Saturday, July 11, 2009

Young genius meets old genius

Tonight I came to think of this very performance, to share my pleasure typed Kissin, Karajan, Tchaikowsky and ... sometimes I could kiss the internet :) ... voilà.

Enjoy Piano Concerto N 1, III Alegro con fuono by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, after which on 31 December 1988 Herbert von Karajan was moved to tears and when shaking hands with the boys mother only said: "A genius."


  1. Montaigne said: "No pleasure hath any savour unless I can communicate it."

    This concert is an extraodinary moment. Thank you for bringing it to us, Sean.:)

  2. Great Sean!
    The real great genius here is of course Tchaikovsky. Listen to that wonderful orchestration, that dazzling opening theme set against that famous romantic second theme! Kissin and Karajan both make it possible. Even the old nazi seems to be human here and conducts with his eyes opened! Probably because of the marvellous playing of Kissin.


  3. Claudia,
    ... Glad you enjoyed.

    You do, of course, know that you made me smile.
    I posted this after having watched a Karajan-documentation.
    Now did I not like Karajan for exactly the four letters you are attributing to him.
    Am I, are we unjust?
    And what made me come to think of this?
    Sir Simon Rattle (basically) saying: It's easy to judge for us who have never been in forced to make our decisions under such circumstances.

    As for this very concert: It's lovely / moving, and I am glad that both Claudia and you enjoyed it, too.

    You are right: Without Tchaikovsky there would not have been this concert ...

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  5. Well, may be I’m too hard on Karajan. I know that his 2nd wife, whom he married during the war, was Jewish. And it is quite easy to be hard on people who have been naïve in times of crisis, dictatorship, war. And how would we act ourselves? Would we be saints, heroes or just trying to stay alive for better or for worse? I’ve met quite a few people who have had that dilemma.

    On the other hand Karajan’s mixture of political naivety and artistic vanity has always made me itchy. He was quite an early member of the Nazi party and profited from the regime. And I don’t see why we should apologize for great artists because they are naïve. It is up to people like them to apologize. It always reminds me of Klaus Mann’s Mephisto and Szabó’s film based on that story.

    Does that make any difference to the music? Probably not. There are even some quite wonderful early Mozart recordings by Karajan. And he was a great Tchaikovsky conductor (as is shown here). On the other hand, he really killed most of the Beethoven symphonies in his later recordings, as far as I am concerned. Skipping reprises and making a wonderful masterpiece like Beethoven’s 7th a perfect decoration piece, which it doesn’t deserve. Washing away that beautiful intimate orchestration of the 4th symphony and making the 2nd symphony bite with artificial teeth. Killing every expression in his series of famous violin concerto’s with (the late and great) French violinist Chritian Ferras. Forcing great players like Oistrakh and Richter to his own artistic will. But he was also a stimulus to people like Anne Sophie Mutter. And Kissin was even at that early age already too great an artist. Even for Karajan.

    But this is getting too long…..


  6. VLR - It's not too long. It's wonderful...It's a musical opinion not a character judgement (at least not too much, and not so harsh....) Ten minutes ago, I told Sean I was re-posting my comment as I felt Karajan deserved it. It's suppertime here. My first comment will be there later on this evening, and will make more sense of your reply. I had been advised to buy his 1963 Beethoven Symphonien. The other interpretations he has recorded have been severely criticized.

    When it comes to musical evaluation, to each its own. I never said he was flawless, but he is certainly different than, let's say, Bernstein. I read many criticisms about him. I'll keep my opinion. Don't know that well, and that much. So often my reaction to music depends on my own mood at that particular moment, or with whom I am...I'm a little intimidated by your wide knowledge. I'm a lousy, persistent pianist. You learned music?

  7. Re-posting the deleted comment before VLR's reply:

    For heaven's sakes, because they were very anti-semites, should we always mention it, whenever we speak of the man courageous enough to brake away from a corrupt Roman church, or of the man genius enough to write The Ring of the Nibelung? It would be so bloody self-righteous.

    Did anyone see Karajan go and lit the ovens? He married a half-Jewess. Hitler stopped attending his concerts. Would we call forever nazi a surgeon, or a plumber, who had joined the party in the early stages (even twice) and just stayed put?

    After the war, people wanted Karagen to say Mea Culpa everytime he opened his mouth. It would have made his life easier. He didn't do it! I admire him for it. Either we take what he has to offer: his mostly fabulous (but not always flawless)conducting. Or let's reject him completely. I didn't have to buy his 1963-Beethoven-9 Symphonien. I already had Bernstein's interpretation. But I can assure you that Karejan is a revelation. And the word nazi never crosses my mind when I listen to his Beethoven, or his incredible Ravel's Boléro.

    Neither did it with this fantastic Tchaikovsky until you wrote it down, Bertus. It's a spoiler. The same old, old story...The pointing finger: bad German man of the past...

    I never forget my brother who loved the German culture, and couldn't believe that he might have to kill some of the people on the Normandy Beaches. Never spoke about it...Only had some haunted eyes whenever, as a very young insensitive girl, I would ask him a question about the war.

    What do we know about Karajan's soul, and the agony he might have had to go through in those days so difficult for all the German people?

    Thank you for providing this space, Sean.:)

  8. @ Claudia
    Good you reposted your comment. I like you best when you write these firy things. And it brings some balance. In the mean time i hope i have explained myself enough in my last comment.

    As for the music. Once upon a time, far away, etc, etc, i had aspirations to follow a musical career. I still play the violin and viola, but nothing compared to the mentioned Christian Ferras or any other great fiddler.

    Don't be intimidated by what i am(or indeed anybody else is) writing. Enjoy what you can enjoy.


  9. Ha! Ha! Ha! this was amusing, Bertus.
    Lifting my glass to your good health....All the best!

  10. Claudia & Bertus,
    it was / is a pleasure to follow you discourse. Thank you very much.

    Once (just can't find the post) Claudia wrote I were diplomatic.
    Forget it.
    I remember Karajan insisting on using the bus-lanes of Vienna.
    I can't remember Bernstein demanding any such privileges.
    I remember, Karajan would never transpire; Bernstein would be . sweating.
    I admire(d) Lenny Bernstein.

  11. Sean - I have a very hospitable heart. I can admire both men for different reasons.:)

    It was in the Shelley's post (where Bertus got me going also) that you tried to exercise diplomacy. You were not very good at it. It didn't fool me one bit. :)))) So it's good you didn't waste your time today.:)
    All the best. Always.

  12. Claudia,
    ha ha ha ... :))) ... ha ha ha.
    So in the Shelley post it was.

    And you think I tried to fool you?
    Hm ... no.

  13. Sean,
    I'll take your word for it.
    After all, you're a gentleman!:)))

  14. P.S.....even if you don't agree with me! :)))

  15. @ Sean,
    Claudia and i are so terribly diplomatic. Our toes sometimes seem to reach the other side of the Atlantic. But still we have no problem in walking together. Haven't we Claudia?

    @Sean, Claudia,
    Just watch Kissin / Karajan again. It is great in spite of probably a lot of things....


  16. Dear Bertus,
    I wish you would go, and hear the Boléro of Ravel, posted by Sean on March 07-09: Praise of a 'mad men.' I'm curious to see what you think.

    Of course, we always get along, Bertus....after many, many, many, many words!:)))))