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Violinerrrz

Chopin Ballades

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Rubinstein has my vote. He wrote a couple of delightful books about his many years in music; they are out of print, I believe, but can be obtained from Alibris.com.

I can thoroughly recommend them to you; they are in hard cover, for very reasonable prices.

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I would go with Richter or Backhaus for Beethoven, not so much Chopin.

Rubinsten always mentioned that Horowitz was a better technician than he was, but he Rubinstein was the better interpreter. Which raises the interesting question as to whether you would prefer to be a great technician or a great interpreter.

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As a complete set, I strongly prefer Alfred Cortot. He made two complete sets, in 1929 and 1934, respectively, and another recording of No.1 in 1926 (there may be later recordings, but I am not familiar with some of his very late recordings since they are difficult to come by and some remain unpublished). Although two sets are only barely 5 years apart, it is not difficult to hear some interesting changes in interpretations. Cortot was one of the most spontaneous pianist with absolutely amazing command of rubato. His recordings should never be forgotten.

As for No.4, my pick is Josef Hofmann, despite in inferior sound (even by the standard of 1930s, the sound is not very good). As much as I love Cortot's playing, Hofmann is even more daring and demonic than Cortot in this piece. The climatic moments burst with spine-tingling intensity and it is not a recording for a faint-hearted listener (not unlike Gitlis or Huberman's recordings), but I would say it is one of the most memorable recording in the entire piano-recording history.

T.

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It's a good question, Nemesis. I've been discussing it in my writing classes with regard to technique across the arts (film, painting, writing, and dance).

Of course, one MUST have technique, lots of technique, to communicate effectively--indeed, to become a great interpreter. Can one have too much technique? Probably not. But technique can become self-absorbed, for sure--it can lose sight of both subject and audience.

Last night as we drove home from rehearsal, we were listening to Horowitz playing Chopin. We agreed: "Just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should ." I find these recordings shocking, even horrifying.

The dangers of a highly-developed technique are apparent throughout the arts. It sometimes seems like the greatest artist hones his technique and then hides it--i.e., Picasso.

J.

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Well said. I was assuming virtuoso technique (which Rubinstein possessed anyhow). The problem with primary emphasis on technique is that one plays perfect notes but sounds like an automaton. Personally I would prefer to be a great interpreter because music was meant to be listened to and enjoyed.

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