Performing with Passion

Passion vs. Indifference

There are times when a performer plays a musical composition and the results are so passionate, magical, and memorable that no matter how many years pass, I am hard-pressed to experience another performance that equals that memorable one.

One such case is the New Year’s Eve Concert 1992, also called the “Richard Strauss Gala”

On this DVD are several works by Strauss, as presented by Claudio Abbado, the Berlin Philharmonic, singers Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Renee Fleming, and… by pianist Martha Argerich

This is one outstanding DVD. The quality level of the singing is amazing. AND… the DVD includes a performance of the Richard Strauss work for piano and orchestra called “Burleske”. The piano solo is played by Martha Argerich. From a musical and technical standpoint this composition is devilishly difficult for the pianist, and it is equally challenging for the conductor. The music proceeds at a very rapid pace, and the joining of piano solo with the complex orchestra parts is a huge challenge. Conductor Claudio Abbado pulls this off in a fine manner, and with great musical passion.

Watching the chemistry between Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado is wonderful – they have so much fun performing the Burleske. One can see how Argerich also has a watchful eye also for individual members of the orchestra, whose parts have to fit with hers. There are also two occurrences where Ms. Argerich flashes a wonderful smile, as if to celebrate her own satisfaction with the musical outcome.

I recently also heard a different DVD of the same “Burleske”, with Rudolf Buchbinder as pianist, and the results achieved did not come close to the Martha Argerich performance. Here are 19 minutes of the Argerich performance with the BPO for your enjoyment!

As a comparison, here is a performance of the “Burleske” done 44 years ago by none other than Glenn Gould. Mr. Gould was a legendary performer of Bach; Yet… his tempo in the Burleske is slower than Argerich/Abbado! And the results don’t even come close to the delight that Ms. Argerich achieves. I found Gould’s performance to be amazingly lacking in sparkle, passion, and drama. I’ll go as far as to say that Gould seemed indifferent. See how you react, and feel free to comment below.

Here’s Glenn Gould:

Tags: Strauss Gala 1992, Argerich, Richard Strauss, Burleske, Glenn Gould

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