Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rudolf Serkin and me

Yesterday I was driving in to work and I heard a great performance of Mozart's D Minor Piano Concerto. I came in only in the middle of the Romanze movement but what I heard was so crisp and good. Nothing unusual, but I liked its excitement.

Look, I found the first movement on YouTube! The exact performance I heard, but the part I missed.

At the end, Bill McGlaughlin -- it was his show, it turned out -- said it was Rudolf Serkin and George Szell. No wonder it was so good! I congratulated myself on my good taste and then I forgot all about it.

Until later yesterday, when I walked with my friend Melinda to the library.

We stopped in the used book shop. We always stop in there to see what bargains can be had. And I leafed through the vinyl records the way I always do.

And there it was!

Szell, Serkin, the Mozart D Minor!

The same performance I had heard that morning. Well, I think it is, anyway. Unless they recorded it twice. Of course I picked the record up. When I find time to listen to it I will know for sure. That is a picture of Rudolf Serkin up above, by the way. A cute, young picture of him. Usually you see him old.

At the library I also got a beautiful set of Hermann Prey singing Schumann. For $1.
Vinyl is the way to go! I am telling you.

Bill McGlaughlin, on his show, was talking about Mozart cadenzas. He was pointing out that in Mozart's time they were improvised. But now, of course, pianists almost invariably play pre-composed cadenzas. As McGlaughlin said, no one wants to wing it.

Robert Levin winged it when he was in Buffalo! That was fun. I am surprised more pianists are not taking up the challenge to do as he is doing.

All the same, I am so used to the Mozart concertos and have been loving them for so long that I am kind of married to them the way they are.

A glass of wine and this Mozart concerto, in the Serkin/Szell performance...

That will be my carrot for the end of this day.


  1. There's always a lot of talk among pianists about display, but my personal favorite piano concerto - as music - is the Mozart C minor K. 491. My recording of it is played by Robert Casadesus (with a first movement cadenza by Saint-Saens!!!!!!). The conductor is, as with Serkin, George Szell. When I heard this concerto played live in Buffalo, it was driven in on me how important the winds parts in it are and how superb the Cleveland winds were. By the way, the Saint-Saens cadenza is better than one would think. Camille Saint-Saens did early musicological research and stayed closer to the Mozart style than any one of his contemporaries would have.

  2. That is a beautiful concerto, K. 491. I can almost imagine Saint-Saens' cadenza working out because it is such a romantic concerto.

  3. ... Update: Since reading that comment, I heard the concerto with the Saint-Saens cadenza! Bill McGlaughlin played it on his show! I liked it.

  4. Little known story about Saint- Saens told by composer/organist Marcel Dupre: Near the end of his life, Saint-Saens was invited to play in a concert honoring himself. He told the committee that since it was in his honor, he preferred to play not one of his own concertos, but the Mozart d minor. It was ok'd and he did.