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That 2-layered rubato thingy

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

  1. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Again, I'm not so sure that there is such a thing. We can only read what his students and contemporaries said about his playing, take the historical meaning of the term into consideration (which Eigeldinger has done quite well for us, I think), and make our own decisions. The same goes for any aspect of HIP where there is no audio documentation of the original source...and even when there is, such as in the cases of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich (whom we have discussed before, if I recall), we might choose another path. IMO, it's good to be informed regardless, which is what all that typing was for.
     
  2. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    This is a good quantity of reading matter; thank you for your trouble! I shall digest it, but I already have seen things I had arrived at already.
     
  3. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ha, that's always been my point. You're echoing some observations I've made myself in the past! Nevertheless, I believe that Saint-Saens's playing cannot be far from Chopin's. Too bad he didn't record anything by our Freddie.
     
  4. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Am I? It's possible. I dug out the emails I had in mind, and what you said there (if you'll forgive me for quoting such a small innocuous bit) is 'I don't know if one should play Chopin in strict or loose tempo (ie: in an agogically more or less free way), and I believe nobody really knows.' I think we know, or at least that we know enough - we just don't necessarily have an accurate model for that type of performance in Mikuli's students (nor would we necessarily have an accurate model in Mikuli himself). To say that we don't know is IMO to take it one step too far; we do know something about it.

    You might be right. I don't believe I've ever heard him play; I'll have to find some recordings.
     
  5. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I listened to some Saint-Saëns recordings. He seems to favor toccata-like tempo fluctuations in his own music, sometimes at a schizophrenic pace, which is definitely not the type of rubato he described IMO (for example, Rhapsodie d'Auvergne). It's not that he can't keep a strict tempo - he does so for the most part in the Marche Francais, with the exception of a couple of sectional tempo changes and a few affective fluctuations. His hands always seem to move together.

    It may be that Viardot imparted the 'secret' to him by having him accompany her. He kept the time, and she demonstrated the rubato. I think it's a little easier to pull off in this context because the singer doesn't have to execute the accompaniment - only keep up with it. It's worth mentioning that Viardot arranged some of Chopin's mazurkas for voice, and that he approved of them by all appearances.
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think the whole idea of this type of rubato pertains to, and originates from, singing. Chopin's loved Italian bel canto above all, and he just wanted to emulate it on the piano. Whether it was more wishful thinking than reality, I guess we'll never know. Even with half a ton of quotes we're nowhere nearer a definitive answer. For sure, what would feel natural to any singer (they all do it, from crooners to pop singers) requires almost
    superhuman effort from a single player.
     
  7. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I think we can definitely say it was reality for Chopin, if not for everyone or even most of us. The reason I say this is the matter of the vehemence on the part of Chopin's pupils and contemporaries in decrying misguided and even vulgar attempts to recreate what Chopin did effortlessly. The only prominent individuals who seem to disagree are Berlioz and perhaps Meyerbeer (Mendelssohn seems a bit wishy-washy to me on the subject) - it's not clear how much distinction should be drawn between the rhythmic irregularities in the mazurkas and the concept of 'stolen time', so it's difficult to say whether Meyerbeer had similar feelings about Chopin's playing in other contexts. Berlioz is easy to understand, mostly because he was primarily an orchestrator, and a conductor. In that context, only the soloist can have any freedom, and individual deviations from the tempo are usually associated with inferior ensembles. Aside from that, Berlioz seems to have been fonder of Chopin in the early days, perhaps before he became aware that Chopin wasn't very fond of him.

    I don't think it's necessarily superhuman, any more than being able to memorize music is superhuman. Some people will have a knack for it, and some won't. Like I said (and like Eigeldinger said), it's probably no coincidence that Chopin chose to be represented in the Fétis/Moscheles method by polyrhythmic etudes. Moscheles probably asked Chopin for something that would help players achieve the necessary independence of the hands, or perhaps it was something simply understood between them after their meeting and performance for the royals together (which Moscheles described in some detail - the above quote is an excerpt from that). Obsessing over where exactly each note falls between the other in polyrhythmic etudes will not achieve that independence of the hands, especially when rubato - passionate declamation - is required to make it convincing. Neither will unsteady renderings of either rhythmic figure be convincing. Yes, it's difficult, but whether or not we can execute it, we can conceive of it, and perhaps aspire to it if we are so inclined.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't think this has anything to do with polyrhythm. I believe polyrhythm is basically quite easy to learn for everyone.
    But the kind of natural freedom between the hands (and maybe brain halfs ?) required for the 'Chopin rubato' seems to
    be given to very few. I don't even hear that in jazz pianists.
     
  9. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    In the way that I described, by parsing it, it is. But there are two ways of approaching polyrhythm, and the other has very much to do with independence of the hands.

    I think this is at least partly because the technique isn't cultivated. I think some can do it naturally, but more could do it with practice (which again should probably be focused on things like polyrhythmic etudes and playing rubato with a metronome).
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't believe this is a 'technique', and if you have to learn it by painstaking practicing, it is probably not meant for you, and might sound terribly contrived. I feel that such a thing should come natural or not at all. Chopin obviously had this knack, I doubt if he had ever 'learnt' it.

    Anyway that is just my thought. I'm not a Chopin buff but wanted to throw in my one little cent as well :D
     
  11. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I understand what you mean, but I think you take it too far. I think anyone who can conceive of it can learn it by learning independence of the hands. As you agreed, it's easier to pull off with a vocalist and piano accompaniment. If we can conceive of this independence of the melody, then we can probably play it, and the only thing standing between us and the execution of it is independence of the hands in the context of an inexorable pulse. Some few can do this naturally. Probably many more can do it with practice - it's not learning the art of expression (which is innate) but rather learning independence of the hands. Some probably can't do it at all, either because they lack expressive talent or because they can't achieve this independence.
     
  12. pianolady

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

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    Wow, Terez, that's a lot of great information! I probably have most of those books too, but it's been a long time since I've cracked one open, so it's nice to have a refresher course. Thank you for posting!
     
  13. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    No problem. I have a lot of books that don't get cracked enough as well, and this was a refresher for me also, especially since I hadn't really dug into the footnotes beyond skimming a few of them.
     
  14. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well if this type of "Chopin rubato" exists, I certainly have yet to hear (notice?) it once, even in the many hundreds to thousands of Chopin recordings I've heard over the years, including in Cortot, IMHO the very best Chopin player in recorded history, whom many would agree had a very natural rubato. Yet whenever he applies it to the right hand, the left follows suit. I just don't see how it logically can be otherwise; things that are out of sync (melody to harmony) sound terrible. As someone mentioned earlier, I would question whether it's simply that Chopin gave the illusion that that's what he was doing, simply because he applied rubato so skillfully (and his right hand was so singing), and then his students badly interpreted it. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that false information was propagated and became "common knowledge."
     
  15. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I will have to listen to some recordings to find examples of it later on (it's nearing bedtime for me, so I just don't feel like it at the moment). I agree the skill is a rarity, but I believe some people pull it off from time to time. And while it's true that sometimes stories are just urban legends, I don't think that's the case with Chopin because nearly every musician in his company agreed in their descriptions of his playing, and that he possessed a singular ability for this style of playing (though he apparently had some success with some of his students in cultivating the technique). I tend to think that it's a little too easy to dismiss these accounts as being inaccurate, or exaggerated, because the concept and execution of the technique is not easy to grasp, but the idea that this legendary and even definitive aspect of his playing was imagined or exaggerated stretches credulity IMO. Also, the words apparently came from his own mouth (according to many students), so the idea that his students interpreted his playing badly doesn't make any sense, either. (And add that to Mozart's description of the same exact thing, not to mention countless others through the 17th and 18th centuries, aside from the 19th).
     
  16. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I was referring to the obligation to get informed first and the right later to make our own decisions. Too often people don't bother to get properly informed since they already have a belief. I'm talking for instance about the endless debates about the need to get reliable editions as a starting point to speak of a composition.
     
  17. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Reliable editions are good, though making them seems to be problematic. That's part of why I got Eigeldinger, since he has most of the info on which these editions are based in his book. I also need to get Kallberg's dissertation on edition differences, but I've read a lot of what he's written on that subject. However, I don't think editions have much to do with this particular subject, aside from the fact that Mikuli's comments are taken from the preface to his edition. Eigeldinger's analysis of the usage of the term 'rubato' in the scores is more helpful than anything I've seen in urtext editions. Also, as Liszt said, Chopin stopped using the term in his music because he realized that the talented musician would sense this need for irregularity in his music. So there's something to be said for instinct in this case.
     
  18. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    :?: :?: :?:

    Out of sync in music is more the rule than the exception. I mean just the writing, the composition, not the performance of it.
    It'd bore us to death otherwise. Really, rethink it a bit.
     
  19. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, of course editions don't help discovering Chopin's rubato, how could they, but you keep evading my point that is about your method of doing things, which has changed considerably in time. A couple of years ago Mikuli was sort of a prophet, now he's just a witness of his times, and your sources are a tad more updated. :wink:
     
  20. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Not sure what you mean here, or at least it seems contradictory to me. I'm only talking about performance, not composition or writing, and I only mean that when, e.g., an A-flat in the right hand is written against, e.g., an undulating nocturne bass and that A-flat goes with a D-flat in the bass it should be compressed along with that D-flat (unless of course there's hand breaking, there are different views on that), regardless of what rubato is being applied. That is, the hands apply rubato together, not asynchronously.
     

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