Friday, March 30, 2007

Chopin's piano, Mallorca. Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
I think that to really enjoy a piece of classical music you have to find musicians who interpret it in a way that fully satisfies your expectations. Usually you don't really know what that interpretation might be until you hear it, but when you do you immediately sense that it's right. There's often a concensus of opinion as to which musicians or conductors are most 'in tune' with individual composers - Bruno Walter's Mahler, or Glenn Gould's Bach are typical examples - but in the end it boils down to personal taste. The pianist Alfred Brendel is supposedly a great player of Beethoven, but leaves me cold, and I'm equally unmoved by Arthur Rubinstein's 'legendary' Chopin, or Vladimir Horowitz's famed Schumann. Even if a musician plays one composer well, there's no guarantee he or she will play other similar composers equally well. Karl Bohm, for example, conducted Mozart's symphonies brilliantly, with just the right balance of bite and finesse, but his recordings of Beethoven's symphonies seem plodding and unconvincing to me. Conversely, Herbert Von Karajan conducts the Beethoven Symphonies (except the Ninth, which seemed to evade him) with great zest and panache, but his Mozart is pretty insipid. Anyway, my favourite kind of classical music is for (mainly solo) piano, so here are some great pianists whose interpretations of various composers I like. Doubtless they also play other composers well too, but these are just the ones I've heard and enjoyed. I was introduced to a few of them by friends, while most of the others were discovered via BBC Radio 3 - about the only radio station I ever listen to - or at live performances. Anyone have other recommendations?

Geza Anda - Mozart (concertos)
Martha Argerich - Bach, Haydn, Prokofiev
Daniel Barenboim - Beethoven
Jorge Bolet - Liszt
Imogen Cooper - Schubert, Mozart
Glenn Gould - Bach, Byrd, Brahms, Haydn
Ingrid Haebler - Mozart (concertos)
Clara Haskil - Mozart
Keith Jarrett - Bach, Handel
Wilhelm Kempff - Beethoven
Stephen Kovacevich - Beethoven, Mozart
Joanna MacGregor - Villa-Lobos, Satie, Debussy
John McCabe - Haydn
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli - Debussy, Chopin
Tatiana Nikolayeva - Shostakovich
Mikhail Pletnev - D Scarlatti
Ivo Pogorelich - Bach
Maurizio Pollini - Chopin, Schubert, Schoenberg
Svaitoslav Richter - Schumann, Prokoviev
Pascal Rogé - Ravel, Satie, Fauré
Andras Schiff - Bach, Janacek, Schumann
Artur Schnabel - Schubert, Beethoven
Mitsuko Uchida - Mozart
Tamas Vasary - Chopin
Christian Zacharias - D Scarlatti