The streaming experience, June 27 at 5 PM, depicted Mr. Hamelin behind a view of gray skies on a rainy seacoast day replete with undulating seagulls underscoring Schubert’s somber and dark study with the neatly folded ensemble of insouciance, ribbons of color, and fleeting flights of weightlessness.
The BSO has kindly sent me a group of remarkable files spanning several decades of the Festival’s history. Let me say at the outset that the sound on these files is really something. I download them in FLAC format and convert them to AIFF files using a program called XLD. I then burn these AIFF’s to a cd and play them on my system. I have been amazed time and time again at the accuracy and presence of the sound. And this includes the older material. The superior FLAC files are more than worth the extra $10 in their cost ($60) over the MP3 files also offered. Perhaps my favorite of all is a performance of Strauss’s Don Quixote with Piatagorsky and Munch.
Borscht and tears. It’s always fascinating — and enigmatic — to hear what a pianist will do with Schubert. The scores have few markings to lead the interpretation, and Schubert’s balancing act between simplicity and subsumed emotions is precarious. For a long time he wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt when it came to the basic issue of whether he knew how to write for the instrument. His sonatas, early and late, are marked by repetitiveness, peculiar key changes and abrupt mood swings that can seem eccentric, unless you accept that a genius knows what he’s doing even if we sometimes don’t. Beethoven tests a pianist’s moral character; Schubert tests a pianist’s ability to solve riddles.