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Chopin Preludes and Scriabin Preludes Op. 11 -- Part I

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by jlr43, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello all,

    Recently began my latest recording project. Most of the Chopin preludes will, of course, be familiar to piano aficionados. Scriabin's music might be a bit more arcane for some, though Horowitz popularized several preludes and etudes. This set of preludes is IMO the composer's greatest. Patterned on Chopin's opus, it follows the same circle of fifths progression through twenty-four keys. I thought it would be interesting to do these two sets side by side for comparison purposes (though I have no pretense that it hasn't been done before, just like practically everything else in this world :) )

    I have decided to record them in four pairs of six each, so I am submitting the first part (12 total). I always lament that either of these composers is so difficult to play even close to perfectly. Chopin in particular I submit with some trepidation since it is so oft played and everyone seems to have his or her own notion of proper rubato and other elements, but I hope you find something fresh to enjoy in them. Monica will at least be happy that it isn't another long sonata movement :p

    Comments welcome.

    Joe
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Hi Joe,
    I was enjoying these quite well (though I am not crazy about the Chopin preludes with a few exceptions) but when I got to hearing #4 I have to admit that my forehead went into a perplexed frown trying to comprehend what you are doing rhythmically, and then again with #6. :? You may want to call it rubato, but I wouldn't because it follows repetative patterns. I have to say plainly that you are simply not keeping time well in these slow lyric works of classic simplicity. You really left me scratching my head on those two. I will reserve comment on the Scriabin until I can listen with score in hand sometime tomorrow.
    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    An interesting project to combine these two iconic prelude sets. I love the Scriabin Op.11 set as much as the Chopin set. They're just maybe a touch derivative, but so incredibly beautiful and pianistic. My favorite Scriabin pieces (that is partly because I have little affinity with mature and late Scriabin).

    Some comments on the Chopin preludes (will listen to the Scriabin's later). They're well played, you certainly have them well under the fingers and in the mind. Good technique mostly, and some nice individual touches. Specific points:

    1 - Just a little too heavy for my taste. Could be more like a butterfly telling of things to come. If butterflies can talk, that is.
    2 - Isn't this rather fast for a Lento ? I could not hear the E in the closing arpeggio chord.
    3 - The LH is a bit too obtrusive here, grabbing all the attention. This could be lighter on its feet (easier said than done..). The final unisono run seems a bit uneven.
    4 - I side with Eddy in that the rubato is rather over the top. Though I am sure some golden-age pianists would have played it like this.
    5 - Kudos on mastering this very tricky piece (I find it one of the hardest of the set). It seems a bit too hectic to me though, and a bit uneven in places.
    6 - Again the rubato might be a bit too much, though not as drastic as in no.4.

    I hope you'll find these comments useful. These can certainly go on the site as is, but I think you'll maybe want to add a little more polish here and there.
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh, I wish I could listen to these, but I can't right now. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Just out of curiosity, what piano are you playing?
     
  6. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Ok I now have some comments on the Scriabin.

    No.1 All in all, a very good rendition of a most curiously scored work which really lacks clarity and must be deciphered a bit. Though the meter is 2/2 and there are 10 8th notes and/or 6 quarter notes to the bar, we really see that in a measure's worth of time what he writes is two 5-note irregular groups per 1/2 note. But then to emphasize the two-note anacrusis of his concept, he simply draws the measure lines AFTER two 1/8 notes. The bars with six 1/4 notes are really quarter-note triplets per 1/2 note pulse. The whole work is immediately understandable if the bar lines are all drawn two 1/8 notes earlier and a "5" is added to the beamed 8th notes. Then you can simply inflect the drive to the 3rd 8th of the groupings. The hardest part rhythmically is certainly the closing measures where you have to play five 1/8 notes in the RH to three 1/4 notes in the LH, both representing one 1/2 note pulse of the meter. Last, the speed indicated in the Russian edition of 1/4-note= 63-73, is wrong and MUST be 1/2 note =63-74, which you reflect in your preformance.

    No.2 I think your performance is more than adequate, but for me, I would have preferred much clearer (prominent) statements of melody, whether in the RH or in the LH (e.g. m. 35). The tempo is certainly "Allegretto" but I would interpret it slower to magnify the "sad-waltz" nature that I think the piece has.

    No.3 Nice work on this whirling Vivo!

    No.4 Way too fast IMO. This certainly is kindred to and descended from the E Minor AND the B Minor preludes of Chopin. The ascending note of the melody line in the triplets of bars 2 and 4, I would reflect in bars 5 and 6. This piece also uses the characteristic Russian descending chromatic lines, and for me you're just ripping thorugh them instead of hearing every painful inflection that each one represents. I don't think that a listener would have caught that the tempo is "Lento." My 2 cents.

    No.5 My only suggestion here is that just because he writes no rests does not mean that you aren't supposed to take a breath. Here the structure is four 1/2 notes worth of sustained melodic line crossing the bar at midpoint. Scriabin uses the very Romantic phrase structure of two equal-length phrases followed by a third that is twice as long (xx,xx,xxxx vs xxxxxxxx). You need to punctuate these phrases with some silence. I would suggest cutting the long slur 7 bars form the end in half to reflect the implied structure (at "con anima").

    No.6 Interesting to see a piece in octaves in the key of B Minor; that should raise some thoughts of Chopin's etude. This piece is hard to make sound "good" given its almost incessant emphasis on the harmony of 2nds, 7ths or 9ths. I would just say to you, "Have you thought of doing some thumb uncrossing?" I certainly would. Also, though he indicated the last chord of the piece as a big one without an arpeggio symbol but adds "m.s." for the top note, I would play it without an arpeggio by playing the lowest note ahead of time (like we always do), the next 3 notes up the chord with my LH and the last 3 remaining chord notes with the RH, for a big 6-note chord on the down beat anticipated by the lowest note. Just an idea. Also, note the similarity of the closing harmony and chordal nature to that of the Chopin etude mentioned before.

    Hope this helps. I'm looking forward to your future posts!
    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi again, Joe. I didn't go out for lunch today so I can listen to your recordings now.

    Chopin - Sorry, but I'm with the others regarding no. 4 and 6. Actually, 6 is okay I guess. I'm not totally crazy about the LH rushing up the arpeggion like that, but it's not too bad. No. 4 is really just so different than what I'm used to and even though I'm trying to keep an open mind, I really do not think I could ever accept it played like this. It's so hurried, like you have to get to the bathroom...sorry, that's what popped in my mind here.

    All the other Preludes sounded very nice to me! :)

    @Chris - do you want to split these up? I'll do the Chopin and you do Scarlatti?
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ayup. I'll do the Scriabin as well :lol:
     
  9. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks to all for the very helpful comments. I plan on responding to each in more detail tonight, but I just wanted to pop in to say that I would like to have another go at these while keeping the suggestions in mind. I think it's important with a project like this to get off on as good a footing as one can, and I had many similar reservations to the ones you expressed as well as gained some new perspective. So anyway, I just wanted to avoid your doing double work.

    Also, Chris, if you have the time, any thoughts on the Scriabin?

    Joe
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes. Actually I'm fairly critical on these sorry, maybe because I feel strongly about them. Note that most of my comments are just personal taste and not criticism on your playing which is of high standard.

    No.1 - I Know these enormous jumps are very difficult but I find the gaps between the phrases to long and abrupt here. I don't particularly like your handling of the crescendo leading to the climax, it seems to get too rough and tumultuous all of a sudden.

    No.2 - Seems perfectly played but personally I find it too hurried and a bit too much pedal blurring in places. I don't like the impatient way you hurl from bar 2 into bar 3, and similar places. This restful and elegant piece as whole sounds a bit impatient to me.

    No.3 - I did not check the metronome mark but it sounds too fast for your current technique. Just a touch ragged in places and too little phrasing and dynamics. I'd take it a bit more relaxed so you have more time for expression.

    No.4 - Sounds hurried too, especially this descending little chromatic figure. I wonder if you have a specific role model in this music ? This one should be more dreamy IMHO.

    No.5 - For this one I got the metronome out. My Peters score says 40 to the quarter, I think you play it almost twice as quick :shock: I hope you're no in a hurry to complete this set :)

    No.6 - I don't think it's played too fast, probably right on speed, but it sounds too fast and furtive. Needs more weight and sonority (I seem to always use these words when reviewing Russian repertoire :roll: ), and would IMHO sound better a tad slower, never mind the mm marks. Its' one of these pulverizing Russian pieces that can completely knock you over when done properly. At least that's how I perceive this one.

    HTH :D
     
  11. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Interesting coupling, and quite appropriate imo.

    Having listened to the Chopin 6, some thoughts.

    C maj: seems a bit imbued with Rachmaninovian thoughts; I don't think it's agitato enough.
    A min: I thought your tempo was fine, tbh.
    G maj: I agree with Chris that the lh is a little on the obtrusive side. Nice if it can be got to whirr along in the background; not easy of course.
    E min: interesting! Whether people would agree with it is another matter. It seems to me that you are imparting the little swells in the music not just through cresc and descresc, but through tempo fluctuations also.
    D maj: sounds fine to me.
    B min: similar thoughts to the E min, especially re the swells.
     
  12. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Thanks for the comments!

    The subject of rubato is indeed a tricky one and I can hear where you're coming from here. I plan to do more experimentation with this aspect of the slower preludes in the coming week. I would, however, challenge what your overall notion of rubato appears to be as you expressed it in this comment:

    Two things. First, you seem to contradict yourself a bit by saying that you're "trying to comprehend" what I'm doing rhythmically yet also stating that my rubato follows repetitive patterns. The latter comment would imply to me that you are in fact making a statement about what you perceive me to be doing rhythmically. As I see it, the problem lies in trying to "comprehend" it at all. Even the traditional definition of rubato (i.e., a speeding up or slowing down, followed by its exact opposite to restore "robbed" time) is problematic, for it is not really possible to accurately do so and this would indeed be impossibly mechanical. In the end, of course, there is really an ineffability to the concept of rubato that defies description and results from the performer's individuality.

    Now for the second point regarding keeping time. Of course, I could play everything exactly in time or even mostly in time and throb out the melody over a mostly consistent bassline the way so many pianists seem to interpret this piece, but that IMO would be rather flat and rhythmically monotonous. As here, Chopin tends to write in rather constant recurring figurations, which demand, I think, a rhythmically flexible and spontaneous use of rubato to work. It's hard to argue that one is distorting the rhythm when the figurations in question are unvarying. Stretching or expanding too much for one's taste, yes, but not distorting or failing to keep time. I believe my overall tempos are basically consistent, even though within them there are many internal fluctuations, and that this is the spirit of rubato.

    Anyway, just my two cents on a very interesting topic you raised.

    Joe
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks very much for your detailed comments. Many of them coincide with certain reservations of my own, and you've given me some fresh ideas to consider.

    Regarding the Chopin:

    I agree that it could be lighter. Interesting image of the butterfly. I would, however, perhaps interpret the rather sonorous, grand melodic gesture as indicative of a nobler, weightier animal:D

    Maybe. As a general note, though, I would not interpret tempos in terms of any fixed range of metronome markings. Tempos are relatives. I personally have found many performances of this prelude much too slow, but that's just my perception and is independent of the marking "Lento."

    Agreed. I have tried to work on balance quite a bit (also keeping in mind your earlier comments on the Schubert) but know there's still much more work to be done.

    Yep, and I think the difficulty lies in being able to get the music out of it once it's well learned. You confirmed my general reservation about my performance. I'll try to work more on this one to try to give it its last degree of polish.

    Thanks also for your insightful comments about the Scriabin. It's hard for me to avoid being long-winded but I'll try to be briefer here :p

    On closer examination, I agree with you about being a bit hurried in places. I tend to be a "fast" player and sometimes my nervous system can get the better of me. We may not have generally differing ideas about musical expression, but your technical points are very well taken and I will keep them in mind as I redo these.

    Thanks again,

    Joe
     
  14. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for listening and for the compliment.

    lol..not sure I remember whether I had to get to the bathroom or not... Certainly not the image I was hoping to conjure up, needless to say :lol: I plan to experiment more with these and hopefully reach a compromise to produce, at the very least, a marginally more "acceptable" recording of these two :D
     
  15. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    It's a Steinway Model B, circa 1920 (I think), which has been refurbished and re-actioned.
     
  16. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for listening!

    Interesting. I would indeed interpret the melody itself as a bit grander than some pianists have done, perhaps even "Rachmaninovian" :wink:

    I think that's a good way of putting it. I think the rhythmic fluctuations impart interest to a rather uniform bassline in this case.
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh, haha...Well, they're are about the same... :mrgreen:

    So Joe, what are we doing here with your Chopin recordings?
     
  18. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Chris, mine (Russian edition reprint) has that too but it has to be a mistake as the work is in 4/2 meter. I'm sure it is 40 to the half-note. Boy! Two metronomic speed mistakes in only 6 pieces; sloppy editing/publishing!
     
  19. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well interesting that two scores have this and you are sure it is wrong :p Isn't there a Scriabin Urtext that would prove you right ?

    If this is indeed so, then Joe's tempo here is about correct. I find it unbearably fast though and would happy ignore the composer's mm mark here. Are we even sure these are the composer's tempi and not some editor's ?
     
  20. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Please hold off. I am going to redo these. Thanks.
     

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