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New pianist submission: Debussy and Rachmaninoff

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Vcpianoman, Oct 31, 2010.

  1. Vcpianoman

    Vcpianoman New Member

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    Hello. My name is John and I am auditioning to be an artist on the Piano Society website. I am submitting two pieces by Debussy: Clair de Lune and "Jardins sous la pluie" (Gardens in the Rain), and Rachmaninoff's Moment Musicaux No. 4, Presto in E minor, Op. 16. These were recorded on a Steinway at my college.

    If not accepted, (or accepted!) I would appreciate any constructive criticism to improve my playing.
    Thanks for taking the time to listen!


    ~JohnW.


    MacDowell - Improvisation, Op. 46, No. 4

    Schumann - Romance Op. 28, no. 2 in F-sharp major

    Rachmaninov - Moments Musicaux in D-flat Major, Op. 16, No. 5
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello John, and welcome to Piano Society. Before we evaluate your recordings, perhaps you should tell us a little more about yourself. We usually don't feel inclined to critique recordings by someone we don't know - it does take time, after all. Also, please tell us how you learned about Piano Society and why you would like to become a member. Thank you. :)
     
  3. Vcpianoman

    Vcpianoman New Member

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    Dear PianoLady,

    Thanks for the reply--I learned of piano society by searching for piano forums...it's great that I found this site, as I'm able to listen to many different interpretations of pieces, some of which I've studied. Started playing piano at an early age, from watching my older sister play. She even taught me to play a bit by ear before formal lessons and we would play duets together. Growing up, I participated in the National Federation of Music Clubs and Piano Playing Auditions Guild, receiving Superior ratings and garnering gold cups. Decided to study music in college, with Music Education as my primary major and Piano performance as my second. My goal is to become a music educator, especially to the piano, and allowing students to enjoy making music as much as I do. I plan on getting my Masters, debating whether to go into Piano Pedagogy or Performance, or even both if it's not too difficult...!

    Again, I'd like to become a member to provide my interpretations of the pieces I've studied, as well as getting feedback on what can be improved. What better 'audience' to play for than many of other pianists from around the world online! It's almost like a audio masterclass each time I look up a piece and hear one of the artists on the site playing it. Even if not accepted, I just enjoy listening to other people play, as there aren't very many piano recitals where I currently live. So, I see this site as a valuable resource and helps me with my listening skills, and I favor more than youtube, with the some pieces that pianists haven't posted (like Sanucci, although I don't think he fits the 'classical' realm)

    Anyway, I hope you will consider me and again I appreciate you taking time to respond :)

    ~John
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi again, John. I've just listened to your recordings. It is obvious that you can play very nicely. However, there is a slight sound-quality issue - mostly with Claire de Lune, which has a fair amount of swirling, fuzzy background noise (how were these recorded?). We like clean sound. Also, in order to become a member of Piano Society these days, you have to commit to spending time listening and commenting on other members' recordings. Are you willing to do that? (If so, you can even start right now.... :wink: ) Plus, there are other forums to participate in besides the Audition Room.
     
  5. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    I listened to Jardins sous la pluie and the Rachmaninoff.

    I can tell this is a live performance, so kudos for getting through it. Unfortunately, to put it bluntly, I think these performances are not nearly ready yet. In both cases, the difficulty lies in having the finger independence and control to be able to create a lush orchestral effect. Yet the end result here is an unclear and uneven struggle.

    The Rachmaninoff is really much too slow to qualify as a presto as well as melodically jabbed and labored. Everyone is probably going to expect a few slips in a piece like this, and although there are quite a few in this performance, that doesn't really bother me in the abstract. But the slips are made amid struggling with a labored tempo, especially in the second half of the piece, and a melodic line that lacks sweep and direction, especially toward the end where quite a few of the leaps, which should be attacked with ferocity, are tentative and unsure. Overall, I'm just not hearing any of Rachmaninoff's rich sonority and orchestration. The accompanimental figure played by the left hand should be lighter, more evenly pedaled, and less "notey," and the general fingerwork more even.

    The Debussy is much the same story. While there are some noble attempts at phrasing, the fingers just don't seem up to the task of capturing Debussy's wonderful rippling effect. This is a piece, like so much of Debussy, for example, that has to flow seamlessly from phrase to phrase. Ideally, it should create the illusion that hammers are not even striking the keys, an almost harplike sound. But this is not possible when the fingers are struggling a bit to get the notes out. So many individual details are obtrusive here (e.g., individual notes and phrases stick out loudly) that it's difficult to focus on the overall ambience. French music just needs more of an underlying precision. In the end, when mastery is achieved, of course one needs to let go, but the details and the cleanness/clarity need to be there for the listener to focus on the whole.

    But just giving my limited two cents, and I tend to be brutally frank :p I just think the overall effect is not coming across because of struggling with the technical side.
     
  6. Syntaxerror

    Syntaxerror New Member

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    Me too. This is far from being ready. Maybe try some technically easier pieces?
     
  7. Vcpianoman

    Vcpianoman New Member

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    Re: New pianist submission: Better/other recordings

    To PianoLady,

    Thanks for listening to my recordings...I'm sorry that there was background noise and it may have distracted you from the performance, but these were live recordings. I took them from my student recitals, which were recorded on a CD from a recording booth. I guess when ripping them, I converted them to .wma files, which then I had to use Switch to convert them again to .mp3 (as the type used by the site). So maybe that was part of the problem and you lost sound quality/hearing other background noise. So, here are three other recordings that I had done in an actual studio and ripped directly to .mp3. Hopefully this will be a better representation of my playing! Here are pieces by Schumann, MacDowell and Rachmaninoff. I have read the recent, new policy and would gladly comment on other pianists' playing, although my comments would be merely opinion and preference than claiming to be what is "right."

    To jlr43,

    Thanks for your interesting comments, and to be honest, I prefer slower/more romantic pieces better than technical ones, and I agree that some of my technical aspects need more work. Perhaps you could listen to the other Debussy and provide feedback on that (although I know it's overly played and there are many interpretations of it)
    In regards to the Rachmaninoff, I actually listened to one of artists on the site play the same piece and their tempo was almost the same as mine-although they were obviously technically better, I don't think theirs was 'presto' either. Also, I read that Rachmaninoff modeled this particular Musical Moment after Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude, and I would say that since Chopin composed primarily (if not all) for piano, I don't think Rachmaninoff was going for an orchestral effect. I could be wrong in this instance, but I don't think that the LH was made to be played lightly, but more as a wave of chormaticism and could be smoother.

    Overall, I know my technical side could be better, (and even the recording quality of the students in the booth at the time!..as the dynamics were muffled as opposed to a live performance) and I agree that these are works in progress...that's where the Hannon (gasp!) exercises come in...
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Vcp,

    I listened to these three more recent submissions and liked them better than the execution of the initial three pieces. You played this group with better technical control and confidence overall in my opinion. I've also recorded all three, so know them well.

    The MacDowell "Improvisation" has always fascinated me, as it gives us a rare insight into the sound of a 19th century composer improvising, and he certainly comes up with some unexpected turns of phrase and modulations. You play it very well.

    I also liked your Schumann "Romance" (and was glad to hear you playing it in F#, as at least one publisher transposed it to G, and some of those editions are still floating around today). This piece is an example of "third hand" technique made famous by Thalberg, where the hands play outwardly from the thumbs creating the illusion of three hands playing the music. You did well in keeping the left hand duet more as accompaniment. There is a nice cantabile feeling to your playing here. Just a nit: On page 3 where the RH plays at p express., at the end of the following measure there is that roll in both hands. From the sound, I believe your rolling it all upward. The performance practice there is to roll the RH downward toward the thumb and the LH upward toward the thumb such that the hands meet in the middle at the conclusion of the roll. But not a big deal in the scheme of things.

    The Rachmaninoff Moment No. 5 is actually a barcarole as you know. You voice the thirds quite well. You also distinguish the melodic from the harmonic tones in the RH. Over on page 3 at the climax in the second line at ff, that roll is best played outwardly in contrary motion. Reading upward, one can take the treble F flat (with the thumb), B flat and high B flat in the RH, and reading downward, the bottom two whole notes with the LH thumb on the B flat, 2 on G flat and 5 on the F flat 8th note in the bass clef. With that positioning the rolls simultaneously begin with the two thumbs, the LH playing its portion of the roll downward while the RH plays its part upward in contrary motion. I couldn't quite tell if you're doing it that way.

    Sometimes I felt that in balancing the hands that the LH accompaniment needed to be a bit more subdued. Yet you still achieved fine clarity of line in the RH melody.

    When I play the piece I aim for a more gentle and misty romantic atmosphere. But interpretations differ.

    Again, I enjoyed listening to your three renditions and compliment you on your playing!

    David
     
  9. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    From a listener's perspective, I think tempo is often an illusion. It stands to reason that a tempo that is, more or less, in time will sound faster than a tempo that is constantly shifting. Of course, you would never want a piece like this to sound metronomic: it has to ebb and flow at intervals. The key with a fast piece IMO is to work out where you want your rubato to be and work the musical effects in at a slow tempo, it will sound more natural and keep your overal tempo from sagging. Incidentally one performance of this piece you might listen to if you haven't already is Benno Moiseivitch's. I don't remember his as being super-fast (though quite a bit faster than yours I'm afraid :p ), but hair-raising in its relentlessness. Could not be remembering accurately though, it's been a while :)

    Very interesting. I didn't know that Rachmaninoff had modeled this piece on the Rev. Etude, though I can certainly see similarities both in technical figuration and overall musical effect. I wouldn't necessarily agree, though, that just because Chopin was almost exclusively a piano composer, he wasn't going for an orchestral effect with that etude. In both cases, the composers seem to juxtapose the martial blaring of trumpets in the treble with the frenzied motion of an entire string section in the bass. But that's just my interpretation :p Rachmaninoff is certainly lusher and fuller in his writing for the piano. This particular moment musical seems most reminiscent of the Etudes-Tableaux, which do all seem very orchestral to my ears, where individual notes matter less than overall effect.

    Regarding the left hand, I just said lighter. I agree with you that it isn't "light" in the same way the Debussy is, for example, and should have more substance. What I meant was that it should be light in proportion to the treble, which has to always sing, notably the top voice of those thirds. So maybe just that I think it should be more evenly balanced.

    Incidentally, I did listen to your 5th Moment Musical and thought that was much better. As David already pointed out, it is an undulating, barcarolle-like rhythm, which I think you capture well. Generally convincing rubato and dynamic shadings. I particularly like your culminating smorzando. I too think maybe the left hand is just a bit monotonous and clunky in places, and maybe a bit too much hesitation on the first beat, but overall, nice work.

    Joe
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have to side with the other commentators about the Jardins and Moment Musical. It's too hectic and ragged (although some parts go quite well) to be really convincing and pleasurable. The piano sound, acoustics, and hacking audience don't help.... I would not have minded the slowish tempo in the Rachmaninov, had it been more fluent and accurate. Especially for a live recording, you should have taken on something less challenging. I would bet your gold cups were not garnered with performances like these.....

    On the technical side I'd say you have the fingers but not yet the discipline. There is also the musical side, and it worries me that you push your way through the notes rather huffing and puffing without touching the music underneath. This gets all too obvious in the Clair de Lune, which I find quite insensitively done, lacking any of Debussy's refinement and rapt wonder. There are too many slips, too. I would recommend taking a step back from virtuoso repertoire and for a while concentrate on getting to the musical core of simpler pieces.

    Having said that, I admire anybody who tackles that Rachmaninov piece and lives to tell. You got what it takes, and should certainly keep polishing that.
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Pointing out errors, not like slips,but reading errors are of course the kind of comments that we certainly appreciate. But opinions are important to us as well, because it makes us think about the music in ways we may not have thought about it before. There have been many times I have come up here with a piece that I really thought I had interpreted correctly, but then someone said something like, "hey, that was way too slow - it's supposed to be a waltz, you nut" or "that was too fast - it's a nocturne, for Pete's sake..." stuff like that. I don't know EVERY piece of piano music and I'm not taking lessons, currently, so feedback like opinions or preferences are important to me.

    Regarding your second three submissions: I think they sound very nice and have good sound-quality, so you can submit your photo and bio and we'll add you as a member (if you are still interested). But remember: You MUST participate on our forum if you'd like to STAY a member. So go ahead....you can start doing that today :!: :lol:
     
  12. Chopinesque

    Chopinesque New Member

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    I can only comment on the Jardins because this is a piece I played at an exam a year ago, so I got to know it in detail and listened to many professional recordings. It was good to hear it again: good choice!

    I do agree with the other members that it needs more work - and I don't just mean the mistakes; it's not an easy piece. You could do a lot more by using more contrasting dynamics - you need take care of all the nuances and the detail, and give more unity to the piece as a whole. I'm probably not being too helpful with my generic comments - it's easier said than done! Hope to hear it again.

    All the best.
     
  13. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Okay, John, you are officially a member of Piano Society - your page and three recordings are up on the site. Remember to participate on the forum in order to stay in good standing. Also, next time you submit recordings, please make sure the compression rate is 192kbps or below.
     
  14. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    The MacDowell is rather a nice miniature. I've never heard it before, so thanks for this! I've been busy for a while and missed this thread.. it's a little confusing to see the differences between the pieces initially submitted and reviewed and what is now there! I don't know the Rachmaninoff well enough to make any informed comment, but it seems well played with good foreground/background distinction between the parts.
     
  15. Vcpianoman

    Vcpianoman New Member

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    Thanks for your kind words..yes, it's not easy and is in need of constant attention..it's one of those pieces that can slip away if not kept up! Don't worry, your comments are very helpful! :)

    Thank you very much David, for your comments. It's interesting with the details of how those rolled chords are worked out...will have to see if I'm executing them correctly! I really appreciate the corrections..I'll have to work those changes out.

    You're welcome with the MacDowell, heh. I didn't know about it either until my former first teacher gave it to me...way more interesting than "To a Wild Rose" IMO. And I guess since my first recordings weren't as polished as these, I'm sorry you aren't able to listen to them to relate them to the first comments... :cry: :?:

    ~Vcp (thanks for that cool abbreviation, David! Lol..will start using that now!!)

    Thanks Monica for adding me! I look forward to participating as much as possible!! :D
     

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