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Brahms Intermezzo #2, Op 118, A Major

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by johnlewisgrant, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Let me introduce this piece by mentioning that I have been uninvolved with all things in the piano world for about 6 years. It was when the Society was started up that I submitted some material, and because of a dreadful accident to my thumb (right hand), I have done nothing with that hand for many years. Now I am practising more. The A Major Intermezzo recording, however, I made many years ago; back then I wasn't convinced it was good enough to submit here. It has been up at the site of the Steinway-approved sampled version of the Model B Grand. But I listened to it again the other day and concluded that, in spite of the deficiencies, it's listenable. The pressing that I'm going to upload--or try to upload--may not be at the optimal bit rate. So be it. I should have my studio set up again by the end of the month, at which time that sort of thing should be mostly sorted out.

    On the issue of contributing to the selections process, I confess I always thought that only a select few were even permitted to cast judgment! Times have changed! I'm happy to comment on material, IF, that is, anyone can bear my opinions (or perhaps "Judgements" with a capital "J" really is the optimal word in this context). It would be very helpful, however, if there were some way to advise me when pieces come up for "approval".

    Cheers,

    John


    Brahms - Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118, no. 2
     
  2. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    OK I assume the attachment is acceptable. I'm trying to figure out how to get the file into the body of the message. Using my daughter's MAC, but I'm not a MAC person.

    JG
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi John,
    No worries, your recording is here. However, I'm having some other major computer problems of my own right now and can't listen or process anything else on PS tonight. As far as commenting on other members' recordings - you just need to visit the site regularly. That's how you will know if there are new recordings to critique.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi JLG, long time no hear. I didn't know about the thing with your thumb. Is it better now ?
    This is a most beautiful recording, intensely personal, deeply considered, and flawlessly executed. You dawdle a bit too much for my taste in places but that is not meant as criticism. I'm puzzled about where you would find any deficiencies, or why you would think this would not bee good enough ? It's as good as they come, and then some.
     
  5. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    When I say that it's not good enough for PS it is because I have a kind of pecking order for putting stuff up on the net. I'll put up stuff I'm only marginally happy with at some sites, but I try to reserve the pieces that I've thought about for PS.

    The tempi: there's the rub, in my view. The opening bars, for example, are too tentative, and the piece loses pace right from the get go! I see in this piece a kind of dipping of ones toes into a relationship, and Brahms in this music is simply telling the story of the development of that relationship/personal experience as it develops (to put it programmatically). But for that story to move along the tempi need to be kept more consistent. Again, only more extreme: at piu lento (the uncorda section at page 3 of most editions, marked pp), I just RIP through it all, because I honestly couldn't find any other way of keeping the interest here! Those slow, thoughtful chords are a vital part of the story, in this wonderful piece, but even to this day I don't understand what Brahms was getting at in this section! One might superficially say that the section is a break from the torrents of emotion that literally explode off the page in this piece, especially in what immediately follows the uncorda section, but that's pretty vague for musical purposes.

    And on, and on. My case never rests, your honour. Those are the sort of things that bug me with this performance.

    Re participation: another thought. Perhaps as I think someone has suggested, for every piece that's offered the "offeror" agrees to adjudicate 5 (or some other number) offerings by others?

    JG
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I LOVE that idea!!
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I rest my case, you have pretty much summed up my points. While we agree that it's too much in places, I know that many people love interpretations like this (precisely because what you call the flaws), which is why I made no point of it even though it is not my personal taste.

    A nice idea in concept, but it would be up to the admins to keep an administration of this, and chase the pianists in question. Many of them will just never do it, or will oblige with a useless token review. I fear this will lead to more work, and create dispute as much as useful forum posts.
     
  8. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Indeed, the token review or the failure to comply: and the admin ie enforcement of it all. A nightmare.

    And there are, I'm guessing, some "high flyers" on board; pianists who have budding pro piano careers on the fly and who don't have any time at all. Ditto single moms and, and just plain, incredibly busy folks, and all the other relevant categories: people for whom TIME is a major deal. It's a conundrum.

    Still, to argue the other side, aren't we, all of us, faced with our own personal burdens and challenges--aging parents, disabilities, wayward teens to raise--the list is endless..... So the level of PS participation becomes a serious choice, like everything else in life.. what are MY priorities going to be???

    The problem is, in the end, for the 3 lonely souls doing the admin for a site that seems to have become enormous over the years. Even if a rule of sorts is set down, and even if everyone follows, I see a lot of work ahead!

    JG
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Make that two. Robert takes care of the infrastructure, hardware, financial issues, etc. but does not involve in the forum or main site.
     
  10. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    So much the worse, then.

    Anyhow: for what it's worth, I'll comment on--let's see--5? subsequent offerings, for what my comments are worth. One would think that even ONE adjudication for every piece (long or short) submitted would work out arithmetically, ie ensuring that all the offerings get some sort of input from each offeror.
    So that's my personal commitment for now. I'll comment on 5. (Seems like a lot now that I've committed myself in writing!!!)

    JG
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ok John, this is up on the site now.
     
  12. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    That´s a very expressive and musical approach to this famous piece. I like it very much. It´s full of individual nuances and ideas. Notewise it sounds all perfectly.
    For a romantic piece your rubati are not only possible, but very adequate. So, what can I say more, that is a great and deeply sensed individual interpretation. What do we want more! Bravo!
    Just one question: is this again a MIDI-version?
     
  13. Radar

    Radar New Member

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    I've been working on this Piece recently, and I enjoyed listening to your interpretation of it. You did a great job with it definitely worthy of submittal.
     
  14. Bruce Siegel

    Bruce Siegel New Member

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    Wonderful piece of of work, John! And what inspires me as much as the musical result is your unceasing questioning and your dedication to making it even better.

    I tend to agree with you about two things: a more consistent tempo throughout might have been helpful. As to a tentative start, the broken chord in the 2nd complete measure can hold things back. I try not to let the rolled chord affect the pulse.

    As to that section with the static chords in the middle of the piece, I hear you! On the one hand, the section does make perfect sense because it quiets, for the moment, the perpetual rolling chords, making the next section more welcome.

    But what I've never been able to fathom is the piu lento marking! Is that from Brahms? I, too, feel an urgent need to keep it moving—even to speed up. Maybe he meant to write piu mosso? ;o) Then there would be no mystery at all.

    By the way, this is my first visit to this forum. I was drawn here by our recent exchange, John, at Northern Sounds, and am looking forward to making some submissions of my own.

    What a great service you folks who run this site are doing—for listeners and players both!
     
  15. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the kind words.

    How did I proceed? Played on a Roland, I think it was at the time. I don't like any of the synth pianos out there, so I always go to step 2:listen to the midi file via the best sampled piano program I can find. In the Brahms, I used the Garritan "Authorized Steinway." "Authorized" means that Steinway and Sons, USA, was involved in the production of the sample, and gave the sample its seal of approval. High praise, one would think.

    Gary Garritan (who produced the sample) was looking for good classical performances to show off the sample, so I had a go at it. Unfortunately, the computer I had at the time was simply not powerful enough to enable me to play and record on the Garritan Steinway simultaneously. Many piano samples suffer from that issue. So I am almost always compelled to use a controller (fake piano) with a reasonably good touch and a bearable sound to perform the piece (thus generating a midi file of the performance.)

    Now to answer the midi question in more detail: did I then proceed to edit the file? Indeed, I absolutely did, and I make no bones about it.

    The question always arises (implicitly or explicitly): can this guy actually play? And how well?

    Somewhat ironically, I cut of the tip of my right thumb a number of years ago. It was sewed back on at the hospital in Toronto, by hand in fact, and after a year I was able to play again, although with much-reduced feeling and dexterity in my thumb (as you can imagine). I know a number of pianists and organists personally, and I can tell you that everyone of them literally kept there distance (at least for a while) out of fear that my presence might bring them bad luck.

    Anyhow, I feel a little obliged, as I have already hinted at, to play a few pieces "live" so to speak, just to establish the fact that I do actually play. (Model 500 Kawai, not the pleasantest sounding instrument in the world)! But in the end, I do continue to feel that "midified" (my word) performances have there place as long as they are pianistic in the highest sense. In fact, I think the bar should be set quite a bit higher for these sorts of "performances."

    That's why, when I here a recording here at PS that is obviously on a fake keyboard, I consciously and deliberately require that it be a) plausible-sounding given the type of music and b) not even remotely stiff, mechanical, or God forbid "quantified." I'm suspicious of anything that isn't verifiably authentic, in fact; and so I'm a pretty awful person when it comes to reviewing submissions to PS. Apparently reviewers are short in supply, so everyone is invited to pitch in!

    One other thing: the original Brahms is actually lower that 128 kps, because I couldn't find the original on my old pc. The original sounds clearer, and can be heard at the Garritan Steinway site. It may be slightly different in a number of other respects. I remember submitting a number of goes, and I can't remember which exactly we ended up using.

    Hope all this helps.

    JG
     
  16. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re "piu lento": at the bottom of page 2 of most editions; at any rate, just 2 bars prior to the in tempo repeat!

    JG
     
  17. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Absolutely exquisite playing, John. I too can't see how you could have found anything not to like about your interpretation here (though I also understand the feeling of looking back on a recording and not liking certain things). The only negative remark I would have it about the sound, which, although highly professional, seems a bit artificial.

    But as for the playing, not so at all: wonderful arching melodic contours, subtle accentuation of inner voices, and a lyrical expansiveness that is so characteristic of the German spat romantiks -- your performance has an almost Wagnerian tension in the climaxes (despite the rivalries between the two Brahms and Wagner schools, their music seems to share that sometimes).

    Wonderful playing.

    Joe
     
  18. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    An artificiality about the sound: yes, I agree completely.

    JG
     

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