From the first sounds, this pianist’s playing proved irresistible. As a low bass note materializes you are no longer in the zone beyond your nose; inner time intrudes.
This playing of Liszt’s Consolation no. 3 is no pro-forma melody supported by an accompaniment. Every part gets charged with reflections, surrogate meanings tag along its main lines.
You could devour the nourishment in this feast emanating from a wooden box with metal strings, percussed with felt hammers. What kind of hands are responsible?
How did they get out from a renaissance sculpture and end up in the 19th century? What’s his hair like?
Pianists aren’t like this anymore. Clean-cut is the way to go. His expression is suggestive:
He liked to play Chopin. So did someone else. Here’s another pianist, a younger Swiss-Frenchman enjoying a delightful drink in the company of a cackling dame in her silly hat at the exclusive Hotel Ritz in Paris, early 1940s. Her hubby Albert snapped the photo.
Never saw him laugh in a photo. He was adored by the photographer, who wrote in his prison diaries of glorious evenings spent together while on assignment there, relaxing at the pianist’s apartment over some Chopin and Debussy decanted from his hands. The pianist got quite busy recording in occupied France, 1942, and churned out all 24 of Chopin’s Etudes. The last one of them resembles a roller coaster map, everything repeated, just harmonies shifted for variety’s sake:
Images come to mind. He singles out the bottom and top tones, the rest gelling like a blur, shining through a foggy uncertainty like this atmosphere:
The Swiss-Frenchman’s blurry musical muddle is nothing like the oldster’s excited mesh of interlocking inner rhythms that vie with attention given to its extremities, not to mention secondary melodies darting between alto voices down into a low baritone, as Chopin wrote it, smeared over by the younger Modernist who over-pedals them into a froth. This complex hive of activity has a different spirit altogether, given a contemplation amidst frenzy buy a wise elder:
All the nature and emotion heard have been sublimated by the first player, who sacrifices it for something greater, a defining sign of Fascism.
Back in 1884, the older player had a colleague of Chopin as his musical guide who caught him at an impressionable age:
There he sits by Liszt’s left knee aside an allegoric play of hands as the pianist by Liszt’s right leg, Arhtur Friedheim, touches his master’s knee, placing his right hand on cross-legged Alexander Siloti, Rachmaninoff’s cousin, who has the standing Moriz Rosenthal’s hand resting on his shoulder, a chain transmitting osmosis and telepathy.
Too bad Emil Sauer (1862-1942) isn’t better known, whereas Alfred Cortot (1877-1962), who informed on his Jewish students to the Gestapo, is highly admired as a pianist, even though his heights are a streamlined reduction of the music’s glorious details and spirit dwelling in the older master’s language.
Sic transit gloria mundi.