Back in the 1950s when I began to study piano with an excellent teacher, many of the older generation pianists were were still concertizing. So it was possible to go hear some of them. Also, one could still find the old 78 rpm records going back to of Paderewski, for example. And on the older LPs you could hear the likes of Backhaus, for example, at his best. And the really good teachers of the era who were conservatory trained had studied with important artist-teachers who in turn could also speak about their own teachers and the wisdom they gained. I think a good deal of that has been lost now in the frantic chase for the correct notes. Having come along at the near end of the era, people like me are sort of dim shadows of the trandition. But fortunately, there are many superb books available where we can at least read about the Old School pianists, their thinking on pianism, and also find their played preserved on CDs. It's inspiring.
Thank you for your apreciated thoughts, David. My appreciated former teacher, Franz-Josef Streuff, who was also a member of this site and has died two years ago - you remember him - also studied in the 1950th. His first professor was Wilhelm Kempff, who teached at the "Musikhochschule" of Cologne at this time. So he learned also in the tradition of Old School Pianists. And when he was in England he made himself a 78 rpm record, which he played to me, when I was a pupil. (It was a Beethoven Sonata.) He always feeled obliged to the tradition and mind of 19th century. One can realize that also in his "Late Intermezzi" f.ex., which were his last compositions. (I have played them all for this site and Chris has played also some of them.) I´m proud and lucky to have been a pupil of Franz, so I could learn a lot from the Old School Pianist tradition. We also visited some concerts together, f.ex. one of the 86 years old Claudio Arrau, who played in the "Tonhalle" of Düsseldorf, which is nearby the place I lived in former times.
I have a huge collection of DVD´s and CD´s and books about the Old School Pianists and I know them all quite well. I also have a very old film-recording of Francis Planté, playing the first Chopin etude at the end of 19th century. I think, it´s one of the oldest recording existing, but I also have Paderewsky playing the 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody in the 20th on film and much much more. (I think, I have them nearly all.)
Concerning the "frantic chase for the correct notes" I agree to you. I think, especially in the romantic music of 19th century it isn´t adequate to the mind of the music. The wholeness of the sound is the most important. If the composer f.ex. has thought of an c-major-arpeggio it´s not so important, which notes exactly you play of this arpeggio, the main thing is you play some notes of a c-major-arpeggio f.ex. With baroque, especially with Bachs music, it´s a bit different. I think, here every note is quite important, at least sometimes an accidental or natural can
be very important for a modulation f.ex., it not always has to be
Of course, I think, it´s important, that we always try to play the correct notes, but the wholeness of the piece and the mind of the composer should be considered of a higher value.
There is a nice anekdote told about Edwin Fischer, btw. Do you know it?
Edwin Fischer made a journey in a train and listened to two women sitting behind him. They talked about Edwin Fischer and the many wrong notes he used to play. When the train stopped, the two women recognized Edwin Fischer, who was also in the train, and they asked him, if they could carry his suitcase for him. Edwin Fischer said something like "Yes, it´s nice. Here is the suitcase with all the wrong notes I play." I think, they had become red, shouldn´t they?
I think, Edwin Fischer is a good example to show, that the genius and mind is the most important. No one would doubt, that he was one of the greatest pianists of twentieth century.
You see, I´m also influenced very much by the "Old School Pianists" and their thoughts about pianism and appreciate it as much as you do. But especially in Bachs music I try to be as exact as possible and I try also to be very severe with myself, but also here I think, the mind and wholeness of expression is the most important. In Bachs music it´s so important to play with soul and expression and to have a certain concept of interpretation. This is much more important than a singular wrong note, which is played by accident! Just the opposite, a singular wrong notes played by accident doesn´t minor the worth of a recording, if the piece is played with soul and expression respective if it has a certain concept of interpretation.
Thank you once more for this valuable exchange of thoughts, David.