Chopin Polonaise in A♭ major

(Apr 9, 2019)

Polonaise Héroïque; Polish: Heroiczny…

Again, more than one recording.

  1. The first by a talented 14 year-old. There are mistakes and some minor problems, but overall it’s incredibly impressive for such a young kid.
  2. Then a second by the pianist who by many was considered the greatest interpreter of the music of Chopin, Arthur Rubinstein. One of the reasons for the huge power was his hand size. He could grab large chords and hit them solid, while most players roll those chords, which is a weaker and less massive sound. If I had to pick one performance, this would be it. The most shocking fact about Rubinstein for me is that he was already 70 years old in 1957, so whenever you hear a stereo recording of Rubinstein he was around 70 years old or older. When you listen to this you are hearing a man of probably at least 70 years of age.
  3. Finally, Vladimir Horowitz from, I think, 1971, a studio recording, when he was around 68 years old. This is very different from Rubinstein, so which you prefer will depend on you personality.

Simonas Miknius, age 14…

Rubinstein, around age 70 or later…

Horowitz, around age 68…

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8 thoughts on “Chopin Polonaise in A♭ major

  1. All three sound different. Horowitz sounds old (like the style and sound) , Rubinstein is loud-ish (probably because of the force) and Simonas sounds like any impressive piano piece recorded today. All these are how it sounds, not how it sounds and feels to people, just style of sound.

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    1. But you can’t tell about loudness on a recording. You can only tell about contrast. Horowitz, for instance, did not play louder than other players, but he played softest. I know this because I heard him play in Miami. He had the loudest contrast of any pianist I’ve ever heard. He played so soft that when he came to the loud parts, they sounded thunderous.

      Rubinstein is generally considered to be one of the best players ever to perform the music of Chopin, so any famous recording of his is worth listening to. His chords sound the most massive because he had huge hands. He stretched a 12th (like C to G, five more than an octave), and even I can only reach and 11th. My stretch is bigger than any student I’ve ever taught, including a couple students I taught who were way over six feet tall.

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  2. Rubinstein for me. Horowitz too.

    But that kid? I’d give my left… toe to play at that level. I figure since I lack the raw talent, I’ll have to make for it by putting in the time =o)

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    1. Horowitz was often criticized for “too much Horowitz and not enough of the composer”. In other words, he imposed his own style and his own thought very heavily. Sometimes that works really well for me, other times not so well. For me in this one piece his ideas seem a bit more “artificial”, like he was not always 100% in sync with the composer. In contrast there is often a perfect meld between his ideas and Rachmaninov with whom he shared a language and culture,

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  3. There’s a famous musician who, when asked about his favourite composer or piece, said “Whatever I’m playing at the moment.” That’s how I feel about Rubinstein vs. Horowitz. I enjoy both of their interpretations. There were moments when I might have leaned toward Horowitz – in one section I really liked what Rubinstein did, but if Horowitz stuck that style into the middle of his playing it wouldn’t have fit in with the rest.

    If a Polonaise was originally a dance, then I think I felt more of the dance in Horowitz’s version. But was it meant to still be a dance? I’m about to head off to watch some dancers dancing Polonaises. 🙂 Isn’t Google wonderful?

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    1. My choice for this would be Rubinstein of the versions I linked to. But there are an incredible amount of famous performances that are very convincing. But I would agree with “whatever I’m listening to at the moment”, which I guess is the point. When you are listening to two ore more of the greatest players, all at the top of their game, I think it’s natural to be pulled into the moment by what you are listening to at the moment.

      Here is another that I did not link to, because I didn’t want to end up with 50 links. But I really like this young pianist:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azxKyUDpmXg

      However, there are a couple small errors that you don’t normally hear in studio recordings, and there is no applause so likely it is not live…

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