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When the same note appears in both hands!!

Discussion in 'Technique' started by Radar, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. Radar

    Radar New Member

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    I've been working on Bach's WTC which it is quite obviously written for instruments like Organ or Harpsichord that have two manuals. This is apparent because the same note often appears in both hands at the same time. I normally try to discern which hand makes sense to use to play the note by what is easiest to maintain the predominant molodic line, but many times it is hard to discern. Are there any hard and fast rules about selecting which hand to play a note like this that appears in more than one hand at the same time?

    Thanks in advance, also I'm sorry I haven't been on here in a while, I've had limited practice time available lately and I'm trying to make the most of it, by not spending a lot of time on-line reading about playing instead.

    Ray
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Hi Ray. THe answer is there are no 'hard and fast' rules. In fact, many pianists (except those that come from certain narrow views on the meaning of the score, like Arrau) will often reassign certain parts to approach the work more successfully (even pianistically). Your approach makes excellent sense so follow it and enjoy!
     
  3. Radar

    Radar New Member

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    Thanks Eddy, just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something.

    Ray
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think that does not automatically imply that the music was conceived for two manuals (as is obvious in the of the Goldberg variations) but merely that two voices overlap or cross each other. Which hand plays such a note (or even both, why not) is quite academic, provided the voice lines are not disturbed. In polyphonic music you'll often let the hands help each other out by taking a note that is a bit awkward for the other hand. I find that I'm starting to do that in lots of other pieces too. It's a practical and accepted thing to do (so I was told by my former Moscow-trained teacher).
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    That is what I do. After all, if you do it propely no one in the audiece will notice and you will feel more confident. I learnt that clarity and delivering the music is the aim, not follow what is on the score, which, more often than not, has been tampered with by an editor or revisor.

    Schumann is a great one for having the same note at the same time on both hands and I am not aware he had a piano with a double keyboard.
     
  6. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Once I got in to quite an argument with an esteemed, internationally recognized concert-pianist about whether it was allowable or not to uncross the crossed thumbs at the beginning of Schumann's G Minor sonata (As I remember it, it is scored left thumb playing D above middle-C, and right thumb playing Bb below middle-C). He thought if it didn't "make a difference" Schumann whould not have written it that way. Stupid! This is what I meant earlier by the conservative (un-imaginative) -type pianists. There are several veins of arguments that easily dispute this view.
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Always provided this pianist in question knew how Schumann played what he wrote the way he wrote it and that he is using an urtext edition to boot!

    Schumann's way of writing is, if you ask me, a recipe for disaster. I simply cannot play the Scenes from Childhood "as written": the fingers get tangled. Redistributing solves the problem and I bet a Schumann score that no one notices the difference.
     
  8. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    This sort of thing can be tricky. I've seen people get unreasonably angry about such issues.

    There are a few points to bear in mind.

    1. In live performance, your gestures are visible to the audience. For a concert, things do need to look right as well as sound right. The clearest example I can think of is the opening of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata. You'll remember that it starts with a low bass note followed by a chord two octaves higher, both to be played by the left hand. To see a pianist perform this rapid jump is exciting! Of course you could play the chord with the right hand instead, and it would be safer, but it wouldn't look so good. Likewise at the start of Liszt's Dante sonata, the left hand octaves could be played with two hands, but it wouldn't seem nearly so dramatic in live performance.

    2. Distributing the notes differently between the hands will sometimes make it easier to achieve a particular voicing. Of course the ideal pianist will be able to achieve any voicing with any fingering. But there's no harm in making things more comfortable sometimes. When the hands are interlocking (as so often happens in Schumann) it may be a clue that the composer was more interested in the inner voices--that you should be aiming for a warmer sound, rather than just projecting the "melody" note.

    (In the Schumann G minor sonata, the crossed thumbs position means that the B flat will naturally sound a bit louder than it otherwise would. It also has the nice side effect of putting the left hand in the correct position for the following bar. And the jump is the same sort of gesture as at the start of the Hammerklavier, albeit on a much smaller scale.)

    3. Sometimes composers do illogical or unnecessary things just because it feels good! A cute example is Bach's prelude in B flat from book 2 of the WTC. There are plenty of passages where one hand jumps over the other. Typically the left hand will jump over the right twice, then right over left twice. He could have just had the left hand jump over every time, and it would have sounded just the same and perhaps been a little easier to play, but I guess it pleased him to make it more symmetrical.

    On the whole I tend to take a pragmatic approach. It's good to speculate about why the composer might have written it that particular way--great composers usually have reasons for their decisions, they are rarely careless about these things. So you want to have a clear idea of what effect you're trying to achieve. But then it's up to each pianist to find their own way of achieving that effect. And if rearranging the notes gives a better result for your hand shape, there's no harm in it.

    (The argument "if it didn't make a difference Schumann whould not have written it that way" on its own doesn't wash with me. You need to know why it makes a difference, otherwise the whole exercise is meaningless.)
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    I would say not just the "ideal" pianist, but rather any and all pianists that have been thouroughly trained. In fact, much of the training literature and exercises are aimed precisely at that goal. As far as redistributing, let me give a simple example that is "under finger" right now. Look at the first page of the Beethoven Op.57 (Appassionata) first movement. Look at the RH figure in measures 7, 9, and 11. Note that the right hand has a single-note melody. Then look at measure 21 and note that on the third pulse (in 12/8) the RH also plays the top of the accompanying harmony (at least in the G. Henle Urtext edition). Who in there right mind would declare that measure 21 is supposed to sound different (voicing-wise) than the earlier measures. I certainly hope no one. Therefore, why can't the lower RH note at that spot be played with the LH as Beethoven wrote it repeatedly before? There is no reason why it can't be played such and that's the way I play it. I do the same at m.71, 73, and 76.

    Or another simple example would be found on the last page of the 3rd Chopin Scherzo. The 4 bars that begin at 21 measures before the end (m.629) have a descending C# minor arpeggio with added d#. Many pianists play these four bars with only the RH ("That's the way Chopin wrote it, isn't it?"). I play four notes of it with my LH starting in the second measure of it on the 5th 8th-note (d#), and including the first two notes of the next bar. What?! You may exclaim. To which I retort, have you not seen Martha Argarich play it on YouTube? She changes hands every octave! Who's to say that she doesn't render an authoratative performance? This reveals another line of argument: The Argument of the Pianist. Despite individual beliefs and manners, the class of pianists as a whole, proves that this kind of liberty is not only allowed, but common. Another would be the Argument of the Publisher/Editor: You will find such kinds of differences if you compare (for Chopin) Cortot, Mikuli, Paderewski, etc.
     
  10. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    Thanks for those two interesting examples.

    With the Beethoven it looks to me as though either the composer or an editor has been a little careless (or else I'm misunderstanding something). It's not bar 21 but bar 9 that's the exception! If you look at bar 7 you'll see that the LH plays three chords of three notes each, and that the top voice of those chords goes down then up a semitone. Bar 11 similarly but it's the lower voice that's moving by step. And a similar pattern for bar 21 and for the later examples. But bar 9 is mysteriously different. I can't explain it ;-) Personally I would want to hear the "alto 1" voice as G-A flat-G here (and to be very pedantic I'd like to see the first RH C double-stemmed, so that we can imagine "soprano 2" playing C-B natural-C). So I'd be inclined to play bars 7,11 and 21 as written and change bar 9 to match bar 21.

    Perhaps bar 9 is written that way because Beethoven wanted the trill to start on the note below (as indicated by the grace note), while the trill in bar 21 starts from above. Look at bars 69ff. In 69 the trill is from below and the LH has three voices. In 71 and 73 the trill is from above and the LH has two voices. But why are the trills not all the same?

    (I checked a few different editions on IMSLP and they all agree with the Henle.)

    In the Chopin I play that passage with one hand because I think it's more fun that way! (and whether you use two hands or just one, it's still easier than what precedes it). But I don't mind if other people do it differently ;-)
     
  11. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    At present I am working on a Glinka Nocturne, where there are some very widely-spaced chords (ab-e-c for example) on the f clef and which are impossible to play with the left hand alone unless you play an arpeggio. Now, if you take the top note with the right hand it the whole passage can sound as written, though it not not being played as written.
     
  12. StephenC

    StephenC New Member

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    Felt the same way there Ray. I was confused on which hand should I use if a note appears in both hands. I am one of the pianist that Eddy describes that I see the need to reassign certain things that will allow me to play any piece comfortably.
     
  13. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi StephenC,

    You may not have noticed that the last posting here was from Feb. 2011, not 2012. I didn't quite notice that either at first. But that's okay, I'll chime in too....

    I think people are making more of this than they need to: I like when I see that a same note appears in both hands because it's so easy - you just play that note with one hand - the one that's easiest. Don't worry about the the other hand trying to hit it too, the sound will be no different. Simple Simon! :)
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I suppose reviving old threads is one way to try and keep this forum alive.....
    Although in many cases, like here, the original posters have long since gone, and replying to them may be a little pointless because of that.
     
  15. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Especially for an organist! :wink:
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I did not write that !
    Then again my nickname is not technut :p
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I said it! And I'm not an organist. :lol:
     

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