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#1692848 - 06/09/11 11:12 AM Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic
prowannabe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/09/11
Posts: 6
Loc: USA
What are the hardest sections of this piece? I'm self-studying hoping that I can get this piece down myself, so I would like to start with the hardest sections to see if I can play them. If I can't, then I don't want to waste my time with the rest of the piece.

Think it's possible to play this piece well without a teacher? To give you guys an idea of my background, I took lessons somewhat seriously when I was a kid for 12-13 years. Then, I took a few years off in college and just started practicing myself again about a year ago. The only instruction I had was having music major friends listen once in a while to make sure I wasn't doing anything ridiculous.

My Chopin repertoire consists of fantasie impromptu, most of the preludes, a few nocturnes, and etudes op 10 no 5, op 10 no 10, op 10 no 12, op 25 no 11

Op 25 no 11 isn't quite up to speed, because my fingers still get tired. Actually still working on that one, but I only started about 2 months ago.

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#1692858 - 06/09/11 11:25 AM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4610
Loc: not somewhere over the rainbow
Why do you want to brainwash yourself from the beginning about the "hardest" parts? Then you'll always be afraid of them. Study the piece, learn it, and you will most likely have LESS problems technically than if someone pointed them out to you.
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#1692860 - 06/09/11 11:27 AM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18892
Loc: Victoria, BC
There are many sections of this Polonaise that are considered "hard." However, that's a relative term because we all have different challenges based on our training and playing experience. What may be hard for one individual
- (the left hand octaves themselves may not be difficult, but sustaining them at tempo for 36 measures may well be)
- the scale passages need to be played with speed and precision
- interpretively, measures 129 through 150 are challenging: how to make them interesting, give them direction?
may not be hard for another.

The only practical advice one can give is to work through the Polonaise and find what is difficult for you, then decide whether working on those sections will bring the results you want to enable you, finally, to pull the whole piece together.

Regards,
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#1692883 - 06/09/11 12:12 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
chercherchopin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/11
Posts: 550
Loc: Dystopia (but not Dystonia!)
prowannabe,

Based on what you describe, I think it's well within your reach to learn and play reasonably well. Personally (and in my own experience), it is not extremely difficult or virtuoso-level in its technical challenges.

The most difficult things for me when I learned it on my own decades ago? I remember them well:
  • The chromatic fourths in the introduction.
  • The inverted mordents that must be played with the outer fingers, the first example of which is in measure 27.
(Hey, come to think of it, I still have trouble with 'outer finger mordents' about 35 years later! I'm learning Chopin's 'Nouvelle Etude' in D-flat presently, and I posted about that very thing here just recently.)

Don't worry about the LH octaves in the Trio; you'll figure out easily enough what works for you to maintain relaxation and evenness and keep up your stamina. Of course, you'll need stamina generally speaking, as the piece is a bit lengthy and even the coda will require enough energy in reserve to really play it with vigor.

Also, the learning process will be sped up by the number of repetitions of the main theme with very little variation. Once you've got it down, you've got it down. (But ... those mordents! I was never able to execute them predictably and confidently. But hey, YMMV!)

Go for it, and best wishes for speedy progress.
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#1692892 - 06/09/11 12:27 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
on a pure technical level, the piece really isn't that hard. i'd say it's quite a bit easier than "standard repertoire" 20th century stuff, like most rachmaninoff op 39 etudes, prokofiev sonatas, many ravel stuff, etc. my hardest part is to get the first trill in measure 27 (and similar measures) to work.

another thing about way-too-famous pieces like this is that the technical difficulty is higher than most because everybody has a standard in mind and you will get absolutely no passes, so close to 100% accuracy, control and "musicianship" is needed to impress even casual listeners.

again, like others have mentioned and will certainly mention again, with chopin, it's not so much notes but the music. my piano teacher when i was in high school think that after mozart, chopin's music is hardest to play. more and more i agree with him now.

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#1692926 - 06/09/11 01:15 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 617
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: prowannabe
so I would like to start with the hardest sections to see if I can play them. If I can't, then I don't want to waste my time with the rest of the piece.

Think it's possible to play this piece well without a teacher?


Your idea to start with the most difficult parts is an excellent one. It's the way I work. Rosina Lehvinne used that approach with her students. There's no reason to keep playing the sections you find easy. The operative word here is you. What sections do you find hard?

If your hand gets tired in the LH octaves, they probably need to be shaped, over from the E, under from the D-sharp (easier to demonstrate than describe). If you have trouble with the opening 4ths, check your fingering. The thumb repeats on white keys with 3,4,5 on top and don't be afraid to cross 4 over 5 (again this is easier to demonstrate than to describe). The fingering changes depending on the configuration of white/black keys. Alternatively, if you find it easier, some pianists play 3rds in the LH and single-notes in the RH.

You can learn anything without a teacher if you are thoughtful enough in your approach to technique. The interpretation can come out of the air (i.e., the many performances you must have heard).

Good luck!


Edited by NeilOS (06/09/11 01:37 PM)
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#1692937 - 06/09/11 01:28 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: chercherchopin]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 617
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: chercherchopin

.
[*]The inverted mordents that must be played with the outer fingers, the first example of which is in measure 27.[/list](Hey, come to think of it, I still have trouble with 'outer finger mordents' about 35 years later!

Of course, you'll need stamina generally speaking, as the piece is a bit lengthy and even the coda will require enough energy in reserve to really play it with vigor.



Hi, Chercher

You bring up some important issues. My view on stamina is that if the technique is understood well, and that can be a big if sometimes, the physical act of playing is essentially effortless. Consider, this Polonaise is probably just one piece in a 90 minute program. So, working out the technique until it feels easy is important.

You mention the difficulty of the mordent. "Playing with the outer fingers" is a clue as to why it might feel difficult. Look at your hand when you play it and make sure that you don't keep your thumb extended in the octave position. Let it go a little. Also, the mordent should be grouped with the succeeding octave. Try this and let me know if it helps.


Edited by NeilOS (06/09/11 04:59 PM)
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#1692979 - 06/09/11 02:35 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
Here's the thread I started on the outer turns a few months back:
outer turns op 53 measure 27


Edited by Lingyis (06/09/11 02:35 PM)

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#1693042 - 06/09/11 04:10 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: Lingyis]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 617
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Lingyis
Here's the thread I started on the outer turns a few months back:
outer turns op 53 measure 27


I like the idea of playing the lower f and g with the LH. This is what I did when I played the piece years ago (just looked it up), but forgot about it. One of the options when deciding on fingering is redividing between the hands.

But now I have a re-think. Group from the mordent to the succeeding octave. This takes away the possibility of a stretched hand.


Edited by NeilOS (06/09/11 04:56 PM)
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#1693065 - 06/09/11 04:49 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
prowannabe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/09/11
Posts: 6
Loc: USA
Thanks everyone, for the input. This forum's awesome, I ask a question and a few hours later already have all these posts.

I already went through the introduction section, didn't think there was anything particularly tricky with the chromatic 4ths.

The mordents seem manageable with a little drilling (which I'll go do the next time I practice). This is one of those situations in which I wish I had bigger hands. That would make it a lot easier to connect the lower note of the octave.

So, I sat down again today, after reading some of your thoughts. The stamina issue with the left hand octaves actually never occurred to me before, but I see what everyone means after trying to play through the whole thing at full speed and hearing it get progressively sloppier. I'm also incredibly stiff (for someone who has played as much as I have), so that definitely doesn't help.

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#1693085 - 06/09/11 05:23 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: prowannabe]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2715
Just an afterthought: the difficulties of this piece are not at all how to cope with chromatic fourths/octaves/unisson runs/awkward mordents and what have you, the difficiculty is in what you want with the piece, what you think the composer wanted you to do with it, and how you'll realize this, and that is always a challenge.
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#1693108 - 06/09/11 06:10 PM Re: Hardest Section(s) of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 Heroic [Re: dolce sfogato]
chercherchopin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/11
Posts: 550
Loc: Dystopia (but not Dystonia!)
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
Just an afterthought: the difficulties of this piece are not at all how to cope with chromatic fourths/octaves/unisson runs/awkward mordents and what have you, the difficiculty is in what you want with the piece, what you think the composer wanted you to do with it, and how you'll realize this, and that is always a challenge.

Not at all? Did you mean to say 'not all' instead?

If you really meant 'not at all', then you're dismissing the opinions everybody else gave as incorrect.

Re your own opinion about where the difficulties of this piece lie: Of course what you wrote is true! And all that is also true about any piece by any composer. And I don't think it answers the original question about the 'hardest section(s)' of the Polonaise.

I must be missing something ... or maybe it's another case of conceptualizing things in abstract terms rather than concrete ones (which I've noticed some people tend to do). Nothing wrong with that, but don't dismiss the practical issues. You can ponder what Chopin wanted with it, and what you want with it, til the cows come home and it's not going to get the piece off the ground.
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