In Transition


There they were. Caught when Maria-Mary-Miriam was getting some news from an angel. Botticelli’s use of light, form and space added an element that shocked through a moment of transition. One of the stunners held at the Uffizi Galleries, Firenze.

Do all good things come to an end? Years later it was returned after restoration:


Looks more like a postcard. His mystical use of air, light, gesture, all have succumbed to lucre and poster sales. This came to mind when listening to Alfred Hoehn (1887-1945) play Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. One moment came as a shock! This moment! Where have you been all my life?



Confession: never liked this piece. Usually played with a treacly sentiment and made obligatory for athletic piano contests. Shame. Once knew Nadine Khaouly, a singer at Mannes College from Beirut who praised her Russian cello teacher Dahl whose brother hypnotized Rachmaninoff during a writer’s block and out came this. I hope to locate her someday.

The composer’s official recording was meant to display his intentions. One passage came to mind as a transition. How did he play it in 1929?


Nice melody that gets subsumed. Listen and pick out what you can.

Another big shot at that time was Walter Gieseking, whose playing of Rachmaninoff impressed the composer. Here he is in 1940 Amsterdam:


Notice anything that he doesn’t notice?

Then the venerated Arthur Rubinstein, whom one dare not criticize without being attacked. He highlights its high notes:


And Hoehn? A poet Arbiter rescued whose Brahms 1st, Tchaikovsky’s 1st and part of Brahms’ 2nd surpasses most other players. He dared to write about French Impressionism during the Nazi period and did not get top assignments, just local gigs. Hoehn would have been ideal to have recorded the 2nd with Max Fiedler who was assigned Elly Ney, a humorless Nazi. An on-stage stroke ended Hoehn’s career in 1940 and in 1945, a US soldier billeted in his home expressed rage at the old cripple by pushing his piano down a flight of stairs, an act that sent Hoehn to the beyond by a fatal heart attack.

Hoehn taught Hans Rosbaud, the conductor heard on this unpublished recording. Here’s Hoehn and I augur that he and Botticelli work their magic on you in a way that transcends the others, even its creator. Again its magic is with us.


©2020 Allan Evans




One Response to “In Transition”

  1. Giorgio agazzi says:


    Sempre grazie per i commenti e le suggestioni molto stimolanti e interessanti. Io possiedo un piccolo libro sul suo metodo pianistico con foto interessanti. Ho anche lo spartito della sonata op. 106 edizioni Schott , molto molto utile, pensare che vinse il concorso Rubinstein con la 106 con Fischer e Rubinstein ( che la studiò subito dopo al posto della op.90 seguendola a Vienna)
    Serkin ascoltò in privato Horowitz nella 106 brillante
    E rimase affascinato.

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