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Mozart with prunes

May 1, 2008 at 12:02 AM

Funny how one’s ideas and tastes shift. What sounds good grates later on and vice versa. Although hearing Kremer doing Paginini 4 live some 25 years ago ranks as one of my greatest concert memories I had never enjoyed his recorded sound at all. Indeed, when somebody recently asked to borrow all my recordings of Mozart concertos I handed over a box load without even offering the Kremer version with Hanoncourt which has been sitting at the back of my fridge in an old prune can for about five years after one listen through. The friend and I concurred that we liked Grumiaux`s stunning versions best and I forgot about the whole thing until on a whim last week I dusted off the Kremer and it –absolutely blew me away-. I think what it doesn’t have is the unrelenting beauty of sound typical of 20c players. Indeed, I can partner Kremer quite easily with Szigeti using Tziganov`s definition of violinist who have only `sound` and those who have `tone.` Kremer does not have `tone.` He is not interested in beauty except where it emerges from the music itself. Sometimes his playing is relatively ugly but that makes it more appealing to me. For example in the second movement he deliberately changes the pitches he uses on leading notes according to the degree of tension he associates with a particular part of the movement. I can honestly say I have never heard a contemporary violinist use pitch to organize structure;) What affected me so greatly in his recording is that he has probed so deeply into the Mozart, applied so much care and attention to the relative value and significance of every note without losing anything of the natural feel of the music. This I find incredibly rare. What I usually hear in Mozart is players who ,approach it with elegance, wit and beautiful sound as a violinist. Most of the 20c greats worked this way. The other side of the coin is perhaps where a very fine player reacts against this, perhaps as a result of the pressure to be more scholastic, and tries to do `Mozarty, things with the phrasing. Very often I find this basically unpleasant to listen to even if the playing is very fine. The most extreme case of this I can think of is the Zeheitmere version. For me, Kremer is trying to be neither. Somehow he has connected with Mozart and he has the tools to reproduce that essence.

From Jon O'Brien
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 1:28 AM
I like Kremer's Mozart too Buri. I also think a lot of Oistrakh's Mozart that I've heard. I wouldn't have thought that this would be so. I used to like Grumiaux best but last time I listened I liked Oistrakh better. I was discussing this with a music lover, originally from East Germany (one of the ones that got over the wall, got shot -so he said - and survived the wounds)a couple of years ago and his eyes nearly fell out of his head when I said that I liked the Russian's Mozart. "No!!" he said, looking at me like I was a classical music infidel.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 1:35 AM
Jon, I`ve concluded you just have to compartmentalize. What I mena by this is for example in the cas eof the Bach Double, one of the greta reocrdings of all time is Oistrakh and his son. An awesome punch in the guts. But if I then lsiten to Manze and Podger I feel it has many times the light energy and vitality and is so much more refreshing. I go back to the Oistrakh and can`t stand it, listen to it a few times and go back to `yep, this is what truly glorious violin playing is about` mode. It`s kind of weird.
From Jon O'Brien
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 1:38 AM
Yes, well that's art I guess. Drives scientists up the wall.
From Jon O'Brien
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 5:58 AM
I forgot to add I like that Podger and Manze Bach double sometimes too. Or dark bubble as I've heard it called :-)
From Benjamin K
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 9:24 AM
What really happened is that within the last five years, Mozart's spirit has changed his mind, thereby changing composer intent and that has led to pieces formerly tasteless now becoming tasteful as they now match composer intent when they didn't 5 years ago ;-)
From Michael Czeiszperger
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 1:19 PM
"Kremer does not have `tone.`"

I don't know much about classical music, so can you please explain what you mean by this? I don't have the particular Kremer recording you mention, but from the Piazzolla and Partita recordings I do have he has an amazing control of timbre, going from a bare whisper of melody played in harmonics, to a sweet, light A/E string passage, to a throaty, brash forte.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 1, 2008 at 10:36 PM
Tziganov discusses this contrast between violnist`s with `sound` and those with `tone` in his Way They Play Interview. He is not overly specific but the kind of violnists he refers to as having the latter are Heifetz, Kreisler et al. I assume it means a luish, sensouos sound thta is beautiful for its own sake. Players such as szigeti do not have this quailty. Tziganow also make san interesitng point about Oistrakh- tht he had sound when he was younger and gradually evolved a `tone.`
Kremer`s use of timbre is remarkable but would not, in my opinion qualify as sensuous playign for its own sake. Its interesitnbg that in recent yeras his contemporary group has tried to dispense with the individual player in art by wearing masks during performance.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on May 2, 2008 at 1:41 AM
I'm glad he wasn't overly specific. I don't think I could have handled that.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 2, 2008 at 4:41 AM
me too. We could have ended up with something longer than war and Peace,

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