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Rachmaninov Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by musical-md, Aug 26, 2011.

  1. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    I would like to present the 5th of Op.23 now. Again, I have some dropped notes and smudge here and there, but this conveys the idea of where I want to go with this piece. There are some interpretive matters that some may or may not like. Please give me your thoughts on the sound of this one. This time I used my mics on cardioid setting, in A-B configuration at about 8' from the piano, height of ~ 5.5'. Piano opened all the way. I backed off the reverb that I had increased for prelude no. 6 (BTW Monica or Chris, I did some remastering {backed-off reverb, etc.} of no. 6 and have it here too for you to replace with, please). This G minor Prelude is down right hard. I will need to go much further with it. Your comments are appreciated. (Next on tap: Scriabin Nocturne for LH alone).

    Rachmaninov - Prelude in G minor, Op. 23, No. 5
     
  2. Syntaxerror

    Syntaxerror New Member

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    Hi, just some observations of mine:
    - The B section sounds really nice (maybe a tiny bit too slow?), I really like these voices in the left hand. But why do you play such a heavy ritardando before the accelerando? I would think that the rit. is only intended up to the bar following it.
    - The A section needs a stricter rhythm.
     
  3. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Hi Syntaxerror,
    Thanks for listening and commenting. I'm expecting to get comments like yours regarding that ritardando, but hope that some may appreciate what I'm doing there. I would like to delay my reply to give more time for other reviews first. I will say that I have a very strong objective reason for it. You might see if you can figure it out first? 8) Regarding the tempo in the A secton, I do hear it fluctuate a bit, but not too much. I seem to be playing around m=100, but actually wish to play it at m=104. I will be certainly putting myself through further metronome work.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Good work. It is indeed not an easy prelude, though not terribly hard by Rachmaninov standards.
    That ritenuto-to-standstill when you start the reprise is really corny IMO.
    You could do more with dynamics, it's a bit monochrome.
    I'd also pay more attention to the staccato marks and accents, in particular in these insistent downward jumps.
    The voicing in the middle section is well done.
    The recording sounds a little dry and bright fort my taste. Rachmaninov needs more opulence (I love that word so much I use it in every review :roll: )
     
  5. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Bravo, Eddy, that´s an interesting interpretation and a good playing of this well-known prelude. (That´s one of the few Rachmaninof-preludes I already have played myself, btw.)
    You show us an excellent voicing in the middle-section and I personally like your extreme ritenuto just before the reprise.
    I know how hard it is to take all these staccato-signs seriously and nowadays I think, that many of them are just "hand-signs" not "sound-signs". (Many of them sound ridiculously, if they are played like a real dry staccato without pedal.)
    The only thing I miss in your version is a true p respective pp, f.ex. the beginning of the middle-section should be pp while you are playing mf or something like this. And also the chord-repetitions after that ff-organ-point (pedal-point) should start more silent (p). (But, of course, I know, how hard a real p is to play between all that chord-repetitions and octaves, which make the hand easily cramped.)
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I think that your Baldwin has great clarity of tone and a truly vibrant sound. And the room acoustics are conducive as well. The reverb in the original submission of No. 6 only detracted in my opinion. To me, this is more natural and much better.

    David
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I just finished listening to No. 5 which by and large is played very well IMHO. I liked your control over the repeated chords, your differentiating matters of touch, and in the middle section your dynamics following the melodic contour, the quiet lake effect in the LH, voicing, and your focus on lyricism throughout part B.

    Over on page 4, fourth line down--where you've already received some critiques--I believe that playing this piece, being so popular as it is, one needs to be mindful of performance practices, including the way Rachmaninoff himself played it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-zKWgjrOmI). The way you play that section now seems like a radical departure which calls undue attention to itself in the context of the entire piece. I believe what is actually intended there (so the way I play it myself), is to initiate the retardando and diminuendo where written, and then start the next measure marked ppp noticeably slowly and steadily. At the indication "poco a poco accelerando e cresc. al Tempo I", you can start a gradual accelerando and crescendo, but recognizing that you must "spend" it over six measures. So the gradualism has to be carefully calculated and executed. Once you're at the Tempo I marking, then it must, of course, be up to speed. I'm not suggesting that you or anybody else have to be slavish about this, as one's individuality should be present to a degree in a performance or recording. But again, the amount of latitude taken can't be contrary to the score or in opposition to performance practices either.

    That's my 2 cents which is meant to be helpful.

    Again, I really enjoyed listening.

    David
     
  8. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've dabbled in this one sometime in my distant past but have not looked at it in awhile, and I'm not looking at the score now so I don't know the markings. With that said, I also liked your extreme ritenuto. To me, it's like the machine has wound down and then gradually comes back to life and then off we go into the final section. The whole piece is played very nicely!

    However, in my opinion, the overall sound ambiance needs a little more warmth - probably more reverb. It's almost on the verge of sounding harsh here. I think a couple spots actually peaked out too. Don't worry; we all know that it takes time to find the right recording specs. I'm still experimenting!

    I've put this up on the site and also replaced your no. 6.
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Thanks lady & gentlemen for your comments. (Warning: If you don't find discussing interpretation interesting, this post will likely be boring and too long.) Thus far, the vote regarding the ritardando prior to the transition back to the A material is 3:2 against. I will now explain my concept, though I will also admit that I may have the magnitude "wrong." First I claim total ignorance of how Rachmaninoff played it, but frankly think that that should only be a minor consideration (sorry David :( ). If we have a "holy grail" performance, then everyone might seek to do it the same. Second, I never studied these 3 preludes before so am learning them without any coaching from an artist-prof. But even when I was, beyond catching some missing voicing or phrasing issues, largely I was free to interpret as I saw fit. Many a great teacher (definitely Rosina Lhevinne) was known to say something to the effect of, "If you can substantiate your reason, then I will acknowledge your interpretation," or something similar. Ok, here we go:

    So that we're on the same page, my score, published by Schirmer, is in fact a reproduction of the First Edition published in Moscow that one can see on IMSLP at http://imslp.org/wiki/10_Preludes,_Op.23_(Rachmaninoff,_Sergei).
    1. On Page four, 3rd line, 1st bar, 3rd beat, there is "dim. e rit" Observe that there is no dashed line to indicate how far this extends.
    2. Two beats later, (pg.4, 3rd line, 2nd bar, beat 1), is a dynamic of ppp and a base line that goes: D--F#,Bb,-G,-D--F#,Bb,-G,-D--.
    3. At this last D, above the measure and extending almost half way above the next measure (a lot of text!) is "poco a poco accelerando e cresc. al Tempo I"
    This now is the first critical component to my interpretation: I observed that I have heard this last two measures of music earlier. It is present in bars 5 to 1st beat and a half of bar 7 in a slightly different fashion, and then again a bit more differently on the last line of page 2, starting 3rd beat of measure 1 (i.e., 2.5 measures before start of B music). Analytically, these two earlier passages serve as a repose on the dominant just prior to something new happening! Note in particular that in measure 7, the new music begins on the 2nd half of beat 2 (marked p). I thought (and this is the part you will find brilliant or pointless) our passage in question should be the same, in that the dominant repose is the end of something, prior to the start of new music.
    4. Returning to the bar discussed in #3 above, we can now see clearly that the dominant repose doesn't end until 1 and 1/2 beats into the measure, and that the new music (8th note dropping down to dotted quarter note) starts on 2nd half of beat 2, just as it had in bar 7!
    5. Then the eureka moment for me (2nd critical component): looking at all that text above the bar that already extends almost halfway over the next bar, I concluded that such a positioning was considered the best manner of publishing the text, but that the intent was for it to correspond to the start of the "new music" begining with 2nd half of beat two! If the text had been aligned to indicate the start of same, it would have extended all the way to the end of the following measure.
    6. Consequently, I carry the ritardando to the end of the dominant repose, and begin the poco a poco accelerando with the "new music."

    Now, you may not like this interpretation (and it may not be what the Rach does), but I think (I hope) you will conclude that it is a legitimate conclusion (based upon analysis). Having said all that, I do acknowledge again that the magnitude of my performace may not yet be correct. In particular, I took the bar and a half prior to the "dim e rit" too slowly, which only complicated this passage in question. That is something I will definitely be working on; that is, to arrive with a faster tempo so that I can keep the same contour of ritardando, but not the same magnitude of ritardando. If no one else plays it that way, I'm actually happy! I endevor to find the basis of my interpretation in the score itself (even if the composer didn't realize it was there!). Now let me say that, having your critiques, really helps me refine my interpretation, and I am grateful to be a part of PS and have your disperate input. As mentioned before, we have almost a virtual masterclass for ourselves here. :D

    For having read this far :) I offer anyone wishing to learn this work a few "procedural technique" ideas for consideration:
    In bar 1 play with LH, the octaves on G--Bb,D-Bb-G. Play EVERYTHING else with the RH!
    In bar 14, play the rapid A,C,D thusly: A: LH octave + RH; C: Sacrifice middle-C and play single note in LH and RH; D: Play octave with RH and single note with LH. (This is a very Brahmsian way of playing this texture).
    In Eb major fanfare of bar 17, RH 4th beat (octave starting on black key) sacrifice the G, as it was just sounded and is way too risky for any appreciable difference. In the three following similar passages (next 3 measures), don't delete any notes (no need to) and play full octaves in the RH (add the "missing notes")
    In bar 21, beats" &-a-4" play the G of the bass clef with the RH; you can also add a G in the RH (same as just played) to play with the low Eb of the LH.
    In bar 24, play full octaves in both hands (add notes one octave lower than written to the LH, and keep the full RH octave through the end of the measure, and down-beat of the next measure.

    Thanks for reading.

    Edit: Changed the salutation and score having just seen Monica's post
     
  10. pianoman342

    pianoman342 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I had a listen to your recording and liked the way you shaped the main theme, the scale of dynamics throughout the piece and though others say you could have applied reverb, I felt the dryness of the recording gave it a coarser texture which I think gives it character in how it relates to the other preludes.

    Thanks for sharing your interpretation,

    Riley
     
  11. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Eddy,

    Personally I think your interpretation is fine. You bring out much of the Russian nationalistic flavor in this marchlike prelude. Sorry, I was trying to keep an open mind, but I guess I would have to agree with the others that the near stopping at the outset of the workup to the reprise is in poor taste. I like your idea of gradually accelerating there, but IMHO your gesture goes a bit OT. There are also IMO some details you could work on to polish it:

    1. Rhythmically, the outer sections seem a bit flabby in places. Some of the melodic phrases are a bit uneven and some of the accompaniments occasionally get out of control with an unpleasant harshness of accent and sense of struggle at the end. Personally, I think you'd make it easier on yourself here if you balance the melodic figures against the accompaniment better and accented the beginning of each accompaniment figure instead of the end, which I think is the normal way this is accented. In the chord passages on the second page you seem to slow down and struggle slightly and use just slightly too much pedal. Very nice descending RH octaves though.

    2. The middle section overall is quite nice overall, with some well-etched voicings though some of the inner voices also get a bit lost in the rich texture as well. The lefthand could be just a tad quieter and less notey. The pedalling sounded maybe just a tad lush.

    3. I very much liked your ending (after the hiatus of course :p ) and thought it sounded more in control. Some of the pauses between the bass notes and accompaniments do sometimes seem a little long. In a few places, I would check to make sure you're playing the internal rhythms totally accurately.

    From my perspective, the problem is not whether or not you can play it with the metronome but whether you've mastered the technical element of the piece (i.e., the bouncing reflex of the wrist on those chords). This aspect does not totally convince me yet. Just my two cents of course.
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Thanks for listening and your thoughts, Joe. No doubt I do have some refinement yet to achieve. BTW, you should check out the recording of Rachmaninoff playing it himself (link above in David's reply). His interpretation would get excoriated by PS! :? (I'm not kidding: I didn't like it at all.)
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hmm, well you may not like to hear then that I think it's the ideal performance of the piece :mrgreen: It is his piece after all. Of course, it's no secret that I like the old-school pianists above all. To each his own of course. But I mean just listen to the perfection of the technique, the uncanny evenness and panache, the balance of the accompaniments against the melody, the bounce of the wrists and the light accent, the phenomenal lightness, the ethereal cascades and subtle voicing highlights in the middle section. Just my take on it of course, but I can certainly see where David's coming from. IMHO his is consummate polished playing. I hadn't listened to his performance or played it in years, having played it for a competition years ago, but hearing playing like his reminds me of just what a long ways we all have to go.
     
  14. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    It's an interesting concept, but it doesn't quite convince me. I'm struck by your use of the phrase "dominant repose". Conventional wisdom is that a pedal point on the tonic conveys repose, but a dominant pedal is a source of tension. That, together with the idea that chromatically rising lines suggest forward momentum, might give you a reason to reconsider your idea. Not that I have anything against new ideas--it's great to hear a familiar piece played a different way--but this one seems to be a little off the mark.
     
  15. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Alexander,
    What you say is true about the energy; perhaps I used the wrong word, but, to admittedly mix my evidence, listen to Rachmaninoff do precisely this (a "dominant repose") as he ends the first A section: he practically brings it to a very restful stop (and this D major harmony is most certainly still the dominant prior to the start of the B section, where it is transmuted to a Tonic). This is the principle that I am trying to describe. I readily admit that he doesn't do it where I do it, but I submit that the sections (that I listed) are functionally analogous. I agree with you entirely that "chromatically rising lines suggest forward momentum." That is, in fact, precisely where I begin the upward climb again, so I don't understand the point you're making.
    Personally I give myself about 90%. I'm only to the point with it that I can play the piece, but I'm not quite where I can play with the piece. At this point on this one, the piano is still playing me a bit. I hope that when I have it fully secure, you may be better convinced of the idea. In any case, I really do appreciate that you botherd to listen at all! Thank you for your input. Please continue.
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I do not want to sound boorish, Eddy, but music is music, not philosphy. Do you not agree that if one needs to give an extensive explaination why one plays this way and not that, only then to be appreciated, there must be something wrong? Can you imagine if every pianist had to read out a ten-minute speech before each concert in order to be "understood"? I am of the school that if the way one plays does not cut ice without having a tretease attached to it, it must be bunk.
     
  17. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    I don't want to sound boorish either ;-) but musicians should have reasons for doing what they do. I'm sure Eddy hoped that we'd appreciate the music on its own first, but he was ready to supply a reason why he departed from the traditional interpretation. There are many good performers who base their interpretations on solid analysis. Thinkers like Heinrich Schenker, Charles Rosen and many others have a lot to offer to practising musicians.
     
  18. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    Okay, I admit that I didn't explain myself clearly. You begin the upward climb with the E flat in the middle of bar 52. At the beginning of the bar you're still slowing down. But the D at the beginning of the bar should be your cue to start moving forward again, in my opinion. The phrasing in this piece always lines up with the barlines; it feels unnatural to make the middle of a bar sound like the start of a new section.
     
  19. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    This is exactly the kernel of my point, Alexander, however, I see the D as the end, not the beginning, just as in measure 7; the phrasing there is clearly not with the bar line. Don't you think that it might be possible that the poco a poco accelerando is positioned with the barline only because the text is so long that it is already halfway into the next bar, instead of being where the next musical idea is (the first chromatic upwards step)? BTW, I see the first two "phrases" (bars 1 and 2) as elided together: the end of the first is serving as the start of the second; but in bar 7 the phrase is allowed to end and then comes the next musical idea. This I see happening exactly the same in bar 52. It the very crux of my interpretation, which I quickly admit may have been a bit too much as executed. (In the Eb major fanfare section, the 4th beat octave scale passages clearly resolve repeatedly across the barline too.) Anyway, I hope you'll give me this much: "It is well considered." :|

    I'm curious if you, as a professional, do any of the "procedural technique" (or resource management) aspects that I listed for the first part of the piece? Also, there are some interpretive aspects that are also not usual (I think) in my performances of #4 and 6 that no one has mentioned yet. Certainly those works are less iconic than this one, but I wonder if you might give a listen to those, especially if they are in your rep?
     
  20. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    But the reason must be obvious, if not, the idea is not good. It is like a joke: if one does not laugh outright, but need to read a book beforehand, is it a good one?
     

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