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More examples of Natan Brand's live pianism are published on Youtube at my site dorfmanjones as are many other examples of unique historic performances by others.

 

SUNSET OF A DWARF (from the Hebrew)

Among the cloudy sands of the desert and
orange dreams
Over stubborn mountains,
A blushing sun is sailing, too dizzy and
frightened to look.

Then
Helplessly, shadows falling
Praying for mercy they stretch out
Upon the burned open space.

In a rapid dance gleaming insects
twist tails like  biting tadpoles in water.

Then
Yearning of ancient crickets
out of the wrinkled ground.

“ It’s good to be torn between powerful
mountains
By burning shame
Against a world rolling its eye in cruel
weakness.”

A swooning sun has dived
into the crater of hungry mountains
that exult over their booty with gaping
mouths.

Flow of the sun’s violet blood
On proud mountains freezes in its
mourning.

Then
Mountains wage battle like waves of the
sea
Under a sky of darkening storms
that ask: listen to the breathing
and the distant shores of hearts.

The world gasps shaking
rolls, blackened -
A blister
Round and round - respires.

Suddenly ticking of blinding fertile
silence
On a winding road.


Among the lumps of solid darkness
a dwarf, bent, is sinking - not to rise
again.

The snake has slipped away - gone.

The world is breathing.

                                                Natan Brand
Translated by Heda Stein, Ph. D.

 

 

Excerpts from an Online discussion Natan Brand’s pianism

  …What I do find to be very impressive is his voicing and layering of parts, however. His sound is very similar to Horowitz, in the way he frequently drops the level massively in inner parts to allow the melody to carry on ringing out across the top. His ability to make these sounds is quite similar to Joseph Villa. The sense of sustain in the melody is most impressive, particularly in the opening of the
funeral march. While I didn't really feel his sound is as large as some, he is fantastic at creating the illusion of volume when he is not actually playing very loudly at all. I think the real problem
with most modern pianists is not the lack of a 'big' sound but a lack of care in terms of how voices interact with each other when numerous sounds build up on the pedal. I like the comment by Jorge
Bolet (whose recordings strike me in the same way as not having a very 'big' sound but merely very good balance) on how voicing should be achieved by less accompaniment volume rather than more melody. I think this is Brand's secret. …

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Have you read any reviews for the Brand album. I think the Kreisleriana,
the Chopin Op.27 and Ballade, particularly, are divine.

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The Canadian label Palexa has just issued a two CD compilation of Schumann and Chopin performances by Natan Brand, an Israeli-American pianist who
died in 1990 at the age of forty-six.  The Schumann especially is so remarkable that I urge some readers to acquire this issue. (Palexa CD-0532/2

A disclaimer:  Four of these performances were issued some years ago on a two-CD set by Appian with other Brand material (now out-of-print, I believe), which I reviewed in Fanfare magazine. (I had never heard of Brand and my first exposure to him was overwhelming). Palexa now quotes part of
that review on a sticker:  "Provocative, exhilarating, disturbing...One of the great recorded interpretations of Kreisleriana...You may find a new hero."  For the record, I have no connection to Palexa or the producers, just an interest in this kind of piano playing.  Hearing again the four
selections duplicated from the Appian set, and the new material on Palexa, I am once more astonished, and saddened I never heard him in person.

Liner notes on the Palexa issue are by Pianophile Geoffrey Dorfman, who was a pupil of Brand's. Dorfman is on to something with his suggestion that we can hear an echo of Anton Rubinstein in Brand's playing.  A common feature of most modern "great" pianists is their inability to play "big." (Anton was without a doubt the "biggest" pianist ever).  Pogo and the rest get harsh at top volume (and rarely want to play at the top), and have limited dynamic ranges compared to the old guys - the next-to-the last of "big" players was Bolet and today we have only Garrick Ohlsson (Earl Wild can do
it, but most often chooses not to for some reason).  The distance between Brand's softest and loudest tones is enormous - even beyond the range of recording apparatus.

He was a born Schumann player and the Kinderscenen is gorgeous beyond belief - the way his tone actually move through space and time is spectacularly poetic (and erotic.)  Upon hearing again, I see no reason to modify my original assessment of the Kreisleriana, only magnify it.

Brand's approach doesn't work as well in Chopin as in Schumann, but I suspect that due as much to the inadequacies of recording technique as anything else.

As xxxxxxxxxxx wrote about Ernst Levy's recordings:  These are not performances for the faint of heart.  Brand changes things in the score and uses the music to make effects.  If those words bring forth negative feelings, do not buy these CDs and your purity will be preserved.  If on the other hand you get a sexual turn-on when someone makes love to you with Schumann, rush to buy these.

2004 is a banner year for Schumann lovers - TWO great recordings, this Brand and Nelson Freire's Decca/London.

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Brand Palexa Contents:
Schumann:  Kinderscenen, Kreisleriana, Blumenstuck Op. 19, Nachstrucke Op.23
Chopin:  Scherzo No. 1, Nocturnes Op. 27 No.'s 1 and 2, Sonata No. 2,
Ballade No. 4

Brand's Palexa performance of the Chopin C sharp minor Nocturne is quite like Nyiregyhazi. And the way Brand imparts a sense of movement to piano tones - you can feel them moving through space - is something I've only experienced in the playing of Nyiregyhazi and Thomas Manshardt (in the latter case, NOT on the miserable CD he sponsored, but in person).

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Thanks, I really, really am impressed w/Natan Brand....a friend of mine heard the Chopin Sonata, and thinks it is the most exciting Chopin Sonata he's ever heard !!! ....

thanks again,

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Still speaking of Josef Hofmann and somewhat still speaking of getting high, literally or metaphorically I don't know, the third pianist of the tale... what can I say? One thing I can say, did I mention I am ashamed to say: I didn't know him earlier, despite, if memory serves, the
brilliant mind behind the APR label having told me about him long ago. Natan Brand. Natan Brand. Natan Brand. How is it possible, I wonder that SUCH a pianist would be an almost unknown quantity among music collectors(present company excepted, obviously)? For now I've only got his Palexa two CDs set. I would really, REALLY appreciate pianophiles telling me/us more about this truly incomparable pianist – what recordings are still unpublished? What more is it known about his life?
How did he die? How did he die so young? Did he really have to die?

Among pianists tracing their lineage to Hofmann, I am of course extremely fond of the old Shura - uneven as he was, and sloppy as he could gleefully be, when he was "on" (which happily happened often enough) he was a living, walking, breathing, piano-playing gem of a man. Of Nadia Reisenberg, Natan Brand's mentor, I know not only from some Haydn recordings but also from some rare, wild, positively Hofmannesque live recording of Franck's Sonata, with none other than George Enescu
playing the, er, violin obligato, in Carnegie Hall, 1949 if poor memories still serve.

As much as I love Cherkassky and like Nadia Reisenberg, I can bear witness in a court of law that it is Natan Brand who is THE reincarnation of Josef Hofmann (if not of Anton Rubinstein, as the
Palexa set's well-written liner notes daringly suggest). He is the reincarnation of Josef Hofmann because he does not play like Josef Hofmann. Come and think of it, Josef Hofmann himself was seldom playing like Josef Hofmann, because his human depth and inexhaustible gifts
forbade him from repeating himself. Natan Brand is "like" Josef Hofmann not because he would reiterate Hofmann's "manners", but Josef Hofmann's daring to think music anew, from a somewhat clean slate - a more difficult, not to mention rarer endeavor than it seems when mentioned. A combination of absorbed culturedness and the "bon sauvage's "the world starts with me" defiance.

This Natan Brand Palexa set... one of the best musical buys I've ever made. Had I known what I were about to get, I'd have paid 100$ for it,no kidding. One Schumann disc, one Chopin disc. Romantic piano heaven. Fabulous virtuosity but no perfection here. Things that are not only
"convincing", they are truly revelatory. Things who are debatable still wonderful. It is the yearning for what cannot be realized that brings more to the experience than the (I won't say "Liapathic" as I don't want to estrange the esteemed Mr. xxxxxx) Apollonian accomplishment.

I could analyze perhaps Natan Brand's prismatic perspectives on "repetitious phrases" -- now here was a man who took the repeats without ever repeating himself, not because he tried to be interesting, but because he was just too gifted to do that. Who paid attention to how Hofmann plays the multiple reiterations of "C D F# Bb A G" in the First Ballad will know what I'm talking about. Natan Brand needs to be experienced though, not analyzed. The simple existence of such a pianist in the stereo era, with a style of playing which uniquely suggests Hofmann intensity and charisma without ever caricaturizing it, is somewhat a miracle. Don't miss out on it. Very few miracles come at 15
bucks apiece.

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> Thanks for posting that review xxxxxxx. I don't think I was part of the group when it was first put up.
> I am in full agreement with the part about the Schumann, though it was Brand's Chopin which originally took me and I think his playing of this composer is just as mesmerizing as his playing of Schumann (except perhaps the 4th ballade). The finale of that 2nd sonata is astonishing beyond words.

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I agree. Or Chopin's First Scherzo. I've heard the cradle song done more hauntingly, perhaps, but I am talking about the dramatic parts. Another reason Brand cannot be judged from short freebies is that
sometimes what he does on a second or a third exposure of the theme "explains" (or compensates or corroborates) what he's been doing the first time. 

> I don't, however, see any point in criticizing Pogorelich "and the rest".  . . . In any case, I don't think it helps Brand--whom I adore--to put down other pianists, dead or alive.

I cannot speak for xxxxxxxxxxx, but I believe that his point in criticizing other pianists was to express how he felt about them. Whether that "helps" Brand or not is beyond the point. Whenever I listen to him I'd say "God help *us*!" — all best, xxxxxxxxxx

<<You'll hear this in the fine older pianists, like Rachmaninoff, Hofmann, Paderewski. Beauty of tone came first, most of the time.
The most difficult passages, and most delicate passages sound easy. Like "anyone can play this"!!! (ha...if only). You might say the tone is transcendental.>>

A couple of nuances to add to what you're saying here, not that I would strongly disagree with it.

First of all, not all Romantic pianists sounded the same. For "effortlessness" and "grace" one could of course evoke also names like de Pachmann or the young[er], studio-recorded Hofmann.
However, not only were many pianists not sounding the same between the lot of them, but they weren't sounding the same compared to themselves. From recording studio to concert (many of them were clever enough to know to limit a little their dynamic range on records, because of the perceived limitations of the "78"'s range) or even from concert to concert. When Rachmaninoff plays the reprise of Chopin's funeral march he forces the piano's limits perhaps even more than Brand in the same place. Hofmann playing Chopin's Berceuse is not the same with Hofmann playing the Fourth Ballade and only God still knows how many "Hofmann's" were out there. Nyiregyhazi tells us that the younger Paderewski, playing things like Appassionata or Liszt's Sonata (if memory serves) inspired him... I somehow doubt Paderewski sounded in them like he sounds in his Mazurka or Nocturne
recordings. Moiseiwitsch was arguably the supreme epitome of the Romantic "grace & elegance" (add to that subtlety, eloquent understatement and supreme effortlessness) but he could play quite
epically too, with enormously big ringing sonorities, as some of the few surviving live recordings bear witness. In Brand's case, it's also not a matter of "play as loud as you can" but of tremendous
yearning for colors, including a large variety of pianissimos as evidenced in the Kinderszenen.

<<With Brand, there is still "effort" in the sound compared to them. I do feel a lot is communicated though, and appreciate all that is there, since we don't usually get this much from modern players.>>

There's no question that Brand didn't go for the light and the effortless. He does dig deep and even a little heavy, occasionally, into the keys. However, what I believe distinguishes his powerful
playing (and what I believe xxxxxxxxxxxxx was alluding to in his review) is the unerring subordination of power to color. Brand "orchestrates" all the time, with infinite resources of
variation, *both* "in your face" and subtle, which makes for a multilayered level of perception.

I agree heartily with the rest of your post, adding that the recorded sound of this set, while certainly no audiophile quality, didn't bother me almost at all. A decent live recording is plenty satisfactory for me when playing of this caliber is involved.