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Schubert - Impromptu Op. 90, no. 2

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by pianolady, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've been trying to record this piece for two days. I think I lost 10 pounds doing so, but that's a good thing because I ate too many Christmas cookies and candy over the holidays.

    Yesterday, my recording of this was a little faster, but because of that I had some weird things happen like accents coming out of the blue, dynamics getting turned around, pedal going against what my brain was telling it, etc.... I just think I am simply not made to play this piece super-fast like Richter and some of the others I recently listened to. Jeez...those guys make me sick. It's just not fair!!!

    Anyway, I have never studied this piece when I was younger, nor with any of my more recent teachers, so I'm probably doing a ton of wrong things here. And I had to take it down a notch as far as tempo goes so that I could just get a little more control of my fingers and everything else. I really hope it's okay; it is so planted in my head now that it's starting to get to me. But really, comments, help, or advice would be greatly appreciated, because like I said - I've never studied or even played this piece before until just a couple weeks ago.
     
  2. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,
    I wish you a happy, healthy and creative New Year! That´s nice, that you play an Impromptu. I have played them all and especially op. 90, no.2 I have played during a piano competition in my youth (nearly 30 years ago).
    It´s a nice first attempt here. You should take more time at some places and play out more the accents and sfz and all the other dynamical things. The middle part (B-part) should always have the same tempo like the A-part, if I remember correctly. When the A-part comes the second time (A´-part) you are too slow compared with the B-part. In the first A-part you drop at a few places some of the last eigth of the runs.
    But there also many nice musical moments in your interpretation. Especially final part comes out quite well IMO.

    This was my first impression while listening. If you like, I could give you a more detailed comment tomorrow. May be I can find the old cassette on which I have recorded myself nearly 30 years ago and send the recording to you. (I just fear, that the sound-quality will be very bad, so I don´t know, if that will be worthwhile.)
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I too know this piece well and have played it since the middle ages. This is not bad, all the notes are there, but it's a bit breathless and monochrome. There could be more light and shade, more give and take, more singing. The middle section sounds a bit hurried and as Andreas noted the reprise is markedly slower than the introduction. You have either suddenly grown very fond of the pedal, or have gone a bit over the top with the reverb. I guess the latter.
    Just my 2 cents.
     
  4. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, like many others I played it myself as a kid a lot and also recently worked on the Brahms' arrangement of it for LH practicing (I needed some materials for LH and found the arrangement on IMSPL). My impressions from your recording are...
    (1) you seem to want to play faster than the music you have on mind. I mean, apart from your technical ability. I hear that you were nervous as you recorded it, because the balance between your hands and your mind didn't go together, right?
    (2) the RH doesn't flow well. As you already noticed yourself, some unnecessary accents and hesitations are heard.
    (3) you could create more contrasts between sections through varying dynamics or tone colors.
    That was my humble opinion :wink:
     
  5. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, I haven't studied this piece, but as far as tempo goes, it will come in time. I think it's an issue with comfort and familiarity with the music, and it will come when you least expect it. If you've been practicing it incessantly, get away from it for a week, then come back to it. I am sure you'll nail the tempo of your desire.:lol:

    It's a wonderful piece and well recorded. Never underestimate the power of the soft pedal... Pardon the pun. :) It is quite the equalizer for smoothness in running passages. I always have my left foot on it, you never know when you'll get the impulse to use it. In a sotto voce, it's a given; to render evenness in a p or pp passage, it's there for deployment. Ha, maybe it's because I drive a stick and always reach for the clutch pedal to shift. :p

    When playing in one's living room, it's fine. But if you're recording with the intention of adding reverb to a fast piece like this, I would use less pedal - the reverb acts like a double pedal. Also on fast pieces, you'll have to do some tweaks. Make the room size smaller, decrease the reverb tail (e.g. less than 1.7s), and/or allow more dry sound to enter the mix (eg. less than 15%).

    How do I know it's a great recording?... I listened to it more than once. :lol: There are places in toward the end that are very poetic!
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, I see that my impatience got the best of me and I should have given this one more time. I'll make a second go at it another time. Also I didn't realize the reverb was too much, since I didn't change anything from my previous recordings. But I know you, George, have tried telling me before that you need to use less reverb on fast pieces. I just forgot.

    Thank you, everybody. :D I'll keep plugging along....
     
  7. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    For a couple of weeks' work, this is very good!

    I like the opening tempo: I don't think it needs to go any faster. And the reverb/pedal didn't bother me, I think it suits the character of the piece. It does sound a bit as if you're thinking in bars (measures) rather than in long phrases; most of the (tiny) hesitations occur right on a barline. I'd be inclined to practise it with exaggerated phrasing, lifting after (but not before) the first note of every eighth bar, making sure you're carrying the phrases across the bar lines.

    To me the "ben marcato" of the middle section suggests that it could be taken slightly slower than the beginning, although it's certainly OK to do it at the same speed. I think the hurried feel is due to unevenness more than tempo: you're playing the triplets a little too fast.

    It's obvious that you enjoy playing this piece. Do you plan to record more impromptus?
     
  8. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you for some more help, Alexander. Yes, it's the phrasing and flow that I really need improve. I do like this piece, though. Especially the very end when you get to crash down on those last chords. Great therapy when you're mad and want to get it out of your system! Whenever I get done playing it, I'm thinking "There! Take that!!"

    I don't think I'll play any of the other Impromptus. I've got so many other pieces sitting on my piano and I'm running out of time. But who knows....'never say never'.....
     
  9. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, the more I listen to this piece, the more I like it.

    ... Upon listening to the piece again, I am not convinced that it's your reverb settings here. Surely, reverb is a whole topic in itself, but what's more audible is not the reverb cluster or tail... I think it's your mic placement that's causing the highs sound harsh and brittle. You might be too close to the strings, and/or adjacent bare wall which cause the early reflections to bleed into the mics. All our rooms suffer from 'small room syndrome,' and mic placement seems like a never ending proposition.

    Possible Solution:
    - Trying backing the mics about 1-3ft away.
    - Place the mic in an open area (not boxed in). Keep away from nearby walls which are a source of early reflections that compete with direct reflections coming from the piano. These 2 types of sounds compete and cause phase issues, loss of clarity, harshness, boxy sound, slap echo, etc.
    - If the mics have to be close to a wall, trying hanging a blanket on the nearest wall or behind the mics to absorb the highs. Then make up for the tighter sound in your reverb.

    Experiment: If the piano is well regulated and voiced, listen and/or record each note from the lowest A, to the highest C with equal weight on each note. Make a note of which notes sound prominent or stick out too loud. Those frequencies will correspond to the room modes (resonances based on dimensions of your room). Without going into the math, when the multiples of frequencies group together, they can be additive and produce peaks, or conversely produce dips in your room's frequency response. Use EQ to tame peaks and boost dips. The response of a room can vary as much as +/- 10dB. In my room, I have nasty peaks at 1800-2000Hz (high B-flat and high B). And 2ft behind me is a bare wall, so I try to keeps the mics away from the nearby wall, and place 1 or 2 DIY acoustic panels behind me - in the bouce path of the nearby reflection.

    Here's a chart to help you to correlate the notes on the piano with the frequencies on the EQ.
     
  10. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow, George, I am so impressed with your listening/detecting skills!! I actually did have my Edirol a bit closer to the strings than normal on this recording. For some dumb reason, I moved the tripod which holds the unit in closer to the inside of me piano, which must be why you say I'm getting some harshness. I don't know why I did that....stupid me! I have a recording up on the site where I actually placed the Edirol inside my piano resting on a board that I placed over the strings. I was experimenting...haha....the sound is so weird, very tinny and unlike the way my piano really sounds. I need to put that piece on my 're-do' list!!

    Interesting, that chart you show. I will try recording all my keys to see what they visually look like on the editing program. That's pretty neat - I never thought about doing that before. So then I should use the equalizer function to 'correct' any keys that are way different from the others...I've never fooled around with the equalizer before. Guess that will give me something to play around with....

    Thanks for the tips! :)
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    If anyone is interested, I re-recorded this piece last night. Tried to get to go smoother all the way through and I didn't add as much reverb. And if you do listen to this and hear some clicking noise - it's not my fingernails. It's my bones! They were crunching and creaking a lot more than usual for some reason. I must be breaking or something.... Hope it's not too distracting.
     
  12. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Monica, I think you have achieved an amazing amount of improvements within very short time. Most of all the fluency and the accuracy benefit, even if a few of triplets are still not hundred percent accurate. If you'll work on this piece just a week more, you could play it like Richter 8) :wink:
     
  13. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, you're doing well considering the short amount of time you've spent on it. If I may make some suggestions:
    your runs are a little dry and detached. I'd like to play around on my piano and see what I would do, but it's after midnight here and I doubt my neighbours would appreciate it ;) However I would definitely suggest that a bit of dynamic gradation within the runs would help - little swells and ebbs in the volume of the rh.

    The middle section is a touch polite and could do with a bit more sf and some whimsy in the lighter moments. As for the tempo, it's a little slow but nothing to worry about and will come.
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Shoot! I was hoping this version would be acceptable :x . But I guess you're right, Hye-Jin and Andrew - I could probably get this piece better with even a little more time. :) I do appreciate your critique so much, because it reminds me that I shouldn't settle for mediocrity and need to just keep practicing until I can get a decent rendition. Time is the problem, though. I'll have to hurry-up and try for a 3rd take next week. I hope three is the charm!

    Regarding those triplets and runs - So Hye-Jin, you are saying that the triplets need to be more even, like maybe I play some of them too fast? And Andrew - regarding my runs: If I use too much pedal, then it's a blur so I'm not sure what to do here.
     
  15. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    I dug out my old Schirmer edition which I've not looked at in years and found to my astonishment there is not a single pedal instruction in the entire op. 90 set! Of course with romantic-era composers pedalling instructions are often implicit and "change with the harmony" is a good general rule. How much pedal you use is probably going to depend on the acoustics and indeed on whether you use an upright or a grand (I only have an upright in my house and invariably find I have to rethink some aspects of pedalling when I move up to a grand). Remember that the sound you hear sitting at the piano isn't necessarily the same as the sound you ultimately hear when you've recorded it; it's worthwhile to record pedalled passages, play back and see how you feel about the net result. If the pedal is changed frequently enough, it shouldn't blur and can be used to add a certain resonance, making the rh sound less disconnected.

    Regarding the musical function of the rh on the first page, it might be worth relating an anecdote from a lesson with my teacher where I was playing a passage with left hand melody and right hand scales. He said "you can practice scales anytime: I don't want you to do it when you're playing to me". It's a little unkind, but makes the point. I think the p rh passages should not be something the listener is overtly conscious of being a scalar passage, more a veil which is cast over the lh.

    You might like to watch the Zimerman recording of this on youtube; I listened to a few "name" pianists there and liked his the most. Plus from 1.00 and 3.00 there is visual proof he's using the pedal ;)

    Anyway, a few thoughts there which you are of course welcome to disagree with.
     
  16. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'm using a one-hundred-year-old score and there are no pedal markings in it, either. Thanks for the tips, though, Andrew. I've been accused of being too 'notey' before, so this is probably why you said my runs sound detached. That video of Zimerman is really great. Thanks for directing me to it - I learned so many things by watching/listening to it. What a great job he does on this piece! Well, I guess now all I have to do is just practice some more...ok, a lot more....ugh! :x :)
     
  17. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    I don't think pedalling is the main issue here. I think you're not quite playing legato: you're letting go of one key a split second before the next one goes down. Of course it's very hard to measure this precisely. If you want a smoother sound then you need to aim for legatissimo: that is, not releasing the key until after the next one goes down. This is easier to achieve if you play with flatter fingers.

    More important though is, as Andrew says, more rise and fall within the phrases. Legato on the piano is of course an illusion--we'll never sound as smooth as a good violin, even if we hold the pedal down--and dynamics are our most valuable tool in creating the illusion. You might find, if you shape the phrases appropriately, that your clear and bubbly articulation can sound just fine.
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Alexander, for also making me think about this legato thing. Probably if I can get my tempo up a little bit, then it does not matter. Or more like legato does not factor into the equation if the fingers are moving so fast that you simply cannot hold down a key while you press down the next key....hope that makes sense. More rise and fall, and more dynamics - Ok, I will work on those things.
     

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