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#1391540 - 03/08/10 05:27 PM Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano
Hakki Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3333
I will be participating at the Concours this year.
Which will be my first competition ever.

Has anyone been to Concours before?

If so, since I have never been in a competition before, I would greatly appreciate your advice on what to expect, information about the general ambiance, suggestions, etc...

Regards,

Hakki.
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#1391744 - 03/08/10 10:46 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
Ode2Joy Offline
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Registered: 10/30/08
Posts: 94
Loc: southern cal
Just wanted to wish you the best of luck. I've seen your YouTube channel and hope you make it to the finals. I can't offer any advice since I'm relatively new to playing.

Cheers!
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#1391788 - 03/08/10 11:45 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
Mark_C Online   content
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Expect to love it. They seem to take extra pains to be welcoming to people from outside France and Europe, really trying hard to make you feel at home, and they succeed. I am sure that Mr. Bekerman (the main organizer) and the whole staff will be very solicitous toward you. Much of the event is simply beautiful. A highlight is the spectacular settings that they use for the finals -- different places in different years, and always fabulous.

I also wish you luck to make the finals -- but I would advise not thinking about that too much, and focusing just on trying to get past the 1st round and feeling very happy if you just do that. I mean look -- most people don't! It's hard to imagine in advance how important this will feel -- I sure didn't -- and I guarantee you that it's true. It's easy to sort of take the 1st round for granted and figure that the real action starts later on, but really the 1st round is the most important. Remember also that when you sit down to play your first piece, it will be your introduction to all these people, and their impression of you will be very much determined by it. This is true for any event, especially if you aren't known to the people there. Pick something for your first piece that you feel totally comfortable with, and give a lot of attention to the opening. We often forget that people form an impression of us pretty quickly. Put your best foot forward, and don't be worrying about some "hard part" that comes later on in the piece. By then, their minds will already be sort of made up.

As I said in the "Chicago" thread, a unique aspect of this competition is that you sometimes get interrupted in the middle of a piece and get asked to play something else from your list. I talked about it over here.

A couple of important things that might not be obvious from the materials:

-- You can change your repertoire up until the last minute.
-- There's a round called the "quarter finals" between the 1st round and the semifinals. Some people are passed from the 1st round directly to the semifinals -- usually about 8 -- but more go through the quarter-finals -- about 12-15, and a few of those then get passed to the semifinals. You should be very happy if you just make the quarter-finals, and thrilled if you make the semifinals.

Another unique aspect......Other competitions prefer that you not repeat pieces from round to round, and actually most forbid it. But this event likes you to repeat pieces and usually sort of "makes" you do it. It seems that their aim in each round is to be looking for who has pieces that will make the finals a great event -- everything is geared toward the finals. Anything you play in any round that is terrific, they'll be wanting you to play in the finals if you get there. If you do make it, expect them to basically tell you what to play -- and listen to them. smile

There's somewhat of a stereotype of "French" playing -- we had a discussion about it here recently, with some people saying there's no such thing, but they were wrong. ha
And it seems the judges at the Concours have a definite preference for what we might call "French" playing but which we could also call just sensitive playing. For example, I would guess that your Bach concerto would have gone over very well with these judges; your Mephisto Waltz (as per the youtube contest) would probably have been seen as too brash. I loved it; they probably wouldn't have.

Finally: The event is unique in still more ways. Of all the amateur competitions, this is the one where the "strangest" things happen, including (apparently) politics and favoritism of various kinds. Nevertheless, IMO it works on its own level, because there are more than enough compensating factors, and even the politics and favoritism have their charm; I've gotten a few laughs out of it. Go there, have a great time, put your best foot forward, don't necessarily take everything seriously -- and be thrilled if you just make the quarter-finals. It will be a great accomplishment, especially for a first competition.

Good luck!
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#1391970 - 03/09/10 08:07 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 956
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Wow, that's some really useful information, Mark_C!
I guess it would have shocked me quite a bit if I was interrupted in the middle of playing without being mentally prepared for it laugh

I'll also be participating, and like Hakki (whom I look forward to meet and have exchanged PMs already) it's my first amateur competition ever. I'm quite (positively) excited!

Btw, I also like the their use of the word "anti-competition" to emphasize that this event is not only about winning, but also a nice way to meet like-minded piano geeks.

Anyone else from Piano World will be there?
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#1391974 - 03/09/10 08:11 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianovirus]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2521
Loc: France
Hey wait a minute, what's with the piano geeks thing?

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#1391976 - 03/09/10 08:14 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: landorrano]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 956
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Well, having 100 people from around the world together who are all crazy about classical piano music. That's certainly a better quote than in my everyday life smile

I was referring to this snippet from their website:

Quote:
Here, the desire to "win" is outweighed by the love of music. You are going to discover that the Competition for Outstanding amateurs is not a competition but an "anti-competition". There are no opponents, no competitors, no judges, just music lovers.
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#1392135 - 03/09/10 12:25 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
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Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
OT, but could someone provide me a link to this discussion that Mark_C mentioned? Thank you!
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
There's somewhat of a stereotype of "French" playing -- we had a discussion about it here recently, with some people saying there's no such thing, but they were wrong. ha

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#1392147 - 03/09/10 12:43 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
Hakki Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3333
Thank you very much Mark for the very detailed information and advice you have given. This is really very valuable.

About this "French" style playing (which I have read also from the other post you have mentioned):

Do you mean Mephisto Waltz itself is not suitable for this competition, or is it the way I play it?
If the latter, how should I play it to sound like the so-called "French" style?
I mean, I am finding it difficult to play such a piece in a gentle, elegant, flowing way, since it has many abrupt changes, skips, leaps, ff and fff passages etc..
Or are you suggesting that I should play another piece instead?

Regards,

Hakki.
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#1392199 - 03/09/10 01:33 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Hakki
.....gentle, elegant, flowing way.....

So, you did know exactly what I meant!
(Yes, that's it.)

And yes indeed, a piece like the Mephisto Waltz has much in it that seems to go against those qualities. But not really -- they can still be present. Do you not agree, and would you not say that your approach in the youtube was more 'aggressive'? (I didn't mean that it's just a bad piece to play at this thing -- but it's particularly risky for this reason that we're talking about, not just how hard the piece is.)
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#1392206 - 03/09/10 01:37 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
OT, but could someone provide me a link to this discussion that Mark_C mentioned?

Here you go!

....and in this post on that thread, I talked about how I tried to take this into account when I played in the Concours for the first time. It wasn't a real good idea. I think it's good to know what kind of playing they seem to value, but not real good to suddenly try to play differently.
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#1392222 - 03/09/10 01:52 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianovirus]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianovirus
.....I'll also be participating, and like Hakki....it's my first amateur competition ever. I'm quite (positively) excited!....

Cool! And best of luck to you too!!!! smile
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"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1392244 - 03/09/10 02:10 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Mark_C, Thank you for the link! It was an interesting read. Now whenever I listen to French pianists, I'll see if I can distinguish "the french sound"

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#1392255 - 03/09/10 02:32 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
Hakki Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3333
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Hakki
.....gentle, elegant, flowing way.....

So, you did know exactly what I meant!
(Yes, that's it.)

And yes indeed, a piece like the Mephisto Waltz has much in it that seems to go against those qualities. But not really -- they can still be present. Do you not agree, and would you not say that your approach in the youtube was more 'aggressive'? (I didn't mean that it's just a bad piece to play at this thing -- but it's particularly risky for this reason that we're talking about, not just how hard the piece is.)


Mark, I might have been too quick in my previous response.

I tried to play the Mephisto Waltz in the so-called French style, and realized that it is indeed possible to play it like that too.

fffs changed to fs and ffs changed to mfs. I slowed down the tempo just a little bit, added some slight extra pedals here and there, and also removed some extensive pedaling where justified.
Voila! it is there, gentle, elegant and flowing.

Now I have a month to get used to this new style.

Thanks again.

Regards,

Hakki


Edited by Hakki (03/09/10 02:34 PM)
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#1392365 - 03/09/10 05:25 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
pianist87 Offline
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Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Hakki
I tried to play the Mephisto Waltz in the so-called French style, and realized that it is indeed possible to play it like that too.
Could you maybe post a video or audio of your playing after you get used to playing it with the French style? I'd like to hear how different it would sound.

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#1392481 - 03/09/10 09:11 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
Mark_C, Thank you for the link! It was an interesting read. Now whenever I listen to French pianists, I'll see if I can distinguish "the french sound"

Well, it doesn't work that way. smile

Not all French pianists play that way. And lots and lots of non-French people do.
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#1392484 - 03/09/10 09:13 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
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Originally Posted By: Hakki
Mark, I might have been too quick in my previous response.
I tried to play the Mephisto Waltz in the so-called French style, and realized that it is indeed possible to play it like that too.
fffs changed to fs and ffs changed to mfs. I slowed down the tempo just a little bit, added some slight extra pedals here and there, and also removed some extensive pedaling where justified.
Voila! it is there, gentle, elegant and flowing.
Now I have a month to get used to this new style.....

Interesting! And yes, it sounds like that's most of it. And above all, this one word:

"grace"

That will just about take care of everything.

BTW, important question: Do you like the piece that way?
If not, don't do it.
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1392486 - 03/09/10 09:17 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 20356
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
Originally Posted By: Hakki
I tried to play the Mephisto Waltz in the so-called French style, and realized that it is indeed possible to play it like that too.
Could you maybe post a video or audio of your playing after you get used to playing it with the French style? I'd like to hear how different it would sound.

OK......... smile
This thing here isn't the Mephisto Waltz, it's not by a French composer (Arensky), and neither of the 2 people playing it are French (Bauer, Gabrilowitsch), but I'd say it's a good example of a waltz in 'the French style':



If Hakki can get some of that quality into the Mephisto Waltz, he could win. smile
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#1393300 - 03/10/10 11:23 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
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Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
What a great piece! Don't want to admit, but I was unaware of Arensky until now. I'm going to listen to more of his pieces from now on (yay for youtube).
I think I started to get a feel of what the french style is like, after listening to a couple other performances of this waltz. My impression is that overall it sounds more pretty. Would Horowitz be considered the polar opposite of french playing?

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#1393319 - 03/10/10 11:59 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
What a great piece! Don't want to admit, but I was unaware of Arensky until now.....

I wasn't either until I came across that piece on an album. And I never heard a piece of his at a concert until just recently (which was what brought this piece back to mind). Don't feel bad -- he's very little known. I think most professional musicians probably haven't heard of him.

Quote:
Would Horowitz be considered the polar opposite of french playing?

Good and interesting question.
I think the answer is "yes and no." Much of his playing was extremely delicate and elegant, and he had as wonderful a range of pianissimos, as anyone, so.....no, he's not the polar opposite. Yeah, we could say that much of what he did was very "un-French." But he didn't play favorites; much of his playing was un-anything that we could mention. The polar opposite of "French playing" would be someone who plays heavy all the time, and un-nuanced.

P.S. I think Horowitz would have had trouble getting past the 1st round of an amateur competition. ha
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#1393330 - 03/11/10 12:29 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
P.S. I think Horowitz would have had trouble getting past the 1st round of an amateur competition. ha
I totally agree! smile

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#1393408 - 03/11/10 02:57 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2521
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
The polar opposite of "French playing" would be someone who plays heavy all the time, and un-nuanced.


Then the whole world plays in the French style.

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#1393412 - 03/11/10 03:14 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: landorrano]
Mark_C Online   content
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(I already said that.) smile

As well as in the non-"French style."
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#1393413 - 03/11/10 03:22 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Hakki]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2521
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Hakki


I tried to play the Mephisto Waltz in the so-called French style, and realized that it is indeed possible to play it like that too.
Voila! it is there, gentle, elegant and flowing.

Now I have a month to get used to this new style.


Easy does it! Doucement! Gentle and elegant is not French style, it is music style! Show me where one plays the piano rough and clumsy!

Everyone is talking about French style, but does it really exist? A way to play, a sound? Don't be so sure.

Generally one doesn't speak of a French style, but of a French school, which has romm for every "style".

Take the opportunity when you are in Paris and in the midst of French players to talk with them. It is not by watching or listening to performances that you are going to penetrate this giant musical heritage.

Oh, and have a look at this little article.

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#1393418 - 03/11/10 03:44 AM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: landorrano]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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No, look at this one: smile
Article in NY Times (2007) that's sort of a little bit about this

We're saying much the same thing but with slightly different wording. Nobody is saying it's uniform within France or among the French, nor that others don't do it, nor that calling it "French" is exactly an apt way to put it. It's just a phrase, and it does have some relevance.

BTW.....your link is terrific.
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#1393678 - 03/11/10 01:23 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: landorrano]
pianist87 Offline
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Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Sorry for going OT again, but while I was reading the article provided by landorrano, this line caught my attention in the Saint-Saens section: "works for two pianos fascinated him throughout his life, leading him to transcribe for two pianos both Chopin's Sonata in B-flat minor and the Liszt Sonata." Wait, there is a two piano version of Chopin 2 and Liszt sonata? So I searched on youtube for both but could only find the Chopin sonata. Here it is:



Honestly, I don't see the point of playing it on two pianos when you could just play it on one piano since most of it sounds the same. Transcribing orchestral works to piano makes sense to me, but this I'm not sure why Saint-Saens would do this. I guess he had some time in his hands and did this just because he can?

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#1393698 - 03/11/10 01:44 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
.....Honestly, I don't see the point of playing it on two pianos when you could just play it on one piano since most of it sounds the same. Transcribing orchestral works to piano makes sense to me, but this I'm not sure why Saint-Saens would do this. I guess he had some time in his hands and did this just because he can?

Nice job noticing about those 2-piano pieces, and great get in finding this video.

That's a great question as to why Saint-Saens (or anyone) would think of doing such a thing. I agree that there certainly wouldn't have seemed to be any "need." But I think I have a good guess as to the answer.

FUN.
It's just fun to play stuff with someone on another piano, even stuff that doesn't particularly benefit from the extra piano. It's just fun.

How I know this: Because I've done it with a couple of friends. We never planned it; it was just that if we found ourselves in a room with 2 pianos, we'd sometimes both sit down and try to play together whatever pieces any of us were working on. Sometimes we'd just both play the piece 'as written' (more or less, because usually only one of us really knew the piece), sometimes we'd fool around with it -- like, adding stuff or playing one hand an octave lower or higher. It was fun.

And I have no trouble imagining Saint-Saens being into something like that. I don't know much about his story, but I have the impression that among the top-level composers, he was among the least "driven" -- yeah, he did lots and lots of stuff, but he wasn't preoccupied with doing "great" things; he did what he felt like, and he liked fun.
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#1393716 - 03/11/10 02:06 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2521
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: pianist87
I guess he had some time in his hands and did this just because he can?


Oh come on, you can do better than that.

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#1393733 - 03/11/10 02:30 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
SlatterFan Offline
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Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Brighton, UK
I think Saint-Saƫns is a fine example of the French musical sensibility -- refined, tasteful, balanced, and eschewing excess, including rubato and dramatic or emotional outbursts. His piano roll recording of his Rhapsodie d'Auvergne is full of virtuosity and verve, including declamatory passages with ff octaves and chords jumping around, but remains always, well, French.

Before anyone asks, no, I don't think it's on YouTube (though an abridged acoustic recording of S-S is). Various labels have released CDs of the S-S piano rolls of the years, including Dal Segno Records.

P.S. Have a great time, Hakki!
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#1393836 - 03/11/10 04:47 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
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Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
FUN.
It's just fun to play stuff with someone on another piano, even stuff that doesn't particularly benefit from the extra piano. It's just fun.
I guess fun is a good reason enough to justify this. Who doesn't like fun? smile
Your two-piano story also reminds me.. when I was a little kid, my friend and I sometimes sat together on a piano and 'sight-read' mozart sonatas - one person would play the left hand part and the other would play the right hand. I remember having so much fun! Although it's not the same thing as what you did, I think I get it now. You don't really need a point in having fun.

Originally Posted By: landorrano
Oh come on, you can do better than that.
I think I was too lazy to try and hoping someone else would come up with a good answer (which Mark_C did) grin


Edited by pianist87 (03/11/10 04:51 PM)

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#1394062 - 03/11/10 10:08 PM Re: Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Originally Posted By: pianist87
.....Your two-piano story also reminds me.. when I was a little kid, my friend and I sometimes sat together on a piano and 'sight-read' mozart sonatas - one person would play the left hand part and the other would play the right hand. I remember having so much fun! Although it's not the same thing as what you did, I think I get it now. You don't really need a point in having fun.....

Yup -- you got it. And really that's pretty much exactly the same thing -- it's fun just doing it together, even if there's no artistic reason or need for it. I'd bet a few nickels that that's what led Saint-Saens to do those arrangements.
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(125ad) Dampp Chaser
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New Topics - Multiple Forums
Yamaha CLP 535, Roland HP 504 or Yamaha CLP 575?
by CR37
08/29/15 05:30 AM
Daily Jazz Piano Stream on Twitch
by LunasWorldoffFun
08/29/15 04:58 AM
Daily Jazz Piano Stream on Twitch
by LunasWorldoffFun
08/29/15 04:49 AM
you tune the first string
by Olek
08/29/15 01:59 AM
Has anyone used Leila Fletcher method?
by blueston
08/28/15 10:35 PM
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