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Chopin - Barcarolle

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by pianolady, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. pianolady

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

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    I shed plenty of blood, sweat, and tears working on this piece (ok – really only two out of the three). The first time I worked on the Barcarolle was around seven or eight years ago, but it was too hard and I gave up. Tried it a couple times after that, but again gave up. I don’t know what got into me this time, but I decided to learn it (or at least seriously try) once and for all. Probably because I have a good teacher, otherwise this would be much worse than it is.

    You all know the difficulties of the piece. There are about a hundred things wrong in my recording of it here, and there are so many things I wanted to do better. I dunno…maybe it is not even fit for the site. I really did work very hard on it, though, but if this doesn’t fly, then so be it. At least I can tell myself that I gave it my all this time and it is time to move on.

    The attached video is something I did just for the heck of it. Sort of…. Seeing Chris’ video made me think about making another video myself and so I got out the camera and started fooling around with it again, trying out lighting and camera positions and stuff like that. But unlike Chris’ video, this one here is definitely not for the site (which is apparent from all the cursing and sighing), and I will take it down very shortly. I recorded myself playing the Barcarolle because I have a confession to make: I did not record the piece all the way through in one take. I had to do it in three sections (the best of) and then paste it together because I have never, nor will I ever be able to get through all of it perfectly. But also it is because of the page turns. Actually, I was reading off of single sheets of paper so I could put three up at a time. The video shows you exactly where I took the breaks. Ok, I’m a terrible liar and now I feel better knowing that you all know my little secret with this recording.

    It’s really a miracle I even got some semi-decent takes to paste together, so if you care to comment on my playing of the Barcarolle, listen to the mp3 because that’s the best version I have.

    Chopin - Barcarolle Op. 60
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    So, you have taken the plunge...
    I did not bother with the video as it will take about forever for me to download.
    The mp3 is not bad at all, technically. A couple of slips can be forgiven, as this is after all, a difficult piece. Indeed though, it does not quite 'fly'. It is rather too slow in the outer movements (not in the central movement, which is spot-on) but what worries me more is the prosaic approach. You are rather rigid in tempo, and do not apply much dynamics, which makes it sound a bit pedestrian. The sheer exultation of the piece, especially in the recapitulation, does not come off. I think you left out one of the double trills in the recap, and one or two other trills there sounded strange (but that could be my mistake).
    But overall, a very presentable Barcarolle, maybe not optimal. but nothing much wrong with it. I did not notice the different takes, it seemed to flow seamlessly.

    BTW 1 - I do not think my video is 'fit for the site' with that missing top of head and the cumbersome page turn. I'll certainly not put it up.

    BTW 2 - Most of my recordings are not in one take either. Well actually, they're always in one take, but with anything from 1 to 6 cuts, depending on the length of the piece. So don't feel bad about that.
     
  3. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    You should "hire" one of your kids to turn the page and the other to operate the camera. Or you should train one of your "stupid ducks" :wink:
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Can't - we got rid of them. After countless times of nearly breaking our necks skidding in the duck shit, we decided enough was enough and donated them to the local kids' farm. The garden is nice and tidy now. I should change my bio as the number of animals and kids keeps changing.
     
  5. pianolady

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

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    Ok, thanks for listening - And yes, I know...I suck. Think I am going to give up piano and take up the ukelele, instead. Wonder if there is a ukelele forum? Then I can be ukelelelady.
     
  6. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I wouldn't agree with the pessimism Monica. I noticed many nice things in the Barcarolle. The touch is nice, the style is personal and honest, some passages are quite convincing, direct. It could be better, sure, but for this to happen, you first should feel better.
    I don't know if you were put off by the piece and its difficulty or you were just distracted by this video thing you were doing. If it is the former, then you should wonder whether you really like this piece or you just chose to play it because you should have a Chopin barcarolle in your repertoire. If it's the latter, just throw the camera away and next time don't let anything take away the focus and passion required for solo piano playing.

    And btw, think twice before taking up the ukulele, it's not that easy you know...
     
  7. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    You play this quite nicely...don't be so hard on yourself. Now, when you start to dive into the polonaises, that's when you can be hard on yourself. :wink:
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    I read of your journey and struggle with the Barcarolle and could totally relate to it. :) My own nemesis over the years has been the Scriabin Etude, Op. 42, No. 6 in D flat. When Scriabin and I went to the mat for the first time on that etude, I was soundly defeated. We scheduled a rematch a couple of years ago, during which I fought him to a draw. Probably in another year or so I'll issue a new challenge with hopes of victory. :lol: So I know the frustrations, believe me!

    The fact that you spliced three takes of the different sections together is OK. Those were takes of large sections of the piece, so what does it matter? What really bugs me is the less-than-honest editing that goes on in professional recording studios by the recording engineers in producing CDs for the pros that give the illusion of perfect performances. Reminds me of the story of the well-known pianist who was having a really difficult recording session. The engineer finally sent him home, saying he'd edit the recording and asked the artist to return in a week. Then the recording engineer began working his magic. When the artist next returned to the studio, the engineer sat him down and had him listen to the final recording. The artist was totally impressed by what he was hearing and afterward waxed enthusiastically over it. The engineer then said, "Yes, don't you wish you could play like that?"

    Anyway, don't reach for the ukelele yet. There are good indicators in your performance of this barcarolle. You've got the notes, worked out the challenging technical issues, and have developed a sense of the shape of the piece and how to play the long line. So all of that has given you a firm foundation for performance. But clearly, the piece is still a work in progress. (Of course, this is one of those masterworks that can be a work in progress for a lifetime, where you continually gain new insights--which is a very good thing.) If I had to critique, I'd offer this: To me your playing right now sounds a little cautious, stiff and mechanical. The obvious reason for that is the practicing you've put in ironing out all the trouble spots. So now the focus needs to change from matters of technique to matters of musicality. That means relaxing more and paying more attention to cantabile, dynamics, voicing, expression, rubato, turns of phrase, nuances, etc. In other words, work more on the poetry of your playing now. This is a very substantial piece, so it's going to take time to refine your rendition to the point where you're playing with intention which to your ear is then exactly translated into the sound or effect you're seeking.

    Keep up the good work!

    David
     
  9. pianolady

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

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    The ukelele thing was the one thing that popped into my head yesterday, and I was in a rush and didn't have time to respond. Now I have more time so here goes...

    Chris, you're right about my dynamics and rigid tempo. I'm working on trying to play softer in soft parts - it takes so much control and effort and I need more years to get it to feel natural. Fortissimo parts have always been hard because of my wrist problems. However, my teacher has made me realize that I can get my sound up by improving my technique so I guess I can't resort to the 'tendonitis' excuse anymore. But my wrists really do hurt a lot when I play this piece - all those 6ths with fingers 2 and 5, the double trills - oops, there I go again.

    I have mixed feelings about tempo.

    Julius, Pantelis and David - thanks to you guys also for taking the time to listen. And don't worry, I'm not really going to switch to the ukelele. I'm going for a Jew's harp, instead. :lol: No video camera anymore, either! That made me so much more nervous - my fingers were actually shaking. Anyway, right after I finished recording the Barcarolle, I said to myself that I'm done - I'm not going to work on it anymore. But then just last night I saw Marc-Andre Hamelin perform it (I posted info about that and a couple pics over on the Pianist forum), and I've had something like an epiphany in that I am now thinking that I may keep working on it. David - I love your story about your own battle with that Scriabin piece. That's how I'm looking at this Barcarolle piece too.
     
  10. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    First I watched the video and I found the struggle with that page turns and your comments, or better said, your maledictions a bit funny. Then I pulled out the score and after that I can totally understand why one has to sweat and tear playing that very difficult piece. I also now agree with Chris, that certainly this Barcarolle ist just some levels from difficulty above the Berceuse, not only from length, also from the density of the chords.
    I also don't understand why one needs to compose a piece with 6 sharps. :lol: At least one could write it down with 6 flats instead, that would be nicer for Chopin players (because the flats are dominating in Chopin, so one is used to it and it would be easier readable, or not?).

    I also never have seen nor played double trills within one hand, and you seem not to have any problems with that, neither from watching you playing that nor from the sound!

    Your audiofile sounds very good to me. Your pp part in the last bars starts wonderful soft, I very much like that. Maybe there are some spots here and there where it does not sound that loose like on other places, but overall it is a really good job on that hard beast!

    By the way, it is such a harmonic rich and interesting piece I could imagine that it does not loose fascinating even after innumerous repetitions of playing or listening?

    Congratulations for coping with such a demanding piece! I do think, if someone can play the Barcarolle, like you, then you can play everything from Chopin, because the top of difficulties is reached regarding Chopin?

    Thanks for both, mp3 and video!
     
  11. pianolady

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

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    Thanks, Olaf. I know what you mean about the six sharps. It sure is not much fun - especially when you play something else afterwards in a different key, but you are used to reading e-sharps!

    And you know what? I'm now having more second thoughts (third thoughts?) about practicing this piece. I just can't decide if I want to or not. Part of me thinks I can improve it with more time and practice. But the other part feels that the sacrifice is so great - to me, anyway, because I can't let one single day go by without working on it or else it starts to slip out of my fingers. And that takes a lot of time away from being able to practice other pieces. Up until a couple weeks ago, I had three or four other pieces that were almost done, but I had to put them away and devote all my time to the Barcarolle so that I could make some definite progress on it. But now I've forgotten those other pieces and have to re-learn them. So I dunno....

    Something funny to me - don't know if any of you have even heard of a Jew's harp - I have, but always thought it was called a 'juice' harp. Just learned it is a Jew's harp when I looked it up and typed my last post. Learn something new everyday!
     
  12. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    44 MB ????

    Now I'll have to clean my PC (I'm at home and have a very old computer.)

    As for the piece, now I see why we don't have a recording of it yet. It sounds really difficult and the six sharps - yuchh! I heard a recording of Albeniz' "La Vega" on this site some months back and bought a copy online, only to find it was in 7 flats! I thought it was someone's idea of a bad joke.

    I don't know the Barcarolle - is everyone supposed to be acquainted with it? Everyone else seems to be. I actually attended conservatory once upon a time (I think Nixon was the president then).

    Actually, I wanted to comment on the video. It's so interesting to see other pianists at work. I noticed you wear a watch and a ring while playing, for instance - I don't seem to be able to do that. Also, there's stuff on the piano that I'm sure is going to fall over and get in the action. Your hand position looks good. Your hands don't look as small as you say they are.

    Also - it looks like you record on the side *away* from the lid. There's been a lot of talk on this board about that lately and I think I'll try it when I have time to move the piano.

    You should make a video of yourself playing some of the Granados pieces. You know them so well that we can get a better idea of things like how much you watch your hands. (Probably one of the things that pianists notice most about other pianists.)

    P.S. You know, of course, that playing the ukelele will raise a lot of callouses. Not good for pianists. So I've heard.
     
  13. pianolady

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

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    Re: 44 MB ????

    Funny!

    I remember him! And I guess you have to be a Chopin nut to know the Barcarolle. It's a great piece, but darn hard!

    My maximum reach is a ninth. But when there are inner notes, then forget it. As to my rings and watch – I take them off when I record. My left hand gets very flat often which makes my ring clink on the keys. My ears are very sensitive and I can hear my watch ticking while I play, so I have to take it off as well and put it somewhere across the room. Otherwise, it is like a little metronome and really messes me up. As to the stuff on my piano - yeah, I usually have flowers and a cup of coffee sitting there. I have had a few close calls when almost knocking something over, and many flower pedals and leaves have fallen inside the piano ( as well as pencils, paper clips, some of my hair when it caught fire on my piano light - hahaha) I know I should not have these things there.

    As you can see from the video, I don’t have any room on the other side of my piano. I have tried placing the recorder there, but since I had to crawl under the piano and then squeeze myself up against the wall, it was a royal pain in the ‘you-know-what’, so I gave up with that.

    Uh oh, you should not have given me any more ideas. :wink:

    Probably not, but the Jews harp should not pose a problem! :lol:

    Thanks for listening, Stu.
     
  14. Syeles

    Syeles New Member

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    Hey Monica.
    Congratulations on enduring the hours and hours it must have taken you to produce this. Beautifully done. I thought you handled the dynamics well, although Chris may prefer more drama. It's hard enought just to get the notes right. I didn't see the video, but I would like to have - especially for the cursing! :lol:
     
  15. pianolady

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

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    Thanks, Albert - my E-natural friend. :wink: But I'm getting too good at cursing while I play so it's probably best that you did not see the video.
     
  16. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,
    have my sincere congratulations to this beautiful performance, which sound quite accurately may be besides some little slips (I didn´t listen with score). I played this piece during my studies in Cologne, so many years ago.
    O.k., it is possible to develop more passion, but on the other side there are so much gateways (hope I use the right expression here, german: Zugang) to Chopin and your interpretation is so blanced. I like it really. Continue so!

    I´m working now on the 3rd Scherzo of Chopin, which takes much time. That´s the reason I´m not so oft on this site at this time. I´m still unsatisfied with my interpretation (like you with your Barcarolle).
    What a pity, I couldn´t find your video.
     
  17. pianolady

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

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    Thanks, Andreas - and also for listening to that mazurka. I've decided to keep working on the Barcarolle, so hopefully one day I'll get a better recording. But still, after a million hours of practicing it, I make only the tiniest amount of improvement. It's frustrating!

    It's on YouTube. :lol:
     
  18. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    From my experience, it totally doesn't... In fact, every time I play it, I love it more and more! ...now that I finally finished learning it...

    Monica, I'll have to agree with Techneut here about the opening: it's too slow IMO. Mostly though, what it needs is dynamics, and breath. At the risk of sounding stupid, this piece becomes so much easier to play when you feel it rather than "play" it. It's ok to speed up a little at the beginning of a phrase, and then to slow down a bit towards the end... especially at a slower tempo! As for the dynamics... I did not even realize how incredibly detailed Chopin was with his dynamic markings in this piece until my piano teacher told me to look at it measure by measure, ONLY noting the dynamic marks. All the shaping is basically laid out for you! Of course, it's also pretty weird since most of the time the phrasing/shaping seems to go against what one would naturally hear at first, but that's a different story altogether...

    Anyway... Most of all, congratulations on spending the time and effort to actually learn the piece! It's quite a feat! I became so frustrated when I was learning it sometimes, and thought I would NEVER be able to memorize it. I think I must've spent at least 75 hours on it before I could play it the way I wanted to :? What was Chopin thinking when he wrote this beast??
     
  19. pianolady

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

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    Thanks for listening, Kendrick. I have been working on this everyday since I put it up and I hope I am not just wishful thinking, but it’s getting better. My opening tempo is faster maybe because I am like you say ‘feeling’ it now instead of just playing it. After that, though, and sheer concentration sets in so I can hit correct notes. The phrasing is indeed special. For a person with the bad habit of playing with stiff wrists, this has been a particularly big issue and my poor teacher spends every lesson trying to get me to loosen up and move them more, which then helps produce better shaping. I think I’m getting a little better with that too, and when I actually remember to do it, the tone – the way the notes on top sing so simply yet beautifully, well it’s just so neat!

    Dynamics – I play them, but I don’t think they come out well on the recordings. I probably could be louder in the loud parts, though.

    I am not trying to memorize the entire piece – just parts where there is the most jumping around – I think I memorized four places. Although, since I am still working on this, perhaps I have more memorized than I think. As far as the harmonies go – I never get tired of them either. The most special section is the one that is the 2nd from last page. I just love that part. So gut-wrenching!

    So…you spent 75 hours on it, I’ve probably doubled, maybe even tripled that with the time I’ve spent on it. Hopefully, I can record a new and improved version in a couple weeks.
    He was thinking, "I'm going to give Monica from Chicago a very hard time with this." :lol:
     
  20. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,
    Pianolady wrote:
    Could you give me the link, please? I couldn´t find it.
     

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