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Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I took time to comment on this mainly because I wanted to listen to the other versions mentioned. As far as speed goes the order is Ashkenazy, Richter, David. What is my conclusion? In the Askenazy I find the accompaniement is the right speed but I did lose the melody now and then, while in David's I find the melody sings freely, but the accompaniement is too busy. Is this not something that is to be laid at Rachmaninoff's door rather than saying it is the interpreters fault? Did Rachmaninoff record this one?

    The open lid makes for a much better sound: a good choice, David!

    As for rerecoeding, why not? You have evolved since you did the last ones and you have new ideas: why not continue?

    I do find, however, that for a site that caters for non-concert pianists, there are too many comparisons been made between site members and the great. David is held up to Richter and Ashkenazy and I have been compared (not to my merit and may they never hear of it in the Pianism Fields) to Haskil and Gilels. Of course David chose not to follow a career while I was too late even to contemplate one, but that is neither here nor there. I also feel that any of these concert names benefit from sound engeneering and piano quality none of us here can hope for.
     
  2. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for all those comments. I pretty much agree.

    For the sake of getting my recording into the PS archive, I've submitted a replacement recording that is played at about MM = 54 rather than the MM = 58 prescribed by Rachmaninov. Those few notches make more difference than you would believe. Do I like this new tempo? No. I believe Rachmaninov was right. This slower tempo seems too plodding such that the melody is still heard, but loses some cogency and cohesiveness in my opinion. I also was very conservative with the pedaling and tried as best I could to deemphasize the accompaniment.

    So here goes! Thanks again.

    David
     
  3. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor REPLACEMENT

    I actually listened to the first recording, but didn't have time to comment. Not sure where it is now on my computer, so it's difficult to conduct a precise comparison! I thought the first recording was really quite interesting; whether it was right or not, I don't know the piece well enough to know - and that makes the presumption that there are "right" and "wrong" interpretations. It left me with a prevailing impression of intense restlessness. The Richter recording I found on youtube, on the other hand, left me with a sense of utter desolation. Despite being taken considerably slower, I didn't find my attention lagging and, if "enjoy" is the right word, I really enjoyed his recording. I've felt for many years that one of the things the truly great pianists are able to do which ordinary mortals can't, almost paradoxically in regard of their incredible technique, is make slow playing effective. It's something to do with control of dynamics, independent lines, ultimately even force of musical personality. In that sense - on pragmatic grounds - it's reasonable to keep it at a brisker tempo and in the other sense - that you clearly believe in the faster tempo - I think you should play it the way you feel correct.

    Richard's of course right in saying it's unfair to compare forum members' recordings to the likes of Richter et al, but on the other hand we should aim for the highest standards we as individuals are capable of, not say "oh well, we're only amateurs". If discussing recordings in the context of such pianists helps push someone to the next level, then I'm all for it. Joe's also right - there are some lousy professional recordings and there is no reason at all why we can't do better.
     
  4. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor REPLACEMENT

    Hi Andrew,

    I agree with your viewpoint: We ought not be directly compared to the great masters of the keyboard. But if they inspire us, then we should work to attain their standards as closely as we can. Your sense that I was aiming to create a mood of intense restlessness is right on. You can't get that playing at MM = 54.

    Interpretations should be different and it's alright for a pianist to slightly imbue it with their own personality. I suppose though that there are certain boundaries. The interpretation has to be guided by the composer's score which becomes the basis for justifying all choices made. An interpretation overall must serve the composer well. Furthermore, it cannot be a radical change from prevailing performance practices. And most important it can never be idiosyncratic.

    I just looked at YouTube and found a tempo very similar to the one I initially used--Berezovsky. You should hear that one. Outstanding! My guess is that he saw the MM = 58 and respected it as did I. It's reaffirming and validating.

    My MM = 54 compromise might satisfy others here, and I'm glad to resubmit it in hopes it might be accepted, but personally I don't like it. I would never have played it this way though. I don't think Rachmaninoff intended this slow paced approach.

    David
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Yes, we should all be inspired by the great and this ispiration should help us all to play better, but we should not be dammed if we fail to reach our goal. The great certainly inspire me, principally after a rousing live performance, where there has been no messing about with the sound. Other times I am let to say, "Come on: I can do better than that!", so Joe is also right. WHat I say is that we must realise our limitations, which might not be artistic or or to do with technique (we all choose what we can play) but technical. We do not have concert halls furnished with Fasolis and the best of recording equipment and a team of fisrt-class sound technicians to operate it (not counting piano tuners) at our beck and call.

    As for Andrew's remark on only the great playing slowly I am reminded of my teacher, who always told me that that was the most difficult. After all, at fast speed all goes unnoticed, but slow... Not a note can be misplaced nor a dynamic missed.

    I also heard the story of a great pianist who played one of Rachmaninoff's concerti at a speed so slow no one had ever attempted the like and it turned out to be a superb performance. The bassoonist then approached the pianist to complement him, saying he had never heard the concerto played so slowly but that is was the best performance he had ever heard. How could it be? The pianist's answer was, "well, you see, while you would not dare to play it like that, I can allow myself!"
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    I quite agree that playing lyrical music is the greatest challenge.

    There can be no perfection in a performance. We strive for excellence, but never reach perfection. Horowitz said that if just once in a lifetime a pianist drew close enough to almost touch perfection but not quite close enough, that pianist would be one of the luckiest of all.

    Artur Rubinstein recorded the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto with Alfred Wallenstein conducting in the 1960s, and the tempo is noticeably slower than the norm. Today it still stands as one of the greatest performances of the concerto ever. It's still my favorite too.

    The only point you missed was professionals making studio recordings. They also have the finest recording engineers who through their wizardry can transform nothingness into greatness.

    David
     
  7. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor REPLACEMENT

    Yes, I had already listened to that but just stuck to commenting on the Richter version already mentioned in the thread. I liked it also, but I do wonder if it was a conscious tempo choice or just Berezovsky playing fast as usual. (I listened to the next prelude in his video also - but had to stop. The figurations seemed garbled due to the high tempo).
     
  8. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    But, David, I have downloaded the later version but it seems to be the same one that you posted before and I did empty the computer's cache memory, though this is not normally a problem with Windows 7 as it can be with XP.
     
  9. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    Richard, if you looked under the same filename as before, you'll find the same file as before. David's latest version uses a non-standard filename: not "rachmaninov-23-1-april.mp3" but "Rachmaninoff, Prelude, 23, 1 (2).mp3". See whether anything like that has appeared on your computer.
     
  10. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hi Richard and rainer,

    I deleted the original and second recordings and replaced them with a new recording which is up to my standard. It is titled with the suffix "NEW RENDITION" Sorry for the confusion. Hope you'll enjoy hearing it.

    David
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Is this the one to go on the site now ? I'm getting confused by all these...
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hi Chris,

    Yes, this is the one to go up. A couple of days ago I had deleted the original recording and put up another recording. But although I had listened to it few times, when I posted it here and listened, a couple of things jumped out at me that I didn't like, so I deleted it and restored the original for a couple of days. The one here now (NEW RENDITION) is the third and final. I'm quite pleased with it actually. I believe that the LH is subdued, improving the balancing of the hands. Also the pedaling was mostly on every 8th value, so no blurs now! (That's a tough way to pedal though.) On that same subject, I now believe that some of the wash effect was the "light reverb" that I had put onto that recording. For this rendition, there is no reverb. Nor do I think that it's now too dry--not at all. Following this experience, I'm going to give some thought to forgetting the light reverb. As for wrong notes, I always play this piece with the score. I did pick up one on the last page that wasn't an accident, but that was it. I first learned this piece around 1986 with my second teacher who had a very good ear. I remember too back then listening to Ashkenazy and being jarred by a couple of wrong notes. Thinking it was me, I got the score and examined them. It was Ashkenazy who had either misread the score or slipped onto the wrong notes! That LH ostinato with its subtle harmonic changes within chords (very much like Chopin's Prelude Op. 28, No. 4) is known to be very treacherous. So I've always been extra careful with it.

    Anyway, I hope you liked this one better than the original.

    David
     
  13. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hi David,
    I just had a listen and think that this is a much more cohesive performance than your earlier attempt. I think you've done a fine job with a piece that is difficult to perform in a convincing manner (like the Chopin that you reference).
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hi Eddy,

    Thanks for that compliment. Where you've recorded some of these pieces and read through others, you can appreciate the difficulties. And they only get worse over in Op. 32. This F#m score looks inviting enough--until one goes to play it at tempo. I hadn't played this number since the 1980s. This recording exceeds what I achieved in my old analog recording, and you're right, this performance is definitely cohesive now. I can truly say that this version is up to my standard. I'm glad I revisited it.

    Thanks again!

    David
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    This is on the site now. Do check if it's the right one !
    It seems more stable to me now, though still rather breathless.
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hello, David.

    I cannot say I detect too much difference, exept that maybe it is a tad faster, but it is just as enjoyable.
     
  17. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Yes, this is the correct recording. The links work. I believe that this music has to sound very restless, and I think I achieved that effect. Thanks for your help. I've removed the "NEW RENDITION TAG", so don't be concerned that I've put up another recording. It's still the same one. :lol:

    David
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Rachmaninov, Prelude Op. 23, No. 1 in F# minor NEW RENDITION

    Hi Richard,

    Glad you liked this rendition. For me the differences were muting the LH more, pedaling more for clarity, and ensuring there were no wrong notes. But I did not compromise on the tempo. It's still about MM = 58 as prescribed by the composer. It gives the piece more cohesiveness in my opinion. The slow versions I've heard seem to become very bogged down. I wanted to avoid that. Thanks for listening again.

    David
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I suppose I was listening to tempo more than to anything else. As I said before, the left hand is very busy and that is possibly why so many pianists play it slower.

    It does a power of good now and then to speed up: keeps one's technique up to scratch, as long as no errors creep in!
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    I was glad that I could make that tempo work as intended, rather than taking the easy way out by slowing it. I've heard that approach before, sounding as if someone is slogging through a swamp.

    David
     

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