Did anyone get to see pianist Hélène Grimaud perform the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra earlier this month? While Ms. Grimaud was in town, she stopped by the WGUC studio to visit and I decided to ask her a few questions for my blog. When asked to name a controversial moment in music history, Brahms immediately came to Hélène’s mind. Performing his piece just a few hours after our chat, it made sense that her thoughts would go in that direction. She told me that his piano concerto she was performing with the CSO was not well received following its premiere. Brahms wrote in a way that the piano was one of the orchestra instruments. To audiences, it sounded like a symphony with piano obbligato rather than a piano concerto and that did not go over well.
Ms. Grimaud also mentioned that, as a pianist, Liszt is a major pillar in the musical world, changing the “universe” of piano performance with his avant garde work. She mentioned that, in her opinion, we wouldn’t have Wagner if we didn’t have Liszt.
I also again had the opportunity to talk with Cincinnati’s wonderful Maestro, Louis Langrée. When asked the same question as Ms. Grimaud, he quickly responded with a discussion on John Cage’s 4’33’’. Are you familiar with this piece? Cage’s composition presents silence as music causing audiences to wonder, “what really is music?” Maestro Langrée said that it is this type of “music” that “forces you to think” and “provokes” a reaction.
Here is a link to a performance of 4’33”. What does this “music” provoke you to think? Is it indeed music?