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 Post subject: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:52 am 
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Hello all. I submit today my last batch of Chopin Preludes for a while - I've finally reached my goal of recording 1/2 of the 24 Op 28 preludes... Yippee! :)

Tackling these 12 preludes has been a rewarding experience, although I must admit I'm happy to take a bit of a break from these. I have decided to make a go of the remaining 12 preludes to complete the set, but I will put them on the side for now as there are a handful of other pieces (and composers) I want to focus on right now.

Your feedback/comments/advice are very welcome and appreciated. Below are my quick thoughts on the attached preludes.

Prelude 3 in G major - Been working this one up for quite a while. It's a sweet little piece, although I had to get my left hand in pretty good shape to pull it off. The LH runs are fairly repetitive and finger-friendly, but it was tough to play up to speed and keep it light enough to not distract from the melody in the RH. For a long time I found it very hard to shape the melody - it sounded very robotic because I was so focused on the LH. This is one of those pieces, at least for me, that required me to practice the LH part to the point that it comfortably entered my "finger memory" allowing me to apply dynamics to the RH.

Prelude 7 in A major - Very short and light piece; popular as its likely one of the easiest preludes. My goal was to provide a very clean recording with clear and appropriate phrasing.

Prelude 9 in E major - Bass heavy and I believe a fairly unique creation by Chopin. I'm satisfied with the recording, but my digital piano fails me with this one more than any other prelude I think. Live on an acoustic grand the E major prelude is much more thrilling I think, with it's strong LH octaves.

Prelude 15 in D flat major - The famous 'Raindrops' prelude. I'm a bit burned out on this piece, and to me it shows in my recording. I'm happy with the recording for now I think, but I may choose to re-record it after my Chopin Prelude break.

Prelude 17 in A flat major - My absolute favorite out of the 5 in this batch. An extremely lyrical piece, I've grown to truly appreciate and enjoy its structure. Very compact yet it feels as if an entire story is being told - someone needs to write some lyrics! :wink:

Chopin - Prelude in G major, Op. 28, No. 3 (1:01)

Chopin - Prelude in E major, Op. 28, No. 9 (1:45)

Chopin - Prelude in A-flat major, Op. 28, No. 17 (2:40)

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:43 pm 
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Hi Matthew,

No. 3 was very nice. I suppose it’s easier to play the LH on your digital. I struggle with this piece on my grand.

No. 7 is good – the sound is little funny on the high notes though. I’m practicing this piece too right now, but not because it’s Chopin. I’m practicing Mompou’s version! :shock: :)

No. 9 - The bass sounds real good on this one. Perhaps you got too loud slightly too soon near the end? Just my opinion, of course.

No. 15 - Sorry, but I have a problem with this one. First off, your LH is not loud enough on the B part. But then later on the crashing fortissimos – the sound from your piano is not just loud, but very harsh! I had to rip the ear plugs right out of my ears! Since we have so many versions of this piece on the site already, I am afraid we have to be more selective on this piece – I don’t want some unsuspecting visitor get their eardrums blasted out if they happen upon your recording here.

No. 17 – This one is okay – perhaps a bit too hurried for my taste though. Especially at the end – you could be more introspective in your sound; more sotto voce. However, your LH can be louder on those Fz A-flats. I read somewhere that Chopin intended those notes to sound like cannon-fire in the distance. Also, I know this is very nitpicky, but did you play the bottom B-flat in the RH in bar 10? There should not be a D-flat in that bar.

So nice playing overall. If only you could record on a better instrument, though…. Have you ever thought about actually using a different piano? Like going to a friend's house, or maybe a school?

@Riley – if you’re up for processing more recordings, please do not take no. 15.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:19 pm 
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Thanks Monica for the quick response and kind words, as well as constructive criticism! Below are my thoughts, but I reserved my comments for Prelude No 3 for the end.

Monica wrote:
No. 7 is good – the sound is little funny on the high notes though. I’m practicing this piece too right now, but not because it’s Chopin. I’m practicing Mompou’s version!
Great - good luck with your Mompou version. I look forward to hearing it. Thanks for the nice comment on my recording.

Regarding the funny high notes, I'm fairly sure this is due to my post-processing steps as the original sound and WAV files produced are very clear. I just re-ran this one through the software, backing off some of the reverb settings that I've noticed can cause some distortion (and even echoes). If you get a few minutes I would be interested to know if it seemed to help in your opinion. Thanks!

Monica wrote:
No. 9 - The bass sounds real good on this one. Perhaps you got too loud slightly too soon near the end? Just my opinion, of course.
I'm glad you thought the bass sounded good here. I forgot to mention that I used the equalizer setting for the first time with this piece, since I was worried about it being too bass heavy. I reduced the bass levels a bit when outputing to MP3. Looks like I may have found a good setting! :)

Monica wrote:
No. 15 - Sorry, but I have a problem with this one. First off, your LH is not loud enough on the B part. But then later on the crashing fortissimos – the sound from your piano is not just loud, but very harsh! I had to rip the ear plugs right out of my ears!
Hmm... well I certainly didn't want to blow people's eardrums out! :shock: On my headphones this isn't an issue, and after many years of training I know how to avoid playing ugly banging notes... I believe this is also a post-processing issue.

I just ran this one back through the software and eliminated the "normalization" step I normally take, as well as backing off some of the reverb. I've noticed that in my software normalization can sometimes increase the loud parts disproportionately. Again, if you have a few minutes I'd be interested to know if this new file helped the problem.

If some minor tweaks to the conversion to MP3 don't fix the issue, I'm not really interested in re-recording this one and will put it off or skip it altogether. It's a little disappointing falling short of my goal of 12 preludes over the past few months, but maybe I'll submit one of the other handful of preludes I've been working on... :(

Monica wrote:
No. 17 – This one is okay – perhaps a bit too hurried for my taste though. Especially at the end – you could be more introspective in your sound; more sotto voce. However, your LH can be louder on those Fz A-flats. I read somewhere that Chopin intended those notes to sound like cannon-fire in the distance.
That is the problem with some of these pieces, to be sure - the very different opinions about tempo, phrasing, etc. I actually spent a good amount of time deciding on approach and working up the ending of this piece, and paid particular attention to the sotto voce and other markings.

I do like the idea about cannon-fire in the distance, which I could have done a bit more with surely. However, I think this observation supports my decision to maintain the tempo (although really there is probably no definitive right and wrong). I used to play the ending much slower with many pauses, but changed my mind about this when thinking more about the piece. I see the ending more like a "moving away" from the action, perhaps floating further and further above it. In this manner, the sounds would become more and more subdued - like your distant cannons - and eventually die out, but they would not slow down. Anyway, that was my thinking for what it's worth... :mrgreen:

Monica wrote:
No. 3 was very nice. I suppose it’s easier to play the LH on your digital. I struggle with this piece on my grand.
Thank you again for the nice comment.

Regarding your comment about this being easier to play on a digital, I'm not sure I understand. After reading so many of your posts I know you wouldn't expect me to interpret your comments this way, but saying that a piece is likely easier on my digital than on a real grand is extremely off the mark in my opinion. I worked very hard over many months on the LH for Prelude 3, and can easily (or rather with equal difficulty) play it on any piano as a result.

I've played on all types of pianos my whole life, and have put in the same level of significant time, sweat, tears, and aches that most folks on this board have. Digital pianos offer no short cuts for your fingers that I'm aware of, any more than playing a Yamaha vs. Steinway etc. offers any advantages due to differing touch. Pianists all have their perferences for touch and keyboard reaction/sensitivity, but I've never heard someone claim that playing on a XX piano is easier than another type.

I know many on this board are quite opinionated about acoustics, and I actually agree with most folks and would MUCH rather play acoustic than digital. At the moment, however, I'm trying to do the best I can with what I have. I'm sure other folks on your boards may also own nice, quite expensive, digital pianos with very good, weighted keys that are FAR removed from your run of the mill "keyboard". I thought perhaps it may be worthwhile to clarify what you meant here? :?:

Thanks again Monica for all the feedback! :D

Matt

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:16 pm 
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I merely meant that the keys on your piano are most likely less heavy than my piano and therefore I wouldn't have as much pain in my hands and wrists if I were practicing on your piano.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:10 am 
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Hi Matt,

I had a listen to your Chopin Preludes. Nice to hear some Preludes after Monica's Mazurka post :D I enjoyed your playing. Your phrasing brings out the color in no. 7 and 15. I agree with Monica, their were some issues with the balance in both hands. But listening back to the file you sent the 15-test, I think that it does change the performance for the better. When you normalize your recording, like for example in no. 17, -did you do the same post processing for all files?- I think it takes away some of the texture that the digital piano is meant to be imitating--that is, the texture of an acoustic piano. I am not as bothered by the harsh fortissimos, though admittedly I was not wearing ear buds, but listening through my laptop speakers :) .

I'd like to hear what Chris says about these and also what Monica says of the file without the normalization and the A Major re-recording before posting these to the site.

Great playing,

Riley

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:07 pm 
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Ok, I just listened to the two replacement files. Matthew, you're not going to like what I say....

I think you play very nicely, so this is not against your skill as a pianist - it's about your keyboard. You know I have not liked the sound of it from day one and I understand that we all can't just go out and get a grand piano. But digital pianos seem to come in varying degrees of sound quality, and unfortunately yours is on the lower end. I feel that Piano Society prides itself in having a vast collection of high quality recordings, and since we have so many versions of these Chopin Preludes, then we can afford to be choosy and select only recordings with good sound quality. I'm very sorry, I am not trying to offend, but I still have problems with no. 7 and 15. No.7 is okay until you get to the high notes in bar 11. They sound so weird and off-putting. The same goes for no. 15. The higher notes are what sound bad on your keyboard. The volume of the loud notes is better on the replacement version, but it's still harsh - maybe because of the thin sound, whereas an acoustic piano has more depth and you get more richness in those spots.

Do you understand what I mean? My feeling is that we can take your nos. 3, 9, and 17, but not nos. 7 and 15.

@Riley - if you want to wait for Chris' reaction, you may have to email him.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:22 pm 
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No problem Monica - thanks for listening to the newly processed files. I completely understand this to be a technical recording / processing issue and take no offense whatsoever. :mrgreen: I take much more pride in what I can accomplish pianistically than in my production studio capabilities, so to speak. But I understand that the technical recording aspects are a necessary evil, and am actually enjoying going through the learning process for this.

If it's OK with you, I'd like to post a few more variations (when I get a little time). I have many other recordings in me and am such a believer in this site that I really want to get this worked out. I have some other tricks to try and some new software as well.

Thank you for posting Preludes 3, 9 and 17! This puts my total recent Prelude postings at 10, including some quite challenging ones and I'm very happy about that.

One thing I wanted to mention as an aside is that I've received many complements about my recordings, including Beethoven's full Tempest sonata, both here at PS and elsewhere. As a definite Amateur striving to improve, I'm very appreciative of the constructive feedback and complements. All of these other recordings were done on the same digital piano as the ones you took today and the two you didn't like.

This tells me two things I think. (1) There is some subjectivity regarding how "terrible" my recordings sound (recording-quality wise). (2) Whatever settings I'm using work well on some songs, but don't translate to others. I'm going to keep at it though, and I have faith I'll get the right mix here given that the vast majority of my postings have not been a problem.

I know you don't like the recordings, but many others have liked them. I'm an avid listener of classical music as well as a player, and I certainly recognize the sounds aren't perfectly reproduced on my digital. I do believe my digital piano is of high quality and produces better sound than most uprights, however. Unless everyone has been lying to me I think most people are able to enjoy the music I've posted despite any post-processing imperfections.

I've listened to many acoustic recordings with very weird results, either from bad or misplaced mics, out of tune pianos, or extraordinary background noise. It's not just digital pianos that are the culprit. Recording/processing is as much a factor for acoustics as digital pianos I believe. Also, many acoustic pianos couldn't provide the full richness Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and others deserve, but that doesn't stop folks from playing them (and posting recordings of them here and elsewhere). Not all acoustics are created equal as you know, and we don't all have a Steinway grand sitting around.

So for now I'm going to proceed working on increasing the recording/production quality of my pieces with my current digital. I do very much want this to work, because this site has had such a very positive effect on me and provided me a bit of a "purpose" to all my practicing. Unfortunately, with young kids and a busy work and travel schedule, it's not practical for me to travel to a school or university every time I want to record.

Sorry for the long post. Thanks!

Matt

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:00 am 
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Matt,

I just replaced the attachments with Nos. 3, 9, and 17. Check the links to see that they play through.

Quote:
(2) Whatever settings I'm using work well on some songs, but don't translate to others


Could very well be. From my experience recording on a digital, I know there are some reverb settings that are good for music that calls for a lot of sostenuto, but when you play pieces with thick texture, the recordings sound messy. Even though it's the same piano, the processing (reverb or whatnot) changes the timbre sometime subtly and other times incredibly so.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:52 am 
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The G maj is very nice, and for my money, the pick of the bunch - well done. Personally I would consider it easier to play on a grand to a digital. I use a digital for practicing the sort of passagework in the left hand, because imperfections imo show up much more clearly on a digital, due to the lack of reverberation and resonance.

The other two are basically well played, with a few small details that I'm not too fond of. Monica is right, the E maj crescendoes too loudly too soon and leaves you nowhere to go. I would use a bit more rubato (especially to make more expansive the lovely harmonic changes around 0.40) early on in the Ab (my favourite of the preludes); I think I'm being expressive in doing so, but some might find it kitschy. I guess it's a question of taste. Overall, nice playing!


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:40 pm 
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Riley wrote:
I just replaced the attachments with Nos. 3, 9, and 17. Check the links to see that they play through.
Yes the links work great - thanks.

Riley wrote:
From my experience recording on a digital, I know there are some reverb settings that are good for music that calls for a lot of sostenuto, but when you play pieces with thick texture, the recordings sound messy. Even though it's the same piano, the processing (reverb or whatnot) changes the timbre sometime subtly and other times incredibly so.
Yes I agree completely. I cannot apply the same settings each time for sure, as I'm learning. :?

Another thing I realize is that the hardware used to play the audio file matters a lot. The sound card in my desktop is much better than my laptop, for example, and gives a much fuller performance. Add to that the speaker and/or headphone quality, and there are really a lot of variations one may hear. For example, it's really a mystery to me on the No. 7 prelude I posted that Monica says the high notes don't sound right to her, when for me I can find no problem with the sound quality. When I switch devices/headphones/speakers around I can get various results, so I'm guessing that's what's happening here as well. On my in-ear headphones I hear a tiny bit of distortion on some of the high notes in the last few measures but not something I would think would qualify No 7 to be rejected in my opinion.

I'm going to try some additional tricks on the existing recordings, because my digital does produce a nice sound (albeit not a complete acoustic grand replication). No. 7 is a good test case because it is so short. I'll probably post the original WAV file, plus several options of MP3 and ask for opinions.

Thanks again!

Matt

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:06 am 
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Andrew - thanks for listening and for the helpful comments.

Andrew wrote:
The G maj is very nice, and for my money, the pick of the bunch - well done. Personally I would consider it easier to play on a grand to a digital. I use a digital for practicing the sort of passagework in the left hand, because imperfections imo show up much more clearly on a digital, due to the lack of reverberation and resonance.
I'm glad to hear that you liked this one. Interesting observation about imperfections showing up more clearly on digital pianos. If I had my digital and an acoustic side by side I imagine I'd notice the same thing.

I played for many years on a Yamaha C3 grand. Its keys were heavier than normal and I think for me it was very instructive since it forced me to make (under the guidance of an excellent teacher) a lot of physical adjustments to keep my hands/arms relaxed and to utilize gravity more efficiently. Due to this experience I was quite picky about the feel of the digital I picked out, wanting to make sure I could maintain an easy transition between pianos for recitals, etc.

Andrew wrote:
I would use a bit more rubato (especially to make more expansive the lovely harmonic changes around 0.40) early on in the Ab (my favourite of the preludes); I think I'm being expressive in doing so, but some might find it kitschy. I guess it's a question of taste. Overall, nice playing!
It's funny you mention rubato as I also have a definite tendency to be more expressive than not. There certainly is a fine [and subjective] line about how much constitutes too much. Listening back to this recording I do wish I have done a few things differently, and had I recorded any other random take of this prelude I'm sure they'd all be a little different - and some more rubato likely would have sneaked its way in there. 8)

As I grow more comfortable with PS I hope to gain a bit more credibility and confidence to take more chances such as this (e.g. rubato in No 17). When I first joined PS and submitted a few pieces I was slapped down fairly harshly about my use of rubato (among other things) and I think I'm still getting over the sting of that. For better or worse I've been a bit more conservative with the Chopin Preludes as a result. C'est La Vie.

Matt

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:22 am 
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mwyman1 wrote:
It's funny you mention rubato as I also have a definite tendency to be more expressive than not. There certainly is a fine [and subjective] line about how much constitutes too much. Listening back to this recording I do wish I have done a few things differently, and had I recorded any other random take of this prelude I'm sure they'd all be a little different - and some more rubato likely would have sneaked its way in there. 8)

As I grow more comfortable with PS I hope to gain a bit more credibility and confidence to take more chances such as this (e.g. rubato in No 17). When I first joined PS and submitted a few pieces I was slapped down fairly harshly about my use of rubato (among other things) and I think I'm still getting over the sting of that. For better or worse I've been a bit more conservative with the Chopin Preludes as a result. C'est La Vie.


Rubato is such a complex issue. Not only is its usage a matter of taste; what works in one composer often isn't considered acceptable in another. A big Lisztian rubato is a complete no-no in Beethoven, for example. And then there is the question of whether an alleged rubato is really rubato, or just an excuse for rhythmic inexactitude. Chopin rubato, in particular, is a minefield and I certainly wouldn't pretend to have all the answers. Here's an interesting article on Chopin rubato, with the famous Liszt quote (the article starts about halfway down): http://www.marstonrecords.com/chopin/chopin_liner.htm


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:53 am 
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Just how much variance there is between acceptable views in Chopin is exemplified by the famous anecdote quoted where Meyerbeer insists the mazurkas (as played by Chopin himself) are in 2/4, Charles Halle insists 4/4 - and on the other end of the scale Busoni (who was known for his austere approach to Chopin, insisting on the avoidance of any false sentimentality) gave a recital where an elderly gentleman got up, announcing "In the name of God and Chopin, I must protest" and walked out.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:54 pm 
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mwyman1 wrote:
Another thing I realize is that the hardware used to play the audio file matters a lot. The sound card in my desktop is much better than my laptop, for example, and gives a much fuller performance. Add to that the speaker and/or headphone quality, and there are really a lot of variations one may hear. For example, it's really a mystery to me on the No. 7 prelude I posted that Monica says the high notes don't sound right to her, when for me I can find no problem with the sound quality. When I switch devices/headphones/speakers around I can get various results, so I'm guessing that's what's happening here as well. On my in-ear headphones I hear a tiny bit of distortion on some of the high notes in the last few measures but not something I would think would qualify No 7 to be rejected in my opinion.
The playback hardware matters a lot for recordings from real (acoustic) pianos too, of course, but if you are saying that a recording from a digital is more sensitive than one from an acoustic to variations in the playback hardware, then perhaps one thing to try would be to take advantage of the (presumed) fact that a digital piano is typically designed and engineered to sound as genuine as it can when its built-in speakers are used. Rather than mess around trying all sorts of post-processing tricks on its "line" output signal to undo all the pre-processing that has been done inside the instrument to make its speakers sound good, why not try recording the digital as though it were an acoustic, i.e. with microphones? I suspect they should not be placed too close to the speakers, so that the characteristics of the room can contribute some small amount of reverb naturally, rather than adding too much of it artificially later.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Preludes Nos 3, 7, 9, 15, and 17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:50 pm 
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andrew wrote:
Chopin rubato, in particular, is a minefield and I certainly wouldn't pretend to have all the answers. Here's an interesting article on Chopin rubato, with the famous Liszt quote (the article starts about halfway down): http://www.marstonrecords.com/chopin/chopin_liner.htm
That's a great article - thanks Andrew! I tend to agree with the view that it's a shame rubato in Chopin has fallen out of fashion a bit. Wouldn't it have been something to hear him play live in a performance. The article is right, though, in that it is not easy even today to teach rubato - although my favorite quote was the one from Liszt:

Frank Cooper wrote:
...And Liszt put it a little more flamboyantly in his well-known definition: Do you see these trees? The wind plays in the leaves, life unfolds and develops beneath them, but the tree remains the same. That is the Chopin rubato.” According to Jean Kleczynski, Liszt also described the Chopin rubato as “agitation,” saying that “All the compositions of Chopin should be played observing the rules of accentuation and prosody, but with a certain agitation, the secret of which those who have never heard the master find it difficult to fathom.”


Matt

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