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Rachmaninoff Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op.23, No.6

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by musical-md, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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  2. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Very, very nice! This piece is like a song without words, don't you think so? It's very much a cantilena. You do a fine job in maintaining legato in the phrasing, including connecting the octaves. Although the bass is mostly background, there are occasional points of interest there, which you bring out to give it its due. In the rise and fall of a phrase you linger a bit at the top, which is what I do too. I also like the way you handle single notes melodic lines as counterpoint against the moving LH lines. Over on page 3, third line down, starting with the second measure there, there is that inner melodic line which can be devilish to etch, but you succeed with it. In the cadenza you play it without damper pedal except for the last measure, which I believe is the right decision. I do likewise.

    If I were asked for suggestions, I'd have three:

    At the opening, I'd have the first two 16th notes in the bass come up out of nowhere at pp as indicated. It's hard to do. Baldwins have a firm action and you really have to mentally intend a very soft sound for the fingers to execute it that way.

    Over on page two, here's one that's debatable. At the fourth line down, second measure, in the RH I would play the chord at forte. Yes, I know it's a phrase ending, but it's also a downbeat. Plus the voice leading there is the F# from the prior measure to the G on the downbeat making it the crest of the wave there. As for the LH there, I'd play it mf, to keep it more unobtrusive. This is a climax, giving the piece (against the "rules") two climaxes, which some feel is a detriment. I say far from it! It's a wonderful splash of emotion there. The other climax is over on the last page, third line, first measure, third beat. There's also a subclimax back on page two, five lines down, first measure, third beat.

    The only other suggestion is this: Baldwins have a faster tone decay than Steinways, so tend to be more forgiving of the pedal in my opinion, which is a plus in playing passage work in general. Pedaling this piece is challenging though with the continuous passing and neighboring tones, but you do work for clarity throughout. Still, I think there are instances where you could spill more overtones with half-pedal releases.

    I guess that's it. This is a truly fine rendition in my opinion.

    On recording sound, I do like this better because the sound is not so "stringy". What is different in the setups between Nos. 4 and 6?

    David
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Good job on this one too, Eddy. The places where my fingers get turned into pretzels went a little smoother for you. But after that, you're version is not too different from mine except toward the last part I liked how you brought out some of the LH notes. I did not consider that before, but it's nice. Regarding your sound - I did not notice if it is different from your other Prelude. However, maybe it's just me, but it sounds a little tinny to me; like maybe the mics are too far away from the piano and so it sounds a bit distant. Just my two cents. This is on the site.
     
  4. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I haven't been on PS for a while but had some time and had a listen to your entire recording. I really liked your phrasing and like David said the way you handle single notes against the what seems to be a constantly running bass line.

    For criticism, I would have liked to hear the performance with less reverb, maybe that's my personal taste more than anything. To use an analogy, in a large concert hall when you hear a performance from a pianist the notes that rush by in the piece seem to have the same affect as seeing a shadow of an object on a wall versus the actual object. You still get an impression of the object and what it means in the context of how you perceive it but it isn't the same as seeing the actual object in a space. So seeing the actual object in a space would be like hearing every note in a piano performance (whatever piece) without reverb in a very dry space. Does that make any sense? Maybe not. :roll:

    Another thing I would have liked was a more dramatic roll at around 0:30 (I don't have the score in front of me)

    Overall, your performance made a good impression (not like the way Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony was received :lol: ) I can't speak for Rachmaninoff but I think he would be happy if not approve of your rendition of this prelude of his :)

    ~Riley
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is good too, though the slighly impatient and matter-of-fact handling of the opening and closing flourishes spoils it a bit for me. Overall you could be a bit more dreamy and swooning. Just a matter of taste of course. As someone else said, the sound seems a bit thin compared to the prelude no.4. Maybe Rachmaninov (note, this is our official PS spelling) should sound a bit more opulent.
     
  6. SFDave

    SFDave New Member

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    These are two of my favorite Preludes in the opus and your performances of them are very good. I always enjoy your recordings and this morning wanted to revive these Preludes in my own repertoire after hearing your wonderful rendition. It's what this site should be about, don't you think? Sharing your musical interpretations with other pianists and lovers of the piano, and taking inspiration from the wide variety of other's interpretations of the same literature. I take issue with some of the rather harsh or nitpicky criticisms, unguarded hostility and unseemly personality clashes I've witnessed here in a few strings regarding submissions by other members, a practice which I think seriously undermines the purpose and credibility of these forums, but that's a subject for another day.

    More on topic, though, I am understanding that you recently acquired some new recording equipment and are working on perfecting your setup. I've been doing the same in my home studio in preparation of recording some of my repertoire for submission here - a project currently on hold due to a recent hand injury. Monica and Chris both commented on the brightness of your piano, an observation with which I only partially agree. I sold Baldwin pianos years ago and don't remember the Grands being unusually bright, at least not straight out of the factory. I do remember a somewhat stiffer action which I really liked. Your new Rachmaninoff recordings seem to be "tinny" only in the upper registers, not through the middle and lower ranges. This could be caused by the current voicing in your piano, the characteristics and placement of the mics you are using, or from the equalization settings on your equipment, or even a combination of factors. Are you recording straight to digital, or to analog first and then digitizing into the computer from tape?

    I've discovered that with my mics, placement is key. Moving them even a few inches one way or the other can make dramatic changes in the sound quality and can only be perfected through experimentation with your setup. I'm guessing from your recordings that the mics are a few feet from the piano giving some ambient sound of a small room. This will tend to box the sound. Try getting them as close as possible for a dryer sound and more "presence"- then add reverb later in the processing. By doing this, you can have more range in how you want the final recording to sound, from intimate to wide open concert hall.

    Some setups put the mics at just the edge of the box with the top up on the short stick in a small room, up all the way in a larger one. Too close and they won't record evenly across the full frequency spectrum - too far and the quality is increasingly affected by the ambient sound of the room - nice for live recitals, but not great for at home recording in a small room. Depending on the type of mics and their directional characteristics (omni, uni, or something in between), experiment with where they are aimed. Even a fraction of an inch difference in the angle can greatly alter the tone at close range. Because the balance between the upper registers and the middle and low registers of your piano seem to be strongly favoring the high frequencies, aiming the mics more toward the middle strings, or even up and away a little from the upper strings toward the underside of the lid could give a better balance. The lower registers here seem to be a little "distant." If your mics have adjustable settings, make sure they aren't set to "voice", which usually exaggerates the upper frequencies.

    If you are using either inline equalization or post processing in the computer, be sparing. Adjusting too much in an attempt to correct mic characteristics, or the original tone of the piano, will only skew the tone and ultimately make it more unnatural. Your recordings sound like you are boosting the treble frequencies some. It is, of course a matter of personal taste, but I usually try to tone down the upper ranges for a fuller richer sound. My piano is a Kawaii GS40 which came overly bright from the factory. I've had it voiced down several times over the years, and the effect is of a completely different piano.

    You probably already know all this, but I didn't when I started the process, so if it helps, that's a good thing. That's all I have to offer for now. Keep recording. Love hearing you...

    Dave Carter
     
  7. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    David,
    Thanks for your compliments and suggestions. Yes, my SF-10 in the room is like managing a bull in a china cabinet! I have reverted to practicing with the entire piano closed! I have always liked practicing on a heavy action because it makes playing other pianos (often Steinways) seem like all you do is think it and it happens. But recording in an intimate setting is very hard, as you well know. Yes I agree that I could start the work even softer. Regarding the phrasing difference that you mention, I would respond thusly: did you note that the phrase in question is a sequence, and that what is good for the first is good (IMO) for the second and vice versa? Just as I want to end the prior phrase on the beat, I do so with this one and I don't think I can bring myself to end it louder. Having said that, maybe if I raise the whole level of the phrase so that I can still come back at the end but end louder than I did, then it provides a nice contrast to start the climb from a softer level :) .
    Yep. It's very hard. With such a large piano in an intimate setting, I feel like I'm looking at art with my nose on the canvas! For this recording I wasn't very scientific: I changed several parameters at once :oops: . The location of the mics went closer to the base, and I changed the Reverb to a medium general preset (from small) and adjusted the EQ by pumping the bass a bit and lowering the treble. Truth be known (as mentioned in other responses) the piano is too bright for it's current setting anyway. I'm struggling with whether to find a talented technician that can voice it down, or start all over with a new set of hammers ($$$ :( as was suggtested by the Steinway Artist that I purchased the instrument from).

    I really appreciate your reply, Thanks.
     
  8. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Thanks Monica. I agree that our interpretations are not very different, just a bit here and there. :) Regarding the tinny sound, please see above my reply to David.
     
  9. SFDave

    SFDave New Member

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    OK. So I see from your more recent reply to David that you've already encountered and addressed the issues with mic placement and recording settings on your equipment.

    A bull in a china closet isn't necessarily a bad thing though when recording. After all, most recording studios are probably smaller than the room your behemoth sits in. It's more of a problem for your own ears than it is for the equipment. My piano is only 6'1 in length, but has a much bigger sound than others of it's size. It was a special edition, produced by Kawai for only a short period in the mid 1990's. But the fact remains that trying to create a real pianissimo with a large piano in a small room, especially when the piano has a stiffer action, is a difficult thing indeed.

    Anyway, don't jump in and replace the felts on the hammers until you've tried having them voiced down first. If anything, it's almost too easy to bring down the brightness too much. Make sure you find a really good technician. A hack can easily ruin a good instrument..

    Dave
     
  10. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Thanks Chris. I'm saving the dreamy and opulent qualities for No. 5 :lol:

    Let me say that my objective is to render each part with ideas of its form and function attached. I feel that on the first page, the LH part is an impulse to the 3rd beat, where the RH melody is an impulse towards the 1st beat, and that this interchange is an important feature. With that in mind you might see why I don't want to do much with the start of the LH to bring attention to it. This is simply my explanation and you will note that its all about interpretation (matter of taste, as you say). The ending to this piece is something that I struggled much with in how to couch/interpret it. Structurally, it is nothing more than a codetta, the work formally closing on the preceding E-flat chord. So then the question becomes how much do I want to do with a codetta that might obliterate memory of the formal ending? At first, I played the whole thing very quickly and understated, in keeping with its structural function. Then I began to see and hear more in it with all the repeated false start statements (initial LH material) in stretto fashion and thought, these should be illucidated. Then I discovered little portions of the melodic line in the descending portion of this ending and struggled with how much to bring out on that (which consequently must slow it down so as to illucidate these "melodic memories"). For this recording I went with the second of the 3, but who knows where I'll take it in the future. I think it will be decided in the moment by the struggle between Eusebius and Florestan. You might think the last sound to be impulsive, but here again it is the difference between an arpeggiated-chord (what is in the score and what I attempt to play), and an arpeggio (which is not in the score and not what I'm playing). Again this is a matter of taste and interpretation. If I didn't end it differently, there would hardly be a reason for me to add to Monica's having recorded it. :D
     
  11. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Riley and Dave C.,
    Thanks for your compliment and I appreciate what you're saying about the sound qualitiy. I'm a definite newbie on this recording stuff. My "engineer" was present long enough to explain some things to me to get me started, and then he had to get to his tee-time with father-in-law. I've got a LONG way to go in search of my holy grail of RCA Red Seal-like quality recordings in my very own home! I will likely be considering some voicing work on the instrument, it's just that brightening always last longer than quieting it down a bit. As it is right now, it would be a really fine concerto instrument on an open stage, but that's not good for intimate recording sessions. I will try a lot of adjustments to my set up. Essentially the two set ups were as follows:

    Op.23, No.4
    Shure KSM 141 on omni settings in X-Y config, about 4' feet away from bend in case (lid full open) and "pointed" at center from height of about 5'6"
    No EQ adjustment
    Reverb on "small room" standard preset (of many options)

    Op.23, No.6
    X-Y pushed to parallel the end of case but pointed still at center, but moved to about 3' distance from side, height the same
    EQ with some pushing of the base and some removal of the treble
    Reverb on "medium room" standard preset

    I envy those who have already found their "sweet spot" of engineering.

    You guys have given me much to work with. I appreciate it. Thanks.
     
  12. SFDave

    SFDave New Member

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    I just went to the Shure website and looked up your mic(s). Sounds like a good choice for recording piano using the cardioid polar setting - narrower field than the omni setting which picks up sound in a 360 degree radius and consequently too much room ambient noise.

    But yes, try putting the mics closer to the piano (which will also involve lowering the input gain on your recording device to avoid clipping). Again, for home recordings that you can process in the computer and add ambience later, the dryer the original input, the cleaner and more "present" the sound will be after adding reverb in post processing. In my setup, I don't use any inline equalization or effects processing like reverb during the initial recording. My computer software (LogicPro) has lots of reverb and equalization options to choose from for post processing, but you only need to find one that you like, then save it to apply in the final "mixdown" (output to MP3). For me, my priority is just to get the initial recording made without the distraction of fiddling with the equipment. Without that concentration, my playing can be all over the place, sloppy and erratic.

    So find your best settings and mic placement, then push the record button and have fun with it. The great thing about home recording (this amazing technological age we live in) is that you can record when you feel like it, and like digital photography, throw out the bad takes, and no one will ever know the difference. Cool. Huh...

    Dave Carter
     
  13. SFDave

    SFDave New Member

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    I'm still not sure what you are using as your recording device. Is it an external digital recorder, or does your input line go directly into the computer where you run recording software? It sounds like you are using settings on some sort of external (to the computer) system like a digital recorder. My technician loaned me a system built by Kawai specifically for their pianos which included it's own mics. I wasn't impressed with it and sent it back, opting to use my own mics and a simple external digitizer box (AudioBox - better than the sound card in my laptop), running directly into the computer with onboard software to record the data. This was possibly a more costly way of doing it, but since I already had the mics, a small Behringer mixing board and the computer, all I needed was the AudioBox. The Mac comes with Garageband which is fine for the basic recording phase. But I wanted more options and a better environment for processing Audio with an eye toward recording my piano, so I upgraded to LogicPro. I don't think it's available for Windows, but there are other audio processing programs out there that are specifically for the PC. The AudioBox was not very expensive and works independently from the computer operating system so it was the best solution for me.

    Ok. I'm done. Talking tech stuff can become a real time buster...

    Dave
     
  14. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Dave,
    I need to hear all this tech stuff you're talkin'. My set-up (sorry I forgot) is the external mics identified above to an MBox (2-channel a/d converter) to my Lap top that has Pro Tools LE loaded on it. Thanks for the tips!
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Jeez, the H-word again ! Some people can't take a blunt and honest assessment. I think it's their problem. We're not here to mollycuddle each and every aspiring beginner pianist (however noble that would be....). Sometimes there is just no point in gilding the lily. This reminds me of the many TV talent shows where people snivel and cry when they quite rightly get rejected after singing their first line.

    Ah, I feel much better now :D

    As for nitpicking critique, I realize it can be irritating, but it should nonetheless be appreciated as a tool to make the good even better.

    I'll bet you that happens in every community where a bunch of strong-minded people share their life's passion. And even when things get heated here, it stays very civilized compared to what I've seen elsewhere. Actually, for better or worse, a good fight does add some entertainment value to a forum which can otherwise be rather sedate at times. It was always like that, and I don't believe the site is less credible for it.
     
  16. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Sorry to nitpick, but I believe it's mollycoddle. Just trying to better illustrate your point :mrgreen:
     
  17. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    You have just made a good statement even better.
     
  18. SFDave

    SFDave New Member

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    Chris,

    Like I said, that should have been a discussion for another day and has nothing to do with Eddy's submission, or the posts that followed on this forum page. So I would have done better not to mention it here.

    But since I have and you have responded in kind, I have to add that if the mission as stated on the front page of Piano Society is to "bring classical music to a broader audience, as today it is unfortunately neglected by the general public, and we try to wipe away the elitist attitude towards it..." then stooping to posting personal attacks on other musicians, whether it be hypercritical remarks about their playing or virtual name calling as was the case in one particular post I read, not to mention just throwing attitude which I see examples of here, is not only hypocritical, but damaging to the image Piano Society wishes to portray. There is a huge difference between welcome constructive criticism and passing judgment based on personal prejudices, or making arrogant statements under the guise of helpful criticism. I've read both in these forums.

    Perhaps the member submitting his recordings in the particular instance I refer to deserved to be chastised, maybe not. All I can say is I was very turned off by it, and I'm sure there have been many others who steered away from the forums here and possibly the site as a whole because of similar impressions. Granted, most of the people who comment in the forums go out of their way to be civil and offer criticisms that they honestly feel will help the performer. But a few here seem to think it is their responsibility to offer some negative point no matter how trivial, even if they are generally praising the performance. I had enough of that overly competitive attitude in college, don't believe in it, and don't think it constitutes honorable behavior no matter how common it may be. As you and Monica are functioning as both forum moderators and site administrators, I can only hope you discourage the kind of flaming and negative rhetoric that is easily found in the unmonitored and unregulated comments sections of many online newspapers. I haven't seen any recent comments by Robert, so figure he leaves most of that to you guys.

    I don't expect to be coddled as a musician, nor do most of the people who participate on Piano Society either as members and contributors or as visitors, but I do wish to be treated with fairness and respect, though I suppose that is a lot to ask in an online forum. If the only reason to post a recording here is to garner criticism or collect kudos, then what's the point? Certainly not the one made by the site mission statement. Many of the contributors already have successful performance careers and certainly have no need to have their work informally critiqued in an online forum open to the public. We should all be grateful that they are willing to share their wonderful recordings with all of us for free. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is a way to express that opinion that shows respect, and there are ways that don't. I think Piano Society provides a valuable service to the classical piano community around the world, and really hope it continues to prosper...

    Dave
     
  19. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    The sound is perhaps a little thin. However.. what lovely phrasing - very musical. Thank you.
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    A few opinions on recording:

    When you choose XY configuration, you're pretty much locked into a three-foot distance maximum from the piano. As you try to move the mics farther back, in short order visually you'll see one mic overshooting the tail and the other overshooting the keyboard, which will not produce the best audio. So you have to move closer to the piano again. Recording inside the piano, at the rim, or only a short distance from the case is "close-in" recording. That makes the sound more prone to include mechanical sounds which tend to be more percussive--i.e., the hammer on string effect preferred by jazz and pops pianists. But with mics placed farther back, say 5 or 6 feet with omni small diaphragm condenser mics, you get a more blended, finished sound for classical recordings. But that means going to A-B configuration. My 1984 Baldwin Model L (6'3") has a huge sound in my living room, so for best results (every room acoustic, piano, equipment mix, and pianist is different), I need to place my Earthworks TC-20's 8 feet out for optimal results. And where I'm the only one home when I record, there is no ambient sound to speak of in or around the room.

    For the bright treble in your Model SF-10, I think voicing should be the first solution. Voicing is not forever, although the deeper the penetration by the needle, the longer the voicing will last. Baldwins were usually known for their darker tone. But during the last 10 years or so, many of the finer piano brands seem to have a brighter tone. Baldwin seems to have followed that trend.

    Some thoughts on replacing hammers: First, if you're going to replace the hammers, and if the piano is over 25 years old, I believe it would be best if you replace the hammers, shanks and flanges for optimal results. Something to discuss with your technician. The other point is selection of hammers. I knew that the hammers on my L were put there to compete with the Yamaha S4 introduced in 1984 when I bought my Model L new. It "souped up" the piano, but departed from the traditional sound. Going on 25 years later, I chatted with Del Fandrich who for years was a design engineer for Baldwin (now involved in Fandrich Piano Co.). because I was planning a partial rebuilding of the piano. Fandrich advised that I not use Baldwin-specified Renner hammer replacements, but instead recommended Ronsen Wurzen hammers. I went with those and have been very happy with my choice. Just thought I'd mention it as an option.

    David
     

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