Bernard's Chopin CDs
Joanna: We did some wonderful Chopin discs, in fact the entire Nocturnes, the Schertzi and Impromptus. I hope we got the results that you wanted.
Bernard: I certainly got more than I expected. No, it was wonderful; it was always understood from within, because [as an editor] you just know the music more than anybody else -
Joanna: It was wonderful working with you Bernard.
Bernard: Well it was for me too. And yes, we managed three CDs altogether. But hearing your latest Chopin I understand why we got on so well with that particular repertoire. In fact you play a nocturne on your CD. . .
Joanna: The D flat Nocturne.
Bernard: . . . and I really found -
Joanna: Oh Bernard, what a lovely thing to say.
Bernard: It’s true; it’s really what I felt. It didn't feel calculated; it was really spontaneous.
Joanna: The thing is that I found that I was getting back a bit more to the type of playing, perhaps more refined because I had been doing more technical work in between; getting back to how I actually felt the music on my own terms.
Joanna: Before perhaps being told this and that in master classes -
Bernard: You must do because of the quality of the texture . . .
Joanna: I do have to because I'm not . . . I'm very aware of the fact that I have to work jolly hard to get anywhere, but I do find that the music seems to come to me -
Joanna: I do feel very pleased indeed, that being at the moment rather vulnerable, being ill and perhaps not having much time left; it is the greatest comfort to me and encouragement to me to feel that someone with your fantastic critical ability and your own wonderful playing of Chopin actually likes my playing . . .
Bernard: I do.
Joanna: . . . that is just a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Bernard: I do, I do; its not being polite or anything. It’s absolutely true. I do because it feels exactly what you describe, that it couldn't be any other way. And it appears to us like that. I absolutely understand what you mean. I feel a bit the same about Chopin: I work hard at it, but I don't hesitate about which tempo to take; I take the tempo I feel it should be at. It's not the same for all composers. There are composers where I need to think hard and look three times -
Joanna: Do you think that is because Chopin himself played in that way, very much on the spur of the moment perhaps . . .
Bernard: One hopes so but . . .
Joanna: . . . when he was playing to his friends; I know he struggled to write it down, but his actual playing from what I gather from various writings, he had this natural touch, he had hands -
Joanna: And Chopin was described as having hands that looked small but opened up like as snake.
Joanna: And I think that I'm lucky to have that ability to play some of these widely spaced things.
Bernard: Yeah, in a supple way. You're A flat major Study sounds wonderful; so effortless . . .
Joanna: Oh Bernard, thank you.
Bernard: . . . and yet without holes in the texture; its pianistically achieved as well. I know you can benefit from editing and so on, we all do; but if you had edited it, every single note it wouldn't sound that spontaneous!
Joanna: I did work jolly hard at it . . .
Bernard: You must have.
Joanna: . . . there were many times when I swore and cursed because I had fallen down and made some awful mistake, but I love it. And you must hear the Debussy I have done, which Mike loves. Its just three little pieces . . .
Bernard: La Fille aux cheveux de lin
Joanna: Yes, and Clair de Lune and the First Arabesque. They are all things that friends of mine -
Bernard: 'Faurian' Debussy . . .
Joanna: It’s sort of . . .
Bernard: Gentle and subtle . . .
Joanna: . . . and I did play Fur d'Artifice at one point -
Joanna: I just love the F minor Ballade; I know you play it very beautifully, because I heard the disc that you did a long time ago with somebody else. I just love that and I always feel its a ballade; it actually is a story, although one doesn't know what the story is . . .
Bernard: No, but there is a narration . . .
Joanna: Its got to sound as if you are actually telling this story and I do hear it often played without that kind of feeling; beautifully played, but it’s music and not poetry.
Bernard: The sense of narration has been very often lost -
Joanna: There are so many people who can play practically everything; there are so many wonderful pianists who can rattle off the most difficult works. One listens sometimes and one thinks that its terribly, terrible clever and gawd how did he manage to play that so fast and listen to the clarity of their trills and everything, but it doesn't say anything to me.
Joanna: Of course I was brought up with old 78s of pupils of Liszt or people like Friedman -
Bernard: Yes, but you keep that in your subconscious.
Joanna: . . . sort of that seemed to be Chopin and things to me. I wanted to play in a way that it meant to me as a child.
Bernard: The proximity with improvisation; after all most of his compositions were first of all improvised and then reconstituted. Georges Sand explains, doesn't she, that he would improvise something wonderful, would try to write it; would tear his hair out and went mad for several days and finished writing more or less what he had done in the beginning.
Joanna: Sometimes it was a bit different in different editions and how he taught his pupils.
Bernard: Yes, it kept changing. Yes, because he was a perfectionist. Of course the improviser would not be a perfectionist; but he was a perfectionist as well and he wanted the music not to be distorted, but had originally been felt as a whole, as something organic. It’s true that the best interpreters should try to find that natural flow and I honestly found this in your record.
Joanna: Oh Bernard, I am so grateful to you because it means such a lot coming from someone like you. Andreas has also been very nice about my playing and he actually was listening to a tape we had made when Isobel Buchanan came and we did the Frau Leiben und laben and some Fauré and Duparc songs -
Bernard: You are the most in-
Joanna: Well, I can't read music very quickly and I take a long time to learn it; I'm not as good as a lot of people -