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Solvejg's Lullaby

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by richard66, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    While in the Bad Old Days I used to take a month to record a one minute piece, in the short space of half an hour I recorded three Chopin Preludes, a Gershwin piece and the Grieg. It is incredible what difference an almost real (it is still vertical!) piano can make!

    Of these only the last one (actually the first in recording order) is good enough to face the ripe tomatoes. There are almost no edits and I could have submitted it as it was, but the next to last arpeggio was not all there, so I redid that passage during the same take. Otherwise and elsewhere there is an octave where there should be a ninth, but it did not really seem that important to correct it.

    There will be a little hiss (I must annoy Monica :twisted: ) but I preferred that to filtering it and reducing the sound quality.
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hehe, it is quite the other way around for me. And I can't even blame it on the piano. I came to find it is better to take a bit longer over one piece than trying to churn out many recordings in one afternoon.

    This one is a mixed bag. It is clear you are doing much better now, I hear dynamics, sonority, and inspiration, not just a continuous struggle like before.
    The bass has a nice round homely sound but I am less convinced by the treble. I think it would sound a lot better if you had the piano tuned.

    There still seems to be considerable hiss but less noticeable as you cut it all off at the ends. In my organ recordings, which had a lot of background noise from the wind machine, I started using fade-in and fade-out to not get those sudden changes.

    Performance-wise it is quite solid, and there are nice things, but also some annoying slips in the RH where you hit two keys. I think it is painfully slow - it's a lullaby, not a funeral dirge ! And while I am all for ample breath between phrases, your pauses seem a bit long and abrupt. All in all this could (should?) be more fluent and gentle, right now it is a rather stern affair. I'm not saying this is not good for the site but personally I would give this a little more time and then record again with a tuned piano and a more relaxed conception.

    The piece itself I don't find one of Grieg's best. But it might feel different at a little less stilted tempo.
     
  3. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    Richard,
    Yes, move the tempo up. Sing it through a couple of times and you'll find a better tempo - one in which the phrases flow better.
    It's quite possible that some other flaws will be less noticeable at a quicker tempo - you're giving the audience too much time to mull over glitches that might just "go by" at a quicker pace.
     
  4. cmudave1125

    cmudave1125 New Member

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    Hi Richard,

    Nice playing here. I have to agree with the others about the tempo, it seems like the phrasing will flow more nicely a bit faster.
    Your piano sounds nice!

    Dave
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    As you see, Chris, I was not quite such a desperate case after all and am happy that you could listen to what I actually tried to convey!

    Consider the piano only came last Thursday and is still aclimatising itself, so it is too ealy to think about calling the tuner in. I suppose I could wait till that golden day is come and gone, but it will most probably be in November, when the weather is more or less settled.

    I see nothing especial in turning the recorder on and then playing five pieces with which I am familiar. I am not one to say: "Today I am going to record chopstricks and then do 20 takes. The Grieg I did once and then I redid the last five or six bars as one of the arpeggi was not as it should have been.

    This particular piece has been in my repertoire for maybe twenty-five years and is one of the pieces I learnt while still taking lessons, and even in those distant days it had been considered as being in the bag. Admittedly up to a week ago I had no real piano at home, so some of the things you hear will be quite new, as they would never have come out in any of the fortes (Baldwins) or pianos (Geyers) I had used over the years.

    I am not aware of any finger slips; I discard recordings where these happen. I believe that what you call slips are the seconds, both minor and major, which abound in this piece, starting on bar one, second beat, where there is c sharp/d. In the right hand. There are also many ninths in the left hand (e.g. e/d).

    Admittedly this is called a Cradle Song, but is it really? While Ibsen does not say so, the circumstances imply that, when Peer, in his old age, finds refuge from the ghosts that persue him in the arms of Solvejg, he has been released from a tormented life. Is it then it a Cradle Song or is a Funeral March?

    I have never heard this played on the piano solo and know it only from orchestral versions. I play it at 4'14 (there is a second before it starts and five after it finishes). While the orchestral recording I have, which is by Sir John Barbirolli and Sheila Armstrong, lasts for a good 5', while Lucia Popp takes 4' 54" and Barbara Bonney goes through it in 5' 58". If anything, I am hurrying it, and you ask me to go faster? Grieg was no one to use metronome markings and the one on my score is editorial (crotchet at 72, the metre being duple) and the tempo indication is lento – oh, the discussions there will be concerning duple time and the real meaning of that Italian word! This is obviuosly unknown to any of the aforementioned musicians.

    There is one (amateur it seems) voice and piano version on YouTube by someone who seems to have this score, because it is played at that speed, lasting just under 3'. I could not listen to it, because it was no longer a Cradle Song: it was a Spring Dance. I myself have just tried this speed and it sounds ludicrous, in a Solvejg meets Benny Goodman way, so I am afraid I am not going to speed it up and destroy the beauty of the music.
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes probably, but it needs to be done at one stage before you can submit a recording suitable for the site.

    Hm.... if you really can't hear them you have not listened critically to your own recording. There are smudges specifically at 2:00, 2:06, 2:24 (that one happens to sound ok but it's not as written), 3:06, 3:29 (a strange fumble starting here), and 3:46. Bar 12 you play as 3/4, halving the first half note. Between some bars you take a rest of (almost) a whole beat. It's tempting to consider a piece to be 'in the bag' because you've played it for 25 years, and probably know it backward, but once in a while you should listen back with score and nitpick your
    own playing.

    Actually, Bonney's recording goes at a quicker speed than yours. It's just a different arrangement, containing parts not in your piano score. Also, voice and strings lend themselves so much better to long, slow lines. The piano can't really do that.

    I guess you mean the one by Janalyn Bump ? I think that is a wonderful tempo, not actually much faster than Bonney.

    Anyway, this your piece, I won't argue about how fast it should go. Just please acknowledge the slips and rhythmical issues. It seems clear from the various recordings that such long rests between the phrases are not the way to do it.
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I agree about the tuning.How could I not? I would need the ears of Bottom to say otherwise. Come to think of it, there are times that I am led to wonder if I am not as refined a musician as he.

    You surprise me with these slips. I cannot hear them. None so deaf as those who will not hear! At one point I did hear something, but to me it sounded more like vibration from the recorder. I normally put the toy on a cushion to avoid it doing just that, and yesterday I did not take that precaution.

    Voices and strings can do what no piano can, but, alas! beefing up the tempo can offer no substitute!

    I was not thiking of Bump: it was an Estonian singer. Both to me sounded breathless and I could derive no enjoyment from either of them. In matter of fact, I stopped listening half-way through the one and the other.

    Oh well, I do not suppose it makes any difference in the end, does it? Life goes on and the sun shines just the same, recording or no recording. I must remember to ask my wife to forget the recorder somewhere the next time she borrows it.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    It worries me that you can't hear these issues. Acknowledging problems, however small, it the key to becoming a better pianist. Maybe we can get a second opinion on these from someone else here - just in case I am making things up.

    And I think it is dangerous to think "Oh I played this piece for so long, I can just sit down and record it in one take". Been there, done that (big time, as some oldtimers here may remember), didn't work. Not even for easy pieces.

    Nope, and that makes playing such music on the piano frustrating. All you can do is make it flow best as possible, which is easier in a somewhat livelier tempo. I'm sure that Grieg himself would have done that.

    You could also try to take this positively, and see it as an opportunity to improve. Having a new better piano must be a relief but it is also a new challenge, as you can no longer blame it for problems in your recordings.
     
  9. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    It worries me too, because such slips, when they occur, annoy me profoundly while playing, the same going for wrong notes (there is one, an e octave, when it should have been a e/d ninth - I mentioned it). When I have such takes I do not even listen to them, let alone submit them for others to suffer. I went to the passages you indicated and listened not once, but repeatedly. Of course there is no real guarantee that what you hear is what I hear: after all, it was played to a recorder that created an MP3, then that was transformed into an Audacity project, into a WAV, into an MP3 again, sent to the PS server, downloaded by you, read by a computer programme and listened through whatever you use.

    And yet there are live recordings which are done just like that. A lot of practice has gone on before it, of course, and years of study.

    Maybe it is best to forget about this piece.

    I am very happy with the piano and I am the first to acknowledge that I do not always manage to get out of it what I should. I am still amazed that I have an instrument that is responsive. At no point am I saying, "the piano did not" or "the piano will not". So far, the only thing it will not do is play repeated notes at speed, but that is inherent to all vertical pianos and cannot be altered, so a recording of Albéniz's Asturias will not be coming from me in the forsseable future.
     
  10. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    The smudges are definitely there. I hear them too.

    "played this piece for so long" is often a very dangerous state of mind. You start hearing not what's there, but what you expect to be there.

    Also, it's a small point, but in the long term useful. You need to think about your pedalling: sometimes there are blurs where you've pedalled through one harmony and into another. There are times in piano playing where this is acceptable and even desirable (Debussy, for example), but I don't think this piece is such a case. Having spent much of the last month being assailed for this specific issue (I had no idea that I could pedal as sloppily as I was doing), I feel compelled to point it out!

    The piano also needs to be tuned - it's not drastic, but there are places where the notes become rather "swimmy". It would also, I suspect, help with the tone, which has potential (especially in the bass) but is a little foursquare. Of course, you need time to adapt to the new piano and the changed potential it brings. I think it might be worthwhile experimenting (in order to further acclimatise yourself to the new instrument) with playing the piece, or other familiar material, in varying tempi and with varying types of touch and dynamics. Best of luck.
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    No way the things I hear are introduced by any of the various transformations. It's a creative idea though :p

    But while on the subject, I would recommend recording in WAV format. Recording in mp3, expanding to wav, then compressing to mp3 again is can't be good for sound quality.

    It is NOT ! What a defeatist attitude. This piece is as good as any to hone your skills. I find that it matters little WHAT you work on, as long as you keep trying to improve. Giving up on a piece that doesn't come out the right way right away will not get you far.
     
  12. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I should have added above (I was about to edit) that I referred to the smudges. The "eaten" beat is something that I an prone to, as you well know, as well as the excessive breaks.

    I still have to get a decent recorder. I was under the fond impression that the fuller sound of the piano resolved a bit of the hiss issue, but apparently not.

    Not in the sense of giving up because I cannot do it, which I can, but because it is a transcription and too many compromises have to be made that in the end it is no longer the same piece. Better to concentrate on a real piano piece instead. There is not lack of them, after all.
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Andrew.

    I expect the tuning to get worse in the next week or so, but it is silly to have it tumed so soon.

    In the old piano the pedal was not too efficient, so some pedal technique went out of the window. I find in the new one that a lot of the time half-pedal will do what only the full pedal did in the old one and the full pedal will made a blurr. Actually, this is the fisrt piano I have that will do half-pedal.

    I have been looking over some of my old pieces that now need to be redone in the light of what is now possible and, wheras before even hitting a key with a sledgehammer made no great difference, now at times the difference between using 4th or 5th finger is the difference between prose and poetry.
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes I gathered that. But rather than smudges, they are actually errors, i.e. not landing square on a key and thus partly pushing down an adjacent one.
    There is a cure for those rhythmic issues. Count, count, count..... A habit that is good to get into. Playing Bach will help (as it does for everything :D )

    Perhaps if you played everything fortissimo :) Even then you'd hear the hiss in the rests, and at the beginning and end. Sure, go save up for a good recorder as the next step. One thing less for us to bitch about :lol:

    Oh right. Indeed this is not the most suitable song to be transcribed to piano. Though again, it would really sound much better at a more flowing tempo. If
    you accept the idea of a piece being adapted to another medium, I don't see why you should not also accept the validity of adapting the tempo accordingly.
     
  15. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I have been dusting up the Well-Tempered Klavier. It also helps my lefty hand, which for some reason is not as lively as the right one.

    And one excuse less for imperfection! Mind you, I paind 100 moneys for the one I have. With 200 I could have bought a real one. Total bill in the end: 300. Where is the saving? Actually, when I bought I did not know what I was doing and that was the only recorder in the shop.

    Because the piece must be rewritten and not speeded up. Is that not what Liszt did with Alyabyev's Nightingale and Balakirev with Glinka's Lark?

    Ah well, I am working on other pieces and they are progressing nicely, as I am able at last to use techniques I had only been told about, so dropping one will not really make all that difference, will it? Let us move on, then. Next please!
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow, 100 moneys, that is a lot of buck :p

    Not sure those pieces are comparable with Grieg's lullaby, and Liszt's transcriptions go much further than this rather plain-faced and unpianistic setting of the lullaby. Nonetheless I am sure that something good can be made of this piece, and I am tempted to have a go at it, just for fun and to see if I am right. I am also a bit of a Grieg completist, still having vague plans (probably never to be realized), for a complete Grieg cycle, so this would sort of make sense. Is it the attached Russian score score you are playing from ? I wonder what that says on the left, if it's a dedication or
    the name of a transcriber ? I have a feeling this may not be Grieg's own work, in which case I'll not bother with it.
     
  17. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Just as I say, Liszt adapted the pieces and made them into piano music, the same goes for the Balakirev.

    You seem to have an extract from the vocal score and that must be the one that Bump used. The text on the left only says who translated it. I have an idea it might originate with Halvorsen, who published the complete incidental music in 1908, but I am not sure. The solo piano parts look like my version. I no longer have it scanned (it was one of those things that, according to the computer technician, I did not need), so I cannot send it to yu, as I have no scanner.

    Otherwise by all means, have a go at it, if you so wish.
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am pretty sure this score is what you are playing, I followed along with it. And I can read (c.q.Google translate) just enough Russian to see that this has been transcribed, but not by Halvorsen but by one E. Efremenkova (?). So I think I'll pass on it.
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    But it is not, because mine was transcribed by Walter Niemann, the German pianist and composer, and was published by Peters, together with one of the Grieg transciptions of Solvejg's Song (the one that is part of Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 and not the one that is part of his op 52 song transcriptions).

    Perevod in Russian means translate (the "pere" suffix is equivalent to "trans") and refers to the Russian translation of the Text. Between Google and my wife, who is Russian, I take the latter any day!

    To transcribe is Trascribirovat'.

    Though Efremenkova could denote a Lady, the form being also the feminine of Efremenkov, in this case it is the genitive masculine singular of the surname. Easy, is it not?

    While only the piano plays they are the same, but once the voice comes in, there are some differences. Might this not be meaningful?
     
  20. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah right. Well either way it is not original Grieg so I am not interested in the piece anymore now.
     

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