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Chapter 18: Ten Types of Performers and Their Recordings
Jugglers and acrobats
So you think it's challenging to play the piano with both hands while trying to read the music while using your feet to control sustain and volume while seated in front of an audience of 500 or more? Try doing all that while also conducting a full orchestra!
Such conductor-pianist hyphenates as Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, and Vladimir
Ashkenazy adeptly juggle playing the lead and leading the orchestra ... without ever missing a beat or even getting up from their piano benches.
So, next time you're frustrated with the job at hand, be thankful you’ve only got yourself to worry about, and not 90 other pent-up musicians.
Born in Poland, Landowska (1879-1959) began playing at the age of 4. After studying in Berlin and Paris, she became interested in the harpsichord and gave concerts called “musique ancienne” (ancient music) all over the world. She began to teach harpsichord classes in 1913. She gave the first modern performances on harpsichord of many Bach masterpieces. One of these performances resulted in a recording of Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” which Landowska described as her “last will and testament.”
Many piano connoisseurs consider Polish-born Rubinstein (1887-1982) to be the greatest pianist of the 20th century. After studying in Berlin, he moved to France to pursue his career as a solo concert pianist. His wide range of styles was amazing, from Mozart to Stravinsky and everyone in between. He is particularly well-known for his brilliant Chopin interpretations. In his two volumes of memoirs, his adventurous stories of wine, women, and song convey to the world what a true cosmopolitan Rubinstein was.
Hear just how able these skilled virtuosos’ fingers can be on the following
Ii1 Martha Argerich: Martha Argerich Collection (DG).
.K Vladimir Horowitz: Scriabin, Preludes (BMG); Private Collection Vol. 2 (BMG).
Part VII: The Part of Tens
* Evgeny Kissin: Chopin, Piano Concertos, with Dimitri Kitaenko & Moscow Philharmonic (RCA).
J' Wanda Landowska: Bach, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (BMG).
- Arthur Rubinstein: Chopin, 7 Polonaises (BMG); Chopin, The Nocturnes (BMG).
Imagine cleaning house one day and hearing beautiful music pouring out of the living room. You think to yourself, “Hmm. I forgot to turn off the radio.” As you head toward the living room, you are shocked to find your five-year-old child seated happily at the piano. The following child prodigies also made a parent drop the mop at some point in their lives.
Josef Hofmann (1876-1957), born in Poland, debuted at the age of 6, and began touring Europe at 9. After his U.S. debut in 1887, he became so busy touring that, at one point, he played 52 concerts in only 10 weeks. Concerned, a friend of the family donated $50,000 so the young boy could take time to receive formal training and not return to public performance until he was 18. The time away served him well: Even the great Rachmaninoff once called Hofmann the “greatest living pianist.”
Wotfqanq Amadeus Mozart
Perhaps the most famous child prodigy, this young Austrian (1756-1791) turned to his father for lessons. At the age of 5, Mozart began composing, not just piano pieces, but full-scale symphonic works. He had an amazing memory and infallible ear for music, which allowed him to play entire sonatas perfectly after only one listening. His father proudly paraded his son’s talents in front of nobility all across Europe with a “road show” that lasted 14 years. Mozart’s piano concertos are regarded today as some of the most important pieces in the keyboard repertoire.
Chapter 18: Ten Types of Performers and Their Recordings 275
Steveland Judkins Moore (born blind in Michigan in 1950) was instantly drawn to playing piano, harmonica, organ, and drums. Where his eyes failed him, his ears made up the difference and then some. At the age of 10, Berry Gordy signed him to Motown Records. At the age of 21, he began producing, arranging, and performing all of his own material, emerging as the first (and youngest) Motown artist to have complete artistic control. His style ranges from R&B and gospel to pop and rock. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Kids, gather ’round
Inspire your kids and others with a sampling of these young prodigies’ magnificent creations:
Josef Hofmann: Complete Josef Hofmann, Vol. 3 (VAI).
* Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 20 & 21, Mitsuko Uchida with Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra (Philips): 4 Piano Sonatas, Alicia de Larrocha (London).
J Stevie Wonder: Looking Back (Motown); Songs in the Key of Life (Motown).
Jazz comes in many flavors: bebop, New Orleans, big band, ragtime, and just plain cool. Jazz has attracted performers who took piano music to places it had never gone before in terms of skill, harmony, and rhythm. A sample list of these hip cats includes the following musicians.