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Ravel, A la maniere de... Chabrier

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Apr 2, 2011.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I was looking at Ravel's Miscellaneous category in the archive and noticed that "A la maniere de... Chabrier" was missing. Composed in 1913, this lovely piece was a pastiche dedicated to Ravel's friend Cipa Godebski. (The Godebski family regularly hosted gatherings of musicians and artists at their home in Paris. Cipa was the husband of Ida Godebski.) This piece was first played by Alfredo Casella at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on December 10, 1913. This is an older analog recording of mine, but I believe its sound quality is very good. Hopefully it can be added to fill the void.

    David

    Ravel - A la maniere de... Chabrier
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can only repeat my feedback on the other Ravel piece:

     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    I don't think the piano is dreadfully out of tune in these recordings. One of the other members here and I recently did a test, as for one of my new recordings the piano's high treble was supposedly "out of tune". I then recorded a slow ascending scale from middle C up to the top C. We reviewed every tone carefully, and aside from a very few slightly off unisons, the entire treble sounded very well in tune. Clearly the perception is some sort of inharmonicities phenomenon resulting from the mixing of overtones during the playing. Baldwin stops the dampering of strings lower on the treble scale than does Steinway, so there are fewer dampered strings in the treble. That might be the difference. To my ears, I don't even notice it to be honest. A technician at Piano Tuners and Technicians on another forum thinks it might also be that listeners believe that higher treble notes sound "flat" to them, so they must be "out of tune". The fact is they are tuned at A440 like the rest of the strings. To satisfy those listeners, you'd have to tune those notes sharper than the lower octaves to make them sound "normal". And in this hostile northern climate, I do keep the Baldwin at sharper concert pitch during cold weather and then lower it to A440 in warm weather, tuning at an interval of every three months. And I try to make most recordings immediately after tuning. I can't do much more.

    As for these older analog recordings, you have to consider a tiny degree of tape speed variation too from electric/mechanical fluctuations in a tape deck.

    During the evolution of sound recording, 78s were compared to cylinders, LPs were compared to 78s, and CDs were compared to LPs and tapes. Undoubtedly some new technology will arrive which will look back at CDs quite unfavorably. And we'll all be saying, "Well, those CDs sure sounded great at the time!" :lol:

    David
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ha, yes! I was very surprised by how in tune the individual notes were. It wasn't absolutely perfect, but I was expecting lots of blatantly out notes. It's a most peculiar phenomenon.

    After getting past that distraction, nice playing! (I particularly like this one of the two.)
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    Yes, it was good to have you as my "partner in crime" in testing that treble scale. And it's noteworthy that these two Ravel recordings were made at a time when a different tuner in a different city was taking care of the piano. It's all very odd indeed.

    Thanks for listening to these two Ravel pieces. I've never been able to decide which I like better, as they're both wonderfully crafted compositions. I think too that when Ravel wrote these pastiches, his intent was not at all to parody Borodin and Chabrier, but rather to offer an homage to each composer, neither of whom was still living by 1913. I'm glad you enjoyed them. And thanks for the compliment!

    David
     
  6. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I get the same impression when I hear harpsichordists: the notes obviously are perfectly tuned, but they at times sound flat to my ears. Indeed, it is so if you consider that our modern tuning has been sharpened by a semitone (or is it the other way round? :? ) I remember once I was given as an exercise to write down Mozart's Exulltate, Jubilate listening to a recording with Christopher Hogwood. How the teacher was annoyed to see that it came out in C sharp and how surprised she was when she realised that, though written in C, due to different tunings, it was indeed being played in "modern" C sharp.

    Did your tuner do the work using his ears or some magic machine?
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    Yes, modern tuning is a half-tone sharper than in the Viennese Classical period and even early 19th century as I recall. There have been instances where, for example, a Beethoven symphony has been played at its customary 18th century pitch, and listeners thought it sounded very odd indeed.

    My current tuner plays A below middle C with a tuning fork and sets A440 from that. He does have a hand-held gadget that also tells how many "cents" the pitch is off. So before proceeding, he also tests a couple of treble and bass notes with the gadget just to get an idea as to how good or bad the piano is at that moment. Then he puts it away. Once he sets A from the tuning fork, he does the entire tuning by ear. I've read that if anyone tries to tune a piano using the gadget, the result is god-awful, as the temperament will be out of whack. Some pianists have believed that they could buy the gadget and a tuning lever and eliminate the tuner. They got a nasty surprise!

    David
     
  8. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I used to know a tuner who worked that way. Fortunately He never touched my piano.

    The one who tuned my Geyer last time did it all by ear. He did not use any gadgets whatsoever, not even a tuning fork. The results are here to hear.
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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  10. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Stroboscope tuning machines are as old as the hills. Back in the 1950s and 60s my tuner used one of those, all except for the higher treble which he preferred to do by ear. When the strobe pattern was shifting across the display to either left or right, he would tighten or loosen the string with the tuning hammer until the strobe stopped at dead center and remained motionless, then he'd set the tuning pin there. I have to say that those tunings were very good actually and could easily compete with tuning completely by ear. On that link you sent, for $950 a busy tuner would get a very quick payback on it.

    Before stereo sound became popular we had a very good cabinet model mono FM radio/phonograph . To play records there was a strobe out at the front edge of the turntable. So after switching the selector for type of record--33, 78 or 45 rpm--we'd then set the strobe to steady it to stationary position for more precision of pitch. It was a neat feature.

    When stereo came over the horizon, we first experienced that through simulcasts. Two radio stations would team up (usually an AM station with its FM affiliate), one broadcasting the left channel and the other the right. So at home we'd place two properly tuned radios facing one facing one another, place a chair between the two, sit down, and hear stereo. We had it tough in those days. :lol:

    David
     
  11. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Hi David,
    Yes strobes have been around a long time. Do you remember using one to adjust the timing on your car engine while you rotate the distributor? Ah, the good ole days. :D The strobe above is just a display/metric device; coulf be LEDs or anything else. The point above was more to "preset and custom temperaments," that can guide the stretching properly.

    Now that is quite cool! 8)

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  12. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    I remember hearing about simulcast. But to get it, you had to have two radio stations available to you. We didn't have that many. Ours could only play the right channel one hour and the left channel the next. You had to have a long aural memory to get stereo :lol:

    Hey, we had to walk three blocks to change channels when I was a kid. We could only get the CBS station from Champaign and Grandma could only get the NBC station from Danville. It actually worked for me because as the youngest I wasn't constantly told to change the channel. (In those days your kids or younger siblings were your remote control.)
     
  13. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Gad, I had forgotten all about the strobe for the timing. It used to read a marker on the belt as I recall while the belt was in motion. And as I think about it, it doesn't seem like all that long ago!

    David
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Scott,

    That's so funny about your having to be the "remote control" back then. :lol: Sounds like it was plenty of exercise anyway! How well I recall CBS and NBC in the early 50s. Later on, ABC was spun off from NBC which gave us three, and shortly afterward came PBS which was four. And at that time a lot of the programming was live with all the goofs and bloopers. I do recall that getting up to adjust the rabbit ears, especially for changing the channel, was another ritual. Kids today would never believe it. Plus the technology was all vacuum tubes. With digital technology today, tubes would be a foreign concept to them too, I'm sure.

    David
     
  15. musicrecovery

    musicrecovery Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello David,

    At times this piece reminds me of Satie waltzes. Your performance is very beautiful, with a sensitive and nuanced and beautifully balanced presentation. The melody at times peeks out from the harmony and at other times resolutely and yet delicately sings forth. The timing is excellent, the character is wonderful. I do agree that the piano is a bit out of tune.

    Thank you for introducing to me this piece.

    Kaila
     
  16. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Kaila,

    I'm glad you liked this piece and my performance. And the fact that it was a new discovery for you makes it all the better. Yes, the piece exudes much charm, and sort of has that fin de cycle sound. Between the two though, I've always leaned more toward the Borodin impression, which is a more sensual waltz in my opinion. But still, they're both very tuneful and interesting character pieces. Thanks for listening!

    David
     
  17. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    I enjoyed the range and sensitivity of your playing in this piece! You also seem to capture the atmosphere of Ravel very well through your overall interpretation - something I greatly enjoy listening to, since I personally have a difficult time interpreting atmospheric French music. ;)

    The piano did sound a bit out of tune to me, but I think it well could be exaggerated by Ravel's expressive use of dissonance. When I worked on Ravel's Sonatine last year, I didn't notice my piano being out of tune unless I was playing that particular composition. :? Probably a rather unorthodox theory... :D
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Sarah

    I'm glad you enjoyed this Ravel piece, and thanks so much for that compliment! On interpreting, I've always had a knack in finding just the right style for French and Russian repertoire pieces. But I hardly ever play the Germanic piano literature, as I'm not very good at it. While there are pianists here who play everything and anything, and I admire them for that, some of us prefer to specialize more in order to do what we do best. It all depends on the person I think.

    It could be that the piano was a bit out of tune that day, but it was a long time ago, so I can't be sure. But I've even gotten the "out of tune" comments the day after the piano has been tuned. My theory is that because Baldwin dampers less of the treble scale than Steinway, more strings are available to emit sympathetic vibrations which can increase the mass of overtones present possibly causing inharmonicities. My other theory is the analog recording process itself. On a tape deck the tape had to travel through the recording heads. And when rewinding tape, maybe it didn't always travel to the other spool and wind itself there as tightly, meaning that when it flowed forward again by the heads, perhaps it was at a minutely faster velocity which could change pitch ever so slightly and momentarily. A tiny dip in the electrical current slowing the tape speed could also change pitch very slightly. But to a keen ear, maybe such differences can be detected by the listener. Andrew and I tested the entire treble scale, and apart from a few unisons being slightly off, the scale was in tune. It's quite mysterious.

    Thanks again, Sarah, for listening.

    David
     
  19. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,
    that´s a marvellous rendition, very sensitively and expressively played. I think, this piece is full of fineness and sublety, as far I could discover in the score, you do all these nice little details very well and convincing. And the tuning of the piano doesn´t matter anything IMO (it´s not as bad as some said here before). What counts is the great musicality of this rendition, so for me it´s a pure pleasure to listen to it.
    I didn´t know that piece before, so thank you for posting it and making meet it to me.
    (Sorry, that I´m replying quite late, but I had a lot of work the last days.)
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    I think that both Ravel and Chabrier wrote in a very refined manner, which is why Ravel captures the Chabrier idiom so very effectively. This is an important characteristic of much French piano music I think, so is likewise found in the music of Debussy and Faure too. When I first undertook "A la maniere de... Chabrier", I was recording the complete Ravel character pieces and didn't quite know what to expect from this little known piece. But as I got more deeply into practicing it, I was struck by its high potential and charming beauty, so played it with considerable care in order to really capture its spirit as best I could. Thanks for listening.

    David
     

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