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Tuesday, 20 December 2011


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If you really want to explore what mankind is cabaple of as far as visual intimidation is concerned, I suggest this site:


It's in swedish so the rather interesting analysis that goes with each album cover will be lost on those non-swedish speakers outhere.

But the covers speak for themselves...
And there are hundreds of them.

Yes, "blog", snotty nosed little brother of Shrek. Even "blob" is better.

Great picture of the HANDS of maestro Brendel. Even though I'm crowdophobic, I've heard him in person.

Mike, Thank You!!, and Happy Holidays!

I've learned to love Beethoven mainly through Brendel's recordings and the fact that he usually looks eccentric on the covers is an added bonus.

Mike, while I would agree the cover of Kate's latest is not the strongest cover I've seen, it does cover the essence of the album. It is a snowball depicting a snowman kissing a women - summing up the song "Misty" from the album - which is in many ways the soul of this release (if you haven't listened to it, please do - its the story of a snowman coming to life and entering the women's bedroom, making passionate love, only to leave her in the morning with drenched sheets and bits of leaves and twigs as a memory of the experience, or was it a dream?). Given that, it seems to be appropriate for the cover...not sure it's the worst cover of the year or next, but the recording is all Kate and that is good enough for me.
As to the Brendel, give me an image of his hands without his mug and ya got a winner of a great cover. The soul of a musician, expressed through those two appendages is magic.

Brendel was a great Beethoven player; he is now retired of course. If you get the chance try his essays "On Music"- there are some wonderful writings on Beethoven, humor in music and Liszt (Brendel's other passion). He also writes some quirky poetry.

Have you heard Ronald Brautigam - if you haven't then give him a go. Beethoven refreshed.

I really like Benjamin Ealovega's portraits of Brendel - they capture the playfulness.

Mike, did you happen to catch the WQXR 32-Piano Sonata Marathon?

See this link:


I wasn't able to listen/watch to all of them, but of those I did, they were absolutely fantastic. I believe it was mostly young students.

... darn, I thought for sure they kept the video recordings of the 32-Piano Sonta Marathon on-line. Maybe not. I am bummed.

I'll +1 for the Brendel recording of the Pathetique. It is indeed something very, very special. For another angle on this, have a listen to Wilhelm Kempff. For some reason, I always end up going back to Kempff's recording of the Beethoven Sonata cycle because he actually tries to play what's on the page and interprets within the constraints which Beethoven has instructed. This alone is very rare amongst most recorded pianists.

Of the two recorded cycles (available as box sets), there is one early one which he recorded in a very, very short period whilst crossing the east-west german border over a couple of years, and one when he is a little bit older (but with much better recording quality). Both have merit in purchase.

Brendel's notes on Kempff, from his book and some CD cover notes are featured on his Wikipedia page. They sum him up quite well.



Kind of like the Pains cover.

Just in case no one else suggests these (and they're not in Swedish):


Hmm looking at the photograph; how do know for sure those are Brendel's hands.

That noted, do you really want to Handel
this disk? Or is that simply not the topic.

For both sound and performance, check out Ivan Moravec's Appassionata on Connoisseur/VIA. One of -- if not the -- best piano recordings.

What no sellotape? (Brendel photo). Beethoven is one of the composers I would think of first when turning to Brendel. I don't really have a preferred interpreter of the sonatas - but I don't think there can be a "perfect" interpretation anyway. The sonatas require interpretation, and so all great performances have their own different strengths. Like Pak, I find I turn to Kempff often, but Gilels also. Unfortunately Gilels never recorded the first and last, which are cornerstones of the series. I like his Apassionata - it's not a lyrical piece like the Waldstein of course.

Lately I've taken to Daniel Lewis' Beethoven - one of the new breed, but also a protege of Brendel.

Well Mike, I have the Beethoven recordings you list and dozens of others, for piano Beethoven and Chopin have always been my desert island selections and I agree with the recorded performances you list. (at this point I should add that an Island experience without some Chet Baker would be disastrous)
But Sadly a local Wisconsin boy goes un- mentioned and generally unnoticed were it not for his career at Eastman and his laughingly termed retirement here to Maine. Frank Glazer is without a doubt the most amazing performer of Beethoven I have ever experienced. He is the only individual I have heard that performs the 109,110 and 111 as a mature Beethoven, a pianist with the experience that handily demonstrates where Chopin picked up his depth. And not the same Beethoven that performed the earlier showpieces, he like all of us was a very different human in later life.
Unfortunately for the rest of you Frank no longer records. His last recordings were done decades ago. You can check out his recently released Pagannini Variations on Cook/Smithsonian label an early 1946 Binaural recording. his ability to deliver the flourishes of Violin on a keyboard is breathtaking. Well at 96 Frank still performs a dozen or so times a year around the world but does not record because he feels that the performance is a personal experience with the audience and can't be captured on media. You simply have to be there. he performs a few time s a year a Bates College where he has been "Artist in residence" for decades since leaving Eastman. I attend all of his performances and at 96 he is better than ever. 2 hour events are typical and would embarrass any 30 year old. the only change is that since turning 90 he does use sheet music. The inspiring part is that he continually introduces new music to his performances. A Wisconsin Boy makes good. (He studied with Schnabel before they both departed Germany as Hitler took power. Symphony premier with Serge Koussevitzky in 1939 and Carnegie in the '40s After serving in the military.
And yes his brother is the clarinetist.

That Kate Bush cover certainly deserves a Calvin & Hobbes treatment, just like this one. :)

Funny thing ... I was at a concert in SF's Davies Symphony Hall tonight; I have a granddaughter in in the SF Girls Chorus. I was mentioning to my wife a solo piano concert I had been at years ago, but just couldn't remember who the pianist had been. Usually when that's the case, it comes to mind in a little while.

In this case, it had to wait until I got home and checked TOP. I rolled down this topic - and there he was - Brendel! He was not in a playful mood that night - that's the reason I was telling the story. Someone sitting fairly forward on the main floor had a cough, and crackled lozenge wrappers. Brendel stopped in the middle of a piece and told this person they could either stop making noise, leave or he would stop playing and leave.

I admire Gilels playing of several Beethoven sonatas, but the Waldstein is certainly in a special category. Unlike you, I find his Appassionata quite enjoyable, although I also like the very different Barenboim. Time to take a listen to the Horowitz again. I was down on it years ago, then heard it on a movie soundtrack and enjoyed it. (Oh dear, was it really #23? Did I write it down? What movie?)

I don't think of Gilels as a Mozartian, but think his recording of #27 with his daughter, Elena, is wonderful.


Here is a little christmasgift for Mike and the readers of TOP. It is one of my favourit of all time. But now I cant play it as often as I want, my dog starts to howl. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtgIxU8TCyY

"I don't think of Gilels as a Mozartian, but think his recording of #27 with his daughter, Elena, is wonderful."

I agree Moose. I've had that recording for a long time.


Hi Mike, I thought every sensible person compared Beethoven performances! For me, the piano works are best done by Claudio Arrau. He seems to get the best sensitivity while not wimping out on the bolder statements.

I'd definately recommend looking at http://katastrofalaomslag.blogspot.com/ as recommended by Mikael above and running it through Google translate. It's very funny and the stilted translation somehow matches the images perfectly.

The covers that make me cringe are those that just show the band or artist. I makes me think that either little thought has gone into a relevant cover design, or the quality of the music is second to the hype surrounding the musicians.

Of course, some covers showing the musicians work really well, when some consideration has gone into the idea.

What a pity that 12" LPs with their huge space for cover illustrations are so rare now that so much can now be done with photography.

If you want to read about what it was like to produce album covers in the old days, that is the 1970s, buy The Work of Hipgnosis: Walk Away Rene by Storm Thorgerson. Hipgnosis did covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zep, 10cc and many others. The copies from Amazon UK seem to be cheaper than the US ones.

As someone who has the actual (Kate Bush) CD and takes some pleasure in the music as well as the rest of the packaging, I'll hazard a guess that you won't think too highly of the corresponding video, either:


I wish I could remember whether or not I bought the CD through your Amazon link, since you didn't provide one for the CD itself. And to think you actually live where it snows ;-)

(Nor would I call it a "come back" album...)

Peace, from an obvious KaTe fan -

- Tim

The Blondie cover is pretty bad.

Alfred Brendel has a long-standing interest in unintentional humour. A lot of his cover photographs have the same quality.

Thanks very much for the recommendation of Gilels' Waldstein. It really is heavenly playing. I only had his Hammerklavier before this. Olympian is how I would describe that. Such control, the whole work present in each bar, exhausting. This Waldstein is like a cross between Kempff and the Gilels of the Hammerklavier. Very beautiful. Thanks again. Happy Christmas.

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