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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:41 pm 
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Interesting discussion, guys! I was going to add my two cents but keep deleting everything.


Don't be shy, they're probably excellent points, even if you only give us two cents worth of them:P

Quote:
Maybe because I'm a stickler for sticking with the rhythm that's on the page. Also, I don't care for players who push and pull things so much - it gets annoying real fast.


I see your point here, although sometimes it pays to experiment and then you can always go back later and discard or refine upon relistening. A problem I have with the musical establishment these days is the notion that there is ever an ideal performance of a piece, particularly with such a personal issue as rubato. Then it seems as though everyone is listening to everyone else and terrified to try anything new with an aspect like rubato with the overall result that it all starts to sound the same. I think in the end what we ideally want is to hear 50 completely new and individual performances of, e.g., any of the Chopin preludes. That's the interpretive aspect that makes listening to performances interesting.

That said, I agree with you that there are limits and strictures. The key is to find the happy medium of the individual discovering what works for him/her (i.e., what to do with each phrase dynamically, rubato-wise, etc.) without completely distorting the music. And I think it goes without saying that that's extremely difficult.

On that note, I'm still having a devil of a time with it on, as you may remember, preludes 4 and 6 :P The fast ones I have recorded so far still are far from perfect too, but I'm coming to terms with at least some of those interpretively (though the next one on my list, No. 16, still freaking terrifies me :cry: ), but I find these two apparently simple pieces two of the hardest pieces in Chopin's entire oeuvre to get right, at least for my taste. I have yet to hear a performance I'm satisfied with, and I'm sure I'll never be satisfied with mine either. Even Cortot's version that I listened to again recently sounds rather straight-laced, perfunctory, and monotonous to my ears. Ah well, maybe it's just me -- maybe I need to drink more :D . Hopefully I'll at least improve those two somewhat when I re-record them this weekend

Chopin I guess I just find the most difficult of anything to play. Every measure of it is replete with the most wonderful nuances yet at the same time great perils both interpretively and technically for the performer.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:42 pm 
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Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic. It's a matter of taste. Synchronicity is mathematical and absolute in written manuscript, but any tempo deviations via rubato really should involve BOTH hands, and not just one hand. Music is cohesive, not dissociative. The only time that I clearly remember playing a dis-synchronous passage, and have it still sound stylistically appropriate, was in Schubert Impromptu Op. 90/4: The beginning pp passage "can" be played with the low A-flat LH immediately preceding the C-flat RH passage. Try it and see for yourselves. (see attachment)

The golden age of Romantic pianists would do this kind of thing more often. But the argument is passe as tastes and conventions have changed over a 100 years. However, these days, regardless of the temptations to stray from what is written, "dissociating" or dis-synchronous playing is the trait of an amateur and not correct in almost all cases.

As in the aforementioned works of Chopin's Op. 9a, and Op. 28/24, the odd numbered rhythmic subdivisions in the RH against a metric LH accompaniment can be determined in most cases by the melodic importance, or how a passage resolves toward the end. Here is a thread where the Chopin Prelude No. 24 was discussed: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=4420

Re: Rubato?! Your damned if you do, and your damned if you don't. For those who don't use enough of it, their performance is sterile, devoid. For those who use too much, their performance is an emotional blasé mush. We all can hear this. Rubato is like herbs and spices in food - use in trace amounts!

Conclusion:
- Music is cohesive, and not dissociative to the score.
- Synchronicity is mathematical. Fluctuations in tempo (rubato) is subjective and is a matter of taste (or the lack thereof).
- Dis-synchronicity has almost no bearing in music, it's passé at best.
- Ultimately this whole topic is a matter of taste. We/you either like or don't


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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:07 am 
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88man wrote:
Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic.

Perhaps I should change the "diagnosis" to Munchausen's Musical Dissociative Disorder (MMDD) :D

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:00 am 
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richard66 wrote:
Indeed, Monica. Maybe you might listen to some of the Chopin performances on the site. I listened to one of the Prelude in e... I do not believe there were two notes for the left hand that had the same values.
If I was very serious about this rubato thing, then maybe I'd listen again to some PS recordings. But since I have listened to so many, many, many recordings for PS, I don't really feel like listening to any one of them again! I must be burning out or something regarding listening to piano music. I've even given up my series tickets for solo piano concerts at Chicago's Orchestra Hall and instead purchased a series of Chicago Symphony tickets for the upcoming season. Three times as expensive, but will provide much more variety than hearing the same pianists over and over again.

jlr43 wrote:
Don't be shy, they're probably excellent points, even if you only give us two cents worth of them:P
Well, it's Friday night so I'm a little loopy. But okay here goes...
Rubato - Mostly, I don't like to 'know' that I'm hearing it, nor do I want to 'try' playing it. When I know a piece well enough, and if I'm in the right mood, I can make my RH do rubato easily and it's very natural. Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.

Joe wrote:
Chopin I guess I just find the most difficult of anything to play. Every measure of it is replete with the most wonderful nuances yet at the same time great perils both interpretively and technically for the performer.


Agree with you one hundred percent! I've recently changed my mind about the way I (want to) play some mazurkas based on listening to the likes of Friedman. If I re-record any of my own mazurkas, I think they'd sound a lot different.

88man wrote:
Re: Rubato?! Your damned if you do, and your damned if you don't. For those who don't use enough of it, their performance is sterile, devoid. For those who use too much, their performance is an emotional blasé mush. We all can hear this. Rubato is like herbs and spices in food - use in trace amounts!

I like a lot of herbs and spices in my food (except hot pepper). It doesn't seem to do anything to my playing though... :lol: (kidding, George. I know what you mean.. :) )

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:53 am 
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Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:51 am 
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richard66 wrote:
Maybe you might listen to some of the Chopin performances on the site. I listened to one of the Prelude in e... I do not believe there were two notes for the left hand that had the same values.

Ha yes, many people who are unable to keep a steady pulse pass it off as rubato. It is so dangerous to start out with playing Chopin in a so-called romantic manner, without first having learned to play in time. It seems like all beginning pianists want to play Chopin above all. I was no different but have come to see the error of my ways.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:13 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."


As I think about this again, I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that! Also, I am right-handed - but if I were left-handed, I'm not sure I would be able to make my right hand play rubato. But then possibly I would be able to make my left hand do it....You know what I mean? Maybe that's confusing...I think I just confused myself... :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:04 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."


As I think about this again, I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that! Also, I am right-handed - but if I were left-handed, I'm not sure I would be able to make my right hand play rubato. But then possibly I would be able to make my left hand do it....You know what I mean? Maybe that's confusing...I think I just confused myself... :lol:


This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:27 pm 
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Quote:
But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato?


One possible example I can think of is the middle section of Chopin Impromptu No. 3. It's such an expansive and deep melody in the middle register of the piano.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:02 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

I don't think so, because in my mind, tempo means the overall speed of the beats in the piece - the whole piece. If the RH was a faster tempo and the LH a slower tempo, then the RH would finish the piece long before the LH gets to the end, right? So rubato is not related to tempo at all - it's just a matter of altering the length of the RH notes, or changing when you drop down on some notes in certain passages. Maybe you guys already said something like this....?

jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato?


One possible example I can think of is the middle section of Chopin Impromptu No. 3. It's such an expansive and deep melody in the middle register of the piano.


Oh yes - I like that one a lot! Been meaning to put it up on my piano but just haven't gotten around to it. Probably won't for a while either. It's such a sweet piece, though! And really I think it should be an etude.

The middle part is definitely a contender for our left-hand melody-possible-rubato piece. However, I think that the rhythm already makes it automatically sound like you're playing rubato so it should be left as is.

Another piece I just thought of is Gershwin's no. 2 Prelude. It is on my piano right now, but earlier I wasn't thinking about rubato. Regarding the middle section where the LH is playing that cool little jazzy line - in this case, for sure! we wouldn't want our LH to mess around at all with rubato. That would totally ruin the music.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:31 pm 
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Quote:
musical-md wrote:
This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

Pianolady replied:
I don't think so, because in my mind, tempo means the overall speed of the beats in the piece - the whole piece. If the RH was a faster tempo and the LH a slower tempo, then the RH would finish the piece long before the LH gets to the end, right? So rubato is not related to tempo at all - it's just a matter of altering the length of the RH notes, or changing when you drop down on some notes in certain passages. Maybe you guys already said something like this....?
I'm just one bit confused Monica. Does your "I don't think so" mean that you don't see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind of the accompaniment temporarily (not for any extended passages)? Then we are in agreement. But then you cite some music that is good for "melody-rubato," which is back to melody having fluctuation in tempo that the accompaniment does not have. Have you ever tried to play a melody faster or slower than its accompaniment for just short, limited passages? Have you ever heard anyone play in such a manner? I have never heard it (knowingly) and have never tried to execute it. I have also never read anything in a score or a text that recommended it's application in a particular spot, whether piano or orchestral literature. When I think of orchestral works that make use of goodly amounts of rubato, I think of Berlioz and the post-Romantics like Strauss and Mahler, but can't concieve of how such an idea as this thread is about could even be conveyed by the conductor. I really think this notion was born in Chopin's penchant for irregular groupings and their perception by auditors.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 10:39 pm 
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Sorry, Eddy. I'll try explaining my ideas again differently...

I can see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind the accompaniment but it's got nothing to do with tempo. I don't understand when some people call it tempo rubato, because like I said before, it's not the tempo that is changing at all. If you take one measure and you make the RH move ahead of or drag behind the accompaniment, you still have to make it so that both hands get to the 1st beat of the next measure at the same time, so you didn't change any tempo.

And no, those two pieces, Joe's Chopin Impromptu and my Gershwin Prelude are pieces that I was wondering about - whether there is such a piece where the LH may be instructed to play rubato. I can't see that happening, but maybe there is such a piece? That's what I was talking about.

Well....one thing for sure: Rubato is not only hard to play, but hard to talk about! :wink: :)

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:10 pm 
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Monica wrote:
Well....one thing for sure: Rubato is not only hard to play, but hard to talk about! :wink: :)

I find it a lot easier to talk about than to play, but I think that's mostly because my technique is bad. Talking about it helps me learn how to get better, though. (I have learned a great deal from PS about technique over the years.) I know what you mean about 'tempo rubato' but I think I addressed that in the longpost below which I had written before you posted again (sorry for the length...I've been distracted the past week and just got here), and it just so happens to be underneath my response to your other post. In short, what I said is that tempo=time, and rubato=stolen. Time is stolen (or borrowed), but theoretically it all adds up...because, as George said, it's a cohesive whole. With hands-together rubato, the time is stolen by one part of the piece from the other, and this is only reflected in an abstract way, if you happen to have a sense for that sort of thing. With hands-together rubato, the melodic hand steals time in one part of the phrase from another part of the phrase, or perhaps from the next phrase, and the accompaniment hands keeps on trucking because it's all going to add up anyway. In this case, it's less abstract because the accompaniment hand demonstrates the tempo - the fact that it all adds up in the end - in such a way that the listener will most likely be conscious of it.

techneut wrote:
...many people who are unable to keep a steady pulse pass it off as rubato.

Many people use it in the most difficult passages, too. You can see Ashkenazy doing this all the time in his complete Chopin recordings. It's not because he's not technically adept - I don't think I've ever heard anyone play the b-flat minor sonata as fast as he does (not in the complete recordings, but another recording) - but because he spent almost no time on most of the pieces. To the non-pianist, it might even sound musically appropriate...but the pianist (especially the pianist who has played these pieces) knows he's cheating.

Chris wrote:
It is so dangerous to start out with playing Chopin in a so-called romantic manner, without first having learned to play in time. It seems like all beginning pianists want to play Chopin above all. I was no different but have come to see the error of my ways.

A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher. Even his most difficult pieces are 'easy' in the sense that he only wrote what came naturally to his hand. The fact that everything came naturally to him (and the fact that he liked to challenge himself) means that it's still some of the most difficult music for piano, but it's easy to see why most people start with Chopin, and why most young pianists find Bach counterintuitive in comparison.

pianolady wrote:
I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that!

Sure you could, and I think you have. A good example is Chopin 25/7. A totally different but still nice example is 10/12. As I've said before, I hate that one when it's played straight...and yet, it suffers from a loss of pulse. As someone mentioned earlier, it's not as if we're talking about metronomic tempo anyway. A healthy pulse is regular, not metronomic. Without the regular pulse, then syncopations and the like lose their meaning completely, but in the operatic type of melodic (usually RH) writing that Chopin is known for, the accompaniment hand can keep the pulse and still allow much room for melodic freedom, and with that freedom, meaning is only added, rather than lost.

The most important point is that rubato is 'stolen' or 'borrowed' time. One part of the piece steals time from another - or on a smaller scale, one part of the melodic phrase steals time from another part of the phrase, so that it all adds up. Kallberg has talked some about these two types of rubato - the 'hands together' and the 'hands separate' types (in addition to the mazurka type), but generally Chopin preferred that the performer not insert ritardandos or accelerandos unless they were written in the score - the slowing down and speeding up of the hands-together rubato should never venture very far from the regular pulse. As Chopin said, it takes you more or less the same amount of time to play the piece as you would have with the metronome. If you speed up Here, then chances are he wrote the music so that it makes sense to slow down There, etc.

Someone mentioned polyrhythm earlier. I also mentioned this on Rich's nocturne thread in the AR. It's not rubato, but it can serve as an exercise in how to play hands-separate rubato because it teaches independence of the hands. Sometimes polyrhythm breaks up in simple proportions, like 2 against 3, and therefore the pianist generally learns to think of it as an exact science. 3 against 4 is a little bit tricker, and so on. Eventually you have to learn to think by the larger beat that encompasses both sets, and play each hand independently against that beat. I like the TN F minor nocturne for this because rubato is appropriate in it. Chris might say that's because I like to cheat...but I can do 3 against 4 exact. I don't think that is what Chopin is trying to teach people with this etude. I think he is trying to teach people how to play his music the way he played it. If it's contrived, it's not going to be good, but maybe if we make the attempt it will get easier for us as time goes on.

I had this conversation with Alfie in email some time ago, and he provided some recordings of Mikuli's students to demonstrate that this 'school' of piano playing is extinct (as if to say, 'if it ever existed'). In a way, I see what he was getting at - playing with discipline and freedom at the same time is immensely difficult, and I really doubt Mikuli was any good at it. Most agree that Princess Czartoryska and some of the other talented females were most true to their master's style, along with Karl Flitsch (who unfortunately didn't last long). So why should Mikuli's students have carried on the tradition? As was demonstrated in the Chopin etudes thread on the Repertoire forum (?) pianists tend to see piano technique in this way, as a school of thought that must be passed down from teacher to student...but in practice that's probably an unproductive way of looking at it. All of us who play Chopin are students of Chopin. No one living can tell us how he played, and the accounts from the past are only useful to an extent.

88man wrote:
Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic. It's a matter of taste. Synchronicity is mathematical and absolute in written manuscript, but any tempo deviations via rubato really should involve BOTH hands, and not just one hand.

This, I disagree with, mostly because I think the pulse is often broken by this type of rubato. I think people use it often because it is by and far the easiest way to execute rubato in Chopin's music, and Chopin's music sounds awful without it (even the most mechanical of the etudes). But I also think that Chopin's music suffers from a loss of pulse, if not so much as from a lack of rubato.

George wrote:
Music is cohesive, not dissociative.

In general, this is true, but that doesn't meant that dissociative elements cannot be effective within the cohesive whole. Undoubtedly, it depends on the talent and skill of the interpreter...and that of the composer, of course.

George wrote:
The golden age of Romantic pianists would do this kind of thing more often. But the argument is passe as tastes and conventions have changed over a 100 years. However, these days, regardless of the temptations to stray from what is written, "dissociating" or dis-synchronous playing is the trait of an amateur and not correct in almost all cases.

If the music suffers from an amateur class performance, then it's probably not best to judge the value of this type of rubato from this type of performance. By all accounts, Chopin was unparalleled in his pianism, though some criticized his amateurish approach. Notably Czerny. :lol: Later in his life, when he wished he could make a living as a concert pianist, he only half-regretted his refusal to make a machine out of himself in his youth in order to pull it off. Probably not even half.

One thing that I do too often, and that many do too often, is the delay of the RH note when it's obviously intended to be in sync with the LH, such as on a downbeat or another strong beat. Chopin hated that, not because it's never appropriate, but because it's so easy for we, the amateurs, to overuse it. When we overuse the expressive device, it loses its meaning. I have a tendency to do this more when 1) I'm tired/distracted/stressed, or 2) I'm playing the piece faster than I should, and therefore my grip on the piece is less secure.

In conclusion...it's easy to see why Brendel said that Chopin requires specialization more than any other composer. It's not that the technique requires specialization, exactly. The interpretation requires specialization. Brendel knew that, and he chose to give up on Chopin, probably not because he didn't get into it, but because he had the choice of 1) playing nothing but Chopin all the time, or 2) playing other stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:15 am 
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Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:33 am 
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Terez,
Your post above was most interesting. Regarding the learned stylistic habit of the slight dissynchrony on the down beat between hands (usually RH just after the LH), the first time I played that at my first serious teacher's house, she said "Eso es picúo" and I was immediately forbidden to ever do it again! The word is negative in connotation and "refers to cheap, sentimental and superficial substitues for true aesthetic phenomenon." <New art of Cuba By Luis Camnitzer, pg.18> I understand all of your explanation regarding rubato, but I would still be interested to hear a passage blantantly played this way. My only retort to you is that for me, Chopin's "difficult" works are difficult, not easy, but they are, however, idiomatic for the piano.
Eddy

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