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La mort de Thaïs

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by andrew, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Concert paraphrase by Saint-Saens on the Massenet opera.

    Apologies for the piano stool squeaks (you don't hear them except with headphones). I can't remove them with Audacity's noise reduction or anything else immediately available to me, and would need to deploy specialist software were I to try.

    In any case, I hope this is a worthy recording - I think it's a wonderful arrangement.

    Also (direct link if you don't want to download the file) https://soundcloud.com/andrew-wright-35/la-mort-de-thais-paraphrase-by-saint-saens


    Saint-Saens - La mort de Thais
     
  2. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    Bravo! I really enjoyed "La mort de Thais" played in this fine paraphrase. The first half of this music sounds very challenging in its figuration to put it mildly, but you carry it off very well. The second half or so was ever so lyrical and your rendition was marvelous. This is certainly a convincing performance in every way.

    David
     
  3. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, David, glad you enjoyed it! The first section isn't as hard as it sounds, but I found the left hand passagework peculiarly difficult and it isn't as tidy as I'd like. Multiple takes might have helped, but this was a one-off trial recording that turned out better than expected, so I thought I'd upload it.
     
  4. pianolady

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

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    This is up, Andrew. Sounded very nice. I especially liked the pretty parts. :)
     
  5. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Monica. :D
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Very good indeed. Saint-Saens was a wily old fox on the piano.
    Could have done without the bench but it can't be helped.
     
  7. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Bravo, I second David's sentiments. I am particularly impressed how you hold the piece together architecturally and connect the different parts, and the convincing flow throughout.

    Joachim
     
  8. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks to both of you!

    Agreed, Saint-Saens has done a good job here. I've now played so many paraphrases and transcriptions that I feel they've almost always been written by someone who was a very fine pianist (and obviously so), but it's not always the case that they were also very fine composers. In this case I think the level of craftsmanship shows, as it almost always does with Liszt's arrangements.
     
  9. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'm not familiar with this piece (though I know the tune well), or of any of Saint-Saens's transcriptions for that matter, though IMHO his solo piano music seems rather mindless salon dreck that hardly seems worth the paper it was printed on. FWIW, I think both Liszt's and Horowitz's souped-up version of the Danse Macabre have more to say than the original, as theatrical as they may be.

    There are some nice lyrical (if a bit schmaltzy) moments here, but this transcription seems, to my ears, a bit of a rambling wade through deep water. Though I don't know the piece, I suppose it could partly be the playing, which comes across to me as rather soggy and lacking in fire (for instance, in the passages after the lyrical introduction). More judicious pedalling, a crisper attack, and clearer, more sparkling finger work could help IMO. Even if I don't care for the treacly tune (can't say I care for what I've heard from Massenet either), I think you do fare best in the more lyrical passages, though even here I'd advise clearer pedal shifts. The recording, too, doesn't seem up to your usual standards, as I find everything to be rather distant. Could partly be my subpar headphones though.

    Joe
     
  10. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Fair cop re the recording, I did it without mics, just using the Edirol's internal one - it didn't start out as anything other than a test recording for my own reference but I liked it enough to submit it.

    As I'm playing this shortly in a masterclass situation, I'll give your criticisms serious consideration - it's hard enough to play anything precisely enough there and advance warnings are probably quite useful. I've already given quite a bit of thought to the pedalling in the chordal section post-introduction but there was still some spur of the moment stuff going on and I'm aware my pedalling can be a bit loose at times. I'm trying to find some sort of balance between clarity and that of repeated chord sonority (this is actually even more of an issue in another piece I'll be playing in the same situation) so these things are on my mind. As for the passagework in the lh (1.17 and similar passages), it's simply not as clean as I'd like. I'm definitely more comfortable in the second half, that's for sure. Thanks for listening.
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Oh come on, do give the man SOME credit. I don't know how much of his solo piano music you've had under the fingers, if any, but it is never less than melodious, pleasing, well written, and fun to play. Not great music, but still GOOD. It seems just a tiny bit snobbish and high horse to describe his music as mindless dreck. I would rather reserve that catchy phrase for rap, Bieber or Rihanna.
     
  12. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    None, because I'd rather play tiddly winks (or maybe Dungeons and Dragons in the case of the Danse Macabre transcription).

    Seems to me you once described the bulk of Mendelssohn's solo piano music (with particular reference to the Songs Without Words) as "saccharine and note spinning." And though I didn't agree completely, particularly regarding the Venetian boat songs, which I've always had a soft spot for, I agree you had a point there. I do believe, though, that few wouldn't place Mendelssohn on a much higher pedestal than Saint-Saens. Now I do love the performances of Saint-Saens's piano concerti by Phillipe Entremont and Jeanne-Marie Darré, finding in those cases the performances greater than the music.

    As for Rihanna and Bieber, it's an open question whether such hideous screaming, gyrating, and posturing is music at all. One can only hope that the lowest circles of hell are stoked and waiting for them.
     
  13. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't know. That's a bit harsh. Assigning the lowest circles gives them an unworthy level of importance :wink:

    As for Saint-Saens, I wouldn't put him in the best composers ever, but for me he's a master of unpretentious, light-hearted, entertaining bonbons and far above the vast majority of 19th century salon stuff.
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I light-heartedly, er, whole-heartedly second that. And at times, he could be genuinely profound as well. It's just not fair, the way he is so often lambasted for lack of depth and substance. Anyone afflicted with that opinion had better go listen to Wagner. Or Mendelssohn :p
     
  15. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Footnote to this:

    Joe's comments were actually quite mild compared to what I got when I played it in the masterclass (you really don't want to know). I do have a post-masterclass recital recording of this.. replacing what's here with it would be a serious trade-off question however. The recorded sound quality is much better; the second half is almost entirely fine but the first half is a bit more technically fallible than I'm comfortable with putting in the public domain - collateral damage I suspect from me trying to totally rejig my thinking as to how it should be played. Perhaps we could compromise and just do the Meditation (famous second half section!) :roll: :oops:

    Alternatively it just needs more work and to be revisited!
     
  16. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I have enjoyed your performance very much, full of expressivity and spirit. I´m not familiar neither to the opera nor to the arrangement, but I have listened with score. I think, you have managed here all very well, just the piano is a bit distuned here and there. But what counts, is your expressive playing!
     
  17. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks. I have a few reservations about this performance, but it is quite expressive! I'm still a little bit scarred by having my teacher absolutely lambast my playing, to the point I didn't want to re-listen to this.. believe me, some people think Chris has been harsh in his comments on a few recordings, but it was nothing to what I got told ;)
     
  18. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Pha, one should not listen always to the stupid teachers! :lol: I´m allowd to say that, because I am a teacher. :wink:
    I always have appreciated the direct and honest critique of Chris and our musical exchange and collaboration, which was very intensive during some years, has given me a lot inspiration and motivation for my own piano playing. I have thanked him for that also privately. But here and there his manner for my feeling was sometimes too harsh and too negative here and there. (I think, I have also said him this personally.) But in summary it always has been adequate!
    I personally am another type of personality respective I have another character. I´m teacher and as such I´m a pedagogue (that´s what Chris never had a true comprehension for!). That means I´m trying to help others to improve by giving critical remarks, but at the same time I also try to see the positive and to praise, what already is good respective positive to encourage the person. This goodwill respective benevolence is the most important feature of a true pedagogue. If one has not this feature, he should let his fingers off the job of a teacher! Chris is a good critic, but not a pedagogue. But may be for a site like this, it´s enough to be a good critic and one has not to be a pedagogue?!
    However, for me the main thing is, that you have played very expressively in this recording. If we regard recordings by the young Horrowitz or other pianists of the old school, they also often are not perfect concerning the accuracy of realizing the text of the score, but they are wild and expressive. That´s the good old tradition of romantic pianism! :)
     
  19. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I agree regarding romantic pianism. Not though regarding my teacher, who will give praise when appropriate - there have been a few of my recordings where he has been very complimentary. If he felt there were things wrong and needing to be addressed, it's generally because he's trying to push me to a higher level. As he has accomplished much, both as a teacher and a performer, I'm inclined to take what he says pretty seriously. It was basically what Joe said but put more firmly and comprehensively.
     
  20. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    That's a very good attitude from my view, Andrew! It was not meant too seriously, what I said about the "stupid teachers", that's why I put the Lol-sign behind it. (Though in some cases it can be true, generally spoken). And, of course, it was not meant to say something against your teacher personally. I actually hope you didn't missunderstand me.
     

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