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BN: The problem with the younger generation player is that he is not aware of this. He plays fast and loud, even allowing all the notes to sound in their correct places, but at the end of the day the performance is meaningless.
HD: They look on passagework as passagework, but I Iook on it as decorated melody which has its own patterns and sensitivities.
BN: Then there is the important range of harmonies and counterpoint writing in the middle register.
HD: Ah ... that is where Isabel's right hand is good, because she is very expressive ...
IB: You don't usually say that!
HD: I know my partner; you see I can't do much walking and she has done all the work in the house! This is exceptional ...
IB: Oh, he's being nice to me now!
HD: Her right hand is the viola part, clarinet or the French horn. You have to respond to it, and with Schubert you don't need urging -- it is there in the music. After performing other composers, it is like coming back home to Schubert. There is something wonderful about it.

BN: You can assess how much expression to give, and how to phrase the music in the absence of score markings.
HD: Yes -- there are minimal markings throughout. But you can always work these out yourself; even do some necessary editing. Professors argue endlessly whether diminuendo or decrescendo means getting softer; others regard decrescendo as becoming softer and slower. So, it means that half the time you don't know what you are meant to be doing?
BN: Some say that his piano music is unpianistic?
HD: There was a period in the 20s and 30s when those pianists who didn't like to play Schubert would state that his piano writing was not pianistic. But Schubert was a fabulous pianist -- he played The Erl King about ten times as a young man.
IB: But everyone knew that he was so musical!
HD: I have heard Alfred Brendel describe his music as beautifully pianistic. You just have to take the trouble and learn a new technique.
BN: At one time, I thought that Brendel altered Schubert's accepted dynamics to suit his own conception.
HD: In that case I wouldn't agree with you, because his decision was based on enormous research. If any pianist completely distorted the musical dynamics you would switch off, or walk out of the hall.

BN: Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda in their prime, even the American Frank Glazer in the 1950s, each had their personal thoughts on Schubert dynamics.
IB: And Schubert's piano music wasn't that popular then!
HD: When we were students, Debussy and Hindemith were regarded as moderns, and Bartók Quartets performed at the Conway Hall had members of the audience laughing and walking out. Lesser-known Schubert symphonies were rarely performed.

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Copyright © 20 January 2005 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


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