1 December 2014 – Alex Raineri
As a pianist in the 21st century, I am both blessed and cursed with having an almost overwhelming recording legacy of the keyboard repertoire. There are incredible artists all around the world practising our craft and making stunning recordings which both ‘reinvent’ old works (by presenting new interpretations) and ‘document’ new works (thereby helping contemporary piano pieces find their place in the keyboard canon more accessibly).
In the struggle to find my current favourite recording, I couldn’t write this article without briefly mentioning a number of recorded performances that strongly resonate with me! My desert island list includes:
Richard Strauss // Elektra // Birgit Nilsson, Georg Solti & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Messiaen // Catalogue d’Oiseaux // Yvonne Loriod
Johannes Brahms // Three Intermezzi Op. 117 // Radu Lupu
Beat Furrer // Konzert fur Klavier und Orchester // Nicolas Hodges, Peter Rundel, WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln
Richard Barrett // Dark Matter // the ELISION Ensemble
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart // The Complete Piano Sonatas // Mitsuko Uchida
Johann Sebastian Bach // The Well Tempered Clavier // Angela Hewitt
Franz Schubert // Winterreise // Mark Padmore & Paul Lewis
Franz Schubert // Winterreise // Wolfgang Holzmair & Imogen Cooper
Gustav Mahler // Ruckert Lieder // Magdalena Kozena, Simon Rattle & Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
I will give a different answer each time i’m asked the question, but for now, my favourite recording is the incredible live performance captured on CD by Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and various soloists of Luigi Nono’s Il Canto Sospeso and Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder.
I’ve personally always found it important to listen to music that isn’t for solo piano or a piano concerto. This particularly pertains to popular culture as it forces classical musicians to contemplate the cultural relationships between music in its various guises and genres. A burning question (or rather, point of contemplation) for me has always been; how does the classical art form function and develop in today’s society and what kind of role do we as musicians play in the current artistic climate?. Perhaps this is ultimately unanswerable but as a purely pedagogical exercise, I think it’s important to consider the definitions and boundaries (whether they be real or imagined) of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art and whether these kind of distinctions really need to exist.
Coming back to the discussion at hand, I’ve always been rather sad about the fact that three of my favourite composers (Wagner, Mahler & Richard Strauss) hardly wrote anything for the piano, certainly nothing substantial for solo piano. The aforementioned favourite CD never fails to move me in some way. In addition to the sheer recording brilliance of this live performance, something of the magic of experiencing a live performance is captured in the disc. I often feel that the flow and emotional trajectory of a performance is affected in some way when recordings have been ‘doctored’.
Vocal music teaches pianists so much about what we are forced to fake on our instrument, due to the natural decay of the piano. For me, the illusion of legato is one of the most challenging aspects of keyboard technique. Listening to incredible vocal performances such as those in the Nono and Mahler works on this CD, has helped me to explore a more finely tuned and hyper-aware sense of gradation of melodic lines. This then translates into finding out how this might be implemented on the piano, whether it be by various forms of colouring such as nuance of dynamic, character of sound, phrase direction, etc.
Where vocalists are trained to deliver emotional meaning via the syntax inherent in the text (in certain repertoire), pianists often fall flat in this regard given the programmatically abstract nature of our repertoire. Whilst i’m not an advocate for implementing narrative where it hasn’t been prescribed by the composer, I think there’s something to be said for contemplating what we can and can’t do imaginatively.
Ultimately, how do we become better players? Constant exploration outside of the ‘piano bubble’ certainly can’t do any damage!
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In 2014, Alex was a recipient of a scholarship offered by Theme & Variations Foundation
All biographical details and info on upcoming events can be found at www.alexraineri.com
SELECTED EVENTS FEATURING ALEX RAINERI IN DECEMBER 2014 – JANUARY 2015
What: Alex Raineri Solo Recital & the Imperial Room
When: Sunday 14th December, 4-6pm
Where: 20 Tamaree Ave, Wynnum
Cost: $25 at the door
Program: Beethoven – Sonata No. 26 in Eb major Op. 81a, ‘Les Adieux’ // Granados – Quejas o la maya y el Ruisenor from Goyescas // Brahms – 2 Rhapsodies Op. 79 // Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
What: Queensland Pops Orchestra 30th New Years Eve Gala
When: Wednesday 31st December, 6pm & 9:30pm (two performances)
Where: Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Concert Hall
Program: includes Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
Website for more info: http://www.qpac.com.au/event/QPOPS_New_Years_14.aspx
What: Music by the Sea Festival // Alex Raineri Solo Recital
When: Sunday 11th January, 3-4pm
Where: Sandgate Town Hall
Program: Beethoven – Sonata No. 14 in C# minor Op. 27 No. 2, ‘Moonlight’ // Brahms – Three Intermezzi Op. 117 // Ravel – Prelude, Menuet and Toccata from Le Tombeau de Couperin // Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
Website for more info: http://www.musicbythesea.com.au
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Pianist & Co-Artistic Director of Kupka’s Piano, Ensemble in Residence at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane, www.kupkaspiano.com