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G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 1, "Chant du s

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The Russian late romanticist Georgy Catoire published his Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12 in 1901. Here I’ve posted No. 1, the “Chant du soir”. This is just that, a song of evening, not a nocturne per se, as there is also a nocturne included in the set. This “Chant” begins with a simple, plaintive and searching motif, but as the piece develops, there are some rapturous moments too. It draws to a lovely close with one of Catoire’s signature codas. This piece in one way reminds me of the Mendelssohn Songs without Words in that its very simplicity is its supreme difficulty. A mistake becomes all too apparent and the pianist has no place to hide within the thin textures while performing this music. I do hope you’ll enjoy hearing it!

    The piano was tuned yesterday, and it may sound a bit sharp to you. It is. In the northern winters, the cold temperatures pull down the relative humidity as well, and tunings tend to slide flat. A useful strategy is to tune sharp to counteract that tendency. I hope by the end of March the piano can return to A440, as that its best voice.

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid raised on the singer prop.
    Recorder: Korg MR-1000
    Mics: Matched pair of Earthworks TC20 small diaphragm, omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration

    Comments welcome!

    Catoire - Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 1, "Chant du soir"
     
  2. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    Got it on Piano World already...will listen soon. :)
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Horowitzian,

    I know you enjoy the Catoire repertoire, so I believe this piece will be no exception. Thanks for listening!

    David
     
  4. pianolady

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

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    The Catoire King is back! :)

    Hi David, this sounded very good to me. It is up on the site. And wow! to your dynamics. I wish I could make get mine sound like that!
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for the compliment! Catoire is all about coloration, so this piece presents a lot of opportunities for contrasting dynamics. My challenge was to keep them all straight in my head. Thanks for listening.

    David
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Truly excellent ! A recording of professional quality, as far as the playing concerns. The only thing I'd wish is that your piano sounded as good in the treble as it does in the bass. Some high notes seem to be a bit off. But, that's what you get with playing an (older) acoustic instrument. There's always something.
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your compliment on my playing. My Baldwin was built in 1984, so is not terribly old. (Compared to me it's just a kid! :lol:) I did do a partial rebuilding in 2007 given my heavy use. Sometimes I find that if a treble note(s) is off following turning (just a couple of days ago), it's usually in winter when the piano is tuned sharp. My theory is that although tuners have to tune at varying standards (as when encountering a piano that has not been tuned in years and is a full tone flat so is only brought up partially to pitch at first), their ears are most accustomed to A440. But I could be wrong on that. The treble strings are Mapes International Gold wire, so we can't blame them. And the Ronsen Wurzen hammers are terrific too.

    David
     
  8. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,
    that´s an absolute splendid and highly artistic recording. The dynamic contrasts and also the subtle voicing is excellent. Your interpretation is full of depth und congeniality to the mind of Catoire, I think. It´s a pure enjoyment to follow the ideas and feelings of the chromatic lines and the mystical arabesque-like development, which you draw in a lively and for me perfect manner. When there comes the first highpoint in ff you persevere the expression of an absolute force and might through the whole passage. I think, you more push into the keys here, than to beat on them from above, isn´t it? I like your touch here very much.
    So, from my view this is a masterful interpretation and your piano has an excellent differentiation of dynamics and colours of tone.
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas.

    Thanks so much for your very kind words on my playing. I appreciate that!

    Once I started practicing this piece, I was quickly struck by its complexities, having at first thought it would be a walk in the park. It didn't take any longer than the first measure, where Catoire raises a red flag where the RH and LH are playing a same note while the melody is in the LH. You mention voicing--it's crucial and paramount here! Every note has to be examined for function as to foreground versus background, voicing of chords, the melodic line, tenutos, strategic harmonies, etc. The voice leading in the polyphony and between the hands has to be closely watched too, as sometimes the line weaves through a gaggle of extraneous harmonic notes. And the pedaling must take all these concerns into account as well. All of this--voicing, voice leading, and pedaling--are aimed at clarity. I came to see performance of this pensive, romantic piece as mostly depending upon matters of clarity. Here you must listen to every note you play.

    Yes! In playing chords at ff, I've always depended on arm weight rather than force or a strike from above, and still do. However, you're absolutely right. As time goes on, I've become more convinced that tone is best produced working as close to the keys as possible. And in passagework, likewise I now believe that activating keys by being already in, or nearly in contact with them, rather than "articulating" them from above. In leaps it's harder to do, but earlier preparation can help with that somewhat.

    In this piece, I quickly saw that attention to the dynamic contrasts would be crucial. So I tried to keep those in my head as best I could.

    Now I turn my attention to No. 2 in this set, "Mediation". The fateful day will come when I have to face the virtuosic "Etude-fantastique" (No. 4) with my valiant but limited technique. I'm practicing that one in conjunction with the earlier pieces of Op. 12 so that once I have to focus on the killer etude, I should be considerably farther along with it.

    Thanks again for your all your perceptive comments!

    David
     
  10. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Majestic performance. Clear, colourful and descriptive in every respect. A professional recording, I agree with Chris on that. If you ever get these down on CD, I'll be the first to buy.
     
  11. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    hi, David!

    very good playing indeed!

    much as I enjoy Catoire, it's terrible because I never memorize his pieces! (except my idée fixe for Soirée d'Hiver hehe) so everytime I listen to these same pieces, they are completely new to me! at least it sounds refreshing! hehe

    oh, so your Baldwin was made in 1984? my upright is from 1938!
    Grotrian-Steinweg doesn't even exist any more. :lol:
     
  12. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    this is the idée fixe of my teacher!
    he's completely crazy about "preparation". he wants me to "prepare" every note I'll play, no matter if I'm playing fast jump chords...

    but I think it's really good. tone is better, and chances for mistakes are minimum (not in my case... hehe)
     
  13. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I add one more voice to this unanimous chorus of praising your splendid recording. I have followed your postings with this composer so far (because I recently became aquainted with Catoire through a recording of David Oistrach), all were very attractive, but this is really touching my heart!
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Pantelis,

    Thanks for those kind words! I appreciate it. On the "clear" quality you mention, I absolutely worked the hardest on clarity of playing in this piece, considering it paramount. That included paying attention to voicing, voice leading, and pedaling.

    The CD idea is intriguing. It would take a 7' or 9' piano though in a larger space. I asked my tuner/technician, who knows most of the pianos in my city, if he knew of a larger grand in a hall, church, etc. that is well maintained. My idea was to identify the piano, negotiate a rent for the space, and do the recordings. It involves several "takes" before I get one I like, as I don't edit. There are no professional recording studios here, which tend to be far more expensive anyway. He laughed! Then he explained that the organizations who have the finer instruments spring for an infrequent tuning, but don't budget at all for regulation of the instruments. Also, with the rising cost of oil (85% of homes and buildings in Maine are heated with oil), the heat in these spaces is turned WAY down when the facilities are not in use. Then when an event occurs, the heat is turned on. So the pianos undergo constant huge temperature swings which is unkind to pianos. He said it's frustrating because when he goes to tune, the place is usually cold as a barn. After ahwile the heat pops on with a vengence, the strings on the piano expand, and the tuning he accomplished to that point goes out of tune as he's sitting at the piano, so he has to start over. So there are no well-maintained pianos here sadly. So I gave up on the idea.

    David
     
  15. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Felipe,

    Yes, the more I read and play the piano, this idea of playing closer to the keys with preparation in mind seems to be the prevailing thinking now. I think the tone is more natural, less forced. In this "Chant du soir" I had to think about every note, and listen accordingly, to achieve the clarity I wanted. The playing on or at least closer to the keys was very helpful indeed.

    David
     
  16. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi hyenal,

    Ah David Oistrakh! On YouTube he plays Catoire's "Elegy" with Alexander Goldenweiser. What a beautiful piece and performance! Goldenweiser appears in my own piano teaching heritage a few generations back, so anytime I encounter Goldenweiser, I'm all ears. (He taught Isabelle Vengerova.) There's a nice CD out with Herwig Zack and Bernd Zack playing both of Catoire's sonatas for violin and piano as well as the elergy. And with digital recording and sonics, it's absolutely great. It's still hard to beat Oistrakh and Goldenweiser though. There's also a CD out with Steven Coombs, pianist, doing the Piano Trio, the Piano Quartet and the Elegy.

    I'm very flattered that you find my playing of Catoire's music so moving. That's the best compliment I've ever had. Thank you so much!

    David
     
  17. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I heard the Oistrach with Goldenweiser playing the second sonata "Poema". I was very surprised by the endless capability of that pianist! (Of course finding such a beautiful music was a positive shock, too) Wow, you studied in a very renowned piano "school"! I thought there is something special in your playing :D

    As you already have noticed, I'm not very good at english. (My mother tongue is Korean, which is completly different from languages in the West. And because I'm studying in Germany in German, my second language became German. So I had no time to improve my english in earnest...) So you cannot expect from me other elegant/refined expressions. But I usually choose the expression "touching" or "moving" only for those musical performances where I find a certain sublimity. That is, you're allowed to be proud of having got such an expression from me 8)
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi hyenal,

    Actually there are probably six influences in my playing. From my second teacher, I already mentioned Goldenweiser (Russian School), but there was also Leschetizsky (Poland). The other four came through my first teacher--Alfred Cortot (French School), Howard Brockway (German School), Tobias Matthay (English School), and Ernst von Dohnanyi (Hungarian School). Thus, I'm a total mongrel.

    Catoire's Second Sonata "Poeme" for violin and piano knocks me out with its sheer beauty. And the first movement in particular of the First Sonata for Violin and Piano is absolutely gorgeous. It's shameful that these pieces are almost never performed.

    Again, I'm grateful for your nice comment on my playing. And I must say, your English is perfect!

    David
     
  19. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Rachfan wrote:
    The appreciation is truely on my side, dear David!

    I see how thoughtful you are concerning the voicing. And that´s what makes a great pianist! In my opinion you are very successful with it, of course, one can ever work on it, I see it myself concerning my Bach-fugues. I always have to work on and ellaborate the voicing! That´s what makes a true artistic piano-performance. Not to care about voicing is very easy piano-playing. I´m always very inspired, when listening to your recordings, I have truely to admit!

    So we also are on the same "line" (opinion) concerning this. I always try to push into the keys, having the feeling to play directly on the chords like a harpist, if you like. That´s the best and truest feeling for me, don´t you think so?

    You show a masterful differention of dynamics here!

    I´m very curious on this new recording. Just trust your congenial mind concerning Cotoire. It will become a great success, I´m sure!
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    You're absolutely right about voicing. When we think about it, music--from the very earliest time--has been all about voices. The piano, although a percussive instrument, must very often be made to emulate the human voice, which we do by playing a cantilena cantabile through our legato technique, ensuring that the melody soars over the accompaniment. Sometimes we have to deal with polyphony that is even more complex in terms of voicing, not only in the Baroque, but in the Romantic repertoire as well. And beyond that, we look into the details of notes to detect their functions in order to decide what should be voiced and what needs to be deemphasized in our interpretations. This is difficult work, so I agree with you that anyone who takes the easy way out is a casual pianist, not an artist.

    Yes, pushing into the keys is most effective. There are some pedagogues who believe that in doing so, one needs to stop at the point in the key descent where the escapement occurs. I disagree with that, as it produces a pale gray sound in my opinion. So I always play all the way down to the key bed for a full, rich sound. I like your harp analogy. Here is another one I read about once. The author (the name escapes me) talked about NOT visualizing the rising of the hammers to strike the strings when we press into the keys, but rather visualize lifting the dampers off the strings. I had to think about that a bit at first, but then it made sense to me.

    I'm very curious about my coming recording of the etude too! There are no extant performance practices for the Catoire repertoire. So each interpreter has to develop it from scratch. In communing with this composer, whenever I've encountered a nettlesome difficulty, it's almost as if Catoire has somehow shown me the way to play it. I'm sure it will be the same and hope for the best.

    Thanks for your very perceptive thoughts. It's always a pleasure to talk to you about issues in piano performance. :)

    David
     

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