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N.B. This disc is reviewed here as documentation of the Hatto scandal and is not currently available.

 

 

Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition [34:48]
Souvenirs d’enfance [13:48]
The Seamstress [02:33]
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Berceuse [06:17]
Islamey – Oriental Fantasy [08:42]
Michele Campanella (piano)
rec. 11-14 June 1989, Montevarchi, Italy
NUOVA ERA 9708017513599 [67:07]
 
Pictures at an Exhibition and  Islamey were released by Concert Artist/Fidelio as the work of Joyce Hatto, the former on CACD 9129-2 in 2005, the latter on CACD9195-2 in 2004. 

 


I revisited these Pictures with a good deal of pleasure. The recording itself is splendidly full and sonorous – an effect that had been somewhat attenuated by the inevitable “softening” brought about by the Hattification process. In some music Hattification brought its rewards, but give me the original every time here.

The opening Promenade is more thoughtful than we sometimes hear and the Promenades are well differentiated. This same music, when it appears in virtually identical form as the Promenade preceding “Limoges”, is played a little faster for instance. I thought the children quarrelling in the Tuileries were a bit tame this time round – I see that when reviewing “Hatto” I found them “bathed in an affectionate glow and seem first cousins to those who played catch-me-who-can in Schumann’s ‘Kinderszenen’.” Well, it depends on your mood, I suppose. I thought the “Unhatched Chicks” well-nigh perfect and admired the evenness of Campanella’s tremolos in “Con mortuis”, the panache of the “Hut on Fowl’s Legs” and the grandeur and dynamic range of the “Great Gate of Kiev”.

There are one or two textual oddities. Apart from that unscripted pianissimo drop in “Bydlo” which greatly eased the detection work I wondered about a missing rest in “Gnomus”, an altered harmony in “Il vecchio Castello” and some changed dynamics in “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs”. Small points, but you’re not quite getting the “Urtext”.

I recommended this recording when I thought it was a new release from Hatto. Do I call for it to be reinstated in the catalogue? Yes and no. I would of course give a favourable review to a reissue, especially at budget price, but in a way every generation makes recordings like this, so perhaps it has served its time. Campanella was then 42 and established as a brilliant if possibly lightweight pianist. He is now 60 and as far as I know is still playing. Probably a new recording would be more to the point.

If this one were brought back, the inclusion of some rarer pieces by Mussorgsky and Balakirev alongside the best-known piano work by each of them would be strongly in its favour. The Mussorgsky “Souvenirs d’enfance”, like Schumann’s “Kinderszenen”, are adult pieces about childhood rather than pieces for children to play, such as Schumann’s or Tchaikovsky’s “Album for the Young”. Parts of them must be quite tricky. For a concert performance it is a pity that the last is slightly pensive rather than brilliant, but you can always do what Campanella has done and add “The Seamstress”, a cheerful addition to the repertoire of spinning-wheel pieces. These pieces do not have quite the extra dimensions of “Kinderszenen” but they are well worth knowing.

Campanella is excellent here, as he is in Balakirev’s rather strange “Berceuse”. After a gentle lullaby opening the music becomes rather ominous and I can only hope the child was well asleep by the time this bit was reached. The pianist pulls out all his considerable stops in “Islamey”, giving it a brilliant, clear-headed performance. If you want something more hair-raising you can do as the Hattifiers did and crank it up to finish in 08:21 instead of 08:41. And yet, as I commented with regard to the Hattifier’s speeding up of the last movement of O’Conor’s “Hammerklavier”, I should have heard something was wrong. It’s not the cliff-hanger it would have been if Campanella had thrown caution to the winds and played it that little bit faster, as perhaps he should. Still, an excellent disc and a good programme.

Appendix: The Hattification

My long and detailed review of the “Hatto” Pictures can be read here, my briefer comment on Islamey here. I should like to quote, however, the beginning of the latter review. There have been suggestions in various quarters that the Hatto scandal has shown that critics have no ears, or faulty ones. The remarks in bold type show that my ears were doing their job. But so were my eyes. My eyes told me that I had a series of records by the same pianist (and conductor) and my brain sought to make sense of the conflicting evidence.

The more records I hear by this quite extraordinary pianist the more my admiration for her grows. Extraordinary, not in the sense of calling attention to what she is doing and imposing herself between us and the music, but in that she always seeks to realize the particular style of the composer. If these records had been issued under a series of pseudonyms, a German name for the German/Austrian repertoire, a Polish name for Chopin, a Hungarian name for Liszt and a Russian name for Russian composers (I haven’t heard her in French music so far), I suggest that few if any would have seen any reason to doubt that the pianist behind each name was of that particular nationality.

True, her Tchaikovsky is not hysterical or neurotic, but as Nikolai Malko and Rudolf Barshai have shown, not all Russians are like that anyway. This is a swashbuckling, no-holds-barred account. From the opening bars the conductor makes it clear that he means business (is this really the same man who did a just about adequate job of Hatto’s Brahms 2?).

As I have said above, the softer sound picture did not greatly benefit this repertoire, though away from comparisons I seem to have been happy with it originally. Any time-manipulation in Pictures is a matter of a second or two here and there. Since I am operating manually I tend to discount this margin of error. Especially since here the Hattifiers have come up with a neat trick; a couple of tracks – “Tuileries” and “Chicks” – have been shifted so they start, not at the beginning of the new picture, but during a convenient rest towards the end of the preceding Promenade, thus distorting the apparent timings. The time-shrinking in Islamey has already been discussed.

My Mussorgsky review produced a response from Joyce Hatto, or maybe this one was hastily cooked up by her husband. I hadn’t noticed when I included it in “Joyce Hatto, Some Thoughts, Some Questions and a Lot of Letters”, but I later realized that the body of the letter – in bold type – is identical to Hatto’s comments on this work as reported by Ates Orga.

Dear Mr.Howells (sic!), 

You have raised a few matters in your review of my performance of the "Pictures".

Actually, I have no "authority" handed down from a printed edition. I must say that I always mistrust "Urtext" editions as they are never exactly what they proclaim. Mozart and Chopin always seem to attract "scholarship" of a kind that can never accept that the composer did mean what he had put down on paper. Any deviation from notation in a first movement repeat or in a reprise is immediately put down to the composer having simply been tired, forgetful, ignorant or perverse. Chopin has suffered badly from these busybodies who think that their understanding of harmony is more to be trusted than the composers. They  water down piquant harmonies "discords" to fit in with their own lesser flights of fancy. This has happened in some Chopin "Urtext" Editions when even the composer's own corrections of the original platemakers engravings have remained "uncorrected". They have frequently ignored existing copies of first editions that have been used by the composer's pupils and assiduously corrected by the composer and point to quite different conclusions. 

However, back to Mussorgsky. When I first played the Pictures to Moiseiwitsch he told me quite casually that Rachmaninov had considered producing a "performing edition" but had given up on the task feeling that it was better to leave well alone. Rachmaninov did pass on some of his ideas to Nicholas Medtner who allowed me to copy them into my own edition. I am not aware that Rachmaninov did actually perform the piece but I do know that he intended to play the work in a Boston recital but gave up on the idea. I have incorporated one or two of the thoughts that Rachmaninov passed to Medtner. I did not entertain any harmonic changes but did divide up some chords for the sake of harmonic emphasis. I have endeavoured to play each of the Promenades slightly differently to make for a more thoughtful (or thought about) performance of the work. Here again I have no "authority" but it was Alfred Cortot who actually suggested that I should play the piece originally and passed on some splendid personal  comments and advice. Some of these points you have picked up on in your review. 

So I claim no credit for many of the interpretive differences that I sincerely believe add up to a different kind of performance. I have tried to make a diffuse piece, although a very great one, just a little more cohesive,  but one always tries to do that and not sprawl about with ones own emotions unbridled.

I have probably not helped you very much in answer to your request for "authority" but neither have I attempted to pass the cup to escape the culpability for any digression!

I take this opportunity of thanking you once again for your interest  and the very nice things that you have been saying about my playing. I understand from email copies, that my husband has shown me from time to time, that your opinions have produced some opposing eruptions from some quarters. I have frequently encountered this and have never understood it. Do take care.

With personal kind thoughts,

Joyce Hatto 

Something about the letter didn’t quite ring true. It seemed more of a generalized statement than usual and it ducked the issues I had raised. Luckily for the Hattifiers my reading of Ates Orga’s piece was not so very recent, or I might have recognized it for the cut’n paste job it was, a nice little warming-up exercise before the day’s real copying began.

I wrote back, therefore:

Dear Ms. Hatto, 

It was very kind of you to write regarding the Mussorgsky although, as you say, you haven't produced any "authority". My one query regarded your sudden drop to pianissimo at b.21 of Bydlo which, as it isn't in the so-called "original version" edited by Paul Lamm, I wondered if you had it from some other source. As I said, it's magical; do I take it that it's your own idea?  

Yours sincerely, 

In due course a more customized reply came back. With hindsight, it would seem the Hattifiers were on the defensive. After all, I was querying a point which might well have brought an early end to their game. Luckily for them Campanella is not alone in making that sudden pianissimo in “Bydlo”; Zilberstein and even Ashkenazy were suspects before Campanella was hunted down. And as a matter of fact the discovery of the Campanella source was almost casual. Farhan Malik was checking up on performances of Islamey and discovered Campanella was the source for that. He therefore tried “Bydlo” for the pianissimo drop, felt it was the same and kindly alerted me.

Here is Hatto’s customized reply, with a Scott story that sounds only too plausible and a nice piece of “buttering up” at the end.

Dear Mr. Howell,

Please forgive such a late response to your interesting letter. I really do try to cope with correspondence quickly but I seem to have had so many letters recently from America that I am beginning to feel swamped with them all. These are letters from young students seeking advice, others who really want a pen pal, and others who would do pay to contact a psychiatrist.

Well as I am working on the complete Haydn Sonatas I can appreciate your comments at first hand. I have done my best in the past to present what I sincerely felt and believed to be the composer's intention. You know sometimes, somehow, one feels what is right. If I feel that then I do it regardless of the edition or the standing of the editor (alive or dead).

I would probably bring the musical establishments of the entire world down on my head if I let it be known that I have often consulted the Liszt Edition of the Beethoven Sonatas to

see what "He" thought.

I met Cyril Scott many years ago when I played a programme of his works and John Ireland. I played his Piano Sonata Op.66 and some other pieces. The striking thing was that he didn't seem to have formed a "final" performing score in his mind of any of the pieces. Even Lotus land was completely different when he played to me. In the sonata he played a whole "new" section saying "I always thought that I should have left that bit in but "they" said it should come out" I think he probably listened to too many people who presumed to give him advice. I found the whole thing rather disturbing. John Ireland was quite the opposite. He did have firm ideas - although did write to me afterwards "you played the sonata ....and sitting in the hall I felt that your tempos were absolutely right and you were right NOT to have bound yourself to what I suggested" At that time I often played Sarnia with the Sonata for which I have always had an affection.

How I agree with Mr.Kelly with his point about the Shakespeare Editions. How true that is!

Of course, the Warsaw edition (Paderewsky) does have a very good summary of various other editions and mostly (but not always) one can accept their arguments. However, I can't refrain from pointing out that Paderewsky himself played many of the Chopin pieces that he actually recorded quite differently to the Edition that bears his name. I can, of course, only make a valid point as far as those editions that he "signed off" before the 39/45 war.

So in the end we can only do our best. Confident, perhaps, that only a small percentage of ones listeners would be able to tell the difference between an E flat and E natural, and only a slightly larger percentage the composer one was playing (without the programme note).

The important thing is that WE care. Consequently I play what I "feel" is right and accept the Edition that I play from if I can't work out a valid argument not to. Benno M played always from his Russian editions (he never bought a new one of anything since his early student days) and very rarely left the confines of the edition as printed. Rachmaninov was quite different and he would point out what he thought was wrong in notation and harmony. AND the great man would write back " You are right my dear friend. You understand what I am trying to get down on the paper BETTER than I do" So, it is a minefield!

Being only human I do sometimes make very small changes and the Bydlo is one of them.

I have asked my husband to send you the boxed set of the Mozart Sonatas -putting right some little slips and things. I hope that you receive it safely and note that I do listen to good advice! 

With kindest personal regards,

Joyce Hatto 

In view of what was going on, the remark that “only a small percentage of ones listeners would be able to tell the difference between an E flat and E natural, and only a slightly larger percentage the composer one was playing” is quite breathtaking.

Christopher Howell 

 

 

 


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