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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

COMMENTARY | Für Elise And The Great Classical Music Dumb-Down

By Peter Goddard on June 28, 2019

On the Fake News Front.

This just in: The international recording industry is in panic catch-up mode in response to raves for Lang Lang’s performance of Beethoven’s Für Elise, the popular name for the famous Bagatelle No.25 in A minor.

Sony’s recent signing of Ivo Pogorelic to an exclusive contract was predicated according to insiders on the 60-year-old pianist’s “translucent” thumbs-only recording of Claude Debussy’s Claire du Lune. “Finally, pianism that goes beyond digital dexterity,” raved an AllMusic reviewer.

A rushed press release for Yuja Wang announced the perky fashion diva has for weeks been “polishing” her Twinkle Twinkle Little Pastie based on a familiar piece she played during her Beijing youth.

Sony is rush-releasing Vladimir Horowitz’s hitherto secret 1952 recording of Kitten on the Keys, as its front-of-catalogue item instead of the much anticipated, Horowitz: The Historic 1965 Carnegie Hall Return Concert.

“We believe the maestro would be proud,” a Sony spokesperson said recently. “Remember, he anticipated this trend eons ago with his encores of childlike or trivial-sounding pieces as the culmination of many major performances throughout his entire concert career.

The Lang Lang performance of Für Elise at Philharmonie de Paris is the cornerstone in Steinway’s new campaign for The Black Diamond Limited, its latest grand piano line fabricated in conjunction with Dakota Jackson, the celebrated American furniture designer and Steinway partner since 2016. Lang’s Für Elise originally appeared as part of his Piano Book project, of pieces from his youth.

“Für Elise is not a difficult piece,” says Lang Lang adding that it “has many magical moments.” After a life spent performing Beethoven’s concerti, late sonatas and variations, “you come back and see this piece as completely different, almost like a three-movement sketch,” he opined.

Published in 1867 some 40 years after the composer’s death in 1827, Für Elise is a favourite student recital item for hormonally maxed out teenage pianists who love rubbing the topmost E and pivotal D-sharp together shamelessly in full view for as long as they can get away with it.

Musicologists are unanimous in their certainty that the work itself was written for the wife or daughter of one of Beethoven’s male intimates, or maybe a colleague’s sister, or step-sister, or — who knows? — a step-wife. Maybe nephew Karl imagined wearing a dress?

Meanwhile, a pirated recording of Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance of ‘Do Re Mi” recorded before he could walk has appeared on YouTube and elsewhere. Toy piano sales are expected to soar.

Not all of Lang’s peers were impressed, though. “I would never record anything with Fur in the title,” joked fiery French virtuoso Hélène Grimaud, noted for her global activism on behalf of wolves. “Even with the addition of those two little German dot thingies over the “u” as a coverup,” she added.

A miffed Marc-André Hamelin, has told intimates if the world wants dumbing-down “I’ll dummy-down faster than anybody. The celebrated Canadian virtuoso reportedly has his version of Chop Sticks down to 2:12 seconds. His training team are confident at bringing the time down to at least 1:5 seconds.
While Martha Argerich is reportedly speeding up the release date of her unique black-notes-only playing of both books of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.”

“There’s nothing wrong with white notes” says the impassioned Argentinian, “but I have to start somewhere. I’ll get to them next. Then — the embellishments. Can’t wait.”

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Peter Goddard

Peter Goddard

Peter Goddard has held positions as the pop music critic for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Star. He received the 1973 Juno Award as Music Journalist of The Year. He is the author of 17 biographies including Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson & The Jacksons, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Glenn Gould.
Peter Goddard
Peter Goddard

Peter Goddard

Peter Goddard has held positions as the pop music critic for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Star. He received the 1973 Juno Award as Music Journalist of The Year. He is the author of 17 biographies including Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson & The Jacksons, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Glenn Gould.
Peter Goddard
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