Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Little Known Artists

An interesting article in the current issue of the American Record Guide comments on the fact that big-name performers in the world of classical music are not always better than unknowns, and that often little known performers are far superior to Artist X who trundles round the world playing and recording the same few pieces, charging vast amounts of money that are paid because he or she is a “star” and can charge premium prices. Those who pay premium prices for recordings or concert tickets are unwilling to admit to themselves that their auditory experience was less than good. In this, the world of classical music is no better than that of the popular music world.

This thought occurred to me listening to a 1965 recording of Paganini (including the first violin concerto) by Aldo Ferraresi (who?) This is wonderful Paganini playing; Ferraresi makes us realise that Paganini was Italian, and that he grew up in the world of provincial Italian opera houses. The playing here is audibly different from the mainstream Russian approach that one finds (played marvellously) by violinists such as Leonid Kogan. Ferraresi's violin sings and swoons, and he plays Paganini like a true provincial Italian tenor, rather than like a Russian T34 tank. I enjoyed it all immensely. Ferraresi belongs to that vast world of near-forgotten great musicians who, for one reason or another, never had recording contracts and never sought to conquer the world stage. Ferraresi never played professionally often outside Italy (just as Albert Sammons, another superb violinist, never played outside Britain).

Yuja Wang is not an unknown name, and she is heavily recorded by DG. But she is young, and hardly (yet) a well-known international star. I was so impressed yesterday listening to her playing Rachmaninov, Liszt et al that I leapt up and clicked my mouse to order another Yuja Wang CD (Rachmaninov). What she communicates is freshness and vitality; under her fingers the music is not stale and over-rehearsed, as it can so often sound when played by Big Names. And to this short list I would add Soo-Hyun Park, who so impressed me with a recent CD of concertos by Wieniawski, Conus and Vieuxtemps. Long live the legions of the Little Names!

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