Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SEEING LESS OF MORAVEC - Ivan Moravec Dead at 84

It will come as a surprise for most of you to read that Ivan Moravec is dead. You didn't know he was alive, did you?

Along with a variety of pianists (oh, Alfred Brendel, Earl Wild, Guiomar Novaes, Ruth Laredo etc.) Moravec (November 9 1930-July 27 2015) was a minor name compared to keyboard superstars Horowitz and Rubinstein. Vinyl fans helped these other pianists find an audience. Some recorded for budget or sonic specialty labels. If you couldn't afford a brilliant Chopin set from Rubinstein, you could find Madame Novaes cheaper on Vox and Moravec's more stereophile pressings on the aptly named Connoisseur Society label. Other pianists specialized in composers that the big guys didn't bother with (Aldo Ciccolini recorded Satie and Ronald Smith recorded Alkan).

Classical fans often discovered that the "minor" performers were often as good or better than the bigger names. Writing for The New York Times, Steve Smith declared that for the Chopin nocturnes, nothing could beat the "astonishing" Moravec for both sound and performance. An irony here is that I prefer Alexander Brailowsky on the nocturnes, but what the fuck do I know? Frankly, I'm not that much of an expert that I was asked to review classical music that often. Early on, I relied on Herbert Russcol's book to shape my tastes (he was the Rolling Stone guide for long-hair music).

Mr. Smith praised Moravec's "extraordinary dynamic shading and gracious shaping of each gemlike work," and despite "a crowded field," voted Moravec's album as "…an essential document" for any Chopin fan.

The obit from the UK Telegraph checked the Czech as "one of the 20th-century’s greatest interpreters of Chopin; his sensitive and poetic pianism created a pure and honest sound that could transport his audience to another world, leaving behind all sense of time and place."

It's of course, a perversity of this blog that your download is a work of Debussy, not Chopin. The main reason is Debussy is on CD and the rest of my Moravec on vinyl, so it was the easiest to digitize for you. Moravec's catalog includes great performances on many masters, including Mozart; his recording of the Piano Concerto in E Flat was considered definitive enough to be on the soundtrack to the movie "Amadeus."

The UK Telegraph must be quoted for an insight into the man and his work: "Balding, stocky and with a large round face, Moravec looked every bit like a pre-war bank manager. Yet his warmth and charm were ever-present, and he was known to join members of the audience for a beer after concerts. Seemingly immune to criticism, fashion or fads, he appeared uninterested in pursuing a high-profile career. Even when the opportunity to live in the West presented itself, Moravec – no supporter of Communism – returned to his home in Prague." Moravec's ordinary temperament of genius included his eccentric need to tinker with whatever piano he was going to play.

The reason the UK Telegraph and other British papers have run large obits on Moravec is that he was often on tour in England. He had a strong relationship with Libor Pesek (another Czech) who ran the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and with Sir Neville Marriner and his prolific Academy of St Martin in the Fields. He also had a happy relationship with Zuzana Moravec, his wife and travel-partner through the years.

Below, part of Debussy's musical interpretations of glistening water images, is "Poissons d'Or" which technically translates as gold fish. No password on the download. If there was, it would've been swordfish.

DEBUSSY Poissons d'Or from IMAGES suite, performed by Moravec

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