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Barber Sonata

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Sarara721, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I did not listen to the entire sonata, it not being a favorite of mine. But from what I heard, this is a performance as good as they come. Total command and authority, even though the last few pages could have packed more of a punch. I salute everybody who takes on this blockbuster sonata and comes up trumps. Great job ! It is on the site.
     
  3. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment and the upload! I hear you when you mention it not being your favorite sonata-- I had more fun playing it myself than listening to others play this piece! But the fugue is wild and crazy, and for that movement, I think it makes this sonata worth learning :D
     
  4. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi sarara,

    Bravo!!! I listened to the entire sonata and hope many of the other members here will do likewise. Your posting of this music is truly an event.

    First, let me compliment you on your extraordinary pianism, musicianship, and artistry. Its inspiring! This sonata is virtuosic, and you bring that level of performance to the piece. In the opening movement you play with high energy and vitality. You play the waltz very well in the second movement. Who other than Barber would have conceived of bringing hemiola rhythm into a waltz? Clever indeed, but had he written a more romantic, sensual yet edgy waltz, he would have captivated me more. The Adagio, third movement, has always baffled me. For an adagio it gives a somewhat pensive and lyrical, yet very stark impression, perhaps a picture of devastation following a cataclysm. You play the adagio with fine lyricism which balances some of the dissonances. Your performance of the big fugue at the end is a veritable tour de force.

    Quite apart from your wonderful playing, like Chris, I've never really warmed up to this sonata. As an American pianist I'm well aware that it's a pinnacle of the American piano literature. While I admire its elegant constructs, it doesn't fully appeal to me. And it's not that I dislike Barber. I do enjoy his Piano Concerto. Moreover, I believe that his "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" for soprano and chamber orchestra, based on texts of James Agee, is a 20th Century masterpiece. And who does not like his "Adagio for Strings"? As I think about the sonata, probably my very personal issue is this: Barber, I believe, wrote this sonata mostly in a neoclassical style, and as I think about it here, maybe not unlike Prokofiev's brand of neoclassicism to a point. Had he put more of a neo-romantic twist on it, I'm sure it probably would have won me over by now. But that's just me. :)

    Again, your playing of the Barber Sonata, sarara, is a signal accomplishment in my opinion.

    David
     
  5. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hello David,

    Thank you very much for listening and for sharing your thoughts on this piece among others. I first read your comment with a slight sense of alarm, because I realized the very limited amount of knowledge I have about Barber. I had worked on the Hermit Songs a few years back---- and with this fortunate encounter, I became curious about his works for solo piano.
    For me, the pinnacle of this sonata, the fugue, was the most interesting movement. Although this may apply to the whole sonata, the last movement in particular is both a physical and a mental workout, and I believe the sheer technical brilliance of its musical structure makes it the most captivating and appealing movement of them all. As for the entire sonata, I think I know what you mean with its neo-classical style. The first movement does adhere strictly to the sonata form, and while performing this movement, I tried conscientiously to show its form for the sake of orientation. Otherwise, I knew the listeners would simply get lost in the sheer mass of notes.

    Again, thank you for your message. I've listened on Youtube the other pieces of Barber that you've mentioned, so I am a little more familiar with his works now than before. I actually should have done this before learning this sonata... :D

    Sarara
     
  6. musicrecovery

    musicrecovery Member Piano Society Artist

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    Sarara

    Your performance is absolutely gorgeous and the tone is beautiful.

    -Kaila
     
  7. Bruce Siegel

    Bruce Siegel New Member

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    Hi Sarara,

    This is really a major accomplishment. Quite simply, I'm in awe of the skill it takes to pull off that last movement. Really exciting to listen to, and done with wonderful precision and a delightful variety of tonal colors and resources.

    That place at 2:02 in the last movement is such a welcome lightening of mood isn't it? Suddenly, a simple E major chord, then a seventh added—so playful and jazzy. Sounds a bit like Gershwin (on drugs) for just a moment!

    I love your playing in the second movement too. Really soulful.

    I also envy the very nice quality of sound on your acoustic recordings.
     
  8. JohnAnderson

    JohnAnderson New Member

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    Hi Sarara!

    Great job! Only thing I'd say is perhaps there could be more difference in dynamics. The first movement if I remember right there is only one ff, which is midway through the piece at the recap, and eventually balancing all the other dynamics around this point can add a lot of variety to the tone, which only makes an already great rendition more interesting to listen to. Perhaps also thinking of the opening motif at times more as a sigh or lament could add more expression. I also had the impression that at times you sacrifice a little bit of potential expression or even control in an effort to be in time, which I don't think is really necessary and kind of a shame. There are places where perhaps you could take more time to prepare and treat the sound, which might also add weight to your climaxes and phrasing. Overall though if I had only one thing to say, really I'd concentrate on gradating dynamics (many types of piano, many types of forte) to give more structure to it and increase the audience's attention. But the energy is great, and it's very well in order! I like the piece, and played it also. The audio quality is also great, and the fact you played this live is fantastic!

    Have you ever had a look at the Carter sonata? It's in my opinion still more interesting musically-speaking, and if you're looking for another big American sonata to learn I'd seriously recommend it! It also has a terrifying fugue.

    You are obviously extremely accomplished and I hope you take my comments knowing that mainly it's in effort to be more engaged in the site as has been requested, which is easy with such an engaging recording!

    All the best,
    John
     
  9. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hi Kaila,

    Thank you for listening to this long piece, and I was extremely happy that you found my tone beautiful-- a real compliment, especially in a piece like this. I was a bit worried of sounding too machinary-like in some moments of the piece. :D

    Sarara
     
  10. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for listening to this recording as well! The recording quality's credit goes to the Tonmeister (sound-master, if literally translated from German) who works at the music conservatory, where I studied. I could never get quite the same quality with my Edirol, although that still works quite well. Yes, it's a great piece, isn't it?

    Sarara
     
  11. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hi John,

    Thank you for listening and for your comments! I am glad to read any ideas, suggestions, etc. Regarding dynamics, that is one of those issues that I should work on for all the years to come :) I agree definitely that a greater range of dynamic would be more effective. Thank you for reminding me about this.
    The effort to stay in time/rhythm in the first movement (did you mean the first movement in particular?) was rather intentional on my part, because I wanted to emphasize a slightly mechanical, machinary-like quality of the first theme. Through this rhythmically stern theme, I wanted to establish a certain coherence throughout the movement, so that a listener could follow it somehow. But again, it could be played in many different ways, and no doubt part of the fun is due to exploring all the different possibilities :D
    I did not know that Carter had written a piano sonata, and now that I know it involves a fugue, I'm eager to try it! Thank you for telling me!

    Sarara
     
  12. JohnAnderson

    JohnAnderson New Member

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    Hi Sarara,

    You're absolutely right, the possibilities in performance are always infinite, and researching into possibilities can go on for ever, for our entire lives! This is a wonderful thing, it means we should never be bored! My comments about the rhythm though are pretty general, and an attitude I have towards more or less any music I play: that they should be obviously identifiable, not contorted to the extent that they become something that they are not (like all the dotted rhythms in the 1st movement, as much expression as you add, they should never be confused with triplets, which is an easy mistake, and one you avoid to great effect!). However, while still maintaining their motivic identity, their function changes depending on what they are doing in the phrase, and it is always (I think) possible to make them work for you in order to achieve something that you want to express, rather than the other way around. My impression was that there are times when you sacrifice something that is in the music, that you even feel and would even naturally do, but that the sense of being "right" by the metronome diminished the space you allowed yourself to "play" with the rhythms. I'd draw more attention to, in addition to the obvious rhythmic motif (that holds together your rendition exceptionally well), also to the melodic importance of the semitone, which often I think can have more the character of a sigh. The sevenths/seconds, upon which the first movement is based, are the most expressive intervals after all. But to be honest, the places where I wanted more time most was when approaching big climaxes, where it seems to me you can prepare the listener by stretching the time a little. For me this doesn't erode the rhythmic integrity, but instead gives it more importance and functionality. The fact it's always the same rhythm means when it comes, it is always going to be recognized, and so the interest, for me at least, is in finding all the ways to vary it. The way you play does have that wonderfully impressive "machine-like" quality, as you mention, but I think without hardly any effort on your part, it could be much more expressive, and I'd guess still more engaging for the listener, to have a little more the impression that you are in control, in the driver's seat, and the music's saying what you want to say. From my point of view, even most macanical music can be better served as if it is the performer running the machine, and not the other way around, even if doing so shifts the listeners' attention from the technical and virtuosic aspects to more human elements.

    You are 100% free to completely disagree, and in a piece like this, you are certainly not wrong to play it the way you do. But for the sake of another point of view, and possibly to illustrate better what I mean, I'm attaching a recording I made 5 years ago. The playing is not nearly as good as yours, the recording quality is horrible, and even the intentions I'm stressing in my comments here could be much better executed, but perhaps it's easier to follow at least what I mean with real sound as opposed to words. For some reason the 2nd and 3rd movements are on the same track. And the concert was on the unification day in Switzerland, and so at a certain point it becomes a contest between the fireworks and the piano... Something that strangely happened to me again this summer in Switzerland!

    Anyway, like I say, I genuinely enjoyed your performance (more than mine for what it's worth), but as the discussion is for me an interesting one, I thought I'd post also my take, to see what you think.
    John

    ps - if you want to take a look at the Carter you can find it here: viewtopic.php?f=20&t=3671
     
  13. jono7

    jono7 New Member

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    Hi Sarara
    I thought you played these very well. Unfortunately I'm unfamiliar with these pieces so can't give any detailed comments but the overall impression was very good.
     
  14. Sarara721

    Sarara721 New Member

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    Hi Jono7,
    Thank you for listening to both of the pieces. The piece doesn't seem to be often played (at least in Europe) but there is a recording of this piece by Horowitz, who premiered this piece. I felt both encouraged and discouraged to learn this piece (great recording, difficult piece) but I had a lot of fun playing it once I finally had the notes somewhat in control.
    Sarara
     
  15. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Sarara,
    I just listend to your performance and if I were there I would have yelled, "Brava!" Your performance was finished, commanding, powerful, lyric, authoritative! Thanks so much for reminding me of this great work - which I love every movement of. I'm definitely going to have to learn it some day, Lord willing. I'm just curious; what was it preceded by in your program?
    Eddy
     

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