Saturday, April 16, 2011

A little night's music



Dame Myra Hess, born in London, is remembered not only as a great pianist; she was the first artist to challenge the cultural blackout in England which closed all theaters, museums, galleries, and concert halls at the beginning of World War II. When Hess started a series of concerts in 1939, other artists -- actors, dancers -- followed suit.

Though raised as an Orthodox Jew, Hess was rather a free spirit, and known to smoke, drink, and tell dirty jokes.

For a pianist, she had very small hands and short reach, so she would "spread the chords," which means instead of hitting each key of the chord at the same time, she played them from the bottom upwards. I believe this is also called rolling the hands. It limited her repertoire, but brought a unique quality to the pieces she mastered.

Like many of the greats, and Argerich springs to mind, Hess had a paralyzing fear of performing in public. She said, "When listening to myself play, I feel I am going to my own funeral."

Here are two pieces. The first is Hess. The second, Alicia Delarrocha, who for a time studied with Hess.

Hess

Delarrocha

20 comments:

  1. Beats Eine Kleine Nacht... (no disrespect to Mozart intended)...

    What a wealth of knowledge you have! I'm trying to think of the name of the piece by Granados that de Larrocha played that is just wonderful. And Pete has various Myra Hess recordings. Thanks for the reminder to go listen to two great artists.

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  2. I'm one of the non-greats with the paralysing fear... good to know smoking, drinking and telling dirty jokes does nothing to alleviate that. Thanks for the lovely links, KB.

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  3. This is such an evocative image. Nice work.

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  4. Love the two pieces! Thanks for sharing.

    Have a pleasant Sunday.

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  5. Am I supposed to choose a favorite? I don't know anything about style or technique, but I like de Larrocha's choice better. What a gorgeous piece.

    Funny about being afraid to perform. I still occasionally have dreams where I'm about to go on in a play and I'm missing something: I don't have my costume or I don't know my lines.

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  6. Tash, invite me over. These pieces haunt me.

    Shell & Petrea, I seem to remember that Olivier would throw up before going on stage.

    Thank you Birdman, though it benefits greatly from the background music.

    Sonia, Bom Dia! Glad you liked them.

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  7. Well you cultural mavin, you!!! You dazzle me with your breadth and depth of cultural knowledge!!!

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  8. What lovely pieces, both of them. I always come away from here learning something. Thanks for the introduction to these two artists.

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  9. You dazzle me also. I'm such a philistine that all I can focus on is the ancient "V" fence and enough foxtails in the making to result in some serious vet bills if I walk my dog along there. Were you on the Altadena Crest trail?

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  10. The technique is also known as broken chords or arpeggio

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  11. every performance is a challenge.

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  12. I'm going to let the brain trust weigh on this one. I like lots of music, all kinds, even head banger music but I love this as well. It was a great way to relax and let go last night.

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  13. I'll listen later. Interesting info, though. I deeply respect stage fright. Reminds me of Glenn Gould's issues with performance, though they're somewhat different, if I recall.

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  14. I am also amazed at what you know and I don't. Thank heavens I have you around to clue me in now. I really enjoyed her Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring as well.
    V

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  15. Oh and I thought de Larrocha's was just wonderful as well. Thank you for these KB.
    V

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  16. Tap, tap, tap; eyes on the board. Lucky for you I only know enough for two pop quizzes per year.

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  17. Beautiful performances. I got confused with the second--apparently the photo is not of the pianist.

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  18. I know EXACTLY how she feels. I do pretty much anything and everything to keep away from the stage.

    But what lovely music she produces from her small hands! Relaxed me so much I fell sleep before I could comment a few hours ago.

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  19. Lovely-ing, haunting. Or hauntingly lovely.

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