revisited these Pictures with a good deal of pleasure.
The recording itself is splendidly full and sonorous – an effect
that had been somewhat attenuated by the inevitable “softening”
brought about by the Hattification process. In some music Hattification
brought its rewards, but give me the original every time here.
opening Promenade is more thoughtful than we sometimes hear
and the Promenades are well differentiated. This same music,
when it appears in virtually identical form as the Promenade
preceding “Limoges”, is played a little faster for instance.
I thought the children quarrelling in the Tuileries were a bit
tame this time round – I see that when reviewing “Hatto” I found
them “bathed in an affectionate glow and seem first cousins
to those who played catch-me-who-can in Schumann’s ‘Kinderszenen’.”
Well, it depends on your mood, I suppose. I thought the “Unhatched
Chicks” well-nigh perfect and admired the evenness of Campanella’s
tremolos in “Con mortuis”, the panache of the “Hut on Fowl’s
Legs” and the grandeur and dynamic range of the “Great Gate
are one or two textual oddities. Apart from that unscripted
pianissimo drop in “Bydlo” which greatly eased the detection
work I wondered about a missing rest in “Gnomus”, an altered
harmony in “Il vecchio Castello” and some changed dynamics in
“The Hut on Fowl’s Legs”. Small points, but you’re not quite
getting the “Urtext”.
recommended this recording when I thought it was a new release
from Hatto. Do I call for it to be reinstated in the catalogue?
Yes and no. I would of course give a favourable review to a
reissue, especially at budget price, but in a way every generation
makes recordings like this, so perhaps it has served its time.
Campanella was then 42 and established as a brilliant if possibly
lightweight pianist. He is now 60 and as far as I know is still
playing. Probably a new recording would be more to the point.
this one were brought back, the inclusion of some rarer pieces
by Mussorgsky and Balakirev alongside the best-known piano work
by each of them would be strongly in its favour. The Mussorgsky
“Souvenirs d’enfance”, like Schumann’s “Kinderszenen”, are adult
pieces about childhood rather than pieces for children to play,
such as Schumann’s or Tchaikovsky’s “Album for the Young”. Parts
of them must be quite tricky. For a concert performance it is
a pity that the last is slightly pensive rather than brilliant,
but you can always do what Campanella has done and add “The
Seamstress”, a cheerful addition to the repertoire of spinning-wheel
pieces. These pieces do not have quite the extra dimensions
of “Kinderszenen” but they are well worth knowing.
is excellent here, as he is in Balakirev’s rather strange “Berceuse”.
After a gentle lullaby opening the music becomes rather ominous
and I can only hope the child was well asleep by the time this
bit was reached. The pianist pulls out all his considerable
stops in “Islamey”, giving it a brilliant, clear-headed performance.
If you want something more hair-raising you can do as the Hattifiers
did and crank it up to finish in 08:21 instead of 08:41. And
yet, as I commented
with regard to the Hattifier’s speeding up of the last movement
of O’Conor’s “Hammerklavier”, I should have heard something
was wrong. It’s not the cliff-hanger it would have been if Campanella
had thrown caution to the winds and played it that little bit
faster, as perhaps he should. Still, an excellent disc and a
long and detailed review of the “Hatto” Pictures can
be read here,
my briefer comment on Islamey here.
I should like to quote, however, the beginning of the latter
review. There have been suggestions in various quarters that
the Hatto scandal has shown that critics have no ears, or faulty
ones. The remarks in bold type show that my ears were doing
their job. But so were my eyes. My eyes told me that I had a
series of records by the same pianist (and conductor) and my
brain sought to make sense of the conflicting evidence.
The more records I hear by this quite extraordinary pianist
the more my admiration for her grows. Extraordinary, not in
the sense of calling attention to what she is doing and imposing
herself between us and the music, but in that she always seeks
to realize the particular style of the composer. If these
records had been issued under a series of pseudonyms, a German
name for the German/Austrian repertoire, a Polish name for Chopin,
a Hungarian name for Liszt and a Russian name for Russian composers
(I haven’t heard her in French music so far), I suggest that
few if any would have seen any reason to doubt that the pianist
behind each name was of that particular nationality.
True, her Tchaikovsky is not hysterical or neurotic, but as
Nikolai Malko and Rudolf Barshai have shown, not all Russians
are like that anyway. This is a swashbuckling, no-holds-barred
account. From the opening bars the conductor makes it clear
that he means business (is this really the same man who did
a just about adequate job of Hatto’s Brahms 2?).
I have said above, the softer sound picture did not greatly
benefit this repertoire, though away from comparisons I seem
to have been happy with it originally. Any time-manipulation
in Pictures is a matter of a second or two here and there.
Since I am operating manually I tend to discount this margin
of error. Especially since here the Hattifiers have come up
with a neat trick; a couple of tracks – “Tuileries” and “Chicks”
– have been shifted so they start, not at the beginning of the
new picture, but during a convenient rest towards the end of
the preceding Promenade, thus distorting the apparent timings.
The time-shrinking in Islamey has already been discussed.
Mussorgsky review produced a response from Joyce Hatto, or maybe
this one was hastily cooked up by her husband. I hadn’t noticed
when I included it in “Joyce Hatto, Some Thoughts, Some Questions
and a Lot of Letters”,
but I later realized that the body of the letter – in bold type
– is identical to Hatto’s comments on this work as reported
by Ates Orga.
Dear Mr.Howells (sic!),
You have raised a few matters in your review of my performance
of the "Pictures".
Actually, I have no "authority" handed down from
a printed edition. I must say that I always mistrust "Urtext"
editions as they are never exactly what they proclaim. Mozart
and Chopin always seem to attract "scholarship" of
a kind that can never accept that the composer did mean what
he had put down on paper. Any deviation from notation in
a first movement repeat or in a reprise is immediately put down
to the composer having simply been tired, forgetful, ignorant
or perverse. Chopin has suffered badly from these busybodies
who think that their understanding of harmony is more to be
trusted than the composers. They water down piquant harmonies
"discords" to fit in with their own lesser flights
of fancy. This has happened in some Chopin "Urtext" Editions
when even the composer's own corrections of the original platemakers
engravings have remained "uncorrected". They have
frequently ignored existing copies of first editions that
have been used by the composer's pupils and assiduously
corrected by the composer and point to quite different
However, back to Mussorgsky. When I first played the Pictures
to Moiseiwitsch he told me quite casually that Rachmaninov had
considered producing a "performing edition" but had
given up on the task feeling that it was better to leave well
alone. Rachmaninov did pass on some of his ideas to Nicholas
Medtner who allowed me to copy them into my own edition. I am
not aware that Rachmaninov did actually perform the piece
but I do know that he intended to play the work in a Boston
recital but gave up on the idea. I have incorporated one or
two of the thoughts that Rachmaninov passed to Medtner. I did
not entertain any harmonic changes but did divide up some chords
for the sake of harmonic emphasis. I have endeavoured to
play each of the Promenades slightly differently to make
for a more thoughtful (or thought about) performance of
the work. Here again I have no "authority" but
it was Alfred Cortot who actually suggested that I should play
the piece originally and passed on some splendid personal
comments and advice. Some of these points you have
picked up on in your review.
So I claim no credit for many of the interpretive differences that
I sincerely believe add up to a different kind of performance.
I have tried to make a diffuse piece, although a very
great one, just a little more cohesive, but one always
tries to do that and not sprawl about with ones own emotions
I have probably not helped you very much in answer to your
request for "authority" but neither have I attempted
to pass the cup to escape the culpability for any digression!
I take this opportunity of thanking you once again for your
interest and the very nice things that you have been saying
about my playing. I understand from email copies, that my husband
has shown me from time to time, that your opinions have
produced some opposing eruptions from some quarters. I have
frequently encountered this and have never understood it. Do
With personal kind thoughts,
about the letter didn’t quite ring true. It seemed more of a
generalized statement than usual and it ducked the issues I
had raised. Luckily for the Hattifiers my reading of Ates Orga’s
piece was not so very recent, or I might have recognized it
for the cut’n paste job it was, a nice little warming-up exercise
before the day’s real copying began.
wrote back, therefore:
Dear Ms. Hatto,
It was very kind of you to write regarding the Mussorgsky
although, as you say, you haven't produced any "authority".
My one query regarded your sudden drop to pianissimo at b.21
of Bydlo which, as it isn't in the so-called "original
version" edited by Paul Lamm, I wondered if you had it
from some other source. As I said, it's magical; do I take it
that it's your own idea?
due course a more customized reply came back. With hindsight,
it would seem the Hattifiers were on the defensive. After all,
I was querying a point which might well have brought an early
end to their game. Luckily for them Campanella is not alone
in making that sudden pianissimo in “Bydlo”; Zilberstein and
even Ashkenazy were suspects before Campanella was hunted down.
And as a matter of fact the discovery of the Campanella source
was almost casual. Farhan Malik was checking up on performances
of Islamey and discovered Campanella was the source for
that. He therefore tried “Bydlo” for the pianissimo drop, felt
it was the same and kindly alerted me.
is Hatto’s customized reply, with a Scott story that sounds
only too plausible and a nice piece of “buttering up” at the
Dear Mr. Howell,
Please forgive such a late response to your interesting letter.
I really do try to cope with correspondence quickly but I seem
to have had so many letters recently from America
that I am beginning to feel swamped with them all. These are
letters from young students seeking advice, others who really
want a pen pal, and others who would do pay to contact a psychiatrist.
Well as I am working on the complete Haydn Sonatas I can appreciate
your comments at first hand. I have done my best in the past
to present what I sincerely felt and believed to be the composer's
intention. You know sometimes, somehow, one feels what is right.
If I feel that then I do it regardless of the edition or the
standing of the editor (alive or dead).
I would probably bring the musical establishments of the entire
world down on my head if I let it be known that I have often
consulted the Liszt Edition of the Beethoven Sonatas to
see what "He" thought.
I met Cyril Scott many years ago when I played a programme
of his works and John Ireland. I played his Piano Sonata Op.66
and some other pieces. The striking thing was that he didn't
seem to have formed a "final" performing score in
his mind of any of the pieces. Even Lotus land was completely
different when he played to me. In the sonata he played a whole
"new" section saying "I always thought that I
should have left that bit in but "they" said it should
come out" I think he probably listened to too many people
who presumed to give him advice. I found the whole thing rather
disturbing. John Ireland was quite the opposite. He did have
firm ideas - although did write to me afterwards "you played
the sonata ....and sitting in the hall I felt that your tempos
were absolutely right and you were right NOT to have bound yourself
to what I suggested" At that time I often played Sarnia
with the Sonata for which I have always had an affection.
How I agree with Mr.Kelly with his point about the Shakespeare
Editions. How true that is!
Of course, the Warsaw edition (Paderewsky) does
have a very good summary of various other editions and mostly
(but not always) one can accept their arguments. However, I
can't refrain from pointing out that Paderewsky himself played
many of the Chopin pieces that he actually recorded quite differently
to the Edition that bears his name. I can, of course, only make
a valid point as far as those editions that he "signed
off" before the 39/45 war.
So in the end we can only do our best. Confident, perhaps,
that only a small percentage of ones listeners would be able
to tell the difference between an E flat and E natural, and
only a slightly larger percentage the composer one was playing
(without the programme note).
The important thing is that WE care. Consequently I play what
I "feel" is right and accept the Edition that I play
from if I can't work out a valid argument not to. Benno M played
always from his Russian editions (he never bought a new one
of anything since his early student days) and very rarely left
the confines of the edition as printed. Rachmaninov was quite
different and he would point out what he thought was wrong in
notation and harmony. AND the great man would write back "
You are right my dear friend. You understand what I am trying
to get down on the paper BETTER than I do" So, it is a
Being only human I do sometimes make very small changes
and the Bydlo is one of them.
I have asked my husband to send you the boxed set of the Mozart
Sonatas -putting right some little slips and things. I hope
that you receive it safely and note that I do listen to good
With kindest personal regards,
view of what was going on, the remark that “only a small percentage
of ones listeners would be able to tell the difference between
an E flat and E natural, and only a slightly larger percentage
the composer one was playing” is quite breathtaking.