This morning I am listening to Wilhelm Backhaus playing Beethoven sonatas. Actually there is nothing special about this morning.
Pretty much every morning I listen to Wilhelm Backhaus playing Beethoven sonatas!
There is this CD that crossed my desk at work and somehow it became lodged in the CD player in my back room. Somehow for me it takes great organization and initiative to change a CD and so Wilhelm Backhaus has stayed. He has become family. On this disc he is playing four Beethoven sonatas including two that I love, the "Hunt" and the "Waldstein."
I get up early to work on my book on Leonard Pennario, which I am slowly but surely bringing into shape. And so here I am, in my pajamas, drinking my coffee and typing away, surrounded by huge binders full of newspaper clippings and letters, and my card files detailing where Pennario was from day to day, year to year. My neighborhood is noisy. When it gets to be, oh, 7:30 a.m., everyone starts waking up and shouting and screaming and blasting their car stereos. So that is when the Backhaus goes on.
Wilhelm Backhaus is my friend!
I love Beethoven and normally his music would be too distracting to work to. Pennario is also too distracting to work to, I find. I think back on the old man and I get weepy. But this Backhaus, I am used to this disc. I know all its twists and turns, and so I can work to it. The music is strong and robust and encouraging.
Backhaus is like Pennario, and this is high praise, in that he is unpretentious. These performances are live and sometimes old Wilhelm comes down -- hard -- on the wrong notes. Whole chords, he gets wrong! But it does not bother him one bit. He soldiers happiily on. I get such a kick out of him. I just grin hearing him play the "Hunt" Sonata. That galloping finale! Nothing stops him.
We should all be like that in life!
This morning for the first time I looked up Backhaus on Wikipedia. There is a somewhat hagiographic and annoying entry but there are a few facts in it. Wilhelm Backhaus was the first pianist to record a concerto. He recorded the Grieg. On July 15, 1909. Yikes, that is today! Isn't it July 15? Well, in my life I am used to coincidence.
Speaking of coincidence, I just found that picture to post up above. And I know the man Backhaus made the autograph out to! He was Dr. J. Warren Perry. He was a Buffalonian. I met him. He just died recently. Isn't this strange? I just found that picture at random on the Internet.
Here is a young picture of Backhaus with Evgeny Kissin hair.
Here is a cool interview with Backhaus discussing technique.
Here he is playing the finale of the "Tempest" Sonata.
Play it, Wilhelm!