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Granados - Cuentos de la juventud, Op. 1

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by redgoriya, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Hello all! There is already a recording of this set on Piano Society, but it is such a gorgeous opus, and I would love some feedback on my playing.

    Granados is, in my opinion, the finest romantic contrapuntalist after Chopin. His works are full of such mystery and poetry. I hope to submit more recordings in the coming months, now that I have devoted my life to music! (It took me awhile, but here I am!)

    A slight warning is that this set is entirely new to me: I played each piece for the first time just before recording it, so you will not be hearing perfection by any means. However, I think a good deal of emotion and interpretation comes through. (Granados calls these 'easy pieces', but nothing good is easy...)

    Perhaps a more pertinent warning is that the sound of the creaking piano bench is a little... present. I tried hard to get rid of it, but to no avail. If anyone knows how to use Audacity for such a task, please let me know.

    These were recorded with my iPhone on 22 August 2009 at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, Quebec. The sound files were mildly cleaned up using Amadeus II on my MacBook Pro.

    Sincerely,

    +j
     
  2. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Comment for #6

    Dear all,

    I didn't realize that there was a character limit for the file descriptions. Here's the explanation of what happened with No. 6, which is untitled, except for three asterisks: * * * .

    While walking to the church with the new score in hand, this piece seemed so perfect and compact that I memorized it from the score. When I arrived at the church, I sat down and recorded it immediately. This recording appears as track 6.

    Unfortunately, after finishing all the recordings and listening through, I realized to my embarassment that I had not quite memorized as well as I thought I had! In particular, I left out some melodic notes in the 10th bar (the second bar of the third phrase). So I re-recorded the piece, but I am not as happy with the result. Hence I have included it as an "outtake". I realize this is funny nomenclature, since the outtake is actually the correct version! But I maintain that the first recording is emotionally superior, hence I give it priority.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    +j
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I just listened to these. While I admire your skill in recording these after having just played through them, I think this is not the way to go. They actually sound as if you have just learnt them, and that is not good. The music deserves better ! This all sounds rather timid and cautious, with insufficient variation between the pieces. While this set contains wonderful music, some items are not all that good and need very strong advocacy to be convincing. It could be me but I did not hear so much of the "good deal of emotion and interpretation" coming through.

    Your Fantasma sounds rather blustering, and in the Marche the accents get irritating. Your instrument seems very good, but the recorded sound from your iPhone is not really up to standard. And that damn piano bench.... it's all you hear after a while ! That alone would be a reason not to have this on the site. In one piece I heard some heavy traffic droning by. If that happens during a quiet passage like here, you should redo that part.

    On the plus side, you seem a very skilled and musical player, clearly in sympathy with this music. You need better equipment, and most important you need to allow yourself the time to let the music grow on you. Memorizing from score and then recording for posterity does really take the biscuit... And bygod, fix that bench :wink: No way you can filter that noise out using any program. Take your own bench if you have to.
     
  4. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Dear Techneut,

    Thanks for the response. It seems that my rubato and/or interpretation is coming across as hesitation. Though I am new to playing these pieces, that is not to say I have not heard or thought about these pieces before.

    I would love to know a little more specifically which criticisms you have of which pieces. (Aside from the bench and droning trucks... sigh...)

    +j
     
  5. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Also, I certainly agree about the "blustering" quality of the Fantasma. That is one that surely needs a second time! (I was struggling with page turns, to boot.)

    +j
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    My observations were largely general, as I have never played these. I think Monica, who has recorded them, may give you some specifics.

    Actually I have nothing much to complain about your playing, which is generally sound and tasteful. It's the conviction and maturity that I miss in these recordings. I can hear that you love them, but that is not quite enough.

    Struggling with page turns in short pieces should not be necessary. Just photocopy them (or print them out from the web) and tape the sheets together. Works fine up to 4 pages.

    An occasional outside noise like traffic is not such a big deal, but that incessantly squeaking bench is really unacceptable. It would prevent proper listening pleasure even if everything else was perfect.
     
  7. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Dear Techneut (I should learn your name!),

    Thanks again. I look forward to (possibly) hearing from Monica!

    I will look into better recording devices... and benches.

    +j
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    The name is Chris :)
    If you are serious about recording, consider a portable mp3 recorder. You'll find discussions here of the Edirol and Zoom H4, which some of us use, but there are more good ones these days.
     
  9. pianolady

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

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    Hello redgoriya,

    I'm happy to see another Granados-lover. I like him a little bit too. :wink: (that's a big understatement)

    And since you like this set, have you seen his Bocetos? I think it's another charming set.

    As to your playing here - I think for the little time you spent preparing, they came out wonderfully! Some of your tempi are a bit slower than I like, and there are a few interpretation issues I could get into, but that is all subjective. Great job on nos. 8 and 10 btw - those two were hard for me.

    Hope you can get better equipment and bench.:wink:
     
  10. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Thanks Monica! (it is you, right?)

    I do know the Bocetos, from recordings only, and I have not been impressed with what I've heard. I just bought the sheet music yesterday in fact, along with 'Palacio encantado en el mar' and 'Carezza - Vals'. When I have a chance, I'll play through, and see if I have anything to "say" about them.

    I have played, at one time or another, all the major cycles except for Goyescas: the Valses Poéticos, Escenas Románticas, Escenas Poéticos, Seis Piezas sobre Cantos Populares Españoles. I would like to refine these and record them all. That will take some time, and better recording equipment. There are also some small pieces I really like, like the Dos Danzas Españolas (Danza Lenta and Sardana). And at one point I learned 'Epilogo, o Serenata del espectro' from Goyescas... that is the only one I could manage. I have played some hard stuff for the piano, but the virtuosity of Goyescas still seems out of reach!

    It is interesting that the Cuentos and Bocetos are grouped together as 'educational' pieces. From my perspective, the Bocetos are a lot simpler in every way, technically but also musically. The Cuentos have the sort of contrapuntal writing I really adore in Granados, and in places it approaches a set like Escenas Poéticas. (I see you have only recorded the first book... you must record the second!!)

    I would like to read up on Granados research, I think. Apparently it is not known when any of the early pieces were written, and some cycles are lumped together as being "early romantic efforts" when, in my mind, this is not appropriate. For example, the Valses Poéticos and Seis Piezas are clearly earlier sets, but I feel certain that the Valses came before, as the Seis Piezas have a lushness of writing that the Valses do not have. I think that the Bocetos might easily be placed with the Valses in terms of composition date. The Escenas Románticas I feel comes later, especially given the contrapuntal writing of the amazing fifth movement ("Allegro appassionato"), and the poetic sparseness of the second movement. (I heard that this set was only discovered in 1960!) Then there is a set like the Escenas Poéticas, which is supposed to be early, but also the individual pieces are said to come from different times. To me, there is no question that a piece like the "Berceuse" was composed closer to the time of Goyescas. I would also put the Libra de horas in this period.

    I am internet acquaintances with Mac McClure, who is basically the heir to the Spanish tradition of Granados, Frank Marshall, and Alicia de Larrocha. He has been a wonderful resource, but I could learn so much more if I went to Barcelona to study with him... :)

    I would love to know your thoughts on any of this, but probably this is the wrong board for such a discussion!

    Thanks again for your comments. I would like to re-record the Cuentos, especially the 8th and 10th movements. I did choose somewhat slower tempos for the other movements, but I tried to make them viable. I tried to follow Barenboim's advice that musical content should dictate tempo, and I often sang the melodies before playing to find tempi that "breathed" right.

    I would especially like to know some of the interpretive details you disagree with! Again, we could have that discussion in PM or elsewhere on the board, if that would be more appropriate. I'm glad to have found a Granados buddy!!

    Best,

    +j
     
  11. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on Granados editions.

    A few years ago I spent a great deal of money on the Boileau editions of the more well-known sets I mentioned in my previous post. I have to say, I was rather disappointed. Yes, several misprints were corrected, but they were replaced with new misprints! Alicia de Larrocha's emendations in several places do not conform with her own recordings: I take these recordings to be more or less a Urtext in many ways. The earlier, the better, since in the earlier recordings she is closer to the direct line of Granados, remembering that Frank Marshall died in 1959.

    Also --and this is a bugaboo-- , I find the tiny, computer print very difficult to read. The music is poorly laid out on the page.

    The solution I've found is to play from the original editions, terrible as they are, and to make corrections that are both musically sensible, also taking into account early recordings of Alicia de Larrocha, and Granados himself.

    Sorry, again this is probably the wrong board for this discussion. My apologies.

    +j
     
  12. pianolady

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

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    Yes, I am Monica :oops: and now I'm embarrassed (I sometimes like to hide here on the forum). As far as talking about Granados - this is a fine place. I'll talk anywhere :wink: And I have so so so so much to talk about with you, as I too have been researching him, and speaking with Douglas Riva, and looking at the editions. However, I am right now in the middle of recording.....yes, you guessed it....Granados! haha

    You know how hard the Goysescas are, and I am working on no 4, the easiest of the bunch. I'm trying to video record it of all things because...well...I dunno....I just want to. But video recording and just plain audio recording are like night and day! It's quite a project!! I'm taking a break right now because I haven't eaten anything yet today and I need to so I can get up some energy. Not sure I will get a decent recording today or not.

    So anyway, I'd love to chat with you, but I can't right now. Maybe tonight I can, or else tomorrow for sure. And now that you know my name, what is yours?

    okay, back to the piano....
     
  13. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    I'm Jeremy. Nice to make your acquaintance!

    +j
     
  14. pianolady

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

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    Hello Jeremy. Nice to make your acquaintance, as well.

    I am a bit overwhelmed by the amount of topics in your last posts, but I'll try to get into some of them now.

    I like the Bocetos equally if not more than the Op. 1, which I feel some of those pieces are not very interesting. But to each his own! I think my current favorite set is the Seis Piezas, but it is tied with Escenas Romanticas. Love them both, really. As far as the smaller pieces go, I like the Impromptu no. 3, Libro de horas no. 1, Estudio “Andantino espressivo “, several Spanish Dances, not crazy about Sardana even though I recorded it. Danza Lenta is a gem though – think I may look at that one of these days and record it too. Boy, there are many more I like but I can’t think of all the names right now. I have a lot of pieces I don’t know on my Ipod and plan to get the sheet music. I’m still discovering Granados.

    About Escenas Romanticas - If you can play the “Allegro appassionato” then you could probably play the no. 4 Goyesca. I think the “Allegro appassionato” is way harder! Have you read John Milton’s “The Fallen Nightingale”? I enjoyed it very much and learned a ton of things about Granados in it. One interesting tidbit is the story behind the Escenas Romanticas.

    I’m sorry to say, but I have never heard of Mac McClure. I only know Douglas Riva who is also a Granados expert and as you probably know, co-edited the new Boiler Editions with de Larrocha. And yes, I have a couple of these books and have found errors too. I tell Riva about it whenever I find a new one and he in turn tells the publisher. The next reprint will therefore have a lot less errors. :wink: And I’m surprised that you don’t like the layout of these new books. I do – the pages are large and bright, plus there are explanations on how to play certain markings. But the book I was using to make many of my recordings for PS is riddled with errors! It’s a Dover edition and I am shocked by all the mistakes.

    And speaking of Riva, have you heard Granados’ “Cant de Estrelles”? It’s a piece for piano, organ, and two choirs. It was performed only one time by Granados himself. The score then went missing but Riva worked with a Granados descendant to acquire the manuscript and then Riva was the ‘second’ person to perform it just recently. It’s a beautiful piece, I think. I really love it! And it was just released by Naxos a couple months ago!!

    Ok, that's all for now...
     
  15. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Dear Monica (and I suppose any listeners),

    I'm really interested to hear you say you like the Bocetos more than Op. 1! I played through the Bocetos last night. Here are my thoughts:

    The first piece, 'Despertar del Cazador', is charming, but I'm not sure I feel there is more than charm. There is nothing in it that speaks to me. It could be one of the pieces from Schumann's Album for the Young, while to me the Cuentos compare more with the Kinderszenen. I feel the same way about the third piece, 'Vals muy lento': Lovely music, but what else?

    The second piece, 'El Hada y el Niño', is of a higher level. The melody of the 'calmato' sections --which I take to be the voice of the boy, while I take the fluttery accompaniment to be the fairy-- is really gorgeous. I find the harmony and voice-leading in bars 11 and 12 --largely an alternation between F-sharp diminished seventh and G dominant seventh-- a little frustrating. After working on those two bars for about 10 minutes, I still couldn't manage a convincing interpretation.

    I confess I did not spend too much time on the final piece, 'La campana de la tarde', as it was getting late, and my fingers were longing for the more substantive stuff in the 'Berceuse' from the Escenas Poéticas! On a playthrough, I felt that there were some nice harmonies, but in all the harmonic flow didn't have a story to it that felt compelling to me.

    I also played through 'Paises sonados' and 'Carezza - Vals', which were included in the music I bought. The waltz was perfectly competent, but it's not a piece I feel any desire to return to. I think there are a lot of beautiful things in the 'Paises sonados', but honestly I spent so much time trying to wade through all the misprints, that I really didn't get a chance to appreciate the music. I'll have to play through that one again.

    * * *

    I'm really interested to hear your feelings about Cuentos de la juventud. Amazed, really, that you could find some of those pieces "not very interesting". Dare I ask which ones? ;)

    I guess the reason Op. 1 speaks to me is that the writing seems so sophisticated on so many levels. Many of the pieces show a surprising mastery of keyboard sonority, like 'La mendiga', 'Canción de Mayo', 'El fantasma', 'La huerfana', and 'Marcha'. Others show potent and overwhelmingly simple (but not simplistic) counterpoint, like 'Dedicatoria', 'La mendiga', 'Cuento viejo', '* * *', and 'Recuerdos de la infancia'. If there is one piece I like less, it would be 'Viniendo de la fuente': It is a lovely but sort of relentless experiment in a certain kind of sonority. I appreciate the economy of its language --especially with the G-flat which pops up in the main melody-- , but it doesn't strike me like the rest.

    To me, the absolute gems of the set are 'Cuento viejo' and '* * *'. To me they represent different ends of the counterpoint extreme: The untitled '* * *' is almost unspeakably simple, yet the climax to me is absolutely potent. How does he do it?! He gets there in only two bars! (Incidentally, the harmonies in this work make it perfect for barbershop! I'm working on an arrangement.) As for 'Cuento viejo', the part-writing is so intense and perfect, all under a seemingly superficial exterior. To me the writing is so subtle, and it is very difficult to give all the voices the weight they deserve. When I came to the reprise of the main melody in my recording, I accidentally completely reversed the weight of the voices I had intended, which yielded a really unpleasant effect. Oh well! :)

    Also I consider 'La mendiga' to be in the top rank. I love how Granados alternates the contrapuntal writing of the "A" section (especially the painful stretto writing) with the pure soundworld of the "B" section. I am reminded of one of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, 'Homesickness'.

    * * *

    Anyway, enough for now, but I really want to know more of your opinions on these pieces (Bocetos included). I do wish we were somehow in the same town so we could discuss it in person!

    +j
     
  16. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Oh, and I completely forgot to mention, but as fate would have it, two nights ago I bought the 'Cant de les estrelles' album. What a gorgeous piece!

    I really would love to hear more of Granados's chamber music...

    +j
     
  17. pianolady

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

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    Oh, that's great! I think it is gorgeous too!!!

    And Jeremy - I will reply to your last comments tomorrow morning. I'm working on a project right now, and I'll screw something up if I don't concentrate on it. I promise to answer your questions about the Op. 1 and the Bocetos!

    And btw - I'm in Chicago. A little to far for us to meet in person, but good thing there is the Internet!
     
  18. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    Actually, I went to school at Northwestern, and my brother's there now, and I have a good friend in Chicago. So it just may come to pass that I visit Chicago in the next year. If it does, hopefully we can get together for some four-hands!

    +j
     
  19. pianolady

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

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    Well, okay, to be fair, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed learning the Op. 1. In fact, I probably gushed about it to my friends when I was playing it. The Bocetos – all four of them appeal to me. The 'El Hada y el Niño' is my favorite one too.


    The ones I think are not that interesting are nos. 4, 6. So that’s two out of ten, which obviously means I like the majority of the pieces. OMG – and now I read in your comments that these are your favorites! Wow – that’s interesting. To me, these two pieces do absolutely nothing for me.

    So to summarize my thoughts on each piece, I’m going to use only the numbers since it’s faster.

    1. Pleasant and calming – I can see Granados smiling as he writes his son’s name on the top for the dedication. Isn’t that sweet?
    2. Like you, I love this one! The piu mosso section reminds me of little dancing shadow puppets, or I dunno…maybe little fairies hopping around.
    3. Pure joy, this one. I cannot help but feel my spirits lifted when hearing it.
    4. Ok, I don’t hate it. It’s just sort of…plain.
    5. Our differences are clear on this one, because I really like it. It has that sweet, yet melancholy tone that I like a lot.
    6. Sorry – it’s sweet, but too plain.
    7. Nice – I like the lilting style of the piece.
    8. El-fantasma – I love this title! I do like this piece because of its excitement and fervor in those quickly descending RH runs (too bad I can’t play them very well), but I wish he did not put in all the repeats.
    9. Nice – I like how the sections resolve on a major chord – really pretty!
    10. Darling! Again, I can’t play it so well, but I love the perkiness of this piece with all those accents.

    Ok, that’s it. Sorry, I don’t go as in depth with analyzing as you do – I just share my general thoughts.

    And speaking of playing four-hand piano music, have you heard any of Granados’ four-hand pieces? I have heard some of them and they sound nice. I think I may record a couple of them when I get the book. I would prefer to play them with another actual person, but I cannot find a willing partner. Although, that’s the great thing about technology these days. One can play duets with oneself!
    :D
     
  20. redgoriya

    redgoriya New Member

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    As for four-hands, I have heard OF them, but not HEARD them. I would love to play them with you, though!

    As for nos. 4 and 6, I really think I could convince you to like them. We need to sit at a keyboard, though.

    First of all, no. 6 just spoke to me immediately, because of the simplicity of its part-writing, and because of how all the emotional content is concentrated into 2 bars. The climax is marked "con suma espresion". That is the key to the piece. When you have some time, return to it with this idea in mind: The first phrase, repeated, is the outward appearance of simplicity and calm. It is the charm we show to our neighbors on the street as we pass them by, as we come from the fountain, perhaps. Maybe a little more subtle: a musical sigh, suspended at first, then falling down the scale, and sitting for three bars in a place of contentment. To my mind, the next four bars should start a little louder, a repeat of the sigh. To achieve this, the first phrase must end with a slight crescendo, to connect them. Now, Granados marks the third phrase forte, but I cannot abide this, because that leaves no room for his climax. To me, it starts like a small secret, the secret that under the pleasantness there are waves of emotion: anguish, joy, aspiration, hope. Each bar brings the voices higher and closer together, the melody makes striking ascents, the harmony never resolving, dominant seventh after dominant seventh, until finally, "con suma espression", we reach the climax, with a dissonant augmented harmony. It resolves into tenderness.

    As for no. 4, I cannot write about it here. You should know, when I first looked at the score, I was utterly unimpressed by it. It seemed like a too-plain version of "La mendiga". And indeed, that was how I'd heard it played. But when I sat down at the keyboard, it opened up to me. Try to balance the voices in the first two bars perfectly. And then ask yourself how to play the C-major harmony (in first inversion) in the third bar. It is a musical riddle. When you discover how to play that, so that it has perfect music sensitivity, I think you will have unlocked the key to the piece. :)

    +j
     

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