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#2085720 - 05/20/13 11:53 AM Opinions on early 20th Century general style
im@me Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/12
Posts: 68
I have just finished thinking about all my faviroute pianists, and the top 17 along with being dead, are also all early 20th century pianists, I just generally love the style and approach to music that they seem to have, right now listening to Beethoven by Hofmann, but what are your opinions on this era of history of the piano?

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#2085734 - 05/20/13 12:21 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
JoelW Offline
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Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4892
Loc: USA
Their sound was more human in my opinion.

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#2085746 - 05/20/13 12:56 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19841
Loc: New York
Agree completely, and I might like the 'more-earlier' pianists even better if we had recordings by them. I don't like every pianist from then, but yeah -- I like a higher proportion from that time than from more recently.

Originally Posted By: JoelW
Their sound was more human in my opinion.

IMO the basic sound is hard to judge because of the recording quality. I'm thinking mostly of dynamic range, phrasing, and treatment of rhythms.

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#2085775 - 05/20/13 01:45 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19590
Loc: New York City
Some I don't like much: Hofmann, Paderewski, or any who play with what I would call extreme use of some of the 19th century performance practices that have long since died out.

Others I like a lot: Rachmaninov, Gabrilowtitch, Fischer, Friedman, Godowsky, Lhevinne.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/20/13 04:07 PM)

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#2085785 - 05/20/13 02:07 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: JoelW]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5350
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Their sound was more human in my opinion.

In what way? I assume you don't mean in the quantity of mistakes in their playing, but it was the unfortunate first thought that popped into my head. (And I am not someone who requires a piece to be played perfectly.)

For me, it was their willingness to take risks that many pianists today will not take. I think the immeasurable pressure today to be note-perfect contributes to this, but my perception of that quality of daring to do something different is sorely missed.

I say perception, because really, many of the early 20th century pianists might not have chosen to do things differently, but by way of how their technique developed and how their ear contributed to the then-new music, they may have simply been unable to do it uniformly even if they had wanted to. Perhaps a large portion of this daring has gone the way of the dodo precisely because the music is, for the most part, now very old?
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#2085803 - 05/20/13 02:43 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Some I don't like much: Hofmann, Paderewski, or any who play with what I would call extreme use of some of the 19th century performance practices that have long since died out.

Don't forget to add guys like Brahms to that list, then - that scoundrel kept arpeggiating chords when not written and kept alive many other "19th century performance practices that have long since died out".

For anyone who on the contrary thinks we might have a thing or two to learn via Brahms and pianists associated with him, enjoy reading this wonderful article by Allan Evans:

http://arbiterrecords.org/recapturing-an-elusive-johannes-brahms/

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#2085806 - 05/20/13 02:46 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [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: JoelW
Their sound was more human in my opinion.

IMO the basic sound is hard to judge because of the recording quality. I'm thinking mostly of dynamic range, phrasing, and treatment of rhythms.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that in some cases with REALLY old recordings, musicians were told to play in a more-or-less loud manner with little dynamic fluctuations - that was simply the only way to preserve the sound sometimes. That doesn't go for all recordings, but it's worth mentioning that the recording conditions were different back then.

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#2085849 - 05/20/13 04:01 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19590
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Some I don't like much: Hofmann, Paderewski, or any who play with what I would call extreme use of some of the 19th century performance practices that have long since died out.

Don't forget to add guys like Brahms to that list, then - that scoundrel kept arpeggiating chords when not written and kept alive many other "19th century performance practices that have long since died out".
Lucky for Brahms that he's not still alive or posting recordings on PW.

Just in case he's looking down on us from above:
"I really like your music but PLEASE learn how to play all the notes of a chord together. And trim that beard."

I'm not sure if anyone really knows about Brahms' playing. It could be expected that he followed the style of his day to some extent, but to what degree I think is unknown. I think there was probably quite a bit of variance in this area. Even if there are descriptions of his playing, it has been pointed out in books on this style of playing that even first hand descriptions can be unclear/misleading.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/20/13 04:13 PM)

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#2086192 - 05/21/13 10:16 AM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think there was probably quite a bit of variance in this area. Even if there are descriptions of his playing, it has been pointed out in books on this style of playing that even first hand descriptions can be unclear/misleading.

Descriptions of someone's playing can obviously never give a complete picture, but only a fool would say that even if everyone who heard Brahms play pointed out that he arpeggiated chords in his music most of the time and played with his hands not together, it is not enough to make the conclusion that he arpeggiated chords in his music most of the time and played with his hands not together...Which is why I thought he should be added to your list of pianists from this era you wouldn't like too much - of course, along with all the pianists from the Brahms circle that were coached by the man himself and whose recordings are found in the article I posted (Etelka Freund, Friedberg, Ilona Eibenschutz etc).
By the way, the thread started out with asking for OPINION on this era in the history of the piano. Your post mentioned a few pianists you liked and a few you didn't like - great way to add to the discussion! The posts prior to yours managed to stay on topic - let's keep it that way?


Quoting Crutchfield from his famous article "Brahms, by those who knew him" (excerpts can be found online):

“Playing Brahms with the hands together is just like playing Bach with lots of pedal and octave doublings.”

And a brief discussion and analysis on Brahms playing and the playing of those in his circle:

http://brahms.unh.edu/newsletter/5-1.pdf

"Writers before Crutchfield have concluded that the
Brahms recording is of such poor quality as to have no
musical interest. Yet repeated listenings do yield insights, as Crutchfield maintains and as the present
writer, working from both enhanced and unenhanced
versions, can confirm. The sound, though dim, is fullbodied, the performance fiery and bass-rich, which is what
one would expect, given the descriptions we have of
Brahms's piano playing. What is most interesting, of
course, is all those things he does which transcend the
notated page: for instance, playing the left hand slightly
ahead of the right (this is clearest in the opening
phrases), excbpt for strongly accented chords, which aresounded solidly together; smoothing out the dotted
rhythm of the melody at bar 126, to add emphasis to the
shift to the subdominant; and rushing the arpeggios
which separate the phrases of the melody (bars
l2l-122, etc.). In the final section (bars l41ff.) Brahms
plays the runs at a faster tempo and places his sforzando
accents on the syncopated notes, rather than on the
downbeats, where they are notated. Of particular interest is the different manner in which he plays each of the
syncopated bars: at bar 144, a slight pause at the end of
the bar sets up the next phrase; at bar 148, a large pause
occurs before the syncopated note, and the final chord of
the bar pushes directly on into the next phrase; at bar
156, little extra time is expended; but bar 160 is played
in the broadest manner, with the time made up in the
climactic final run. As Crutchfield notes, the cadence at
bar 152 is "tossed off with a fiery snap, faster yet than
the tempo of the runs"; for the closing cadence, Brahms
broadens the tempo considerably, but quickens it again
for the final dominant-tonic motion.
The extant recordings of Brahms works performed
by his contemporaries are the subject of the rest of
Crutchfield's perceptive and iiluminating article. The
list of artists and recordings is longer than many perhaps have realized. Crutchfield discusses additional performances of Hungarian Dances, in Joachim's violin arrangements, by .foseph .|oachim himself (including a performance of the G-minor Dance substantially different from Brahms's rendition), as well as by Leopold
Auer and Arnold Ros6. (Auer knew Brahms in Hamburg in the lB60s; the Ros6 String Quarret gave rhe Viennese premidres of Brahms's second string quintet and
clarinet quintet.) The most important lesson to be
learned here is the expressive use of portamento and vibrato, a topic discussed by Crutchfield and treated by
Jon Finson in his recent article on "Performing Practice
in the Late Nineteenth Century, with Special Reference
to the Music of Brahms" (The Musical Quarterly 70
[984]: 457-475). Also assessEd by Crutchfield are performances of Brahms's piano music by Ilona Eibenschtitz, the student of Clara Schumann who premidred
Brahms's Clavierstiiche, Opp. ll8 and ll9 in London in
1894, by Carl Friedberg, who coached with the composer and championed his piano music, by Etelka
Freund, who as a young girl played for Brahms, and by
Adelina de Lara, another Clara Schumann student who
heard Brahms perform his Op. 4 Scherzo and later recorded it herself. Rounding out the list are a pair of
singers-Gustav Walter, who took part in the premidres
of Rinaldo and the first book of Liebeslieder Walzer and
presented many of Brahms's solo songs for the first
time, and for whom the spirited tenor part of the Zigeunerlied,er was written. and the Dutch bass Anton Sistermans, who premidred the Four Serious Songs in November 1896. (For the titles of individual works
recorded, see the discography at the end of this article.
Crutchfield also mentions, but does not discuss, Artur
Nikisch's service as accompanist to Elena Gerhardt in
Brahms songs. To Crutchfield's list of artists might be
added Eugen d'Albert, who performed Brahms'piano
concerti with the composer on the podium and who recorded the B-minor Capriccio, Op. 76 No. 2. The pianist Fanny Davies, who premidred the Intermezzi, Op.
ll7, the baritone George Henschel, a close associate of
Brahms in the 1870s, and the violinist Marie SoldatRoeger, a favorite of Brahms and the first woman to
perform Brahms's violin concerto, also made recordings, but none of Brahms compositions. According to
Crutchfield, the recordings known to have been made
by the baritone Julius Stockhausen, including one of
Brahms's famous WiegenLied, have never been located.)
The performances vary in quality-some were made
by artists well advanced in age and diminished in technique-but all are instructive in one way or another.
Crutchfield's assessrnents draw out the best from each
performance, building a convincing case for studying
these historic recordings. Of the pianists, the most delightful and engaging is surely Ilona Eibenschtitz. Although her tempi for Brahms's late piano pieces set new
speed records-her quick tempi were the subject of
comment in her own day-her 1903 renditions of the
second and fifteenth of Brahms's Op. 39 Waltzes remain
unsurpassed for elegance and charm. After hearing the
translucent filigrees of rolled chords which she adds to
fill out her rallentandi, it is hard to imagine these pieces
performed in any other way."


Edited by fnork (05/21/13 12:24 PM)

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#2086233 - 05/21/13 12:33 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
jdhampton924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1009
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
While there are many pianists from that area who were amazing, I have found myself listening to just as many younger pianists. There is more cases of improvisation, risk taking, in the older generations of pianists, but I still hear a wide variety in recordings I hear now.

I used to feel that pianists now just all sounded the same, until I started listening. What is true though, I feel we are a bit saturated with pianists, many of them with the same level of technique as older generations, and with competitions more rampant, it is possible to hear many more technical, dry performances(one can be objective about how many notes were hit).

Many of my favorite pianists come from the heels of legends(though I love Horowitz, Rubinstein, etc.) My favorite pianists are those like Barenboim, Hough, and Perahia, who show immense ammount of control and thought into their music. With great natural rhythms. I also greatly enjoy hearing Lief-Ove Andsnes or Evgeny Kissin. All their recordings are very unique to my ear. The same can be said of many "nameless" pianists I have gotten to see over the years(it is easy when you live in Indiana).

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#2086234 - 05/21/13 12:36 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: Derulux]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Their sound was more human in my opinion.

In what way? I assume you don't mean in the quantity of mistakes in their playing, but it was the unfortunate first thought that popped into my head. (And I am not someone who requires a piece to be played perfectly.)

For me, it was their willingness to take risks that many pianists today will not take. I think the immeasurable pressure today to be note-perfect contributes to this, but my perception of that quality of daring to do something different is sorely missed.

I think this is very true, and also...the whole issue with being able to reproduce a recording, a video, anything from the past, to bring it to life again - it was just being introduced back then. I'm sure the fact that this is so natural for us today and so new to people back then affects a lot - many musicians would comment on how strange it was hearing themselves play, noticing performance manners that they didn't think they had, etc.

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#2086273 - 05/21/13 01:59 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19590
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think there was probably quite a bit of variance in this area. Even if there are descriptions of his playing, it has been pointed out in books on this style of playing that even first hand descriptions can be unclear/misleading.
Descriptions of someone's playing can obviously never give a complete picture, but only a fool would say that even if everyone who heard Brahms play pointed out that he arpeggiated chords in his music most of the time and played with his hands not together, it is not enough to make the conclusion that he arpeggiated chords in his music most of the time and played with his hands not together...Which is why I thought he should be added to your list of pianists from this era you wouldn't like too much.
I was simply repeating what was said in Off the Record:Performance Practices in Romantic Piano Playing which is one of the most detailed books on the subject.


Originally Posted By: fnork
By the way, the thread started out with asking for OPINION on this era in the history of the piano. Your post mentioned a few pianists you liked and a few you didn't like - great way to add to the discussion! The posts prior to yours managed to stay on topic - let's keep it that way?
How you could not think what I said was an opinion is beyond me. Perhaps, you thought it was factual??

The very first post mentioned a pianist that the OP liked. I was simply indicating that, for me, it's not a black and white issue about pianists of that time.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/21/13 02:05 PM)

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#2086308 - 05/21/13 02:53 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: pianoloverus]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
How you could not think what I said was an opinion is beyond me. Perhaps, you thought it was factual??

Excellent way of misunderstanding my words! There's quite a difference between expressing an opinion as a meaningful observation relevant to the topic that could be discussed further (as the two replies prior to yours did) and just blatantly name a few pianists one likes and doesn't like. The former adds something to the discussion - the latter, well...

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#2086319 - 05/21/13 03:19 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19590
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
How you could not think what I said was an opinion is beyond me. Perhaps, you thought it was factual??

Excellent way of misunderstanding my words! There's quite a difference between expressing an opinion as a meaningful observation relevant to the topic that could be discussed further (as the two replies prior to yours did) and just blatantly name a few pianists one likes and doesn't like. The former adds something to the discussion - the latter, well...
...And that would, of course, depend on one's idea of "meaningful" or "adding to the discussion". My post certainly could be discussed further by someone asking why I liked or disliked the pianists on my lists.

I'd also point your comment about my post clearly does not add to the discussion.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/21/13 03:24 PM)

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#2086335 - 05/21/13 03:39 PM Re: Opinions on early 20th Century general style [Re: im@me]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
As a general resource to recordings from the golden era of piano playing, I warmly recommend "The piano files with Mark Ainley" - http://www.facebook.com/ThePianoFilesWithMarkAinley

Mark contributes with recordings, writes articles, and is in general one of the truly knowledgeable persons on piano recordings of the past. Don't miss his page!

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