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My Top 10 classical music pianists


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Growth can well be a keyword for discussion ; although a recording doesn't change, people do.

When it comes down to opinions, it's more than the music itself ?

I considered Gould, but I've kind of outgrown him, and look for others in Bach.

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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Growth can well be a keyword for discussion ; although a recording doesn't change' date=' people do.[/font']

When it comes down to opinions, it's more than the music itself ?

 

It probably is. We do change and so does our taste.

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I'm not very much into classical. Got to make it clear. My favourite classical pianist is Martha Argerich. The recording that has literaly made me fall in love with her was Rachmaninov 3rd piano concert from this album

 

0002894466732_600.jpg?w=625

 

I love her performing Rachmaninov, Bach, Chopin.. in fact just about any composer. But in recent years (Lugano recordings etc) she doesn't seem to play on the same level that she used to when she was younger IMO. I don't blame her, we've got so many her earlier, amazing recordings!

 

I like Gould playing Bach. I don't like Gould playing Mozart but I think Gould didn't like himself playing Mozart.

 

As for Rafał Blechacz - his Chopin album issued right after the Warsaw Chopin contest didn't impress me. Haven't checked out his later recordings.

 

I like some recordings of Zimerman (Chopin for example), Ashkenazy, Maria Joao Pires and some others.

 

Haven't heard Leif Ove Andsnes, maybe I should check him out (I'm a big 'fan' of Rachmaninov).

 

But Martha comes first.. :)

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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I don't think I'd be able to choose 10 pianists, maybe my favourite pianist for a particular musical piece.

 

I listen more to Moravec than any other pianist but my grandfather was a huge fan of Arrau and I grew up listening to some of his recordings. I love his take on Chopin's PCs, his solo Liszt. I also enjoy Michelangeli's Debussy, Beethoven PC5 or Schumann's PC. Hough's Rachmaninov PCs set, Kocsis anything Rach (I love Rach), Jando playing Liszt solo, Sudbin's Scriabin...

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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What criteria did you use to make your list? For me, the criteria should be:

 

- not a specialist. e.g. some people specialize in Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, or Chopin.

- is versatile with different composers

- does not impose too much of their own personality or eccentricities into the interpretation, such that music by different composers sound more like the pianist than the composer

- has interpretations that are consistently judged to be either the pinnacle or close to it

 

By this criteria, Gould definitely does not rate a mention. He specializes in Bach, and is hopeless with other composers (he is on record saying that he dislikes Beethoven). Gould sounds more like Gould than he sounds like Bach. As for his interpretations being considered the pinnacle of Bach, that is quite debatable. I can't stand his dry, staccato sound. To have the same sound permeate the entirety of his recordings, with no break to legato is intolerable.

 

And by this criteria, surely Sviatoslav Richter is the greatest. He was at home playing Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Chopin, Schubert, and Liszt. He does have a characteristic hypnotic sound, but he has other tricks up his sleeve. He is loyal to the intent of the composer, but sometimes departs quite markedly from what others are doing. And, many of his recordings are either the definitive version, or close to it.

 

I agree that people like Argerich, Moravec, Perahia, Gilels, and Zimmerman deserve to be on that list.

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What criteria did you use to make your list? For me, the criteria should be:

 

- not a specialist. e.g. some people specialize in Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, or Chopin.

- is versatile with different composers

- does not impose too much of their own personality or eccentricities into the interpretation, such that music by different composers sound more like the pianist than the composer

- has interpretations that are consistently judged to be either the pinnacle or close to it

 

By this criteria, Gould definitely does not rate a mention. He specializes in Bach, and is hopeless with other composers (he is on record saying that he dislikes Beethoven). Gould sounds more like Gould than he sounds like Bach. As for his interpretations being considered the pinnacle of Bach, that is quite debatable. I can't stand his dry, staccato sound. To have the same sound permeate the entirety of his recordings, with no break to legato is intolerable.

 

And by this criteria, surely Sviatoslav Richter is the greatest. He was at home playing Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Chopin, Schubert, and Liszt. He does have a characteristic hypnotic sound, but he has other tricks up his sleeve. He is loyal to the intent of the composer, but sometimes departs quite markedly from what others are doing. And, many of his recordings are either the definitive version, or close to it.

 

I agree that people like Argerich, Moravec, Perahia, Gilels, and Zimmerman deserve to be on that list.

I considered using "objective" criteria, but quickly gave up. This is a very personal, subjective list of pianists that matter to me. All of them are great pianists, I wouldn't necessary claim they are the best pianists ever.

 

I agree with your assessment of Richter by the way. I even had the pleasure of hearing him live in a solo recital on Brahms and Scriabin, many years ago. And his recording of Brahms 2 with Leinsdorf is just outstanding.

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Garrick Ohlssohn: the Beethoven Sonatas

Sudbin: Scriabin

Argerich: She does everything well

I really don't have Ohlssohn on my radar that much. I guess this side of the pond he's just less well known. Will check him out.

 

And yes, Sudbin, absolutely. He could have made my list.

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I don't think I'd be able to choose 10 pianists, maybe my favourite pianist for a particular musical piece.

 

I listen more to Moravec than any other pianist but my grandfather was a huge fan of Arrau and I grew up listening to some of his recordings. I love his take on Chopin's PCs, his solo Liszt. I also enjoy Michelangeli's Debussy, Beethoven PC5 or Schumann's PC. Hough's Rachmaninov PCs set, Kocsis anything Rach (I love Rach), Jando playing Liszt solo, Sudbin's Scriabin...

 

R

"10" is an arbitrary and very low number, I agree.

 

I did love Arrau, but revisiting him now (currently going through his Beethoven cycle again), I don't agree with all his choices. His Chopin is spectacular though. Michelangeli is special, but unfortunately has recorded very little. Hough I find too hit and miss, sometimes his recordings can be a bit bland. Kocsis I'd need to check out more, same goes for Jando. Agree on Sudbin, I'm just not that big into Scriabin yet.

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One needn't be a fan, nor have love and respect to go back...

I actually have this, but honestly, beyond Bach, I'm not a big Gould fan.

 

As you said in your blog :

I noticed I always keep going back to a certain number of pianists, that I love and respect, and that usually always have something to say.

 

Gould...

 

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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"10" is an arbitrary and very low number, I agree.

 

I did love Arrau, but revisiting him now (currently going through his Beethoven cycle again), I don't agree with all his choices. His Chopin is spectacular though. Michelangeli is special, but unfortunately has recorded very little. Hough I find too hit and miss, sometimes his recordings can be a bit bland. Kocsis I'd need to check out more, same goes for Jando. Agree on Sudbin, I'm just not that big into Scriabin yet.

I like Moravec's playing of the Beethoven Sonatas but he's using a modern piano.

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Beginning in college in the '60's, I've been fortunate in having heard in concert some of the great pianists, many several times, when they made annual sojourns to Boston at that time. I went each year to hear Rubinstein and Serkin, partly because I didn't know whether they would still be alive the next year. I heard Janis, Cliburn, Gina Bachauer, Alicia de Larrocha, Arrau, and Moravec twice (once in SF, after moving there, and once in Prague).

 

My wife is a fine amateur pianist (having played all five Beethoven Piano Concerti with local orchestras and being one of the winners at an early Cliburn amateur competition in Fort Worth), and we are fortunate to have a Bosendorfer 225 at home, that she picked out at the factory in Vienna 30 years ago. So we try to listen to pianists coming through the Bay Area annually as well as those whom we see on our annual London visit.

 

Some fine pianists we have heard recently:

 

Mitsuko Uchida (fell in love with her Mozart sonatas back in the 80's). We heard her play the Diabelli Variations a couple of years ago in Berkeley, and will be hearing her play the Beethoven 3rd piano concerto next June in London with Haitink conducting the LSO.

 

Paul Lewis - not a kid, but still a "young" pianist.

 

Benjamin Grosvenor - mentioned on the list.

 

Leif Ove Andsnes - on the list - have heard him a couple of times in London - can't say that he made a big impression on me.

 

Daniil Trifonov - very talented and still very young.

 

Murray Perahia - also on the list - heard him twice in 2014-5 (in Berkeley and London) - what a wonderful pianist - appears to be fully recovered from his health problems. Coincidentally, the day after his London concert, he was sitting two rows behind us, watching Emanuel Ax play the Beethoven PC3 with the Philadelphia Orch at Royal Festival Hall.

 

Richard Goode - now in his 70's and a bit past his prime - but a great pianist. His wife, Marcia, who turns pages for him, was a classmate of my wife at Smith College.

 

Stephen Hough - I think underrated - only seen him in London. He was the first classical musician to win a MacArthur "genius" award.

 

Angela Hewitt - love her Bach on the piano (usually plays her Fazioli piano).

 

That's enough.

 

Larry

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Beginning in college in the '60's, I've been fortunate in having heard in concert some of the great pianists, many several times, when they made annual sojourns to Boston at that time. I went each year to hear Rubinstein and Serkin, partly because I didn't know whether they would still be alive the next year. I heard Janis, Cliburn, Gina Bachauer, Alicia de Larrocha, Arrau, and Moravec twice (once in SF, after moving there, and once in Prague).

 

My wife is a fine amateur pianist (having played all five Beethoven Piano Concerti with local orchestras and being one of the winners at an early Cliburn amateur competition in Fort Worth), and we are fortunate to have a Bosendorfer 225 at home, that she picked out at the factory in Vienna 30 years ago. So we try to listen to pianists coming through the Bay Area annually as well as those whom we see on our annual London visit.

 

Some fine pianists we have heard recently:

 

Mitsuko Uchida (fell in love with her Mozart sonatas back in the 80's). We heard her play the Diabelli Variations a couple of years ago in Berkeley, and will be hearing her play the Beethoven 3rd piano concerto next June in London with Haitink conducting the LSO.

 

Paul Lewis - not a kid, but still a "young" pianist.

 

Benjamin Grosvenor - mentioned on the list.

 

Leif Ove Andsnes - on the list - have heard him a couple of times in London - can't say that he made a big impression on me.

 

Daniil Trifonov - very talented and still very young.

 

Murray Perahia - also on the list - heard him twice in 2014-5 (in Berkeley and London) - what a wonderful pianist - appears to be fully recovered from his health problems. Coincidentally, the day after his London concert, he was sitting two rows behind us, watching Emanuel Ax play the Beethoven PC3 with the Philadelphia Orch at Royal Festival Hall.

 

Richard Goode - now in his 70's and a bit past his prime - but a great pianist. His wife, Marcia, who turns pages for him, was a classmate of my wife at Smith College.

 

Stephen Hough - I think underrated - only seen him in London. He was the first classical musician to win a MacArthur "genius" award.

 

Angela Hewitt - love her Bach on the piano (usually plays her Fazioli piano).

 

That's enough.

 

Larry

 

Thanks for your great comment.

 

My two cents: agree on Uchida, she will be featured in one of my upcoming blog posts.

 

Trifonov is great as well, I've previously mentioned on the blog.

 

I like Goode's Beethoven cycle quite a bit, don't know many other recordings of him.

 

Stephen Hough I'm not so dir about. He is more hot and miss in my experience.

 

Angela Hewitt I like especially on Bach and Händel.

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As for Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart and Angela Hewitt - Bach I totally agree.

But.. could the best pianist be a non-smoker.? (love these photos, she seems to enjoy smoking as much as I do) :)

 

8570606859_f924a82f0a_b.jpg

 

tumblr_m714dqyr8M1qeigxs.png

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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