoire in such little time.

I don't think he cared much about future detractors of his, whether on silly internet forums or elsewhere. Besides, you seem unwilling to take into account that times have changed since those glorious Cortot recordings of the 1930's were made. Only with today's perspective and today's way of recording CD's - with re-take after re-take until "perfection" is reached - does Cortot's attitude to the recording process seem odd. But from the perspective of Cortot - a man born in 1879 - it would have been equally strange to have a recording engineer shouting "let's do bar 19 to 23.5 to fix those missed notes". Krystian Zimerman has some wise things to say on the matter of recording music and on Cortot's recordings here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=j6PpDQ6miBg#t=496s


Edited by fnork (04/17/13 02:44 PM)
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#2066172 - 04/17/13 06:39 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Seems like Cortot made some choices that affected, at least for his detractors, the view of his playing for future generations. I don't think he had to record so much repertoire in such little time.

I don't think he cared much about future detractors of his, whether on silly internet forums or elsewhere. Besides, you seem unwilling to take into account that times have changed since those glorious Cortot recordings of the 1930's were made. Only with today's perspective and today's way of recording CD's - with re-take after re-take until "perfection" is reached - does Cortot's attitude to the recording process seem odd. But from the perspective of Cortot - a man born in 1879 - it would have been equally strange to have a recording engineer shouting "let's do bar 19 to 23.5 to fix those missed notes". Krystian Zimerman has some wise things to say on the matter of recording music and on Cortot's recordings here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=j6PpDQ6miBg#t=496s
I'm sure Cortot didn't care about future detractors in terms of the accuracy of his playing because otherwise he would either have prepared fewer works for recording or did more takes. But I don't see how his not caring is relevant.

I am certainly aware of the different attitude about accuracy for pianists of that era, but most who recorded then seemed to have been quite a bit more accurate than Cortot. I don't recall any other pianist of that era who recordings are often criticized for inaccuracy.

None of this means I don't think Cortot may have be been a great pianist although I did start this thread after hearing the Chopin Waltz performance that I found quite disastrous in terms of interpretation in addition to accuracy. So many knowledgeable people think Cortot was very great that I'm willing to keep an open mind on the matter, and certainly some of the other Cortot performances posted on this thread I find either good or extremely good.

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#2066316 - 04/18/13 01:03 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
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Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: fnork

What are you talking about?

This:


Maybe that's what initially turned me off, and I admittedly didn't go much further, though the Op 25/1 I enjoyed, and thanks for posting that.
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#2066317 - 04/18/13 01:10 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: argerichfan]
beet31425 Offline
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Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: fnork

What are you talking about?

This:


Maybe that's what initially turned me off, and I admittedly didn't go much further, though the Op 25/1 I enjoyed, and thanks for posting that.


That sounded *really* good to me!


-J
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#2066327 - 04/18/13 01:41 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
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Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
I will give the Cortot issue a miss, admit defeat, and move on, especially as the Op25/1 was very fine indeed.
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#2066397 - 04/18/13 07:24 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I'm sure Cortot didn't care about future detractors in terms of the accuracy of his playing because otherwise he would either have prepared fewer works for recording or did more takes. But I don't see how his not caring is relevant.


I am certainly aware of the different attitude about accuracy for pianists of that era, but most who recorded then seemed to have been quite a bit more accurate than Cortot. I don't recall any other pianist of that era who recordings are often criticized for inaccuracy.

Now that you're comparing Cortot to other pianists of the time, I'd be interested to know what other pianists recordings of the complete Chopin etudes done by the 1930's you might be referring to. There are hardly any, first of all. If you are talking about pianists that recorded one or two of the etudes then you're really comparing apples and oranges. Perhaps you had Koczalski's recordings in mind? As a pupil of Mikuli, it's surely interesting to hear how he played Chopin, but it's hardly 100% accurate playing if that's what you're asking for:




Quote:
None of this means I don't think Cortot may have be been a great pianist although I did start this thread after hearing the Chopin Waltz performance that I found quite disastrous in terms of interpretation in addition to accuracy. So many knowledgeable people think Cortot was very great that I'm willing to keep an open mind on the matter, and certainly some of the other Cortot performances posted on this thread I find either good or extremely good.

It's also worth adding that most recordings by Cortot was when he was already practicing significantly less and was past his prime due to other duties in his daily life. Anyone doubting Cortot's virtuosity better listen to his early 1919 recordings of Saint-Saens Etude en forme de valse and Liszt's La leggierezza:



Horowitz went to Paris asking Cortot for his fingerings in this piece! He didn't tell. Allegedly, Horowitz also wanted a trilling lesson from Cortot, don't recall if he got at least that or not.

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#2066435 - 04/18/13 08:31 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
fnork Online   content
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Loc: Helsinki, finland
Reading through previous posts here I realized that the S-S piece had been posted already - anyway, it's interesting to compare both that and the Liszt with later recordings of the same piece. A later recording of the Liszt includes a coda invented by Cortot himself! The S-S is a tad slower and perhaps less impressive as a whole, but the sound is more clear and it gives an idea of his evolution as a pianist.

It's a pity he recorded fairly little Liszt. However, the few recordings we have speak millions on his sense for colour, flawless passagework and musical poetry:





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#2066458 - 04/18/13 09:46 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19715
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: fnork
....Koczalski....As a pupil of Mikuli, it's surely interesting to hear how he played Chopin....

Thanks for mentioning him and posting the recordings. Didn't know of him before at all, and indeed his playing is interesting and excellent. But.... grin no fault of Koczalski's, his Wiki article happens to have the very most nonfactual assertion I've ever seen in a Wiki article, which is saying quite a bit:

"His Chopin recordings reveal him as the most compelling, authentic Chopin interpreter of all time...."

I don't mean anything against him. I'd laugh just the same if this were said about anyone else too -- except perhaps Frederic himself. smile

I gotta guess that the reason such a statement stands is that hardly anyone knows of him or comes across his name, and so few people ever go to that page.

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