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Rachmaninoff, "Melodie", Op. 3, No. 3 (1940 revision)

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Here I turn to music of Sergei Rachmaninoff. The piece I play is the familiar “Melodie” from the Morceaux de Fantaisies, Op. 3, No. 3. But this is not the commonly heard original composition created in 1892 when Rachmaninoff was only 19; instead I play the lesser known revision from 1940 when the composer was 67. So why after 48 years would Rachmaninoff rewrite what had been a much beloved piece? Some thoughts: 1) Perhaps he wanted to bring a more seasoned perspective to this ultra-romantic music; 2) maybe Rachmaninoff wanted to better fulfill the piece’s potential by giving it a more lush, robust and virtuosic sound; or 3) whereas Rachmaninoff was still giving recitals late in life (he died in 1943), maybe he wanted a more opulent piece for use as an encore. Probably we’ll never know the reason, but hopefully you’ll enjoy listening to this later version, which for some might be a first hearing of “new music”. As to the program of the piece, no explanation is needed.

    P.S. Best to click on the first recording as the volume is better adjusted. I looked for a way to delete the other file, but couldn't find a way.

    Comments welcome.

    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


    Rachmaninov - Melodie Op.3 No.3 (revision 1940) (4:08)
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've never played this revised version and actually did not know it. It's certainly a good deal more elaborate and harmonically interesting than the original, in his typical flowery late transcription style. Whether it is necessarily a better piece I am not sure, the youthful fervour being replaced by something more 'knowing' but less intense.

    Very well played as usual, this is very much your kind of stuff. The odd dodgy note does not disturb much, and I did not even hear a clamorous page turn :p I'd have wished for a little more control in the more turbulent sections, so that all the decoration does not get the better of the melody. Easier said than done, I realize. Late Rach is so much harder than it sounds. This is on the site.

    You could have deleted by clicking the 'Edit' button on your posting, scrolling down a bit to see the two attachments, and clicking the
    'Delete' button on one of them.
     
  3. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    David,
    I enjoyed your sensitive and impassioned rendition. It was lovely (in a Rach way). I'm visiting in California right now and my 22-month grandson approved of your rendition too! He began clapping @ the false end at 2:20 secs :D
     
  4. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    I'm glad you enjoyed hearing this revision of the "Melodie". I had noticed that it was not in the archive, so this I think is a good addition. Yes, I was aware on page two that there are four lines there with the melody in the LH, but the difficult double-notes figuration in the RH got the best of me, I'm afraid.

    I think though that there is still plenty of passionate intensity in this piece, even with the more mature perspective.

    On Rachmaninoff being harder than it sounds, it's also inevitably harder than it looks. The score is deceptively inviting, appearing straightforward... until you get into it. The reason, I believe, is that Rachmaninoff seldom wrote pieces for you, me, or the artists of his day. He mostly wrote his music for himself to showcase it on his own tours. That's why the span of the chords for many people is often unmerciful. He had very large hands, so composed accordingly--for himself. But I always find that rising to his challenges is really a "high" for a musician.

    Ha! The page turn. I mitigated it by about 95%, but there is still a fragment of the page turn which "explains" the effect of the cut. I couldn't find the "magnifier" in the edit program to better see the demarcations of the page turn. As it was, you would have called it "a big, long, ugly turn". The piece is a five-pager, so I had the 4th page in front of the 5th. When I grabbed it to put it aside, all hell broke loose with the score!!! So, I figured I'd better do something with it, as unskilled as I am with even the simplest edit. We'll see if Monica notices it. :lol:

    Thanks for that tip on doing a deletion of a recording.

    David
     
  5. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,
    I have enjoyed your performance as always very much. Your very subtle and expressive playing comes out in every phrase. The "great bows" and the whole sensation of the music seems very deep and ripe to me. I think, your playing is congenial to this music! So, that´s a recording of a great artistic concept a wonderful experience shines through.
    Having said that, I´m very proud to have heard something better than Chris (maybe the first time since my PS-membership began? :lol: ), the famous page-turn: it is exactly at 3:00, isn´t it?! But I have to underline, here it doesn´t bother me at all, because there is a great musical mind behind it.
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I'm glad you enjoyed this piece, and appreciate the compliments. On playing "in a Rach way" as you say, I just mentioned to someone else that I wanted the piece to sound more like Rachmaninoff than Rachmaninoff. :lol: I appreciate your little grandson's early applause too. He's got the right idea!

    Thanks for listening.

    David
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Thank you so much for your very generous praise!

    When you mention the great bows and "whole sensation", that's what I was aiming for. We have to think of a piece of music in a holistic way, not as deconstructed parts. Everything must be interrelated and unified in a great sweep revealing the lovely essence of the music along with all its imagery and associated emotions. We can never touch perfection, but if we can realize and execute that holistic approach, then we draw ever nearer to perfection in my view.

    Yes, the remnant of the nefarious page turn is exactly at 3:00. Had I left it untouched, it would have become infamous to be sure. :lol:

    David
     
  8. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow, David, you've been on quite a roll with new recordings! Fantastic take on the revised version of Melodie. I never knew he revised any of his early works? You always seem to shed new light with your knowledge of music. Great dynamics and breadth to your wonderful performance... Rachmaninov miniatures are anything but miniature, and can be quite devilish to play, as I am finding out. I am trying to finish learning his Oriental Sketch... You've given this piece it's due energy and flare. Have you played any of his Etudes or Preludes too?
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi George,

    Two of the "new" recent recordings here are actually older analog recordings, but yes, aside from that, I try to post new recordings here when I can.

    On Rachmaninoff's revisions, two other good examples are first the Second Sonata, composed in 1913 and very much revised in 1931. In that case he wanted to make it more accessible, so stripped out much of the filligree. The other revision that comes readily to mind is the 4th Piano Concerto. The original version (which can still be heard on YouTube) was initially panned by the critics as being too long, fragmented and rambling. So Rachmaninoff tightened it up considerably into the piece we hear today. My own preferences: I love the far more rich, opulent original version of the Second Sonata. And I like the 4th Concerto in its present incarnation. As for the Melodie, I far prefer the 1940 revision I presented here to the original, which to me now sounds somewhat austere and stilted by comparison.

    Thanks for your nice compliments on my playing of the "Melodie"! I appreciate that. And yes, nothing Rachmaninoff wrote is really simple. Some of the pieces look simple until you discover the complexities! I've recorded about half of the Preludes Op. 23 and 32, but someday I'd like to relearn and re-record them. In the meantime, a few of my analog recordings are in the archive here. I have yet to play any of the Etudes. While I like a few of them, I'm not as crazy about them as I am the Preludes. Somehow they don't seem to have as much musical content as the Preludes, but that's just my opinion.

    Have fun with the Oriental Sketch. Back in the 1950s and 60s, that piece was fairly popular with pianists, but today it's heard less often. So you can perhaps play a part in bringing it back. I hope you can record and post it here.

    Thanks again!

    David
     
  10. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Is this the 'secret' piece, David? :wink:
    This is certainly your cup of tea and you played it very nicely!!

    And yes I also heard the page turn. It's not a bad edit, but somehow it cut off a tiny fraction of the ambient sound surrounding the cuts, or maybe a smidgen of the next note and so there is a little bit of a 'hiccup' there. Those are things I notice, but probably not everybody does and it's better than being jarred by a noisy page turn. Also, you might make a note that there was a little clipping in a couple spots. Overall, a great job! :)
     
  11. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Fist there is a long farewell and that you are at the mercy of lancet- wielding medicos and then... instead of being stoned by anaesthesia, you are tinkling the keys.

    The original is one of the pieces I have but have never attempted, so I really did not have any idea what it sounded like. Actually, I still do not, as this is a revision, while I have the revision.

    I cannot claim to have ever played much of his work, but it does seem to me that, while not necessarily easy, his work is not as hard as it sounds. Being a concert pianist, he knew exacly how to obtain a big effect using a trick or two (like ommitting notes in octave passages). His widely-spaced chords are only a challenge to pianists with small hands, I would say. The problems I have met in trying to play his works have nothing to do with those and I am by no means a virtuoso. Surely this says something?
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    I'm as mystified as you about my speedy (actually instant) recovery from major surgery (albeit outpatient). A good friend of mine had the identical procedure two months before me, and even after 8 weeks he was still feeling disabled but was kind enough to give me very numerous tips--and as it turned out, none of which I needed. As soon as I left the hospital and thereafter, I felt no pain (I mean zero). To placate the doctor, I had to lay low for 48 hours and impatiently complied with that rule, but the very next day I was back to full routine and activities, again without even a twinge of pain. It's something I'll never understand or be able to explain, although I'm truly grateful for my good fortune. I do know this though: It's well established that on the Pain Scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the worst, that one person's 10 might be another person's 1, as it's all subjective. Anyway, I'm very glad to be back at PS so soon!

    On Rachmaninoff, I believe that most of his scores look easy until you start to study them. Unlike Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms or the others, Rachmaninoff, except for the very early opus numbers, didn't compose works for other pianists. In his day he was a composer, touring artist, and conductor. When it came to piano music, he wrote it all for himself, as he was not bashful about playing much of it in his recitals, which spurred sheet music sales royalties, of course. So in writing for himself, he didn't spare the difficulties, being one of the best virtuosos of his day, the other being Hofmann with probably Moiseiwitsch in third place.

    I've played a good deal of Rachmaninoff. So if I just think of a few of the preludes, in Op. 23 for example: In No. 1, because of constant neighboring and passing tones, every 8th note has to be pedaled throughout the piece. Sounds easy until you right leg drops off! Keeping track of the ever shifting accidentals is a major chore. Therein he employs four levels of writing: the RH melody, duets in the bass, background accompaniments, and cross-overs. Or in Prelude No. 4, the melody becomes immersed in filligree, yet has to sound with clarity. This piece also is almost an etude in sustained legato. It is also built upon polyrhythms. In some places there is cohabitation of the hands. Melodic chords and double note passages have to be carefully voiced. And the piece has one of the most powerful crescendos to a climax that has ever been written, requiring artful timing and dynamic control to bring it off just right. If that "point", as Rachmaninoff calls it, isn't handled well, then the rest of the piece is as good as destroyed. Then take the famous No. 5. Here everything is a study in contrasts: Distinguishing legato from nonlegato, foreground from background, wrist octaves from forearm octaves, playing top and middle melodic lines in the very legato lyrical section. It takes a lot of artistic ability to do that convincingly. And then I think of No. 10, seemingly at first an innocuous trifle. There you have to make the LH sing, bring out a duet between the hands, etch a recurring sigh motif, voice melodic chords, etc. And in the section prior to the coda there are humongous rolls that were probably difficult even for Rachmaninoff with his large hands. To complicate it further, many of the professional pianists drop that section below tempo to leisurely take the rolls. Problem is that the score is not written that way. The rolls are dangerous (meaning possibility of incurring injury to the hand), so I practiced them no more than 10 minutes at a sitting, and when I recorded it, I played the rolls up to proper tempo. That was hard to do! And I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    I should also point out that in many of the preludes in both volumes, Rachmaninoff wrote short cadenzas that are very intricate, require exhaustive practicing, and and are sometimes killers to play accurately and effectively. Take the one ending the coda of the "Melodie" I posted here. Rachmaninoff made two recordings of this revised piece. The first one almost sounds like a mechanical practice tape probably never intended for release. There he battles through the cadenza. Then he also has a very artful recording where he did it most beautifully. Then there is Berezovsky's video. He plays it in a very large hall as an encore using the sheet music. When he reaches the cadenza, he omits it completely and advances to the last measure of the piece to end it! (I shoud say that have great respect for Berezovsky.) Given that, I probably deserve a bit of credit just for playing that cadenza for better or worse! :lol: Volodos with his incredible technique probably does the best job with the cadenza, but how many of us have Volodos' technique and can play like him? As I see it, the difficulties in Rachmaninoff's scores that demand nothing less than musicianship and artistic piano playing are for real. I also find that this composer had a knack, not so much in making the easy sound difficult, but rather for making the difficult sound ever so easy in performance when played by one of the greats!

    David
     
  13. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Rachfan wrote:
    I agree also to that at hundred percent. To see and to feel a piece of music in a holistic way is a valuable feature of the "good old school" as I would like to call it. In times of today there is a tendency, that the analytic sense is so highly developed, that there can be a danger to loose that sense for the holistic approach. Analytic sense is good and valuable up to a certain degree, of course, but the holistic sensation of a piece never should get lost in my humble opinion. I think, we have the same attitude concerning this.

    So we see, that becoming famous only seems to be a matter of good promotion, isn´t it? :lol:

    Have a happy Easter, dear friend!
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    I expand my thoughts a little:

    Objective analysis is certainly an essential tool in understanding a score, but excessive attention to it can lead to academic and sterile piano playing. Because interpretation also includes intuitive and more subjective elements such emotional content, it must sometimes assume the role of a counterbalance in performance. Thus, objective analysis and intuitive subjectivity need to be integrated in a balanced way thereby assuring that the holistic approach will be successful. For example, in the music of Bach, because this great composer handed down scores with very sparse markings, in addition to playing statements and sequences, strettos, variations of ornaments, questions/answers, organ pedals, counterpoint, and fugue voice entrances, voice leading, etc., to make Bach's music come alive beyond those devices, the pianist, to be expressive, must call upon a measure of intuitive thinking to interpret the music more fully to broaden its context. Because Bach was improvisatory, he would expect no less. Similarly, in the Late Romantic music where the emotive elements of the music are quite obvious and most tempting, the pianist needs to set some boundaries through objective analysis to prevent the interpretation from becoming idiosyncratic or maudlin. This is a pulling in of the reins. Holistic thinking is the grand scheme and overview, but also requires a balance of analytical and intuitive thinking. If we can attain that, then we preserve the tradition of the "good old school" of pianism as you call it, that is playing in a manner always reflecting good taste. :)

    Have a wonderful Easter my good friend!

    David
     
  15. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    Yeah, that was a pretty primitive edit I made there! I couldn't discover how to enlarge the view of the spot being edited to get a more precise sense of its boundaries. So I "operated" using the normal view which had a cost in terms of precision. Hopefully I won't have to tangle with edits again for a long while.

    I suspect that the other note that sounds a bit clipped to you is the the B just below middle C. It has a brassy sound to it that drives me crazy. The tuner was here just before I did the recording. Previously he had tried to voice that hammer, but it didn't eliminate the problem. His theory is that there might be a glob of wool somewhere inside the hammer that is causing the string to react that way. Out of desperation I put a piece of cloth loosely around the triplex string there. The effect is not near what muting felt or a rubber mute would produce, but it does shorten the resonance a bit.

    Yes, this the the piece under wraps that I had mentioned.

    Thanks for your nice comments on my playing! :) I really love the piece, so greatly enjoyed learning it. If I were to return to it in a few years, I believe I could make some refinements to it. For now, I really tried to bring out the sensuous nature of the music, and believe I did succeed with that at least.

    Thanks for listening.

    David
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Zooming in is the very first thing you must learn to do when using an editor, so that you can cut with surgical precision. It can't be done with any chance of success otherwise. It should be easy to zoom in, search your help function. Something like shift-right arrow maybe.

    I hope you will :) Because an odious page turn is really distracting and off-putting, and can spoil an entire recording.
     
  17. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    What you say is interesting, David, but considering his career as a pianist, it seems to me it really took off after he left Russia, as he had a family to support and Lenin had taken all his income. Except for a number of transciptions, almost all of his music was written while in Russia. Virtually all his "un-opused" works (save one, written in 1918) were written in his own country and of his "opused" work he arrived at the Etudes-Tableaux, op 39. In exile he wrote only from op 40 to 45 and of these one was his last piano concerto, the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganinni and the Corelli Variations (the other two being 3 Russian Songs and his 3rd Symphony).

    Correct me if I am mistaken.

    I have read through the original Melodie. It sounds different but so far I have not come across technical problems. Maybe I need to practise it more! :p
     
  18. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Rachfan wrote:
    Hi David,
    thank you for your valuable and detailed thoughts! I have taken some time to look for some unknown words in the online-dictionary, because I wanted to understand all very well you have written. And I have to say I agree to all at hundred percent. I wish I could express all these right and true thoughts as well as you in English.
    You are not only a true and thoughtful musician, but also very eloquent. I appreciate that very much. So, for me your words are not only valuable from a musical view, but also a good school of English. :)
     
  19. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    I think you do very well in writing in English. It's always quite clear, concise and fully understandable. Thanks for your nice compliment here! :)

    David
     
  20. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Rachfan wrote:
    And thank you for your nice compliment here, too, concerning my English, which means much to me! :D
    It´s just, that every now and then I feel a bit unsure with one or the other expression respective formulation. I like the English language very much, especially since I have visited the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove (Cornwall/England) in the 1980th and have met Andras Schiff, Sandor Vegh and other great musicians there. So, for me personally English also has become a music-related language and often when I write or speak in English about music, I have nice and inspiring associations respective recalls (memorizations) of this time.
    There are some moments I wished to have studied English as a subject like my old teacher and friend, Franz-Josef Streuff(, who is also a member of this site and a composer). He really is able to speak and write a good and grammatically right (Oxford-)English.

    (Sorry, that I have got quite out of topic here!)
     

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