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

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

  1. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    The Scriabins as well ?
     
  2. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Yes.
     
  3. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    The proof is in the pudding. The tempo is "Andante Cantabile." Try playing it as indicated at 1/4 = 40 and it becomes a mired turtle in Moltissimo Largissimo Boringssimo tempo and the structure becomes lost in a microscopic analysis of nuts and bolts (sort of like looking at the Eifel Tower while your nose is touching it). I'll give you this, the recording/performance is faster than 1/4 note = 80 (1/2 note = 40), and so I agree with you that it is faster than it should go, but no where near twice as fast.
     
  4. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Yes, I think this is right. Well, I'm glad we've finally resolved this earth-shatteringly important issue.
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I had the metronome clicking along and it sounded like it was like about twice as fast as the mm. I could be wrong there. In any case it sounded way too fast to me.

    Certainly following the printed mm number would sound molto boring. I guess as often, the Truth will be somewhere in the middle.
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hey now. Sarcasm is my department :lol:
     
  7. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I think there indeed is much truth in this statement. Very Aristotelian.

    Wel HTH, you said it yourself :wink:
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi jlr,

    I think you play these Chopin preludes beautifully. Just a few brief comments:

    No. 1: This piece is the curtain raiser for sure. In line 2, starting in measure 11: I believe you can more prominently etch with the RH thumb the inner scalar line, G, A, B, C and C#. It would enhance your rendition there.

    No. 2, the catipiller as I call it: In measure 17, I suggest that you maintain forward motion in tempo. Then when you play the slentando in measure 18, it will occur as written and will be much more differentiated, meaningful and effective.

    No. 4: This is a lament, and I like how you handle the sigh motif throughout. Likewise with the variable harmonic "voicing in the LH chords. You've made an "emendation" to the score in measure 17 by playing the B octave one octave lower than written with a fairly big crash as well. The problem as I hear it is that the effect is simply too much given the character and context of the rest of the piece. It seems like the anomaly of cracking a nut with a pile driver. :lol: I play the octave as written and it seems to fit better.

    No. 6: The RH slurs are very good, as is the dynamic contour of the melodic line. Very nicely played.

    I hope this is helpful.

    David
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Joe, I'll see your bet and now raise you. Here is how I would explain rubato to a class of college freshman taking a required Intro to Music course (and I'm not implying any lack of knowledge on your part, its just that I often like to teach (or in this case argue politely) with analagies and object lessons). Take a baloon and blow it up moderately. Now take a marker and draw 4 beats worth of rhythm on it (any rhythm at all). Now observe how the drawn-rhythm speads out when I squeeze the other side of the baloon: that is rubato. Further, we don't have to squeeze it such that all four beats expand uniformly (this is where the engineer types in the class wish they took art instead). The rhythm, however, stays the same. So rubato affects tempo NOT rhythm (except in the context of said tempo). If you play "rubato" on the first beat of three consecutive measures, or in a figure that is featured repetitively then what you're doing (I would argue) is not rubato, its dissruption of the rhythm. I agree with you that the works in question can and should have rubato, but then what work shouldn't? It would be unbearable to hear almost any music played sans rubato (that's Fretalian). Now you've got me very curious as to what you would do with the "Raindrop" prelude.

    I'ts good discussing such abstractions.

    Sincerely,
    Eddy
     
  10. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Eddy,

    Interesting analogy, though frankly it seems a bit vague to me (I never was one for applied science :p ). I'll zero in on the primary musical statement:

    Again, I don't think this is quite right, or at least an oversimplification. The rhythm with a uniform pattern is not really being substantivelyaltered because its internal pulse is consistent and the same and you can't completely alter that when applying rubato, just change its internal consistency. It's different than playing an entirely different rhythm that indeed would result from one's negligence in keeping time. The end of the exposition of the late Haydn E-flat Major sonata is one example that popped into my head; I've heard several professional pianists incorrectly play the last two shakes as rests followed by sixteenths rather than eighths, which mathematically and unambiguously alters the duration of the measure. That, in other words, is a completely different rhythm. You're correct in saying that the effect of rubato is one of overall tempo, but in altering that, one cannot help but make slight to moderate alterations in the rhythm of a consistent figuration, for indeed even if we mechanically follow the traditional definition of the term, the speedings up and slowings down do just that to both the tempo and the rhythm. In other words, tempo and rhythm are inextricably linked and rubato by necessity affects both (which is why your "except in the context of said tempo" doesn't really make sense to me -- because rubato always affects both tempo and rhythm to some degree, however small). The notion of whether you find the rubato repetitive is, I think, irrelevant. Speedings up and slowings down that occur repetitively change the tempo, and internal rhythm to some degree, the same mathematical amount as speedings up and slowings down that occur with greater variation (assuming we could replicate the same amount of change in both places in the passage). You can argue that you don't find it aesthetically pleasing or that you would want to hear it applied in a different way, but "rhythmic freedom" is in fact part of the universally accepted meaning of the term.

    Joe
     
  11. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,

    Thanks for listening and for the compliments and comments.

    Yes, I would like to make the thumb slightly more prominent throughout.

    Interesting, although my score shows the slentando in measure 17, not 18.

    I'm actually surprised you're the first person to mention this. I thought I would be flayed by the purists out there :p I don't know, I guess after playing this piece for years, I would say that the regular octave doesn't do it for me any more. I think the low octave provides much more dramatic fire at the climax (it's an idea I admittedly stole from Cortot).

    Joe
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Joe, specifically, what precisely is the musical justification in your rendition of the Op.28 no.4 for hurring only the second half of the first beat (3rd and 4th 8th-notes in cut-time) in the first four measures? Except for those four isolated pulses, your interprestation is very nice. But given that there is nothing of interest on those four selected time-keeping pulses (no harmonic change, no melodic change, no dynamic change) its hard to see what the purpose of rubato is on such "empty" pulses. In fact what happens is that you draw attention to the up-beat of beat one repeatedly. Why 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & , etc. when the work is structured: & 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1, etc.?
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I don't have a justification, nor should I need to have one, any more than most things about a performance are really explainable. In looking at Wikipedia (not the best source I know, but I don't have a musical dictionary handy), I see nothing about rubato having to accompany a "harmonic, melodic, or dynamic change." It can occur within a phrase, regardless of where that is. To be honest, these are all pieces I've played for many years, and because preludes 4 and 6 have no to little technical difficulties, I confess I didn't practice them much before I recorded them. Not so numbers 3 and 5, which I worked pretty hard on just to get in my fingers again (i.e., since I have so little time to practice, sometimes I pull a bit of triage). Of course now, as I generally do when people make a significant objection to something, I will go back and experiment more, see to what extent I agree with the criticism, and probably do something very different. Such is the nature of performing, but I like to try to be as spontaneous as I can. If one tries to plan rubato, the effect will be deadwood as it often is in so many performances to my ears nowadays.

    I must also say that I personally find this kind of hyperanalysis a bit of a bore that in any event would result in only marginal improvement in an overall performance. It's the reason I don't delight in pointing out a note mistake or spending my time craning my eyes for an infaithfulness to the score. It's the big picture that matters. And IMO rubato is one of the most tenuous aspects of a performance one could possibly pick to analyze.
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Joe,

    I like the Paderewski Edition for playing the preludes, but just now looked in the Schirmer edited by Joseffy (one of the finest editors of all time). There the slentando does occur in measure 17, unlike the Paderewski. So I guess this is just one more of those many "edition moments" in Chopin. :lol: And there is no urtext edition that will settle this, as most pianists agree that at this moment there is still no true and definitive urtext for Chopin's works, despite the scholarly efforts of Henle and others. A major part of the problem was Chopin himself. Unlike Liszt who went over his publisher's proofs with a fine tooth comb, Chopin was very lax in that regard. Plus there are his unpublished changes noted in his performances, as well as his pencil markings in his students' scores--i.e., Klindworth, Mikuli, etc.--that raise more questions than answers. Were they corrections of printing errors or impromptu revisions? Who knows? Well, I guess it provides more variety in performances anyway!

    David
     
  15. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Joe, I totally agree with you here.

    I have found a better voice (I believe) for the distnction I have tried to make about rubato being fundamentally about tempo, rather than rhythm, and that it's excess results in rhythmic distortion. Here are the words of Carl Mikuli, from the first paragraph of his introduction to all his Schirmer edition of the Chopin works:

    "According to a tradition -- and, be it said, an erroneous one -- Chopin's playing was like that of one dreaming rather than awake -- scarcely audible in its continual pianissimos and una cordas, with feebly develped technique and quite lacking in confidence, or at least indistinct, and distorted out of all rhythmic form by an incessant tempo rubato! ... " [bold added by me] I hope this gets my point across; I don't think I can say it any better or more convincingly.

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  16. hanysz

    hanysz Member

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    But then there's the other story about Chopin playing his own mazurkas in 4/4 time (sorry, can't remember the source)... Without recordings from that era, we'll never really know.

    Sorry to come in late on this conversation. A couple of times I've read a post with interest, decided to think a while before replying, and found that things had moved on.

    The pseudoscience that has grown up around rubato does get ridiculous sometimes. If we start trying to give precise definitions of "tempo" and "rhythm", we'll soon find that the two can never be entirely separated. We can analyse as much as we like, but in the end it still comes down to a matter of taste.

    One ingredient that hasn't yet been mentioned: in slow pieces I think there's a danger of using excessive rubato to hide the fact that the pianist doesn't know any other way of making the piece sound expressive. The better your mastery of tone quality and pedalling, the less you'll be inclined to do "eccentric" things to the tempo/rhythm (although you still want a certain amount of flexibility).

    Having said that, I did enjoy listening to Joe's performance of those preludes. The rubato doesn't entirely convince me, but I can see what it's aiming at, and it's good to hear something a little different.
     
  17. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Charles Halle. Additionally Meyerbeer told Chopin he was playing (another mazurka) in 2/4.
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Absolutely agreed. I guess the same could be about other aspects of playing. It can't help the music to over-analyse.
     
  19. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,

    Interesting that these differ. Maybe Chopin himself couldn't decide :lol: I actually use the Dover version of the Mikuli for the preludes and etudes. Dover seems to split between Paderewski and Mikuli. I think the ballades, impromptus, and sonatas are Paderewski, while the nocturnes and polonaises are Mikuli, for example. Even though the Paderewski seems to be universally hailed as the "authoritative" editions, my slight preference might be for the Mikuli. Mikuli being one of Chopin's best students (too bad Carl Filtsch died so young), he seems to be the appointed scribe who ensured that the master's markings were set down. I especially like the fingerings in Mikuli, finding them more natural than the Paderewski in general (a notable example is the B-flat minor, number 16).

    Joe
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Everyone,

    Just a few comments on rubato in general: In the Romantic and lyrical piano literature in particular, rubato becomes a sine qua non in performance. Rubato, firstly, has to comport with the mood of a piece. Once that requirement has been met, then rubato becomes mostly a matter of degree in my opinion. By nature it must be more the exception than the rule in order to achieve an improvisatory effect in expressive piano playing, while maintaining a sense of perspective and proportion relative to underlying structure. Thus, it has to be applied in good taste to maintain that balance. In other words, rubato should never dominate or displace structure in the broader picture. For once rubato becomes excessive, structure inevitably erodes into a state of vagueness. That indicates that one's pianism has become idiosyncratic, mannered, or exaggerated to the detriment of both the music and the composer. There is no one objective, indisputable, unshakable, or immutable measurement that creates a universal boundary line where musicianship crosses over into idiosyncratic performance. Rather it all comes down to the pianist exercising good judgment in performance so as to be convincing.

    This is simply my own subjective thinking about the nature of rubato that I use to guide rubato in my own playing. Others may disagree. It's a delicate matter, and everyone has to make their own choices.

    David
     

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