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That 2-layered rubato thingy

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

  1. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Alfonso,
    Despite misspelling your name, I did make two good (IMHO :wink: ) arguments from analogy. I'm waiting ... :roll: But it must be close to midnight where you live.
     
  2. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    My method of doing things is the same as usual. I never claimed Mikuli was a prophet; if I recall, I said I felt bad for ditching his fingerings at one point, and you told me not to worry about it since he often ditched Chopin's fingerings. You seem to think that I shouldn't have opinions on things because you know more than I do. I can relate to that, because I have the same feeling in subjects in which I am an expert. However, I don't think that there is anything wrong with having an opinion on something even though you don't know everything there is to know about it, so long as you are open to learning more and changing opinions when facts suggest you should. If we all had to learn everything there is to know before having an opinion, then we couldn't have opinions at all - and that goes for you as well.
     
  3. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    In a way I can see why you used that example. I think he still mostly uses hands-together rubato, though I can see some element of the 'steady accompaniment' rubato in the bars you indicated. His LH still gets a little off-kilter, though, don't you think? However...I found what appears to be a piano roll of Saint-Saëns doing some Chopin - the 15/2 nocturne (they even include the quote :lol:). Is that real? I'm guessing it is, since the style seems much the same. I don't understand the technology, so I'm not sure what the differences are between a roll and a recording. I've heard some rolls that were really horrible, but this one sounds like a good recording. He does keep tempo through most of it, though there are some exceptions. Overall I think he does well with not abusing rubato - particularly in the flourishes that accompany the return of A, which are often slowed down shamelessly - though IMO he doesn't display much independence of the hands.

    To find an example for Joe, I started with the nocturne that began this whole conversation - the 48/2 nocturne in F# minor. I wanted to see if I could find anyone who kept time with the LH when the ornamental flourish shows up in m. 41.

    [​IMG]

    This type of situation is where this type of rubato is most useful in my opinion. Perhaps especially for this piece (which is, perhaps not surprisingly, a bit of a polyrhythm exercise in itself). It's one of the most basic rules of composing that you should have rhythmic motion toward the end of the measure to keep the line from lulling, and Chopin took a (probably very deliberate) risk in writing the LH of this nocturne with no action on every second beat of the bass. Because of that, IMO the piece calls for a driving direction at times to keep it interesting, and the typical performance of m. 41 just adds an extra lull right as the passion is supposed to be building.

    Rubenstein - He seems to try, but doesn't quite manage it.
    Gülsin Onay - Nope, though she does achieve the independence of the hands sometimes. She overuses the hands-together rubato IMO, which makes her performance seem a bit drunken, but she at least shows herself quite capable of the 'two-layered' thing. The hands-together rubato just distorts the effect so much that it's not quite an example of what I had in mind.
    Pollini - Nope. (Anyone surprised?)
    Lívia Rév - Not bad! I think she almost manages it mostly because she played the ornament so fast, though (both times), not because she used rubato, so it's not a very good example of what I had in mind. It also doesn't come off as being very fluid - not the sort of relaxed indifference to the accompaniment that I imagine.
    Arrau - Nope. Didn't even try.
    Biret - Nope. She also seems to have some independence of the hands, but also abuses (IMO) hands-together rubato a little bit, and also abuses the concept of independence of the hands (I noticed this in her Chopin nocturnes before - IIRC it was worse in the E minor posthumous).
    Ekier - Tries, like a good Pole, and almost succeeds. But not quite.
    Iddo Bar Shai - Nope. What's funny, in the rest of his performance, you can see him trying to do the independence of the hands thing, and failing badly. I think this is probably a good example of how not to do it. He gets a little closer to keeping time through the ornament the second time...in general he does better in the return of A than in the first A-A.

    I didn't dig too far into amateurland, but I might do that later. You never know; there might be an amateur with a knack for this, though even then there will probably be other difficulties.

    Anyway, despite all these failures, I can still hear it in my head clear as day. The LH keeps trucking on, maybe even pushing a little, and the RH just goes with the flow, being essentially caught up by the beginning of the next measure, but still broad against the LH until the beginning of the next. I don't think it's impossible - I tried it with the metronome today, and while I didn't succeed on the first tr(ies), that won't stop me from trying again. (I bet Alfie could do it; it's just a matter of whether or not he would be inclined to try.) I've never really worked on this nocturne because I think that while it's easy on the surface - hence why I played through it occasionally when I was younger - the difficulties of it are subtle. Some think it's one of the weaker nocturnes from a compositional standpoint. I believe Chopin knew that when he published it; the weaknesses in it are the difficulties of it, and if one overcomes those difficulties it can be quite a beautiful piece.

    [opinion=highly speculative]Aside from that, I think the nocturnes were always reflective of his romantic thoughts at the time of composition, whether they are actual romantic situations or just fantasies. This one seems to be George's nocturne - perhaps not her only one, but the one most reflective of their relationship from Chopin's perspective.[/opinion]
     
  4. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Terez,
    I'm not sure what your example is supposed to be demonstrating as far as argument goes. It seems that you have selected a passage exactly like I mention in the 3rd post of this thread; i.e., a Chopin passage that has irregular groupings in the melody and a patterned accompaniment.
     
  5. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    That hardly anyone can keep time through that passage, and that they might be able to do it if they had this skill of independence of the hands. In other words, I doubt that every pianist linked is incapable of doing it. I just think the skill isn't cultivated, because it's counterintuitive to most people, and therefore it's easier just to pretend like Chopin's students had no idea what they were talking about. :wink: As Eigeldinger said (quoted again from my longpost):

    This ornament from the 48/2 nocturne is very much in the style of an improvised ornamental flourish, as are many similar ornaments in Chopin's music (generally found in a repetition of a theme, somewhat after the baroque style).
     
  6. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    IMO, the best examples of this type of rubato are found in the modern pop diva performances, often deriving from melodies that are highly syncopated to begin with. I think this is probably the closest thing we have to the baroque opera diva, though the ornamentation style is entirely different. We don't get into it much because unfortunately the quality of the music is often lacking. There are some really fine singers out there being wasted. For an example of such, with a somewhat old-fashioned setting:

    Beyoncé at Obama's inaugural ball

    Poor Beyoncé...her musical expression is so limited by that steady accompaniment! :roll: :lol: Shouldn't they have followed her?? (Now that would have been chaos!) If you'll note...they didn't even miss a beat during her short cadenza-like thing. (Not a whole beat anyway.)

    If we can conceive of it, we can do it too.
     
  7. hanysz

    hanysz Member

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    Thanks to Terez for that monumental exhibition of typing!
    Eddy, it seems that you are trying to win an argument here, rather than learn something. I already gave you an example (especially the passage starting at 0:30) and you said you couldn't tell what was going on. (Naturally it isn't going to be easy to hear: if it were too obvious, it would sound tasteless.) If you tell yourself enough times that something doesn't exist, then of course you won't perceive it.
     
  8. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I agree with the first part, but not necessarily that it's tasteless if it's too obvious. I think it's tasteless when it's tasteless. Beyoncé's liberties with the melody are very obvious. But are they tasteless? Perhaps they would be in Chopin's music because it's a different ballgame; he wrote the music so that it's appropriate to use it sometimes, sometimes not. But at the same time, the bel canto style in Chopin's music seems to always suggest this style to varying degrees over the course of the line. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's passionate speech, and the music calls for varying degrees of passion. Lenz says that Chopin often criticized him for being over-declamatory, though. Worth noting is that Lenz was, above all, an admirer of Liszt.

    Edit - With a quick search on YouTube, I found at least a few performances of the same song Beyoncé sang that venture into the 'tasteless'.

    Christina Aguilera
    Christina Aguilera 2

    Both Christina and Beyoncé are 'obvious' with their melodic manipulations. Why is it that I find Beyoncé's performance incredibly tasteful, and Christina's tasteless? Christina does leave the melody a little further behind, indulging more often in ornamentation, and I think that has something to do with it, but it's not quite everything.

    The Etta James original is not bad, but I think not as good as Beyoncé. Some of the related videos will take you to some live performances by James in her later years, and they definitely venture into the tasteless.

    In other words, if one were to hear Christina Aguilera singing this song, one might find this singing style to be unmusical, but I think it's rather more difficult to come to that conclusion after listening to Beyoncé. Some have a knack for it, some don't, and there is all kinds of in between.
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    @Terez. I am not trying to be argumentative, but I do feel that you and I are speaking beside one another. I don't see how an ensemble performance applies to this discussion. Any group of musicians can play with one improvising (Beyonce singing, e.g.). What does that prove? As mentioned many times before, this is very common in jazz; but once again this is not the subject. The subject I introduced in this thread was about the famed (or infamous) rubato that Chopin (a single player with a single mind) could reportedly produce, where a composed and rhythmically pre-defined melody (no matter what it's features or complexity) was in some manner adjusted in performance so that it did not have the same rhythmic allignment with the accompaniment as defined in the score. Chris, Joe and David (perhaps others) seem to appreciate this issue, but by showing me a sample of a score to discuss this subject, suggests that you are not getting the issue. It's just not the proper category of argument (I mean friendly argument here). In the passage that you show, all of the fioritura notes could be played within the given time (2nd half of 1st beat) so that the "fixed" 8th notes of the melody occured in proper relation to the accompaniment, whether with or without a ritardando. But this is not the subject.

    @Alfonso. The rhythmic complexity of music does not speak to me (maybe others too) with regard to the independent tempo of a pianists hands such that a shift occurs when compared to the written score. This is about interpretation in performance, not composition.

    @Alexander. As I said to you before, I really do respect what you have to say. I must admit that I am not in a pursuit to acquire some new ability that I never had before in seeking to be able to play with independent tempos in each hand, however momentarily it might be. I'm just a Doubting Thomas asking for the same evidence that the other Apostles had: I'll believe it when I [hear] it. Like others here, I have heard many great pianists and have even been trained by several too, so why was this not a part of my experience? Why is there no recorded works of Chopin by someone that we can que-up and listen to a pianist do this? (Certainly a free spirit like Lang Lang perhaps, would do this, no? Can anyone recall a spot?) I maintain that if this was some modification that in art music (Romantic for now) was so minute that a highly-trained individual might not appreciate it, then it would never have served as sufficient to gain a reputation and identity, and this is nothing more than a "Tempest in a Tea Cup." Again, what I find to be obvious, is the manner in which Chopin composes irregular groupings against patterend accompaniment, and believe that this effect might be heard as the suggested rubato, but of course it is nothing of the sort.

    My impulse in the beginning, and even now still, is to discuss a fascinating and controversial idea of music. Of course I would love to win an argument, but I would rather participate in a lively exchange of ideas with some great people here. I have enjoyed this but I'm ready and willing to happily move on if anyone thinks it is becoming toxic or that we've covered it sufficiently (even exhaustively) already. :) I think I have some Hoffman playing Chopin. I wonder if he does it?
     
  10. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Many things, having to do with many assertions you have made. It proves that this type of rubato is not tasteless or unmusical, as you asserted here. (And it has already been demonstrated that this type of rubato is not limited to 'one composer', though Chopin indeed made it famous among pianists.) It actually perfectly fits the description the rubato described by Tosi, Mozart, and Chopin's students, though we all know the style is different. The concept of stolen time is, however, the same. It proves that a singer is not necessarily limited in her musical expression by an accompanist who keeps time, which was your assertion in the opening post of this thread. It proves that there is nothing inherently 'disjointed' or 'amateurish' about a melody that goes against the grain of the accompaniment.

    And yet, as your 'proofs' that Chopin could not have possibly played this way (despite multiple accounts agreeing that he did in fact play this way) have been your opinions that this type of rubato is necessarily unmusical, and your assertion that no pianist can do it. I agree it's more difficult for a pianist to do it, and I understand that many pianists such as yourself (conveniently) write it off as impossible for this reason. That's why I brought it up in the first place in Rich's thread; I wonder if pianists even consider trying to develop the technique. If Chopin could do it, then chances are we can too. Just because it was easy for him doesn't mean we shouldn't try because it's difficult for us. It certainly doesn't stop us from spending months working on his pieces that he could likely play without much practice at all.

    Oh, but it is. :wink:

    I have addressed this question multiple times. Your continued stubbornness on the subject is yet another example of why the technique isn't cultivated. It's easier to pretend that it's not possible - or worse, that it's unmusical.
     
  11. hanysz

    hanysz Member

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    Okay, so the example I've provided so far is rather subtle. I'm not willing to spend hours trawling through recordings trying to judge which examples might be clearer, just to demonstrate something I already feel sure of. I do remember Kissin using this sort of rubato quite obviously in a live performance of Chopin mazurkas in the mid 1990s. I don't know whether he still plays this way; I haven't listened to him for some time (although I noticed his rubato, there were other aspects of his playing that didn't appeal to me). But it might be worth checking. I've been told that Ashkenazy (another pianist I admire but don't warm to) plays this way in certain Chopin nocturnes. You might also find examples of this rubato in performances of Mozart slow movements, especially in older recordings.

    I'm not commenting on whether it's right to play this way, and certainly it's not something you hear at all often, but you'll notice it from time to time if you're looking out for it.

    Ensemble performance applies to this discussion because it provides motivation. Pianists want (or wanted, before it became so unfashionable) to play this way in imitation of singers who did it so beautifully. And besides, you did earlier raise the question of whether an accompanist (pianist or orchestra) who "fails" to follow the singer is doing a bad job.
     
  12. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    On further thought, I think that Aguilera is just as skilled in terms of pure virtuosity as Beyoncé, and perhaps more so (her cadenzas are certainly more flamboyant), but I think part of her problem is just that she tries too hard. This is certainly possible with the Chopin rubato as well, and it calls to mind what I said earlier about Iddo Bar Shai, and Gülsin Onay. It may be that Lenz ventured into this territory, thus bringing upon himself Chopin's frustration. All accounts agree that Chopin was a discrete and moderate player as opposed to the flamboyance of Lenz's true hero Liszt. Chopin often ornamented his own compositions in performance and sometimes even encouraged his students to do so, but the story goes that Chopin was not happy when Liszt attempted to do this. To Liszt's credit, he seems to have recognized in a friendly professional way the differences between his rubato and Chopin's (as detailed in the longpost concerning his master classes), but I suspect that on that occasion he probably tried to elaborate on Chopin's music in his own style, and that the results were not all that tasteful (in Chopin's opinion, that is).

    In defense of Eddy (and Joe, and Chris, and Saint-Saëns for that matter), [opinion=just idle speculation]...there may be something in the fact that women typically relate more to this rhythmic independence, as is evidenced by the fact that most believed his best female students were the truest to his tradition (with the exception of Karl Filtsch). Either the females, or the Poles. Maybe there's nothing in that, and maybe there is something in it. Many have speculated on possible significance in the fact that the jazz tradition, with its two-layered rubato and its reverence of improvisation, came from the Freedmen and their descendants in the US, and became passé over the course of the civil rights movement. Maybe repression makes one thirst for freedom a little bit more than the average guy. :wink:[/opinion]
     
  13. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Ok, as I seem to be at loggerheads with you Terez :) , meaning that I can't convince you of the terms of evidence that I need and you can't convince me that what you present is sufficient evidence, I think I will let this go now. I can't explain myself more clearly; I have really carefully tried to limit the discussion to the kernle of the issue: a 2-layered (composed melody appart from composed accompaniment) tempo disturbance (rubato) performed by a single pianist. Almost every evidence raised to support this questionable musical performing feature (BTW if you see the post you directed me to you'll see I never said "tasteless", only "unmusical") has been academic. You fail to recognize that I myself provided excellent historic reference early on to the notion that you support. Only Alexander tried to provide what I need - a recording of a pianist performing it - however I failed to appreciate it. If anyone could direct me to chapter and verse of a recording (a link would also be fabulous, OK necessary) where I can follow with my score and appreciate the dissociation between what I see and what I hear, I would really appreciate it!

    Now, my audio engineer has arrived and I'm going to FINALLY get to trying to record something for you. :D
     
  14. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    In more complex polyrhythms one cannot rely on counting. One must concentrate on each hand separately and listen to it so that it is smooth but this must happen when both hands are playing together. How many people out there can do it?
     
  15. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    One conclusion is that we must be familiar with Polish music to play Chopin. Could it be it that to understand him better we need to listen to Szymanowski, Gorecki and Penderecki than to Schumann and Mendelssohn? To a musical world where two traditions prevailed, the German and the French, the Polish one must have been difficult to grasp. I now wonder, is my dislike of Chopin related not to his music, but by the way he is misplayed, as if he were no Pole, but a German? How would Rachmaninoff sound if we were to pay him as if he were Richard Strauss? How does Handel sound when played as if he were Bach?
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Can a fact not exist even if we cannot explain it? If there is no logical explaination to it something cannot exist?
     
  17. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I had said as much already. To it it seems perfectly logical and possible.
     
  18. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    But you forget Bach was a teacher and many of his works were written to demonstrate a point. If he wanted to demonstrate how to achieve rubato (an Italian singing style, as he would have called it) he would need to write an example out, would he not?
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Do I get you, Eddy? If a composer writes it out it cannot be rubato, but rubato is only when the performer does it? strange thatif the results being the same, a technique changes name accordingly if it the composer or the perfomer who applies it.
     
  20. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Only a tasteless ignoramus would play that Mozart with rubato and only a boor would play triplets in Beethoven and call it rubato, but that is not because it might not by a strech of the imagination be rubato, but because rubato is uncalled for in Beethoven.
     

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