Monday, 27 February 2017

The Superficiality of Normality


Three of my big bug bears in life are the trio of
  • conformity
  • norm-ality
  • superficiality
The word convention comes from the Latin cum venire meaning 'to come together'. In other words where there is a coming together of human beings conventions will arise. 

It would be superficial to take issue with convention for its own sake, it being obviously necessary for human society to function on a basic level, but I do have an aversion to the ethos of conformity, which entails making oneself fit the shapes of social convention arising from quarters other than oneself. 

The main reason I am an anti-conformist by temperament is the extent to which I resent the superficiality of conventional/normal preference, its lack of reflection or critical thinking, its mimicking what others choose to do, its safe and predictable judgements on the worthiness of individuals as measured in terms of financial and hierarchical success, its invariable lack of taste and, most of all, its lack of imagination.

All these aspects of conformity can be gleaned 24/7 from that most conformist of mind control paraphernalia: mainstream television. 

Mark Passio from whatonearthishappening.com is an anti-conformist seeing the majority of social normative practices as so many instances of what he calls mass mind control including the trappings of the monetary system. 

For my part I have often wondered whether the most potent divide within the human population is not one between professional conformists, i.e. people who identify with and seek to realise themselves within the confines of normative social practice and belief, and vocational misfits, i.e. those who, whether by choice or not, realise themselves outside preferred conventional routes and means of evaluation. 

Great authors like Balzac and Dickens shed a critical literary eye on the inanity, cruelty and ruthlessness of conventional social functioning, both on a nationwide level as well as on the micro-scale of, say, an aristocratic social gathering. 

In any case my preferred pastures are those at the margins of the overgrazed fields of the οἱ πολλοί, particularly those of the moneyed, superficial and unimaginative so-called upper echelons of society, as well reflected in the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Ivo Pogorelich: Chopin's Preludes


Chopin in Arresting Definition - A review of Frédéric Chopin's Preludes as performed and recorded by Ivo Pogorelich

Prior to purchasing this album I had some familiarity with Pollini and Argerich's established takes as well as that of Rafal Blechacz available in the Deutsche Grammophon Complete Chopin Edition. 

I looked to new pastures for the simple reason that I was unhappy with these three performances. The Pollini recording's main fault is that the volume is too low and the sound quality in my opinion leaves something to be desired. 

I never enjoyed Argerich's Preludes as I found the tempi too quick and that, partly as a result, the playing lacked definition and clarity of intent.

Rafal Blechacz's interpretation is solid and faithful but lacks transcendental value, being of a prosaic nature. 

So having searched for the Chopin Preludes on Amazon I came across this album and I was convinced this was my set the moment I sampled the sheer originality and pianistic definition of the first prelude in C major (my favourite).

And from there on out the album never lets up. The most adequate adjective to describe this cycle is that it is arresting, i.e., attention catching. 

This underrated quality is partly due to the high pianistic definition of each prelude obtained through minimal use of the pedal, extremely dexterous finger work and tempi that for me do each prelude aural justice.

Moreover, this is the first time that I've enjoyed listening to op.28 as a whole rather than as a collection of disparate pieces, rather like Gould's 1981 take of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Again, as so often, I part company with the fogeys chez Gramophone who claim that the tempi in the more ponderous preludes are too slow, e.g. in the case of 'Raindrop'.

They also make the case that Pogorelich is trying to be original for its own sake, betraying Chopin in the process.

What nonsense! It is precisely the originality and deliberate tempi that made this work op.28 in its entirely finally grab my full attention and musical imagination whereas prior to this set I just could not get into the whole 24 piece work as a whole and as a unit. 

Now it may be true that Pogo, as he is sometimes called, did not always succeed in his interpretations in other recordings but in the case of these Preludes he nails them with commanding artistic and technical authority. 

I never thought there'd be a day I'd enjoy Chopin as much as this, being more persuaded by Baroque and Classical composers like Bach, Scarlatti and Haydn. 

I was wrong. Chopin has come to reveal his greatness at long last, after years of trying but failing, thanks to Pogorelich's arresting interpretative performance.

I cannot praise this recording more than that. 

Five stars.