Hearing Things. The Wrong Kind of Things.
“I couldn’t play because everything — traffic, people talking — seemed much too loud to me,” Mr. Fellner said recently from his home in Vienna. “I couldn’t bear listening to anything, so even teaching wasn’t possible.”
Neil Cherian MD.
Tinnitus can be caused by exposure to sounds that damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, said Dr. Neil Cherian, a neurologist and the director of the Center for Performance Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. One result can be a persistent ringing, hissing or buzzing.
What causes the condition is not always obvious, nor is it necessarily clear what allows normal ear function to return. “There is no consistent method to help this,” Dr. Cherian said, noting that many tinnitus sufferers recover simply by avoiding reinjury and allowing their ears time to heal.
Ear ailments are well known in classical music.
The most famous sufferer was Beethoven, whose decline into deafness has been recounted not only in books and monographs but also in plays and movies — recently, “Copying Beethoven,” with Ed Harris.
Schumann too endured an ear affliction at least for a time. In the book “Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius,” Peter Ostwald quotes Schumann’s wife, Clara, describing her husband’s troubles as a “constant singing and rushing in his ears.”
Dr. Peter F. Ostwald, an author, professor of psychiatry and the founding director of the Health Program for Performing Artists at the University of California at San Francisco, died on Saturday 05-30-1996 at his home. He was 68 and lived in San Francisco.
Dr. Ostwald was recognized internationally for his work on the interaction between music and psychiatry.
He was the author of a pioneering biography on Robert Schumann, "Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius" (1985), the first work to attempt an exact diagnosis of Schumann's severe mental disorders as they related to his compositions and creative life.
As for Mr. Fellner, the ailment disappeared with treatment after an agonizing three months, and he resumed his career without making the matter public.
“Normally I don’t talk about it,” he said. “In Europe nobody knows about it.”
Now after an absence of more than two years from New York, Mr. Fellner is set to return, playing a program of Bach, Beethoven and Schubert at the Metropolitan Museum on Feb. 8.
“I enjoy playing even more than before,” Mr. Fellner said. “There was a lot of thinking going on, but I realized how important it is to me, playing the piano. So I’m very happy I could continue.”
Mr. Fellner, 34 and a native of Vienna, first performed in the United States in 1995, then appeared regularly in New York and with major orchestras like the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Still he has yet to achieve the fame of other pianists of his generation like Leif Ove Andsnes and Hélène Grimaud.
Part of the reason may be his self-effacing manner.
He has been compared to Tobey Maguire, the star of the Spider-Man films, though he does not so much resemble Mr. Maguire as embody his typical on-screen persona: the awkward boy next door, lanky, a bit goofy and unfailingly earnest.
Still there is nothing tentative about Mr. Fellner’s playing. It is assured, fluid and musical.
“To my mind he has all the ingredients to be on the top,” Alfred Brendel, the elder statesman among Austrian pianists and Mr. Fellner’s best-known teacher, said from his home in London.
“It has impressed me how ambitiously he has developed his repertory from Bach to the present, being equally at home in solo and concerto repertoire, chamber music and lieder.”
The conductor Kent Nagano, who has worked with Mr. Fellner steadily since 1997, is also an admirer. “When you perform with him, you share the feeling of music as a language beyond technical expression,” Mr. Nagano wrote in an e-mail message. “For me, his music-making has a special kind of truth and natural character.”
Mr. Fellner’s big break, if the term applies, came three years ago, with the release of his recording of Book 1 of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” by ECM.
The praise from critics was almost universal. Anthony Tommasini, in The New York Times, called the album “a major achievement” and later listed it among the best classical CDs of 2004: “one of the most substantive and rewarding recordings of the year.” (Mr. Fellner has yet to follow up that success, though he is scheduled to record Bach’s Two- and Three-Part Inventions for ECM in July.)
In addition to Bach, Mr. Fellner performs many Classical and Romantic standards, Mozart’s concertos prominently among them, and continues to expand his range.
He recently performed Chopin’s F minor Concerto for the first time, and Beethoven will soon fill his days. He plans to present complete cycles of the Beethoven sonatas in Vienna and London over two seasons, beginning next year.
He also plays less familiar music, including Schoenberg’s solo pieces and the demanding sonata of Julius Reubke, a talented pupil of Liszt who died young.
He is especially fond of the music of Gyorgy Kurtag, the contemporary Hungarian composer. “Except for Anton Webern, he is the only composer who can express himself in so few notes,” Mr. Fellner said.
Mr. Fellner has played other contemporary music as well. In 2002 he and the cellist Heinrich Schiff gave the first performance of “Mumien” by the Austrian composer Thomas Larcher. And last summer Mr. Fellner and Adrian Brendel, a cellist and Alfred Brendel’s son, performed “Lied,” a short work by the British composer Harrison Birtwistle written in honor of the elder Mr. Brendel’s 75th birthday. Mr. Fellner is scheduled for premieres by both composers this year.
“His choice of repertory will seem highbrow to some people,” Mr. Brendel said, “but I applaud him for it. And don’t mistake him for a predominantly intellectual player. I heard him do the best live performance of Liszt’s ‘Années de Pèlerinage.’ ”
Mr. Brendel and Mr. Fellner met in 1990, when Mr. Fellner, then 20, was studying at the Vienna Conservatory.
“I listened to Till, and he sounded promising,” Mr. Brendel said. “It was evident that he was very intelligent.” They have since met two or three times a year, discussing repertory and playing on two pianos.
“He’s a wonderful teacher,” Mr. Fellner said. “Normally he demonstrates a lot. On one hand, he’s looking for all the details. But on the other, he gives you a view over the whole piece. What he says is always very precise, very concrete.”
For his part Mr. Brendel said: “It is really a matter of a very valuable friendship. I like to share my experience with young concert pianists who are able to help themselves, and to check them out once in a while, to see whether they remain on course.”
Mr. Fellner, having overcome a physical setback, seems to have done just that.
Fuente: The New York times