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Friedrich Gulda & Friends / Hancock, Corea, Economou

Bach / Gulda / Hancock / Corea / Economou
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101672  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachFriedrich GuldaWolfgang Amadeus MozartTraditional,   ... 
Performer:  Friedrich GuldaHerbie HancockChick CoreaNicolas Economou
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FRIEDRICH GULDA & FRIENDS 1 Friedrich Gulda (pn); 2 Herbie Hancock (pn); 3 Chick Corea (pn); 4 Nicolas Economou (pn) ARTHAUS 101672 (DVD: 99:00) Live: Munich 7/15/1989 2 and 6/27/1982 3

BACH Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I. 1 Prelude & Fugue in G. Book II. 1 Preludes & Fugues in A?; in c?. 1 Orchestral Suite No. 3: Air on the G String (arr. Gulda). MOZART 1 Sonata in B?, K 333. KRIEGER-GULDA 1 Variations on Light My Fire. TRADITIONAL 1 Die Reblaus (arr. Gulda). 1,3 Danny Boy. PORTER 1,2 Night and Day. DAVIS 1,2 All Blues. COREA-ECONOMOU-GULDA 1,3,4 Improvisation for Three Pianos. 1,3,4 Improvisation on a Theme by Corelli. COREA 1,3,4 Improvisation on a Children’s Song. 3 Improvisation

The late Friedrich Gulda was often misunderstood or looked down on by the musical snobs of his own country, while in America his jazz performances were taken with a grain of salt. He was indeed a splendid improviser—as his surviving recordings and videos prove, one of the most brilliant and creative of his time—but his feeling for jazz rhythm was not always at the level Americans expected from their keyboard heroes. His position was, to a certain extent, ironic: to Americans he was a superb classical pianist who occasionally dabbled in jazz, while to Germans and Austrians he was a renegade “bad boy” who betrayed his position as a carrier of High German Art to play that “jazz stuff.”

This wonderful video, however, puts things into a bit better perspective. The second set in this DVD is actually the earlier one, in fact the first meeting between Gulda and Chick Corea, along with another classical pianist, Nicolas Economou, from June 27, 1982. The larger portion of this concert, featuring just Corea and Gulda, is preserved on Arthaus Musik 101634, The Meeting, in which the duo improvises on thrown-out musical fragments. Corea, it turns out, had performed a year earlier (1981, in Munich) with Economou, and thus should have been prepared for an encounter with someone like Gulda. The Meeting shows the two piano giants smiling at each other across their pianos and really enjoying the encounter, but in the booklet for this disc Gulda’s biographer, Irene Suchy, quoted Corea as saying afterwards to his manager of Gulda, “He’s a great piano player but he can’t play jazz,” while Gulda is quoted as saying, “He is a wonderful musician but he can’t play classical music.” Yet they slowly came to appreciate each other; a year after Gulda’s death, Corea said of him that he was “the spirit of creativity and adventure in music….He carried his audiences and friends to many unusual places—but always with a magic touch and flair for life and new approaches.”

As I say, this DVD starts out with the later concert from 1989, and it is clear in this performance that a few years of interaction with jazz pianists like Corea has helped Gulda to loosen up. Not only does he swing nicely on his original composition For Rico, but also shows a loosening of classical rhythms in his performances of both the preludes and fugues from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and Mozart’s Sonata K 333. Indeed, so loose are these performances that they reminded me strongly of the way Leonard Bernstein used to conduct those composers’ orchestral music (listen, particularly, to Bernstein’s recording of the Bach Magnificat ). The music just rolls out from the piano with a decidedly non-Bachian and non-Mozartian swagger in the fast passages—and yet, there is appropriate Mozartian tenderness in the slow movement of the Sonata. But the real highlight of this opening set is Gulda’s variation on Light My Fire, a piece which Rob Krieger of The Doors had put together with help from keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who added some Bachian elements. Gulda revels in these, creating a counterpoint of his own and substitute chord positions in a multi-voiced improvisation that is almost an entirely new composition. There is little Mozartian subtlety here: he plays the hell out of it. I particularly loved the passage where he crosses hands, the right playing clipped chords in the middle of the keyboard while the left plays a running improvisation in the bass! The motor rhythm he thus sets up becomes not only increasingly more powerful but also infectious, driving the piece to its conclusion like a freight train. As good as his variations on the traditional tune Die Reblaus are, they almost sound anticlimactic after Light My Fire.

The two numbers with Hancock, though each is over nine minutes long, seem unfairly brief. Seldom have I heard Herbie so wonderfully relaxed and inventive as he does here: no Rockit gimmickry, just full-throttle jazz playing, and he starts out Night and Day in uptempo fashion, setting a very high bar for Gulda to jump. The latter joins in slowly, initially just comping as Hancock continues to fly through his solo, but eventually participating more fully. When they switch positions, Gulda improvising as Hancock comps, there is no letdown in invention, but you can tell that Gulda’s solo is just a shade less loose than Hancock’s was. In Miles Davis’s All Blues, the tables are turned a bit, as this was a piece Hancock was very familiar with, having played it with Davis’s band, whereas Gulda knew it primarily from records. And, of course, Hancock is looser in rhythm, yet it still works, particularly when Gulda prompts Hancock into indulging in highly rhythmic counterpoint.

After this we go back in time to June 1982. The Improvisation for Three Pianos is just that: the kind of piece that the late Charles Mingus would have termed “jazzical,” the music subtly swinging (mostly, of course, by Corea) while all three pianists feed off each others’ ideas. Crushed chords, plucked piano strings, solos by all three musicians fly by the listener with almost dizzying speed, yet all of it somehow coalesces and makes sense. At one point, believe it or not, Gulda waves Corea over to his piano, where the latter takes over for him as the former gets up and walks around. At another, it just becomes a Gulda-Corea duet as Economou gets up and walks around. Yet it all works. I’ve heard many a classical composition, written over a span of months, that can’t touch this piece in terms of both invention and evolving form. As if by magic, the three pianists suddenly swing into an improvisation on a theme by Arcangelo Corelli!

Following the latter, Gulda plays his own (straight) piano arrangement of the Air on the G String from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3. Then Corea begins comping, eventually joined by Economou and, finally, Gulda. It is titled in the booklet as Improvisation on a Children’s Song, but the tune never quite coalesces to the point where it is recognizable. The two classically-trained pianists set up a counterpoint with each other while Corea improvises over it; then the chords fall through a chromatic trap door, the piece morphs entirely, and a snippet of Three Blind Mice is finally heard amidst a whirlwind of atonal improvisation. The tempo increases, and all three pianists rush through the piece for a while before finally relaxing the tempo and “bluesing” it up a little at the end. This then segues into Gulda playing Danny Boy. In the notes, it says that Gulda automatically assumed that Corea would know this piece, was surprised when he didn’t, but that the latter’s infallible ear allowed him to pick it up within one chorus and join in the fun. The three-way concert then ends, perhaps appropriately, with an improvised solo by Corea.

As in the case of The Meeting, this is one of those rare concerts where seeing the music created before your eyes is part of the fun. In my view, jazz performances are nearly always more interesting than the majority of classical performances in video format, because watching brings the listener into the vortex of the performance as it happened, seeing and hearing the music being created before one’s eyes. These are the kind of musical events, I feel, for which video was invented: one of a kind, unrepeatable events that take one’s breath away and expand the imagination.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley

Recorded live from the Munchner Klaviersommer, 1982 and 1989

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 99 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9) Read less

Works on This Recording

Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2: Prelude and Fugue no 17 in A flat major, BWV 886 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738-1742; Leipzig, Germany 
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 4 in C sharp minor, BWV 849 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 15 in G major, BWV 860 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
For Rico by Friedrich Gulda
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Sonata for Piano no 13 in B flat major, K 333 (315c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783-1784; Linz, Austria 
Variations on "Light My Fire" by Friedrich Gulda
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Die Reblaus by Traditional
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano)
Gay Divorcée: Night and Day by Cole Porter
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Herbie Hancock (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 
All Blues by Miles Davis
Performer:  Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Herbie Hancock (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Medley by Various
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano), Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Nicolas Economou (Piano)
Improvisation on a Theme by Corelli by Friedrich Gulda
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano), Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Nicolas Economou (Piano)
Suite for Orchestra no 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano), Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Nicolas Economou (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1729-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Gulda. 
Children's Songs (20): Excerpt(s) by Chick Corea
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano), Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Nicolas Economou (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Danny Boy by Frederick E. Weatherly
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano), Friedrich Gulda (Piano), Nicolas Economou (Piano)
Improvisation by Chick Corea
Performer:  Chick Corea (Piano)

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