I’m referring to the “divorce” between pianist Claudio Abbado and Hélène Grimaud, over which cadenza would be included in their recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with Orchestra Mozart. (You can read about it here, or here.) Abbado favoured the one Mozart wrote; Grimaud wanted to play a cadenza written by Busoni.
To make a long story short, their disagreement on this point derailed the recording of the piece they had made together.
According to Grimaud, her strong preference for the Busoni would have made any decision to use Mozart’s cadenza “a sort of sellout.” Furthermore, she contended that it was a “soloist’s prerogative” to decide on which cadenza to use.
From Abbado, we have only a second-hand statement that he felt Grimaud “was not being a good partner,” and was displaying a “territorial approach.” (Perhaps that’s something she’s learned from her wolves?) But if Abbado had few words on the subject, his actions spoke loudly when he had Grimaud removed from concerts they were to perform at the Lucerne Festival this summer.
Both sides have refused to back down, and the recording they made together will probably never be released.
So how is this a good-news story?
It’s good news because it reveals that there are still some musicians who will put their artistic convictions before the need to “co-operate” or keep up appearances. The classical music world can sometimes seem like a great big mutual admiration society – discreetly facilitated by a cadre of publicists and managers who are very adept at sweeping disputes under the carpet.
I salute both Grimaud and Abbado for sticking to their guns. While I’m sorry that they’ve had a falling out that seems to have turned personal, I’m glad that it happened for the right reasons: artistic integrity and commitment to ideals.
And I’m also glad that news of the dispute reached the public’s ears. We need to learn of things like this: such disputes restore faith in the motivations of (some of) the musicians who appear in our concert halls.
© Colin Eatock 2011