An ear for Chopin

by on Monday, 13 September 2010 Comments

Among all the versions of Chopin's first ballade I have listened to, Rubinstein's interpretation sounds to me the most convincing one. There are other pianists who play this ballade with more passion or elegance... But only in Rubinstein's rendition do I hear something that must be very difficult for an instrumentalist to express - effort.

This is best exhibited in the middle of the piece when the climax is reached. Most pianists play this part with the intention to show liberation or success, thus notes are often hit with ease, smoothly, sometimes even elegantly or joyfully. But in Rubinstein's, the peak is not reached without effort, hesitation, and even fear. Rubinstein gives one the impression that this climbing is supported by great courage and firm belief, and it really radiates once it's unfolded. But one also hears discernible efforts, great strength being poured into it - and the fear behind this calls for such strength.

Out of fear and hesitation, courage and strength are born - yes, this is what I hear. It is amazing that the expression of such state of mind actually can be achieved. And, in less than one minute, it tells more than one thousand words can say.

Rubinstein surely can play it with ease, like many others do, but he plays it this way. At the highest, most exalting point he shows how difficult it really is. So difficult that it can even be noticed! This reminds me of Maria Callas - she once talked about how hard it was for her to "appear to be as tired" as she does when performing La Traviata. How do you sing with a voice that sounds as being on the verge of breaking away at any second while making the entire opera house hear you clearly? Callas describes it as "a dangerous work."

Both Rubinstein and Callas did such a treat beautifully. The intended imperfection in no case damages the musicality. On the contrary it gives it a real human touch. And this is exactly what moves me so much.

Photo: C.P.

 

 

Nakao Eki

Formosan Melon|Endemic to Tafalong

那瓜|太巴塱特有種

Website: blog.roodo.com/milifonoh

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