|I'm going to take the unusual step here of directing people to someone else's review, here. This is because the review, like the music itself, is outstanding, and has certainly enhanced my enjoyment of it, and of one piece in particular, the Appassionata.|
Since my good friend Brian Micklethwait, who wrote the review, can be a little wordy, I quote here a shortened version:
This is music that is out of control, music that is throwing a tantrum, music that makes rage public ... what I found myself listening to the other day was a performance of the Appassionata that made me drop everything and listen in astonishment. It was a recording of a live performance given by the great Russian pianist Emil Gilels, in January 1961...in Russia. ... And what a performance it is! Gilels tears into it, and had me listening to it as if for the first time ever.
PS. I once posted something similar on the Yahoo Groups forum, but that was before I had acquainted myself with Solohq. IMO this piece is worth a good airing here as well!
It really is a weird piece, let me tell you. It is like a classical painting, covered in stab wounds, real ones I mean. Time and again, an infinitely tender phrase right out of the moonlight bit of the Moonlight Sonata (by the way, try the third movement of that as well!), which would normally end with a single chord, is yanked out of itself by the final soft chord being turned into a tantrum of extremely loud chords … and then, as if shushed by an armed policeman, it goes back to another tender phrase as if nothing had happened.
By 1961 – I'm still guessing – the word was starting seriously to get around about what had been going on and was still going on in Russia ... It still was not safe to talk about it all, but ...everyone knew very roughly what had been going on. ... Into such a world, this performance of the Appassionata by Emil Gilels erupted.
It is full of wrong notes, and played on what sounds like a decidedly dodgy piano, and for all I know, the only thing that Gilels was angry about (and by God is he angry) was the fact that it was a bad piano and that by his reckoning he was, notes-wise, having a bit of an off day playing it. It begins with a grotesquely late edit, as if they only just remembered that they were supposed to be recording the damn thing.
And for that matter, the only thing that Beethoven himself might have been thinking about when he wrote the piece in the first place was some spat he had had with a pompous aristocrat who considered himself to be a superior person to him, Beethoven. Or perhaps Beethoven – pathetic self-pitying Beethoven this time – was angry about having been gently but firmly rebuffed romantically ... by one of his aristocratic lady pupils.
But I really do not see how anyone in the audience, that January day in Russia in 1961, could have missed the universal import of this extraordinary piece, and the kind of universal experiences which it immortalises. They would, in short, have completely understood it.