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EXPLORING MUSIC Guida, Corea, and Harnoncourt --Together for Piano Works

The MHS Review 385, Vol. 11 No. 7, 1987

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Frank Cooper


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You can sample here one of the oddest casts ever assembled for a classical recording: a conductor known the world over for his "ter­ribly authentic" revivals of early music with tiny chamber ensembles; a pianist renowned

universally for his Beethoven inter­pretations but vilified for his forays into jazz; and another pianist fam­ed as a jazz specialist but carped at for trying his hands at the classics. Is this a dream or a nightmare?

Actually it is neither. It came about in 1982 when these outstan­ding musicians participated in Munich, Germany's Klaviersom­mer, a festival devoted to the keyboard. The European press pounced on the idea of the ''unho­ly trio" of Harnoncourt, Guida, and Corea, writing reams of nonsense pro and con. (Performers "over there" get typecast as surely as they do "over here," and woe be unto those who try to break away.)

For Nikolaus Harnoncourt to as­cend the podium of a huge, modern-instrument orchestra such as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw sent critical eyebrows aloft with suspicion. For Messrs. Guida and Corea to team up for Mozart, of all things, was beyond comprehension. Then came the reality: a new vi­sion of Mozart's Two-Piano Concerto--sinewy, bold, and vital--leaving the age of powdered wigs and candle stands to the past. This was Mozart brought squarely into the present. The differences in musical personality were in­teresting to hear. Harnoncourt found the work's "clefts and chasms" while Guida made "a lighter and more confident impression" and Corea seemed "darker and more questing " Such gibberish meant only that those who wrote it, faced with an iconoclastic inter­pretation of an old war horse, were adrift in a sea of uncertainty.

Personally, I have found the per­formance fascinating. It has originality, energy, purpose, and poise. The Guida-Corea duo tosses Mozart's melodies and passages back and forth with a kind of sportsmanship in which Harnon­-

court and the orchestra are fully in­volved. And the unaccompanied side is just as much fun.

Corea's "Fantasy for Two Pianos" is about 12 minutes of pure jazz, partly precomposed but mainly improvised by the per­formers. The melodic idea is Cor­ea's, the two men alternate solo commentaries on it, and Guida closes down the action with an epilogue. Hot stuff not for stuffy ears!

In "Ping-Pong," Gulda's ten­-minute piece for two pianists, ideas fly between the two men. The players react to each other with lightning-quick reflexes. Thanks to clearly separated channels, Corea comes from the left, Guida from the right. We can hear who's doing what, and when. The 20 fingers of the two virtuosi combine at the end in wild, exciting cluslters of notes.

This recording may not suit everyone's tastes, although for me its contrasts are highly entertaining. Safe to say there is nothing else remotely like it in the Society's vast catalog. Interested in the unique? Feeling adventurous?

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