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Alkan - Symphonie Op. 39 (pseudo complete)

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by felipesarro, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    It's pseudo complete because I'll never play that last mouvement... :cry:
    When I was younger, I thought that when I overcome the difficulty of playing those octaves in left hand, I'd be able to play the whole movement. I was wrong. Those running notes seem to be even more difficult... they are really uncomfortable to play, and easy to hit the wrong note.
    I can remember that a time ago I said that the only reason why I don't play this movement is because I don't have time. Yes, that's true. It would take me 75 years to be able to play it, and I don't have this time... hehe

    For the Marche Funèbre, I chose to play it slowly in order to let my arms rest between the first and third movements. hahaha
    Kidding.

    The reason for playing it slower than Alkan wanted is that this marche was written after Alkan's father death. I couldn't make it sound as an elegy if I played it faster, mainly the main section where it's written "with restraint pain".


    btw...I have a video of the first movement:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOYa0XhxWwM

    it's not recent, the sound is worse, the piano is not the same (that one is a Steinway K52), my interpretation is different and there are more slips.
    even so... it's a video, hehe.


    PS: isn't this piece amazing? the drum-like passage at 8'40 of the first movement... so good! 8)

    Alkan - Symphonie Op. 39, nos. 4-7 - I: Allegro moderato
    Alkan - Symphonie Op. 39, nos. 4-7 - II: Marche funèbre
    Alkan - Symphonie Op. 39, nos. 4-7 - III: Menuet
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Felipe, I am so tired right now but I had to listen to the drum-like passage. Also there is that nice pretty part in the ? movement (can't remember which one now). These sound like very powerful pieces, however, I have a hard time with long pieces. They don't hold my interest for very long. But from what I've heard so far, your playing is good! I'll try to get these up tomorrow - and also attend to that other thing you sent me. Too sleepy now...

    p.s. Nice hands! And I didn't see them flying away, either. You men are so lucky to have big hands.
     
  3. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Your attachment to this piece is plain to hear. No doubt why, it's tremendous music. Congratulations on having this knotty stuff so firmly under your hands.

    In a piece with this many notes, failing to execute them all flawlessly is all but impossible. I think I'm hearing some reading errors too, though. (I don't have the score, I'm working from the Gibbons and Hamelin recordings etched into my brain. :) ) If someone else doesn't beat me to it, I'll try to follow up with a list.

    Also, can't tell if the recording level was slightly too high or if it's my decrepit earphones adding a buzz of their own at maximum volume.

    On to the 2nd and 3rd movements...
     
  4. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    Monica...
    I really don't know what your talking about. hehe
    Anyway, thanks for listening.

    Hi, schmonz (?)!
    Yes, there are flaws :oops:
    Let's wait what Chris think about them. hehe

    I don't know how you can clearly distinguish my flaws from reading errors, hehe. Anyway... I'm really good at misreading notes, this is something I do a lot :cry:
    Please, make this list, I'll tell you if they are misreadings or slips.

    But be aware, because Hamelin alters the text. His recording has a rhythm alteration in the coda.

    well... I must tell you something about my recorder.
    I can set the volume to a lower level... but my recoder has a limitation. I don't know how to explain, but the thing is that no matter the volume level, if the input sound is too intense, it WILL clip. I would need to put the recorder FARER than I put here in order to record with no clipping, and that's not possible (or maybe I should make a hole in my living room wall, hehe). Yes, there is a little clipping here... :cry:

    Thanks for listening.
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Ok, Felipe - these are up.
     
  6. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    thanks, Monica.

    I took a look at Alkan's biography... there is something that annoys me. The final sentence:

    "It is thanks to the pioneering work of pianists like Ronald Smith, Raymond Lewenthal, and, more recently, Marc-André Hamelin, that Alkan is finally being played by pianists, and is recognized as one of the most important and original piano composers of all time. "

    The first question is why Jack Gibbons doesn't appear in that list? He made the world second live performance of Alkan's Concerto, and he played Alkan in his debut recital. More recently he recorded the complete Op. 39, highly acclaimed by critics.

    Another name that should appear in the recent performers is Stephanie McCallum. She was Ronald Smith's pupil, she made the world premiere performance Etudes Op. 76 and the world premiere recording of Recueil de Chants Op. 70. Besides, she is the only pianist who has recorded the complete Etudes Op. 35 and Op. 39.

    In my opinion, I'd say this way:
    "It is thanks to the pioneering work of pianists like Ronald Smith, Raymond Lewenthal, and, more recently, Jack Gibbons, Marc-André Hamelin and Stephanie McCallum, that Alkan is finally being played by pianists, and is recognized as one of the most important and original piano composers of all time. "

    I was also thinking of another name to put among Ronald Smith and Raymond Lewenthal. It could be John Ogdon, but besides recording the Concerto, I can't say he was very much worried about divulging Alkan's music. It could also be Egon Petri, though his efforts didn't receive the attention that Smith and Lewenthal got.

    PS: Now I remember. You're talking about Last.fm. hehe
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    You make a good case for adding those additional names, and since there is no name accredited to the Alkan bio, I think it's okay to make the change. So I did! :)
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, if biographies annoy you, maybe you should help in writing some yourself !

    I wrote that bio, and I think these are the pioneering names - at least Lewenthal and Smith who were playing Alkan when nobody else did. Actually Hamelin does not qualify for this, nor does Gibbons or McCallum.

    Anyway, either way is fine with me.
     
  9. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    Hamelin may not be the pioneer of Alkan, but since he is mentioned, I thought Gibbons and McCallum should also be. These are the major Alkan interpreters, but there are others like Latimer, Martin, Osborne, Ringeissen and Weiss. And maybe Gibbons and McCallum are even more commited with Alkan's music than Hamelin, since the first ones have attended meetings in Alkan Society, but I can't see Hamelin there (I may be wrong. That's what I've read here: http://www.alkansociety.org/about.htm)

    You're right about the work of Lewenthal and Smith, but I think the pioneer is Egon Petri, some decades earlier. Petri recorded the Concerto and the Symphony, but the latter has been lost. At that time, Rachmaninov and Arrau also played Alkan, but no emphasis in divulging his music.

    Maybe Gibbons could be considered one of the pioneers, because he performed Alkan's Concerto in public just some months later after the world premiere performance done by Smith (these were in the late 70's, and Gibbons was only 16 years old). He was the first one to perform the complete Op. 39 in public and later he would record them. It looks like a commited guy. hehe
     
  10. camaysar

    camaysar New Member

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    Hi Felipe,

    Actually I heard the first movement already on your website. I was very impressed that you played from memory, and I also liked the performance. I don't know if I could distinguish your slips from your misreadings, but I do know, having played through much Alkan, that the notation is often treacherously difficult to get right (mostly concerning accidentals). Sooo, if the following is the case...

    ... you should go over the piece with a fine-toothed comb and find the errors. It is one of the jobs we pianists must undertake if we wish to study complex music. In fact, you seem to make your way through large amounts of music. This is commendable, but don't let your thirst for more music prevent you from giving each work, especially notationally difficult works like Alkan's op. 39, its proper attention. There's your "slap on the wrist"!

    Felipe, I've been too occupied here until now to give your transcription my fullest attention, as my teaching year has just ended, and I had to complete much paperwork, evaluations, etc. But I have seen enough already to know that it is only partly Bach's music... hahaha! It will be fun to give it a proper look. So far it seems quite inventive, to say the least!

    By the way, about the octaves in Alkan's last movement, no one will see if you use 2 hands here and there where you must cover some distance :wink: (though that won't solve all your problems!)

    Re: Alkan pioneers, clearly Lewenthal and Smith and possibly Hamelin are the main pioneers who made a real project out of Alkan. Petri performed him, as did Ringeissen, Hamelin and the others. But Lewenthal already laid the foundation, and Smith expanded on it. The rest were "followers".

    Get back to you soon...
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Since you ask ! I've listened to the Allegro. Warning - rant ahead !

    I am not concerned about a couple of flaws. Laser-like precision in Alkan (at the required speed) is something that is given to very few pianists. What I do object to is a general murkiness in music that is in fact very classically written. You are very good at keeping the long line and in glossing over difficulties. However I find many cases here were notes are left out (or at least I don't hear them, which could be the fault of either my reputedly bad ears or my crappy speakers). For example I don't hear any of the 16ths in the first two pages. Sounds like they are being simplified to octave 8ths. In many other places the notes are approximate rather than correct. While this movement certainly has its Alkanesque moments, I think overall it is not harder than the average Schumann. If only you'd allow yourself the time for more conscientious practicing (as opposed to producing recordings like a fire hose produces water), you could do ever so much better.

    Sorry to be a bit critical, and not cutting you much slack just because this is Alkan. I have this same feeling about most or all of your recordings. None are ever bad, they're always competent but they never seem quite ready to me. Been there, done that... I used to work like this, but these days I do my best effort to reach perfection (without having realized that goal as yet, I should add - it's a long and winding way).
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is my point exactly. We don't want a list of excellent and committed Alkan performers, there are many by now, but just the persons who 'put him on the map' and those would be these two.
     
  13. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    yeah... you know what the problem is? This is not an excuse... but the thing is that once I misread something, I get a little blind about it, so everytime I read it again, I misread it.
    My teacher says I should read the score with attention. That's something that makes sense, but nothing pragmatic. When I'm reading for the first time, I can't realise I'm not giving enough attention to it. I do not intend to misread. That's something that happens and I don't have control (if I could know when and where I made a misreading, of course I would immediately fix it! hehe).

    That's something I must improve and so I'll take your advice.

    Well... if Rachmaninov, Godowsky and Siloti did that, why couldn't I?
    okay... don't answer! :x

    yeah... but and when there are huge jumps and the right hand is busy with running notes? hehe

    Well... can you hear these 16ths in Hamelin's recording? There is a sample here:
    http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/mp3_e ... 21801x.mp3

    I remember that when I first saw the score I was shoked, because I never listened to these broken octaves. Moreover, it's not "just" broken octaves. It is even more subtle. Sometimes you play first the bottom note, and sometimes the first one to be played is the top note.

    I do play like broken octaves, but for three reasons they can't sound clear:
    1) notes in low register
    2) fast tempo
    3) pedal

    Iquote could remove the pedal, but then it would sound dry.
    I could play it slower, but it would ruin the music.
    In Alkan's music, sometimes we just can't slow down. I think this is the main focus of the "severe style" of Alkan playing (not removing rubato, as usually people say). It's really boring when I listen to some Alkan performances and then the pianist slow downs in a climax, because suddenly the writting becomes tough (it's clearly not a musical choice...). I myself had to slow down towards the end, but I had no choice. Or slow down... or I don't play it. However I found unnecessary to slow down in the beginning. I also tried my best not to slow down in those two climaxes in the development, at 4'58 and 6'28.

    Another example of some Alkan writing which doesn't sound clear is the finale of 1st mvt of Sonatina. See the picture attached. Is there any recording of it where it's clear the difference between the broken octaves and the appogiaturas? I would ask more: even if one finds a recording where these differences are clearly audible, does the pianist keep the correct tempo for doing this, playing "con fuoco", not slowing down?
    If there is a recording like that, I never listened to it. The pianist may play like written, but not giving too much attention to it, otherwise the climax of the piece would be deeply ruined.

    I don't think this is really true, because my last recordings of Ravel, Bach and this Alkan are mainly of pieces I have been playing for a long time (the Ravel for over a year, and the Alkan for more than 5 years). And aside some mediocre recordings, I have done some others I'm really happy with, so sometimes I think that the focus goes only to the not so good ones.

    I do played consciously the 1st mvt. I'll list some passages where I took a special care due to their structural implications. These passages are sometimes overlooked by pianists.

    * at 3'46, what should appear more is the bass, the chromatic line, according to what Alkan wrote ("cantando"). I can only hear the bass appearing more than the right hand in McCallum's performance;

    * at 5'17 there is a melody in the middle of the octaves which is difficult to make sound clear (this appears only in Ringeissen's and maybe Lewenthal's);

    * the melody in the right hand at 5'17 (Ab... Ab... G) and other similar pasages. These ones I can only hear in McCallum's (a little in Gibbons', but they are too timid there);

    * the right hand motifs at 6'11, which I could hear only in Petri's performance (a little in McCallum's);

    * the left hand octaves at 6'31, which is only clear in Lewenthal's;

    * the chromatic line at 7'53, which are similar to those at 3'46, and only Lewenthal bring clearly (and I must say... my trying was not successful in this passage... :roll: )

    No problem. In fact I'm very happy with my 1st mvt of the Symphonie. hehe
     
  14. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    That was my main concern... Gibbons came much earlier than Hamelin (he performed Alkan's Concerto in public only some months after Smith did the world premiere). I couldn't accept that Hamelin was there and not Gibbons.
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I must admit not having heard all of your recent recordings. Life is short hehehe..

    But having played a piece for some years does not guarantee success. In math terms, it's a condition that is necessary but not sufficient. There's a zillion pieces that I've played for dozens of years and could slap on disc straight out of the box. I used to do it, too, but not anymore now, not without ample preparation time.

    Anyway, I've said what I wanted to say, and it more or less coincides with camaysar's comment, (although he's not as blunt about it as I am :wink:). Either put it to use or ignore it.
     
  16. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    good jorb, ey.
     
  17. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    in fact, everything started with a discussion about misreadings. james gave me an advice. he didn't even mention he listened to this recent recording. he said he watched the old video.

    of course that no one thinks there are misreadings when one submits recordings. the guy of the first message wanted to list them, and I said it was okay. so this whole discussion could have been avoided if I didn't reply that first message. he has nothing to do with it, but since these discussions usually go nowhere (as each other never changes his own ideas) maybe I should change my behavior and stop replying every message I receive. it'll seem rude, but it saves a lot of time I could spend ... let's say... preparing those same pieces more.

    I don't bother receiving criticism, but it should make sense. I showed the Hamelin recording, which also doesn't sound as broken octaves, and got no response about it.
     
  18. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I'm still in the middle of a big pile of work so I'll just note the most obvious read error: right near the beginning (and then repeated later), during the second pair of falling LH octaves (not the G F# Eb D, the G F Eb D ones), right around 00:07-00:09. Double-check the RH chords there, something's not right there -- I think in the fourth RH chord, with F in the upper voice, one of the inner notes is off. Though the more I try to narrow down what's wrong about it, the more I think I'm full of shit. But maybe not. Anyway, sorry I can't be more specific or give more details. I'll try to get to it later this week if possible.

    Don't get too discouraged. I'm terrible at reading, so I try to compensate with my ears. Maybe that's a useful suggestion for you?
     
  19. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    yeah, I just got it. it's the A, which is natural and then becomes flat, but I continue playing natural. :oops:

    there is another one at 55'. the D natural I play Db (in the first measure of that line there is a Db, so it lasted in my mind... )

    thanks, schmonz!
     
  20. camaysar

    camaysar New Member

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    Hi Felipe,

    We wrote:

    My observation was not at all a criticism. I love free treatment of material, and am generally for transcribers' own contributions to their transcriptions. My comment was more of a "good for you... I like that!"

    I probably put you on the defensive with my previous comment regarding being careful about note reading. But some of my comments are compliments!
     

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