Wednesday, July 1, 2009

One weird piece

It is not every day that you hear something that truly amazes you. Yesterday for work I listened to a new CD of a piece I had always known existed but had never heard.

It is Grieg's two-piano arrangement of Mozart's C minor Piano Fantasy!

You would not believe this thing!

I kept wanting to adjust my set! I thought there was a problem with the CD.

I mean, this piece is crazy-weird. Periodically over the years I had wondered about it, what it would sound like, and I always thought: well, whatever it is, it cannot be that bad. How bad could it be? I have turned out to be not much of a purist about this kind of thing. I have an open mind.

Then I find out, it is bad! Part of the problem is that this fantasia is so magnificent on its own and anyone who plays it develops deep feelings for it. The idea of tampering with the Sonata K. 545, as Grieg also did, is not as inherently offensive. I do have deep feelings for the slow movement of that sonata but that is a whole other story.

Listening to Grieg's take on the Fantasy, it is as if Grieg did not have the foggiest idea what Mozart was getting at. And I love Grieg! Furthermore the liner notes said that Grieg was very satisfied with how the piece turned out.

The brand-new recording I heard for work is not on YouTube as far as I could tell. But here is Sviatoslav Richter and Elisabeth Leonskaja. That is Richter in the picture above. I run that picture whenever I get a chance because I cannot get over it.

Hmmm. Oddly enough these recordings appear to have been posted only a couple of days ago. Someone else is thinking about this!

Listen for yourself.

Very strange.


  1. I lasted about 23 seconds through the Mozart/Grieg. I'm open minded about transcriptions, but this example shows how far Mozart performance scholarship has come. I'm willing to bet that this style is how Wagner conducted Mozart...and he considered other approaches mere timebeating. Do you know the Reger Mozart Variations for 2 pianos? There seems to be no middle ground about it - people either like it or detest it. It's far removed from Mozartian slenderness. I have a score put away somewhere. It's difficult.

  2. I think this music is a matter of taste. You cannot say this music is bad!! I honour this transcription and admire both pianists! For me really great music!

  3. I so wish that commentators wouldn't hide behind "anonymous", but then I'm also using a pseudonym, no? Still, the weblogger (who is no fan of mine) knows who I am.

  4. Anonymus it's me, Renée from Luxemburg. I simply forgot to put my name under my comment. Probably it will change a lot for you now, that you know my name...

  5. Yikes, I dropped the ball on these comments! What is it now, over a month later? Well, in case you see this, Prof. G, I am a fan of yours! Anonymous Renee, it is nice of you to speak up about your love for Grieg's concept of this music. I think we have to look at it through the eyes of a different era. That is an interesting challenge to take on.