Archive for April, 2010

Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini: Part 1

April 17, 2010

For a while now I’ve been eager to get a good recording of Moonlight Sonata, since the one I’ve had thus far is entirely unsatisfactory. So today I searched for recordings of Sonata 14 on iTunes, and I found two albums whose reviews and ratings warranted a purchase – an album by the Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel, and another by the Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini. Brendel’s album consists of Piano Sonatas 14 (“Moonlight”), 8 (“Pathetique”), 23, and 26; Mollini’s of 13, 14, and 15.

I downloaded Pollini’s album first. It was good, satisfying, and impressive, but he played it a little too fast for my ears. I like to “dwell” in the piece – slow down the tempo. So next I downloaded Brendel’s album. I believe he plays it slower, or slows it down more at key parts, and I found it much more stirring. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be completely blown away by another piece – Brendel’s performance of Piano Sonata no. 8, popularly called “Pathetique”. I would be asleep right now if I weren’t so addicted to this piece – I decided to go to sleep when Sonata 8 came on, and then I couldn’t stop listening, so I figured I would write this blog post while the first movement played.

But the first movement is now over, and the second isn’t quite as gripping, nor is the start of the third – so I am free to go. When I am less tired (it is 1 am and I am exhausted) I would like to write my reaction to Brendel’s performances of no. 8 and 14. The experience of listening to no. 8 is something like a uniform bliss; however, I am ashamed to say (as I think it probably reflects on my own scant knowledge of classical music) that I find Moonlight Sonata to be a little redundant in the third movement… it’s almost as if the score is being replayed several times. I will ask my guru pianist roommate what he thinks of my perceived “redundancy” and write that into my follow-up post.

Until part 2, au revoir, imaginary audience!

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Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams

April 2, 2010

I’ve been reading some anthologies of poetry lately and I thought I would reproduce the poems that really struck me. My experience of reading an anthology of a certain poet is that four out of five of the poems “miss” but that lucky number 5 really floors you. This is especially true for Thomas Johnson’s Final Harvest, a five hundred-odd selection of Emily Dickinson’s poems. The best way to read it seems to be to jump to the poems mentioned in the introduction- but even then, a lot of poems fail to make an impression. However, by doing so I came across this poem:

The soul that hath a Guest
Doth seldom go abroad –
Diviner Crowd at Home –
Obliterate the need –

And Courtesy forbid
A Host’s departure when
Upon Himself be visiting
The Emperor of Men –

Emily Dickinson 277 (674)

This is quite simply one of the most clever poems I have come across.

Now for a bizarre (and bizarrely pleasing) poem:

Dans Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:

‘I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!’
If I admire my arms, my face
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams

The succession of images is just so ridiculous that it’s hilarious. The last line really knocks you out.