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 Post subject: In your oppinion, what makes a 'good' Chopin interpretation?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:24 am 
To me, there are two things which are vital, but often overlooked whilst playing Chopin. These usually detract from my listening experience.

The first is the (over)use of Rubato. All too many people think that Chopin's music is to be played with Rubato, because he composed in the Romantic Era. However, from listening to hundreds of recordings of his music, I have discovered that his music is a lot more effective (simple) without Rubato. Chopin considered himself a Classicist, in every sense of the word. One of his greatest emphasises was on the form of the music, completely contradictory to the ideologies of the Romantic Era. Because of this, I believe that minimal (if any) use of Rubato should be used in Chopin pieces.

The second, and probably more overlooked element, are the dynamics. So much time is spent on the phrasing and techincal difficulties of his music, and dynamics seem to fall by the wayside. Chopin's dynamics are so different to that of any other composer. Not only the obvious, his pieces being mainly quiet, but also the varying dynamics within the pieces. The main difference is that, when Chopin wants dramatic effect, he will drop the dynamic, rather then raising it. Generally, the most climactic part will be short-lived, followed by a pianissimo. And often the most dramatic phrases are also in pianissimo. Because of our pre-conceptions that "loud is dramatic", we generally tend to disagree with Chopin's sense of dynamics. However, it is a lot more dramatic, to my ear at least, to have the climax of the piece in a quiet dynamic. This aspect is one of the most important, and the most overlooked.

So, what do you guys reckon makes a 'good' interpretation?

P. S. I wasn't sure which forum this fit into. This one seemed the most logical one. Knowing me, it is probably the wrong one :P


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:33 am 
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I think you first need to undestand chopin and play very soft because he played very soft (he was very weak). And just play what you feel. Make it youre own.


gr

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while composing I've got always an picture in my head 'beethoven'


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 10:23 am 
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A good Chopin interpretation is one that you like. It's as simple as that.... This music, by its nature, is very personal and means different things to different people. This could partly explain its popularity.

I agree with you about rubato being overrated and overused. Nothing more irritating than these pianists who push and pull the tempo about every second, even several times within one bar. For all its romantic expressivity, Chopin's music is remarkably classical and rhythmic, even contrapuntal (we must not forget how he revered Bach above any other composer). OTOH, without any rubato at all it would generally sound boring, except perhaps in the more motoric pieces like the Etudes. I always feel that the rubato works best when applied very subtly and consciously. Otherwise it distracts from the music and focuse the attention on the performer.

Now about 'Chopin's music being mainly quiet' and the 'climaxes mainly being pianissimo' (quoting you) and about Chopin being 'very weak' and his music needing to be played 'very softly' (quoting rachmaninoff). It is true that Chopin was no Liszt, but I balk at the popular image of Chopin the dying poet of the piano, charming the pants off the noble ladies in the Parisian salons with his melting Nocturnes and Waltzes. He was far more than that, and so is his music. Of course he was no thundering keyboard lion, nor did he want to be, but for all his frailness, he was able to play surprisingly forceful when the music called for it. Just consider the Barcarolle, Ballades, Sonatas, Etudes, Scherzi and Polonaises - music every bit as powerful and virtuosic as anything else, with towering climaxes that should be played to the hilt.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 11:44 am 
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I think I know what you mean. There are times when I'm playing a Mazurka ( I was just playing some yesterday) and it goes down to piano or pianissimo and I think how poignant that little phrase was, or how it was more noticeable because it was sandwiched between louder bars, or phrases, or lines. But then again, one has to play the forte sections with enough fire and energy to make them stand out too. The Ballades are perfect examples. The softer parts wouldn't sound right if they were played too loud, and the loud parts wouldn't be exciting enough if they were too soft.

I totally agree with the rubato. I hate when I hear it emphasized. And I can only think of one place where I have actually seen the word rubato written in the music. The Mazurka Op. 7 no.1. Are there other pieces?

So anyway, in my opinion, the best interpretation is when a performer follows the markings in the music, but also inserts a bit of his or her personality into the piece. As long as the player isn't messing around with the rhythm, I think Chopin would like that.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 4:28 pm 
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Oh, I just found more mazurkas with the word 'rubato' marked in. I'm using a Schirmer edition edited by Mikuli.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 5:13 pm 
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Quote:
Now about 'Chopin's music being mainly quiet' and the 'climaxes mainly being pianissimo' (quoting you) and about Chopin being 'very weak' and his music needing to be played 'very softly' (quoting rachmaninoff). It is true that Chopin was no Liszt, but I balk at the popular image of Chopin the dying poet of the piano, charming the pants off the noble ladies in the Parisian salons with his melting Nocturnes and Waltzes. He was far more than that, and so is his music. Of course he was no thundering keyboard lion, nor did he want to be, but for all his frailness, he was able to play surprisingly forceful when the music called for it. Just consider the Barcarolle, Ballades, Sonatas, Etudes, Scherzi and Polonaises - music every bit as powerful and virtuosic as anything else, with towering climaxes that should be played to the hilt.


I red on internet that someone from a newspaper (in chopin his time) said : he plays very well but a bit loud. And when I look into my books there is a note that chopin was to weak to play FF or louder. I think we need to play it like him BUT I heard that wibi Soerjadi Said: chopin said; If you want to listen to my music go to my friend Frans Liszt. So maybe he was to weak to play loud but it needed to be loud could that be?

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music is enough for lifetime but lifetime isn't enough for music 'rachmaninoff'

while composing I've got always an picture in my head 'beethoven'


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:15 am 
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"What is a good Chopin interperatation?" That's an infinite question. The answer is probably too complex to completely answer with words alone. That's like asking "How is the Sistine Chapel beatiful?" The answer is in the eye of the beholder. I'll have to think about it. :idea: Bel Canto.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:31 am 
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Interesting topic!
After reading the statements so far, I think one should devide the answer in
a) how did Chopin interpret his works and
b) how do we like to interpret it on our own - that must not necessarily the same

to a) how did Chopin interpret his works
There exist an excellent book "Chopin, pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils". This book contains only primary sources - what was written down by contemporaries, and weighted regarding the trustability.
Referring to that book, Chopin used often and different variants of rubato. There are quotations that for walzes e.g. he played the left hand part rhythmically precise while the right hand acts like a singer with loose rhythm coupling. That is a very difficult thing to do, and I never heard a recording of someone who performed that way consequently. Even not Cortot, who is known for extensive rubato playing. But he don't plays much this kind of rubato.
Another kind of rubato Chopin did employ for his Mazurkas. There are quotations after that Chopin changed the 3/4 clock into something almost like 2/4 or so.

So, Chopin did use rubato, and it was a theme from contemporaries to name this style in Chopin's playing.

Furthermore, there are several quotations constantly throughout his performances, from the earliest ones in Vienna to the latest in England, that he indeed played softer than others. But no doubt (for me), he played it exactly as he liked it to be played.

I share the opinion in the initial statement, that it is a good possibility regarding dynamic playing for Chopin's oevre, not to exxagerate towards louder playing, instead searching for delicate pianissimo playing. Regarding what I have read, one comes nearer with that approach, to the Chopin playing. Again, this is of course much much more difficult than to play louder.

b) how do we like to interpret it on our own
Our piano construction differs considerably from Chopin's. According to contemporaries, a Pleyel piano did not sound very well in the fortissimo area. It must have had a silvery sound with lots of charme in the softer playing regions. So the piano sound has changed, why not change the interpretation. I agree on the other statements here - what sounds good to me, is the way to interpret. My personal idol for Chopin interpretation at the moment is Artur Rubinstein. I like his tasteful rubato playing, and his expressive and note exact playing.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:46 am 
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I'm in an enlightening situation. I've contracted a rather serious lung infection (don't worry, my doc says I'll be O.K.) I found that even though I'm barely strong enough to sit upright, my technique is not affected. In fact, I played even better than when I was strong. I think the reason for this is that since I am unable to take a gymnastic approach to the piano in my current condition; I am forced into playing with a minimum use of energy.

This proves my previous notion that excess force or weight is not necessary for virtuosity. It seems counterintuitive, but, I blazed through Chopin's opus 10 at full tempo, and sometimes faster! My hands and arms felt as though they were made of some kind of liquid, frictionless. My revelation is; muscular strength is not prerequisite to virtuosity. This must be true, since I played Chopin's op 10 effortlessly, with fever and being weak as a kitten!

This extreme reduction of force has profoundly improved my sound. I've never played so beautifully.
I produced a sound very similar to Michelangeli, velvety smooth, with no noise from the piano action, the keybed or the hammers (even at a fast tempo). I was employing "souplesse". This only happened because my illness stripped away all extra force and muscular tension.

Chopin must have felt a similar weakness and played in a similar way due to his illnesses.

To play Chopin beautifully, one must maintain humility, and show a quiet reverie towards the music.
Chopin's music should not be "played". It must be dreamed, in a state of profoundly joyful serenity and with great awe and devotion.

Todays events may make me take a different approach to the instrument. Time will tell.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 9:26 pm 
Well, you can't decide what is a globally good interpretation because iterpretation by its nature is quite personal. However, I do agree that rubato should be used too generously whilst playing Chopin's music. As for the dynamics, I think that relatively the what is mp for other compsers would be forte in Chopin's nocturnes. However, some parts should be palyed with very strong fortissimo to create the climax like agitato parts at least in my opinion.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:16 am 
The key to a correct Chopin interpretation is most likely to be very similar to a correct Mozart interpretation:
Every marking had a specific meaning and to be 'correct' should be played exactly as written, which is how Chopin would most definatley have taught it. However, on that note, dynamics are not Absolute in themselves as if the music calls for a pp and you are playing for a large audience, that pp will be different to the pp from your practice room.

The irony of your question is in the wording... Good "Interpretation". The word interpretation indicates a way of perception, so a 'Good' interpretation could be anything depending on who you are an how you interpret it. If it is a Correct representation of the original piece that you are after, then i think you would be better off looking at the various techniques chopin used in his playing and where he applied them. ie. Thumb over for fast passages and Thumb under for slower/legato playing or the Cartwheeled appegio. These are just two very basic examples, but it should surrfice for the point being made. The techniques he taught and used will have a very significant effect on the sound of any piece of music he wrote. Failure to understand those techniques will result in 'interpretation' not representation.

The last thing i will comment on is this: Glenn Gould did many Fantastic Interpretations, doesn't mean they were neccessarily true to the composers intentions, nevertheless they were brilliant... And one thing that truly set Gould apart was his realisation that the music written was being written for fellow COMPOSERS not PIANISTS. In the early times a pianist almost always was a composer and every piece they played, they added their own trademarks to them as a composer. And similarly, we should add our own influence to the music we play, pianist really need to develop a personal and intimate relationship with every piece they play!
Oscar Peterson even said he loves the piano so much it arouses him when he plays it... lol... but whatever works for you...

Have fun...
Chris :-)

p.s. there is a book on Amazon called "Chopin: Pianist and Teacher: As seen by his pupils", It should help put Chopins work into context...
p.s.s. Geez this is an old post, only just realised that


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:25 am 
Also, the stuff about Chopin playing quietly because he was weak is most likely rubbish... After all, they DID have Light-touch pianos in his time, and guess what, he played one! :-)
Also, people who say that he played quietly because he was weak obviously don't understand correct piano technique! There is not all that much physical force required if you are smart enough to let gravity do all the work. And infact, gravity does it better than brute strength as it produce a more resonate tone and allows you more dexerity due to lack of muscle tension! The Brute strength can lead to major medical problems if you're not careful, ie Carpel Tunnel (i'm pretty sure thats the right name)

Anyway, thats my 2cents

Chris :-)


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