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Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by richard66, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    You do not worry about sour notes, but you do about the electricity failing, which does happen now and then.

    I shall have to invent a scheme to get hold of a real piano. I would buy one with the money I eventually will get, but first I have to convince my wife that it is best to invest 30,000.00 on a good (even if used) grand than buying a house on the never-never plan and make the last payment at 85 and dying next day of old age, having seen the value of the house become less than that of the morgage, as has happened not to long! :D
     
  2. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    Hmm. I'm sure you can get a decent used grand for an awful lot less than 30k (true for whichever of €/£/$ you mean). I am in any case not at all convinced that a grand is a terribly wise investment unless you can also afford a house big enough to put it in, and I don't just mean that there is enough floor space for it. Unless you have the (spatial) volume and the acoustic that can actually take the sound the piano will produce, which implies high ceilings and a room large enough to seat at least (say) ten guests in reasonable comfort whom you might entertain before or after dinner with your playing, there is simply no point and I would say you are better off with an upright. You don't want the piano (lid down, protective cover and decorative tablecloth in place) to have to double as a sideboard from which the buffet is to be served.

    A big piano and a big house (or at least a house with at least one big room) are not things you can trade off against each other - they go together. I'm sure you know that fine well and were just joking. Besides, you need to budget for other potential expenses. What if your daughter turns out to be highly musical and is drawn to a non-piano expensive instrument? She might in due course require a top notch instrument costing 20k or more. There is a good reason why uprights were invented, and it's not only down to floor space. They are perfectly adequate for most domestic situations and quite a lot of them actually have a rather nice sound.

    Although I have regular access to two modest-size grands (both (is it allowed to say "unfortunately"?) Steinways), one of them about 120 years old, the other nearly new, I actually prefer the sound of my own piano, even though it is "only" an upright, and only 40 inches tall (but overstrung). It's an Everett which my (late) parents bought new in Kansas City in 1953 (supplied by the Jenkins Music Co if that means anything to anyone) and which (due to my dad's job) has endured quite a few international house moves in its time. I like it so much that any other piano somehow feels and sounds inferior. I don't know whether that is simply down to "what I'm used to" or I was just lucky to have grown up with such a nice instrument. For a few years (about 15 years ago) I had to put up with a cheap upright (£600 - roughly 10 times the cost of a tuning), which was all I could afford. It was definitely inferior (though perhaps not quite as bad as your old groaner). Luckily circumstances (which also had their unfortunate sides) reunited me with the old faithful I grew up with.

    So my recommendation for when you part company with the old groaner would be: Don't get a digital, and (unless you have money to burn, which seems unlikely for someone who has mentioned worrying about next month's food bill) don't get a grand. Get a decent upright, but accept that you may have to try a few, and that they won't sound the same in your home as in the shop, so make sure you negotiate terms which let you change your mind as often as you like.
     
  3. pianolady

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

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    Well, my piano is not in a large room with high ceilings but I think it sounds fine. No matter how good an upright is, you will never get a sound as full as a grand. But of course if you don't have the money, then investing in a 'very good' upright is most practical.
     
  4. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    The big room is a factor and is a reason why I would settle for a 1/3 (the next size up from the baby grand). Another consideration is technical: some pieces simply cannot be played on an upright: has anyone tried Albéniz's Leyenda on an upright? It is mechanically impossible! The same goes for Liszt's Consolations (about the only Liszt I have attempted), which seems impossible without the sustaining pedal.

    Before I had a Baldwin upright, that cost me Ca. 2,000.00 (bucks) and, when I moved I had to sell it and I fetched something like 600.00. To have it sent to me would have cost more than the original value of the piano, let alone its sale value! Was it good?, Why, yes, thought it was very very loud and my ears would buzz after a practice session.
     
  5. pianolady

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

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    You must mean the sostenuto pedal. Doesn't every piano have a sustain pedal? Whenever I play the 3rd (I think) Consolation I use the sostenuto pedal (the middle pedal).
     
  6. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    You're quite right that some pieces do require the selective sustain pedal, and what the middle pedal on most uprights does instead (simply lifting the dampers on the bottom few octaves) is a very poor substitute for that, and if such pieces are going to form a major part of your intended repertoire, then of course that will have a bearing on your decision whether you really must spend the extra money on a grand or whether you can get by with a decent upright. I could have done with a sost ped in some Barber songs I accompanied recently, but frankly I come across this requirement so rarely that it doesn't much bother me not having one at home.

    I don't understand why you particularly mention Leyenda, though. As far as I can see it is perfectly well playable on an upright. The huge jumps are a horror no matter what type of instrument you play it on, but I can't see where in it a sost ped would be especially desirable, let alone necessary. Could you be more specific about exactly which sections you consider mechanically impossible?
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    No, Monica, only grands have the sostenuto pedal. Others have a middle pedal, but it only places a stip of felt between the hammers and the strings. Its only use is when you feel like reading something at 3am, because otherwise it alters the feel of the keys. You mention the very same Consolation I was thinking of and I am now practising pieces that obvioulsy ask for it too. I am trying to do with finger legato, but it makes it all that more difficult, as in one, for example, there on the RH is a suspension (4-3) within a chord being played with 1,2 and 5, which is the main melody), with the LF playing a counter melody whereas with the sustenuto pedal I would play with the RH the mailn melody and the suspension, leaving the rest for the LH - which is the way it is written out.

    You misunderstand me, Rainer: in the Leyenda the pedal is not an issue, the issue are the repeated middle-register d's, which alternate between the hands. The hammers on an upright to not return to position fast enough, resulting in many of the d's being dropped out. That was already a problem with my old Baldwin, but on the one I have now it is impossible. The leaps never bothered me too much, except that landing ff on a black key with a finger 3/4 of the way off and skidding might cause injury.
     
  8. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    Despite their common linguistic root, sostenuto and sustain pedals are not the same thing. Not all pianos have a sostenuto pedal (and apparently not all which do are grands) but all pianos do have a sustain pedal, that's the one on the right, also called the damper pedal.
    I see what you mean. Luckily it's not really a problem on my piano; the keys are able to repeat as fast as I can play them. Maybe I'm not (trying to) play them fast enough. :?
    Really? Wow! I reckon the piece is pretty well impossible to play as written if you also want it fast. All the way through the fast sections, the left hand simply plods along playing on semiquaver beats 1,3,5,7,9,11, and its occasional octave jumps are basically going to govern what your maximum speed is going to be. Meanwhile the right hand mostly plays on 2,4,6,8,10,12. But where the leaps come, the right hand plays its loud chords on beat 1, but still has to play on the neighbouring beats 12 and 2. It therefore has to play on three consecutive semiquaver beats, with a jump of up to two octaves both between the first and second and between the second and third.

    How do you play it? I think there are basically four ways:
    1) By playing the whole piece slowly enough that your right hand can play its three consecutive semiquaver beats in time. Like this there is no way it will be so fast that the piano's mechanical repeatability will be anywhere near challenged (not even on your old groaner). But this will probably be rather too pedestrian for most people's taste.
    2) By not playing 3 consecutive semiquavers at all. The right hand doesn't play 10,12,1,2,4 but only 10,12,2,4 as elsewhere, playing the loud chord on 2. The consequence of this is that you get a "ricochet" effect because the LH and RH chords are consecutive instead of simultaneous, they are a semiquaver apart. The recording on site does it this way. While it's not what's written, it's reasonably effective.
    3) By judiciously omitting, or subtly shifting the timing of, the right hand's beats 12 or 2 or both.
    4) By pragmatically abandoning all attempts to play in time, and inserting gaps between 12 and 1 and/or between 1 and 2 to give yourself time for the leaps. Unfortunately this rather disturbs the overall perpetuum mobile effect.
     
  9. pianolady

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

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    You forgot one more idea on how to land those leaps correctly, which is to have a friend standing nearby and ready to push down the notes at the right time. :idea: :p
     
  10. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    You know, it has been so long that I have played it (I try now and then, but all those missing d's get me and I stop immediately). that I cannot remember what I do. Considering the mechanical problem stated above, it must be option 1.

    Of course I call the left pedal the damper (or loud) pedal and the middle one therefore becomes sustain (which in Italian becomes sostenuto), a silly name really, as it means nothing, while the left pedal is the soft one, or una corda, if one has a grand. On an upright of course "una corda is a non-existent effect and no more that can be achieved by the fingers alone. Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.

    The sotenuto pedal is (if I am not mistaken) a creation of Steinway's. The pianos that have it are those built from the lated 19th centurry onwards.
     
  11. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    Brilliant. One could think of it as making the page turner's job less boring. In a live performance it might work quite well as a comic double-act, if the friend can pretend to be interjecting the high chords just to spice things up.

    For recording purposes, of course, where editing is allowed, you could always be your own "friend". First record the piece without the chords, then (while listening to the first recording with headphones) record only the chords. Then combine the tracks.
     
  12. pianolady

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

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    Oh wow!!! Why didn't I think of that! I could really have used that 'friend' in one of my Granados recordings. :)
     
  13. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    It works fine on mine. It seems to me you are allowing your bad experiences with the groaner cloud your judgement of uprights in general. So far you have mentioned three things which are "impossible" on uprights which in fact aren't. :twisted:
    According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals it was invented by someone else but perfected by Steinway, and subsequently included on all their grands and some of their uprights.

    I was also astonished to read there that the una corda pedal nowadays usually no longer gives you the choice between playing on 3, 2, or 1 strings, but only between 3 and 2, and has therefore become a misnomer (it should be called a due corde pedal). I'm not in a position to quickly check, but I hope that's not true, and that that part of the article was written by some poor soul whose own piano is defective in that respect, and who has simply assumed that all grands were like that (much like you with uprights).
     
  14. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I did not say you cannot use half-keys: I said it makes no effect, because the keys return to position in the very same manner, half or all way. You can check the article and will see that. You can also look at the upright when playing.

    I remember about the "some uprights", the ones that cost more than some grands, if I remember well.

    On the pianos I have seem it is as you say: three or two strings. Come to think of it, I have never seen the indication "due corde" anywhere. On uprights, in any case, the hammers are not shifted sideways but forward.

    Another consideration is how sound is projected. I have noticed that standing at a higher level than the strings, that is, being able to look into the case of an upright, sound quality improves (for the listener). If you think that a grand projects sound not forward or backward, but up and down, you will see that in an upright sound is thrown at the pianist's (and audience's) face or is reflected from the walls, while from a grand the sound reaching the pianist (and the audience) is not direct, but reflected from the floor and ceiling (hence the hight ceilings, that have, for example, imporved Chris's recording setup). Why are grands sometimes placed on rugs in smaller settings? Here is the answer. I am not alone in noticing this, as I have read about it somewhere, possibly in that controversial book on piano practice.
     
  15. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    I'm confused now and don't know whether I've misunderstood you. What effect do you want, that works on a grand but not on an upright? What happens on my upright is this: In their rest position, the hammers are about 45mm from the strings (or a little more than half that when the soft pedal is fully pressed). When I press a key and keep it pressed, then the hammer, having struck the strings, drops back to a position about 5mm from the string. Then when I let go the key, the hammer drops back to the rest position. But this drop-back is not all-or-nothing: The hammer comes back gradually as the key moves back up. So if I were to press the key again, having only let it go back up a little bit, then the effect of the next press is similar to using the soft pedal with it, because the hammer then only has a shorter distance in which to build up momentum. Are you saying this is what a grand does, but an upright does not? Mine does.
    Where? The piano pedal wiki article doesn't seem to say anything about your half-key effect. It mentions a half-blow pedal, but that is just the name it uses for the soft pedal which uprights generally have instead of una corda. Interestingly, it mentions that some grands are now are being fitted with a "proper" soft pedal (half-blow) in addition to una corda (so there are 4 pedals altogether).
    That's a great pity, it seems to make having the una corda pedal almost pointless.
    Even with the lid shut (so that you can't actually "look into" the case)? On mine it's not practicable to open the lid, not just because music tends to get piled up there, but also because that's where the lamp goes. However, the design on mine does have slots cut into the front of the case (just behind the music stand), presumably to help let the sound out. There is also a substantial gap above the lower front cover (the vertical surface which goes from above the pedals to below the keyboard).

    My piano isn't very tall either, by the way, with the top of the case only about 29cm above the level of the white keys, so that when seated my ears are about 20cm higher than the top of the case, which means I'm already at a higher level than the strings.
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I recently came across due corde it in a piece I am working on, see image. It's the only instance that I know of. I have not given real thought about how to interpret if yet, as I tend to leave the u.c. pedal alone.
     
  17. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    The wikipedia article about piano pedals mentions two examples of Beethoven using this marking, and it's true.

    One is the short middle movement of his fourth piano concerto. There is an instruction at the beginning that the entire movement is to be played "una corda", except for the short cadenza-like passage with a continuous trill, which begins with a bar of cresc from pp to ff, marked "due e poi tre corde". This is followed by 4 bars of ff, marked "a 3 cordes" (in French), then a bar of dim to pp, marked "due, poi una corda".

    The other is the Hammerklavier sonata op 106, 3rd movement (Adagio sostenuto). This is liberally sprinkled throughout with "una corda" and "tutte le corde" instructions (abbreviated UC and TC in some editions), and in two places there is a marking "poco a poco due ed allora tutte le corde". Although later editions abbreviate this to "poco a poco tutte le corde", the implication is clear that one should gradually shift from one to three strings, necessarily via an intermediate stage of two strings.
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, where would we be without Wikipedia...
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    There would be far less Internet wisemen (or wisecrackers, cream crackers, cream puffs full of hot air or whatever :shock: ) who know everything after consulting it.
     
  20. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I made a mess of it. What I should have said is that a grand has a special mechanism for the half-key. On an upright you can, of course, keep the key half-pressed and then strike it - at your peril: very often the hammer, instead of stiking the key again, simply slips back into place and when you press the key it goes down but the hammer of course strikes nothing.

    If you had tre, due and una corda how could this possibly be used when the bass of the piano usually consists of one string?

    I have been off and on working on a Bortkiewicz piece that cannot technically be played on an upright, as he calls for una and tre corde. In the una corda section there is a crescendo that arrives at a forte. Then the tre corde sction begins at p. Now try that on an upright!

    I have nothing on my piano and I keep the lid open. I do not even use the standard upright stand, but keep it closed (and stuffed with cotton, to keep it from vibrating), placing a book-stand on top of the lid, more or less where the rack would be on a grand. I did this because the score often interfered with my hands and even now, when I slide my fingers to the back of the keyboard, I hit my nuckles on the lid when I lift my hand.

    You are not high enough to escape the effect I mention and, with all these gaps, the sound does hit you directly.
     

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