IKIF (Wednesday)

July 22, 2009

Wednesday: Liszt winner Pisarenko played a Liszt Polonaise (No. 2). I didn’t know Liszt wrote in that form. It’s actually more interesting than its Chopin counterparts. The left-hand rhythm reminds me of Chopin, the right hand figures sound more abstract, free and idiosyncratic. Pisarenko’s Hungarian Rhapsody was rich and spectacular — full of personality. I think his technical powers might be even stronger than Mei-Ting Sun’s.

I’m indebted to Jeffrey Swann for his Hammerklavier I heard several years ago. It was the first time I’d ever enjoyed the piece. Before that, the only sense I could make of the Hammerklavier was that Beethoven had gone insane, the Sonata was a symptom of insanity, so it just made me sad — I hated to hear someone I loved suffering. From Swann, I first heard the beauty and ambition of the piece. What I’d heard as pain and insanity was really Beethoven striving to surpass himself. So now I always hear Swann with gratitude and affection. His performances are always innovative lecture-recitals, tonight “The Philosophical Piano.” Re Beethoven Sonata No. 32, Swann says Beethoven is a philosopher in the ‘Harry Potter’ sense, that is, a structural alchemist, changing variations into a recapitulation that’s not a recapitulation.

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