Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rudolph Serkin / Beethoven Sonata 11 and 24, Fantasie in G minor


 I'll confess at the outset that Rudolph Serkin is my favorite pianist in the repertory he recorded. He has been accused of having been indifferent to tonal beauty, of pounding the keys, of using the pedal too sparingly. None of that seems very significant to me: What Serkin does, perhaps better than any other pianist I know, at least to my ears, is to reveal with uncompromising musical intelligence and integrity, the architecture and formal logic of a piece of music. No one, for my money, does it better. It matches perfectly how I listen to music. Where others hear a too severe and sparing use of the pedal, I hear inner voices enunciated with deeply satisfying clarity; where others hear pounding I hear fire and passion. I simply, and unequivically, like the way Serkin plays. I was lucky enough to hear him in Boston during his last world tour, when he played the last three Beethoven sonatas. Yes, already an ill man, he missed some notes and dropped some others. But the performance was so illuminating, penetrated so deeply into the human soul through the music, that only a hardened heart would have thought it mattered.

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6 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for this one. I have the LP but it's a bit of a mess. Two of my favorite Serkin recordings are on here --- the Fantasie and the Op 78 sonata (but then, the Op 22 is great too!) Terrific transfer as well. Thanks again. I envy your having seen Serkin and very much agree with your assessment, particularly his Schubert and Beethoven sonatas.

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  2. Always happy to meet another Serkin fan. Yes, his Schubert and Beethoven are peerless. More usually for him is the Bartok 1st Piano Concerto with Szell, the Prokofiev Left Hand Concerto on the flip side with Ormandy, both of which are very fine performances. The Bartok is my clear favorite of that work. And his Chopin Preludes, released on CD by Sony are a revelation. I am happy to see some of my favorite recordings of his finally being re-issued.

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  3. Sorry, tracks 2,6 in Flac variant are corrupted.

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  4. Sorry, tracks 2,6 in flac-variant are corrupted.

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  5. I always remember one Serkin performance, broadcast in the UK in the 1950s from the Festival Hall. He played the Beethoven G major Concerto, and in the finale cadenza, (as far as I recall), broke a string. Until then the performance had been as perfect as you have any right to expect, and uniquely penetrating. After the repairs, he resumed as if nothing had happened - and convinced you, immediately, it hadn't. I never heard him in that sort of form again, alas, and I don't think post-war London suited him much, though pre-war he made nearly all his great chamber-music recordings there. But none of his recordings of the G major Beethoven concerto can touch that Festival Hall performance, though the mono B flat concerto with Ormandy runs it close.

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  6. Thanks ofr this one - always a pleasure to hear Serkin, and this Fantaisie is a real winner!

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