In order to find inspiration for my post this week, I decided to open up International Piano, a magazine about...well...piano. One of the articles, titled "First Among Equals," (written by Tully Potter) discusses the playing and recording life of Rudolf Serkin.
What I found interesting was that, according to the article, Serkin's reception by the U.S. was unlike that of Schnabel, Horzowski, and Petri, because Serkin was actually accepted and became quite well known.
I don't know how accurate this author's account is of the other pianists - I was aware that Horzowski never became incredibly famous in the U.S., but was surprised to find that the same was true at first of Schnabel. This made me think of Cook's comments about music and critical theory.
Horzowski and Schnabel are, of course, not the only pianists (or musicians, for that matter) to have met this fate. Many have attained a higher status in other countries and not here. It raises the question: who makes this decision? What is it based on? How could a European or Russian audience be riveted by a player and not a U.S. audience? In most cases, my guess is that the audience doesn't get much of a chance to have a say. If the players that are revered in the U.S. become what is important in performance, what players like Schnabel have to add is what becomes absent in the discourse. This, is, of course, problematic - not just according to critical theory, but I think, on principle.
On a much smaller note, Potter also calls Serkin's playing of Mozart "masculine" and "sometimes even muscular". This, of course, also made me think of Cook.
Finally, for those of you aren't aware, The Rest is Noise is now available in paperback. Yay!