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That 2-layered rubato thingy

Discussion in 'Technique' started by musical-md, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ha yes, many people who are unable to keep a steady pulse pass it off as rubato. It is so dangerous to start out with playing Chopin in a so-called romantic manner, without first having learned to play in time. It seems like all beginning pianists want to play Chopin above all. I was no different but have come to see the error of my ways.
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    As I think about this again, I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that! Also, I am right-handed - but if I were left-handed, I'm not sure I would be able to make my right hand play rubato. But then possibly I would be able to make my left hand do it....You know what I mean? Maybe that's confusing...I think I just confused myself... :lol:
     
  3. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?
     
  4. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    One possible example I can think of is the middle section of Chopin Impromptu No. 3. It's such an expansive and deep melody in the middle register of the piano.
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I don't think so, because in my mind, tempo means the overall speed of the beats in the piece - the whole piece. If the RH was a faster tempo and the LH a slower tempo, then the RH would finish the piece long before the LH gets to the end, right? So rubato is not related to tempo at all - it's just a matter of altering the length of the RH notes, or changing when you drop down on some notes in certain passages. Maybe you guys already said something like this....?

    Oh yes - I like that one a lot! Been meaning to put it up on my piano but just haven't gotten around to it. Probably won't for a while either. It's such a sweet piece, though! And really I think it should be an etude.

    The middle part is definitely a contender for our left-hand melody-possible-rubato piece. However, I think that the rhythm already makes it automatically sound like you're playing rubato so it should be left as is.

    Another piece I just thought of is Gershwin's no. 2 Prelude. It is on my piano right now, but earlier I wasn't thinking about rubato. Regarding the middle section where the LH is playing that cool little jazzy line - in this case, for sure! we wouldn't want our LH to mess around at all with rubato. That would totally ruin the music.
     
  6. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I'm just one bit confused Monica. Does your "I don't think so" mean that you don't see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind of the accompaniment temporarily (not for any extended passages)? Then we are in agreement. But then you cite some music that is good for "melody-rubato," which is back to melody having fluctuation in tempo that the accompaniment does not have. Have you ever tried to play a melody faster or slower than its accompaniment for just short, limited passages? Have you ever heard anyone play in such a manner? I have never heard it (knowingly) and have never tried to execute it. I have also never read anything in a score or a text that recommended it's application in a particular spot, whether piano or orchestral literature. When I think of orchestral works that make use of goodly amounts of rubato, I think of Berlioz and the post-Romantics like Strauss and Mahler, but can't concieve of how such an idea as this thread is about could even be conveyed by the conductor. I really think this notion was born in Chopin's penchant for irregular groupings and their perception by auditors.
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Sorry, Eddy. I'll try explaining my ideas again differently...

    I can see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind the accompaniment but it's got nothing to do with tempo. I don't understand when some people call it tempo rubato, because like I said before, it's not the tempo that is changing at all. If you take one measure and you make the RH move ahead of or drag behind the accompaniment, you still have to make it so that both hands get to the 1st beat of the next measure at the same time, so you didn't change any tempo.

    And no, those two pieces, Joe's Chopin Impromptu and my Gershwin Prelude are pieces that I was wondering about - whether there is such a piece where the LH may be instructed to play rubato. I can't see that happening, but maybe there is such a piece? That's what I was talking about.

    Well....one thing for sure: Rubato is not only hard to play, but hard to talk about! :wink: :)
     
  8. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I find it a lot easier to talk about than to play, but I think that's mostly because my technique is bad. Talking about it helps me learn how to get better, though. (I have learned a great deal from PS about technique over the years.) I know what you mean about 'tempo rubato' but I think I addressed that in the longpost below which I had written before you posted again (sorry for the length...I've been distracted the past week and just got here), and it just so happens to be underneath my response to your other post. In short, what I said is that tempo=time, and rubato=stolen. Time is stolen (or borrowed), but theoretically it all adds up...because, as George said, it's a cohesive whole. With hands-together rubato, the time is stolen by one part of the piece from the other, and this is only reflected in an abstract way, if you happen to have a sense for that sort of thing. With hands-together rubato, the melodic hand steals time in one part of the phrase from another part of the phrase, or perhaps from the next phrase, and the accompaniment hands keeps on trucking because it's all going to add up anyway. In this case, it's less abstract because the accompaniment hand demonstrates the tempo - the fact that it all adds up in the end - in such a way that the listener will most likely be conscious of it.

    Many people use it in the most difficult passages, too. You can see Ashkenazy doing this all the time in his complete Chopin recordings. It's not because he's not technically adept - I don't think I've ever heard anyone play the b-flat minor sonata as fast as he does (not in the complete recordings, but another recording) - but because he spent almost no time on most of the pieces. To the non-pianist, it might even sound musically appropriate...but the pianist (especially the pianist who has played these pieces) knows he's cheating.

    A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher. Even his most difficult pieces are 'easy' in the sense that he only wrote what came naturally to his hand. The fact that everything came naturally to him (and the fact that he liked to challenge himself) means that it's still some of the most difficult music for piano, but it's easy to see why most people start with Chopin, and why most young pianists find Bach counterintuitive in comparison.

    Sure you could, and I think you have. A good example is Chopin 25/7. A totally different but still nice example is 10/12. As I've said before, I hate that one when it's played straight...and yet, it suffers from a loss of pulse. As someone mentioned earlier, it's not as if we're talking about metronomic tempo anyway. A healthy pulse is regular, not metronomic. Without the regular pulse, then syncopations and the like lose their meaning completely, but in the operatic type of melodic (usually RH) writing that Chopin is known for, the accompaniment hand can keep the pulse and still allow much room for melodic freedom, and with that freedom, meaning is only added, rather than lost.

    The most important point is that rubato is 'stolen' or 'borrowed' time. One part of the piece steals time from another - or on a smaller scale, one part of the melodic phrase steals time from another part of the phrase, so that it all adds up. Kallberg has talked some about these two types of rubato - the 'hands together' and the 'hands separate' types (in addition to the mazurka type), but generally Chopin preferred that the performer not insert ritardandos or accelerandos unless they were written in the score - the slowing down and speeding up of the hands-together rubato should never venture very far from the regular pulse. As Chopin said, it takes you more or less the same amount of time to play the piece as you would have with the metronome. If you speed up Here, then chances are he wrote the music so that it makes sense to slow down There, etc.

    Someone mentioned polyrhythm earlier. I also mentioned this on Rich's nocturne thread in the AR. It's not rubato, but it can serve as an exercise in how to play hands-separate rubato because it teaches independence of the hands. Sometimes polyrhythm breaks up in simple proportions, like 2 against 3, and therefore the pianist generally learns to think of it as an exact science. 3 against 4 is a little bit tricker, and so on. Eventually you have to learn to think by the larger beat that encompasses both sets, and play each hand independently against that beat. I like the TN F minor nocturne for this because rubato is appropriate in it. Chris might say that's because I like to cheat...but I can do 3 against 4 exact. I don't think that is what Chopin is trying to teach people with this etude. I think he is trying to teach people how to play his music the way he played it. If it's contrived, it's not going to be good, but maybe if we make the attempt it will get easier for us as time goes on.

    I had this conversation with Alfie in email some time ago, and he provided some recordings of Mikuli's students to demonstrate that this 'school' of piano playing is extinct (as if to say, 'if it ever existed'). In a way, I see what he was getting at - playing with discipline and freedom at the same time is immensely difficult, and I really doubt Mikuli was any good at it. Most agree that Princess Czartoryska and some of the other talented females were most true to their master's style, along with Karl Flitsch (who unfortunately didn't last long). So why should Mikuli's students have carried on the tradition? As was demonstrated in the Chopin etudes thread on the Repertoire forum (?) pianists tend to see piano technique in this way, as a school of thought that must be passed down from teacher to student...but in practice that's probably an unproductive way of looking at it. All of us who play Chopin are students of Chopin. No one living can tell us how he played, and the accounts from the past are only useful to an extent.

    This, I disagree with, mostly because I think the pulse is often broken by this type of rubato. I think people use it often because it is by and far the easiest way to execute rubato in Chopin's music, and Chopin's music sounds awful without it (even the most mechanical of the etudes). But I also think that Chopin's music suffers from a loss of pulse, if not so much as from a lack of rubato.

    In general, this is true, but that doesn't meant that dissociative elements cannot be effective within the cohesive whole. Undoubtedly, it depends on the talent and skill of the interpreter...and that of the composer, of course.

    If the music suffers from an amateur class performance, then it's probably not best to judge the value of this type of rubato from this type of performance. By all accounts, Chopin was unparalleled in his pianism, though some criticized his amateurish approach. Notably Czerny. :lol: Later in his life, when he wished he could make a living as a concert pianist, he only half-regretted his refusal to make a machine out of himself in his youth in order to pull it off. Probably not even half.

    One thing that I do too often, and that many do too often, is the delay of the RH note when it's obviously intended to be in sync with the LH, such as on a downbeat or another strong beat. Chopin hated that, not because it's never appropriate, but because it's so easy for we, the amateurs, to overuse it. When we overuse the expressive device, it loses its meaning. I have a tendency to do this more when 1) I'm tired/distracted/stressed, or 2) I'm playing the piece faster than I should, and therefore my grip on the piece is less secure.

    In conclusion...it's easy to see why Brendel said that Chopin requires specialization more than any other composer. It's not that the technique requires specialization, exactly. The interpretation requires specialization. Brendel knew that, and he chose to give up on Chopin, probably not because he didn't get into it, but because he had the choice of 1) playing nothing but Chopin all the time, or 2) playing other stuff.
     
  9. hanysz

    hanysz Member

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    I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.
     
  10. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Terez,
    Your post above was most interesting. Regarding the learned stylistic habit of the slight dissynchrony on the down beat between hands (usually RH just after the LH), the first time I played that at my first serious teacher's house, she said "Eso es picúo" and I was immediately forbidden to ever do it again! The word is negative in connotation and "refers to cheap, sentimental and superficial substitues for true aesthetic phenomenon." <New art of Cuba By Luis Camnitzer, pg.18> I understand all of your explanation regarding rubato, but I would still be interested to hear a passage blantantly played this way. My only retort to you is that for me, Chopin's "difficult" works are difficult, not easy, but they are, however, idiomatic for the piano.
    Eddy
     
  11. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    And I did not know that the definition of "amateur" was one who had had no teacher. Having had a teacher then I by definition am a concert pianist! Ha! I never thought I would have made it; change the definition and change the result:lol:
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    :lol: Me too! :lol:

    Chopin did have many lessons from Zywny and then went to the Warsaw Conservatory to study with Elsner. Not sure what kind of 'degree' he received, and maybe he was not paid to perform when he was in his youth playing at dinner parties of the Polish aristocracy. But he certainly was a paid performer later when he was Paris (playing to packed audiences), so coupled with that and selling his compositions plus being a highly sought-after teacher, I think it's pretty far-fetched to call Chopin an amateur. If that's the case, then you might as well call Mozart an amateur too. :roll: :? :)
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Let us give a concert, you and I: you do the playing and I will turn th pages. Just remember to nod at the right moments so I do not get lost! :D
     
  14. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Now, seriously, I was reflecting the other night, 3am philosophy and I thought thus:

    Rubato is when you slacken or speed tempo here and there, making up for it later on. But if both hands do the same slackening or speeding, what need is there to compensate further on? After all, if one sets off alone to go to the station it makes no difference how fast or slow you go; it is only when you are in two. If two set out separately to go to the station and bith must arrive together and if one goes faster than the other, why, yes, he must slow down further onb, or else he will arrive earlier.

    If I may give a poor example, I submitted a recording to the site, Camellieri it was, where there is a slow waltz rhythm thoughout the piece, exepting for the last 3 or 4 bars. There is a ritardando there too, but otherwise, I felt the rhythm had to keep steady or else the piece did not hold together. Of course that mean the meledy came out square. I have the impression (I might be very wrong, of course) that I might have applied this type of rubato, always within the beat, so that not all quavers or semi- or demisemiquavers are precisely divided over the crotchets, but that some might be slighly longer than others, in a way that time is precise while the melody still sings.

    Might this be rubato to you?
     
  15. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Not really. Pulse is a subjective term. Pulse doesn't have to be broken in the presence of rubato, as music is a dynamic process that can embrace change within the same piece. Even a driving pulse needs a break from time to time to add a degree of contrast, hence different themes, etc. In proper use of rubato, it's the tempo that is interrupted, not the rhythm. In other words the music may slow down, but the elements which define rhythm remain intact - accents, meter, etc. Our sense of pulse is primarily driven by rhythm, so our perception of pulse within a piece doesn't suffer.

    Stated bluntly, but marginally true. He really didn't have the opportunity to delve deeply into the formal tools of composition. This can be seen with the use of awkward enharmonics within a given key signature. Even Józef Elsner allowed a free reign on composition during the "formal years" from 1826-29. Making up for any inadequacies, however, his understanding of form, style, musical creativity equaled or transcended his contemporaries.
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Unless it makes you miss your train :mrgreen:
     
  17. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I thought I might see (finally) what the Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd Ed) has to say on the subject:
    Definition: "An elastic, flexible tempo involving slight accelerandos and ritardandos that alternate according to the requirements of musical expression."

    Then it identifies "two types of rubato, one that affects the melody only and another that affects the whole musical texture. The first type has become well known through its use in jazz. However it was also used during the second half of the 18th century. Tosi (1723), Quantz (1752), K.P.E. Bach (1753), Leopold Mozart (1756), and D.G. Turk (1789) maintain that rubato applies only to the melody and should not affect the accompaniment. Chopin is reported to have taught this type of rubato, which may extend over several measures, after which the melodic and harmonic accents should again coincide."
    <Material on the 2nd type skipped.>

    Definition No.2: "About 1800 the term "rubato" was used to indicate modifications of dynamics rather than tempo, e.g., accents on normally weak beats, such as the second and forth in a 4/4 measure. It is possible that Chopin meant this manner of performance when he prescribed 'rubato' in his compositions, since he used the term almost exclusively in mazurkas or melodies in mazurka style (e.g.. F-Minor Concerto, last movement). The strict rhythm of the mazurka would seem to exclude modifications of tempo yet readily admits unexpected accents on the second or third beat."

    Then I took a peek at Thurston Dart's The Interpretation of Music, 1954. Melody rubato is mentioned again in reference to Chopin. Beyond that, it is evident that the concept of flexible time has been around for some time as both Caccini, in his preface (1602) to his monodies Dart writes "explains in great detail the exact ways in which rubato, dynamics and phrasing should be used in his music in order to enhance its effects;" and Frescobaldi in the Preface to his first book of Toccatas (1614) writes "Do not keep strict time throughout but, as in modern madrigals, use here a slow tempo, here a fast one, and here one that, as it were, hangs in the air, always in accordance with the expression and meaning of the words," -- plainly demonstrates that the idea has been formaly around for quite some time.
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Now, that is probably the most interesting thing I've heard in a long time and makes total sense to me regarding Chopin. Great information, Eddy!! :)


    @Richard - turning pages is not easy, either! Just look at this article I posted awhile back:

    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1262

    :lol:
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Yes, but at least both miss the train! Ifd one goes faster and reaches the station on time and the other does not... :) I have seen it happen!
     
  20. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Come to think of it, we shall need to call the concert off: I am left-handed. :)
     

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