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GORDON RUMSON reports on a
Paul Badura-Skoda recital in Calgary


The eminent Viennese pianist and scholar is currently on a wide ranging tour of North America. His stop-over in Calgary coincided with a ferocious cold snap (minus 29C) but this hardly daunted the seventy-five year old master pianist.

A part of a symposium on Schubert held at the University of Calgary, Paul Badura-Skoda gave a brief lecture outlining some connections between Schubert's songs and instrumental works. His observations reminded us that it is crucial and also valuable to study the songs. They provide important insights into instrumental music as well. For all that, far more significant was the superb recital played the following night.

The first half of the concert was played upon an 1822 Broadwood and Sons piano provided by the Cantos Music Foundation. In almost original condition the instrument was both visually beautiful and aurally satisfying. The second half of the concert was performed upon a modern Yamaha concert grand.

It may be thought that Paul Badura-Skoda, long associated with period performance, period instruments and the Classical era is 'merely' a fortepianist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I think that for all of the interest in the Classical masters (and I consider his recording of the Op 106 Hammerklavier Sonata of Beethoven on a period instrument one of the best done) and in spite of all of the study of the classical sources, Paul Badura-Skoda is at centre a Romantic pianist. This fits well with his background: his connection with Wilhelm Furtwängler and Edwin Fischer. Both supreme artists, but both motivated by the deepest pulses of emotion.

Thus, Badura-Skoda performs with great energy, shocking accents and a keen sense of danger undertaken. He will take risks that are musically justified that may not work in concert. But the daring! When he achieves his aim the result is fabulous. For example, the coda of the great Schubert B flat sonata was played at a breakneck pace and was technically perfect.

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Copyright © 11 March 2003 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


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