Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oscar Levant plays Khatchaturian

So here is the only clip I could find that would play: the Concerto in F one wouldn't work. This is more of a flashy showpiece, but my my, what he does with it! Women must have thrown their hotel room keys on the stage. This video displays certain unique aspects of his playing: the prizefighter bobbing and weaving; being a hair's-breadth ahead of the beat, which conveys a certain urgency; tiny comic elements like turning around to face the orchestra; producing a "something extra" with some chords (I can't express this, but I can hear it), almost a hidden overtone or bright extra sound that wasn't written down anywhere, a new color in the spectrum, so that the chord opened out and became excruciatingly pleasurable (and this is, after all, Khatchaturian, the composer I rhapsodized about a few posts ago). But it happens so fast and then vanishes, not so much mercury as lightning. I wish I knew who wrote this arrangement of the Sabre Dance, but at the same time I know it could be no one else but Oscar, incorporating his trademark sour/sweet dissonances and complexity. He blows this tired old piece of circus music out of the water.

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