Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

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Lance
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Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by Lance » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:07 pm

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... US218_.jpg
DGG 479 7362, 7 CDs, all mono.
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... SY355_.jpg

"No one, according to some, had ever played Bach like Gieseking, and they rhapsodized over an amazing technic, a tyle that was a fluent and easy as it was immaculate." --Time Magazine

Arrived today. I have somewhat enjoyed all this music on the original DGG-Heliodor label. Now we have them on CD ... all radio recordings. Gieseking was a master pianist, for sure, especially with the impressionist composers. I was not knocked off my feet with his Mozart EMI set. But, I collect Gieseking and his name is addictive to a great degree. These recordings were all made for Radio Saarbrücken. Dean Elder writes about his teacher eloquently. It is known Gieseking was not a pianist who practiced very much. It is revelaed in the notes that at times, the pianist performed on a non-concert Steinway grand that was not even tuned for some of the live radio broadcasts (of which these recordings are taken). It surprises me that the Germans weren't more meticulous about such things. If the playing what not up to his usual stuff, essentially, he figured what went out over the radio would be heard and quickly forgotten (by not a very large audience). It has been said that if he KNEW these would ultimately be released to the public, he might have worked harder for the radio performances - and the kind of perfection for which he was noted. In any event, Gieseking collectors will want to have this new release. Nuff said!
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jbuck919
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:32 pm

Gieseking, by his own admission, never practiced. This is something that the very greatest pianists can get away with as long as they limit their repertory. (By contrast, Leon Fleisher crippled himself with endless practice in order to be able to play the most difficult pieces.) I suppose that it is nice to have his Bach, but then I ask, what is the point?


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by Lance » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:46 pm

Well, several points, but only one or two here because you, too make a point! Gieseking had strong opinions on how the music of Bach should be performed, and much of it is revealed in the commentary in this set. One point is that you get to hear it by Gieseking without the use of any pedal. (He was totally against it.) Apparently he refused to 'romanticize' Bach in any manner, and, as most of us know, Gieseking was a master of using the una corda (soft) pedal to a great deal to get the results he wanted in his renderings of impressionistic music, especially Debussy and Ravel (and he succeeded). Gieseking advises that the instruments Bach used were not capable of the kind of "sustain" that one can get on the modern piano, therefore, to be true to what Bach intended, in using the piano for his performances, Gieseking did as much as possible to live up to those standards. Another point is that it IS Gieseking, one of the world's great masters of the piano and people who gaga over artists and interpretations--like yours truly--simply have to have it. (And yes, I have Glenn Gould's Bach - all of it, and in many ways, he brought me back to loving Bach's keyboard music than many others. Then, too, Gould has his detrators.) Another interesting point: Gieseking did not like transcriptions of Bach's music ... that it should be played the way it was written originally with no alterations. He DID feel the transcriptions of only two composers merited his playing transcriptions: Busoni and Liszt. But unlike Gieseking, yours truly LOVES transcriptions of Bach's music, and organ and piano fare well in this regard. So, for me, I disagree with the great Gieseking. Hey John ... it is great to see you contributing. I often think of the wonderful time we had in NYC for our last meet-up.
jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:32 pm
Gieseking, by his own admission, never practiced. This is something that the very greatest pianists can get away with as long as they limit their repertory. (By contrast, Leon Fleisher crippled himself with endless practice in order to be able to play the most difficult pieces.) I suppose that it is nice to have his Bach, but then I ask, what is the point?

Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

jbuck919
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:53 pm

Gieseking was right about the pedal. It has no place in the performance of Bach.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by John F » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:01 am

I haven't heard much Bach by Gieseking - one of the partitas is all I can remember - but it is disappointingly anonymous. He could learn new erpertory with astonishing ease - the story is that he read the score of a Hindemith piano sonata on the train to a recital and performed it without so much as a preliminary run-through. For me, the most important feature of his playing was not depth of understanding or expression but sheer beauty of tone, particularly his use of the pedal. This made him a wonderful performer of Debussy, Ravel, and certain pieces by Beethoven (the 4th concerto), but when he deliberately avoided pedaling, it could have been anybody playing.

Here's the first movement of the Beethoven with Böhm and the Dresden orchestra, the recording I grew up with. (This transfer's equalization is poor, with excessive treble.) Perhaps Gieseking's playing can be summed up and even dismissed as tickling the ivories, but I still like it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JopwvBfHGtY

Paul Badura-Skoda tells that he asked Gieseking why he played Mozart with no pedal, and the reply was that Mozart's pianos didn't have one so pedaling would be incorrect. Badura-Skoda knew more than most about 18th century pianos, he made an early recording for Westminster using one of them, so he knew that pedal effects could be obtained by pressing a lever below the keyboard with the knee. He wryly comments that Gieseking was perhaps too tall to bend down and see the sustaining lever. I bought Gieseking's 11-disc EMI complete Mozart set when I was in college, to get the repertoire, and was deeply disappointed with his Dresden-China approach. I can only listen to the Kleine Gigue and a few other short pieces.
John Francis

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by barney » Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:46 pm

I have been astounded at the fast tempi Gieseking adopts in Bach, because I don't think he lets the music breathe. I know tempi fashions come and go, but he feels faster than most. Does anyone else think that?
I'm certainly finding the set interesting, but I doubt that I will return to it often given how many great pianists have given such fine performances.

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by Lance » Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:25 pm

Yes, I think Gieseking plays too fast in some of this music. I especially listened tonight to the wonderful WTC Prelude and Fugue No. 24 from Book II in B minor ... I must say the Prelude could almost be from the Romantic era. As Gieseking plays it, it is dry, and not very interesting. A few years ago, our beloved Anastasia Rizikov (Canadian pianist) performed this Prelude and Fugue for Classical Pianists of the Future. It was played in the Romantic vein, with pedal, and left an impression I have never forgotten, and I return to the live recording I made of this recital frequently. I cannot imagine that, if Bach were alive and had really outstanding Bechsteins, Steinways, or Boesdendorfers at his disposal, he would have approved. In my humble opinion, if Bach is performed on a harpsichord or clavichord, then the music should be performed as Bach wrote it. Playing Bach on the piano offers many other opportunities in interpretation, and I have never minded that at all. Fortunately, as Barney indicates, we have MANY great pianists playing Bach.
barney wrote:
Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:46 pm
I have been astounded at the fast tempi Gieseking adopts in Bach, because I don't think he lets the music breathe. I know tempi fashions come and go, but he feels faster than most. Does anyone else think that?
I'm certainly finding the set interesting, but I doubt that I will return to it often given how many great pianists have given such fine performances.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

barney
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by barney » Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:07 am

Thanks Lance. The pedal point is interesting. I respect Gieseking's view here ( and apparently yours) that pedalling should be eschewed because Bach's instruments had no such possibility. But then (and I'm only going from memory here) the subtle pedal use of people like Perahia and Hewitt surely add to the musical possibilities.

barney
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by barney » Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:08 am

adds, sorry. I hate to be ungrammatical.

barney
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by barney » Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:09 am

I can't see how to edit posts any more, to correct my grammar or facts. Is that still possible Lance?

jserraglio
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by jserraglio » Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:28 am

barney wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:09 am
I can't see how to edit posts any more, to correct my grammar or facts. Is that still possible Lance?
Image

Click the pencil icon as shown.
Edit text in the edit window.
Click SUBMIT button at bottom of edit window.

John F
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by John F » Sun Aug 20, 2017 5:41 am

The notion of playing Bach's music "as he wrote it" may sound good, but I don't think it holds up, any more than playing "as he intended" or "as he would have done." If the period performance movement has taught anything, it's that the written text of 18th century music is far from the last word for the singer or player, it's only the first word.

Bach often doesn't even specify what instrument his keyboard music is to be played on - not cembalo or clavichord or organ or piano but "clavier." With a few exceptions, he left the choice of instrument to the player. If it happens to be a harpsichord, the player can change its timbre radically by using one or another stop, and Bach doesn't instruct him not to. If a piano - and Bach knew all about pianos, he actually sold them for a while - then he did not instruct the player not to use the sustaining pedal or lever, or to avoid dynamic contrasts. Indeed, much of his keyboard music was not for public performance but for private study and practice, titles like "Clavierübung" say so, and who cares what the player may do in private?

What Bach may have wanted 250 years ago is neither here nor there. It's what we want that matters. As long as we play the notes, how we play them is our business, not Bach's.
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by maestrob » Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:53 am

The best point you make, John, is that the score is the starting point for the performer, rather than the last word. What's on the printed page is merely the map, not the territory, in other words.

Every performance is an interpretation, whether of Bach, or Stravinsky. Whether one agrees with the results is a matter of taste, nothing more.

Just ask any composer.

barney
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by barney » Sun Aug 20, 2017 6:34 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:28 am
barney wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:09 am
I can't see how to edit posts any more, to correct my grammar or facts. Is that still possible Lance?
Image

Click the pencil icon as shown.
Edit text in the edit window.
Click SUBMIT button at bottom of edit window.
Many thanks for taking the time to educate me on this.
And I just clicked on the pencil to add this second sentence, proving that you are indeed right.

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by John F » Mon Aug 21, 2017 5:39 am

When Toscanini was about to give the premiere of Verdi's "Te Deum," he was able to visit the composer and play through the music for criticism and correction of his tempos. At one point he made a rallentando not in the score and Verdi clapped him on the shoulder and said "Bravo!" As Harvey Sachs tells it, Toscanini stopped playing and said, "Maestro, if only you knew how much this has been bothering me. Why didn't you write the rallentando?" Verdi replied, "If I had written it, a bad musician would have exaggerated it, but if one is a good musician one feels it and plays it, just as you've done, without the necessity of having it written down."
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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by maestrob » Mon Aug 21, 2017 12:06 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Aug 21, 2017 5:39 am
When Toscanini was about to give the premiere of Verdi's "Te Deum," he was able to visit the composer and play through the music for criticism and correction of his tempos. At one point he made a rallentando not in the score and Verdi clapped him on the shoulder and said "Bravo!" As Harvey Sachs tells it, Toscanini stopped playing and said, "Maestro, if only you knew how much this has been bothering me. Why didn't you write the rallentando?" Verdi replied, "If I had written it, a bad musician would have exaggerated it, but if one is a good musician one feels it and plays it, just as you've done, without the necessity of having it written down."
Interesting John, good point. Brahms had the same feeling about metronome markings, as we all know. OTOH, writing "poco rall" in the score would have clarified the situation for future generations. Yes, I know, great composers trusted their interpreters to have good instincts, but that changed during the XXth century when it became the fashion to write in every detail of interpretation and conductors began reading 19th century scores literally. It would seem that those good instincts that Verdi relied on have been mostly lost. I'm very rarely satisfied by current interpretations of Romantic symphonies and concertos, although there are a few greats out there. The last great set of Brahms Symphonies I have is Solti/Chicago, f'rinstance. Soloists seem to have retained a sympathy for Romantic music, but finding a conductor to work with successfully is massively difficult.

Where is our Bernstein, Toscanini, Szell, HvK, Levine, Abbado etc.? Will Nezet-Seguin fill the bill? Pappano seems to be doing well in opera. Luisi has been successful to my ears as well in both symphonic and operatic music. Only time will tell.

But I digress.

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Re: Walter Gieseking's DGG Bach recordings - now here!

Post by John F » Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:40 pm

There are some conductors around who are not literalists - Valery Gergiev for one. Inconsistent, maybe, but then no conductor or musician has been equally persuasive in all kinds and periods of music. But I get the impression from previous comments that you've a rather more limited tolerance for interpretive freedom than I do; I look for it and welcome it.
John Francis

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