Classical Court

From Perotin to Prokofiev (and beyond), performed by Caruso to Khatia, it's all here.

Return to Classical Court


Message Sort: Post Order or Asylum Reverse Threaded

Benjamin Grosvenor's Liszt recording

107.207.107.77

Posted on February 25, 2021 at 04:13:57
pbarach
Audiophile

Posts: 2530
Location: Ohio
Joined: June 22, 2008
I saw several rave reviews before I listened to the recording. The piano has a rather metallic sound and seems to lack deep bass. The Sonata in B Minor just seemed to take forever! Lots of very slow moments that impeded the flow of the performance. I'm sticking with my favorites: Gilels, Arrau, Gunnar Johanesen.

 

Hide full thread outline!
    ...
Gunnar Johansen? Wow!, posted on February 25, 2021 at 11:08:54
Chris from Lafayette
Bored Member

Posts: 19828
Location: SF Bay Area
Joined: February 17, 2004
Contributor
  Since:
February 6, 2012
Back in the early 70's, a friend and I made a two-hour drive up highway 1 to Sea Ranch to see Johansen play a solo recital in some barn they had re-purposed as a concert hall. We really misjudged the time it would take on highway 1 (a single lane road for much of the way, noted for its beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean) and we missed the whole first half of the recital. What we DID hear (the Liszt Sonata) contained fistfulls of wrong notes - but, somehow, it didn't matter! His encore was the Strauss-Godowsky "Wein, Weib und Gesang" ("Wine, Women and Song"*), again, with lots of (inconsequential!) wrong notes - it was the first time I'd ever heard this phantasmagorical arrangement and I was bowled over, becoming a fan of Godowsky's piano arrangements and transcriptions forever more! And I owe it all to Gunnar Johansen!

Regarding Grosvenor's new Liszt album, I've seen it on Qobuz, but I somehow just don't have the impulse to listen to it, based on the other recordings I've heard from him, which are sometimes OK, but other times betrayed by his seemingly unthinking "need for speed". I suppose I'll eventually get around to listening to it. From what you say, maybe he's overcompensating for his previous "mechanistic" playing with his slow tempos in this new recording. He does seem to be a darling of the Brits though, which could explain the rave reviews you saw. (And I suppose it's ironic, in view of my own semi-disdain for Grosvenor's fire fingers, that my own favorite recording of the Liszt Sonata is Khatia's from 2011 (can it be that long ago?) - she's got fire fingers too. And how!)

*BTW, would Strauss be able to "get away" with such a title these days? I'm sure he would be cancelled if he tried! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see him cancelled anytime right now on the basis of this title! ;-) This also reminds me of a geometry teacher I had in high school - the school newspaper did a feature on him and one of the questions they asked him was what he spent his time on, away from the classroom. His answer was that he spent his free time on wine, women and song. I remember my mom reading this and chuckling, noting that he must have a very lighthearted view of life! ;-)

 

RE: Gunnar Johansen? Wow!, posted on February 25, 2021 at 12:27:51
pbarach
Audiophile

Posts: 2530
Location: Ohio
Joined: June 22, 2008
Below is a YouTube link to a 1979 interview with Johansen in which he plays that Godowski paraphrase (with some missed notes) at the 9:40 mark.

Some other Johansen tidbits: Christopher Taylor, on the U. Wisc. faculty, now owns the two-keyboard piano that you see in the still photo that plays with the YouTube video (here's Taylor and that piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXxyf6NHXmw). Like Johansen, he's used it to perform the Goldberg Variations (which is the only Johansen recording I've heard that was completely dull and disappointing).

Johansen recorded perhaps 50 discs or cassettes of his Liszt performances on his own Artist Direct label. They are way more interesting than Leslie Howard's performances. I first learned about Johansen as a teenager when I saw some of these LPs in my local library. More than a decade ago, I saw some messages in a usenet group from Gordon Rumson, a Canadian musician who was disposing of the remaining LPs and cassettes from the estate of Johansen's wife. I bought a lot of them, including several LPs of all of the Bach-Busoni transcriptions, the aforementioned Goldbergs, Liszt Sonata (which is also on YouTube), the Transcendental Etudes, Mephisto Waltzes (including Busoni cadenza in #1), Reminescences de Don Juan, Wagner and Verdi transcriptions, and Liszt odds and ends. Some of these were sold to me as 256 kbps mp3 copies of the cassettes, while others were LPs that I ripped to FLAC or WAV files.

Johansen was a good friend of Harry Partch, of all people...

 

Thanks - I remember reading an article in Time Magazine about him too, posted on February 25, 2021 at 16:41:27
Chris from Lafayette
Bored Member

Posts: 19828
Location: SF Bay Area
Joined: February 17, 2004
Contributor
  Since:
February 6, 2012
It was something about Johansen's replacing a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra on one or two days' notice in Beethoven's piano version of his Violin Concerto (a version Beethoven made for Clementi). Johansen had not known the piece previously, so he learned it in one day basically. And IIRC, he did use music in his appearance in Philadelphia. But he got a lot of acclaim for this appearance.

And, yes, I remember seeing the listings for all those Artist Direct albums Johansen made, but I never did actually hear one - I was definitely intrigued though. (BTW, I haven't gone to your link yet, but I will soon!)

 

Page processed in 0.025 seconds.