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Re: GG:slight digression

On Fri, 26 Apr 1996, Nichole Marie Fromm wrote:

> Thanks for the  reply to my (uninformed) question about GG and the harpsichord -
> now I'm REALLY curious to hear those Handel pieces. I would also like to
> reccommend the harpsichord recordings of Gustav Leonhardt.  His Goldberg
> Variations are excellent; he's also done the French suites and the
> Well-Tempered Clavier.

Leonhardt is almost always among the most convincing, in every part of the
repertoire which he plays.  (Not just Bach.) Sometimes his approach seems
a bit stern, yes, but still there's a lot of clarity and rhythmic

>  Keith Jarrett (!) also did WTC on a harpsichord, but
> I haven't heard it yet.

Cleanly played; understated as to interpretation (on the boring side, not
much personality...for some Bach pieces such a "null" interpretive
approach works well, for others not).  That same quality makes his
Goldberg Variations recording a soothing soporific item, which can be nice
sometimes, and is after all part of the intended purpose of the piece. 
Not so effective earlier in the day, when one wants to hear more
interesting details.  

Jarrett does *not* articulate note-to-note in the same variegated manner
that a specialized harpsichordist does, nor does he do much with allowing
notes' attacks to be non-simultaneous (both are essential parts of subtle
harpsichord expression); he doesn't bring much variety to his surfaces. 
His approach works best for music in which there is at least as much
large-scale structural interest as at the surface level of the notes
(because he focuses attention away from the local events of the notes). 

Compare Jarrett's generic harpsichord style with, for instance, Edward
Parmentier's recording of the Bach Partitas, in which there are many more
levels of interest happening simultaneously (or with the Goldbergs by van
Asperen or Hantai).  Jarrett seems to have the view that getting the notes
well-prepared enough and executed evenly is good enough.  (This approach
tends to be the one of Hogwood, Pinnock, Rousset, and Moroney also.  Well,
Rousset has a little more flash.)

Anybody want to comment on Jarrett's Handel recording, on the piano?  I've
heard only a few movements, at a listening station in a store, and thought
the playing was undercharacterized.  Didn't hold my interest.  (I have the
same trouble with Jarrett's recording of Shostakovich's P&F's.)

A nice thing about picking up a *Gould* record is that one knows it will
never be a null interpretation.  OK, well, maybe parts of the
"Hammerklavier" are on the dull side, and his Chopin Sonata #3 is
remarkably spare, and the finale of Prokofiev 7 doesn't need anything, but

>   (to digress further, I think everyone should
> hear WTC on a real, well-tempered harpsichord. It lends each key a "mood "
> of its own which Equal temperament does not (despite the GG quote which gave
> this group its name(: )). 

Amen.  Equal temperament is bland. 

> ps Does anyone know if recordings by Wanda Landowska on her "monster" Pleyel
> are still available anywhere?   

Yes; much of the early work is available on CD labels which specialize in
78-rpm reissue (e.g., Pearl).  And her later RCA Bach work (WTC,
Goldbergs, other selections) is still in print on CD.  So is the EMI
Scarlatti collection.  I haven't seen so many of her other non-Bach RCA
recordings recently; they might or might not be available. 

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu       http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/