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#1513141 - 09/10/10 11:24 PM Interpreting Aufschwung
gooddog Offline
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I am delighting in learning this piece despite some hand-size struggles. Much of the piece does indeed sound like "soaring" or "uplifting" but I was having a great deal of difficulty understanding how the title related to the opening measures (repeated throughout the piece), where low C octaves are played f and fz. I suddenly had an epiphany that really makes sense to me. (Wikipedia says otherwise.)

I envision a hot air balloon. Have you ever heard what it sounds like when someone pulls the control that turns on the gas flame? It makes a very deep, very loud roar - not unlike the C octaves in the beginning section. So for me, the beginning section through measure 16, is the roaring of the balloon being filled. The next measures represent to me a floating or soaring sensation, gently drifting in the air up and down. When you reach about measure 37, the balloon begins to loose altitude (rubato and dim.)and needs another boost of gas... more loud octaves. I envision measure 52 as floating over pastoral farms and fields. Again, there is some gentle lifting and falling...and so on.

The tempo, (dotted quarter = 100) which I understand is attributed to Clara Schumann, is, in my opinion, too fast to allow expression of the gentle soaring. Most pianists play it quite fast and Martha A plays it at lightening speed. It begins to sound military instead of soaring. It's easy to get caught up in the fun, volume and power of the piece but I think they are missing the point. Unfortunately, Robert Schumann isn't around to ask about my balloon idea.

Anyway, that's my feeble interpretation. Let me know if you find it useful.
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#1513374 - 09/11/10 01:41 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
BruceD Offline
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That's an interesting analogy, but I'm afraid it's far too concrete for me. I rarely "see" music in images, except, perhaps, during the occasional piece of program music. The "Aufschwung" is more an emotional uplift than a physical, concrete or visual one for me. "Soaring" is not the only translation of "Aufschwung;" it can be interpreted as "rising" or "uplifting" (as a noun). In fact, some dictionaries don't even give "soaring" as a translation for "Aufschwung."

One source says that the "... title Fantasiestucke was apparently taken from a set of stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose works, like those of Jean Paul Richter, exercised a powerful influence over Schumann's imagination in his youth." Perhaps, if one knew the particular Hoffmann story, one might have a better idea of what Schumann meant by "Aufschwung."

However, if the concrete image of the rising balloon works for you, that's the key, isn't it?

Regards,
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#1513382 - 09/11/10 01:50 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Mark_C Offline
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[edit: I did this post before seeing Bruce's.
He addressed this a bit too. But I'm wondering if the flavor/connotation of the German word is even much more different, i.e. not covered by the alternate words he mentioned.]


Sort of a sideways answer, but.....

The English translation always struck me as insipid, and a poor partner to the piece. In fact, I've mocked it in program notes. smile
I was talking mainly about Weber's "Invitation to the Dance," whose English translation I don't much like either, but at least it feels accurate in meaning. I was talking mainly about the sound of the words, and I cited "Soaring" as the ultimate bad example. But let's also talk meaning, because I would guess that's in there too.

I would surmise that the German word "aufschwung" has a flavor that's very different from that of "soaring." If I were more thorough about such things ha I would have looked into this further, which wouldn't be extremely hard to do: just find a German-and-English-speaking person who is sensitive to such nuances (in both German and English), and ask. It wouldn't even have to be someone who knows music, just someone who really knows the language.

I'd bet a buck or two that "aufschwung" (as oppposed to "soaring") has much more of a flavor and connotation that wouldn't have made you raise this question.

P.S. Calling German speakers!!!
Please do tell.


Edited by Mark_C (09/11/10 01:56 PM)
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#1513386 - 09/11/10 02:01 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Mark_C]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Eweiss: May I ask seriously, could you delete that post?
Especially in view of that other thread, I think it's asking for trouble.

(I avoided making this post a reply "to" yours because it might have prevented you from deleting it.)

BTW: I'm planning to delete this post soon too.

Done. But this is far from over.
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#1513390 - 09/11/10 02:06 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: eweiss]
Mark_C Offline
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Good job.
And I agree with you -- but don't expect anything good to happen from getting into it on a thread like this one.

Maybe a stupid thread that's already going to hell. smile
But this one looks good and I think will stay good.
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#1513391 - 09/11/10 02:08 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
gooddog Offline
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Loc: Seattle area, WA
Okay, eweiss and Marc_C, now you've engaged my curiousity.

Bruce, I too don't usually have a clear, concrete image when I play, but this particular piece just didn't make sense to me until I linked it to one.

Anyone want to comment on the tempo?
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Deborah

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#1513400 - 09/11/10 02:32 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
WinsomeAllegretto Offline
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I agree with you that Argerich plays this piece too fast. To me, the feeling of the piece is soaring, not super fast rushing, and not just slow wandering. However, I know when I played it once for a competition, I went back and listened to the recording, and it was way too slow. I think to project the feeling of the 'rush' you get from leaving the ground requires a pretty fast tempo, but not as fast as Argerich.

I don't usually have a picture or story in my head that goes with my pieces, but this one is an exception. It's not very concrete, but just a vague idea of an eagle soaring high in the sky, diving, gliding on the wind, etc. It's very exciting.

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#1513402 - 09/11/10 02:34 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]
Mark_C Offline
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I haven't heard Argerich, but from what y'all are saying, I'd guess her interpretation sounds an awful lot like the word Aufschwung.

(Nicht war?) smile

Which might be following the intent better than if we're thinking "Soaring."
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#1513623 - 09/11/10 11:30 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
gooddog Offline
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Just an FYI: I just had dinner with a dear friend from the Netherlands who is fluent in High German, (and 5 other languages). He said Aufschwung translates literally as "uplift". He did not know of any other meaning to the word.

Error: I misquoted my friend and should have said "upswing" not uplift.


Edited by gooddog (09/12/10 03:10 AM)
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#1513641 - 09/12/10 12:24 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: gooddog
Just an FYI: I just had dinner with a dear friend from the Netherlands who is fluent in High German, (and 5 other languages). He said Aufschwung translates literally as "uplift". He did not know of any other meaning to the word.

That doesn't really address what I said. If you look closely at my post, you'll see that I wasn't exactly talking about different "translations" or "meanings."

Besides the possibility of some different "flavor" or "connotation" of the word (as I said before).... Just think of the sound of the word. (Some people would call what I'm talking about "onomatopoeia," sort of) Are any of the suggested English translations in line with the sound of the word? (They're not.) Isn't the feeling of the piece more like the sound of the German word than of the English words that have been mentioned? (I think absolutely yes.)

I'm not suggesting necessarily that Schumann meant the word more in terms of its sound than its meaning; I'm saying that the sound of the word and the nature of the piece suggest to me that the German word has a flavor very different than those English words, and that therefore the translations are misleading and we should beware of paying too much attention to them. Sometimes a word in one language doesn't have a great translation in another language, and there's no translation that retains the feeling of the original. I suspect this is such an example.


Edited by Mark_C (09/12/10 12:36 AM)
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#1513679 - 09/12/10 02:15 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Mark_C Offline
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P.S. I figured I'd see what I could find about the word by google search. I didn't find a lot but I think I found enough to see that something important probably really is missing from those translations.

The word has a complex history. After Schumann's time, it appears to have taken on somewhat of a controversial connection to (of all things) Hitler, and I wonder if that's part of why we don't see more discussion of it and why the world has settled so easily for just "Soaring."

Various definitions are found online, including "flight," "upswing," and "up-soaring," but also "upturn: An improvement of the economic situation after an economic crisis." It was applied particularly to the economy in Germany during the early period of Hitler's rule. Whether or not the Hitler connection has any part in what we're talking about, I think the "crisis" aspect of the word gives a strong hint that something is missing from translations like "soaring" and "uplift" -- unless it turns out that the word didn't have this aspect during Schumann's time. (The sound of the word and the nature of the piece make me think it did.)

I don't mean that there necessarily could be better translations, just that those words fail to convey an important aspect and that therefore we shouldn't pin too much on them.
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#1513688 - 09/12/10 02:41 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
gooddog Offline
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Loc: Seattle area, WA
Thanks for looking into it Mark. After I read your last post, I realized I had misquoted my friend. He did actually say "upswing" not "uplift". He is a very learned gentleman who speaks High German, learned from his mother and Dutch from his father, (and not 5 but 8 other languages: French, Flemish, Spanish, Latin, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Afrikaans - Europeans seem to be so much better educated than those of us from the US), so I feel confident accepting his statement that there isn't another subtle colloquial or connotative meaning to the word.

I understood your original intention, i.e., onomatopoeia, I just wasn't able to accept that Schumann was deliberately connecting the title to the sound of the music. I chose not to comment on it to avoid starting an argument.

The historical perspective is interesting. It's a shame that the horrid history of WWII has put a negative color on something written so long ago.
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Deborah

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#1513692 - 09/12/10 03:08 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Andromaque Offline
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Loc: New York
Extrapolation central over here... laugh
Would you please keep Hitler out of Schumann.

Mark C, how can you evoke onomatopoeia when you are not even conversant in German? I would argue that you need to be either fluent in a language or native to it, in order to appreciate a potential sound meaning to a word, especially when dealing with more complex terms, ie beyond moo or bleh..

In modern use Aufschwung is most often used in association with "economische" to mean "economic boom or recovery or ..upswing. (to my modest German knowledge). "Schwung" by the way is a regular old swing.
Whether it had other connotations in Schumann's time would have to be determined by a linguist.. Post-hoc modifications to the term, e.g. following WWII, should have no impact.

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#1513697 - 09/12/10 03:20 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
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Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: WinsomeAllegretto
I think to project the feeling of the 'rush' you get from leaving the ground requires a pretty fast tempo, but not as fast as Argerich.
I was just rereading your post. I'm not saying you are wrong, but I don't think of a "rush" when lifting off the ground. In my balloon image, the lifting is gentle.
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Deborah

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#1513698 - 09/12/10 03:33 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Andromaque]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
.....how can you evoke onomatopoeia when you are not even conversant in German?.....

I was born in Germany, I have studied the language, and I've been exposed to it a lot.

My knowledge of it is limited, but I know enough to say what I've said.

I don't say anything that I don't know enough to say what I've said. ha

I would welcome comments from German speakers regarding what I've said about the sound of the word, as well as its flavor and connotation. But I think it's self-evident to anyone with even a moderate acquaintance with German (and a half-decent ear) that the sound of the word is of a very different sort than the sound of a word like "Soaring."

Do you really disagree with that? Besides questioning my qualification, why didn't you say something about the fact of it?


Edited by Mark_C (09/12/10 03:51 AM)
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#1513701 - 09/12/10 03:48 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
btb Offline
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What's the opus number chaps?

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#1513702 - 09/12/10 03:50 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: btb]
ChopinAddict Offline
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Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Opus 12 No.2
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#1513704 - 09/12/10 03:51 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
ChopinAddict Offline
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This is what I have found out (information from the Wikipedia):
Schumann conceived of "Aufschwung" as a depiction of the character Florestan (from Beethoven's Fidelio) indulging in his desires, and as described by the Norton Anthology of Western Music "at the height of his passions."
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#1513707 - 09/12/10 03:56 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Mark_C]
Andromaque Offline
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Registered: 08/29/08
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
[

Do you really disagree with that? Besides questioning my qualification, why didn't you say something about the fact of it?


..cause I am not qualified enough to render a judgment on the matter.
I only questioned your knowledge of German based on how you described your search for the meaning of the word.

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#1513708 - 09/12/10 03:57 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Andromaque]
Mark_C Offline
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Fair enough......BTW I deleted that last 'flourish' from my post. I'm glad you didn't worry too much about it. smile

I don't imagine that my reply settled anything......we may just disagree on how this can be looked at.
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#1513709 - 09/12/10 04:01 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Andromaque Offline
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Loc: New York
Yeah.. You are into ornamentation sometimes. I gloss over.. smile

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#1513710 - 09/12/10 04:03 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Mark_C]
ChopinAddict Offline
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Registered: 08/29/09
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Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Originally Posted By: Mark_C


(Nicht war?) smile



It is not a very nice word without the h. frown
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#1513741 - 09/12/10 08:10 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: Mark_C]
SlatterFan Offline
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Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 783
Loc: Brighton, UK
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
The English translation always struck me as insipid, and a poor partner to the piece. In fact, I've mocked it in program notes. smile
I was talking mainly about Weber's "Invitation to the Dance," whose English translation I don't much like either, but at least it feels accurate in meaning. I was talking mainly about the sound of the words, and I cited "Soaring" as the ultimate bad example. But let's also talk meaning, because I would guess that's in there too.

I would surmise that the German word "aufschwung" has a flavor that's very different from that of "soaring."

If it is any help, I have an excellent German-English dictionary with interesting alternative meanings for you... PONS/Collins Großwörterbuch für Experten und Universität (4th edition 1999) includes several meanings for the associated verb aufschwingen, among which is:

(figurative: Gedanken*) to rise to higher realms

* In the same dictionary, Gedanken = thought, idea, concept, reflection

The other meanings given for aufschwingen are: to swing oneself up; (bird) to soar (up); to bring oneself to do something; to set oneself up to be something; to work one's way up to be(come) something; to bring oneself to get something.

I like the flavor of these, in connection with the Schumann piece: soaring upwards, sort of, but more in the sense of striving to reach something better/special/lofty/ideal, rather than simply soaring through the air.
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#1513792 - 09/12/10 11:42 AM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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Registered: 05/06/10
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I'm listening to Richter's rendtion, and feel that I must learn this piece in the near future..as well as some other parts of op.12.
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#1513812 - 09/12/10 12:49 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: ChopinAddict]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: ChopinAddict
Originally Posted By: Mark_C

(Nicht war?) smile
It is not a very nice word without the h. frown

Wahr has an h??? (Goes to check......)
Darned if it doesn't!

I totally forgot.
I'm not doing too much to prove Andromaque wrong, am I. ha

P.S. Thanks for the correction. smile
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#1513814 - 09/12/10 12:53 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: SlatterFan]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: SlatterFan
.....I like the flavor of these, in connection with the Schumann piece: soaring upwards, sort of, but more in the sense of striving to reach something better/special/lofty/ideal, rather than simply soaring through the air.

That works for me.

To pick a single word, IMO "Striving" fits the piece much better than soaring, but it wouldn't sound very fitting as a title for a piece by Schumann.

Then again, I never thought "Soaring" did either smile
-- not even before I ever heard the piece, and much more so after.

I think "soaring" could fit some parts of the piece but not others, like the opening, and some of what Gooddog said seems in line with that. The opening seems to be mainly tension and struggle. "Striving" covers that.
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#1513820 - 09/12/10 01:10 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
tomasino Offline
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Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The more significant part of the original post, to me, is not the specific meaning of the word, but the idea of using extra-musical ideas in the interpretation of music.

I approach music making this way, and am constantly making up narratives and inventing images that stimulate me in whatever piece I'm working on. It personalizes my interpretations, and gives me a sense of authority over my own playing. It enables me to get a little distance from the score and all the various markings made by generations of music editors, away from my teacher's interpretation, away from my teacher's teacher's interpretation, and away from all the recordings of the great pianists I've heard. It gives me a reference point to question all of these influences. I don't perform often, but when I do for a few friends, I don't openly share this approach with them. That's not the point. They can come up with their own narratives, or just listen to the notes. But I'm the one who's playing the music, and I should have some say in how it's played.

It's not that I don't value the influences I listed, or that I pay no heed to them. I do. In fact, I often get ideas for interpretation that work with very well with all of those influences. It's just that I feel a need to relate the notes to something else other than other notes, or other performers, or even the composer. It turns me cold when performance gets involved with the idea of "art for arts sake." It makes me feel like performance has nothing at all to do with anything else, and least of all with the performer.

Tomasino
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#1513821 - 09/12/10 01:13 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: tomasino]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: tomasino
The more significant part of the original post, to me, is not the specific meaning of the word, but the idea of using extra-musical ideas in the interpretation of music.
I approach music making this way, and am constantly making up narratives and inventing images that stimulate me in whatever piece I'm working on.....

I agree that it is the more significant part of her post -- and I've done that with some pieces also. The reason I focused on the meaning of the word was that I thought her specific idea was influenced and constrained by a misleading translation -- but I also have to say, her image did expand it toward more of what it really is.
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#1513841 - 09/12/10 02:26 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: tomasino]
gooddog Offline
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Originally Posted By: tomasino
The more significant part of the original post, to me, is not the specific meaning of the word, but the idea of using extra-musical ideas in the interpretation of music.

I approach music making this way, and am constantly making up narratives and inventing images that stimulate me in whatever piece I'm working on. It personalizes my interpretations, and gives me a sense of authority over my own playing. It enables me to get a little distance from the score and all the various markings made by generations of music editors, away from my teacher's interpretation, away from my teacher's teacher's interpretation, and away from all the recordings of the great pianists I've heard. It gives me a reference point to question all of these influences. Tomasino
Oh, Tomasino, you have completely captured the spirit of why I was trying to say. I got very excited by my visual image/understanding of this piece because it released me to create my own unique interpetation. It felt very exhilarating to move beyond the printed dynamics (agree sometimes, modify others) and make it my own. Please understand, it is not entirely new to me to move beyond the published dynamics. I am blessed with an instinctive sense of what sounds right. What was new was using a clear image and deliberately carving that image into my playing. It is very empowering to lift the music off the page to create a fresh perspective, all my own.
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Deborah

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#1513857 - 09/12/10 03:16 PM Re: Interpreting Aufschwung [Re: gooddog]
Andromaque Offline
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Posts: 3885
Loc: New York
I tend to appreciate music in a more abstract fashion. But when learning a new piece, I often find myself resorting to some imagery. Interestingly, once I have the piece under good control, the images disappear and the music comes forward unaccompanied, so to say..

In this case, I would be careful about extra creativity since the composer had a specific theme in mind, ie the tales of ETA Hoffman and the dual personae of Florestan and Eusebius. I believe Schumann has written specifically about his inspiration. So if one wants to be "faithful" to the composers' intent, his descriptions have to be kept in mind.
Of course, it does not HAVE to be this way.. To each their own..

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