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In Reply to: RE: Improv scares me posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on March 16, 2017 at 09:34:55
Do soloists fool around with the Cadenzas written for the works?
Have any soloists written their own?
Heard any good Cadenza Jokes lately?
You had to be there...
Didn't know any Cadenzas, AFIK.
It means at your pleasure, many cadenzas marked that way.
AKA Ad-Lib, freely, play it the way you want it.
In his recording of the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos, Joshua Bell plays his own cadenzas for the Beethoven (not uncommon for a violinist to do, as Beethoven didn't write his own) and the Mendelssohn (quite uncommon, as Mendelssohn did write his own). These are very much not improvised, but are very good, imo.
Ironically, when Beethoven transcribed his violin concerto for piano and orchestra at the behest of his publisher, he did write cadenzas for it. I am not a fan of the piano transcription or the cadenzas, both of which may well have been done mainly if not entirely for the money.
Yes, many soloists do write their own cadenzas. Robert Levin improvises them when he plays Mozart concertos.
Hillary Hahn wrote her own cadenzas for Mozart 3:
There is a place for an improvised cadenza in Rzewski's own "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," and every recording and performance I've heard includes one (Hamelin, both Rzewski recordings, Levit).
Now for some outrageous ones:
This youtube video of Gilles Apap's cadenza for the third movement of Mozart's Violin Concerto #3 has been sent around a lot:
Another Mozart cadenza by Apap, along with Rudy Lakatos and a full Gypsey ensemble, including cymbalon:
Rzewski improvised a cadenza for the Hammerklavier Sonata where Beethoven didn't ask for one (and IMO none was needed):
And, BTW, that Atlantic article was not bad as kind of a quick overview of the history of cadenzas. I do however have a different view of the reason why Beethoven published cadenzas for his first four piano concertos later in his life. And that is that composers, by and large, began to trust performers LESS AND LESS (at least in certain aspects of performance!) as music history proceeded from the beginning of the nineteenth century through to the end of the twentieth century. Thus you have composers like Bartok, who were so afraid that the performers would deviate from his indicated markings that he not only provided metronome speeds but also total timings for the entire piece - just to make sure the players didn't go astray!
So, getting back to cadenzas, yes, Mozart no doubt rolled his own on the spot. And in some cases, we have examples of the cadenzas for Mozart's concertos from the next generation of musicians (like Beethoven's for the D-minor Concerto, as the Atlantic author mentions). I also remember, early on in my studies, being delighted to find that on my recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22, with Jose Iturbi playing and conducting the Paris Conservatory Orchestra (one of those Angel recordings with the wooden spine), the cadenzas used were by Hummel - who was the composer of a little Rondo I was studying at the time!
What I'm less impressed by is this kind of exaggerated reverence for improvisation in classical music these days - such as what Robert Levin supposedly does. If the improvisation results in a good cadenza, comparable in quality to those published by the composers themselves, then fine - I'm all for it. But what I think is really happening is the folks like Levin have a general plan in mind for their cadenzas and make little improvisatory tweaks to it at each performance. To me, this would not be the same as improvising a cadenza anew at each performance. In fact, it might be interesting to follow someone like Levin around on a tour, where he's playing the same concerto in different locales, and find out just how much difference there is in the cadenzas he plays on successive nights. My bet is that there wouldn't be that much - but of course that's only speculation FWIW.
I also like to hear unusual cadenzas, especially by other famous composers - I really like my Panenka/Smetacek recording of the Beethoven Third Concerto (on Supraphon) which features cadenzas by Smetana (!), and I read that there's a Rubinstein recordings of the Beethoven Fourth in which he used cadenzas by Saint-Saens. More recently, I gave kudos to Lisa [Batiashvili] for using cadenzas by Busoni, instead of the more familiar ones by Joachim or Kreisler, in her recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
OTOH, I'm no fan of Britten's cadenza for the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 (written for Richter - as noted in the Atlantic article), and I completely despise the Schnittke cadenza used in the Kremer recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. And as for Gould's cadenza for the Beethoven First Concerto, it's just too filled with "What a clever boy I am!" sentiment for its own good!
One other interesting thing about the three cadenzas that Beethoven left for the first movement of his First Concerto is that there's a short one (used by Gilels and some others - but not too many!), the longer one (which almost everybody plays), and a third one, also long (which practically nobody plays, although I think Arrau used it in his recording with Haitink IIRC). This third cadenza is a big grand cadenza (like the second) but to me, it has always had one flaw: in the middle of it, there's a VERY unconvincing key change to the section which treats the closing theme. I'm sure this is why so few people play it. And yet. . . if one were to make one simple chromatic alteration followed by a new, additional seventh chord (underneath the trill), one could get into the new key in a MUCH more convincing fashion. I'd love to hear someone play this cadenza and have the courage to "improve" what Beethoven left us here! ;-)
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