Francis Poulenc’s Piano Concerto

Hola a todos. I pretty much learned the Poulenc (Piano Concerto in c# minor, FP 146) after graduating from the Conservatory where I trained. (Why didn’t my piano professor have me work on that instead of the Grieg — Piano Concerto in a minor — which I wasn’t that hot over? I’m still not.) The Poulenc is a relatively short piano concerto by concerto standards. I found it enjoyable to play and I saw concert pianist Cristina Ortiz play it with the San Francisco Symphony and enjoyed her performance. The third movement is interesting with Poulenc’s brief rendition of the old sea chant A la claire fontain excerpt in there.

On AdTube — that’s what I call it since greed-based G**gle has absolutely ruined U-toob with completely unrelated and obnoxious ads during performances; G**gle has become a corporate parasite on this planet — there’s only about two video performances of the Poulenc that I found on AdTube. I’m not recommending either performance, although I preferred the performance from the Cole Conservatory of California State University at Long Beach, and that pianist with the Cole Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. I had no trouble watching him. I went back to watch that performance again, but the second time, AdTube had messed that video up with pop-up ads and other ads throughout the performance, so I clicked off.

Note to G**gle: FOAD. I don’t watch any ads or buy anything from anything I happen to see in an ad. It is extremely tacky and irrelevant to have ads running throughout any performance, and the ads show up in the middle of a measure out of nowhere. G**gle have no respect for the music at all. All they care about is rank greed. Go rot in hell, if there were such a place.

There’s another performance of the Poulenc from France and with that pianist, well, I found her annoying. There’s no need to bounce up and down on the piano bench when playing chords. It’s nothing but needless theatrics. The finest pianists are trained to “make it look easy even when it’s not” and you don’t do that by bouncing on the bench and other needless theatrics which make what you’re playing look difficult. The chords in the Poulenc are not difficult. They’re certainly not like the chords in Rachmaninov, for example. And you don’t need to bounce with them either. If anything, bouncing can make you lose your “form,” your position on the bench and consequently make upcoming chords more difficult to play. She was also doing facial expressions as if she were having a conversation with someone in her head. WTF? Was she trying to channel Poulenc or someone? The tempo of that performance was slower which some people complained about in the comments. Yes, it could have had more momentum to it, but as pianist Paul Lewis said: At least it was not another performance of an (overplayed) Beethoven or [fill in the name of an overplayed composer’s] piano concerto. I did enjoy the Orchestra in the performance from France, they were enjoyable to watch and played well. But let’s just say that the pianist was a bit much for me, and I’ve noticed that about many female pianists. They wear their emotions on their skimpy lingerie sleeve — what if a guy came out on stage wearing similarly skimpy clothing? — rather than having their emotions come out through their finger tips. At least she didn’t stare at the ceiling with limpid eyes and a quivering lip! She wasn’t playing the Hamburg Steinway Model D that’s widely used throughout the EU. The Steinway was over on the far left of the front of the stage being unused. Maybe they programmed Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos in d minor, FP 61 on the same programme? I don’t know. This pianist was playing a Stephen Paulello piano, which are fairly new pianos. I prefer the Hamburg Steinway.

Most of this theatrics nonsense is new. What Conservatories or Schools of Music are teaching that rubbish? To me, theatrics and “show” distract from their playing and from their music. It’s energy wasted on being showy. Maybe they think, “Well I’m not that good of a pianist so maybe my showy theatrics will sell me.” To the musically-ignorant, yes it probably will. They fall for anything. They fall for needless theatrics because they don’t know any better. To them, theatrics and show are just as important as the music, if not more important. They’re often there to see some type of “act” and some are easily impressed by how difficult the pianist makes a piece look to play. I’d like to ask the pianist: So you care to prostitute yourself that way, do you? When I think of some of the finest pianists of the past generation — Artur Rubinstein comes to mind — he didn’t do all that theatrics nonsense. His music came out through his finger tips, as the finest pianists are trained to do. There was Vladimir Horowitz — yes I know some people cringe at the mere mention of his name — but he didn’t do all that theatrics stuff either. In fact he said, “I’m probably not that interesting to watch. You won’t see me gazing at the ceiling with quivering lips and limpid eyes.” No fortunately we didn’t. That’s not an exact quote but the message is the same. There were others of that generation who did not waste energy on show.

Someone needs to record the Poulenc in video format with a superb production crew, orchestra and pianist. The pianist from the Cole Conservatory played well, and the orchestra played well, but the camera work was, well, amateurish. I think that performance was off someone’s phone. Chau.—el barrio rosa