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#1261498 - 09/03/09 01:50 AM Schumann Toccata Op. 7
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
It seems there hasn't been a thread specifically about this piece since 2003. I'm in the earliest stages of learning it—and admittedly wondering if I've bit off more than I can chew, based not on my initial experiences but rather the Toccata's fearsome reputation. What exactly does that rest on?

I take for granted that I won't be trying to bring it to the speed of professional performances. The fastest ones, in my opinion, display technical bravura at the expense of musical expressiveness, and a tempo of Allegro affords the requisite latitude for what I believe will be a reasonable and attainable goal.

That said, I'm having trouble understanding just what is considered so difficult as to warrant such extreme opinions about the Toccata and its rarefied standing in the repertoire. It's obvious that a functional and comfortable span of a tenth and fluency with double-note and octave passages are essential, but what else am I failing to see?

Any comments about technique by those who've worked on the Toccata, and about its musical qualities by anyone familiar with it, would be most appreciated!

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1261507 - 09/03/09 02:32 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
akonow Offline
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Registered: 03/07/08
Posts: 589
Loc: Los Angeles
It's probably all Cziffra's fault...



P.S. You're a brave soul for even trying it at Allegro! wink


Edited by akonow (09/03/09 02:33 AM)
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Bach - WTC I in C major & C minor (BWV 846-847)
Mozart - Sonata K 282
Chopin - Polonaises Op 26
Schumann - Fantasiestücke Op 12

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#1261514 - 09/03/09 02:39 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: akonow]
beginningpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/08
Posts: 98
Or barere's.

Very uncomfortable fingerings.

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#1261533 - 09/03/09 03:24 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: beginningpianist]
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20741
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The smoothest version is Lhevinne's. It is not the fastest, but he exhibits such control over the piece that one is overwhelmed by his mastery.

I looked at Harold Bauer's edition once, and I think it is worth looking up. He redistributes the notes to untangle the knots.
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#1261802 - 09/03/09 01:13 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: BDB]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4491
Loc: in the past
I wouldn't listen to recordings of pieces if I'm in the process of learning them >.< But that's just me.

I've heard it's a bitch to play because your hand just gets so tired so fast.. So if you're tense at all and not practicing right, you'll start hurting in no time.

Man, I'm never touching that piece!
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#1261830 - 09/03/09 01:50 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: Pogorelich.]
Horowitzian Offline
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#1261861 - 09/03/09 02:32 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: Horowitzian]
8ude Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
I've only read through it a couple times, but apart from the obvious technical difficulties already mentioned, such as octave passages, double-note passages, and above all, stamina, I think there are a lot of difficulties musically to pull it off. Some of these are:
- maintaining a clear leggiero so nothing sounds muddy,
- making each musical line stand out, especially in the fugato section in the middle
- maintaining tempo
- giving the piece shape/character so it doesn't sound simply like a double-note etude

Taken at a reasonable tempo, I hardly think the piece is impossible, but be ready for a challenge.
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What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#1262171 - 09/04/09 01:16 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7422
There are a bunch of spots that are tough for me personally, but the passage where I think I've heard the most pianists in general come to grief is the one with a series of fortissimo/staccato and pianissimo/legato alternations, approximately three-quarters of the way through the piece (not counting the repeat). The left-hand octave leaps in that section especially - they seem to be really hard to nail for a lot of pianists that I've heard play it.

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#1262187 - 09/04/09 02:52 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: wr]
carey Offline
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Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6031
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Ditto to the observations by WR and 8ude.

I started to work on the Toccata a few months ago - and was surprised how easy it initially appeared to be - once I got past the thirds on the second page. I worked out the fingering and was getting fairly good at playing hands separately with the score. Then I was able to play different sections of the piece at a moderate tempo hands together. Soon after that, however, reality kicked in. I realized what I was up against both musically and technically. From a technical standpoint, the abrupt transitions between sections were clearly going to be a challenge if the tempo was to be maintained. I decided to shelve the piece for a few months until I retire and can devote more time to learning it. Memorization may be the key. Years ago I performed the Symphonic Etudes in recital. The Toccata is clearly going to be much more of a challenge to learn and play - but I'm motivated because I really love this work !! I hope I can pull it off.
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#1262290 - 09/04/09 10:23 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: carey]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 940
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Originally Posted By: carey
Years ago I performed the Symphonic Etudes in recital. The Toccata is clearly going to be much more of a challenge to learn and play


Wow that surprises me. Really?

P.S. Sorry Steven, I can't comment on the Toccata specifics, as I have not really studied it. But I love the piece and wish you lots of fun and success studying it.
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#1262712 - 09/04/09 11:57 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: pianovirus]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6031
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Per Pianovirus - "Wow that surprises me. Really?"

Yup - really (my personal opinion). Don't get me wrong - the Symphonic Etudes are a handful!! With the Etudes, you at least get a bit of a break between sections - and the etudes vary somewhat in character, tempo and technical demands. The Toccata, on the other hand is seven minutes of intense perpetual motion.
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#1263052 - 09/05/09 04:15 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: carey]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 940
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
carey, thanks for your explanation!
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#1263118 - 09/05/09 06:47 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: pianovirus]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Many thanks to everyone for your comments.

I'm using Henle as my study score (though there's fingering in both roman and italic type and I'm still not sure what the distinction is). Unfortunately, the edition by Harold Bauer that BDB mentioned, once published by Schirmer, has been out of print for many years. I printed out another version from IMSLP; it's heavily overedited by Henry P. Eames, but the fingerings are occasionally useful.

I've come across a marking I don't remember ever seeing, from bars 142-146 and again from 197-202:






Does anyone have any idea what T.S.P. means? If I had to guess (considering the musical context), I would say tenuto sostenuto pedal. However, according to Dolmetsch Online "s.p." means senza pedale, and I can't corroborate that "t." (instead of "ten.") would ever be used for tenuto. What was Mr. Eames thinking here?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1263140 - 09/05/09 07:23 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
wdot Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/07
Posts: 726
Loc: South Carolina, USA
That's "The Sostenuto Pedal," meaning the "middle pedal" on a grand. I seriously doubt that Schumann wrote this into the piece. I suspect it was added by an editor. The obvious idea is to sustain a pedal tone. It's not a bad idea, but timing that pedal to pick up only the note or notes you want is not at all easy.

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#1263267 - 09/05/09 11:50 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: wdot]
Auntie Lynn Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 1096
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I have played this forever. The challenge is endurance to the end. The secret is LOTS of bicep curls...

Been there, done that...

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#1263295 - 09/06/09 03:02 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: Auntie Lynn]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20741
Loc: Oakland
I used to tune for a woman who had studied with Harold Bauer, and she would play the toccata after I finished tuning. She was 97 or 98 years old at the time.
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#1263455 - 09/06/09 12:38 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: BDB]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Out of respect for your selection sv ... I downloaded the Schumann Toccata Opus 7 and played the first 20 measures to make my dog howl ... with your liking for Chopin, what on earth made you want to punish yourself with this Germanic finger-grind ... which reminds me of the notoriously deadly accuracy of train arrivals in Deutchland (I married a German wife so please show a little sympathy, chaps!) ... efficiency in getting to one’s destination is one thing ... but how much more pleasant en route to stop a while and smell the roses (just stirring).

As someone in awe of the Schumann genius for his Kinderscenen Opus 15, it beats me why the chappie didn’t blossom further and reach greater heights ... and instead churn out cold and arid repeating note patterns which might impress some when played at a rate of knots ... but for my part totally lack the magic carpet ride of a Chopin Nocturne.

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#1263461 - 09/06/09 12:51 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: btb]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Perhaps Steven would like to broaden his horizons. smile
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Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1263489 - 09/06/09 01:34 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: btb]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19094
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: btb
As someone in awe of the Schumann genius for his Kinderscenen Opus 15, it beats me why the chappie didn’t blossom further and reach greater heights ... and instead churn out cold and arid repeating note patterns which might impress some when played at a rate of knots ... but for my part totally lack the magic carpet ride of a Chopin Nocturne.


I would say Schumann's Toccata is greater than Chopin's similar Etude in C from Op.10. As far as reaching greater heights, two of Schumann's greatest works, Kreisleriana and the Fantasy immediately follow Kinderscenen.

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#1263506 - 09/06/09 02:03 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: btb]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Hi btb,

Hehe, well, I did invite comments about the Toccata's musical character, after all!

I love Schumann's piano music, even though I've never been motivated actually to learn much of it. While his musical point of view was obviously different from Chopin's, I think that their music has more common elements than Chopin cared to concede. The similarities in warmth, sentiment, harmonies and cadences are as palpable to me in the Toccata as anywhere else, though it would be more instructive to compare it to Chopin's essays in perpetuum mobile like the Etude 10/7 than to any Nocturne. smile

While the technical aspects of the Toccata are fun, I am finding great beauty in the music, too. The secondary theme is lovely, as is much of the passage work leading up to and away from it even at slow speeds; the development is downright scintillating.

Time will tell if this is too much of a challenge, but I'm very motivated to give it a try. I think that speed for its own sake is a bad idea here, but stamina is obviously a big factor even at the most modest Allegro. Still, I am actually pleased that the Toccata does not contain the compositional element I most strongly associate with Schumann: voices, melodies or figurations that are divided between or passed between the hands (something basically unknown in Chopin).

So even though the Toccata is a stretch for me technically, it doesn't feel like a big stretch from the familiar home turf of Chopin at all. It might be even more of a challenge if its musical vocabulary seemed less familiar, but then I would probably not have the compelling interest in learning it that I do.

There's no accounting for taste or what we find beautiful, appealing or enjoyable. I've yet to persuade many of the merits of Chopin's own Allegro de Concert Op. 46 (despite Chopin's own apparent esteem for the piece), so I accept that that's just how it goes.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1263634 - 09/06/09 06:41 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
beginningpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/08
Posts: 98

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#1263830 - 09/07/09 03:34 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: beginningpianist]
nanabush Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 15
Loc: Canada
It's funny because you say "other than the obvious double note and octave, reaching a 10th, difficulties"... that pretty much sums THE difficulty in the piece. I tried it for fun, and got to about page 2. My brain exploded at the sight of what your hands and fingers have to do in order to play that!

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#1263966 - 09/07/09 11:18 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: nanabush]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Have others had the experience of finding a score they didn't know (or had forgotten) they had? Even if I won't find the Harold Bauer edition, I think I have the next best thing!



Rafael Joseffy is one of my favorite editors, so I'm delighted to have "found" this (though I think I'll continue to use the Henle Urtext as my study score). "Instructive Edition" means that there are lots of supplemental practice exercises suggested (in the manner of Cortot).

Steven

p.s. The Etude by Paul de Schlözer is played on YouTube by Geoffrey Tozer:

_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1263994 - 09/07/09 11:58 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Hey, that's really cool Steven! What a find! smile
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Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1264041 - 09/07/09 01:16 PM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: Horowitzian]
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3249
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
A young Gilels........
Cziffra is my favorite in this, though.


Edited by Keith D Kerman (09/07/09 01:23 PM)
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#1264380 - 09/08/09 02:58 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: Keith D Kerman]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Having just viewed the U-tube of Vladimir Horowitz playing the Schumann Toccata Opus 7... am better able to respond to sv’s rejoinder ... incidentally, during the 6m23s of the playing there is a sketch of Schumann (presumably at the time of the composition) ... a handsome enough chappie but looking for all the world as though he might be today wrestling with the shrunken German budget ... IMHO far too serious ... but in keeping with the character of the unrelenting speeding mechanical structure ... Deutch trains always arrive on time!!

However can’t pick up for a moment sv’s reference to some gentle inner theme ... once that rattling locomotive got steam up, there was no time "to have your ham’n eggs in Carolina" (a la Chattanooga Choo-Choo) ... just that whirring wild objective of reaching an express destination in 6m23 seconds ... glad Horowitz had good brakes!

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#2139950 - 08/28/13 12:48 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
pianorigami Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/13
Posts: 238
Loc: United States
Bringing back an OLD post.
My teacher suggested this piece to me, and although I'll have to wait at least a few more months, maybe more so I have time, I wanted to know: is it even worth attempting this piece if I can only reach a 9th (I can't reach B-flat to C, however)?
Of course, 10ths are not the main issue, but it's certainly one of them! Also, how does this piece compare to, say, Prokofiev's Toccata?
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Currently working on:
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2) Beethoven Sonata Op. 53, C Major
3) Beethoven 32 Variations WoO 80
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5) Bach Prelude and Fugue in f# minor, WTC II
6) Grieg Concerto Op. 16, 1st Movement

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#2139953 - 08/28/13 12:54 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1579
Loc: Helsinki, finland
All I can say is that it seems hard as heck. And the other thing I could say is that in 99.9999999% of all performances I hear, everyone grasps the toccata element well but nobody seems to communicate the "stillness in the storm" well enough when it happens. Generally it has to have a great drive, but then there are also moments where you're just on a tonic pedal point for a long time (alternating between tonic and dominant), and those, for example, should feel still, in spite of the movement going on in the background.
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#2139955 - 08/28/13 12:57 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: fnork]
Polyphonist Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 6319
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
All I can say is that it seems hard as heck. And the other thing I could say is that in 99.9999999% of all performances I hear, everyone grasps the toccata element well but nobody seems to communicate the "stillness in the storm" well enough when it happens. Generally it has to have a great drive, but then there are also moments where you're just on a tonic pedal point for a long time (alternating between tonic and dominant), and those, for example, should feel still, in spite of the movement going on in the background.

To sum it up, you need to know when to play forward and also when to back away.
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Polyphonist

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#2139960 - 08/28/13 01:09 AM Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7 [Re: sotto voce]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1579
Loc: Helsinki, finland
Yup. Most toccatas tend to have those two elements in them (prokofiev, ravel, etc) but people forget about 'resting points' often.


Edited by fnork (08/28/13 01:10 AM)
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