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#2042036 - 03/02/13 09:13 PM Cortot's pianism
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
I've only heard a few of his performances, but when I heard this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qAYv5c6-Lc&list=PLF14E3CDFCF742651

I was severely disappointed. The really strange rhythmic distortions, outrageous mistakes in not such a difficult piece, and totally bizarre(to my thinking) ideas. Even if all the horrendous mistakes weren't there I'd find it very bizarre. For example, the first page introduction is played so fast it makes no sense musically either by itself or in relation to the rest of the piece. The few other recordings I had heard from him didn't leave such a negative impression, so I'm curious if others find this as disappointing as I did. So many seem to revere him as one of the greatest pianists, but this recording has left a truly negative impression for me.

What do you think?

These Cortot recordings seem at least much more reasonable if IMO nothing to write home about:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2fRWWW_6MM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yae0Pq_HqsE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOJIOIpnLQE


Edited by pianoloverus (03/03/13 09:19 AM)

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#2042080 - 03/02/13 11:48 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Interesting find.
I agree to a great extent.

The flaws are outrageous, especially I think in the first portion, like the first minute or so. But I love a lot of the things throughout the piece that you probably find bad and even bizarre. And do you not like the section starting at 1:02? (And continuing for a fair while?) I think it's truly great, and BTW the section is fairly free of goofs.

But even for someone like me who loves those things he does, the bad aspects are striking -- not just that there are wrong notes, but that quite a few of them seem not even close, that even when he gets the right notes, the attack and tone seem often to be drastically crude (can't tell for sure because of the primitive recording quality), and his seeming not to give much of a darn about how it is sounding because of how imperturbable he seems about it all. In fact, I recall having heard (or read) that Cortot didn't always care about details of his recordings, most famously wrong notes, but this seems of a different order than what we'd ever expect. If I didn't know who the player was, I would think it was a top-level performer, but that he was under some impairment like substances or senility. I don't mean that I suspect either in this instance -- I don't -- but that's the impression it would give me.

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#2042091 - 03/03/13 12:25 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fledgehog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/11
Posts: 273
Loc: West Hartford, CT
I think the first recording is from late in his life -- in the 1940s and most certainly in the 1950s his playing was sloppy at best. But his younger recordings are brilliant and some of the most musical I've ever heard. Of course most of them still have plenty of flubbed notes, but nowhere near as many as the later recordings.

EDIT: for a remarkably Cortot-esque sense of rubato, romanticism, sensitivity and music, but a much cleaner sound and more precise technique, listen to some of Samson Francois' recordings.


Edited by fledgehog (03/03/13 12:27 AM)

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#2042113 - 03/03/13 01:53 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
FSO Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 854
Loc: UK, Brighton
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
In fact, I recall have heard (or read) that Cortot didn't always care about details of his recordings, most famously wrong notes, but this seems of a different order than what we'd ever expect.

Indeed; bear in mind that the technical aspect behind performance has come to mean greatly more than it used to; of course wrong notes are wrong but, um, if the flow was correct (and fresh) then it's entirely a success, regardless of the anatomy...I mean, there's still room for romanticism in piano but for how much longer I couldn't dare say.
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#2042138 - 03/03/13 03:14 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
JoelW Online   content
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Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4931
Loc: USA
I've heard many Cortot recordings, especially Chopin third scherzo. It was horrendous. I don't get it, can someone explain to me why he is praised?

EDIT:

Also.. he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?

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#2042143 - 03/03/13 03:28 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: JoelW
....he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?

Harold Schonberg talks a lot about this in "The Great Pianists," which BTW you really should read! (You'll love it.) Cortot did a lot besides play -- conducting, writing, editing scores....and very extensive teaching, which he was much more interested in than most top-level pianists. Schonberg has a great line about it, something like, "So how did he have time to keep his fingers in shape? The answer is simple: he didn't." I'd guess it was more than just not having the time; he just wasn't as interested to put in the time for practicing as he was for that other stuff -- and if you look at something like how many prodigies just gave up piano completely at a certain point because they couldn't get interested any more in finger wiggling, it's not completely surprising that someone would have felt that way. You might say, then he shouldn't have performed at all. I can only guess that he liked playing and performing, as long as he could do it on his own terms and as long as audiences were interested -- and indeed they were. He didn't need everybody to like what he did, he just needed some -- and there were lots.

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#2042165 - 03/03/13 05:23 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I've only heard a few of his performances, but when I heard this one


So you are older than I would have thought!

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#2042167 - 03/03/13 05:31 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
bennevis Online   content
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5553
Cortot was famously erratic - but his virtuosity was up there with the best when he'd practised properly. Many great pianists cite Cortot as their favourite pianist, with good reason, even though they don't - and wouldn't - play with his rhythmic freedom and flexibility.

How many of today's pianists can play this piece at this speed with this degree of power and brilliance and flair - and accuracy?
http://youtu.be/sKQ5tWWC_-c

BTW, this transfer is very muddy, but my CD of this performance is much clearer and does show that he isn't fudging anything.
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#2042170 - 03/03/13 05:43 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: JoelW]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: JoelW
I've heard many Cortot recordings, especially Chopin third scherzo. It was horrendous. I don't get it, can someone explain to me why he is praised?

EDIT:

Also.. he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?


Originally Posted By: JoelW
I've heard many Cortot recordings, especially Chopin third scherzo. It was horrendous. I don't get it, can someone explain to me why he is praised?

EDIT:

Also.. he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?


Think of Las Vegas. At Las Vegas, you have the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramide, the Taj Mahal, and so much more. All in one city, all built in the space of a couple of decades. Really! What a waste, prior history! Centuries and centuries of pharoahs and maharajas and Eiffel's pavaning before the ignorant people who bowed their heads, never seeing the emperor's new clothes ... when in America we can do it better, faster, stronger.

Why didn't humanity just wait ?

Really, I think that Joel's post shows so much insight that it has to be re-read, and re-re-read ...

Originally Posted By: JoelW
I've heard many Cortot recordings, especially Chopin third scherzo. It was horrendous. I don't get it, can someone explain to me why he is praised?

EDIT:

Also.. he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?

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#2042192 - 03/03/13 07:03 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: FSO]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: FSO
...I mean, there's still room for romanticism in piano but for how much longer I couldn't dare say.


That reminds me - I was reading a critic/blogger on Cliburn (someone who reviews for a major newspaper in the US (accepting, for the moment, the questionable premise that such a thing still exists)). This person made it sound as if Cliburn was way, way out there on the extreme edge of interpretive freedom. And there seemed to be a certain "eeiuwww" reaction to that sort of thing in the tone of the writing. Just imagine, playing Romantic music in a genuinely Romantic interpretation - how utterly disgusting.

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#2042205 - 03/03/13 07:47 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Exalted Wombat Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1208
Loc: London UK
Yes, one man's "expression" is another man's "stop MESSING with the music, ffs!" :-)

Dial up some recorded performances of technically undemanding pieces. Beethovens's "Moonlight" sonata movement is a good example. You'll hear an amazing variety of approaches. Some just can't seem to cope with its simplicity and overload it with portentious pauses and hesitations, completely killing the melodic flow. In my opinion. Perhaps you like that sort of thing? That's fine.

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#2042261 - 03/03/13 11:04 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Gerard12 Offline
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Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 769
Loc: South Carolina
For years, I had based my opinion of Cortot on the lp of Chopin waltzes that was in my local library. As a high school student in a moderate-sized town during the mid-70's, I had no access to his earlier (better) reordings.

My initial impression - or uninformed opinion - was that perhaps he had a little too much wine to drink before the recording sessions. Nowadays, I feel more benign towards his Chopin waltzes: Despite some feeble passagework, there's a sense of spontaniety and recklessness that I now do enjoy - an approach that I couldn't fully comprehend as a "serious" piano student.

Or maybe now, I'm the one who has too much wine to drink while listening wink

I forget who said this, about his earlier recordings: "..he was looking for the 'opium' in the music" - a wonderful description.


Edited by Gerard12 (03/03/13 11:05 AM)
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#2042262 - 03/03/13 11:06 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Exalted Wombat]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat
....Perhaps you like that sort of thing? That's fine.

For me, depends on where.
There?? Probably not.
This waltz?
Absolutely -- if done well. And here, it's done both well and poorly at the same time. grin

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#2042340 - 03/03/13 01:23 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Gerard12]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Gerard12
I forget who said this, about his earlier recordings: "..he was looking for the 'opium' in the music" - a wonderful description.
Daniel Barenboim(Bareness according to spell check) said it although I don't really understand what he meant. In this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2fRWWW_6MM


Edited by pianoloverus (03/03/13 01:25 PM)

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#2042419 - 03/03/13 04:35 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Apparently he used his right hand to help him play the Ravel left hand concerto. It still remains the most inaccurate recordings haha

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#2042508 - 03/03/13 07:15 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Cortot was past it and broke when he did his recordings. Not to mention being terminally afficted with an extreme case of red light fever. (I had this from a student of one of his students.) Apparently his recordings in no way represent what he could do live in his prime.

(Having been told, "you sound so much better in person" myself, I'm willing to believe this.)
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Slow down and do it right.

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#2042540 - 03/03/13 08:26 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: -Frycek]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Cortot was past it and broke....

Really??
Not denying it, because I don't know, but I would have thought that couldn't be, because of all his various activities including especially teaching, which would be expected to bring a lot of income to someone of his stature.

Quote:
....Not to mention being terminally afficted with an extreme case of red light fever....

I think you need to explain the phrase....

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#2042548 - 03/03/13 08:40 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Online   sick
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8936
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
With due apologies, I have never understood Cortot's claim to fame. I have read all this stuff about his mistakes being those of a 'god', what the heck? They are just sloppy mistakes.

Of course he was a renown teacher and editor, but if he was a great pianist, then it must have been before his recordings. I could not get through his recording of the Chopin Etudes, and without Cortot's name attached to them, it seems highly unlikely they would be at all known today.

But he certainly had a gift for self-promotion.

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#2042556 - 03/03/13 08:54 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Come on Mark, you know what red light fever means - or maybe in the rarified heights you inhabit you don't. It's the absolute paralysis that affects beginners (such as inhabit ABF, marginal players (like me) and apparently some professionals new to recording (like Corot) when they have to record. It's in reference to that little red light that means the Zoom machine is on and recording your every breath, your every hesitation, your every mistake, and your hungry kid or cat crying, for posterity. It turns some of us to stone. It turns my hands into crab claws skittering across the keys which is why I've given up trying to record anything.

Re broke - after WWII Cortot got in a lot of trouble with "his public" and lost market share because he supposedly collaborated with the Nazis - in other words he played for them like a sensible person who wanted to survive in one piece - instead of heroically defying them and being killed or imprisoned. We're all heroes in hindsight if we aren't there.
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Slow down and do it right.

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#2042559 - 03/03/13 09:01 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: -Frycek]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Come on Mark, you know what red light fever means - or maybe in the rarified heights you inhabit you don't.

I wouldn't have asked if I did!
My heights aren't that rarefied grin but I never heard of it.

Quote:
It's the absolute paralysis that affects beginners (such as inhabit ABF, marginal players (like me) and apparently some professionals new to recording (like Corot) when they have to record. It's in reference to that little red light that means the Zoom machine is on....

I'd be surprised if Cortot had anything like that, but I don't know....

Quote:
Re broke - after WWII Cortot got in a lot of trouble with "his public" because....

Yes, I know about that. (And well said.)
But I would have thought he could still have taught as much as he wanted, and been paid very considerably for it.

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#2042563 - 03/03/13 09:08 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
But I would have thought he could still have taught as much as he wanted, and been paid very considerably for it.


Dunno. Maybe there was so much collective guilt (with reason) about collaboration in France that people were hesitant to take lessons from the scapegoat. The student who originally passed the information I passed on was an Englishman.

(Don't mind me. I'm drunk anyway.)
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#2042567 - 03/03/13 09:13 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6248
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


What do you think?


I think this is pretty good. But I'm not a fan.

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#2042585 - 03/03/13 09:54 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: -Frycek]
argerichfan Online   sick
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8936
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: -Frycek

Re broke - after WWII Cortot got in a lot of trouble with "his public" and lost market share because he supposedly collaborated with the Nazis - in other words he played for them like a sensible person who wanted to survive in one piece - instead of heroically defying them and being killed or imprisoned. We're all heroes in hindsight if we aren't there.

Hindsight indeed. Gieseking was also adept at covering his arse.

Wonder what I would have done given the circumstances.
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#2042596 - 03/03/13 10:19 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: -Frycek]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: -Frycek


Re broke - after WWII Cortot got in a lot of trouble with "his public" and lost market share because he supposedly collaborated with the Nazis - in other words he played for them like a sensible person who wanted to survive in one piece - instead of heroically defying them and being killed or imprisoned. We're all heroes in hindsight if we aren't there.


There's nothing "supposed" about his collaboration. He not only played for them, he took an active administrative role in the Vichy regime. But after the war, he claimed to been apolitical in those activities, that he was only interested in keeping the musical life of the country going. Apparently many people in France immediately after the war weren't buying that story, and he ended up having to move to Switzerland because he was not welcome to remain in France. But that animosity faded after a few years.

What was he really thinking during all that? Who knows, but it seems, just from what is known, that it may be overly generous to think that he submitted to the role he played just to stay alive or to avoid imprisonment. AFAIK, he himself never made such a claim after the war, when he could safely do so.

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#2042759 - 03/04/13 09:17 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: argerichfan]
Ginosmasher22 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 2
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
With due apologies, I have never understood Cortot's claim to fame. I have read all this stuff about his mistakes being those of a 'god', what the heck? They are just sloppy mistakes.


Originally Posted By: JoelW
I've heard many Cortot recordings, especially Chopin third scherzo. It was horrendous. I don't get it, can someone explain to me why he is praised?

EDIT:

Also.. he obviously had technique, so how the heck was he so inaccurate a lot of the time?


*Sigh*
(Gotta love PianoWorld )

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#2042775 - 03/04/13 10:10 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Ginosmasher22]
argerichfan Online   sick
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8936
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Ginosmasher22

*Sigh*
(Gotta love PianoWorld )

This would be a pretty dull place if we all agreed.
_________________________
Jason

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#2042911 - 03/04/13 03:20 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
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. So far, there were two posted recordings showing good if not IMO outstanding technique(Chopin Prelude No. 16 and Saint Saens Etude in the Form of a Valse).

Edit: Here's one I like...Chopin Ballade in G minor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9GBjQyvtAM

Other good ones?


Edited by pianoloverus (03/04/13 03:26 PM)

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#2042923 - 03/04/13 03:44 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Ian_G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/10
Posts: 168
Loc: Germany
His 4th Ballade is my all-time favorite recording of that piece - what incredible singing!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA9NYhAbUYg

Here's a wonderful recording of the 11th Rhapsody, also a favorite, which betrays a very solid technique (one has to excuse his little additions)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oea28Mx_KoI

I also dearly love his Liszt Sonata, but that's a different matter.

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#2043093 - 03/04/13 10:54 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
vers la flan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/11
Posts: 155
Hi all, how are you?

I'm not sure if there's any convincing to be done, or if there even should be. Cortot has always been a divisive figure and both sides have a case. I generally find his approach fresh and interesting, and while I'm not crazy about his clunkers, to a large extent they don't really bother me so much. I guess it depends on what your priorities are. I tend to be much more forgiving for someone who emphasizes exploration and spontaneity over technique than for the converse. I like to be surprised. And I'm not of the camp that holds absolute fidelity to the score to be of the utmost importance.

Anyway, here are a couple of renditions I like. The first is an early recording of Chopin's Berceuse, the second is of Chopin's Prelude Op. 45. Apologies in advance for the recording quality of the first.





Enjoy! Or don't. It's all good.

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#2043133 - 03/05/13 01:05 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2393
Loc: San Jose, CA
I love his Debussy and Chopin, though I also heard a Ravel D major Concerto which was pretty messy. He sometimes played music that didn't play to his strengths, and good for him. We should all strive to be as good as he was at music we struggle with.

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#2043150 - 03/05/13 02:06 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: vers la flan]
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 780
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: 353
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: 81
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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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]
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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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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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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]
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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]
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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.

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#2044080 - 03/06/13 06:46 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
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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
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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
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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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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]
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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]
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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
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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 Offline
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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 Offline
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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]
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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 Offline
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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 Online   sick
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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 Online   content
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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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Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2066327 - 04/18/13 01:41 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Online   sick
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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 Offline
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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 Offline
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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]
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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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#2066468 - 04/18/13 10:22 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
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Originally Posted By: fnork
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...
I wasn't specifically talking about or thinking of just Cortot's Chopin Etudes when I mentioned Cortot's accuracy compared to other pianists. I was talking about his recordings in general. For example, the Chopin Waltz that I started the thread with. If one wants to find a more accurate recording of the complete Etudes from a similar time period I guess the Backhaus recording would be the famous one.

In terms general accuracy in playing I was thinking of other pianistic giants like Hoffman, Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Moiseiwitsch, Lhevinne, etc. where the discussion of how accurate they were rarely comes up although they recorded around the same time. In fact, many of these are still considered in a technical super class compared to all the great virtuosos that followed them. So there pianists from the same time who, forever what reason, recorded with greater accuracy.


Originally Posted By: fnork
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:
I never said Cortot had bad technique. I've read plenty of comments attesting to the fact that he had great technique when he wanted to or when he had enough time to practice. All his exercises for solving technical problems given in his editions indicate he also had a great understanding of how to solve and work on technical problems. But the above doesn't change the fact that he was willing to let recordings that were technically lacking be released.

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#2066475 - 04/18/13 10:46 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
fnork Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
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.

First of all, do check out more Koczalski! He recorded the complete etudes, several mazurkas, ballades, nocturnes, scherzi etc etc and you'd be surprised to see MANY experts commenting on that his playing is indeed a valuable resource into Chopin's style of playing. Check Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger's book "Chopin: Pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils". Mikuli realized Koczalski's potential very early on, they had periods of daily lessons lasting 2 hours, he inherited very early on Chopin's ideals and aesthetics as passed on by Mikuli. That not many people have come across his playing is a great pity but that shouldn't be an argument against hearing him. Check out more stuff on youtube, and here are some nice liner notes:

http://www.marstonrecords.com/koczalski/koczalski_liner.htm

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#2066492 - 04/18/13 11:13 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Offline
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Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I wasn't specifically talking about or thinking of just Cortot's Chopin Etudes when I mentioned Cortot's accuracy compared to other pianists. I was talking about his recordings in general. For example, the Chopin Waltz that I started the thread with. If one wants to find a more accurate recording of the complete Etudes from a similar time period I guess the Backhaus recording would be the famous one.

I know you weren't specifically referring to Chopin etudes, but since they were mentioned, I wanted to point out that there's hardly any recorded complete set during that time to compare with - you could only come up with one off the top of your head.


Quote:
In terms general accuracy in playing I was thinking of other pianistic giants like Hoffman, Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Moiseiwitsch, Lhevinne, etc. where the discussion of how accurate they were rarely comes up although they recorded around the same time. In fact, many of these are still considered in a technical super class compared to all the great virtuosos that followed them. So there pianists from the same time who, forever what reason, recorded with greater accuracy.

Horowitz had a concerto repertoire that wouldn't impress any concert manager today - after the 1920-30's he had a total of 5 concerti or so that he repeated over and over again. As I pointed out already, Horowitz was astounded by Cortot's virtuosity and hoped for advice from him. Then, Rachmaninoff had a very small portion of solo repertoire that he'd perform again and again in recitals, keeping it up to perfection. As valuable as Sergei's recordings are, it's clear that he and Cortot had rather ideals regarding quantity versus quality in terms of perfection - I for one am happy we have both of their recordings available for all of the differences they have. And now that you mentioned a teacher and his student - Lhevinne and Moisewitsch -, Lhevinne's recorded output is again very small to make any kind of meaningful comparison. Moisewitsch on the other hand, I'm surprised he's mentioned in this context - he's hardly known for note-perfect playing, and there's a fair amount of recordings that show that clearly.

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#2066499 - 04/18/13 11:25 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Numerian Offline
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Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 1075
You don't like sloppiness in recordings? You can't stand wrong notes? You hate over-indulgent tempi? Then don't listen to this recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2f_CJ4gOMY&playnext=1&list=PLA45BEF694149A4E7

That was Francis Plante performing several Chopin etudes just before his death in 1934 at age 95. Now you might say an old man like that, about half a century past his prime, had no business recording at all. But the recording industry was relatively new, and someone at Edison or Columbia might well have thought to themselves - "let's get the old man on record before he dies." Thank God they did, because Francis Plante, besides being an eminent Chopin performer in the 19th century, is the only recording artist who actually heard Frederic Chopin in recital before his death in 1849.

Let's give poor old Alfred Cortot a break. He is out of place and out of time, recording as he did when errors weren't edited out (though you could do complete retakes), and afflicted as he was with all those dreadful 19th century performance mannerisms that Louis Podesta talks about. Except....it's precisely those mannerisms that give his performances such distinction, especially in comparison to the hundreds of recordings of today which sound pretty much all alike. Something about Cortot excited audiences in his day, and we can all benefit from setting aside our 21st century expectations and pretend, for just a minute, that we ourselves are back in the 1930s, when artistic excellence was defined quite differently from today.

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#2066520 - 04/18/13 11:56 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I wasn't specifically talking about or thinking of just Cortot's Chopin Etudes when I mentioned Cortot's accuracy compared to other pianists. I was talking about his recordings in general. For example, the Chopin Waltz that I started the thread with. If one wants to find a more accurate recording of the complete Etudes from a similar time period I guess the Backhaus recording would be the famous one.

I know you weren't specifically referring to Chopin etudes, but since they were mentioned, I wanted to point out that there's hardly any recorded complete set during that time to compare with - you could only come up with one off the top of your head.


Quote:
In terms general accuracy in playing I was thinking of other pianistic giants like Hoffman, Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Moiseiwitsch, Lhevinne, etc. where the discussion of how accurate they were rarely comes up although they recorded around the same time. In fact, many of these are still considered in a technical super class compared to all the great virtuosos that followed them. So there pianists from the same time who, forever what reason, recorded with greater accuracy.

Horowitz had a concerto repertoire that wouldn't impress any concert manager today - after the 1920-30's he had a total of 5 concerti or so that he repeated over and over again. As I pointed out already, Horowitz was astounded by Cortot's virtuosity and hoped for advice from him. Then, Rachmaninoff had a very small portion of solo repertoire that he'd perform again and again in recitals, keeping it up to perfection. As valuable as Sergei's recordings are, it's clear that he and Cortot had rather ideals regarding quantity versus quality in terms of perfection - I for one am happy we have both of their recordings available for all of the differences they have. And now that you mentioned a teacher and his student - Lhevinne and Moisewitsch -, Lhevinne's recorded output is again very small to make any kind of meaningful comparison. Moisewitsch on the other hand, I'm surprised he's mentioned in this context - he's hardly known for note-perfect playing, and there's a fair amount of recordings that show that clearly.
You are again giving reasons or making excuses for Cortot's lack of accuracy. They may be reasonable justifications, but this has little to do with what I've been talking about.

Horowitz had a small concerto repertoire but a reasonably large solo repertoire. Although Horowitz was capable of inaccurate playing it certainly wasn't on the level of Cortot. You keep saying Cortot had great technique but I never said otherwise. I only said that for whatever reasons his recording sometimes/often are lacking in accuracy. In fact, he is one of the few major pianists where accuracy is often part of the discussion.

My comments were about Cortot's accuracy on recordings vs. all the other pianists I mentioned, and Cortot falls far short of them for whatever reason(lack of practice, other musical commitments, choice to do a small number of takes, recording a large amount of repertoire in a very short period, less concern about wrong notes, etc.) None of these reasons change the fact that his recordings were more inaccurate or that he chose to have these recordings released.


Edited by pianoloverus (04/18/13 12:57 PM)

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#2066542 - 04/18/13 01:02 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: fnork]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: fnork
First of all, do check out more Koczalski!....

No no! You missed what I meant. As I said, I didn't mean anything against him at all and I would have said the same no matter who it was about. The thing is that such a statement could never be valid in the way it was said, and that it's kind of funny that anyone would have tried to assert such a thing.

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#2066547 - 04/18/13 01:12 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: fnork
First of all, do check out more Koczalski!....

No no! You missed what I meant. As I said, I didn't mean anything against him at all and I would have said the same no matter who it was about. The thing is that such a statement could never be valid in the way it was said, and that it's kind of funny that anyone would have tried to assert such a thing.

Yes, agreed, the statement was *slightly* exaggerated as such - just wanted to point out that there's that lineage from Koczalski to Chopin through Mikuli, and it's also very clear reading more about Koczalski that Mikuli took special care of him and his development. By comparison, Rosenthal is also a fabulous Mikuli disciple, but it must be said that he also studied with numerous other teachers and learned other aspects of piano playing (he also had some reservations on his years with Mikuli as a young boy). We can perhaps assume, then, that we find a more genuine approach to Chopin in Koczalski's playing, while Rosenthal was just as much under influence of Liszt, Rubinstein and others he met and played for.

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#2066549 - 04/18/13 01:21 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Good evening. Another little-known pianist of Cortot's generation, more or less forgotten today, nonetheless an important figure. And a great interpreter of Chopin.



Edited by landorrano (04/18/13 01:22 PM)

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#2066552 - 04/18/13 01:26 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
You are again giving reasons or making excuses for Cortot's lack of accuracy. They may be reasonable justifications, but this has little to do with what I've been talking about.

well, perhaps the crux of the issue is that I, like another Cortot fan said, would rather listen to Cortot's wrong notes than a lot of pianists right ones. If you can't get beyond the fact that your average heavily edited studio recordings - of pianists of either today or the past - have more correct notes than many of Cortot's recordings, fine. But I'm interested in music and musical flow in the first place and I think that the clinkers that come with some of Cortot's recordings are not only "excusable" and "fine" but come naturally as a result of someone never allowing a musical phrase to be without meaning, as opposed to someone being pre-occupied with never allowing a musical passage to have wrong notes. Today, sadly, there are way too many musicians I would put in the latter category. To quote Stephen Hough:

"Cortot is sometimes referred to as the pianist who played lots of wrong notes. This is unfair, not just because he had a dazzling finger technique, but because he never allowed a striving for accuracy to distract him from the bigger picture. You can sometimes hear his mistakes, even in the first notes of pieces, but I find these fallible moments endearing: the pianist consumed by spiritual inspiration, oblivious of the physical risks involved."


Numerian, amen to your post and everything you said.


Edited by fnork (04/18/13 01:28 PM)

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#2066592 - 04/18/13 03:00 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
mermilylumpkin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/13
Posts: 121
I thought I might contribute this to the discussion: It's a video of Cortot giving a masterclass in French about Kinderszenen. I find it really interesting to see how he approaches the piece interpretively.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNUNNNNj_Qw

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#2066704 - 04/18/13 06:44 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: mermilylumpkin]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
.....and for a few seconds at 0:47 you can see my friend and sometime teacher (whenever possible!) Eric Heidsieck smile -- many years before I knew him.
(He's the one on the right.)

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#2066732 - 04/18/13 07:48 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Mark_C]
mermilylumpkin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/13
Posts: 121
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
.....and for a few seconds at 0:47 you can see my friend and sometime teacher (whenever possible!) Eric Heidsieck smile -- many years before I knew him.
(He's the one on the right.)


Mark_C, you just know everyone, don't you!? Wasn't it you who recommended the piano suite about birds your piano teacher had written? :-)

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#2066759 - 04/18/13 09:07 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: mermilylumpkin]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin

Mark_C, you just know everyone, don't you!?

Yes, I've been there for just about everything. ha
Call me the site's Forrest Gump. grin

Quote:
Wasn't it you who recommended the piano suite about birds your piano teacher had written? :-)

I've been waiting for people to start saying I must be lying about who all I've studied with. ha
I've been blessed to be 'in the right place at the right time' to be able to study with teachers way better than I had any right to study with.

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#2067051 - 04/19/13 10:59 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Thracozaag Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/06/04
Posts: 1980
Loc: Salt Lake City
"Cortot's mastery was exhaustive. He had a deep, instantly-recognizable aromatic sonority, a refined pedal technique that afforded him a vibrant palette of tonal colours and effects, the capacity to phrase with exquisite lightness and profound depth, and an inner sense of rhythm that never wavered even when he applied his unique, inimitable rubato, all of which fused with his innovative spirit to create a truly individual style that continues to fascinate listeners today."

From an excellent article about the evolution of Alfred Cortot's pianism as evidenced through four decades of recording; written by Mark Ainley, in the new issue of International Piano magazine out today.
_________________________
"I'm a concert pianist--that's a pretentious way of saying I'm unemployed at the moment."--Oscar Levant

http://www.youtube.com/kojiattwood
https://www.giftedmusicschool.org/

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#2067062 - 04/19/13 11:16 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Thanks for quoting that article, didn't want to do it explicitly until it was actually published wink

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#2067093 - 04/19/13 11:59 AM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: Thracozaag]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Thracozaag
"Cortot's mastery was exhaustive. He had a deep, instantly-recognizable aromatic sonority, a refined pedal technique that afforded him a vibrant palette of tonal colours and effects, the capacity to phrase with exquisite lightness and profound depth, and an inner sense of rhythm that never wavered even when he applied his unique, inimitable rubato, all of which fused with his innovative spirit to create a truly individual style that continues to fascinate listeners today."

From an excellent article about the evolution of Alfred Cortot's pianism as evidenced through four decades of recording; written by Mark Ainley, in the new issue of International Piano magazine out today.
Since you are I assume a big Cortot fan, I'm curious about your reaction to the Chopin Waltz performance I began the thread with.

Terrific as is, a bad performance but not typical of Cortot, not so good but an insignificant blight on generally terrific Cortot performances, just an example of the style of playing and unconcern about wrong notes typical of that time, all the great things make the wrong notes or strange interpretation insignificant, or...?

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#2067095 - 04/19/13 12:05 PM Re: Cortot's pianism [Re: pianoloverus]
Thracozaag Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/06/04
Posts: 1980
Loc: Salt Lake City
I actually adore that performance; but I readily acknowledge what constitutes "great" piano playing in my aesthetic is not "great" for others.
_________________________
"I'm a concert pianist--that's a pretentious way of saying I'm unemployed at the moment."--Oscar Levant

http://www.youtube.com/kojiattwood
https://www.giftedmusicschool.org/

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