It's indulgent to criticize the worst of things and more difficult to showcase the best—but still fun. Shown up top is, well (damn), the winner. We all love Kate Bush, and we're happy she's back once again, and I admire the chutzpah of a comeback album on which the shortest cut times in at 6:48 (the longest is 13:32—Kate's recent influences must include Joanna Newsom's ya-love-it-or-ya-hate-it "Ys" [which has a great album cover—fits the music perfectly]. Talk about your meanders.) But a half-snowman/half-man eating the face of a supplicating female rendered in snow has got to take the palm for most excruciating idea in music graphic arts for 2011, and possibly a handful of years on either side. I mean, can we give it the Worst of 2012 and 2013 award too? One can but hope.
eFriend Bobby B. is never not interesting. Merry merry, spry young atheist.
Two perfect piano sonatas
Having stayed up way too late last night making close comparisons of numerous Beethoven piano sonatas (not a usual preoccupation for me, although I've been listening to classical piano music for many years now), I thought I might take a moment, while we're on "music notes," to add a recommendation for two of the most dazzling, transcendent Beethoven sonata recordings ever made. Two that no one should miss. Might be useful to people who don't normally listen to Beethoven. Or classical music.
The first is Emil Gilels' "Waldstein" sonata. Just one of the most amazing piano performances ever caught on tape. I don't really like the other two performances on the record—Gilels' Appassionata is a bit suspect, almost ugly in places—but if there was ever a more flowing, virtuosic Waldstein, I have yet to hear it.
The second is Alfred Brendel's "Pathétique" sonata. Brendel is not the first pianist one thinks of as a Beethovenian, I realize. And Beethoven's piano music has been described as "better music than can be played***," which I think is just another way of saying it doesn't really lend itself to being played well. Sample a whole bunch of recordings by various candidates, and that becomes obvious. When a great pianist judges it just right—and it happens all too rarely—is when the magic in the art is revealed.
I should add that while I know there are great historical performances of both of these sonatas, I just prefer to listen to good modern recordings of piano sound—old, scratchy, distant, fluttery transfers from shellacs or whatever just don't do it for me, no matter how allegedly important the performance. There, predudice confessed.
Both are also available on iTunes, and probably elsewhere as well.
*The only word in English uglier than "blog."
**That picture says, "world-renowned artist—or the sketchy quiet guy who lives in the basement apartment two doors down?"
***Which might be literally true of the "Appassionata" sonata.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.