Godowsky - his contribution to piano literature/technique

Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord Music
Richard0428

Godowsky - his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Richard0428 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:57 am

I've been recently working on a couple of movements of Godowsky's magnificent Java Suite for a performance at Christmas, and Godowsky's extraordinary and extraordinarily poetical insights into the possibilities achievable by two human hands on a piano keyboard continue to astound me. The storm of almost orchestral intensity Godowsky kicks up in the middle of 'Gamelan', the simultaneous, multiple and independant melodies and bell sounds he juggles in 'In the Kraton', and the intricate cross-rhythms in the first couple of pages of 'Hari Basar' (definitely the trickiest three pages I ever learnt: more thorny and mind-boggling than anything I've encountered so far in Iberia!) leave me utterly in awe of his achievement.
I'd love to hear some views (with specific examples?) on Godowsky's incredible achievement which, it seems to me (like Chopin in his Etudes and Albeniz in Iberia) enlarged the accepted boundaries of technical complexity, but purely to meet the demands of music of extraordinary beauty, character and depth.

Arjuna
Pianophiliac
Posts: 131
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:52 am
Instruments played, if any: Pianoforte
Music Scores: No
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Arjuna » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:42 am

I love the Java Suite and I love the music of Godowsky (thought I have never played any of it). One work of his that I find particularly astounding is the 'Requiem' from 'Triakontameron' (last piece) at the end of which is a rendition of the American national anthem. I never thought I could enjoy listening to any anthem - least of all the American one, but Godowsky manages to make it more than palatable.
The 'Passacaglia' is also wonderful - especially the section with the theme from 'Erlkonig'.

I have a question though. Was Godowsky the first composer to combine, simultaneously, two or more separate works in one paraphrase?

User avatar
Caprotti
Pianomaniac
Posts: 587
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:34 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Caprotti » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:52 am

Surely not. e.g. Liszt Fantasia on 'Lucia' et 'Parisina' from two different Donizetti operas, with the overlapping of the two different themes in the final part

lebowl
Pianophiliac
Posts: 128
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:29 pm
Instruments played, if any: piano Mason BB
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by lebowl » Thu Nov 05, 2009 2:11 pm

I find Godowsky's music fascinating and ingenious and often beautiful, but I like it in fairly small doses. I don't think I could really fully enjoy listening to 24 of his Chopin studies in a row or going to an all Godowsky concert. After a while all the inner voices and schmaltzy harmonizations become tiresome although endlessly fascinating.

User avatar
Ferruccio
Pianophiliac
Posts: 256
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 8:22 pm
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Ferruccio » Thu Nov 05, 2009 7:15 pm

lebowl wrote:I find Godowsky's music fascinating and ingenious and often beautiful, but I like it in fairly small doses. I don't think I could really fully enjoy listening to 24 of his Chopin studies in a row or going to an all Godowsky concert. After a while all the inner voices and schmaltzy harmonizations become tiresome although endlessly fascinating.

That's it. Right. Even if you play it, same phenomenon.
Best regards, Ferruccio

Richard0428

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Richard0428 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:55 am

Ferruccio wrote:
lebowl wrote:I find Godowsky's music fascinating and ingenious and often beautiful, but I like it in fairly small doses. I don't think I could really fully enjoy listening to 24 of his Chopin studies in a row or going to an all Godowsky concert. After a while all the inner voices and schmaltzy harmonizations become tiresome although endlessly fascinating.

That's it. Right. Even if you play it, same phenomenon.
I agree, what you both say is quite true, to an extent, Godowsky's music often has a rather decadent, over-luxurient quality to it, but then so of course does the music of a host of other post-Romantic composers. And it can also indulge in rather shallow (if always ingenious) virtuosity for its own sake, but then Liszt (and even, occasionally, Chopin) is guilty of this sin on countless occassions, and some of the more serious offenders on this score (Funerailles and certain Transcendental Etudes come immediately to mind) are well-respected and hackneyed favorites.
I singled out the Java Suite, simply because I believe it's quite innocent of the charges of over-indulgence and emphasis on showy virtuosity that are often thrown at Godowsky. There's an extemely impressive and sensitive artist at work here, and it's quite amazing to me the extent to which he succeeds in capturing a subtle and 'authentic' flovour of Java, not merely a picture postcard image, such as caught by (for example) Niemann's charming but lightweight evocations of Japan and other Oriental countries. It's an extraordinary masterpiece, and one of the few really big pieces by a composer outside of the inner sanctum that, I think, could conceivably stand on its own in a recital. If you're not convinced, Beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Music Masters recording with Indonesian pianist Esther Budiandjo (and run a mile from the Schebakow performance on Marco Polo, which is makes a heavy-handed travesty of this most subtle of scores). Her performance will make you fall in love with the work!

Of course Godowsky's arrangements of the Chopin Etudes would be tiring and monotonous if they filled a recital: they're decadent, beautifully shaped bonbons decked out in the gaudiest of colours, and more than a few of them in one sitting would give the strongest ears indigestion, but then I'm sure many would feel just the same at an all-Schumann recital (perish the thought!) or a recital of only Mozart piano sonatas. Even the best music music needs space to breathe, and between each musical course a contrast to cleanse the ears !

Godowsky's musical output is as uneven as many other composers, but please guys, let's not gang up on him with simplistic generalizations!

timgill
Member
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:38 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: No
Location: London UK
Contact:

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by timgill » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:13 am

This should really go under the Music Publishers' thread, but my company just last week published a new edition of the Java Suite. More details under the aforementioned thread shortly.

Arjuna
Pianophiliac
Posts: 131
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:52 am
Instruments played, if any: Pianoforte
Music Scores: No
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Arjuna » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:34 am

Richard0428 wrote:run a mile from the Schebakow performance
:cry: I thought Scherbakov did a really good job.

User avatar
Caprotti
Pianomaniac
Posts: 587
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:34 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by Caprotti » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:46 am

Richard0428 wrote:
Ferruccio wrote:
lebowl wrote:I find Godowsky's music fascinating and ingenious and often beautiful, but I like it in fairly small doses. I don't think I could really fully enjoy listening to 24 of his Chopin studies in a row or going to an all Godowsky concert. After a while all the inner voices and schmaltzy harmonizations become tiresome although endlessly fascinating.

That's it. Right. Even if you play it, same phenomenon.
I agree, what you both say is quite true, to an extent, Godowsky's music often has a rather decadent, over-luxurient quality to it, but then so of course does the music of a host of other post-Romantic composers. And it can also indulge in rather shallow (if always ingenious) virtuosity for its own sake, but then Liszt (and even, occasionally, Chopin) is guilty of this sin on countless occassions, and some of the more serious offenders on this score (Funerailles and certain Transcendental Etudes come immediately to mind) are well-respected and hackneyed favorites.
I singled out the Java Suite, simply because I believe it's quite innocent of the charges of over-indulgence and emphasis on showy virtuosity that are often thrown at Godowsky. There's an extemely impressive and sensitive artist at work here, and it's quite amazing to me the extent to which he succeeds in capturing a subtle and 'authentic' flovour of Java, not merely a picture postcard image, such as caught by (for example) Niemann's charming but lightweight evocations of Japan and other Oriental countries. It's an extraordinary masterpiece, and one of the few really big pieces by a composer outside of the inner sanctum that, I think, could conceivably stand on its own in a recital. If you're not convinced, Beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Music Masters recording with Indonesian pianist Esther Budiandjo (and run a mile from the Schebakow performance on Marco Polo, which is makes a heavy-handed travesty of this most subtle of scores). Her performance will make you fall in love with the work!

Of course Godowsky's arrangements of the Chopin Etudes would be tiring and monotonous if they filled a recital: they're decadent, beautifully shaped bonbons decked out in the gaudiest of colours, and more than a few of them in one sitting would give the strongest ears indigestion, but then I'm sure many would feel just the same at an all-Schumann recital (perish the thought!) or a recital of only Mozart piano sonatas. Even the best music music needs space to breathe, and between each musical course a contrast to cleanse the ears !

Godowsky's musical output is as uneven as many other composers, but please guys, let's not gang up on him with simplistic generalizations!

I do not agree about the fact that an all-Schumann or an all-Mozart recital could be boring (at least if the performer is not boring !). Comparing those two to Godowsky is out of question. I love the music of Godowsky but, be serious, the history of music in his time was made by other people like Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg and so on. Godowsky's style has been rightly compared to the Liberty, Jugendstil, Art Decò artistic movements by the italian scholar P.Rattalino and can indeed give to the listener some very pleasant moments in terms of sound and above all of research on multiple, complex lines at the keyboard. Even some viennese-style pages, as can be found in the violin and piano Impressions, are really nice : but let's consider that we are talking of pieces of music that are completely out of their time. How music could have made any progression if Schubert had written like a 18th century composer or Brahms like a second-hand Schubert or Stravinsky like .... ?

ahinton
Member
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:40 pm
Music Scores: No

Re: Godowsky and his contribution to piano literature/technique

Post by ahinton » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:42 am

Caprotti wrote: I do not agree about the fact that an all-Schumann or an all-Mozart recital could be boring (at least if the performer is not boring !).
Indeed, there is no reason on the facce of it that either should be - especially the former.
Caprotti wrote: Comparing those two to Godowsky is out of question. I love the music of Godowsky but, be serious, the history of music in his time was made by other people like Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg and so on. Godowsky's style has been rightly compared to the Liberty, Jugendstil, Art Decò artistic movements by the italian scholar P.Rattalino and can indeed give to the listener some very pleasant moments in terms of sound and above all of research on multiple, complex lines at the keyboard. Even some viennese-style pages, as can be found in the violin and piano Impressions, are really nice : but let's consider that we are talking of pieces of music that are completely out of their time. How music could have made any progression if Schubert had written like a 18th century composer or Brahms like a second-hand Schubert or Stravinsky like .... ?
Well, I'm not so sure about that; there are (and almost always have been) both consolidators and pioneers and I do not think that we would wish to have this any other way, so what matters most is the quality of what the composer does. To suggest that Godowsky's works were "completely out of their time" seems to me to be missing several points. Firstly, the Chopin/Godowsky studies are in some senses well ahead of their time, hence, for example, Michael Finnissy's fascination for them - secondly, Godowsky's musical language around the turn of the century was not particularly antediluvian in any case - and thirdly, the co-existence of ever more widely diverging styles and languages was already evident at the time of Godowsky's mature work when, for example, Schönberg, Rakhmaninov, Bartók and Medtner were all active contemporaneously.

Post Reply