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Liszt, "Vallee d'Obermann", Annees de Pelerinage (

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Vallee d'Obermann from The Years of Pilgrimage, First Year (Switzerland), is a very dark, brooding and introspective piece for the most part, but ends in an exuberant pean of joy. It exhibits many innovative harmonies. Liszt considered his skill with harmony to be his single greatest contribution to the art of composition, for which, in his opinion, he would be most remembered.

    To give you a sense of the mood of this piece, here is my own translation of a brief excerpt of Etienne de Senancour's "Obermann, Letter 4":

    "... a vast consciousness of nature, everywhere overwhelming and impenetrable, a universal passion, indifference, a seasoned wisdom, voluptuous abandon, all the desires and all the profound torments that a human heart can hold--I have felt them all, suffered every one of them during this memorable night. I have taken a sinister step toward the age of enfeeblement; I have devoured ten years of my life."

    This older recording is not perfect (if there is such a thing in a musical rendition). The piece is very lengthy (it took ages just to upload it here), so retakes are not too practical, and I never edit my recordings.

    Comments welcome.

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6'3")

    David
     
  2. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Liszt, "Vallee d'Obermann", Annees de Pelerina

    He was certainly right. Other great contributions were of course to piano technique and the invention of the Symphonic Poem.


    Vallée d'Obermann is IMO the highest point of AdP1 and it's apparent you play with much love and know it like the back of your hand. The small accidents in the stormy sections of the piece are beneath notice and don't interfere with the listening. I think it's a sterling achievement of yours, especially if you recorded it in one single take. Just one tiny remark about the passage four bars before "sempre animando sino al fine", you suddenly change tempo, without a clear rationale (to me).
     
  3. Casper89

    Casper89 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow, what a great effort to record such a large piece. I bet it took a lot of time to get it sounding right. This recording is both impressive and well done, though I dislike the noisy old recording atmosphere.....nevertheless thanks for submitting!
     
  4. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Casper, I appreciate your kind comments! To be honest, I usually think of myself as a miniaturist--mostly due to constraints on my available practice time--and seldom take on large works like this. But because I loved the piece so much, I committed to studying and recording it, and am glad I did.

    David
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi alf,

    Thanks so much for your compliments! On the change of tempo you mention, five bars beforehand (at the previous page turn) there is an expressivo under the bass clef (which has the melody there) at the very end of that measure pointing into the following measures. I took a liberty to try to make the next four bars as lyrical as possible, so probably slowed the tempo to indulge the music more. As I look at it now, it might have been a bit excessive. Some have commented on my holding the second to the last note of the coda. It's just I case where I wanted to prolong the agony of the resolution of the dissonance to the tonic.

    Yes, I refuse to do edits in my recordings except to raise or lower overall volume. For pieces of reasonable length, I usually do several full takes and choose the best one. It's an interesting process as we never play a piece exactly the same way twice. For Vallee d'Obermann, because it is so lengthy, my recollection is that I did a single take, and this was it. I think where I'm an amateur pianist, listeners sometimes find additional excitement in the music if they can hear a hint of the edge of the struggle in the performance. I simply try to put myself into the music and to become the music to the highest level within my limited capabilities, and to "push the envelope" if at all possible.

    David
     
  6. Sandro Bisotti

    Sandro Bisotti New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Liszt, "Vallee d'Obermann", Annees de Pelerina



    Played as the true artist you IMHO are. I adore also that sound, so far from "professional" but terrific fashion of certain industrial recordings. Great product and great music, luckily not perfect,
    but with an high and more than adequate level of control and precision. Music as art breaths here, accept my more sincere congratulations.
    All the best,
    Sandro
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Sandro,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and praise! It means a lot to me.

    Best regards,
    David
     
  8. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,
    I listened to this recording with great pleasure. This is a splendid and artistic interpretation of this famous piece. Of course, there are some minor slips and the sound-quality is not the best, but one can feel your musical intention, which shows a lot of subtlety. I like your tempi, your articulation and dynamics. All is very clear and distinct. Very good especially are the lento- and piano-parts. A quite ripe interpretation IMO. Bravo!
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Thanks so much for listening to this very long piece. (It even takes awhile to download it. :lol:) The only time I'll study and perform a large piece like this is if I'm in love with it. Vallee d'Obermann is one of those pieces. I do believe it is one of Liszt's finest works. Quite honestly, a bigger technique would have helped in some of the bravura sections. I wish the recording quality were better though. I agonized choosing between my CD cut and the original source, the cassette tape. The latter was more clear and vibrant, but more noisy too. The CD cut, which I ultimately chose, is a bit more dull, but has less electronic sound anomalies and noise on it. Probably when the CD was made, there was some filtering applied to screen out some of the noise. It was like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea! Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoyed my rendition. In fact, delighted!

    David
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    You are no doubt a seasoned Lisztian, and it is clear you love this piece as much as I do. Yes it may well be one of his finest works.

    I would however urge you to have another go at this when your grand is settled and the new recording kit is in use. Mostly that is because of the sound quality which is really below standard. The piano is badly in tune and the sound is wobbly and unclear (one can't expect much better from a 32Kbps recording, being compressed almost to death). Perhaps if one is fond of historic recordings this is no problem, but for the average listener I think this is no fun to listen to.

    As for the playing, it is in good style but there are rather too many unfortunate slips, like in the final double octave spurt, that should have been corrected one way or another. I know it's a long and difficult piece (though not extremely difficult by Liszt standards) and you don't edit. That will all but rule out perfection - slips will happen. Still, I think you can do considerably better than this. A better produced and less compressed recording would als better bring out the drama in this piece, which I think is a bit low right now.

    So, please consider if you really want this on the site !
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I understand. With my limited practice time, I am unable to maintain repertoire, plus my "to-do" repertoire completely fills what time I do have available. Perhaps those who enjoy my rendition can simply listen to it here in the forum instead. Thanks.

    David
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Although it's not as accurate as we would ideally like, that is not the main problem. We (at least the amateurs) all have our hits and misses from time to time. It's really more the bad sound quality that makes me prefer not to have it on the site. I know that we do have worse, but they were admitted when the standards were less high than they are now.
     
  13. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Dear David,
    I have studied the Vallée d'Obermann for some weeks now, so that I was happy to find a proposed version for this great piece on PS. I've just listened it tonight. First, my congratulations for the level of musicality, which I found very high: you really sing the piece from the beginning to the end, which is to me the most important. Otherwise:
    - the sound is not outstanding, but largely audible IMO;
    - your tempi are in the low range (generally lower than indicated on my edition; however, I am not sure these indications are from Liszt. I have a Durand edition, revised by S. Riéra);
    - you're playing a wrong note that I mention to you since it may be not accidental: it is the left-hand voicing of measure #15, which does not sound 7th diminished in your recording as it should do. You probably play a B flat instead of a B natural.
    This is in case you would record it again...

    Thank you for sharing your love with this masterpiece ! Best regards,
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Francois,

    Thanks for listening to my rendition of Vallee d'Obermann. It's a magnificent piece, is it not?! I greatly appreciate your compliment on my playing.

    I certainly agree that the older analog recording process is not up to today's digital capabilities. (You'll see from the Catoire piece posted on this same page, that these days I make digital recordings. What a difference!)

    In studying Vallee, I used the Henle uxtext edition. They were able to locate the long-lost autograph copy of the manuscript at the Salykow-Shehedrin Library in Leningrad, and were able to compare it to the Schott edition, which was the first edition published in 1855. They actually turned out to be quite consistent. So Henle adhered to those two scores, but in cases where it was known that Liszt had made later revisions, they included those updates as well.

    In measure 15, which you reference, the tops of the chords in Henle are in fact notated as B flats, so I did read correctly there from the score.

    Regarding tempi, there might indeed be differences among editions. In the Henle, the piece opens lento assai, changes to piu lento at measure 26, piu lento at 59, un poco piu di moto ma sempre lento at 75, piu mosso at 128, presto at 139, lento at 161, lento at 170, and sempre animando sin' al fine at 188.

    Again, thanks for listening. And, best of luck in practicing this piece. It's sometimes a challenge, as I'm sure you'll agree, but well worth the effort.

    David
     
  15. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    David,

    Henle is certainly a better reference, as compared to my Durand. However:
    - the pdf edition available on IMSLP suggests a B natural (see attached picture). I don't know where is this scanned from;
    - this morning I have listened the great lisztian pianist Lazare Berman's version (from a LP Deutsche Grammophon integral of the Années de Pélerinage, recorded in the '70): he plays definitely a B natural.

    Have you checked this point on any other recording you may have?

    Regards,

    François

    P.S.: when I was a child, I remember my piano teacher discussing during hours with colleagues about an accidental in some Bach score. At this time I found it ridiculous, and now I fall in the same type of haggling... The age, probably !
     
  16. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Francois,

    I looked through my Liszt CDs and the only one I have of Annees Suisse is by the late Charles Villa. I looked at the program notes to see if the edition he used was indicated, as sometimes it is. There was no mention of it, unfortunately. He seems to play the B natural, but, I've heard professionals play wrong notes on CDs before. I looked at Henle again, and while it's a B flat in measure 15, they do show it as changing to a B natural in 16. So it does not appear to be an error or oversight. And augmenting the chord would make sense for harmonic variety and dramatic effect there.

    Then I did a Google search for urtext editions of this volume, and the only one I could find was Henle. To be convinced of the B natural in 15, I would need to see it in an alternate urtext edition, hopefully with a commentary or footnote explaining it. Depending on what the note were to say, I might be convinced to play the B natural.

    If there is, however, no other urtext available at present, I would consider the Schirmer Edition edited by Rafael Joseffy, as Joseffy worked hand in hand with Liszt on that edition. If it showed as a B natural there, I would probably accept it. Joseffy was a most careful researcher and editor. (I have the Annees Italie edited by Joseffy, but alas, not Annees Suisse.)

    Je pense que le question sera difficile decidir.

    David
     
  17. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I appreciate your French ! As for the B flat vs. B natural, I have asked his point of view to one of the best professors of Nantes - the city where I live - conservatory (now retired, but well-known as a very good lisztian pianist). I'll tell you about his answer.
    L'enquête continue... :)
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I have always duly played the B flat as that is what my Peters score said. But on trying out the B natural I find this to sound much more locical and interesting. I think in hindsight I had always a vague dissatisfaction with this bar, which now seems to disappear. I will surely take the B natural from now on. Thanks for that !
     
  19. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    I believe the Edition Peters of Anness Suisse derives from the original Schott Edition, and, although not an urtext edition, is still highly respected. So I'm not at all surprised by the B flat indicated there. I do wish someone here had the Schirmer Edition with Joseffy, who worked with Liszt intensively on it. Joseffy was one of the best ever. I believe I know of another way to get that information. It'll also be interesting to hear Francois' learned professor's opinion on the matter. I'm not ready to give up on the B flat quite yet! (Yeah, I know I'm stubborn. :))

    David
     
  20. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Just for the record, my Dover (that is a reprint of a I don't how much authoritative 1952 Russian edition: Muzgiz/Milstein) has B natural. I tried both B natural/flat at the piano and, I agree with Chris, the B natural sounds more beautiful, I think because of the expressive false relation it creates. The B flat would sound comparatively rather dull. As I see it, bars 13-14 and 15-16 have the same harmonies, with different chord position. Also, I checked Brendel's recording and he plays B natural.
     

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