Monday, October 31, 2011

Does Artistic License End in Artistic Difference?

It was this morning that I opened my complimentary copy of the New York Times to the section of the serial publication that is devoted to the arts, and I found more than enough of a story in the classical music sphere to sate my thirst for a compelling story. As many of my readers may be aware, pianist Hélène Grimaud released a new recording today internationally, and it contains Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459, Ch'io mi scordi di te?, Non temer amato bene, K 505, which are sung by soprano Mojca Erdmann, and his Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488. This recording is being billed as two firsts for Grimaud, which are her first live recording for her label Deutsche Grammophon and her first recording of Mozart concerti. As the New York Times showed us, this was not originally slated to be a live recording. That was almost purely accidental, which is quite surprising.

According to Daniel J. Wakin, who wrote the article for the day of the scheduled international release, Maestro Claudio Abbado was originally scheduled to conduct Grimaud and his Orchestra Mozart in May for the release of these concerti and the two arias. Based upon the scholastic musicality of previous interpreters, one of which was Vladimir Horowitz, Grimaud wanted to employ a cadenza that was composed by Ferruccio Busoni over the original one that Mozart composed for the Concerto in A major.  Mozart's cadenza for the piece is considered inferior to Busoni's by many erudite musicians, but Abbado wanted to include it over the Busoni inclusion. Though Grimaud was reluctant, and she had not looked at Mozart's cadenza, she, nevertheless, included it for the original recording at Abbado's behest after they had recorded Busoni's piece in context of the concerto. Therefore, the option seemed to be left that either one could be chosen for the recording. Hélène was adamant that she would not consider Mozart's ornamentation for the actual recording, but Abbado continued to push for the inclusion of it on the release.

There was then an impasse between them, for Maestro Abbado, who, at 78 years of age, is considered one of the foremost conductors of the world, continued to lobby for the inclusion of the Mozart cadenza to complement the composer's concerto, and he hinted that he would decide that the piece be played with it in their scheduled performances of the work in Lucerne, Switzerland, and elsewhere in Europe. However, Grimaud would have none of it, so, after the initial recording was made, she ordered the production of it to be stalled and withheld from public release. Because of this Claudio Abbado canceled several performances together, and replacements had to be found in both London and Lucerne  for them. According to Michael Haefliger, the Lucerne Festival's Artistic and Executive Director, Ms. Grimaud was paid her fees though her concerts were cancelled with them and substitutes found. It is reported by those who were close to the matter that Abbado, who declined to be interviewed for the feature, has said that he would not continue to make music with someone whom he felt was not being a good partner in reference to Ms. Grimaud.

All of this comes to the ultimate conclusion that there is an album released, but one might ask how this could be if the conductor withdrew his name from the affair and if Grimaud would not release the recording as he desired it. As it turns out, there was a live recording of the concerti from a couple of months earlier with which Grimaud felt deeply satisfied. She conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony from the bench of her instrument, and it is this live performance that finds its way to the actual release of the recording. 

This begs the question of who holds the final authority when deciding the artistic direction of a recording. Is it the conductor, or does a solo artist hold the decision in their hands? In my limited experience with these sort of episodes, it has mostly been the responsibility of the conductor to make the final decision because it is more often than not that they are better informed to make such a choice in the context of a performance or recording. It has only been in recent times that artists would dare openly dissent with a conductor. If these were the days of Herbert von Karajan or Georg Solti, it would be unthinkable to hear of such a thing. Any disagreement with a conductor or the artistic management usually resulted in an artist departing in disgrace or at odds with the remainder of the classical music world. As recent as the fiasco with Kathleen Battle and Joseph Volpe, artists would be grateful if they could find work again. Battle certainly never did to any sort of consequence thereafter, and there are many cases of artists finding a reduced state of popularity after a disagreement with a conductor.

I ask my readers who should hold the final authority?

Thank you all for reading, and I hope that everyone is blessed lately. I hope that you have all found this subject to be interesting!

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