Rachmaninoff.org • The Ten Greatest Pianists of All Time
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Re: The Ten Greatest Pianists of All Time

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:11 pm
by pianola
I don't disagree with Rachmaninoff's position in the list, because that is where he is for me. However, I do think that such polls, with the epithet, "of all time," are rather silly! How about Chopin and Liszt, for example, but of course they came before recording had been invented. For all I know, Kalkbrenner or Moscheles deserve to be there as well, and many others. But I also have a rather jaundiced view of the current state of piano playing. There are a few good players, but in comparison to the world of a hundred years ago, we live in a barren age, as far as the subtlety and humanity of pianism are concerned. Decades of piano competitions and "must have" recordings have turned what was once a fertile forest of variety and imagination into a desert of ambition, uniformity and knee-jerk accuracy.

One of the most important aspects of Rachmaninoff for me is that he treats me as a friend, an equal. I'm not his equal, in either composition or playing, but he treats me, and indeed all of us, as though we were. He doesn't simper to the camera in self-adulation, he doesn't wave his arms around or make faces as though fighting some Hollywood battle, he simply plays. Perhaps I have a Russian-like tendency to a gentle sadness, which I think he does, though in both cases tempered by humour and excitement, but his sensitivity towards human emotion means that he brings out detail that no-one else quite does. There really is no arrogance there at all, and how many present-day pianists could pass through the eye of that particular needle!

My wife works in the music business, so I sometimes get to meet pianists. I particularly like Nicholas Angelich, both as a pianist and as a man, and I have to say that the best jewel of piano playing I have heard in recent years came in an encore which he gave in Glasgow last year. He played Beethoven 2 with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Leon Fleischer, and the encore saw Fleischer playing primo, and Angelich secondo, in one of the gentler Dvorak Slavonic Dances. Goodness me, I wish I had taken my little Sony recorder with me, but perhaps such memories are best unrecorded!