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some old recordings

April 27, 2011

Ah, the archives of Mt Waverley are yielding some forgotten tapes tonight. I wonder what the shelf life of a cassette is, anyway. There’s a recording made by my brother Chris in 1973, interviewing all of us about our Christmas presents. Not for general release, clearly.

But there are a few things I’m listening to for the first time since they were recorded, and they’re bringing back memories of all sorts. Most of them are from competitions, studio recordings or concerts, but there are a few practice sessions as well. Excuse the lousy sound of some, like the Busoni Competition. Dolby was around, but obviously not much in use at RAI.

Rachmaninov Sonata no.2 1st movement

Rachmaninov Sonata no.2 2nd & 3rd movements

Part of my semi-final programme at the Busoni Competition in 1987. Annoying that the recording just misses the first bar.

Teruyuki Noda Ode Capricious

The set piece for the second round of the Tokyo International Piano Competition 1986. One of the four competitions in which I was ballotted pole position, not as good as it sounds. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not an early morning person, and a recital at 8.30am is not my ideal time. Still, it meant that this was the world premiere of this quite interesting and eclectic piece by a little known Japanese composer.

Mendelssohn Variations Sérieuses op.54

From May 1985, Mendelssohn’s Variations Sérieuses op.54. This was the set piece for the Maria Canals International Piano Competition that year. My brother Chris, cousine Penny, friend Alexa and colleague Vittorio all stayed together in two apartments on the Ramblas and had a fantastic time, although I got left alone later in the competition and only Chris came back. Memorable for the zumos, the bomb scare next door at the American Embassy during my second round, the Sagrada Famiglia and for the crazy Romanian…

Chopin Etude op.25 no.10

Also from Tokyo 1986, part of my first round, which contained a Bach Prelude & Fugue and four études. Four. How many do you need anyway?

Mozart Concerto no.9 “Jeunehomme” 1st movement

2nd movement

3rd movement

From my first proper national tour of Australia in 1991, the amazing ‘Jeunehomme’ Concerto no.9 by Mozart. The best performance was with WASO, the lovely Isaiah Jackson conducting. This one was with the SSO at the Opera House with Jorge Mester. The other concerto I played was Tchaikowsky’s second. Thereby hangs a tale!

Tchaikowsky Concerto no.2 interview and part of 1st movement

I arrived in Hobart to play the Tchaikowsky concerto, somewhat depressed after having performed it in Melbourne with the MSO and Hiroyuki Iwaki, who did not like the piece, conducted it poorly and made little effort to help make it work. The TSO, by way of contrast, played magnificently, although in the middle of their own crisis due to the sudden departure of Dobbs Franks. The young Chinese conductor Yu Long came at short notice and did a fine job, as did Barbara jane Gilby and Sue-Ellen Paulsen.

Bartok Szabadban

Again from Busoni 1987, the fantastic Out of Doors by Bartok, a piece I once played a lot and hugely enjoyed. It’s quite barbarous in places, especially at the end, and the fourth movement, ‘Night Music’, is unique in its sonorities.

Saint-Saëns Concerto no.4 1st movement

2nd movement

And from more recently, one of my first performances after becoming a Tasmanian. Todd Handley was such a nice conductor to work with.

Beethoven Sonata op.31 no.2 ‘Tempest’ 1st movement

2nd movement

3rd movement

From 1982, my first ABC recording, after the Young Performers Competition. Beethoven’s Sonata op.31 no.2 ‘Tempest’, a piece I absolutely loved. Don’t think I’ve played it since then. The Schnabel recording is still hard to beat, especially the slightly wonky spinning-wheel rhythm of the final rondo, like ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’. Listening to it again, it’s a good advertisement for live music. I remember the very special ‘golden’ tone necessary for the second singing of the limpid tune in the second movement, possible on the old German upright we had (still have) at home, and also analagous in a good Steinway. In the studio, and in this recording, it seems to be completely lost, and it is an apt metaphor for life, in a way. Enjoy it while you can — don’t wait for the replay.

More to follow.

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