commented by Bertrand Boissard, Frederic Gaussin and Mathieu Papadiamandis
Sheet music can be downloaded here
(right click and select ‘Save’ with Windows or control-click for a Mac.)
Mathieu Papadiamandis :
For our first YouTube selection, I propose we watch and discuss a video by the Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, student of Martin Krause (one of Liszt's disciples), playing Jeux d'eau à la Villa d'Este on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
What are your general impressions of his interpretation?
Frederic Gaussin :
He's a true master, in full command of his pianistic means. His musical vision far transcends purely mechanical considerations.
Bertrand Boissard :
He always has this golden, regal sound – that's what makes him a brilliantly original pianist for the 20th century. His sound stands out.
For my part, I have always been fascinated by his phrasing, by his economy of means, and by his sound control. But let's delve into the details a bit.
I find his hand position on the keyboard exceptional, as well as how relaxed he is, and the way he uses his arms. We can really feel the presence of tradition in the way he plays.
Another specificity of this pianist is his attention to the melody and his hyper-expressivity – characteristic of his artistry.
Despite the fact that he's getting along in years, and the minor errors that we can't help but notice, his pianistic ease is astounding – as we can see from measure 14, where that ascent of pianissimo parallel fifths is far from easy.
He has such incredible tone and such an amazing sense of line, such that the essence is never subsumed by the density of the text (mes. 30 and following).
I also want to point out that the treble is never shrill, and the bass is never heavy. What strikes me is the remarkable clarity and the fact that we can hear each one of Liszt's indications, down to the smallest detail (in the sempre legato e cantando passage mes.88).
Let's come back briefly to one of the central moments of this interpretation, that is the exposition of the theme in the left hand (mes. 44 and following). I've rarely heard such beautiful phrasing and such precision in distinguishing the different sound worlds (between the tremolos in the right hand and the left).
His interpretation truly reaches mystical heights, which is in perfect harmony with the text, as Liszt quotes the Gospel According to Saint John (passage in D-Maj., mes. 144).
What stands out is the way he uses his arm weight to voice a note (the expressive emphasis in the left hand, 1st beat of measure 32, for example).
He's so deep in the keys; it's almost like he's kneading clay.
That's typical of Liszt's "descendants" (De Greef, Sauer): the last joint of the finger is responsible for the articulation, and the hand is always resting on the pulp of the fingers.
His playing isn't prone to external displays of pure virtuosity; it is always very noble. This nobility, this high-mindedness, are also in line with his attitude at the keyboard.
In the brioso fff, what a feeling of glowing abundance...
He's almost the antithesis of Richter...
We're really witnessing a scintillating phenomenon; the sound spreads out in waves...