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Couperin - Les Baricades M. and a little Granados

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by pianolady, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Everybody!

    Here are another couple of shorties that I simply adore! I talked about Couperin's "Les Baricades Mystérieuses" in another thread and recently decided to put it up on my piano again. The more I play it, the more I like it. I think some of it is because the whole piece is in the lower register of the piano, and I love low notes!! :D

    The Granados piece is part of his set titled "Estudios Expresivos" (Expressive Studies). This little Pastoral is such a pretty little piece that I couldn't resist recording it, even though I'm not sure I will record the rest of the set.

    So anyway, that's it. Thank you for listening.... :)


    Couperin - Les Baricades Mystérieuses

    Granados - Estudios Expresivos, no. 4 "Pastoral"
     
  2. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    I hesitate to comment on the Couperin, because I've really spent very little time with such music and would defer to the opinions of Chris or Francois. Lots of questions about what is an appropriate sound for playing harpsichord/clavecin music on a piano, of course. I think you're employing a bit of romantic period touch and attack - your playing still sounds fine, but my opinion remains that of a novice here. I did sample a few recordings on Youtube: Marcelle Meyer plays it about twice as fast as everyone else! (ooh, two Rs in Barricades :wink: )

    I get the feeling you're a little more comfortable with the Granados, tbh - that you have more ideas regarding how you want to present it. Possibly this is not surprising considering your affinity with such music.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Andrew. Maybe Francois will see this and chime in. And maybe Rainer too--they both know a lot about Couperin.

    I'm having very mixed thoughts right now though. I thought I was playing the piece faster than most other people. At least that's the case when you look at the timings on Youtube. But now I just listened to Marcelle Meyer and I'm stunned! Wow, does she play it fast! But you know what? I like it!! Last night I was so pleased with my recording, but now I hate it and feel like I have to make a faster version. I just tried a minute ago, and I can almost do it. Just need to clean up a couple spots, so maybe next weekend I can make a new recording. Or I dunno.....another part of me says to just leave it the way it is. Argh...I don't know which way to go here.

    The spelling....yes, supposedly there are about four ways of spelling the title. I have only one R in the title on my score, but I see now that perhaps two R's is more common, so I might change that as well. Thank you again. :)
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes it's impressive, but she is very much the exception. I wouldn't consider emulating it unless you have very specific reasons for doing so.
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    She certainly is the exception! Nobody else comes close to her speed. But I did some research on this piece yesterday. Supposedly, this piece is surrounded in mystery. There is no record anywhere that explains how Couperin wanted the piece to be played, and also no one knows for sure what even the title means! There are all kinds of crazy notions, like what it lists in Wiki:

    -impeding communication between people
    -between past and present or present and future
    -between life and death
    -between the immanent and transcendent
    -women's underwear, or chastity belts
    -allegedly a common way of referring to women's eyelashes among the Salonnière of the 17th century
    -masks worn by performers of Le Mystère ou les Fêtes de l'Inconnu (The Mysterious One or the Celebrations of the Unknown One) staged by one of Couperin's patrons, the Duchesse du Maine in 1714[7]
    -a "technical joke...the continuous suspensions in the lute style being a barricade to the basic harmony".[

    Women's underwear? Ok, I get that a chastity belt is a barricade, but please, how ridiculous is that? Although, it is funny! Would a composer write something about that??!! Anyway, someone else has the idea that the piece is supposed to sound like a train zipping along, then slowing down at a station, and then speeding up again. That sounds exactly like Meyer's approach, doesn't it? I think I am going to record a faster version, maybe not as fast as Meyer's but I'll try for something in between my version here and hers.
     
  6. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    I wouldn't exactly say I know a lot about Couperin. I'm sure my limited knowledge will be totally eclipsed by that of Francois, and I'll be very interested to hear what he has to say.

    "Barricades" is a most attractive piece, and I knew it wasn't going be long before you recorded it for us. It deserves more than to be checked off a list in a couple of weeks, and I would recommend not rushing to re-record it in the near future, but instead to let it mature in your subconscious for a few months first.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the choice of speed, but perhaps if you did start a little faster, it would help curb your temptation to speed up later, as you do about two thirds of the way through where things get exciting as the harmonic pattern descends by a scale point every two bars towards the low notes you so adore. I think that while the piece can admit the occasional lingering, the basic speed -whatever it is- should pretty well remain constant.

    Another thing that should probably remain constant is the volume; I suspect you are being too expressive (or as Andrew puts it, romantic). The thing is that a harpsichord has only one volume, unless you switch manuals or registers, but even then the changes would be discrete (not discreet), i.e. they would be in sudden steps; cresc and dim are not possible on a harpsichord. Moreover, except where your hands are not on the same manual, you can't play different simultaneous voices at different volumes. There is therefore an argument that if you play a harpsichord piece on the piano, you should emulate the volume and balance limitations of the harpsichord. Of course the counterargument goes that Couperin and all his contemporaries were just waiting for the fortepiano to be invented and would have very much approved of the liberties you're taking with the dynamics here. I don't know what the answer is. At the moment you are playing it as if it had been written for the piano, and this makes it sound a little "retro", as if written by a modern composer in a quasi-ancient style.

    You probably love the low notes too much, I feel this is slightly bottom-heavy at the expense of the other voices. Are you using pedal, or does it just sound as if you are? Try it without.


    I feel that whatever you're doing too much of in the Couperin, in terms of expression, you're not doing enough of in this charming Granados piece. I can't help but think it's sounding a little mechanical for a piece in a collection that has 'espresivo' in its title. Despite the fact that the score itself has hardly any dynamic markings (and all of them are p except for the discreet dim at the end), it could do with a bit more give and take, up and down, push and pull, and (how can I put it?) letting down your hair. Your love for Granados doesn't grab the listener enough yet. Nevertheless, it's nicely played; the only two gripes I have are:

    1 - In the middle section (Gallardo), the continuous quasi-trill in the left hand, which lasts for the whole section, is a bit powerful and threatens to drown out everything else,
    2 - Three bars before this middle section is a bar that begins with triplets in RH while LH rests. I feel this bar is too detached from the end of the previous bar. It sounds like you're adding an unwanted 8th rest. It's the same where it comes again later.


    Finally, is it just me or is the tuning a bit out on the high A? The little F minor arpeggio sounds a little sour at the 3rd bar of the middle section, and 3 bars back from the end.
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    A few months? That's torture! :) I already do know how I want to the piece to sound like. I want it to go faster, but pretty much with the same elements I applied in this first version.

    All the things regarding dynamics on piano versus harpsichord....I don't really know where I stand. I understand both sides of the argument, but tend to lean toward applying dynamics on the piano in order to add more interest to the music. At least that's how I feel with this piece. Like I've said before, this piece just doesn't sound Baroque to me, so maybe I can get away with it...

    I applied a bass boost in my post-processing. But I've been doing that with all my recordings for a while now. Perhaps since this piece is mostly in the lower register, then a bass boost is too much. At home I have a sub-woofer along with my other speakers and I sometimes the bass blows me away a little too much too. But then I listen with head phones and it's not too much. I never seem satisfied with my sound and keep experimenting.

    I have Friday off work, so I'll make my new recording of this piece then. I'll not boost the bass this time. I would appreciate very much if you and anyone else would let me know if the sound is improved.

    Thank you for the comments, Rainer! :)
     
  8. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't know a lot about Couperin, either, but this piece is one of the big hits of its era, and I've heard many recordings of it starting in my teens (the 1960's).
    I have heard recordings at this tempo; also some much faster. The piece is great either way, but different. You frequently do not accent what sounds like the first beat of the measure, and that is not the way the piece is usually played. Somehow I don't care - I just enjoy hearing it again. The decorations sound crisp, which is what I, as a listener, want to hear.
    Good luck with your re-recording. I'll look out for it.
     
  9. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you for listening, Stu.

    Well, I've just made my second recording. It's quite a lot faster than my first recording. I also took Rainer's advice and hardly used any pedal. Just a little tap here and there. It really makes the piece sound different! And I did not add any more bass--I didn't boost the bass with my editing program.

    Couperin - Les Barricades Mystérieuses


    I also re-recorded my little Granados piece, because I felt like the beginning needed to go a tad bit faster. And Rainer, if you're here, I think this piece does not need any extra expression. I think one should play it straight the way it's written and with the markings. Anything more, and it will get too sappy.

    Granados - Pastoral
     
  10. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Dear Monica,
    Sorry to be late in this debate ! Congratulations for a very nice rendition of the Barricade. We can hear your love for this music, and I find your phrasing very elegant. I have listened your two versions; they don't sound really different to my ears. The tempo of the second is just somewhat faster.
    Now, I have one main concern: it is the issue of legato, or even double-legato. If you look at the score, both hands are written with two voices, which makes a 4-voice piece. The great originality of this piece is that, most of the time, no more than two notes are played simultaneously, while we should constantly hear a 4-note chord. The effect is to have a quickly moving harmonic feeling, with only few notes: economy in the means, great effect for the auditor. Holding every note as indicated by Couperin creates a mysterious effect of shady harmonies, with a lot of dissonances quickly resolving and reappearing. You can hear this effect by listening (available on YouTube) what I consider as a good reference version, Cziffra's, which is slow, deep and majestuous. If you prefer a fast tempo, I would recommend Alexandre Tharaud's, one of our great contemporary French pianists, who published some years ago two outstanding records dedicated to French baroque music (one to Rameau, the other to Couperin).
    To come back to your versions, I can only hear two voices instead of four: it looks more like a Scarlatti's sonata. It is not bad at all, but not very idiomatic. In case you would like to do a third version, I would recommend to practice at a very slow tempo, sticking exactly to the note durations, and then, once this matter of holding the notes well mastered, increase the tempo if it is still your will. A slight pedalling can add the 'Mysterious' effect, as does by Tharaud, but it is not necessary (a matter of taste).
    With time I have taken the habit to play the Barricades at a rather fast tempo, close to yours, but when I listen Cziffra, I think he is right. By the way, you remember our recent discussion about ornaments, and your question about a specific one, very difficult to execute. It seems to me that if Couperin wrote such a complicate ornament (which encompasses 6 or 7 notes), he probably wanted to hear this piece slowly played.
    Regards,
    François

    P.S.: Barricade takes two r in modern French, but at Couperin's time, the spelling was not so much standardised, and Couperin wrote "Les Baricades Mistérieuses", although we would write now "Les barricades mystérieuses".
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Francois, I highly value your opinion regarding Couperin's music, so thank you very much for commenting! :D

    My first version was slow 2:28. Then my second version was 1:51 which is 37 seconds faster. I listened to Cziffra's recording several times and like his tempo. And I now understand what you mean regarding the four voices. He holds the notes down longer and so it sounds nice and smooth. My second version, although fast, sounds too choppy.

    So, I've made a third recording just now. This one is 2:18 which is in between the other two recordings. I tried to hold the notes down longer so it all sounds smoother, plus I used some pedal - more than on my last version. Also, I did not add any reverb to this recording. Just did a hiss removal and that's it.

    Hope number 3 is the charm! :)

    Couperin - Les Barricades Mystérieuses


    p.s. thank you for also clarifying the spelling.
     
  12. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    I didn't get a chance to listen to the fast version before you replaced it with number 3, but it is better now without its bass boosted, and airier for being less pedalled. Nice.
    Fair enough. I think I exaggerated anyway. For some reason I felt at first that it sounded a bit mechanical, but after listening a couple of extra times that impression went away all by itself. :oops:
    You don't seem to have uploaded the right file. This one is not the re-recorded one, but the original.
     
  13. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Rainer!
    My Granados second version has a timing of 2:44 (only 7 seconds faster than the first version). The second version plays for me when I click on the link. But I noticed that my first version (timing 2:51) is still on the "new recordings" list and it shouldn't be. I may be stuck with it on the server because perhaps I uploaded the files with two separate names...I can't remember. Or maybe the list just needs to refresh over night. Can you please try clearing your cache and then click on the Granados link here in the thread again and see if the file that is 2:44 plays for you now?
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    There are indeed two files on the server now:

    -rw-rw-r-- 1 monica www-data 3950760 2014-03-09 08:19 granados-estudiosexpresivos-4-alianello.mp3
    -rw-rw-r-- 1 monica www-data 3950760 2014-03-07 21:54 granados-pastoral-alianello.mp3

    They have different dates but the exact same byte size so I think they're probably identical.
     
  15. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is just perfect to me ! Now Monica you're ready to record the whole 6th Ordre ! At least you should have a look on the next piece in the Ordre (Les Bergeries) which is to me even more exquisite than Les Barricades.
    Have a good sunday (here in Lyon spring is coming 10 days in advance, and flowers are flourishing everywhere in the garden !)
     
  16. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you very much, Francois!! :D And thank you for the tip about the next piece in the set. I will take a look at it.

    I am so envious!! We had the most terrible winter and there is still a lot of snow on the ground. This upcoming week is supposed to be nicer, finally, but I think it will still be a while before I see flowers. I guess I will just have to close my eyes and imagine that I am in Lyon...

    Hope you having a nice Sunday, and thank you again! :)
     
  17. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    I was getting the earlier 2:51 (4128810 byte) file, but clearing my browser cache fixed it for me and I got the newer 2:44 (3950760 byte) one. This surprises me a bit because I thought these files would be too big to cache.

    The newer one flows a bit more, but I actually prefer the dreamy quality of the earlier one. This is interpretive, I guess, but I still don't like those inter-section breaks you put in, they seem to artificially disconnect the sections from each other in a way I just can't relate to, and almost make it sound as though the sections had been separately recorded and then spliced with scant regard for continuity.

    The first of these hiatuses, before the triplets 3 bars before the Gallardo section, is all the more noticeable because there is no rit in the previous bar, which makes the gap appear out of nowhere.

    The second one is at the start of the Gallardo itself. But this one is OK because here you do rit in the bar before. Although this rit isn't in the score, I think it works well.

    The third is at the beginning of the 4-bar "meno" section that links Gallardo to reprise. It seems to me that the last pair of LH sixteenths D-E should lead without interruption to the F in the "meno" bar. Why else continue this timed trill right to the end of the bar line?

    At the end of the "meno" section, you are cutting short the dotted half-note chord, jumping into the reprise a bit early. But this is only on the re-recording, the earlier one was fine in this respect.

    Finally, in the penultimate bar of the piece, and bearing in mind that the rall marked in the previous bar should still be in progress, you are playing the 8th-note B-A too quickly (the A comes too soon), almost as quickly as a ralled version of the 16th-note B-A an octave higher in the previous beat.
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I feel like all I have been doing the past week is making re-recordings....Sheesh! :roll: :)

    Ok, Rainer, I've just made a third recording of the Pastoral taking into account all the points you raised. Before, I was thinking that there should be a little gap between those sections, but now I think you were right.

    So here is number 3 recording ---hopefully, also the charm!

    Granados - Seis Estudios Expresivos, no. 4 "Pastoral"
     
  19. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    Indeed. Much better. Thanks for putting up with my going on about these little points so much. You're a hard one to persuade, but since you did agree in the end, I guess it was worth it.
     
  20. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Rainer. Maybe I am not the easiest person to persuade, but I am glad you stuck it out with me. Having an objective ear is so helpful!! It forces me to reassess my playing and/or interpretation and in the end results in a better recording. This is why I am here on Piano Society. :)
     

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