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 Post subject: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:53 am 
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Hello all,

Recently began my latest recording project. Most of the Chopin preludes will, of course, be familiar to piano aficionados. Scriabin's music might be a bit more arcane for some, though Horowitz popularized several preludes and etudes. This set of preludes is IMO the composer's greatest. Patterned on Chopin's opus, it follows the same circle of fifths progression through twenty-four keys. I thought it would be interesting to do these two sets side by side for comparison purposes (though I have no pretense that it hasn't been done before, just like practically everything else in this world :) )

I have decided to record them in four pairs of six each, so I am submitting the first part (12 total). I always lament that either of these composers is so difficult to play even close to perfectly. Chopin in particular I submit with some trepidation since it is so oft played and everyone seems to have his or her own notion of proper rubato and other elements, but I hope you find something fresh to enjoy in them. Monica will at least be happy that it isn't another long sonata movement :P

Comments welcome.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:37 am 
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Hi Joe,
I was enjoying these quite well (though I am not crazy about the Chopin preludes with a few exceptions) but when I got to hearing #4 I have to admit that my forehead went into a perplexed frown trying to comprehend what you are doing rhythmically, and then again with #6. :? You may want to call it rubato, but I wouldn't because it follows repetative patterns. I have to say plainly that you are simply not keeping time well in these slow lyric works of classic simplicity. You really left me scratching my head on those two. I will reserve comment on the Scriabin until I can listen with score in hand sometime tomorrow.
Regards,
Eddy

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:22 am 
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An interesting project to combine these two iconic prelude sets. I love the Scriabin Op.11 set as much as the Chopin set. They're just maybe a touch derivative, but so incredibly beautiful and pianistic. My favorite Scriabin pieces (that is partly because I have little affinity with mature and late Scriabin).

Some comments on the Chopin preludes (will listen to the Scriabin's later). They're well played, you certainly have them well under the fingers and in the mind. Good technique mostly, and some nice individual touches. Specific points:

1 - Just a little too heavy for my taste. Could be more like a butterfly telling of things to come. If butterflies can talk, that is.
2 - Isn't this rather fast for a Lento ? I could not hear the E in the closing arpeggio chord.
3 - The LH is a bit too obtrusive here, grabbing all the attention. This could be lighter on its feet (easier said than done..). The final unisono run seems a bit uneven.
4 - I side with Eddy in that the rubato is rather over the top. Though I am sure some golden-age pianists would have played it like this.
5 - Kudos on mastering this very tricky piece (I find it one of the hardest of the set). It seems a bit too hectic to me though, and a bit uneven in places.
6 - Again the rubato might be a bit too much, though not as drastic as in no.4.

I hope you'll find these comments useful. These can certainly go on the site as is, but I think you'll maybe want to add a little more polish here and there.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:08 pm 
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Oh, I wish I could listen to these, but I can't right now. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:39 pm 
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Just out of curiosity, what piano are you playing?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:18 pm 
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Ok I now have some comments on the Scriabin.

No.1 All in all, a very good rendition of a most curiously scored work which really lacks clarity and must be deciphered a bit. Though the meter is 2/2 and there are 10 8th notes and/or 6 quarter notes to the bar, we really see that in a measure's worth of time what he writes is two 5-note irregular groups per 1/2 note. But then to emphasize the two-note anacrusis of his concept, he simply draws the measure lines AFTER two 1/8 notes. The bars with six 1/4 notes are really quarter-note triplets per 1/2 note pulse. The whole work is immediately understandable if the bar lines are all drawn two 1/8 notes earlier and a "5" is added to the beamed 8th notes. Then you can simply inflect the drive to the 3rd 8th of the groupings. The hardest part rhythmically is certainly the closing measures where you have to play five 1/8 notes in the RH to three 1/4 notes in the LH, both representing one 1/2 note pulse of the meter. Last, the speed indicated in the Russian edition of 1/4-note= 63-73, is wrong and MUST be 1/2 note =63-74, which you reflect in your preformance.

No.2 I think your performance is more than adequate, but for me, I would have preferred much clearer (prominent) statements of melody, whether in the RH or in the LH (e.g. m. 35). The tempo is certainly "Allegretto" but I would interpret it slower to magnify the "sad-waltz" nature that I think the piece has.

No.3 Nice work on this whirling Vivo!

No.4 Way too fast IMO. This certainly is kindred to and descended from the E Minor AND the B Minor preludes of Chopin. The ascending note of the melody line in the triplets of bars 2 and 4, I would reflect in bars 5 and 6. This piece also uses the characteristic Russian descending chromatic lines, and for me you're just ripping thorugh them instead of hearing every painful inflection that each one represents. I don't think that a listener would have caught that the tempo is "Lento." My 2 cents.

No.5 My only suggestion here is that just because he writes no rests does not mean that you aren't supposed to take a breath. Here the structure is four 1/2 notes worth of sustained melodic line crossing the bar at midpoint. Scriabin uses the very Romantic phrase structure of two equal-length phrases followed by a third that is twice as long (xx,xx,xxxx vs xxxxxxxx). You need to punctuate these phrases with some silence. I would suggest cutting the long slur 7 bars form the end in half to reflect the implied structure (at "con anima").

No.6 Interesting to see a piece in octaves in the key of B Minor; that should raise some thoughts of Chopin's etude. This piece is hard to make sound "good" given its almost incessant emphasis on the harmony of 2nds, 7ths or 9ths. I would just say to you, "Have you thought of doing some thumb uncrossing?" I certainly would. Also, though he indicated the last chord of the piece as a big one without an arpeggio symbol but adds "m.s." for the top note, I would play it without an arpeggio by playing the lowest note ahead of time (like we always do), the next 3 notes up the chord with my LH and the last 3 remaining chord notes with the RH, for a big 6-note chord on the down beat anticipated by the lowest note. Just an idea. Also, note the similarity of the closing harmony and chordal nature to that of the Chopin etude mentioned before.

Hope this helps. I'm looking forward to your future posts!
Regards,
Eddy

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Last edited by musical-md on Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 7:30 pm 
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Hi again, Joe. I didn't go out for lunch today so I can listen to your recordings now.

Chopin - Sorry, but I'm with the others regarding no. 4 and 6. Actually, 6 is okay I guess. I'm not totally crazy about the LH rushing up the arpeggion like that, but it's not too bad. No. 4 is really just so different than what I'm used to and even though I'm trying to keep an open mind, I really do not think I could ever accept it played like this. It's so hurried, like you have to get to the bathroom...sorry, that's what popped in my mind here.

All the other Preludes sounded very nice to me! :)

@Chris - do you want to split these up? I'll do the Chopin and you do Scarlatti?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 7:57 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
@Chris - do you want to split these up? I'll do the Chopin and you do Scarlatti?

Ayup. I'll do the Scriabin as well :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:09 pm 
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Thanks to all for the very helpful comments. I plan on responding to each in more detail tonight, but I just wanted to pop in to say that I would like to have another go at these while keeping the suggestions in mind. I think it's important with a project like this to get off on as good a footing as one can, and I had many similar reservations to the ones you expressed as well as gained some new perspective. So anyway, I just wanted to avoid your doing double work.

Also, Chris, if you have the time, any thoughts on the Scriabin?

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:23 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Also, Chris, if you have the time, any thoughts on the Scriabin?

Yes. Actually I'm fairly critical on these sorry, maybe because I feel strongly about them. Note that most of my comments are just personal taste and not criticism on your playing which is of high standard.

No.1 - I Know these enormous jumps are very difficult but I find the gaps between the phrases to long and abrupt here. I don't particularly like your handling of the crescendo leading to the climax, it seems to get too rough and tumultuous all of a sudden.

No.2 - Seems perfectly played but personally I find it too hurried and a bit too much pedal blurring in places. I don't like the impatient way you hurl from bar 2 into bar 3, and similar places. This restful and elegant piece as whole sounds a bit impatient to me.

No.3 - I did not check the metronome mark but it sounds too fast for your current technique. Just a touch ragged in places and too little phrasing and dynamics. I'd take it a bit more relaxed so you have more time for expression.

No.4 - Sounds hurried too, especially this descending little chromatic figure. I wonder if you have a specific role model in this music ? This one should be more dreamy IMHO.

No.5 - For this one I got the metronome out. My Peters score says 40 to the quarter, I think you play it almost twice as quick :shock: I hope you're no in a hurry to complete this set :)

No.6 - I don't think it's played too fast, probably right on speed, but it sounds too fast and furtive. Needs more weight and sonority (I seem to always use these words when reviewing Russian repertoire :roll: ), and would IMHO sound better a tad slower, never mind the mm marks. Its' one of these pulverizing Russian pieces that can completely knock you over when done properly. At least that's how I perceive this one.

HTH :D

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:33 pm 
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Interesting coupling, and quite appropriate imo.

Having listened to the Chopin 6, some thoughts.

C maj: seems a bit imbued with Rachmaninovian thoughts; I don't think it's agitato enough.
A min: I thought your tempo was fine, tbh.
G maj: I agree with Chris that the lh is a little on the obtrusive side. Nice if it can be got to whirr along in the background; not easy of course.
E min: interesting! Whether people would agree with it is another matter. It seems to me that you are imparting the little swells in the music not just through cresc and descresc, but through tempo fluctuations also.
D maj: sounds fine to me.
B min: similar thoughts to the E min, especially re the swells.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:53 am 
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Hi Eddy,

Thanks for the comments!

The subject of rubato is indeed a tricky one and I can hear where you're coming from here. I plan to do more experimentation with this aspect of the slower preludes in the coming week. I would, however, challenge what your overall notion of rubato appears to be as you expressed it in this comment:

Quote:
I have to admit that my forehead went into a perplexed frown trying to comprehend what you are doing rhythmically, and then again with #6. You may want to call it rubato, but I wouldn't because it follows repetative patterns. I have to say plainly that you are simply not keeping time well in these slow lyric works of classic simplicity.


Two things. First, you seem to contradict yourself a bit by saying that you're "trying to comprehend" what I'm doing rhythmically yet also stating that my rubato follows repetitive patterns. The latter comment would imply to me that you are in fact making a statement about what you perceive me to be doing rhythmically. As I see it, the problem lies in trying to "comprehend" it at all. Even the traditional definition of rubato (i.e., a speeding up or slowing down, followed by its exact opposite to restore "robbed" time) is problematic, for it is not really possible to accurately do so and this would indeed be impossibly mechanical. In the end, of course, there is really an ineffability to the concept of rubato that defies description and results from the performer's individuality.

Now for the second point regarding keeping time. Of course, I could play everything exactly in time or even mostly in time and throb out the melody over a mostly consistent bassline the way so many pianists seem to interpret this piece, but that IMO would be rather flat and rhythmically monotonous. As here, Chopin tends to write in rather constant recurring figurations, which demand, I think, a rhythmically flexible and spontaneous use of rubato to work. It's hard to argue that one is distorting the rhythm when the figurations in question are unvarying. Stretching or expanding too much for one's taste, yes, but not distorting or failing to keep time. I believe my overall tempos are basically consistent, even though within them there are many internal fluctuations, and that this is the spirit of rubato.

Anyway, just my two cents on a very interesting topic you raised.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:24 am 
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Hi Chris,

Thanks very much for your detailed comments. Many of them coincide with certain reservations of my own, and you've given me some fresh ideas to consider.

Regarding the Chopin:

Quote:
1 - Just a little too heavy for my taste. Could be more like a butterfly telling of things to come. If butterflies can talk, that is.


I agree that it could be lighter. Interesting image of the butterfly. I would, however, perhaps interpret the rather sonorous, grand melodic gesture as indicative of a nobler, weightier animal:D

Quote:
2 - Isn't this rather fast for a Lento ?


Maybe. As a general note, though, I would not interpret tempos in terms of any fixed range of metronome markings. Tempos are relatives. I personally have found many performances of this prelude much too slow, but that's just my perception and is independent of the marking "Lento."

Quote:
3 - The LH is a bit too obtrusive here, grabbing all the attention. This could be lighter on its feet (easier said than done..). The final unisono run seems a bit uneven.


Agreed. I have tried to work on balance quite a bit (also keeping in mind your earlier comments on the Schubert) but know there's still much more work to be done.

Quote:
5 - Kudos on mastering this very tricky piece (I find it one of the hardest of the set). It seems a bit too hectic to me though, and a bit uneven in places.


Yep, and I think the difficulty lies in being able to get the music out of it once it's well learned. You confirmed my general reservation about my performance. I'll try to work more on this one to try to give it its last degree of polish.

Thanks also for your insightful comments about the Scriabin. It's hard for me to avoid being long-winded but I'll try to be briefer here :P

On closer examination, I agree with you about being a bit hurried in places. I tend to be a "fast" player and sometimes my nervous system can get the better of me. We may not have generally differing ideas about musical expression, but your technical points are very well taken and I will keep them in mind as I redo these.

Thanks again,

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:30 am 
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Hi Monica,

Thanks for listening and for the compliment.

Quote:
Chopin - Sorry, but I'm with the others regarding no. 4 and 6. Actually, 6 is okay I guess. I'm not totally crazy about the LH rushing up the arpeggion like that, but it's not too bad. No. 4 is really just so different than what I'm used to and even though I'm trying to keep an open mind, I really do not think I could ever accept it played like this. It's so hurried, like you have to get to the bathroom...sorry, that's what popped in my mind here.


lol..not sure I remember whether I had to get to the bathroom or not... Certainly not the image I was hoping to conjure up, needless to say :lol: I plan to experiment more with these and hopefully reach a compromise to produce, at the very least, a marginally more "acceptable" recording of these two :D

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:33 am 
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Hi Richard,

Quote:
Just out of curiosity, what piano are you playing?


It's a Steinway Model B, circa 1920 (I think), which has been refurbished and re-actioned.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:41 am 
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Hi Andrew,

Thanks for listening!

Quote:
C maj: seems a bit imbued with Rachmaninovian thoughts; I don't think it's agitato enough.


Interesting. I would indeed interpret the melody itself as a bit grander than some pianists have done, perhaps even "Rachmaninovian" :wink:

Quote:
E min: interesting! Whether people would agree with it is another matter. It seems to me that you are imparting the little swells in the music not just through cresc and descresc, but through tempo fluctuations also.


I think that's a good way of putting it. I think the rhythmic fluctuations impart interest to a rather uniform bassline in this case.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:47 am 
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techneut wrote:
pianolady wrote:
@Chris - do you want to split these up? I'll do the Chopin and you do Scarlatti?

Ayup. I'll do the Scriabin as well :lol:


Oh, haha...Well, they're are about the same... :mrgreen:

So Joe, what are we doing here with your Chopin recordings?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:48 am 
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techneut wrote:
No.5 - For this one I got the metronome out. My Peters score says 40 to the quarter, I think you play it almost twice as quick :shock: I hope you're no in a hurry to complete this set :)

Chris, mine (Russian edition reprint) has that too but it has to be a mistake as the work is in 4/2 meter. I'm sure it is 40 to the half-note. Boy! Two metronomic speed mistakes in only 6 pieces; sloppy editing/publishing!

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:54 am 
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musical-md wrote:
Chris, mine (Russian edition reprint) has that too but it has to be a mistake as the work is in 4/2 meter. I'm sure it is 40 to the half-note. Boy! Two metronomic speed mistakes in only 6 pieces; sloppy editing/publishing!

Well interesting that two scores have this and you are sure it is wrong :P Isn't there a Scriabin Urtext that would prove you right ?

If this is indeed so, then Joe's tempo here is about correct. I find it unbearably fast though and would happy ignore the composer's mm mark here. Are we even sure these are the composer's tempi and not some editor's ?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:06 pm 
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Quote:
So Joe, what are we doing here with your Chopin recordings?


Please hold off. I am going to redo these. Thanks.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:10 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Please hold off. I am going to redo these. Thanks.

The Scriabins as well ?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:15 pm 
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Quote:
The Scriabins as well ?


Yes.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:51 pm 
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techneut wrote:
musical-md wrote:
Chris, mine (Russian edition reprint) has that too but it has to be a mistake as the work is in 4/2 meter. I'm sure it is 40 to the half-note. Boy! Two metronomic speed mistakes in only 6 pieces; sloppy editing/publishing!

Well interesting that two scores have this and you are sure it is wrong :P Isn't there a Scriabin Urtext that would prove you right ?

If this is indeed so, then Joe's tempo here is about correct. I find it unbearably fast though and would happy ignore the composer's mm mark here. Are we even sure these are the composer's tempi and not some editor's ?


The proof is in the pudding. The tempo is "Andante Cantabile." Try playing it as indicated at 1/4 = 40 and it becomes a mired turtle in Moltissimo Largissimo Boringssimo tempo and the structure becomes lost in a microscopic analysis of nuts and bolts (sort of like looking at the Eifel Tower while your nose is touching it). I'll give you this, the recording/performance is faster than 1/4 note = 80 (1/2 note = 40), and so I agree with you that it is faster than it should go, but no where near twice as fast.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:13 pm 
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Quote:
The proof is in the pudding. The tempo is "Andante Cantabile."


Yes, I think this is right. Well, I'm glad we've finally resolved this earth-shatteringly important issue.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:18 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
I'll give you this, the recording/performance is faster than 1/4 note = 80 (1/2 note = 40), and so I agree with you that it is faster than it should go, but no where near twice as fast.

I had the metronome clicking along and it sounded like it was like about twice as fast as the mm. I could be wrong there. In any case it sounded way too fast to me.

Certainly following the printed mm number would sound molto boring. I guess as often, the Truth will be somewhere in the middle.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:22 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Yes, I think this is right. Well, I'm glad we've finally resolved this earth-shatteringly important issue.

Hey now. Sarcasm is my department :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:29 pm 
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Quote:
I guess as often, the Truth will be somewhere in the middle.


I think there indeed is much truth in this statement. Very Aristotelian.

Quote:
Hey now. Sarcasm is my department


Wel HTH, you said it yourself :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 3:28 am 
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Hi jlr,

I think you play these Chopin preludes beautifully. Just a few brief comments:

No. 1: This piece is the curtain raiser for sure. In line 2, starting in measure 11: I believe you can more prominently etch with the RH thumb the inner scalar line, G, A, B, C and C#. It would enhance your rendition there.

No. 2, the catipiller as I call it: In measure 17, I suggest that you maintain forward motion in tempo. Then when you play the slentando in measure 18, it will occur as written and will be much more differentiated, meaningful and effective.

No. 4: This is a lament, and I like how you handle the sigh motif throughout. Likewise with the variable harmonic "voicing in the LH chords. You've made an "emendation" to the score in measure 17 by playing the B octave one octave lower than written with a fairly big crash as well. The problem as I hear it is that the effect is simply too much given the character and context of the rest of the piece. It seems like the anomaly of cracking a nut with a pile driver. :lol: I play the octave as written and it seems to fit better.

No. 6: The RH slurs are very good, as is the dynamic contour of the melodic line. Very nicely played.

I hope this is helpful.

David

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Last edited by Rachfan on Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:32 am 
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jlr43 wrote:
Hi Eddy,

Thanks for the comments!

The subject of rubato is indeed a tricky one and I can hear where you're coming from here. I plan to do more experimentation with this aspect of the slower preludes in the coming week. I would, however, challenge what your overall notion of rubato appears to be as you expressed it in this comment:

Quote:
I have to admit that my forehead went into a perplexed frown trying to comprehend what you are doing rhythmically, and then again with #6. You may want to call it rubato, but I wouldn't because it follows repetative patterns. I have to say plainly that you are simply not keeping time well in these slow lyric works of classic simplicity.


Two things. First, you seem to contradict yourself a bit by saying that you're "trying to comprehend" what I'm doing rhythmically yet also stating that my rubato follows repetitive patterns. The latter comment would imply to me that you are in fact making a statement about what you perceive me to be doing rhythmically. As I see it, the problem lies in trying to "comprehend" it at all. Even the traditional definition of rubato (i.e., a speeding up or slowing down, followed by its exact opposite to restore "robbed" time) is problematic, for it is not really possible to accurately do so and this would indeed be impossibly mechanical. In the end, of course, there is really an ineffability to the concept of rubato that defies description and results from the performer's individuality.

Now for the second point regarding keeping time. Of course, I could play everything exactly in time or even mostly in time and throb out the melody over a mostly consistent bassline the way so many pianists seem to interpret this piece, but that IMO would be rather flat and rhythmically monotonous. As here, Chopin tends to write in rather constant recurring figurations, which demand, I think, a rhythmically flexible and spontaneous use of rubato to work. It's hard to argue that one is distorting the rhythm when the figurations in question are unvarying. Stretching or expanding too much for one's taste, yes, but not distorting or failing to keep time. I believe my overall tempos are basically consistent, even though within them there are many internal fluctuations, and that this is the spirit of rubato.

Anyway, just my two cents on a very interesting topic you raised.

Joe


Joe, I'll see your bet and now raise you. Here is how I would explain rubato to a class of college freshman taking a required Intro to Music course (and I'm not implying any lack of knowledge on your part, its just that I often like to teach (or in this case argue politely) with analagies and object lessons). Take a baloon and blow it up moderately. Now take a marker and draw 4 beats worth of rhythm on it (any rhythm at all). Now observe how the drawn-rhythm speads out when I squeeze the other side of the baloon: that is rubato. Further, we don't have to squeeze it such that all four beats expand uniformly (this is where the engineer types in the class wish they took art instead). The rhythm, however, stays the same. So rubato affects tempo NOT rhythm (except in the context of said tempo). If you play "rubato" on the first beat of three consecutive measures, or in a figure that is featured repetitively then what you're doing (I would argue) is not rubato, its dissruption of the rhythm. I agree with you that the works in question can and should have rubato, but then what work shouldn't? It would be unbearable to hear almost any music played sans rubato (that's Fretalian). Now you've got me very curious as to what you would do with the "Raindrop" prelude.

I'ts good discussing such abstractions.

Sincerely,
Eddy

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:36 pm 
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Hi Eddy,

Interesting analogy, though frankly it seems a bit vague to me (I never was one for applied science :P ). I'll zero in on the primary musical statement:

Quote:
So rubato affects tempo NOT rhythm (except in the context of said tempo). If you play "rubato" on the first beat of three consecutive measures, or in a figure that is featured repetitively then what you're doing (I would argue) is not rubato, its dissruption of the rhythm.


Again, I don't think this is quite right, or at least an oversimplification. The rhythm with a uniform pattern is not really being substantivelyaltered because its internal pulse is consistent and the same and you can't completely alter that when applying rubato, just change its internal consistency. It's different than playing an entirely different rhythm that indeed would result from one's negligence in keeping time. The end of the exposition of the late Haydn E-flat Major sonata is one example that popped into my head; I've heard several professional pianists incorrectly play the last two shakes as rests followed by sixteenths rather than eighths, which mathematically and unambiguously alters the duration of the measure. That, in other words, is a completely different rhythm. You're correct in saying that the effect of rubato is one of overall tempo, but in altering that, one cannot help but make slight to moderate alterations in the rhythm of a consistent figuration, for indeed even if we mechanically follow the traditional definition of the term, the speedings up and slowings down do just that to both the tempo and the rhythm. In other words, tempo and rhythm are inextricably linked and rubato by necessity affects both (which is why your "except in the context of said tempo" doesn't really make sense to me -- because rubato always affects both tempo and rhythm to some degree, however small). The notion of whether you find the rubato repetitive is, I think, irrelevant. Speedings up and slowings down that occur repetitively change the tempo, and internal rhythm to some degree, the same mathematical amount as speedings up and slowings down that occur with greater variation (assuming we could replicate the same amount of change in both places in the passage). You can argue that you don't find it aesthetically pleasing or that you would want to hear it applied in a different way, but "rhythmic freedom" is in fact part of the universally accepted meaning of the term.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:05 pm 
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Hi David,

Thanks for listening and for the compliments and comments.

Quote:
I believe you can more prominently etch with the RH thumb the inner scalar line, G, A, B, C and C#.


Yes, I would like to make the thumb slightly more prominent throughout.

Quote:
In measure 17, I suggest that you maintain forward motion in tempo. Then when you play the slentando in measure 18, it will occur as written and will be much more differentiated, meaningful and effective.


Interesting, although my score shows the slentando in measure 17, not 18.

Quote:
You've made an "emendation" to the score in measure 17 by playing the B octave one octave lower than written with a fairly big crash as well. The problem as I hear it is that the effect is simply too much given the character and context of the rest of the piece.


I'm actually surprised you're the first person to mention this. I thought I would be flayed by the purists out there :P I don't know, I guess after playing this piece for years, I would say that the regular octave doesn't do it for me any more. I think the low octave provides much more dramatic fire at the climax (it's an idea I admittedly stole from Cortot).

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:37 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Hi Eddy,

Interesting analogy, though frankly it seems a bit vague to me (I never was one for applied science :P ). I'll zero in on the primary musical statement:

Quote:
So rubato affects tempo NOT rhythm (except in the context of said tempo). If you play "rubato" on the first beat of three consecutive measures, or in a figure that is featured repetitively then what you're doing (I would argue) is not rubato, its dissruption of the rhythm.


Again, I don't think this is quite right, or at least an oversimplification. The rhythm with a uniform pattern is not really being substantivelyaltered because its internal pulse is consistent and the same and you can't completely alter that when applying rubato, just change its internal consistency. It's different than playing an entirely different rhythm that indeed would result from one's negligence in keeping time. The end of the exposition of the late Haydn E-flat Major sonata is one example that popped into my head; I've heard several professional pianists incorrectly play the last two shakes as rests followed by sixteenths rather than eighths, which mathematically and unambiguously alters the duration of the measure. That, in other words, is a completely different rhythm. You're correct in saying that the effect of rubato is one of overall tempo, but in altering that, one cannot help but make slight to moderate alterations in the rhythm of a consistent figuration, for indeed even if we mechanically follow the traditional definition of the term, the speedings up and slowings down do just that to both the tempo and the rhythm. In other words, tempo and rhythm are inextricably linked and rubato by necessity affects both (which is why your "except in the context of said tempo" doesn't really make sense to me -- because rubato always affects both tempo and rhythm to some degree, however small). The notion of whether you find the rubato repetitive is, I think, irrelevant. Speedings up and slowings down that occur repetitively change the tempo, and internal rhythm to some degree, the same mathematical amount as speedings up and slowings down that occur with greater variation (assuming we could replicate the same amount of change in both places in the passage). You can argue that you don't find it aesthetically pleasing or that you would want to hear it applied in a different way, but "rhythmic freedom" is in fact part of the universally accepted meaning of the term.

Joe

Joe, specifically, what precisely is the musical justification in your rendition of the Op.28 no.4 for hurring only the second half of the first beat (3rd and 4th 8th-notes in cut-time) in the first four measures? Except for those four isolated pulses, your interprestation is very nice. But given that there is nothing of interest on those four selected time-keeping pulses (no harmonic change, no melodic change, no dynamic change) its hard to see what the purpose of rubato is on such "empty" pulses. In fact what happens is that you draw attention to the up-beat of beat one repeatedly. Why 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & , etc. when the work is structured: & 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1, etc.?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:06 pm 
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Quote:
Joe, specifically, what precisely is the musical justification in your rendition of the Op.28 no.4 for hurring only the second half of the first beat (3rd and 4th 8th-notes in cut-time) in the first four measures? Except for those four isolated pulses, your interprestation is very nice. But given that there is nothing of interest on those four selected time-keeping pulses (no harmonic change, no melodic change, no dynamic change) its hard to see what the purpose of rubato is on such "empty" pulses. In fact what happens is that you draw attention to the up-beat of beat one repeatedly. Why 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & , etc. when the work is structured: & 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1, etc.?


I don't have a justification, nor should I need to have one, any more than most things about a performance are really explainable. In looking at Wikipedia (not the best source I know, but I don't have a musical dictionary handy), I see nothing about rubato having to accompany a "harmonic, melodic, or dynamic change." It can occur within a phrase, regardless of where that is. To be honest, these are all pieces I've played for many years, and because preludes 4 and 6 have no to little technical difficulties, I confess I didn't practice them much before I recorded them. Not so numbers 3 and 5, which I worked pretty hard on just to get in my fingers again (i.e., since I have so little time to practice, sometimes I pull a bit of triage). Of course now, as I generally do when people make a significant objection to something, I will go back and experiment more, see to what extent I agree with the criticism, and probably do something very different. Such is the nature of performing, but I like to try to be as spontaneous as I can. If one tries to plan rubato, the effect will be deadwood as it often is in so many performances to my ears nowadays.

I must also say that I personally find this kind of hyperanalysis a bit of a bore that in any event would result in only marginal improvement in an overall performance. It's the reason I don't delight in pointing out a note mistake or spending my time craning my eyes for an infaithfulness to the score. It's the big picture that matters. And IMO rubato is one of the most tenuous aspects of a performance one could possibly pick to analyze.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:38 pm 
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Hi Joe,

I like the Paderewski Edition for playing the preludes, but just now looked in the Schirmer edited by Joseffy (one of the finest editors of all time). There the slentando does occur in measure 17, unlike the Paderewski. So I guess this is just one more of those many "edition moments" in Chopin. :lol: And there is no urtext edition that will settle this, as most pianists agree that at this moment there is still no true and definitive urtext for Chopin's works, despite the scholarly efforts of Henle and others. A major part of the problem was Chopin himself. Unlike Liszt who went over his publisher's proofs with a fine tooth comb, Chopin was very lax in that regard. Plus there are his unpublished changes noted in his performances, as well as his pencil markings in his students' scores--i.e., Klindworth, Mikuli, etc.--that raise more questions than answers. Were they corrections of printing errors or impromptu revisions? Who knows? Well, I guess it provides more variety in performances anyway!

David

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Last edited by Rachfan on Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:22 pm 
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Quote:
It's the reason I don't delight in pointing out a note mistake or spending my time craning my eyes for an infaithfulness to the score.

Joe, I totally agree with you here.

I have found a better voice (I believe) for the distnction I have tried to make about rubato being fundamentally about tempo, rather than rhythm, and that it's excess results in rhythmic distortion. Here are the words of Carl Mikuli, from the first paragraph of his introduction to all his Schirmer edition of the Chopin works:

"According to a tradition -- and, be it said, an erroneous one -- Chopin's playing was like that of one dreaming rather than awake -- scarcely audible in its continual pianissimos and una cordas, with feebly develped technique and quite lacking in confidence, or at least indistinct, and distorted out of all rhythmic form by an incessant tempo rubato! ... " [bold added by me] I hope this gets my point across; I don't think I can say it any better or more convincingly.

Regards,
Eddy

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:20 am 
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But then there's the other story about Chopin playing his own mazurkas in 4/4 time (sorry, can't remember the source)... Without recordings from that era, we'll never really know.

Sorry to come in late on this conversation. A couple of times I've read a post with interest, decided to think a while before replying, and found that things had moved on.

The pseudoscience that has grown up around rubato does get ridiculous sometimes. If we start trying to give precise definitions of "tempo" and "rhythm", we'll soon find that the two can never be entirely separated. We can analyse as much as we like, but in the end it still comes down to a matter of taste.

One ingredient that hasn't yet been mentioned: in slow pieces I think there's a danger of using excessive rubato to hide the fact that the pianist doesn't know any other way of making the piece sound expressive. The better your mastery of tone quality and pedalling, the less you'll be inclined to do "eccentric" things to the tempo/rhythm (although you still want a certain amount of flexibility).

Having said that, I did enjoy listening to Joe's performance of those preludes. The rubato doesn't entirely convince me, but I can see what it's aiming at, and it's good to hear something a little different.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:31 am 
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hanysz wrote:
But then there's the other story about Chopin playing his own mazurkas in 4/4 time (sorry, can't remember the source)...


Charles Halle. Additionally Meyerbeer told Chopin he was playing (another mazurka) in 2/4.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:19 am 
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hanysz wrote:
The pseudoscience that has grown up around rubato does get ridiculous sometimes. If we start trying to give precise definitions of "tempo" and "rhythm", we'll soon find that the two can never be entirely separated. We can analyse as much as we like, but in the end it still comes down to a matter of taste.

Absolutely agreed. I guess the same could be about other aspects of playing. It can't help the music to over-analyse.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:34 am 
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Hi David,

Quote:
I like the Paderewski Edition for playing the preludes, but just now looked in the Schirmer edited by Joseffy (one of the finest editors of all time). There the slentando does occur in measure 17, unlike the Paderewski.


Interesting that these differ. Maybe Chopin himself couldn't decide :lol: I actually use the Dover version of the Mikuli for the preludes and etudes. Dover seems to split between Paderewski and Mikuli. I think the ballades, impromptus, and sonatas are Paderewski, while the nocturnes and polonaises are Mikuli, for example. Even though the Paderewski seems to be universally hailed as the "authoritative" editions, my slight preference might be for the Mikuli. Mikuli being one of Chopin's best students (too bad Carl Filtsch died so young), he seems to be the appointed scribe who ensured that the master's markings were set down. I especially like the fingerings in Mikuli, finding them more natural than the Paderewski in general (a notable example is the B-flat minor, number 16).

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:08 am 
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Hi Everyone,

Just a few comments on rubato in general: In the Romantic and lyrical piano literature in particular, rubato becomes a sine qua non in performance. Rubato, firstly, has to comport with the mood of a piece. Once that requirement has been met, then rubato becomes mostly a matter of degree in my opinion. By nature it must be more the exception than the rule in order to achieve an improvisatory effect in expressive piano playing, while maintaining a sense of perspective and proportion relative to underlying structure. Thus, it has to be applied in good taste to maintain that balance. In other words, rubato should never dominate or displace structure in the broader picture. For once rubato becomes excessive, structure inevitably erodes into a state of vagueness. That indicates that one's pianism has become idiosyncratic, mannered, or exaggerated to the detriment of both the music and the composer. There is no one objective, indisputable, unshakable, or immutable measurement that creates a universal boundary line where musicianship crosses over into idiosyncratic performance. Rather it all comes down to the pianist exercising good judgment in performance so as to be convincing.

This is simply my own subjective thinking about the nature of rubato that I use to guide rubato in my own playing. Others may disagree. It's a delicate matter, and everyone has to make their own choices.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:48 am 
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Rachfan wrote:
By nature it must be more the exception than the rule [snip]

That is very true. You sometimes hear players who continuously distort the music by not playing any two bars, in the same rhythm and tempo. Rubato must indeed be applied judiciously or it will become a bad habit.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:14 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Rachfan wrote:
By nature it must be more the exception than the rule [snip]

That is very true. You sometimes hear players who continuously distort the music by not playing any two bars, in the same rhythm and tempo. Rubato must indeed be applied judiciously or it will become a bad habit.


Sort of like the way pop singers sing these days. Horrible...they hardly stay on the melody...I hate that!

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:45 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Sort of like the way pop singers sing these days. Horrible...they hardly stay on the melody...I hate that!

Pop singers these days usually don't have much of a melody to stay on :P

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