Because He Can

Phil Ford

Piggybacking on Jonathan’s post on musical diehardism yesterday: when I was a teenager I was in one of those diehard phases, spending every hour away from school practicing piano and listening to records. One record in particular, Earl Wild’s The Daemonic Liszt, was a kind of holy grail of pianistic virtuosity. The first cut, a performance of Liszt’s Robert le Diable fantasy, is so extreme in its virtuosity it’s like a new kind of martial art or something, sort of like the way Brazilian Capoeira is dancing transmogrified into whoop-ass.

Anyway. A shameful, shameful, dorky secret: I would sometimes play Robert le Diable with the speed setting on my Radio Shack Realistic turntable turned up from 33 rpm to 45, creating the sonic image of some bionic pianist whose pitiless, unstoppable volleys of octaves would leave you looking like a mad scientist after a lab accident, all tattered clothes, scorch marks, hair standing up, blank stare, and half an Erlenmeyer flask.

Sviatoslav Richter, playing Chopin’s etude op. 10 no. 4 in C sharp minor, does exactly this, and without mechanical assistance. (This is a clip from Bruno Monsaingeon’s documentary Richter the Enigma.)

Respect, suckaz!

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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2 Responses to Because He Can

  1. MCroche says:

    I still remember an additional variation I composed (and could never play even remotely up to speed) for Liszt’s *La Campanella*, and I well remember the hours on that self-same Chopin etude. I’m sure you’d enjoy Gyorgy Cziffra’s warp-speed op. 10/12 (“Revolutionary”) etude on the Monsaignon Great Pianists documentary, too.
    Perhaps less “Because He Can” than “Because He Needs To” or “Because It Matters.” But anyway, I need to go try something out on the piano . . .

  2. vinny says:

    Best art/awesome/classical music blog I’ve come across in a long while, and not only because you used the word “suckaz”. Keep it up, and I’ll check it daily.

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