Initially, I was very impressed by Lady Gaga’s opening monologue and her acting in Marry The Night. Crikey. Get that lady into some sort of movie. I was extremely into it until I heard the beginning of the first movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata, Pathetique, at 4.02s.
Then I just groaned out loud and was furiously cursing.
I absolutely hate it when pop and classical music mix. Okay, strike that, when pop and cheesy classical music mix. Pathetique is probably one of the most overplayed Beethoven piano sonata except for Moonlight (Alicia Keys, I’m looking at you!).
Then I got really peeved at 5.43s where they show someone hunched over the piano, apparently playing the long chromatic scale into the allegro part of the first movement. The chromatic scale is one long movement down the keyboard, but the person who is ‘playing’ goes down the keyboard once and then goes back up an octave or two, and proceeds to glissando. Stop right there. That’s the first mistake.
The second mistake– if you listen to the track itself carefully, it is not a glissando of white keys as is shown in the music video, it is a chromatic scale, i.e. the pianist is playing the white and black keys in order going down. If you have no idea what I just said, plunk down next to a piano and just glissando on all the white keys (here is a video that shows you how), and then play a chromatic scale (here is a video that shows you how). Or just whip out your tablet / smartphone and play it on one of those free piano apps. Then listen carefully to the video. Of course, some people cannot tell the difference, but that just testifies to how good the pianist is; his or her fingers move seamlessly like water, so it just feels like one effortless glide where it really is a mechanical hammering using the first, second, and third fingers on the right hand.
Whatever. So, I was waiting for Lady Gaga to name the pianist who played it (end credits?). I think it is implied that Lady Gaga played it herself; she is a pretty good pianist, after all. However, ‘pretty good’ does not stretch you far when comparing to Argerich, Brendel, Cliburn. All over YouTube, on Pathetique videos from all different professional pianists, the top comments are some variation of “thumbs up if you knew about Pathetique before Lady Gaga ruined it.” I am a little hesitant to say I am of the same line. I absolutely despise when people cut around and mash around specifically written instructions in classical music to fit what they want. When you play Beethoven’s sonata, you are representing Beethoven first and foremost, not yourself. Yet, we come to a crossroads here, Lady Gaga is using the music to promote her own music, but I still cannot shake the idea that she owes some responsibility to Beethoven.
The last time something comparable happened, I was watching Nodame Cantabile, The Movie, Part II, and Nodame was playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto and Ravel’s Piano Concerto, and as soon as she played the opening chords, I knew immediately they were Li Yundi‘s playing. It took me half an hour Googling to confirm, but alas nowhere was tacked Li Yundi’s name or even an acknowledgement of his playing. I was beyond irritated and even irrationally commented to my friend with whom I was watching the movie, that they should just push aside Nodame and put Li Yundi up there in the movie because it is his recording.
I get so frustrated that people can consume so much sketchy pop music and then turn their backs on classical music. Stop most 16-year-olds on the street and I bet they will not be able to name 10 people involved in classical music beyond Yo-Yo Ma, and even then, they probably cannot say why exactly Mr. Ma is such a great cellist, or even confirm they have listened to one of his recordings. I have no doubt that everyone in the Western world has heard at least Mr. Ma’s overplayed recordings of Bach.
Classical music is boring! It is all lullabies! It is all cerebral-sounding like Bach!
Well, I guess I could say Pathetique’s first movement is rather grumpy. So, I while I do bemoan Lady Gaga’s artistic license with the sonata (she toned down the grump major time), I am rather delighted she is introducing others to Beethoven for the first time. However, when they listen to Pathetique, they will hopefully turn the right direction, and ignore Glenn Gould’s interpretation.
I mean it. Do not listen to Gould’s interpretation at first (why this is, I can save for another post). Here are some good ones:
Happy listening! (I especially love Ashkenazy and Kempff.)