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 Post subject: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:37 pm 
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Is it just me or have some of the great pianists (Ax, Schiff) over-analyzed the music of Beethoven and other composers? I am listening to the BBC lectures that Schiff recorded on all of the Beethoven Sonatas, and while he plays the correct keys, I think he is light on passion. The music has become sterile after so much analysis (he is to be commended on his research nonetheless). The historical information he imparts to the students is invaluable, but somehow the music has "died".
I started to review Emmanuel Ax's Master Class on one of these pieces, and it seems he is micromanaging the performer. The nuances he asks the pianist to perform are scarcely noticeable, even by a trained ear.
Am I alone in this conclusion? If I am correct, Schiff, at the least, does Beethoven a disservice in that his passion (even his forte) seems cool to me, and doesn't represent the composer in the way intended.
Thanks for your opinions.
:?

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:31 pm 
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I would not try and answer the question on master classes because I sure they can differ as do day and night. And I've never had one.

But I agree that over-analyzing and dissecting every bar of music can be counter-productive, and make that you can't see the forest for the trees, and worse, result in sterile, pedantic, and calculated performances, devoid of any personality. There are some who believe that you must know the 'meaning' of each and every note before you can play a piece well. I'd never get a recording done if I had to do that :D
This is of course not to negate the value of analysis. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Just my 2 cents :)

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 6:27 am 
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Chris, I think we agree on this. What prompted my post was the realization that phrasing and voicing can be expressed in many subtle, different ways, even over the same passages, and that those different voicings (polyphony, I think it is called) can make the music say something unique each time.
I think Josef Hoffman was described as performing in that manner, with beautiful results for the audience. This fact gave rise to the idea that, in order to determine which voicing was most appropriate in a passage, the entire composition had to be considered. The composition is an idea, and the phrases within it expand on the idea and emphasize certain aspects or characteristics of the composition.
Similar perhaps, to reciting poetry, where the emphasis on phrasing can alter the message sent.
I am aware of how important the score is, and it is to be relied upon when in doubt, or as an overall guide through a composition, but each passage within the composition must live. It must recreate life to some extent. The life of the composer, hopefully, if not, then the performer's life.
So, in the end, the score is important, yes, but the sound that is produced can guide a performer to further "interpret" the composition in dramatic or subtle ways. The sound can deliver the thoughts of the composer, and the performer can emphasize parts of those thoughts as he/she likes.

Thank you for letting me type this to a group that would understand it. There aren't many musicians around here.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:00 am 
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markfresa wrote:
I started to review Emmanuel Ax's Master Class on one of these pieces, and it seems he is micromanaging the performer. The nuances he asks the pianist to perform are scarcely noticeable, even by a trained ear.


As my teacher used to say: "The difference between good and great is the same as between great and immortal. And this difference is... very little."
But without knowing the context of your question it is very hard to say anything, or give more or less intelligent opinion.

Best, M


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:52 am 
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Obviously there are many kinds of Master classes, like there are many kinds of lectures / lessons.

Usually when one attends a MC, he already knows the piece and has surpassed most of it technical difficulties, so their main purpose is to help the student so that he can construct a better performance of the work.
You get hear to other performers of a close level trying to perform the exact same work, while conveying their own interpretation. Often, they exagerate this, and it is extremely beneficial for you ; it is especially obvious with secondary voices, I can't count the times when I've heard notes strung together in a way I had not even fathomed. Would I play it like that ? Most of the time, not. They wouldn't dare either in a concert hall. But it gives an insight on a possibility of the work.
You also have the attention of an excellent musician that will either try to understand your interpretation, or try to make you understand the validity of his own, and most of the time his focus is on building a coherent whole. Every piece is a Liszt sonata.

You main criticism, Markfresa, seems to be that all this "analyzing" is detrimental to the spontaneity, the passion, the liveliness of the music. Sure, when I'm asked to balance several melodic lines in a way that is totally not obvious to me, it often gets quite akward and cold ; then I practice. Spontaneity and passion in piano is, in my humble opinion, mostly an illusion, because it always results from hard work. You talk about poetry, and since I graduated in that field, I can safely say it is the exact same problem ; for instance, a poet like Verlaine often seem disarmingly simple, but if you look closely, it is the result of an elaborate and often extremely intricate work on rhythm. Another French poet, Supervielle, wrote that simplicity is often the hardest to achieve.
What you must take from a MC most of the time aren't the commentaries for themselves ; "emphasize this note", "play this louder", etc. It's the intention the master is trying to convey through these comments. If you don't understand that intention, the comments for themselves are moot.

I've been playing the first Rachmaninov sonata for fun lately, and though I know the notes and can play it at decent speed, it's horrible. There is no coherence, no consistency (the polyphony is amazing, but not in a direct sense like you'd see in a Bach work. You often can't say if it's just harmonic, or if you're facing some really insidious counterpoint) ; a MC could help me knit it all together in a real performance. Well, most likely a year worth of MCs in my case...

Attending other's MCs, well, that's a little bit different. Most of the time the students are way more proficient than I am (students a few grades higher in performing, often top students too), so I don't really understand. And if you think of a MC as "just another performance, just with more people", obviously it's kind of bad. I mean, why are they stopping all the time ?


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2010 12:38 am 
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Regarding analysis:

When I'm preparing a piece, I always start by studying the score away from the piano, examining it and conducting not exhaustive, but sufficient analysis--understanding the form, the basic structure, composer's directions, textures, tonal centers, positioning of the melody, phrasing, strategic harmonies, voicing, voice leading, layering of sonorities, devices of interest such as scalar passages, dynamics, agogics, nuances, technical demands, tentative fingerings, etc.

However, I also believe that whether using an urtext edition or not, the artist should allow his or her personality to imbue the performance within reasonable boundaries to enable the rendition to generally comport with performance practices, but to reflect some individuality too. When performing obscure or neglected repertoire where the performance practices are unknown or lost, this means not just re-creating the music, but co-creating it with the composer.

Finally, I also recognize that sometimes what the composer truly wants is not explicit in the notation per se, but lies instead "between the lines" of the music. Once the pianist has the gist of the composer's intent, he or she must then conjure the appropriate imagery to actualize and realize that intent. There is no "analysis" involved, rather, it's subjective--it has to come from the psyche and the heart.

David

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 12:05 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
Regarding analysis:

When I'm preparing a piece, I always start by studying the score away from the piano, examining it and conducting not exhaustive, but sufficient analysis--understanding the form, the basic structure, composer's directions, textures, tonal centers, positioning of the melody, phrasing, strategic harmonies, voicing, voice leading, layering of sonorities, devices of interest such as scalar passages, dynamics, agogics, nuances, technical demands, tentative fingerings, etc.

However, I also believe that whether using an urtext edition or not, the artist should allow his or her personality to imbue the performance within reasonable boundaries to enable the rendition to generally comport with performance practices, but to reflect some individuality too. When performing obscure or neglected repertoire where the performance practices are unknown or lost, this means not just re-creating the music, but co-creating it with the composer.

Finally, I also recognize that sometimes what the composer truly wants is not explicit in the notation per se, but lies instead "between the lines" of the music. Once the pianist has the gist of the composer's intent, he or she must then conjure the appropriate imagery to actualize and realize that intent. There is no "analysis" involved, rather, it's subjective--it has to come from the psyche and the heart.

David


How far can one go before changing the intent of the composer? While I don't like it when a teacher tells me not to go that far, I also begin to understand where boundaries exist.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:07 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:
Rachfan wrote:
Regarding analysis:

When I'm preparing a piece, I always start by studying the score away from the piano, examining it and conducting not exhaustive, but sufficient analysis--understanding the form, the basic structure, composer's directions, textures, tonal centers, positioning of the melody, phrasing, strategic harmonies, voicing, voice leading, layering of sonorities, devices of interest such as scalar passages, dynamics, agogics, nuances, technical demands, tentative fingerings, etc.

However, I also believe that whether using an urtext edition or not, the artist should allow his or her personality to imbue the performance within reasonable boundaries to enable the rendition to generally comport with performance practices, but to reflect some individuality too. When performing obscure or neglected repertoire where the performance practices are unknown or lost, this means not just re-creating the music, but co-creating it with the composer.

Finally, I also recognize that sometimes what the composer truly wants is not explicit in the notation per se, but lies instead "between the lines" of the music. Once the pianist has the gist of the composer's intent, he or she must then conjure the appropriate imagery to actualize and realize that intent. There is no "analysis" involved, rather, it's subjective--it has to come from the psyche and the heart.

David


How far can one go before changing the intent of the composer? While I don't like it when a teacher tells me not to go that far, I also begin to understand where boundaries exist.

A principle that I exercise regarding the boundary is that of reciprocity. If a perfectly capable musician were to take dictation of the work I am performing, he or she must come up with the score that the composer has written. As an example, I am currently preparing several preludes from Op.23 of Rachmaninoff, including No.6 in E-Flat major, and have noted that almost every recording I have ever heard takes the last arpeggiated chord sooooo slowly, that the rhythm is entirely distorted (two 8th notes followed by a dotted-half-note chord). The chord is on beat 2, and should not be extended IMO by arpeggiation into eternity ending somewhere in the vicinity of the downbeat of the next measure. As slow as you want to make it, it still needs to be 1 & 2. Done, finito. Otherwise, an auditor will not realize that the score says it finishes on the UPbeat, not the downbeat. Thus reciprocity. :)

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:26 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
Regarding analysis:


A principle that I exercise regarding the boundary is that of reciprocity. If a perfectly capable musician were to take dictation of the work I am performing, he or she must come up with the score that the composer has written. As an example, I am currently preparing several preludes from Op.23 of Rachmaninoff, including No.6 in E-Flat major, and have noted that almost every recording I have ever heard takes the last arpeggiated chord sooooo slowly, that the rhythm is entirely distorted (two 8th notes followed by a dotted-half-note chord). The chord is on beat 2, and should not be extended IMO by arpeggiation into eternity ending somewhere in the vicinity of the downbeat of the next measure. As slow as you want to make it, it still needs to be 1 & 2. Done, finito. Otherwise, an auditor will not realize that the score says it finishes on the UPbeat, not the downbeat. Thus reciprocity. :)



Is the purpose of making music so that someone can "dictate and transcribe" it back on paper perfectly to the original manuscript or it is to take the musical idea on the paper and place it (by pressing the keys of the piano in the proper order) in the minds of those listening?

Yes, the music is on the paper... but I hear 10 pianists and I hear 10 different interpretations.... indicating to me that what is on the manuscript is there (to some extent) as a 'guideline' for that musical idea... and unless one is lucky enough to interpret that idea to the composer (like Horowitz did with Rachmaninoff on numerous occasions).. one really never knows for sure.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:05 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:
musical-md wrote:
Regarding analysis:


A principle that I exercise regarding the boundary is that of reciprocity. If a perfectly capable musician were to take dictation of the work I am performing, he or she must come up with the score that the composer has written. As an example, I am currently preparing several preludes from Op.23 of Rachmaninoff, including No.6 in E-Flat major, and have noted that almost every recording I have ever heard takes the last arpeggiated chord sooooo slowly, that the rhythm is entirely distorted (two 8th notes followed by a dotted-half-note chord). The chord is on beat 2, and should not be extended IMO by arpeggiation into eternity ending somewhere in the vicinity of the downbeat of the next measure. As slow as you want to make it, it still needs to be 1 & 2. Done, finito. Otherwise, an auditor will not realize that the score says it finishes on the UPbeat, not the downbeat. Thus reciprocity. :)



Is the purpose of making music so that someone can "dictate and transcribe" it back on paper perfectly to the original manuscript or it is to take the musical idea on the paper and place it (by pressing the keys of the piano in the proper order) in the minds of those listening?

Yes, the music is on the paper... but I hear 10 pianists and I hear 10 different interpretations.... indicating to me that what is on the manuscript is there (to some extent) as a 'guideline' for that musical idea... and unless one is lucky enough to interpret that idea to the composer (like Horowitz did with Rachmaninoff on numerous occasions).. one really never knows for sure.

In my opinion, nothing that I wrote contradicts you. The music is behind the paper score, but we are to interpret the composer's ideas not invent new ones, as I give in my example above: that work ends on the second beat. To play it as if it ends at the start of a next measure is to supply one's own idea, not one's own interpretation. IMO. (Here we are using "idea" to mean what the composer wants, and "interpretation" to mean what the the performer wants.) Also, there are two "music making." One is the creation by composing. The second is the re-creation by interpretive performance. Here, I am speaking as a performer, but as one who has also composed. Anyway, I just wanted to share my opinion on the limits of interpretation being constrained by the principle of reciprocity. Believe me, there is plenty of interpretive freedom and novelty in such. :)

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:15 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
In my opinion, nothing that I wrote contradicts you. The music is behind the paper score, but we are to interpret the composer's ideas not invent new ones, as I give in my example above: that work ends on the second beat. To play it as if it ends at the start of a next measure is to supply one's own idea, not one's own interpretation. IMO. (Here we are using "idea" to mean what the composer wants, and "interpretation" to mean what the the performer wants.) Also, there are two "music making." One is the creation by composing. The second is the re-creation by interpretive performance. Here, I am speaking as a performer, but as one who has also composed. Anyway, I just wanted to share my opinion on the limits of interpretation being constrained by the principle of reciprocity. Believe me, there is plenty of interpretive freedom and novelty in such. :)


My purpose was to discuss this issue not try to contradict. I do not feel that I have ever had the ability to reproduce completely a composer's manuscript after listening to a performance. This may be because I am not a musical professional, but also because of the limitations in the ability of a composer to apply the real musical intent to paper.

That is just another way to convey my point, that there is a musical idea that is placed on the paper by the composer which by the limitations inherent in that alone, allows much musical creativity in interpretation.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:18 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:
musical-md wrote:
In my opinion, nothing that I wrote contradicts you. The music is behind the paper score, but we are to interpret the composer's ideas not invent new ones, as I give in my example above: that work ends on the second beat. To play it as if it ends at the start of a next measure is to supply one's own idea, not one's own interpretation. IMO. (Here we are using "idea" to mean what the composer wants, and "interpretation" to mean what the the performer wants.) Also, there are two "music making." One is the creation by composing. The second is the re-creation by interpretive performance. Here, I am speaking as a performer, but as one who has also composed. Anyway, I just wanted to share my opinion on the limits of interpretation being constrained by the principle of reciprocity. Believe me, there is plenty of interpretive freedom and novelty in such. :)


My purpose was to discuss this issue not try to contradict. I do not feel that I have ever had the ability to reproduce completely a composer's manuscript after listening to a performance. This may be because I am not a musical professional, but also because of the limitations in the ability of a composer to apply the real musical intent to paper.

That is just another way to convey my point, that there is a musical idea that is placed on the paper by the composer which by the limitations inherent in that alone, allows much musical creativity in interpretation.


We agree entirely! Music is an immediately-perishable and transcendant art that is encoded by a composer on paper in a limited way. The score is not the music; "music," rather, is that that exists behind or through the score in the ephemeral. I too could never transcribe a work as an auditor, but using my Rachmaninoff example above, I could play/interpret it many ways, but I think only a few would render you to catch the rhythm as the score indicates. So if I were doing a Master Class and the performer played the last measure of the specified prelude (Op.23, No.6) like most do, after the congratulatory remarks, etc., then I would turn to the musicians in the audience and ask them, "Can anyone tell me what beat of the measure they percieve as the last sound ocurring upon? Is it an arpeggiated chord or an arpeggio? If you know the work, then please no comment." Then I would have to turn to the performer and say, "This point you have not conveyed clearly, for there is no agreement from your performance when the last sound is sounded. If it is true, that should Rachmaninoff had wished it the way you played it that he could have written it that way, and it is, then we have to ask, 'What is meant by an arpeggiated dotted-half note chord occurring on beat 2'?" You see where I am going with this. I believe I can bend the rhythm but not distort it. The difficult part is knowing how much is too much. For me it is this principle of reciprocity. It is very similar to using an online translator. If I wish to test how accurately my English text has been translated to Russian, I take the Russian text and see how it is translated back into English. If it matches, it is a good translation (read: interpretation). By the way, I do enjoy this discussion emensely. I thank you for the exchange.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:16 pm 
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Not intending to barge into this lofty discussion, but it seems strange to make a big meal about in what 'rhythm' the last bar of this prelude should be played. Yes one could easily overdo the ritenuto, which not indicated until beat 4 of the preceding bar, and the stretching out of the final arpeggio. But is there any point in wanting to have the top note of the arpeggio fall exactly on beat two of the bar ? Does it matter at all, except for wanting to be 'correct' ? Does rhythm come into play at all in such a deliciously yearning closing bar where you are already applying ritenuto ? To play it 'as written' would require you to take that arpeggio lightning fast. It would perhaps be a novelty, but sound positively weird. Maybe a nice idea to devote a masterclass to this, but none of the masters I heard on Youtube or elsewhere plays it like you propose, Eddy. Or am I, not being a composer, just completely missing the point ?

Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, FWIW.......

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:13 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Not intending to barge into this lofty discussion, but it seems strange to make a big meal about in what 'rhythm' the last bar of this prelude should be played. Yes one could easily overdo the ritenuto, which not indicated until beat 4 of the preceding bar, and the stretching out of the final arpeggio. But is there any point in wanting to have the top note of the arpeggio fall exactly on beat two of the bar ? Does it matter at all, except for wanting to be 'correct' ? Does rhythm come into play at all in such a deliciously yearning closing bar where you are already applying ritenuto ? To play it 'as written' would require you to take that arpeggio lightning fast. It would perhaps be a novelty, but sound positively weird. Maybe a nice idea to devote a masterclass to this, but none of the masters I heard on Youtube or elsewhere plays it like you propose, Eddy. Or am I, not being a composer, just completely missing the point ?

Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, FWIW.......


I don't mean to beat to death the last bar of said prelude and I'm not out on a mission to change the world's interpretation of it, I assure you. It was just a convenient example for illustration. (It would be interesting to hear it performed by Rachmaninoff himself: I don't know if that exists however.) As far as your participation, the more the merrier! :D Here's another example: imagine the leap after a 5/8 bar to the next measure (a 6/8 bar) is a bit difficult at tempo, and many give a little extra time to it. Bingo, now you may have two 6/8 bars! That should be avoided like the plague. Now if you want to add some poco rit to the section overall in order to maneuver the difficulty, that is within reason as long as it's not overboard, but the assymetry must be appreciable. I don't believe in ignoring the complexity of the music in order to maintain some artificial mechanical rendition, like an all-terrain vehicle going from pavement-to-dirt without any interruption in it's rhythm: no way! In fact, the more interesting the details, the slower the tempo is likely to be. No artist would pain-stakingly paint beautiful sidewalk art, and then say it should be viewed from altitude in an airplane. No, such a work would have no small detail, otherwise it would be waisted, and the ideas would be large. As an example here is the 1st mouvement of the Beethoven Op.27, No.2 (Moonlight). Do you know that you can buy it with a time signature of 4/4? But that's not what Beethoven wrote. The urtext is in 2/2. So it is not every 1/4 note (triplet) that is important, but rather every half-note. When one looks at that mouvement from a bit of "altitude" one learns not to give importance to the triplets (as so many interpretors do), but rather to subdue them to the larger features of the slower melody. When one tries to manage the decay of the slow melody's sustained notes, one begins to appreciate the tempo that that mouvement needs to go. (IMO. I see your 2 cents, and raise you 2 cents :lol:)

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:29 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Not intending to barge into this lofty discussion, but it seems strange to make a big meal about in what 'rhythm' the last bar of this prelude should be played. Yes one could easily overdo the ritenuto, which not indicated until beat 4 of the preceding bar, and the stretching out of the final arpeggio. But is there any point in wanting to have the top note of the arpeggio fall exactly on beat two of the bar ? Does it matter at all, except for wanting to be 'correct' ? Does rhythm come into play at all in such a deliciously yearning closing bar where you are already applying ritenuto ? To play it 'as written' would require you to take that arpeggio lightning fast. It would perhaps be a novelty, but sound positively weird. Maybe a nice idea to devote a masterclass to this, but none of the masters I heard on Youtube or elsewhere plays it like you propose, Eddy. Or am I, not being a composer, just completely missing the point ?

Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, FWIW.......



Lofty discussion? Please.. I could never reach that level of frivolity... I am just a man who has played the piano for over 50 years in peace and quiet of my own home. Nothing lofty about that.

I cannot comment on the Op.23 No. 6 because I have not played it. However, I do know what rubato is and that very difficult to transcribe on paper....


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:31 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:

I cannot comment on the Op.23 No. 6 because I have not played it. However, I do know what rubato is and that very difficult to transcribe on paper....

Ah yes, rubato. I may be very wrong, but I don't think I have ever seen that for the last [two] measure[s] of a piece, rather: ritardando, ritenuto, morendo, a niete, smorzando, etc. However, the important question here is, "Is such direction for individual notes regardless of their rhythmic value, or for the pulse within which the notes are organized?" I believe the second. They are about the tempo, not the rhythm. [Only 43 years for me. :cry: ]

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:13 am 
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musical-md wrote:
Phillip Johns wrote:

I cannot comment on the Op.23 No. 6 because I have not played it. However, I do know what rubato is and that very difficult to transcribe on paper....

Ah yes, rubato. I may be very wrong, but I don't think I have ever seen that for the last [two] measure[s] of a piece, rather: ritardando, ritenuto, morendo, a niete, smorzando, etc. However, the important question here is, "Is such direction for individual notes regardless of their rhythmic value, or for the pulse within which the notes are organized?" I believe the second. They are about the tempo, not the rhythm. [Only 43 years for me. :cry: ]



Sorry, I was not talking about that piece. I should have made that clear.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:19 am 
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Hi Eddy,

Regarding the last measure of the Rachmaninoff Prelude, Op. 23, No. 6, the ritardando in the previous measure needs to carry through to a noticeable degree into the last arpeggiated chords with a pedal change for that last measure. But where the composer gave short notice of the rit., I don't believe it can be over-expressed. I recorded this prelude (and several others) in 1989, so the recording process was analog. As we get older and look back on earlier recordings, we think of ways we might play the piece differently today. In my case I believe I would take out some of the tautness and allow the music to breathe more freely. Which now makes me think that at some point, I should go back and relearn and re-record those pieces. Anyway, getting back to the last arpeggiated chords, I'm still satisfied with the way I approached them back then. If you'd like to hear how I did it, as one example of the possibilities, here is the link:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.ph ... 904.0.html

Music is always better than words when one is trying to describe an effect.

David

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:40 am 
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Rachfan wrote:
Hi Eddy,

Regarding the last measure of the Rachmaninoff Prelude, Op. 23, No. 6, the ritardando in the previous measure needs to carry through to a noticeable degree into the last arpeggiated chords with a pedal change for that last measure. But where the composer gave short notice of the rit., I don't believe it can be over-expressed. ... Anyway, getting back to the last arpeggiated chords, I'm still satisfied with the way I approached them back then. If you'd like to hear how I did it, as one example of the possibilities, here is the link:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.ph ... 904.0.html

Music is always better than words when one is trying to describe an effect.

David


David, I agree with the way you approached the last chord (and I found at least 2 famous pianists on You Tube who perform it as an arpeggiated-chord instead of a slowly-rising arpeggio: Sorel and ?(I forgot)). I agree that the ritardando should continue in the last bar, but the rhythm should be appreciable, and I believe yours was. If you rework this wonderful piece, I would recommend a greater contrast between the hands. When I first started working this piece in late September, I viewed the last half as as secondary in importance because structurally it is a loooooong coda. But I have become MUCH more enamored with the last half the more I have studied the piece.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:41 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:
musical-md wrote:
...A principle that I exercise regarding the boundary is that of reciprocity. If a perfectly capable musician were to take dictation of the work I am performing, he or she must come up with the score that the composer has written...

Is the purpose of making music so that someone can "dictate and transcribe" it back on paper perfectly to the original manuscript or it is to take the musical idea on the paper and place it (by pressing the keys of the piano in the proper order) in the minds of those listening?


These are deep questions. Of course the purpose has nothing to do with dictation. Yet Eddy's notion of reciprocity makes a valuable point.

The purpose I think is to communicate something to the listeners, to make them feel or think something. What we can debate endlessly is whether we're trying to communicate exactly the composer's intentions, or whether it's legitimate for the performer to do something different. I don't want to get into that here (it deserves a thread of its own), but I hope we can agree that the starting point is to know what the composer wanted. From that beginning, we can then decide whether to be "faithful" or whether to "interpret" the work.

So where does this reciprocity come in? In order to get the notation down on paper, the composer made some choices. We generally assume that those choices are deliberate, not accidental. For instance, if one bar contains a minim (half note) and another bar contains a crotchet (quarter note) followed by a crotchet rest, we assume that the composer wanted those two things to sound different. Since pianists traditionally use the pedal, the precise nature of the difference is debatable; there won't necessarily be a literal crotchet's worth of silence for the rest. But there should be some difference in duration, or maybe articulation or tone, which tells an alert listener that there was a difference of notation. I'm sure we can all think of many more examples of the same principle.

In other words, this thought experiment--imagining our listeners transcribing the music--reminds us that attention to detail is an essential part of artistry.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:34 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
Phillip Johns wrote:
musical-md wrote:
In my opinion, nothing that I wrote contradicts you. The music is behind the paper score, but we are to interpret the composer's ideas not invent new ones, as I give in my example above: that work ends on the second beat. To play it as if it ends at the start of a next measure is to supply one's own idea, not one's own interpretation. IMO. (Here we are using "idea" to mean what the composer wants, and "interpretation" to mean what the the performer wants.) Also, there are two "music making." One is the creation by composing. The second is the re-creation by interpretive performance. Here, I am speaking as a performer, but as one who has also composed. Anyway, I just wanted to share my opinion on the limits of interpretation being constrained by the principle of reciprocity. Believe me, there is plenty of interpretive freedom and novelty in such. :)


My purpose was to discuss this issue not try to contradict. I do not feel that I have ever had the ability to reproduce completely a composer's manuscript after listening to a performance. This may be because I am not a musical professional, but also because of the limitations in the ability of a composer to apply the real musical intent to paper.

That is just another way to convey my point, that there is a musical idea that is placed on the paper by the composer which by the limitations inherent in that alone, allows much musical creativity in interpretation.


We agree entirely! Music is an immediately-perishable and transcendant art that is encoded by a composer on paper in a limited way. The score is not the music; "music," rather, is that that exists behind or through the score in the ephemeral. I too could never transcribe a work as an auditor, but using my Rachmaninoff example above, I could play/interpret it many ways, but I think only a few would render you to catch the rhythm as the score indicates. So if I were doing a Master Class and the performer played the last measure of the specified prelude (Op.23, No.6) like most do, after the congratulatory remarks, etc., then I would turn to the musicians in the audience and ask them, "Can anyone tell me what beat of the measure they percieve as the last sound ocurring upon? Is it an arpeggiated chord or an arpeggio? If you know the work, then please no comment." Then I would have to turn to the performer and say, "This point you have not conveyed clearly, for there is no agreement from your performance when the last sound is sounded. If it is true, that should Rachmaninoff had wished it the way you played it that he could have written it that way, and it is, then we have to ask, 'What is meant by an arpeggiated dotted-half note chord occurring on beat 2'?" You see where I am going with this. I believe I can bend the rhythm but not distort it. The difficult part is knowing how much is too much. For me it is this principle of reciprocity. It is very similar to using an online translator. If I wish to test how accurately my English text has been translated to Russian, I take the Russian text and see how it is translated back into English. If it matches, it is a good translation (read: interpretation). By the way, I do enjoy this discussion emensely. I thank you for the exchange.


I wanted to tell you that as a result of our discussion here, I realize that as a result of my 20 years of playing without a teacher giving me direction, I have strayed off the reservation. Some call it being creative but in a real sense it is actually being lazy.. I am talking about striving to achieve the intentions of the composer. Actually that is much more difficult than being creative.. afterall playing to the intent of the composer requires much more technique and dedication.

I have now engaged piano teacher and I have the honor of re-doing Hanon.... :roll: but I thank you for our little discussion here because it made me realize I need some direction.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:41 pm 
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Phillip Johns wrote:
I wanted to tell you that as a result of our discussion here, I realize that as a result of my 20 years of playing without a teacher giving me direction, I have strayed off the reservation. Some call it being creative but in a real sense it is actually being lazy.. I am talking about striving to achieve the intentions of the composer. Actually that is much more difficult than being creative.. afterall playing to the intent of the composer requires much more technique and dedication.

I have now engaged piano teacher and I have the honor of re-doing Hanon.... but I thank you for our little discussion here because it made me realize I need some direction.

Congratulations! I wish you the best. Keep us informed on how/what things are going. :D

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:00 pm 
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Returning to the OP's question, I do find master classes overrated.

In all master classes I've seen, the guest speaker does little more than tell the pianist how the piece should be played, in other words, impose their own interpretation on the student. This, in my opinion, is useless information unless the student does not know how to think for herself. The only time a master class is helpful is when technique is discussed.


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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:26 pm 
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mauvis sang wrote:
Returning to the OP's question, I do find master classes overrated.

In all master classes I've seen, the guest speaker does little more than tell the pianist how the piece should be played, in other words, impose their own interpretation on the student. This, in my opinion, is useless information unless the student does not know how to think for herself. The only time a master class is helpful is when technique is discussed.

I agree with this 99%, and I've said as much before. I do think it is helpful to discuss interpretation to the point of 'I don't find this performance convincing,' or something like that - not telling the student exactly what should be changed about interpretation unless they appear to desire such advice. I have played Chopin 25/11 for a couple of recent master classes and I found it amusing how both clinicians seemed a little put out that they had no choice but to discuss technique, which most clinicians seem to think is beneath them (either that or they think it impossible to impart such advice in a master class setting, which is silly - even one good bit of advice on technique can be helpful). The second clinician even spent a few minutes drilling my interpretation of the introduction, which was his only real hope to avoid the technique discussion. (By the way, he told me the introduction should be played exactly as written with no rubato whatsoever, because there is no tempo change marked in the score aside from the fermatas. I mean...I don't even...)

Most students play at master classes not because they actually want you to tell them how to interpret a piece, but for other reasons:

1. It is expected for a student to build up a resume of master classes.
2. It is expected for a guest artist to do master classes (especially visiting professors who are recruiting students); the ranks need to be filled, and our teachers will often put us up to it to show off their students.
3. Playing in front of people before a performance is helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:14 am 
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On a couple of occasions I've been to masterclasses where the teacher thought it was their job to teach the audience. The students' performances were merely a starting point for discussion; the teacher tried to find ideas relating to these performances that could be useful to everyone who was present. I find this sort of masterclass both useful and enjoyable. Sadly, it happens very rarely.

All too often a masterclass turns into a short series of private lessons with spectators. This seems like a missed opportunity. I agree that some of the students are playing for the wrong reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: "Master classes" - are they overrated?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:12 pm 
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I find that most master class clinicians will engage the audience about half the time or so, especially if it's a large audience.

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