Saturday, February 22, 2014

Superfluous, Read Superficial, Rubato

Random tuning in to the radio can yield interesting discoveries.  Yesterday it was Horowitz playing a Liszt transcription of Schubert's famous Serenade, one of those unforgettable melodies that drift over what seems like an endlessly repetitive rhythmic accompaniment.

Horowitz did the usual thing, emphasizing quarter note divisions on every single beat of every single bar, though Schubert has distinctly indicated not triplets, but sextuples, which go three to the half note, NOT the quarter note.  To avoid sounding repetitive he indulged the melody with shameless rubato, completely unnecessary if the accompaniment figure is set up to produce inherent tension, i.e., interest.

Just now I heard a young pianist playing Chopin's Scherzo in E.  Same problem.  Only here, to avoid the monotony he played faster than fast, thus missing any chance of interest in internal rhythms, and had to play the slower passages slower than slow and more sentimentally than I can tolerate.

Curious the lengths to which musicians go to avoid answering the fundamental question: Why I am so bored playing this piece?