IKIF (Friday, week two)

August 1, 2009



Paleczny’s Master Class. One student plays the middle section of the Chopin F# minor Polonaise (the mazurka) like it was a waltz. “It’s not a waltz!” corrects Paleczny. Another student closes her eyes and ‘dreams’ the tempo of a mazurka. “Not so much rubato, if you can call that a rubato.” Paleczny tells the student she condemns herself to short phrases, all that tempo change destroys the long line.

Some pianists choose a rubato and ‘interpret’ the opening to the Chopin F Major ballad. Others play it straight, which I prefer — it’s so magical on its own, there’s nothing a pianist can do to improve it. Let the listener ‘interpret’ with their own emotions, I say. Piotr Paleczny starts with rubato and whimsy, so I’m a little disappointed. He goes on to play an exciting, surprising Ballade. So now I expect surprise in the B-flat minor Scherzo, and I am surprised, again and again. Piotr’s surprises in the Scherzo are very gratifying, little jolts shot right into my synapses. Surprise and familiarity are the dimensions of interpretation, I think, especially in a repertory standard. That’s not a paradox, so much as a challenge. The Mussorgsky ‘Pictures’ are spectacular and flawless to my untrained ear. Tom says Paleczny is a great pianist, and I agree.

(Re F major Ballade: I mentioned my old Boston roommate who hated fine piano music. Well, my listening habits finally got to him. One day he said, “if I wrote a piece of music to describe rooming with [me], I’d start with a quiet melody, then blow up into insane, crashing chords, then back to the quiet melody.” He was describing the F major Ballade, of course, which had taken over his imagination. (I think I had an Arrau vinyl back then.) Though it may have been Op. 10, No. 3 (“Tristesse“). Anyway, my music-hating roomie was now seeing his life through Chopin metaphors. When I came home from school one day to find him listening to Debussy, my victory was complete.)

Olga Kern has cancelled due to ‘complications’ in Moscow. So I’ll miss her Master Class. I’m already ‘Pavlovian’ to hear Alexander Kobrin Friday night. He’s playing the Chopin Sonata No. 3. God, is he equipped for the Presto! I’m at the beach on Saturday, so Kobrin will be the exclamation point to finish the Keyboard Festival for me.