DONATION STATUS
Needed before 2016-12-31
$ 2,500
So far donated
$ 805

Thalberg Fantasy on La Traviata, op.78

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by andrew, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    I've been working on this piece, on and off, for about 15 months. I was going to play it in a concert last year, but it wasn't ready and consequently I didn't get the chance to give it a public airing until now. I'm still not 100% happy with it, but I suppose it is quite tricky. The performance was a little frustrating - I had virtually no warmup time of any significance on the piano as the venue was rescheduled at the last minute - and there were people wandering in and out of the church hall, including up and down the central aisle :!: during the performance (very distracting to have that in your peripheral vision during all the crazy jumps at the end of the piece and I don't think I'm flattering myself to say I would have been more accurate without that going on). Anyway, I'm annoyed about that, enough excuses - time for something about the piece.

    I'm presenting this mainly for two reasons:

    Firstly because it's a very obscure composition which I have a lot of faith in musically and would like to share. There is very little time or respect given to Sigismund Thalberg's virtuoso paraphrases (of which he wrote dozens) nowadays, though he was a celebrated virtuoso and rival to Liszt in his time. A lot of his works are fairly typical of the time (he sits probably somewhere between Herz, Kalkbrenner et al and lesser, throwaway, Liszt) and often quite derivative, Kenneth Hamilton saying in his book "After the Golden Age": ".. numerous compositions (more impressive, admittedly, in their keyboard command than in other aspects of their inspiration)". This one I believe to be on a higher level; I find it both effective and skilfully written. I don't feel that it is a paraphrase in the grand Liszt manner but one in a more restrained, classical style and often surprisingly intimate.

    Secondly I would be genuinely grateful for comments on the sound quality. I recorded it with my intended future recorder and microphone combination (though not on my piano of choice - it was in the previously intended venue which became unavailable at short notice.) There has been no post-processing or editing done - I would be so tempted to edit a few spots and tidy up some rough spots if I had the option but my rehearsal recording is on a different piano with different equipment and I think the effect would be rather odd :lol:

    Here's video of the performance; an mp3 is attached below.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sADEtVnAvWM

    I profoundly wish that Earl Wild had extended his list of lesser-known composer recordings by adding this piece (he was the man, imo, for pieces such as this which require a combination of elegance and bravura); as it is I can, for comparative listening purposes, only find this on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMnz_FzDGUk (pf. Hiroshi Takasu, from a CD recording, and imo it is highly eccentric).

    Thanks for listening, and any comments and opinions would be most welcome.

    Verdi-Thalberg - Fantasy on La Traviata
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,713
    Likes Received:
    1
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Wow - another 'biggie'! Sounds and looks very hard! All those octaves and then that very long trill....man, that would just kill me! What fingers did you mostly use on that long trill, Andrew?
    Anyway, I think the sound quality is very good. Can you please tell us what kind of recorder you used?

    This is on the site. :)
     
  3. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    It IS hard :D especially the coda, which is an absolute killer to when you first start on it and as hard as anything I've ever looked at (almost). I strongly suspect the alternate chordal section represents Thalberg trying a bit of compositional oneupmanship on Liszt, saying "you can write as many alternate chord/octave effects as you like, but I can get a melody in there too!"

    With the trills, I was using a combination of 12, 23 and 13, changing fingering every time the trill note changes (and occasionally within the trill). You absolutely have to alter the fingering during the passage a) to get clean changes from one note to another and b) to avoid fatigue. My trills aren't perfect either; there are a few moments where the long chain of trills stops momentarily. They are actually a serious technical problem, because the most important thing (I think) to make sure of with them is to make sure they don't overpower the soprano melody and that happens very easily if you're not careful.

    I recorded it with an Edirol R-09HR (my equipment) and a borrowed pair of Rode NT05 mics, which I'm inclined to purchase if listeners concur with my feeling that the sound is good. The piano was a 7" Yamaha, not my favourite make, but I've played on worse.
     
  4. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Church Musician, Choral Accompanist, Musical Theat
    Location:
    Illinois
    LOCATION:
    Illinois
    Hey Andrew,

    I really enjoyed that. You gave a very fine performance and the applause was well deserved.

    I agree that this is a reasonably well crafted paraphrase. Once in awhile some pure romanic schmaltz and bombast is fun. It did seem that a couple of times he ran out of transitional ideas and would resort to the dominant arpeggio. I was expecting a lounge singer at any moment :lol:

    It is too bad that some of these arrangements have been pushed aside. A lot of it is probably due to the purists about mid-20th cent. But we forget that this music served an important purpose. First, composers like Verdi did not write "classical music" or "romantic period music". They were writing contemporary music for the audiences of the day, and they were hoping to write popular music. Not everyone lived in or near the cultural centers with easy accessibility to opera and symphonies. Therefore the touring pianists with their paraphrases and arrangements could bring this new music to the masses. It is not unlike the modern covers of one groups music by other artists. In an era without sound recording, iEverythings, and YouTube, this, and the resulting sheet music were the primary means to widely disseminate what we would come to call "classical music".

    Thank you for your performance and I look forward to hearing more.

    Scott
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,713
    Likes Received:
    1
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Well, that explains why the sound is familiar to me; I play on a Yamaha grand everyday, and I have been using my Edirol 09 for about five years now. Except I don't have external mics. Maybe one day....You are getting a good sound here.
     
  6. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    Thanks. I don't have too many problems with his dominant arpeggio transitions because they make compositional sense to me; on the first (less convincing imo) occasion (4.33) he's taken the r.h. ornamental figuration and moved towards the dominant and at the moment of transition echoes it in the bass. Second time around (7.33) he's taken care to put a passage before the arpeggio which presages the figuration to come, which I find rather effective. It's ironic that you should mention arpeggios, because Thalberg was the originator of an effect where the melody is shared between the hands and ornamented with arpeggios. Typically it involves Beat 1: lh plays bass note establishing that it is the beat, rh plays melody; for the remainder of the bar rh plays arpeggios or other figuration and lh takes over melody. Repeat until audience is happy :wink: An example of this effect happens (with octaves rather than arpeggios) starting from 2.48 in this piece. There are many examples of it being done with arpeggios in Thalberg's music: so many in fact that, after initially having caused a sensation with it, he became mockingly known as "Old Arpeggio" in certain circles. Here is a good example, and his most (in)famous piece of writing :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlSLs_eEE7M (sorry for using my own playing to demonstrate!). I don't know whether his almost studious avoidance of trademark arpeggios in this piece is a reaction to such criticism.

    Yes, agreed with all of that. A certain attitude developed in the mid-20th c that these pieces are disrespectful to the original; in reality I would argue that the composer is actually reflecting his love for, and enjoyment of, the original.

    Liszt certainly used his Wagner arrangements as a mechanism for promoting Wagner's music; I have however always found amusing the statement which I've read in a few sources that his paraphrases enabled casual music lovers to purchase the scores and then play the music in the comfort of their own homes (i.e. as a predecessor of the gramophone). The technique level of the average Parisian must have been quite something!
     
  7. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    Your recordings sound good for no external mics. I'm happy to use the Edirol on its own for recording practice sessions but I'm not particularly happy with the overall sound in terms of using it as a finished recording; I find it a bit lacking in body and sonority. I have the Roland external mic for the Edirol but I'd criticise it similarly. The Rode NT5s aren't prohibitively expensive either (c. £250 for a matched pair) so I'm really rather impressed with them.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    I find this a case of huge talent and effort wasted on a very shallow piece of music. IMO Verdi's melodies are not very good to start with (though I acknowledge they have a sort of popular appeal) and I don't feel like Thalberg does anything worthwhile with them except piling up tons of notes and creating hair-raising difficulties. I guess I just don't like this kind of music, unless the tunes and transcription are very good. Can't criticize on the performance, there seem to be quite some little slips which could probably be excused if the spirit is there (not sure if it was, though).

    I keep wondering if you never tire of this repertoire Andrew ? I can recognize the technical challenge, it's probably more fun and useful than practising Hanon, but don't you long for something more intellectually stimulating ?
     
  9. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    Why thank you! I think.. :wink:

    Yes, on balance I prefer Bellini's melodies. I think what you say about the tons of notes and difficulties probably reflects poorly on my performance; in my ideal world the balance between melody and ornamentations would be better and the melody would be more predominant; ideally the difficulties wouldn't be noticed (hence my comment about Earl Wild earlier in the thread - I think he was an absolute master of this type of piece). I'm annoyed about the slips; the performance circumstances didn't help, and an hour's retakes + edits would probably sort the bulk of it out, but that option wasn't available and is a hazard of live performance of this type of piece, I guess.

    I absolutely adore this repertoire - it is great fun and has probably developed my technique considerably (though in a very skewed manner), but there is a limit to how much is worthwhile (even to me). I've been doing an in-depth exploration of it over the past few years, and I'm starting to run out of pieces which appeal to me (still got a few left however!) I've adopted a somewhat self-indulgent attitude of only playing music that a) I care about and b) nobody else is likely to play; because of my focus on this area I have neglected other worthwhile semi-forgotten romantic-era music not of this genre, and I regret that. I was going to learn the second Liapunov concerto and/or his ninth transcendental etude plus Op. 8 Nocturne, and I feel a little bad about putting it on the backburner for the time being, as to me he's the best neglected composer of that time. It will probably amuse you to learn that my teacher (who is probably by now a touch exasperated by my interests) insisted, for pedagogical reasons, on me working on the Bach Italian concerto slow movement.. in depth, bar by bar, and with almost pedantic focus on accuracy of the ornaments.
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    Now you're talking :) I would much sooner spend lavish effort on a Liapounov piece than an overblown opera transcription like this one. Such gorgous music. Get the move on ! The transcendental etudes are not played all that often really. I'm always surprised Hamelin hasn't done them yet. Probably too easy for him :eek:

    And what about Godowsky transcriptions, is that not up your alley ?
    And you play Alkan, who creates even more hellraising difficulties and churns out even more toms of notes than List and Thalberg together, but I feel that is mostly for a good cause, and it's musically more substantial than Thalberg et.al. Not sure if he wrote any opera transcriptions :?:
     
  11. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    I'm quite sure I can't play all the Liapunov's etudes; some are hellishly difficult. I've had a look at some Godowsky, but in some ways it doesn't appeal. Hard to quantify why but there is a certain intellectuality about his writing which slightly puts me off (I'm on the side of music being a sensual beast, as opposed to an intellectual one, though I understand I'm simplifying things grossly here.)

    Alkan I've imposed a moratorium on. I've come to realise that my previous efforts in this area were valiant amateur efforts and no better. I want to revisit some of the Op. 39 etudes, but I have to do it with a completely different attitude to the one I approached them with last time. My technique is better than when I last looked at them, but I now understand just how ridiculously difficult they are and won't be attacking them from a position of naive optimism this time. Btw I think Alkan's opera transcriptions are really not terribly good; had a look at them and am not convinced he understood the genre. The ones on material from the 18th c maybe work better but they are not especially to my taste. I do however very much like his Haydn symphony slow movement transcription, but I've always viewed Alkan as what you get if you put Haydn and Liszt in a blender. :)
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    Yea verily. I'd have thought that would be no problem for you.

    Which is exactly why I love Godowsky - though I much prefer his original music to his transcriptions and elaborations. I'd like to pretend being an intellectual beast, mwuhaha :mrgreen:

    A bloody mess, you mean ?
    In many ways he reminds me of Schubert. Pastoral innocence changing to desperate insanity in a blink. I find it most fascinating. Though admittedly some of Alkan does not rise above more notespinning.
     
  13. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    There are at least a couple of the Liapunov etudes which not only can't I play, I find it hard to imagine anyone playing them! e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puLzA_RW67Y

    Incredible.

    Yes, Alkan is a very interesting composer, and there is a lot of obtuse humour in his music. I once got hold of an edition which had copious commentary notes by Raymond Lewenthal, which was absolutely fascinating. Comme le Vent is probably a prime example of notespinning, though it's superior notespinning. Compare (if you dare) Herz's Fantasy on Non piu mesta from La Cerentola, very typical of the time. :twisted:
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    Huh, yes. His ultra-sleek and ultra-fast recording does nothing for me though. With all respect to both Hough and the composer, I find this a rather irritating piece in Hough's formidable hands.

    I have that book too. Amusing insights by Lewenthal, from a time he was almost the only one caring for Alkan. These days it sounds just a little attention-grabbing.

    I don't like that piece at all. Hollow virtuosity, inspiring mindless playing like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1HbYqmN5g.

    I don't know about that one. Not likely I would like it...
     
  15. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    I like Hough as a pianist, but prefer Kentner in this piece; couldn't youtube link it though!

    I looked at it, and what a mess! THAT is exactly the reason I currently steer clear of Alkan, because it happens so easily. R.h. articulation is very ropey in places. I was surprised, because I've seen the same user's Chemin de Fer and Allegro Barbaro and thought they were very creditable, particularly for an amateur. They are also much better pieces, if you ask me.

    You wouldn't. :D
     
  16. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Messages:
    844
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Ph.D student
    Location:
    Germany
    Last Name:
    Lee
    First Name:
    Hye-Jin
    LOCATION:
    Germany
    Hi Andrew, I watched your performance of this Fantasy on Youtube. I could understand why you like this paraphrase. I think Thalberg catched the sad and intime atmosphere of that opera very well. With more concentration - you wrote about the annoying surroundings - this piece would sound more convincing. I watched the other video clip, too, where you recorded your practicing the ending of the piece: That was fantastic! :D
     
  17. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Messages:
    844
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Ph.D student
    Location:
    Germany
    Last Name:
    Lee
    First Name:
    Hye-Jin
    LOCATION:
    Germany
    I forgot to comment on the sound!
    Under the reservation that I know the YT compressed the sound data a lot and had no time to listen to your mp3 file, it sounded to me a bit too distanced and wet. I would prefer more close and crispy sound, especially on such a piece filled with thousands of notes :) Besides I could hear the pedal noise well.
    But overall good sound, I must say.
     
  18. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    911
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    I think the middle A min section is very nicely done. There is a certain classicism about the approach which you don't find with Liszt. Whether it was strictly necessary to force the l.h. to do all the work during the r.h. trill section is another matter!
    I'm in retrospect glad I posted the practice run - it at least proves I can hit (almost) all the jumps!

    I must listen for the pedal noise! I didn't catch it at all when listening but wasn't looking for it. When setting up the recording equipment, I couldn't get the pair of mics at my intended usual distance from the piano. The stage was a rounded rectangle with steps on the rounded edge, and with there being two pianos on the stage, I deemed it safer to put the mic stands at the bottom of the steps rather than closer to the piano, but when they would have to be on the edge of the stage instead. I didn't take distance measurements; perhaps it would have been useful if I had. Picture attached (reduced size) to clarify my explanation! The mic stands ended up situated at the r.h. side of the picture (middle) where you can just about see some bits of equipment lying around at the base of the steps. I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but I would rather have placed them closer to the piano.
     
  19. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Messages:
    844
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Ph.D student
    Location:
    Germany
    Last Name:
    Lee
    First Name:
    Hye-Jin
    LOCATION:
    Germany
    I know barely a thing about recording, but you seem to have put the recorder too far from the piano, esp. from the strings.
    I just listened to your mp3 through a cheap headphone which I have in my locker of the library and at this time cannot hear the pedal noise :?
    But I'm sure that I heard that noise as I used my Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro for listening yesterday at home, since your feet movements were exactly synchronized with that noise.
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Messages:
    2,146
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Chief Operating Officer, retired
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    Last Name:
    April
    First Name:
    David
    LOCATION:
    U.S.A.
    Hi Andrew

    I find that one of the factor in sound quality is YouTube itself. There are times when I do uploads and the sound is as good as what I submitted on the mp3. At other times their "processing" seems to murder the sound. There is one upload on there now that seems as if it's being played underwater. (I should resubmit that one.) You can never tell with them.

    David
     

Share This Page