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Field Nocturnes

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by mnodine, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    Hello, everyone. I'm new to this site, and although I have made an effort to understand the rules, if I do violate some protocol, please assume it's just because I'm a newbie.

    First, let me start by thanking the members of pianosociety.com for exposing me to some corners of the piano repertoire that I found so compelling, I just had to learn them, with a special thanks to the überperformers like Chris, Monica, and John. My life has been greatly enriched as a result of your efforts.

    A few years ago, I downloaded a few nocturnes of John Field from the web site and liked them so much, that I asked for CDs for Christmas, which I got. Then I discovered that I absolutely adored all of them, so I decided to learn the complete set. After doing an informal recital last month for my family and noticing that there are only recordings of 4 of them available here, I decided to record them and share them so that others can become familiar with these unaccountably neglected pieces. So I guess my initial audition is to present the complete set of the nocturnes. Even if my submissions are not accepted, I will feel I have accomplished something if others who are more advanced than I are motivated to learn the pieces. I may re-record some of them later, but for now, I have a piano concerto to learn (see my bio for context).

    This is the first time I've ever tried to record myself, so it's possible that I haven't mastered the physical mechanics yet, but I think that the recording quality sounds pretty good. As for the performances, well, let's just say that none of them is flawless, but I'm not desperately unhappy with any of them either. Recording is really hard!

    I'm also attaching a text file with my biographical information.

    Enjoy!
    --Mark
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow, that is a real barrage of Field recordings :shock:

    First of all welcome to PS, and great that you find many things of interest here.

    I have to confess that I have zero affinity with Field's music. Probably my loss, but I can't bring myself to listen to all of this. So I sampled nrs. 1, 10
    and 18. Assuming these are chronological it does not seem like there was much evolution in Field's music. It all seems the same to me, much RH note spinning over simple (dare I say trite) melodies, accompanied by standard LH figurations. Mind, this is just one person's narrow perception. Perhaps
    there's much more to Field than meets the (my) eye. There must be, should be, if Chopin admired and took his clue from them.

    Both the sound quality and playing seem quite acceptable to me, although in no.18 there are rather too many fumbles in the tricky-sounding RH passage work. This would normally be reason to ask for a re-recording. This puts me in a difficult position. I can't properly judge whether to admit
    all of these pieces as they are without listening to them all in detail. Which I cannot do as it goes in one ear and out the other. I hope that some more
    Field-minded people here will help out by reviewing these on a technical level. One general comment I can make is that you could employ a firmer touch
    and create more dynamics and contrasts. And that the passage work should really be more fluent and glittering (that being where this music most relies on).
     
  3. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello, an interesting set of recordings. I'm probably more temperamentally attuned to these than Chris, so I'll have a little look at a few them (I don't have time to listen to all just now). I've listened to the ones Chris has plus a couple of others.

    From what I've heard I think there is no reason not to put them on the site - the playing is clearly competent and, without having recourse to the scores, sounds accurate. I have a few general concerns about the presentation - there is a slight "sameness" within the sound. The playing is a little introverted, which is fine, one wouldn't want to be overly melodramatic with such music. However I think it would benefit from more dynamic variation and shading - I think particularly at the p/pp end of the spectrum which would also make the fortes more effective. Whether this is a piano issue, a microphone position issue, or a general issue of touch, I have no idea. These seem like pieces with some charm if played delicately enough and they come across as slightly humdrum - with music not of the first rank I feel one really has to put in that little bit of extra effort to get the character across.

    There is a tendency to force some louder treble notes, for example the high Bb at 3.08 in the first piece (the high Gs c 2.20 in the second are slightly out of tune and I have a few concerns about nearby notes). Also there I heard a few marginal evenness/articulation problems in scalic passages and some ornamentation but it didn't trouble me all that much.

    Despite my concerns, this is a worthy effort and to put a set like this together is an achievement in itself. I'd like to reiterate my opinion based on what I've heard so far that these should be on the main site.
     
  4. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    I just downloaded all of them and noticed that there are several that had not yet been downloaded.
    Can we agree to wait until members have listened to all of them - I'll commit to doing just that over the next couple of days.

    It would be great if they were put up; they're of real historical importance (at least I think I remember that from my music history course some decades ago!) and a complete set.

    I'll report back soon. Perhaps others will too, and include in their comments which they've listened to.
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    A complete set like this is indeed quite an achievement, and a worthwhile addition to the site. yes, the playing is indeed competent and accurate.
    What I need to know is whether some of these should be re-recorded, as we often ask people (including ourselves) to do, if we feel that there are
    too many flubs. I really have my doubts about no.18 here but maybe we've gone overly picky over the years.
     
  6. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've listened to the first six and will post my comments later, although I'll point other members so far to #3 for their opinion.

    However, I have a request to make now for Mark.
    In my edition (the Liszt), what you have indicated for #7 is #13. I listened to the beginning of what you have as #13, and it corresponds to #15 in my score.
    Could you take a little time and double-check that you have the numbering right (at least according to your edition)? At least start with #7 and #13.
    And tell us what edition you're using.
    Thanks.
     
  7. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    And, while I'm at it, here's my notes for the first six (the numbers of which agree with the Liszt edition):

    #1 on the turns, notes can get lost. One would like more rubato, IF this can be judged in the same way that a Chopin Nocturne is. I feel it could be a bit slower - "Molto Moderato" suggests that it should never feel rushed. A few notes get lost in fast passages (that might be faster than they need to be), but otherwise accurate.

    #2 - the sixths on the first page demonstrate the tuning problems in the treble mentioned by andrew. However, this is played much more expressively than #1 and is quite acceptable as a performance. There are differences between the edition used and the one I'm using (the Liszt).

    #3 - could use just a little more space at the beginning - I doubt that the silences is more than a half second. (We recommend one second.) This is for future reference. The little section in E Major does not sound very confident.
    At measure 9, my edition's phrasing marks make it look like the E-flat's in the RH are part of the melody. I.e, the melody in the first 3 beats is A-flat E-flat E-flat. Perhaps using only the A-flat is tradition?? Difference in editions?
    The 2-hand arpeggio at the end is very good.
    But this, so far, is the best candidate for a re-recording IMHO. Hopefully other members will comment on this one.

    #4 - much better, if just a touch too fast IMHO. However, again we have turns which have not been "worked out" in practice and sound like they're being "thrown away". Right after the 3-minute mark there are several measures in which the only melody is in the LH but it's getting lost - don't be afraid to bring this out more.

    #5 - nice tempo. Nicely played, too. Be sure not to go any faster than this, though - could get clunky.

    #6 - possible reading error at measure 4: Instead of A-G-F in the melody, my edition has A-A-F. Not a big deal, IMO. The 32nd notes in this piece come off sounding like they have not been practiced enough - very uneven. It's possible that this piece was not meant to go quite this fast. Not sure I like the mic placement here - we're hearing the jangling in the upper treble.

    More to follow, perhaps after we look at the numbering problem (?!?)
     
  8. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist

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    I listened to the first three. No2 is by far my favourite. I can understand what Chris means but wouldn't go that far myself, they have some charming qualities, but to listen to all at once is a stretch. If you want to inspire people to listen and comment you might consider commenting on other members' efforts, that's how this place works.

    Not knowing the music at all I'm with Andrew, if we don't have these before what I heard is good enough for the site. It will take some time before I listen to all of them though.

    Joachim
     
  9. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    Thanks, Chris.

    Sorry, there's not much I can do about that. As they say in my native tongue: De gustibus non disputandum.

    I think 18 is one of my worst entries. The hardest ones, in my opinion, are 17, 18, and 14.
     
  10. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    True. I just checked and the E,F, and G are all about 4-5 cents flatter than the surrounding notes. My piano was tuned last month, but it goes out of tune very quickly, sometimes a few cents within a day or two. According to my piano technician, Baldwin was cutting corners about the time I bought my piano and was saving $0.02 per piano by installing an inferior grade of wire for the strings. I'm strongly considering having my piano restrung next month.

    Thanks for your comments.
     
  11. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    I don't disagree with you about the flubs. 18 is probably the hardest one to get a complete recording of. I'm assuming that the standard is to record each piece from start to finish without any patching or splicing. It has a fast tempo with very little let-up technically. It was also impossible to play it at speed and still be able to turn the pages reliably on my iPad, so for this piece only, I printed out the 7 pages and splayed them all across the music stand.

    Perhaps you could give me some recording advice. I've adjusted my mechanics a little bit since I started recording, and I have three+ recordings of each piece, not to mention many false starts. What I eventually settled on was to practice the piece I intended to record at about half speed, making sure that I had every note right first time, but not doing much with dynamics. I would then gradually increase the speed and expressivity until I felt ready to record. However, I found that it was easy to hit a plateau after a few hours where it actually got worse with additional practice. So many times, the recording I wound up with was one where I had almost all the notes right, but there was unevenness in the passagework because of fatigue. I also found that many of the wrong notes were just after navigating a difficult passage, where there was a let-down in concentration (mental fatigue, I suppose), sometimes in places I had never played wrong before. Perhaps I just need to spread my recording out over a longer period so that fatigue isn't as much of an issue?

    I'm aware of where I've hit wrong notes and where there is unevenness. The frustration is knowing that I can do much better, and that for every wrong note in the recordings, I played that same passage correctly countless times. I'm happy to try rerecording some of them, in fact, I probably will do so, even if the current set is accepted. However, realistically, I think I need a break from them, and it will probably be better to wait until after my piano is restrung to resume.

    Thanks, Chris, for sacrificing to listen to three of them. For the record, my personal favorite is 12.
     
  12. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    Stu, I'm really thankful for your comments! I'll have to wait until tomorrow to respond to your detailed comments on 1-6, but let me address your issue on numbering. I was aware soon after I started working on the pieces that there is an inconsistency in numbering in different versions. I honestly don't know who was the publisher of the version I used; it can be found here: http://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/09790. However, I do note that the numbering in this edition matches the numbers used by John O'Conor in his recording. For the record, here's how my version corresponds to the Liszt numbering:

    My Liszt
    1-6 1-6
    7 13 Liszt is missing arpeggiations in LH
    8 7
    9 8
    10 9
    11 11
    12 14
    13 15
    14 16
    15 17
    16 18
    19 10, similar, but Liszt is missing 1st page and has other differences
    18 12

    --Mark
     
  13. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've listened to some more of the nocturnes that were mentioned here. No.3 seems a little clunky, a borderline candidate for a re-recording.
    The ones you say are most difficult, 14, 17, and 18, indeed sound hard on account of all the RH passagework, and it is here that quite some
    accidents happen. If you promise to re-record these in the none too distant future we can put this complete set on the site. Indeed it seems wise
    to take a little break for now before digging into them again. Perhaps by that time the piano will stay a bit better in tune, too :)
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    BTW - I did not see that attachment with your bio !?
     
  15. jontyl

    jontyl New Member

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    Have you listened to any of his piano concerti?
     
  16. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    A few more notes... more tomorrow

    #7 (#13 in the Liszt) - in the RH obligatto, I wish there was more of a rhythm - the listener loses the sense of the triplet. I was also losing some of the high G's on the first page, but then it should be pointed out that I listen through speakers (so I may be the only one making this comment).

    #8 (#7 in the Liszt) - there is much to like in your rendition of this. The delicacy is handled as such and it's really a charming piece. In the passages where the composer is trying to fit as many notes as possible per measure in the RH (second page), it would help if you brought out the LH more. The listener would at least be fully informed that the tempo has slowed down a little but that "I **meant** to do that", instead of sounding a little muddled.

    #9 (#8 in the Liszt) - this was fine until the last page. Your ornaments need to sound more authoritative, as if you know exactly what's going on. The little cadenza 12 measures from the end is pretty - let the listener hear all the notes. It does not have to be *fast*, just *pretty*. At the end of the third measure from the end, there is an unnecessary break between the A and the B-flat at the beginning of the next measure. Slow is down if you have to, but let the leading tone lead to the tonic. (My humble opinion).
     
  17. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    I agree about the rubato and the turns, and there were some parts where I was rushing. I'm not hearing any dropped notes in the fast passages, though, with the possible exception of the final F in the middle measure on the bottom of the second page of the Liszt edition, just before the turn. The Liszt edition also has an extra grace note before the fortzando Bb in the last line of the piece that's not in my edition.

    I've experimented with different tempi on this piece, and I think you're right about its being better at a slower tempo.
    Sigh. That's one of the reasons I was pushing to do the recording over such a short period of time that I couldn't get everything to the standard I wanted: because every day of delay was one day the piano got farther out of tune. Maybe it comes from playing so many years on a piano that loses its tune quickly, but my ears are unfortunately (or fortunately?) not sensitive enough to pick up on the tuning issue you noticed in the sixths. Yes, the Liszt edition seems to have some extra turns in it.
    I could probably add an extra half second at the beginning easily enough. I see what you mean about the E major section: there is a noticeable flub there, the crescendo is missing, and there's a spacing out just after the forzando. This last is an artifact of having to execute a half page turn with the left hand here. I should probably bite the bullet and print out all the pages for this one so I'm not distracted with turning pages.

    As for measure 9, that is indeed a difference in edition. The Peters Edition (which is identical to the Russian one I pointed you to) has all the eighth- and sixteenth-note stems going down (i.e., joined at the bottom), with an ascending dotted quarter note stem on the A and Bb.

    Both you and Chris say this one is a good candidate for re-recording, but I'm not sure what I'd do differently except for fixing the missed notes in the E major section. Help me understand what the main issue is. Evenness? Dropping the volume of the non-melody notes?
    The really hard part about the LH melody is synchronizing with the RH. In fact, John O'Conor stretches the tempo way out before the down beats, presumably to achieve synchrony.
    Thanks.
    Yes, that was a reading error. I noticed it when I audited my recording. It's not a mistake I normally make; it's probably because I had just been practicing another part of the piece where the melody did go A-G-F. I notice that I tended to swallow the 5th note in the 32-note quintuples; is that what you're referring to as unevenness?

    Once again, thanks for the detailed comments!
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello Mark, and welcome to Piano Society. It's nice to see more Field up here! I have only played three of them, and they are the ones I listened to here.

    Overall, I think you play nicely and have a firm grip on the notes. However, to me your playing is a little hard around the edges. I think a more gentler and elegant touch would make a world of difference. Also, I don't hear hardly any dynamic changes, and there are plenty in these nocturnes. It could be your recording gear...I noticed that you used a compression rate of only 128. Most of us here use 192 which gives a better sound.

    As far as specifics on the three of your recordings I listened to: No. 1 - In my opinion, it's too fast. But that could just be me. No. 5 - bar 24--I show the F in the RH is tied. It sounds funny when you played to F's. Probably a difference in editions. Which brings me to no. 15 - which in my book is no. 17.

    I see now there are some discrepancies in the Field books. If it helps you any, my book is a Kalmus edition and I attached the table of contents so you can see how my book numbers them.

    Regarding re-recording - I think we could put your entire set up on the site, provided you re-record those that the other members think need improving. Maybe we could give a member something like a month or two to do re-do, but if they don't, then the set is taken down. We just don't want someone out there randomly landing on a recording that has several mistakes and then thinks that ALL our recordings are like that. I hope you understand. :) Or we'd just take down those files with the mistakes. Just thinking aloud here...
     
  19. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    True. I don't see it either. Strange, it said it was uploading it. Ahh. There was an error message "The extension txt is not allowed." that I hadn't noticed.

    Okay, I'll just past the text in below.

    --Mark

    -----------------------
    Mark Nodine

    Mark was born in 1956 and started piano lessons at age six at the Bryn
    Mawr Conservatory of Music in Pennsylvania, where he continued until
    age 18, first under the tutelage of Mme. Baroni, and later under
    Taylor Redden. He applied to, but was not accepted to Oberlin
    Conservatory and Northwestern University, and went to college at
    Tulane University. It was his intention his freshman year to get a
    Bachelor of Fine Arts in piano performance and a Bachelor of Science
    in mathematics. However, in talking with some of the upperclassman
    music majors, he discovered two alarming facts: (1) the music majors
    had come to be so critical about performances that they could only
    hear the mistakes after a while, and no longer could enjoy music, and
    (2) there is an inherent trade-off between being a musician and
    earning enough to be able to eat. Accordingly, Mark dropped the piano
    major and instead did a triple major in mathematics, physics, and
    chemistry. He eventually went on to get a Ph.D. in Computer Science
    from Brown University, and has worked in the semiconductor industry
    since 1995. He has been living in Austin with his wife and children
    since 1996.

    It is actually a good thing that Mark decided not to pursue music as a
    career, because, frankly, he was not very good at it when he was in
    college. Although he had been practicing 6 to 8 hours per day in high
    school, nevertheless he had poor technique that led to his having a
    very heavy, wooden touch.

    When Mark was in his 30s, his grandfather passed away, and left him
    enough inheritance money to buy a new Baldwin baby grand piano. At
    that point, he decided to take some lessons, and engaged the services
    of Robbert de Vries in the Boston area. During his first 90-minute
    lesson, his teacher talked about Mark's posture, his shoulders, his
    elbows, his wrists, and his thumbs. Fingers were not even mentioned
    during that first lesson. Essentially, Robbert took a bulldozer to
    Mark's technique and started from the ground up, teaching him how to
    keep the tension out of his hands and to play with minimal effort. As
    a result, Mark was able to develop the light touch that had eluded him
    up until then.

    Although Mark only took lessons from Robbert for a couple of years, he
    has continued playing the piano for fun. Over the last decade or so,
    Mark has learned all the Mozart sonatas, most of the Beethoven
    sonatas, most of the Chopin repertoire, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Glinka,
    Franck, Fauré, and most recently Field. He also has season tickets to
    the Austin Symphony, and has a hobby that whenever the orchestra plays
    a piano concerto, he learns the piano part prior to the concert. The
    concertos so far are the Grieg, Liszt #2, Beethoven #2, Rachmaninoff
    #2, Tchaikovsky #1, Brahms #1, Prokofiev #4, and now Schumann.
     
  20. mnodine

    mnodine New Member

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    Thanks, Monica. Big fan here.

    The Kalmus edition seems to be the same as the Liszt edition referred to by Stu, which I've downloaded from IMSLP for reference. Mine is identical to the Peters edition.

    The .m4a files that GarageBand put into iTunes were at 192, but when I converted them to .mp3 for submission, I downsampled to 128. It'd be easy enough to leave them at 192. In fact, I could easily resubmit them all at higher bit rate before they go live.

    Yes, the tie in bar 24 of number 5 is different in my edition: it shows a phrase ending on the downbeat, with a new phrase starting on the upbeat (as in your edition. I appreciate your comment about a more delicate touch, though Chris commented that I should have a firmer touch, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

    As far as re-recording goes, there's nobody who wants more than I do to have my recordings reflect the highest possible standard. I'm happy to do more recording, but realistically I'm not sure I can quite make the two month deadline. I'm planning to have my piano restrung next month, which will give much better sound quality and hopefully better stability in the tuning. I'd rather not tune it now before sending it out and I don't want to record more with the currently out-of-tune piano. I believe the entire restringing takes about 3-4 weeks, most of which is waiting for it to settle while repeatedly tuning it. So it may not be back until the first week in March, after which I have to have it tuned once more before I can start working up the pieces again for recording. But I will do the recording as soon as reasonably possible. In fact, I'll probably redo some that aren't required.

    I don't know what is the practice of Piano Society when there are competing numberings for pieces. I see that all the numberings of the pieces that are already there are according to the Kalmus/Liszt edition.

    Thanks for your observations.
     

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