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Medtner, Prologue from Eight Mood Pictures, Op. 1, No. 1

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is the “Prologue” fromg Eight Mood Pictures Op. 1, No. 1 composed between 1895 and 1902 by Nikolai Medtner. In my interpretation the Prologue takes on the atmosphere and imagery of a romantic and sometimes intense reverie.

    The piece is embedded in 3 against 2 polyrhythms, and double note figurations abound. The melody is played by both hands, one either mirroring or shadowing the other given the polyrhythms, or sometimes with one hand offering counterpoint to the other. Along with melody, the right hand plays accompaniment too. The left hand similarly attends simultaneously to melody, bass harmonies and accompaniment and covers a surprising compass of the keyboard, sometimes making difficult leaps. At times the left becomes the dominant hand in the flow of the music. I’m reminded of Thalberg’s “three hands” illusion which might have influenced Medtner’s design. These complexities require careful voicing and layering of sound into foreground and background, as well as being alert to voice leading between the hands.

    Nearing the midpoint of the recording, with the entrance of Part B the fantasy shifts unexpectedly into a a more somber minor mode causing the dreamer a moment of unease--but the music soon blooms into a lush, ultra-romantic and gripping climax which gradually ebbs and gives way to the tranquil reprise of the reverie’s main theme, the piece ending in a gentle double-notes coda fading into the quiet of the night.

    I believe that the Prologue works splendidly as a standalone piano solo and need not be played as part of the suite.

    Comments welcome!

    P.S. I did my best.

    David

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid fully open
    Recorder: Korg MR-1000
    Microphones: Earthworks TC-20 matched pair of small diaphragm omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration

    Medtner - "Prologue" from Eight Mood Pictures Op. 1 No. 1
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,
    Wow, that is a big and very romantic piece of music. Perfect for you! :) I've never heard it before, but I can tell that it is certainly not easy. I think you did a nice job though, and you definitely brought out all the romantic drama in the piece, as I would expect from you! However, there were some parts where I sort of felt like your right hand was just a little bit too loud in that I found it slightly hard to tune it out enough so that I could hear the melody. Hope that make sense - that back and forth business was sometimes just a little too much. But really, it's probably just so hard to play this because there is so much going on - I'm wondering if you really have three hands? :)

    Also, listening to the file on my computer I heard four strange pops - specifically at 1:47, 2:36, 3:49, and 4:14. Do you hear that on your computer? Maybe they are editing points, but I think you hardly ever edit your recordings, so I don't really know. Also, we are asking that everyone submit recordings with proper tags. You can find information on that at the top of this forum. It saves us admins time. I will fix all your tags here, but I would very much appreciate if you could make correct tags on your next submission. So that's it...sorry to be a nag about the tags. But nice playing, David. I will put up your recording tomorrow.
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for those nice compliments! I found this piece to be very difficult and frustrating. I'd been practicing it since November. And although I could play it through flawlessly even at tempo with the metronome, as soon as I'd switch to performance mode far more focused on the musicality as opposed to the mechanics of practicing, problems would pop up. Then today I thought that I should bite the bullet and record, otherwise it probably wouldn't happen. Well, I had two recording sessions. Yesterday I did several takes. When I went to listen to them, there was no sound. Somehow, probably while transporting the recorder to the PC and back to the piano, a finger apparently must have turned the phantom power switch to off leaving the misc without power. All that effort was lost! :x Probably Medtner was mocking me. Today, if there was an error, it got intensive therapy, but in the very next recording a problem would pop up which had never done so before! It was so frustrating. Because of the difficulties, there is an occasion small slip in some places. I also have to confess that I inserted a chord that is an addition to the score. I don't remember it happening during recording, but surmise that I must have gotten off track, or hesitated. Evidently my brain rapidly did a musical fix. I listened to it three times and finally examined the score. It was me, not Medtner. I started an edit but then reversed it as I really liked the sound of it there. So that's my very first intentional "emmendation" to a score. :lol:

    I well know that spot where you wanted to hear more of the LH. The LH is more of a point of interest there, although not melody really, just rising arpeggios. But here's the thing: Medtner wrote fff on top of the treble staff there--quite emphatic--so I observed his direction. What I did do as best I could was to bring up the LH. Until the diminuendo kicks in, that music is like fireworks!

    Yes, there a few edits. :oops: I got rid of two page turns just for you. :wink: I believe the other two were erasing hesitations in the playing.

    Anyway, I don't know if I'll do more Medtner or not. The time investment is huge. I'd really need to think about it.

    I did study your tag requirements but in General, as I somehow missed the sticky at the top. I use AVS Audio Converter to reformat from WAV to MP3. The only fields I filled out in the tag information was my last name, Medtner's last name, and 1-1 for Op. 1 No. 1. The MP3 goes on automatically there. Thought that would do the trick, but I guess not. I'll look into the Windows Music library option, as I don't use iTunes.

    Thanks again.

    David
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Very good job David. You thoroughly understand this piece and mostly bring off the two inner voices very well. The couple of slips such as there are did not bother me at all, nor the hesitations. However the clearly audible edits at 2:35 and 3:48 are really jarring and ugly. It's great that you deal with the page turns but you may want to practice a bit more on smooth cutting - always make sure you have at least one bar overlap so you can choose from multiple points to cut. I sometimes have do redo a cut half a dozen times before it sounds ok. Dynamics are handled well though I had wanted a bit more perdendosi at the end, you are not exactly ppp there (but tell me about how hard that is on an old characterful instrument....).

    And apart from the ID3 tagging, please also upload correct filenames. No caps, spaces, dots, etc. The name should have been

    medtner-1-1-april.mp3
     
  5. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Well it's about time that you joined The Club! :wink:

    David, I had a listen while at work with a noisy space heater running under my feet. The big picture for me was well-voiced melody (smoothly transitioned from hand to hand) and good layering of the different levels of the work. I don't know what the indicated tempo is, but for me it seemed all a bit restrained in tempo. I realize that this is a very complex work (more than just a solo ballerina and male counterpart, but a whole troop of dancers about and behind) and if the Prologue is that difficult, I'd be afraid to view the substance that follows. I heard much similarity to Bortkiewicz.

    Thanks for the recording and best wishes for a happy new year. I had the piano tuned last week and will hopefully follow in the ice you have broken.
    Eddy
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Sounds like you did indeed have a difficult time recording this! But your inserting an extra chord makes me laugh a little. It's like you're going along, and suddenly wham! - "I think I'll play a chord".... :lol:


    Thank you! I do appreciate that. But Chris is right - maybe you can 'practice' making edits next time around.

    This is now up on the site.
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Also in this area, practice makes perfect :D
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for those kind words! On the editing: Well, I'm getting a little better. :D It's not like one or two pieces ago where you could still hear a sliver of the page rattling. I find even with enlargement that it's difficult. The reason is the pace of the music is still the same so it seems like the marker zips over the enlargement faster, but that's just an optical illusion. On one of those turns I watched the marker cross over it at least a dozen times trying to site the beginning and end, as there were not peaks and valleys in the landscape to judge. (Probably it's a good thing that I'm not a surgeon. :lol: )

    Regarding the coda, I did call on the soft pedal for assistance there. The keys to this piece are articulation, accuracy, and musicality. That's a double notes coda moves right along. I was cautious in handling that figuration because there is ledger line G# that recurs there that later I thought was actually an F#. So I started practicing with the F#. Then horror of horrors, I later rediscovered that the G# was actually correct! So then I had to fight the tendency to play the F#s. (This is the joy of playing from PDFs.) So I was focused mostly on accuracy there. There is no perdendosi or morendo actually marked there, but I agree with you that it would provide an even better tapering off.

    On tagging I tried to do it through AVS Audio Converter, one of the best, and entered only the required fields you specified. They don't have a selection whereby you can run the whole tag name together. So I entered it into the artist, composer, and title fields. But... maybe it could all go into the composer field provided there are enough characters in it. I'll do a dummy trial of that and submit it here to see if it works. If not I'll have to play around with Windows 7 to see if I can figure out their system. I don't use iTunes.

    Thanks again.

    David
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I'm glad you enjoyed listening. And thanks for the compliment. As to tempo, I took it slower than marked. I'm was already having a time with accuracy, so a faster tempo would have ruled out the piece for me.

    Ha-ha! Regarding that emmendation, although it was purely accidental, actually I believe it enhances the transition into the following section. But I wouldn't want to tell Medtner that!

    Looking forward to you upcoming recording and hearing the SF-10.

    David
     
  10. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Regarding edits, this may be well known by others but just in case:
    To avoid having any "crack," "tick," "nick" or what ever sound you must splice together the kept music in such a manner that the wave forms meet at the zero amplitude line. You must zoom way in and will need to adjust the view as you do so to keep track of where you're going, but if you can match the zero point of the descending slope of a positive wave right up against the start of the descending slope of a negative wave (or vice versa), your splice will be seamless and will have NO noise at all. You may need to go looking for this if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

    Good luck
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Thanks for that further insight on splicing. So for example, if I needed to delete a page turn, there would be some width in the delineated area containing the page turn to be erased. Thus, I would want the right leading edge to optimally be at the zero point abutting the following upslope. Often though there is enough sound present such that the valley is not all the way down to zero amplitude. In a case like that, then I would want to at least do the cut with the right leading edge of the delineation positioned at the absolute lowest point of the valley, but no farther to the right, yes? I had to deal with a couple of those yesterday, but what I was doing instead was filling in the valley with the edge of the marked delineation abutting some of the right wall of the valley. That was probably too far over and should have stopped at the lowest point of the valley, even though it was above zero value. Am I interpreting correctly?

    David
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Yes David. Basically you want to make a squiggly continuous sine-wave, without any wave line free in the air making a "bridge to nowhere." With a little practice, you can find spots not at zero but still make the splice continuous.
     
  13. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    OK, thanks for that info! Not that I want to start editing music, but some listeners, not all, strongly dislike page turns. With obscure music, I have to read mostly from PDFs, which are smaller notational print as you know. For four-pagers, sometimes I can get away with spreading all four pages along the music desk, but the more challenging the music, it seems the more difficult page 4 is to read, some to the point where I simply can't do the spread of the sheets, thereby increasing page turns. And if it's a five-pager, when I try to get to page 5, the mics make it sound like the house was just hit by a tornado. So I certainly want to do the best I can with this type of edit.

    David
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Everyone,

    I already know that when you click on the Medtner "Prologue" recording here, Alexander's Szymanowski recordings come up instead. I've notified Monica, so hopefully it'll be rectified soon. Thanks for your patience. :)

    David
     
  15. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,

    I had a listen to your recording of this Medtner prologue. Interesting title! It sounds very impressionistic from a compositional perspective and you bring this out well with your phrasing. How you combine the high register playing with lower register playing seems to create a mood that two polar opposites are being brought together or at least relating to each other. The audio sounded good to me. For criticism, one thing I would have liked was more range in dynamics from soft to loud. But there was still a good range in the recording

    Very much enjoyed listening to this!

    Riley
     
  16. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    David,

    At first, I clicked on the link in this post but said to myself that it couldn't be Medtner because it was far too modern :p (also saw Alexander's name and Symanokwski in the tag). Then I looked and saw your comment above, so I listened on the main site where it is right.

    Anyway, what a wonderful example of late Russian expressionism! Very fine playing overall as well. I particularly liked your phrasing, at turns tapered. sweeping, and grand. Good voicing too in general. There are perhaps some places where you could bring it off with a bit more conviction but I know that that can be very difficult with some of those left hand leaps and the interlocking texture between the hands. The only other thing I noted is that at times your pedalling seemed a bit abrupt so that I heard a light hiccup between certain of the phrases (though mostly your foot lifting seemed fairly even).

    As a general comment, I very much enjoyed listening to both the piece and your playing. It's nice to hear IMO one of the best lesser-known composers (and a gem I had not yet heard) and convincing handling of the polyphonic textures on your part.

    Joe
     
  17. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Riley,

    I tell you, that piece is a treacherous beast to play! When I listen to the recording, all I hear are things I wish I could have done better, but overall people seem to like it. It amazes me that an Op. 1, No. 1 is of this high quality. I would have expected more of a student conservatory piece written in composition class. But this Prologue has incredible complexities in it. It definitely shows the promise of things to come from Medtner. Yes, I should have done more with dynamics. I think I was hanging on for dear life most of the time, so I couldn't give that is much attention as I would have liked. But, there are some nice dynamic contrasts. The often wide separation of the registers you mention was a challenge along with the leaps. More often than not, the thumbs were playing the melody while the other fingers handled figuration. I think the style is a mix of impressionism and expressionism. The impressionism sets the nocturne-like mood of the reverie. The expressionism is especially present in the ecstasy of the the climaxes. It was tough, but I'm glad I learned and played it.

    Thanks for listening and commenting!

    David
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your very kind comments, especially on my playing. I have to say that as I listen, I cringe at certain things I should have done better. But people seem to love this music. I believe it is seldom played, but what a jewel! I wish I could have done even more with the voicing (the problem is the thumbs doing melody while the other fingers are busy with harmony and accompaniment figuration). I too noticed a few of those pedals that were a bit abrupt. Usually I'm fairly good at half-pedaling to take care of the overtones. I think that the complexities of the piece riveted my attention such that I was less aware of the pedaling. This is a piece where if you get off track, it's difficult to impossible to get back on track. And in places where the texture is thinner and more transparent, there's no place to hide. It's very treacherous and unforgiving in that way. I feel relieved now that it's recorded. Thanks again!

    David
     
  19. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    But from the cuts mentioned already, very well done! I have not seen the score and have no experience from the piece, but it sounds pretty complicated and it sounds like the hands are often wide apart. That is always very complicated if you need to read the score at the same time, or maybe you know most of the piece by heart? Anyway, very good!
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for listening and commenting! When I first looked at the score of this piece, I underestimated it. Once I was practicing, Medtner made that clear very quickly. It's truly devilish and treacherous to play. Yes the hands are often spread widely apart. Plus the notation is very often an elaborate Thalberg "three hands" technique with the thumbs playing the melodic line while the remaining fingers attend to all of the harmony, filligree and accompaniment in both hands. It still amazes me that Medtner could come up with such an intricate design for his Op. 1, No. 1! It certainly foreshadowed big things to come. I'm certainly glad to have played and recorded it (while retaining my sanity), despite some flaws here and there. Trying to get a single-take recording of this beast was no less a challenge. Thus, I'm also very glad to be moving on to other piano literature now.

    For the last couple of decades I've played and recorded everything with the scores. Unfortunately, I'm well passed the age where memorization is an option. Also when I record, I have to be the pianist, sound technician, and page turner. :lol:

    I very much appreciate your compliment on my playing. Thanks!

    David
     

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