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Vladimir Feltsman

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by pianolady, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Jun 14, 2006
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    I saw him play a concert today. Although I have, of course, heard his name before, I never heard him play before. I’m glad I can now say that I have. It was a nice concert. His program was as follows:

    Mozart – Fantasia in D Minor, K.397

    Schubert – Four Impromptus, D. 899

    Chopin – all four Ballades

    The Mozart and the four Schubert pieces were in the first half of the concert. I think the Mozart was perfect. Also the Schubert. I like the no. 2 Impromptu and boy did he have fast fingers. All those many, many runs, chromatic passages, and arpeggios were so clean and fast. Wow!

    The second half of his concert was all Chopin. Great!!! Regarding the first Ballade – I liked Feltsman’s interpretation. He brought out some notes I never considered doing whenever I have played (or tried to play) this piece. I think that is really neat. He did the same thing on the no. 3 Ballade. And the end – you know how exciting it gets there - and it felt like everyone in the audience was holding their breath. But before I go any further, I have to say that the audience learned earlier in the first half of the concert not to clap in the middle of a set – i.e. the Schubert Impromptus. Well, at the end of the Chopin no. 3 Ballade, everyone was so thrilled at how well he played that someone let out a loud “Whoa” or a “Wow” or something like that and you could actually hear lots of loud exhaling – also some laughs when Feltsman glanced into the audience with his index finger raised, warning everyone not to clap yet – there’s one more Ballade to come…. The no. 4 Ballade was breathtaking. Really! Just wonderful!!

    He played only two encores, but they were both Chopin so that’s okay :wink:. They were both Waltzes, the first being Waltz in f minor, Op. 70, no. 2. But he melded the end of it right into Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, no. 2. That was neat.

    Overall, I was very impressed with Feltsman’s playing. Yes, I heard a couple slips, but they were tiny and insignificant. He certainly knows how to bring out many tones and colors on the piano, and his interpretations were fresh and interesting without being ‘weird’. He wore a black suit with the jacket having a Mandarin collar buttoned all the way up – no shirt or tie underneath.

    Did I leave anything out, Brian? (I saw you there)
  2. bclever

    bclever New Member

    Dec 3, 2007
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    I thought the waltzes were the finest examples of musicianship
    I've ever heard in that place. The only other addition I can offer is
    a summary of the post-concert reception.

    To put you into the right frame of mind, Vladimir Feltsman is a
    very thoughtful and introspective man with a moderate Russian
    accent with some hints of German. He is not shy about offering his
    opinions when it's a subject he knows.

    The first question came from the moderator which was a reference to
    VF's long years in artistic exile in the Soviet Union. The question was
    how he felt about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.
    This produced a very quizzical look on VF's face, and the audience too.
    After VF got over his initial annoyance he said, "Well, I'm glad it's gone...
    but I don't really like to combine music with political symbolism, but I'm glad
    it's gone." One could tell he wasn't crazy about the question. Then the moderator
    asked him how he felt about anniversaries like this in general especially with the
    200 birthday of Chopin coming next year. VF responded "Every year is a Chopin
    year for me. I play Chopin every day. A few years ago we all had Mozart coming
    out of our ears for his birthday, but I play Mozart every day!" Everybody laughed.

    He was asked which pianists he looks up to the most. I'm not sure if the questioner
    meant living ones or not, and neither did VF, but his answer was "none".
    Then he added "Well, if you mean the past masters then Gieseking of course,
    Schnable,..." If I remember some of the other ones I will edit. He added that
    this does not mean he does not respect his colleagues, just that he doesn't look
    up to any now. (He added a postscript to this statement later when talking about
    Gilels and Richter).

    He was asked from the audience about his eight years as an exile in the USSR.
    He said looking from the vantage point of history it was the greatest time of
    artistic growth in his life. It was horrible living through it, especially not knowing
    whether the government would ever let him leave, but he used the time
    for practice. He also said with a distant look in his eyes that he learned quite
    a lot about himself that he would rather not go into. Also, he still was able
    to attend literally hundreds of concerts from people like Gilels and Richter. (!!!)
    Big gasps from the crowd who I'm starting to realize are all piano teachers.
    He then recalled his previous statement about pianists he looked up to, and said
    "Ah yes, these two... I looked up miles and miles to them. So high...."
    He added that he also lived in the same apartment building as Shostakovic, Rostapovich and Kabelevsky.(!!!)

    He was asked how he got interested in Bach. He said "I probably shouldn't say this out loud,
    but the first time I ever heard Bach was from a jazzy recording by the Swingle Singers,
    and I love it still." Big laughs from the crowd.

    Someone then asked him about some phrasing and voicing he used in the C# minor waltz.
    He said, "Oh yes, but that's not mine. That comes from Josef Lhevinne, a nice little trick."
    I mention this only because this question led to the follow-up question about how VF
    likes to change things up in the music he plays. He said "Yes, I like to play things
    differently in the repeats etc..." He said "To me, the greatest tragedy in music today is
    that the students are being trained to be
    robots. They play technically perfectly, even better than me, but totally uninterestingly.
    It's good but not great. I understand somewhat, we all have to do what we have to do to survive
    (meaning the financial aspect of being a professional classical musician) but it is just not
    interesting. I've played the Rach 3 or Tchaik 1 literally hundreds of times, but if I would
    ever get to the point that I played it exactly the same way each time I would quit playing

    He was asked whether he has an internal narrative for the pieces he plays.
    He said no, music that requires an internal narrative becomes uninteresting the
    moment the narrative ceases to be relevant.

    Around this time there were a bunch of other questions about the relationship
    between music and language, on whether being speaking Russian naturally lead
    to a greater affinity for Russian music... Maybe I'll fill this stuff in as I remember.

    A short time later after some shopping I was heading back to the parking garage,
    and there standing outside the theater was VF and three other people, looking
    for all the world like normal lost tourists, with the students from the art academy
    just passing them by, not having a clue who it was they were walking past. And yes,
    two of those people waiting with him were very beautiful young ladies. His limo pulled
    up just in time for VF and I to almost collide.

    Well, that's about all I can remember from this event. I hope this summary was slightly interesting.
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Jun 14, 2006
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    Thank you, Brian. That's a great report! One of these days I'll stay for the after-concert reception. (and again we were stuck in bad Bears game traffic on I-88 all the way to Oak Brook.)

    Very interesting his replies to those questions. And I'm guessing he's not married. Unless... :wink:
  4. organtechnic23

    organtechnic23 New Member

    Jul 9, 2009
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    Substitute teacher, substitute church organist
    Orange, CA
    This sounded like an excellent concert. Thank you for such details so that people on the other side of the globe could have a vicarious experience.

    That's certainly a statement in the way of musicality. One should follow the score's discretion and common sense, but after that there's lots of potential for interpretation. I've heard that pieces tend to evolve over time as one's understanding of the pieces increase. From what I've been able to tell (in a very broad and general sense), one can tell from a recording how deeply the artist understands the piece. Almost makes me consider revisiting some old pieces and seeing how differently they might sound as compared to when I played them five years ago.
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Jun 14, 2006
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    That is a very good idea. In my case, when I have revisited an old piece, I play it so much better than I used to. However, it is not always that much different as far a interpretation goes. I can just play the notes better - probably because of the extra practice. :wink: (did that make sense?)

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