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EXPLORING MUSIC

EXPLORING MUSIC-An Eccentric Breed

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I suppose you entertain some lovely fantasy image of The Romantic Pianist­Composer? Well, forget it! He never existed, except in old Cornell Wilde films. Czerny was a stuffy bachelor who lived in a clutter of manuscript, dust, and cats. John Field was a lush. Josef Hofman was short and round and had little pudgy hands. Rachmaninoff looked like a be­reaved bloodhound. Liszt had a wart on his cheek and played dressups in clerical robes. As for the deathless Majorcan romance, Mme. Dudevant, calling herself ''George Sand,'' swaggered about, attired in trousers and waistcoats and big black cigars, while Chopin--whom she called by such endearments as "Chipette" --trotted whimpering at her heels.

 

Actually, of course, this record has little to do with romance in its amatory sense, though cultivation of the Higher Passions was certainly one characteristic of the Romantic Era. Such cultivation was, no doubt, watered and fertilized by the symbolic evocation of such emotions in the arts of the day; in music this took the form of ecstatic heaving, maniacal jubilation, lachrymose gurgling, and the like. Another characteristic of the Romantic Era that is even more apropos here was the proclivity of the artist to write advertisements from himself, so to speak, to cultivate the mystique of his genius and the myth of his Olympian uniqueness. In the end one might venture to guess that it was this kind of pose that turned a large part of the public away from the fine arts. Certainly the flamboyance of such men as Liszt, Wagner, Whistler, and Oscar Wilde did not sit well with everyone. And if there were numbers of serious, sober, dedicated pianist-composers, they too were lent a false coloration by the medicine-show approach of press-agentry.

 

The spectrum of ''Romantic'' composers embraced by the Messrs. Dubai and Waldoff is a broad one, extending from Field (b. 1782) to Dohnanyi, who lived to make stereo recordings. But doubtless they all, early or late, shared something of the Romantic impulse. And if the backlash against Romanticism and the nineteenth century was a result of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the age, they are all dust now, their personal foibles forgotten, enabling us to hear their music unencum­bered by personal irrelevancies.

 

To a considerable degree, this is a program of what were once "old favorites" --the Chopin "Minute Waltz," the Moszkowski Valse Brillante, the Rubin­stein Romance, the Liszt Etude. Because I hark back to the era when they were thus regarded, it's hard for me to guess where comment is needed, so I shall be arbitrary. The Czerny piece is from ''The School of Finger Dexterity,” recently recorded in its formidable entirety by Vivien Harvey Slater. (MHS 3431H/32A) Sigismond Thalberg (whose name--Valemount-­suggests that he had his ups and downs) was supposedly Liszt's greatest rival, and their famous pianistic duel at the Princess Belgioso's seems to have been declared a draw; I don't recall seeing his variations on "Le Depart" on records before. Busoni, like Puccini, wrote an opera on Carlo Gozzi's play Turandot, after writing incidental music for that work. From this last he arranged his fourth elegy, ''Turan­dot's women's boudoir," based on "Greensleeves," of all things! Godow­sky's "Old Vienna" is perhaps his most popular piece; it derives from a collection of thirty pieces in three-four time called "Triakontameron". Surprisingly, Josef Hofman, represented here by a "Nocturne,'' wrote a good deal of music, including a symphony and five piano concertos. I have no information on Charles Osborne, famous but obscure author of "The Rain of Pearls." Dohnanyi once recorded his rhapsodies for Remington, purveyor of the original cheapie LP.

 

David Dubal and Stanley Waldoff have been presenting duo-recitals like this for some time. New Yorkers may recognize Mr. Dubal as the program director of radio station WNCN, which, I am informed by a listener, is the best good-music station in the area.

 

EXPLORING MUSIC-An Eccentric Breed

Author

Publication

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I suppose you entertain some lovely fantasy image of The Romantic Pianist­Composer? Well, forget it! He never existed, except in old Cornell Wilde films. Czerny was a stuffy bachelor who lived in a clutter of manuscript, dust, and cats. John Field was a lush. Josef Hofman was short and round and had little pudgy hands. Rachmaninoff looked like a be­reaved bloodhound. Liszt had a wart on his cheek and played dressups in clerical robes. As for the deathless Majorcan romance, Mme. Dudevant, calling herself ''George Sand,'' swaggered about, attired in trousers and waistcoats and big black cigars, while Chopin--whom she called by such endearments as "Chipette" --trotted whimpering at her heels.

 

Actually, of course, this record has little to do with romance in its amatory sense, though cultivation of the Higher Passions was certainly one characteristic of the Romantic Era. Such cultivation was, no doubt, watered and fertilized by the symbolic evocation of such emotions in the arts of the day; in music this took the form of ecstatic heaving, maniacal jubilation, lachrymose gurgling, and the like. Another characteristic of the Romantic Era that is even more apropos here was the proclivity of the artist to write advertisements from himself, so to speak, to cultivate the mystique of his genius and the myth of his Olympian uniqueness. In the end one might venture to guess that it was this kind of pose that turned a large part of the public away from the fine arts. Certainly the flamboyance of such men as Liszt, Wagner, Whistler, and Oscar Wilde did not sit well with everyone. And if there were numbers of serious, sober, dedicated pianist-composers, they too were lent a false coloration by the medicine-show approach of press-agentry.

 

The spectrum of ''Romantic'' composers embraced by the Messrs. Dubai and Waldoff is a broad one, extending from Field (b. 1782) to Dohnanyi, who lived to make stereo recordings. But doubtless they all, early or late, shared something of the Romantic impulse. And if the backlash against Romanticism and the nineteenth century was a result of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the age, they are all dust now, their personal foibles forgotten, enabling us to hear their music unencum­bered by personal irrelevancies.

 

To a considerable degree, this is a program of what were once "old favorites" --the Chopin "Minute Waltz," the Moszkowski Valse Brillante, the Rubin­stein Romance, the Liszt Etude. Because I hark back to the era when they were thus regarded, it's hard for me to guess where comment is needed, so I shall be arbitrary. The Czerny piece is from ''The School of Finger Dexterity,” recently recorded in its formidable entirety by Vivien Harvey Slater. (MHS 3431H/32A) Sigismond Thalberg (whose name--Valemount-­suggests that he had his ups and downs) was supposedly Liszt's greatest rival, and their famous pianistic duel at the Princess Belgioso's seems to have been declared a draw; I don't recall seeing his variations on "Le Depart" on records before. Busoni, like Puccini, wrote an opera on Carlo Gozzi's play Turandot, after writing incidental music for that work. From this last he arranged his fourth elegy, ''Turan­dot's women's boudoir," based on "Greensleeves," of all things! Godow­sky's "Old Vienna" is perhaps his most popular piece; it derives from a collection of thirty pieces in three-four time called "Triakontameron". Surprisingly, Josef Hofman, represented here by a "Nocturne,'' wrote a good deal of music, including a symphony and five piano concertos. I have no information on Charles Osborne, famous but obscure author of "The Rain of Pearls." Dohnanyi once recorded his rhapsodies for Remington, purveyor of the original cheapie LP.

 

David Dubal and Stanley Waldoff have been presenting duo-recitals like this for some time. New Yorkers may recognize Mr. Dubal as the program director of radio station WNCN, which, I am informed by a listener, is the best good-music station in the area.

 

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