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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:34 pm 
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We're not here to mollycuddle each and every aspiring beginner pianist


Sorry to nitpick, but I believe it's mollycoddle. Just trying to better illustrate your point :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:53 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Sorry to nitpick, but I believe it's mollycoddle. Just trying to better illustrate your point :mrgreen:

You have just made a good statement even better.

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:03 pm 
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Chris,

Like I said, that should have been a discussion for another day and has nothing to do with Eddy's submission, or the posts that followed on this forum page. So I would have done better not to mention it here.

But since I have and you have responded in kind, I have to add that if the mission as stated on the front page of Piano Society is to "bring classical music to a broader audience, as today it is unfortunately neglected by the general public, and we try to wipe away the elitist attitude towards it..." then stooping to posting personal attacks on other musicians, whether it be hypercritical remarks about their playing or virtual name calling as was the case in one particular post I read, not to mention just throwing attitude which I see examples of here, is not only hypocritical, but damaging to the image Piano Society wishes to portray. There is a huge difference between welcome constructive criticism and passing judgment based on personal prejudices, or making arrogant statements under the guise of helpful criticism. I've read both in these forums.

Perhaps the member submitting his recordings in the particular instance I refer to deserved to be chastised, maybe not. All I can say is I was very turned off by it, and I'm sure there have been many others who steered away from the forums here and possibly the site as a whole because of similar impressions. Granted, most of the people who comment in the forums go out of their way to be civil and offer criticisms that they honestly feel will help the performer. But a few here seem to think it is their responsibility to offer some negative point no matter how trivial, even if they are generally praising the performance. I had enough of that overly competitive attitude in college, don't believe in it, and don't think it constitutes honorable behavior no matter how common it may be. As you and Monica are functioning as both forum moderators and site administrators, I can only hope you discourage the kind of flaming and negative rhetoric that is easily found in the unmonitored and unregulated comments sections of many online newspapers. I haven't seen any recent comments by Robert, so figure he leaves most of that to you guys.

I don't expect to be coddled as a musician, nor do most of the people who participate on Piano Society either as members and contributors or as visitors, but I do wish to be treated with fairness and respect, though I suppose that is a lot to ask in an online forum. If the only reason to post a recording here is to garner criticism or collect kudos, then what's the point? Certainly not the one made by the site mission statement. Many of the contributors already have successful performance careers and certainly have no need to have their work informally critiqued in an online forum open to the public. We should all be grateful that they are willing to share their wonderful recordings with all of us for free. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is a way to express that opinion that shows respect, and there are ways that don't. I think Piano Society provides a valuable service to the classical piano community around the world, and really hope it continues to prosper...

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:26 pm 
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The sound is perhaps a little thin. However.. what lovely phrasing - very musical. Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:15 am 
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Hi Eddy,

A few opinions on recording:

When you choose XY configuration, you're pretty much locked into a three-foot distance maximum from the piano. As you try to move the mics farther back, in short order visually you'll see one mic overshooting the tail and the other overshooting the keyboard, which will not produce the best audio. So you have to move closer to the piano again. Recording inside the piano, at the rim, or only a short distance from the case is "close-in" recording. That makes the sound more prone to include mechanical sounds which tend to be more percussive--i.e., the hammer on string effect preferred by jazz and pops pianists. But with mics placed farther back, say 5 or 6 feet with omni small diaphragm condenser mics, you get a more blended, finished sound for classical recordings. But that means going to A-B configuration. My 1984 Baldwin Model L (6'3") has a huge sound in my living room, so for best results (every room acoustic, piano, equipment mix, and pianist is different), I need to place my Earthworks TC-20's 8 feet out for optimal results. And where I'm the only one home when I record, there is no ambient sound to speak of in or around the room.

For the bright treble in your Model SF-10, I think voicing should be the first solution. Voicing is not forever, although the deeper the penetration by the needle, the longer the voicing will last. Baldwins were usually known for their darker tone. But during the last 10 years or so, many of the finer piano brands seem to have a brighter tone. Baldwin seems to have followed that trend.

Some thoughts on replacing hammers: First, if you're going to replace the hammers, and if the piano is over 25 years old, I believe it would be best if you replace the hammers, shanks and flanges for optimal results. Something to discuss with your technician. The other point is selection of hammers. I knew that the hammers on my L were put there to compete with the Yamaha S4 introduced in 1984 when I bought my Model L new. It "souped up" the piano, but departed from the traditional sound. Going on 25 years later, I chatted with Del Fandrich who for years was a design engineer for Baldwin (now involved in Fandrich Piano Co.). because I was planning a partial rebuilding of the piano. Fandrich advised that I not use Baldwin-specified Renner hammer replacements, but instead recommended Ronsen Wurzen hammers. I went with those and have been very happy with my choice. Just thought I'd mention it as an option.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:36 am 
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andrew wrote:
The sound is perhaps a little thin. However.. what lovely phrasing - very musical. Thank you.


You're welcome, and thank you Andrew. I will be working to improve the sound, ... somehow

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:51 am 
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David,
Thanks for the ideas. I'm so partial to anything with "Renner" on it (both the SD and SF have Renner actions, as do the Bechsteins and Bosendorfers) that I would be reluctant to get otherwise, but I would definitely discuss it with a technician. I understand that my piano was made in 1995. Believe it or not, there is a former Baldwin factory (Cincinnati, not Conway) technician living here in NW Arkansas! If I want to consider a voicing job, I'll bring him in and test his hearing (of the piano not in general). I will try some of your ideas in my coming recordings.

Regards,
Eddy

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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: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:03 am 
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Sorry, Eddy, I just want to tell Dave something and then I'll leave your thread alone.

Hi Dave,
I'm going to reply to some of what you said earlier, and then let us leave the topic so as not to hijack Eddy's thread anymore.

First of all, I know your intentions are good, but you have not been around our forum for long and I wish you would not presume to tell us how to run it. The main site is functioning just as it should; a place where visitors can listen to a wide variety of quality classical piano music for free. The forum is separate from the main site and most definitely is a place where people can post their recordings in order to "garner criticism or collect kudos". What other reason would there be? That's mostly why we are all here! I have received plenty of negative criticism, but I can't tell you how many times that criticism has forced me to work harder on the particular piece and then later produce a better recording. Yes, we discuss many topics on the other sub-forums too, but it's obvious that the 'Audition Room' is the busiest forum. We may have some heated arguments now and then, but it's not often, and in general I think we do a decent job of keeping things civil. I too don't want outsiders to feel negatively about us and think that we often have arguments like what you are referring to. But I doubt someone would make that assumption based on one thread, and anyway the person in question is aware of all this so I don't know why we're even talking about it again.

One more thing - please don't talk about our 'professional' members who do not visit the forum! That is a very sore subject and again, one that you really have no business getting into.
Okay, no hard feelings here. I just wanted to clear things up. Let us drop this subject now and get back to Eddy... :)

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:23 am 
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Thanks David for your excellent information regarding recording technique. I don't fully understand the XY vs the A-B configurations for the mics in question, but I assume it has something to do with the shape of the pickup range - wide vs narrow. With my setup, I settled on the close-in option because it avoided picking up the external noises I myself was making (foot on the pedal, fingers on the keys, heavy breathing etc.) And I do understand what you are saying about the mechanical sounds from inside the piano body, though I haven't noticed that to be particularly audible with my setup. There is however another disadvantage to close-in placement that is worth mentioning. All microphones have their own sensitivity characteristics, and with closer placement, a particular piano's own overtones can cause exaggeration of some higher frequencies in the microphone causing a sort of ringing. Using a microphone placement further out can help to ameliorate this problem.

As for room ambience, I mean that there is always a quality to the sound determined by the size of the room, how much furniture, rugs, etc are in it to absorb the sound, how close to the walls the piano sits, how high the ceilings. I don't mean dogs barking or kids playing, that sort of thing - an issue no matter the placement of the mics. But listening to Eddy's recordings, I was able to guess the distance his mics were from the piano and that it was a space small for the instrument - a conclusion I reached by the ambient sound of the room. Before I moved to Denver, my piano sat in my small Victorian living room in San Francisco, a room with 10 foot ceilings, but only 14 ft square, really much too small for a 6'1" grand. But it's what I had. However, I hosted a soiree for one of my local piano performance groups, and there was no way 20 people would fit in that room. So I rather than have people out in the hall, I opened the double french doors into my bedroom, which were directly behind the piano to make more room for seating. The piano didn't move, and the room didn't change, but adding that extra airspace around it (doubling the size of the room) completely changed the sound quality. I couldn't believe the difference. Not only did it not sound as overpowering, the whole tonal perception changed. Placement of the mics does increasingly register those differences the further they are from the piano.

I will try again putting more distance between the piano and the mics as you suggested to Eddy to see what can be achieved. In the end, though, it all just depends on what gives the best result.

Thanks again for your insights! Dave C


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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 4:07 am 
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Hi Dave C,

What I meant by A-B configuration is that XY forms an X if one mic is crossed over the other. Or the heads can come to a point like a V as seen in small portable recorders. A-B is completely different. There the two mics (a matched pair is best) placed on mic stands that are set farther back from the piano than with XY. The mic cylinders are absolutely parallel at all times with a 12 inch separation between them. Because they're farther back from the instrument, the mic heights will be about 4 1/2 to 5 feet. Some like to place a Jecklin disk between the mics to enhance stereo effect, although I I've never bothered with it. Instead of angling and pointing the mics down toward the soundboard as with close-in recording, I've found a better sound aiming them at the edge of the the raised piano lid either on the full prop (mics angled upward) or the shorter singer stick (mics angled downward to the edge). Intuitively, some people aim the mics straight ahead at the center of the raised lid when fully opened--not a good idea, as there is too much sound wash reflecting from that area. There's much more clarity as it rolls off the edge of the lid.

What you call room ambiance I call room acoustics, but I believe we're thinking about the same phenomenon, just different terminology.

I agree with Monica that we need to let discussion return to Eddy's Rachmaninoff piece, but I just wanted to answer your question.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:49 am 
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Ah, what a gorgeous piece! Even among Rachmaninoff's output, the soaring transcendence of the melody of this prelude IMHO ranks up there with the very greatest tunes of the composer, alongside the concluding bars of the 2nd movement of the 2nd concerto and the celebrated 18th (?) variation of the Paganini rhapsody.

You seem to feel the music's ebb and flow quite well -- I am convinced by your strong musical intention at the peaks of the music's expansive phrases. There is, however, one fundamental issue that's distracting me: the rhythm of the LH. I would tend to view the lefthand here as an undulating, almost barcarolle-like accompaniment, so in my opinion it needs a bit more flow and regularity. While your internal rhythm from note to note is quite even, to my ears you're breaking up the flow at the tops and bottoms of phrases with a somewhat unseemly pause that almost lengthens the 16ths into an 8th (it might also help to be just a bit more transparent and quieter). That is, I like your general idea of romantically expanding here (and some nice squalling crescendos too btw), but the lefthand in general sounds a tad jerky to my ears. You might try playing just a slightly more leisurely overall tempo and then these hesitations might come into place all on their own. IMHO they should sound like expansions of the rhythm through rubato rather than hesitations (at least that's how I'm hearing them).

Dynamics are nice overall, though there are perhaps a few places you could be more attentive to the pianissimos. Toward the end, I thought I heard a few passages where you were less certain (from, e.g., measures 28-32 when the RH takes over). Some very nice phrasing on the last page, though the closing duo passage seemed slightly awkward in places and could use a bit more legato and, possibly, pedal (I know that's a tricky one). Maybe the ending ritard is a bit too much (you almost seem to temporarily stop, which, for me, interrupts the flow before the closing arpeggiando).

Regarding the sound, I don't think it's too bad (I'm no audiophile by any means), but perhaps just a bit tinny as others have noted. It has an overly high EQ feel to it (IMO).

Even with my reservations, though, I'm glad to hear a performance in which someone has the courage to experiment with his own personal voice and sense of phrasing. My general opinion is that if you temper a few of the rhythmic issues and smooth out a few passages, this will be a very fine performance indeed. I hope you find some use in my comments. I enjoyed listening.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 5:25 am 
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jlr43 wrote:
Ah, what a gorgeous piece! Even among Rachmaninoff's output, the soaring transcendence of the melody of this prelude IMHO ranks up there with the very greatest tunes of the composer, alongside the concluding bars of the 2nd movement of the 2nd concerto and the celebrated 18th (?) variation of the Paganini rhapsody.

You seem to feel the music's ebb and flow quite well -- I am convinced by your strong musical intention at the peaks of the music's expansive phrases. There is, however, one fundamental issue that's distracting me: the rhythm of the LH. I would tend to view the lefthand here as an undulating, almost barcarolle-like accompaniment, so in my opinion it needs a bit more flow and regularity. While your internal rhythm from note to note is quite even, to my ears you're breaking up the flow at the tops and bottoms of phrases with a somewhat unseemly pause that almost lengthens the 16ths into an 8th (it might also help to be just a bit more transparent and quieter). That is, I like your general idea of romantically expanding here (and some nice squalling crescendos too btw), but the lefthand in general sounds a tad jerky to my ears. You might try playing just a slightly more leisurely overall tempo and then these hesitations might come into place all on their own. IMHO they should sound like expansions of the rhythm through rubato rather than hesitations (at least that's how I'm hearing them).

Dynamics are nice overall, though there are perhaps a few places you could be more attentive to the pianissimos. Toward the end, I thought I heard a few passages where you were less certain (from, e.g., measures 28-32 when the RH takes over). Some very nice phrasing on the last page, though the closing duo passage seemed slightly awkward in places and could use a bit more legato and, possibly, pedal (I know that's a tricky one). Maybe the ending ritard is a bit too much (you almost seem to temporarily stop, which, for me, interrupts the flow before the closing arpeggiando).

Regarding the sound, I don't think it's too bad (I'm no audiophile by any means), but perhaps just a bit tinny as others have noted. It has an overly high EQ feel to it (IMO).

Even with my reservations, though, I'm glad to hear a performance in which someone has the courage to experiment with his own personal voice and sense of phrasing. My general opinion is that if you temper a few of the rhythmic issues and smooth out a few passages, this will be a very fine performance indeed. I hope you find some use in my comments. I enjoyed listening.

Joe

Joe,
Thanks for listening and commenting. I will consider your suggestions. I can play this piece with the metronome, but really wish to use rubato throughout. I don't know if you've played this prelude but for those who haven't, let me say that it is a real challenge to keep the LH subordinate given all the activity given to it. In fact, since the LH is roughly 2-to-4 times or more as active as the right, all rubato is expressly manifest through the LH. For me, the tempo is determined by the melody, and the LH has to match it.

After listening carefully to both preludes that I submitted, I definitely prefer the sound to the No.4 instead. I will be trying some new ideas provided by listeners with way more experience than me in the recording side when I submit No.5, hopefully this week.

Regarding the "less certain" section, you're hearing it correctly, though it is not less certain with me. You're hearing an interpretive feature that evidently you don't care for, but I would like to explain. The cadence on the down beat of measure 23 is the large formal ending, with everything that follows a formal "after glow." (Essentially a song with a coda as long as the song itself.) Consequently, from that cadence to the end I am intentionally letting off momentum and energy. In measures 28-30, I actually want the RH subordinate to the LH, where the main melody appears repeatedly in sequence. This then shifts to the RH in m.31. In summary, I see the piece slowly building in the first two pages, achieving the main climax and the "main" ending with the authentic cadence to m.23. From there to the end it is running downward, with a secondary and subdued 2nd climax right before the codetta. Having said all that, my performance evidently wasn't thouroughly convincing to you, but I know that I still have significant room for acquiring mastery. (This stuff is for fall 2012)

As for the ending final flourish with a significant ritardando (perhaps too much for you), I believe I was subconciously trying to channel the spirit of the Rach 2, ii ending that you mention. Anyway, again, thanks for your thoughts. I can imagine that I may play this differently almost anytime I play it. Hopefully my Beethoven will hold together better for you. (That will be several weeks from now).

Regads,
Eddy

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:21 pm 
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Thanks David for the clarification between XY and A-B. I did notice when I looked up Eddy's mics on the Shure website, it showed the mics on a single stand at 90 degrees to each other, i.e. crossed over each other. I had never seen that before, but I'm no expert on what all the newer options are. The technology is always changing and getting better! Great for we home recording musicians.

Since I am obviously using the A-B configuration (I have two separate and mismatched mics on separate stands), I will examine more of the possibilities for placement that you describe. And yes, you are right about the terminology. I've heard it described as both room acoustic or room ambience. I suppose ambience is more often used to describe room lighting or atmosphere, or in the case of sound as "ambient noise," so "room acoustic" is probably a better term.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:15 pm 
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Hey Dave,
How about a review of the 4th prelude of the set? :wink:
http://pianosociety.com/new/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=4938&p=49608#p49608

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 Post subject: Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:20 am 
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Thought this was me, but probably SFDave.

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