Music and Vision homepage All Risks Musical - an irreverent guide to the music profession by Alice McVeigh


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Stephen Kovacevich admits to bringing the orchestral sounds of both Beethoven and Wagner into his interpretation of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op.111. 'Britten wrote orchestral indications into his piano parts to remind himself what colour he thought he wanted. One mustn't take it too far, but there are definite Debussy "brass" chords and fanfares to keep in mind, and preparation falls into two stages: crack the technical problem first, and without worrying too much about the end product. Once you have mastered that, forget the mechanics and the technique, and go for colour, drama, humour, whatever.'

'Playing Debussy, on and off all my life, you learn a lot of pieces and how to cope with a different style of piano playing, but one of the frustrations of putting it on CD is your constantly changing viewpoint. The Nimbus policy of straight takes means you're all keyed up to play and perform, then you wait for the disc to come out a year later! I tend, therefore, to listen once, and not much afterwards.' The spontaneity of a live performance? 'That's the aim. There are going to be slips and it isn't going to be documentarily perfect as some discs are, but perhaps as a performance it will last longer because someone is actually playing to persuade you. It's a hard line to find in recording. You don't want to split too many notes, but in a concert there is always more leeway. Thank goodness we all play differently. If it all came out the same, we'd only need one pianist!'

Mark Anderson joins the discussion. Whether the pianistic trend is to play very fast or slow, interpretation is something you have to make up your own mind about, using the score markings as a guideline which you don't have to follow strictly all the time. 'You want an elaboration, I feel, but pianists generally have their reasons for doing it their way and that's not for me to judge. The music itself - from the first note to the last of any piece - tells me what it wants to be. It's continuity, the basic conception.'

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Copyright © 12 September 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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