A busy pianist, 91 today

Many happy returns to a dear friend, Menahem Pressler.

He’s playing with Rattle and the Berlin Phil on New Year’s Eve.

menahem Pressler berlin

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  • Enchanting clip of the Mozart.
    Note the bearded flautist, Andreas Blau. In the 1970s he wasn’t bearded and stood in for James Galway in various Karajan movies.In effect, you hear Galway but see Andreas Blau as beards were banned.Truth be told, I prefer the more spontaneous look of what we see in this Mozart/Pressler film.

    • I’m not quite sure what you mean by saying he “stood in” for James Galway. Berlin Phil has two principals of equal right in every wind section, and for a very long time Mr. Blau has been one of their two principal flutes. There have been many changes in the other principal flute position, but he stayed on for decades and watched his colleagues come and go. Given his position I find it highly unlikely that there should be footage where he appears in the picture but doesn’t play the audio recording. Could you please post a link?

      • Gerhard – the substitution between James Galway and Andreas Blau for prominent flute solos was recalled by both of them with some hilarity in John Bridcut’s recent documentary “Karajan’s Magic and Myth”, shown on BBC4 on 5th December. It’s not available on iPlayer by now but will no doubt be repeated. Karajan not only demanded no beards in his films. He insisted that bald players wore wigs – which a make-up assistant handed to them before they came onstage or onto the film set.

        Galway confirms his playing was used on the soundtrack while the non-bearded Blau mimed to a “playback” of it in a separate filmed session. These “playback” sessions were essential to the music films Karajan pioneered and were also adopted by Unitel for such productions as Bernstein’s Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, which I remember working on. Playbacks were filmed using carefully-lit and staged close-ups, and they added major impact when skilfully edited between the conventional, wider shots of the genuine concert.

        Bridcut’s film mentioned another Karajan device: using cardboard cut-outs of audience members to fill otherwise empty seats in the upper stalls or balcony during retakes. Everything was geared to creating what the maestro considered was the best visualisation of a concert performance. No artifice was rejected if it enhanced his highly personal conception of televised music.

        Blau was particularly amused by the irony that, in the end, his flute close-ups were so tight that no part of his face was in the picture. Just his hands. So it wouldn’t have mattered whether he or Galway or whoever sat in for the “playback” had a beard or not!

          • Thanks Hilary. Karajan needed a James Galway in the Berlin Philharmonic for the flute magic. As a bonus, he was granted an Irish twinkle among that all-male seriousness. He respected Galway for his musicianship. But the flautist’s no-nonsense side was hard for him to take because it threatened his own invincible authority. It’s great to see that, after all these years, Galway cannot re-tell his Karajan tale without bursting into giggles.

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