Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heads... tails...

Let's say you wanted to know whether this recording of Brahms' Piano sonata no.3 and Waltzes op.39, by Antti Siirala on Ondine, is worth getting. Well, you could consult Jed Distler on Classics Today, who says of the sonata "Antti Siirala doesn't interpret Brahms' F minor sonata so much as he defoliates it. Scrupulous to a fault, Siirala irons out the music's craggy contours, takes great pains to extract hidden counterpoints, and tapers phrases to microscopic levels of calibration. The results soften the rhythmic impetus of bass lines and pedal points (especially in the first two movements) and miss Emanuel Ax's sonorous warmth and textural variety, to say nothing of Arthur Rubinstein's impetuous ardor. Both Murray Perahia and Clifford Curzon replicate Siirala's sharply articulated dotted rhythms in a more congenial, vocally oriented context, with infinitely more color." So, no, then. Well, let's see what Jerry Dubins said in Fanfare: "Training the fingers to play the notes is only half the battle. The other half is making sense of them. Here is where Siirala really impresses me... Siirala is a powerhouse of technical reserve; the richness, fullness, and solidity of his tone are visceral, helped by a superbly detailed recording. But as important, perhaps more important, is that in his hands what Brahms wrote suddenly sounds right. All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. This is no small accomplishment". Huh. OK, then, the answer's yes.
But wait... what about the Waltzes? Well, Distler says "Fortunately, Siirala kicks up his dancing boots for the Waltzes, allowing their charm, swagger, and ingenuous cross-rhythms full due". Cool! Sounds like fun. Wait... what's that, Jerry? "Barely disguised in these lilting melodies is all of the angst, the loneliness, and the sense of isolation Brahms felt throughout his life and communicated with such vulnerable intimacy... Young as he is, Siirala understands this vulnerability; you can hear it in his playing."
Oh for goodness' sake! Did you two even listen to the same CD?

1 comment:

Jon said...

Just goes to show the problem with reviews.

Given the plethora of recordings available these days I read them as much as anyone else.

But whilst there are certainly some quite 'reliable' reviewers out there (in that you may agree or disagree with their opinion more or less consistently), until you hear something for yourself you can't really be sure of anything.