God only knows what's with my unmanageable tendency to post about things I'm only halfway through reading.* But here I go again, this time about Joyce Hatto, at least until I veer off somewhere completely unrelated. I'm out of my depth from the git-go on this one, as I love a piano as much as the next Marx brother, but am not really a phile. One thing I do find fascinating is this: as opera fans, we all revel in being able to clock Dusolina Giannini in two measures, at forty paces, aurally speaking. And apparently, from what I'm reading in the New Yorker piece as well as what I remember from rec.music.opera back before I abandoned classical music wherein nobody (Thank you Terrence MacNally) dies....those whose forte is piano get possessed by the exact same gameshow geist.
Surely it adds a flavor of intrigue to think that there may be artifice and therefore mysteries that can't be solved with a glance at the album cover. I've always felt a little extra interest in my Kleiber Rosenkavalier on some fly-by-night label wherein a singer I'm basically positive is the beloved Lucia Popp (and esteemed others have said the same) is cagily listed as one Hilde da Groote--who apparently did exist and even sing, though I find it tough to believe she managed to shovel the same amount of irresistible flirtation into the single word "Quinquin" when Sophie tells Oktavian what the one other etwas she knows about him is.
Here's the thing, for me. I had always wondered if people could tell their favorite instrumentalists apart the way we can tell Janowitz from Brouwenstijn, you and me. Because no matter how individual the fall of your fingers on a keyboard, it's never going to have the same absolutely organic instrument/musician gesammstkunstwerker connection as when the musican is the instrument. So really I find it fascinating to imagine being able to tell instrumentalists apart; I suppose in extreme cases you can see how it could be done, really individualistic accents like Heifetz' legato, that sometimes sounds like a human voice articulating a "w" (here again I betray my prejudice: things are distinct insofar as they're voice-like) or of course people who play a distinctive instrument, Landowska on her Pleyel, and for that matter melting the notes into one another as if it were a flute, which isn't possible. Horowitz, I understand, played with such sheer volume it might tip the listener off, but then wasn't there a scandal of sorts about that, too?
The point here, if there is one, is that our ability to recognize a musician blind is tightly bound to our sense of ourselves as having meaningful feelings about what makes good music. I remember my own first absolutely certain aural i.d., and it was (hi again!) Lucia Popp, and I don't think it's a coincidence she was for many years my vocal uberdivchen and remains essential to my understanding of good singing. Some awful part of us that is structurally related to cosmic trainwrecks like No Child Left Behind, that is to say, to measures of goodness that satisfy us by being consistent but/therefore are troubled or even worthless, is also responsible for the idea that you can't really like Berger better than Gueden if you run any risk of mistaking one for another.
Ah, something there is in me that doesn't love a statistic, that's for sure, and that same thing doesn't love the idea that the value of a performance has anything to do with what face or what fingers brought it into being. But who can deny that part of the love of all of this is a feeling of connection to the chap behind the chaconne? Maybe part of the trend, which I still think may be overstated, toward singers with world-class faces is that we're afraid of being tricked when we love a singer (pianist, violist, glass harmonic...ker) with our ears.
But I don't really think so, not for sure. I'm just talking. Six more days and I can resume talking whereof I have a clue.
Unrelated: I do roll my eyes a bit when people beseech and apostrophize the powers that be on Opera-L or any other den of tinfoil millinery, apparently half expecting Peter Gelb, sitting at a terminal somewhere, to smack his forehead and yelp, "Great Scott! Why didn't I think of that?!" So think of this just as my fantasy, but if it is true what is hinted over at that scandalous rumour mill we call Parterre, and my guess about this rumor in particular is correct, and the lovely Bayrakdarian is going to desusannify due to being otherwise occupied in every sense (picture her with a little sign that says "occupied"...) Well then I just had this divoon thought about what the Met should do, and that's correct an oversight of many years and see what Lisa Saffer's doing. We have spoken.
*"...and he isn't talking," as the punchline goes. The nonexistent can be so taciturn.