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#576039 - 04/07/08 07:17 PM Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
stevedavis1776 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/08
Posts: 66
playing Prokoviev's Toccata in D Minor. This guy will make you weep, he's so good. The first disc, filled with Chopin, was like contained fire, and this is strong in its own right. And he died at age 46. I gather he was already in decline thanks to chain-smoking and drinking.

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#576040 - 04/07/08 07:59 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by stevedavis1776:
I gather he was already in decline thanks to chain-smoking and drinking.
Other substances were involved too.

But when Francois was spot on, few could touch him. His set of the Ravel concertos is my overall favourite (with a nod to Michelangeli in the G major). He could be annoyingly inconsistent in some of the recordings I've heard, but always fascinating!
_________________________
Jason

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#576041 - 04/07/08 08:46 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
stevedavis1776 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/08
Posts: 66
Yes, normally I find interpreters of Debussy to offer pretty insipid fare. It seems to be lots of moonlight and high cirrus clouds. But this is good stuff!

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#576042 - 04/07/08 08:47 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
I have been listening to a lot of Francois recently - the EMI recordings of CHopin and Debussy & Ravel - he has a wonderful knack for bringing characterization to a piece
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#576043 - 04/07/08 09:36 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
stevedavis1776 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/08
Posts: 66
schubertian, I'm listening to the Great Pianists stuff, which is mostly stuff from the late 1940's through the 1950's, and I've got to say, I'm just left stunned. I listen to a ton of piano music on CD, and every once in awhile, a performer just makes me sit up and say, "Wow. That guy isn't just technically strong. He's musically really gifted."

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#576044 - 04/07/08 10:00 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
THat was my impression too - when he played the waltzes my reaction was 'He can really make the piano speak: - and then I tried to analyze what exactly he was doing - and I think rather than applying expression piecemeal from without - which is what I do - so that my interpretation of a piece becomes a seven-headed hydra which one head being rubato, and another head is dynamics, and so forth -

he seems to have a coherent feel for a character - in the dramatic sense - and all his interpretative skills flow out from that source rather than imposed from without -

Cortot called him 'unteachable' - I wonder what that means?
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#576045 - 04/07/08 10:18 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
stevedavis1776 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/08
Posts: 66
Well, according to the CD insert, he was the only pupil ever to be slapped by one of his female instructors, which when he was told this years later thought of it as a singular honor. Cortot probably meant that Francois was simply so musically gifted that he intuitively knew what things should sound like, without having to be shown. Basically synonymous with genius. Doesn't mean the genius doesn't have to work to be good. Just means they don't have to be shown how to work. :-)

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#576046 - 04/07/08 10:24 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
That's sort of what I thought too - except a certain Hollywood-conditioned circuit in my brain prefers to believe he was unteachable because he would show up a half hour late, stoned, chain smoking, and then ended up slamming the piano wing shut on Cortot's head - you never know -
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#576047 - 04/08/08 12:14 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by stevedavis1776:
Well, according to the CD insert, he was the only pupil ever to be slapped by one of his female instructors ...
which I suspect was Yvonne Lefébure.

One needs to keep the perspective, though. Not all of Francois' recordings are "great performances". His Liszt A major pales -both interpretively and technically- next to Richter, his Gaspard doesn't challenge Argerich, and his Prokofiev 3 and 5 are a bit too idiosyncratic for a mainstream recommendation.

I believe that Francois made his concerto debut with Prokofiev 5, so he would be one of the relatively earlier pianists to include this is his repertoire. (A very sadly neglected concerto these days. Argerich could have played it to a farthing...)
_________________________
Jason

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#576048 - 04/08/08 03:29 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7422
Back in the 1960s, the first piano recording I ever bought was of Francois, but I can't remember for sure whether it was the Ravel or the Prokofiev concertos. I know that whichever it was, the other followed so quickly that I can't remember which came first. I didn't know who he was, but was really just wanting the pieces, by anyone, and lucked out by finding his recordings. I absolutely loved them both (and still do). The music and his marvelous playing of it affected me so much that some time later, when I needed to choose a concerto to learn, it seemed to me it had to be one of those (I ended up choosing the Ravel G major, although the Prokofiev 3rd was mighty tempting).

Pierre Barbizet (Grimaud's teacher, for one) said it was Marguerite Long who hit Francois, because he didn't practice enough before lessons (and that was because he was very rebellious). Another interesting thing about Francois is that he was physically an unusually small fellow, and liked race cars.

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#576049 - 04/08/08 08:23 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
I listened to this guy live once. It was superb! He does not practice much alright because he does not need to. He's got photographic memory. His repertoire was huge. His musical instincts are almost perfect. That's probably why he is included in GPTC.

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#576050 - 04/08/08 08:34 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
stevedavis1776 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/08
Posts: 66
wr, yes, that's right! I think it mentioned he barely topped out over 5 feet, which puts him stature-wise at the level of Chopin (I think Chopin was 5'2". Of course, tuberculosis and a lousy diet will probably do that to you!)

Andrew, there's another guy, Freire, from that set who just is really, really impressive. Argerich, I'm guessing that's why the GP folks took everything from the 40's and 50's, 'cause it sounded like by the time the 60's rolled around, Francois was declining musically and physically pretty rapidly.

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#576051 - 04/08/08 08:47 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1708
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by argerichfan:
But when Francois was spot on, few could touch him. His set of the Ravel concertos is my overall favourite (with a nod to Michelangeli in the G major). He could be annoyingly inconsistent in some of the recordings I've heard, but always fascinating! [/b]
If that's the case, I really ought to pick up his Ravel concerti.

For anyone interested, here's a review of Francois's Debussy/Ravel box set.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#576052 - 04/08/08 10:34 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by stevedavis1776:
...there's another guy, Freire, from that set who just is really, really impressive. Argerich[fan], I'm guessing that's why the GP folks took everything from the 40's and 50's, 'cause it sounded like by the time the 60's rolled around, Francois was declining musically and physically pretty rapidly.
Oh, don't miss Nelson Freire, especially some of his more recent recordings! Yes, he is indeed very impressive.

I never sampled the GP set of Francois -if I had purchased as many in the series as looked tempting, I would have gone totally broke.

And now that I think of it, yes, Marguerite Long would have been the teacher who hit Francois. (I was posting too early this morning and hadn't had coffee yet.)
_________________________
Jason

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#576053 - 04/08/08 01:41 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
GPTC set, at least on two separate occasions, was on super sale from the Net. I purchased the complete set by then at very attractive price. I also recommended on this board and subsequently a few people here also bought this great deal. Unfortunately Jason, you're not one frequented this board at the time. To be honest I have yet to finish listening to the complete set. I have other CDs in my personal library that are sitting on the shelf to be listened... Sigh...

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#576054 - 04/08/08 02:06 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
As to Nelson Freire, he is another one special artist that people on this side of the ocean do not know much about. He is like Argerich in the sense that he never needs much practice to learn and work through a piece. He never experiences technical challenges for any music. He learns new music super fast and his memory is unusually reliable. He can and does play everything. That’s probably why he and Argerich are ‘buddies’. I recently downloaded this DVD-quality video from the WEB where he rehearsed Rach 2, the complete thing without any break. It’s interesting that the video footages are interspersed with rehearsal scenes with that of the formal performance with the same orchestra in the same venue. I subsequently converted this to a normal DVD. I have since watched and really enjoyed the performance numerous times. I also attained from the same site a documentary of the master and converted to DVD. Here one can see the ‘buddie’ scenes of him and the inimitable Argerich chatting, relaxing, etc. Unfortunately the conversation is in French that I do not understand. Oh well… I enjoyed the videos very much regardless.

I heard him live only once in Denver with the Colorado Symphony playing Chopin No.2, beautiful tone and perfect pacing all the way through all three mvts. His effortlessness is breath-taking. Any time when Nelson Freire plays go and watch him play. It would be a great treat!

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#576055 - 04/08/08 02:07 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Oh well.. Lets get back to Francois...

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#576056 - 04/08/08 08:22 PM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by AndrewG:
Oh well.. Lets get back to Francois...
Not quite yet, Andrew. Compare Argerich and Freire in the Rachmaninov Suite Op. 17 with her later remake with Rabinovitch.

There you have it, but at least with the later Teldec recording we got the earlier suite plus the Symphonic Dances. (Yes, Argerich teamed up with the attractive -and late lamented- Economou for SD in an earlier recording.)

Whatever. Argerich and Rabinovitch teamed up for Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen some years ago. What a stillborn recording, what an insult to Messiaen's muse. Most people here probably know how this unique expression of Christianity was conceived- and how the composer wrote it to perform with his wife.

Argerich -mistakenly I think- takes Messiaen's part, Rabinovitch takes Loriod's part. They should have switched. There is no glowing light -nor ecstasy- in Rabinovitch's Vision. Was it all too profound for him?
_________________________
Jason

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#576057 - 04/09/08 12:14 AM Re: Just sitting here listening to Samson Francois
Emanuel Ravelli Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 670
Loc: Virginia
I've probably said this before, but I have to agree with AndrewG and Argerichfan about the incomparable Nelson Freire. I've been to a lot of concerts, and three piano recitals stand out above all the others: Rubinstein/all Chopin, 1962, Grigory Sokolov, and Nelson Freire (both at the William Kapell Competition at the University of Maryland). It's always pleasant to hear great music played with beauty and sensitivity. But now and then, if you're lucky, you experience something that's in a completely different dimension from the normal concert -- music-making so pure and natural that it carries you away to another place. That's what these three did for me.

Freire plays as if he's part of the piano -- fingers moving at lightning speed when needed, with dynamics that range effortlessly from a whisper to a roar. And he plays everything in a perfectly appropriate style. Mozart was light and airy, with wonderful clarity and evenness. His Chopin was radiant, his Villa-Lobos engaging. And he played a single, perfect encore -- Godowsky's arrangement of the Albeniz Tango. A very similar program was recorded live in Miami in 1984 and released on an Audiofon CD. Buying a ticket to another one of his concerts is one of the few things that could make me stand in line. In the rain.
_________________________
Phil Bjorlo

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