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Scarlatti and Griffes

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by techneut, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    To strange bedfellows to share a post, if ever there were any. But it so turned out in today's recording session. I wish I had an extra life to be able to record all of Scarlatti's sonatas, I dearly love them all. This one is probably one of the must well-known.

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes is another matter. I respect rather than love his music, but this piece gripped me by the throat at first hearing (being a sucker for all things exotic). It is more known in its orchestral, much elaborated version, as both Griffes' teacher and Busoni suggested it would work better that way. I wonder if Busoni did not acknowledge how magnificent a piano piece this is. Apologies for some wrong notes here and there, but this is a big piece and not at all easy.

    Scarlatti - Sonata in E major, K.380 (6:04)
    Griffes - The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan (10:10)
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    "Must, the juice made out of freshly pressed grapes" :lol:

    Chris,
    IMO, the introduction to the Scarlatti (and the returns of it) have an uncomfortable rhythmic ambiguity to it in that make me (as a listener) unsure if is sounds like it has triple subdivision or duple/quadruple subdivision to it. Once the main theme gets going, I think it sounds quite good, despite that some of the trills are not quite successful. I like the terraced dynamics. I am in no position to present an opinion on the Griffes, not knowing one note of it.

    Best,
    Eddy
     
  3. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    I listened to the Scarlatti. The piece's difficulty generally sounds within reach, but I question your pedal usage, which I think is preventing you from getting across the marchlike aspect. I would only apply in dabs. As it is, it sounds rather soggy to my ears in places. Other than that, my overall comment would be that you could profit by working on rhythmic precision a bit more. Sometimes it's just fine and you sail through without mishap, but other times there are minute signs of struggle. Some specific comments:

    1. The dotted rhythm in measure 1 and similar doesn't sound quite precise to me, as Eddy noted. I think you are slightly cheating the dot and not giving the eighth note its proper value in the second quaver.

    2. Nice trills in the second measure, but it seems you are holding these quarter notes too long, at least for my taste. Maybe it's intentional, but IMO precision in Scarlatti is paramount.

    3. In measure 7, it sounds to me as if you are playing a B instead of a D-sharp in the third quaver of the left hand.

    4. In measure 18, I think this should be more of an extended trill; it sounds a bit clipped.

    5. Some of your repeated 16th note patterns seem limp and pedalled. The one in 27 is very good; I would wish for more retention and bounce on some of the others as well.

    6. The trills at the end of the exposition are uneven, as you are probably aware. Trills in Scarlatti can be a bitch of course.

    7. Some of your dynamic contrasts in the first half are nice, but the second half seems a bit universally loud.

    Just my two cents of course. I think if you start by not letting your foot get leaden on the pedal and listen for evenness, the rest will fall into place.

    Joe
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the feedback guys, I appreciate it.
    Hehe :D

    Yup, slopping dotted rhythms is an ever-present danger. Must try to avoid that.

    Yes, the trills gave me grief. At best, they're not quite consistent here. I even cheat in bars 2 and 4 by using both hands so the trills don't fall on the weak fingers :oops:

    Yes agreed. A point of attention.

    I seem to be dawdling on them a bit, certainly the first three. Have made a note.

    This is as written in my Peters score. I wondered about it, it sounds illogical, but then I heard a famous pianist (Ghindin) play it like this too and decided it could be right.
    Inconsistently, in bar 52 I decided to go against the score and play a D in the last chord in the LH. The E sounds silly and illogical (again, Ghindin plays as written). Maybe I should shell out a small fortune and acquire a Scarlatti Urtext.

    Yup, that did not come out well. Should have retried it.

    Indeed, I should leve the pedal alone on these (and probably elsewhere)

    Tell me about it :roll:

    The second half is a different piece with its dramatic development section, where I intentionally press ahead a bit. But once that's done, the terraced dynamics should apply again, and I did not do them as well as in the first half.

    I'm very conscious that pedaling does not cause blurring, which I think it doesn't here. But you're right, it does not help articulation in this repertoire.

    So I'll work on this a bit more and submit a re-recording before long.
     
  5. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist

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    I liked the Scarlatti very much! You keep a nice and steady pace, bringing out the lovely melodies well. No doubt there is room for improvement as other posters have mentioned, but overall this is well done and very enjoyable. I never played any Scarlatti, and now I'm thinking I should!

    The Griffes surely represents a substantial and respectable effort to play in such a relaxed way, you seem to flow through it without struggle. Having said that the music does not really appeal to me - it is easy to compare to Debussy or Ravel, and then I feel Griffes comes out short. This of course is a matter of taste. But it is nice to hear less well-known pieces now and then!
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Joachim ! Yes by all means you should. His sonatas are an enormous treasure trove, and whichever one you pick, it is guaranteed to be a gem. I'll work on this one a bit more to get the trills and rhythms sorted out, and cut down on pedaling.

    I did indeed spend a lot of time with this piece but I have to admit I was rash in recording it. It may sound relaxed but I do struggle a bit in, and need some more work on, the hard parts.

    This seems to be the reaction of many people. I have the same with other Griffes pieces, not this one though. There's something about it, I just had to play it.
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    The "Pleasure Dome" is a tough one to play, and you put it across convincingly. Congratulations and kudos for that!

    I've always wanted to play Griffes. He's an American original and highly regarded in the U.S. and abroad, his life story is compelling, and I have several of his major collections in my music cabinet. But... somehow much of his music never quite captivates me. Sometimes his dissonances seem a bit awkward; or the musical figuration doesn't quite achieve a persuasive aural depiction of the subject matter; or the degree of polish that Debussy or Ravel could add is missing. I think of his famous "White Peacock". While the orchestrated version weaves some magic, somehow the original piano solo doesn't seem to quite create the tone picture. I have played the short character piece "The Lake at Evening", Op. 5, No. 1 (from the Fantasy Pieces). Maybe sometime I should relearn that and post it here.

    Again, I think you gave the "Pleasure Dome" its due and served the composer very well.

    David
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks David. I'm glad this seems to be convincing (as much as Griffes' music can convince anybody :lol: ).
    Though I am not quite satisfied with this recording because of too many slips, and too many cuts.

    I understand what people say about Griffes. Maybe had he not be dubbed an 'impressionist' he would not be compared to Debussy and Ravel all the time. While he does not have the elegance and polish of these, he has something darker, more intense and desperate, that appeals to me, even though I well recognize the shortcomings. I'd like to try his Roman Sketches too. The Fountain of Acqua Paola is delicious.

    What hooked me on this here piece are the oriental, sinuous middle section, and the thunderous climax in the recapitulation. Great stuff to play :D
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Yes, that darker and intense sound--also comes out in Medtner.

    Regarding Griffes "Fountain of Acqua Paola", well it's probably one of his best works; however, it's still not in the same class as Liszt's "Les Jeux d'eaux de la Villa d'Este" or Ravel's "Jeux d'Eau". I believe these are the benchmarks for water music played on the piano back in that era. However those comparisons might be unfair. Following his education at the Stern Conservatory, as a young man Griffes worked in a demanding day job, and when he would arrive home, he's spend his time composing in the evening and right into the wee hours of the morning. It's believed that he got so little rest over a long span of time that he literally worked himself to death by 1920 when he was only 36. Who knows what he might have produced had he lived much longer. But certainly no apology is needed for the works we do have, as they are altogether fine pieces and still have wide appeal. I also think it's great that European pianists like you take an interest in this lesser known repertoire.

    David
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    As for 'water pieces', I am hopelessly in love with Godowsky's The ruined Water Castle at Djokja from the Java Suite, which for me is one the very best in the 'genre' (of course the exotic element would appeal to me :lol: ). It is terribly complicated and will take me many more months to get it properly flowing. A labor of love if ever there was one.
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Although I've heard several pieces from the Java Suite, never the "Water Castle". I had seriously considered doing the "Bromo Volcano", analyzed the score, and believe I could play the piece (it's a beast), although perhaps not quite at the brisk tempo the pros use. But 1) It's 12 pages which would be a prolonged study, and 2) I'm limited in practice time to short windows when my wife does errands. I've attempted a couple of long pieces like that previously and found I simply couldn't complete them because of those constraints--very frustrating, so now I try to be more practical. That's why I generally do shorter character pieces, as they're achievable within a more reasonable amount of time. There are also people who message me wanting me to post a recording, and if I'm producing--as opposed to being bogged down--I can satisfy them by posting a piece sooner than later. I wish I could devote more time, but it is what it is.

    David
     
  12. mega_ronin_344

    mega_ronin_344 New Member

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    Chris,

    The Scarlatti is beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Like troglodyte now I want to play this!

    I used to listen to a recording of Dinu Lipatti playing this, he was such an incredible player.

    My advice is to pick up the tempo just a smidge. Keep the left hand a little more

    relaxed, it's just playing quarter notes after all. Think of a conductor's hand moving and

    bouncing gracefully as the left hand.

    You convey the sweetness and delicacy of this movement tres bien. Good job!
     
  13. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    For me, it's Debussy's Reflects dans l'eau. (Or orchestrally Smetana's Die Moldau or sections of Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade)
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I had started on the Bromo too, getting near completion with the Kraton, but got side-tracked by the Water Castle. Two of these juggernauts are more than enough to practice at any given time... The Bromo is an absolutely stunning piece, and the tender middle section one of the most beautiful things I know.

    Sorry to hear that :cry: I guess I'm so lucky having my own room and nobody ever complaining. You should send your wife on errands more often, or move to a house where you have your own place. Easier said than done, I know.
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Justin. Good advice, I'll certainly try to be a little swifter, lighter and crisper next time.
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh yes, a great piece. Not particularly 'watery' though, as in not conveying fountains. Ah, that reminds me of Respighi's Fountains of Rome...
     
  17. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    For sure one of Scarlatti's most famous sonatas and not at all easy to play. The trick is to make it sound like you play it with ease, with the touch of a true virtuoso, especially in the fast "piano" passages. One of my favourite recordings is Horowitz when he plays live in Moscow 1988, only one year before he died but it's kind of unfair to compare to that.

    I think you handle this sonata very well Chris and even though few of the trills maybe didn't come out perfect, it is still very good over all. I too have a passion for Scarlatti's sonatas and when I am up to speed a bit more, I will try to take on some of them.

    About Griffes, never heard the piece before so it is difficult to comment. But from that your playing seems very good and I was especially impressed by your handling in the really fast passages. You pull them off with an even and clear sound. Very good!
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Robert. I am very fond of Scarlatti too and would love to play all of his sonatas when I'm done playing all of Bach :roll: There's never one that disappoints. I think I will re-record these one my grand has been tuned again.
    The Griffes has some good moments but too many fumbles for my taste, and there's a jarring tempo shift in the middle, due to editing. I'll need to redo this one too. I should really learn to do things right the first time.
     

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