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Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything." - Blaise Pascal


Comments on "Fantastic Technique" and "Amazing Ability": Hilary Hahn Plays Der Erlkoenig:

123mortimer: [This piece is arranged by] Wilhelm Ernst (1814 - 1865), a post-Paganini violin virtuoso. Before a recent crop of young violinists (including Ingolf Turban, Leila Josefowicz, Hilary Hahn) put it in their repertoire, it wasn't played much. It's amoing the absolutely hardest pieces for the instrument (with Ernst's Last Rose, Wieniawski's Variations on Austrian Anthem, and a few others). It's as absurdly difficult as the Godowski transcriptions of the Chopin etudes are for pianists...

The question is what do you mean by "difficult"? For mere mortals, difficult means: can we approximate some sort of adequate rendition of the piece? For people like Hahn, the issue of a piece's difficulty is totally different, having to do with the meaning of the piece and its technical realization. At Hahn's level, everything is both easy and transcendentally difficult.

cromulentinnoc3nce: I only refer to the objective difficulty of playing the correct notes, rhythms, articulations, dynamics.. just what's written on the page. Subjective difficulty is another thing, one that is much more difficult to compare. If we take that into account, one might argue that a Mozart concerto is more difficult than this.

123mortimer: I think you're right. For Hahn and other musicians at her level, it is undoubtedly true that Mozart (or Bach) is much harder than Ernst. Wilhelm Backhaus gave an interview about 100 years ago, in which he complained that he'd get all these huge ovations for some spectacular Liszt or Chopin that'd taken him a week to learn, but no more than polite appreciation for a Mozart Sonata that took a year or more to master.

MFM: it's true

liszt and chopin have a lot of surface movement but to play mozart well you have to have understanding, not just technique

I dunno why but it seems a lot of pianists friends worship chopin, while I find him unremarkable
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