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#1867095 - 03/23/12 09:28 AM Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2
Sir Monty Golfear Offline
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Registered: 03/23/12
Posts: 145
Loc: Leicester . UK
Hi,
I have been listening to many recordings and performances o of Rachmaninoff's piano concerto no.2. I have noticed how difficult the opening chords are to play if the hands are on the small side. There seems to be various ways to play these.
What I find interesting is that some pianists play them without rolling them , or breaking them.
Is it npossible that some actually cheat by missing certain notes out of the chords to achieve this?

SMG
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#1867166 - 03/23/12 11:35 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
didyougethathing Offline
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Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 534
Loc: New York
I have average sized hands and I can play them without rolling. The largest interval in the right hand is an octave, and the largest interval in the left hand is a tenth, both of which are playable by most people.

But you're right, I have heard people roll them, which must mean either they have small hands or it's an artistic choice.

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#1867192 - 03/23/12 12:10 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
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Rachmininoff had big hands ... enabling what some might regard as a "freakish" large stretch ... I bet he played those chords without batting an eyelid ... but tough if you've got small hands ... rolling those chords becomes
the only other option ... unfortunately, leaving notes out does not meet the bill.

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#1867194 - 03/23/12 12:12 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: didyougethathing]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3617
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: didyougethathing
I have average sized hands and I can play them without rolling. The largest interval in the right hand is an octave, and the largest interval in the left hand is a tenth, both of which are playable by most people.

But you're right, I have heard people roll them, which must mean either they have small hands or it's an artistic choice.


I disagree that "average sized hands" can play these opening chords without rolling, though of course it depends what you mean by average.

It's true that the largest LH and RH intervals are a tenth and octave respectively, but that doesn't tell the whole story: the devil is in the inner notes. I can play some 10ths, and I can certainly play octaves. But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to. Similarly, the LH has some chords I can't play, whose outer notes alone I can reach fine.

When talking about hand size, the emphasis is usually on the reach between 1 and 5 ("can you reach a 10th", etc.), but I think the size of the hand is actually too complicated to be measured by a single number.

-J
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#1867205 - 03/23/12 12:27 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: btb]
argerichfan Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: btb
Rachmaninov had big hands ... enabling what some might regard as a "freakish" large stretch ... I bet he played those chords without batting an eyelid

Right, but in his recording he chooses to break the chords, most certainly for musical reasons. (edit: see below)

I can take those chords (barely!) without breaking, but IMO they sound better broken or rolled as per Rachmaninov's example.



Edited by argerichfan (03/23/12 01:19 PM)
Edit Reason: after effects
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#1867219 - 03/23/12 12:53 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: argerichfan]
AldenH Offline
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Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: btb
Rachmaninov had big hands ... enabling what some might regard as a "freakish" large stretch ... I bet he played those chords without batting an eyelid

Right, but in his recording he chooses to break the chords, most certainly for musical reasons.

I can take those chords (barely!) without breaking, but IMO they sound better broken or rolled as per Rachmaninov's example.



Umm, maybe there are different takes from his recording session with the Philly orchestra, but in my recording I don't think he's rolling them in the slightest.

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#1867248 - 03/23/12 01:22 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: AldenH]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: AldenH

Umm, maybe there are different takes from his recording session with the Philly orchestra, but in my recording I don't think he's rolling them in the slightest.

No, he isn't. (What was I smoking?) I must have been channeling the Katchen recording which certainly does break them to marvelous results.

But perhaps I read somewhere that at least occasionally Rachmaninov did break the opening chords? Or am I totally deluded? crazy
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#1867259 - 03/23/12 01:44 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
Dave Horne Offline
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#1867261 - 03/23/12 01:45 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: beet31425]
jeffreyjones Offline
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Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2229
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: beet31425
It's true that the largest LH and RH intervals are a tenth and octave respectively, but that doesn't tell the whole story: the devil is in the inner notes. I can play some 10ths, and I can certainly play octaves. But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to. Similarly, the LH has some chords I can't play, whose outer notes alone I can reach fine.


For this one, you use the thumb on the C and Db. Even if I could reach it with my index finger, I wouldn't risk the injury.

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#1867369 - 03/23/12 05:48 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: beet31425]
Sir Monty Golfear Offline
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Registered: 03/23/12
Posts: 145
Loc: Leicester . UK
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: didyougethathing
I have average sized hands and I can play them without rolling. The largest interval in the right hand is an octave, and the largest interval in the left hand is a tenth, both of which are playable by most people.

But you're right, I have heard people roll them, which must mean either they have small hands or it's an artistic choice.


I disagree that "average sized hands" can play these opening chords without rolling, though of course it depends what you mean by average.

It's true that the largest LH and RH intervals are a tenth and octave respectively, but that doesn't tell the whole story: the devil is in the inner notes. I can play some 10ths, and I can certainly play octaves. But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to. Similarly, the LH has some chords I can't play, whose outer notes alone I can reach fine.

When talking about hand size, the emphasis is usually on the reach between 1 and 5 ("can you reach a 10th", etc.), but I think the size of the hand is actually too complicated to be measured by a single number.

-J


I agree , I have the same problem with the second chord. Playing the Dflat and C together without splitting the chords , would need to be a contortionist . I have tried double laying the two notes with the thumb but I don't feel secure with this.
There must be a technique that I am missing as, my hands are not small. I can also reach a 10th. It is the twisting to accommodate those middle notes that I cannot do !.

SMG
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#1867377 - 03/23/12 06:07 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: beet31425]
didyougethathing Offline
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Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 534
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: didyougethathing
I have average sized hands and I can play them without rolling. The largest interval in the right hand is an octave, and the largest interval in the left hand is a tenth, both of which are playable by most people.

But you're right, I have heard people roll them, which must mean either they have small hands or it's an artistic choice.


I disagree that "average sized hands" can play these opening chords without rolling, though of course it depends what you mean by average.

It's true that the largest LH and RH intervals are a tenth and octave respectively, but that doesn't tell the whole story: the devil is in the inner notes. I can play some 10ths, and I can certainly play octaves. But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to. Similarly, the LH has some chords I can't play, whose outer notes alone I can reach fine.

When talking about hand size, the emphasis is usually on the reach between 1 and 5 ("can you reach a 10th", etc.), but I think the size of the hand is actually too complicated to be measured by a single number.

-J


No doubt, the inner notes make the chords more difficult, but I really don't have an issue playing them personally. My reach is a tenth (major), and not a note further, but I can play every one of these chords very easily, even the second one many have cited.

I like the way they sound rolled even so.

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#1867380 - 03/23/12 06:12 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: argerichfan]
Cheeto717 Offline
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Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 693
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: AldenH

Umm, maybe there are different takes from his recording session with the Philly orchestra, but in my recording I don't think he's rolling them in the slightest.

No, he isn't. (What was I smoking?) I must have been channeling the Katchen recording which certainly does break them to marvelous results.

But perhaps I read somewhere that at least occasionally Rachmaninov did break the opening chords? Or am I totally deluded? crazy


I also remember hearing a recording where rachmaninoff rolls the chords. Or maybe we are talking about this recording, where he plays the bass note first, then the rest of the chord. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8l37utZxMQ

Interestingly enough, the only other person I've heard play it like that is Helene Grimaud.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJRHht55E1M

Personally, I enjoy the chords played as written, and have been blessed with the wing span to play them comfortably.
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#1867510 - 03/23/12 10:41 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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I looked at those opening chords, and there is no way I can grab them. I have smallish hands, but actually a good stretch. But those chords are so involved.

My son, on the other hand finds that opening quite simple .... trivial even. He just plunks them with extreme ease. Grrrrrr.

If you can't play it, try a different concerto! grin
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#1867524 - 03/23/12 11:06 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: didyougethathing]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3617
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: didyougethathing
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: didyougethathing
I have average sized hands and I can play them without rolling. The largest interval in the right hand is an octave, and the largest interval in the left hand is a tenth, both of which are playable by most people.

But you're right, I have heard people roll them, which must mean either they have small hands or it's an artistic choice.


I disagree that "average sized hands" can play these opening chords without rolling, though of course it depends what you mean by average.

It's true that the largest LH and RH intervals are a tenth and octave respectively, but that doesn't tell the whole story: the devil is in the inner notes. I can play some 10ths, and I can certainly play octaves. But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to. Similarly, the LH has some chords I can't play, whose outer notes alone I can reach fine.

When talking about hand size, the emphasis is usually on the reach between 1 and 5 ("can you reach a 10th", etc.), but I think the size of the hand is actually too complicated to be measured by a single number.

-J


No doubt, the inner notes make the chords more difficult, but I really don't have an issue playing them personally. My reach is a tenth (major), and not a note further, but I can play every one of these chords very easily, even the second one many have cited.


And my reach is also a tenth, and yet I cannot come close to playing them.

Hence my main point: The single number describing what you can "reach" is insufficient for measuring hand size. It also has to with what you can do with the fingers in between.

-J
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#1867538 - 03/24/12 12:00 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: beet31425]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: beet31425

And my reach is also a tenth, and yet I cannot come close to playing them.

Hence my main point: The single number describing what you can "reach" is insufficient for measuring hand size. It also has to with what you can do with the fingers in between.

This is a very interesting discussion.

I can easily take a 10th (but nothing larger), and I have never thought that the opening chords in Rachmaninov 2 would be difficult for someone with that hand size. I just went to the piano, and yes, I can play those chords unbroken. But I do now see that there are other factors involved.

Incidentally, being able to stretch a 10th is invaluable for an organist in playing post-Bach repertoire. Franck probably had hands the size of Rachmaninov, though his music is almost sadistically difficult even with a large hand. The Prière is nasty.
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#1867563 - 03/24/12 01:12 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
dannylux Offline
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Registered: 02/15/06
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Loc: Connecticut
"An Analysis of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 - Aids Towards Performance"; DMA thesis by So-Ham Kim Chung:

http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Chung%20SoHam%20Kim.pdf?osu1235232062


The thing about the opening chords is that they produce the most marvelous, mysterious atmosphere, completely unlike anything in any other piano concerto. But that mystery depends on how they are played and the tempo. Too fast (Hough - 10 seconds) or too slow (Pogorelich - 58 seconds) and all the mystery is gone. I think rolling the chords can lessen the atmosphere of mystery, and breaking them can also, but to a smaller degree.

For many years my favorite performance has been the Cliburn-Reiner recording, but my new favorite is the Zimerman-Ozawa. This is a stupendous performance, far better than any of the others I've heard. And listen to those opening chords!


Mel
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#1867568 - 03/24/12 01:29 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: dannylux]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8695
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: dannylux
...but my new favorite is the Zimerman-Ozawa. This is a stupendous performance, far better than any of the others I've heard. And listen to those opening chords!

Here it is:

Indeed, you are correct, though with due respect I found the opening chords a bit too slow... at least on an initial hearing.

But after that... well things catch fire and this is a performance to contend with.

Thanks Mel!
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#1867570 - 03/24/12 01:39 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
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Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
But let us not forget Katchen/Solti. A knock-out performance for the ages, one that meant so much to me as a love-sick young teenager. (LOL)

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#1867589 - 03/24/12 04:01 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
Jolteon Offline
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This van Cliburn recording is my favourite one, I think. It's sublime.
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#1867594 - 03/24/12 04:22 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: argerichfan]
Sir Monty Golfear Offline
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Loc: Leicester . UK
But let us not forget Katchen/Solti. A knock-out performance for the ages, one that meant so much to me as a love-sick young teenager. (LOL)


I used to be the same about Julius Katchen's version in my youth, but it doesn't bear close comparison with some of the great performances we have of the concerto today as it now scrappy with its approximate runs and near misses in some of its passages IMO .

It would be nice to known how well known professionals on the circuit approach these opening chords , and how they would advise someone like myself who cannot seem to be able to get those awkward chordsnwithout breaking or rolling them.
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#1867607 - 03/24/12 05:58 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
btb Offline
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Opening measures to Rachmaninoff PC2

Thanks for that dannylux

“The thing about the opening chords is that they produce
THE MOST MARVELLOUS, MYSTERIOUS ATMOSPHERE,
completely unlike anything in any other piano concerto.”

Bravo ... but, tough on you chaps with small hands.

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#1867690 - 03/24/12 11:26 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
bennevis Offline
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I don't have any trouble playing the chords without rolling, though my hands only just about encompass a 10th (and I need time to stretch even to get that...). It's just that my fingers have the flexibility that allows me to contort to play the inner notes.

Some pianists roll all the chords; others roll one or two of them (like Ashkenazy); still others play the bass notes before the rest of the chords (like the composer did, though he obviously had no need to). As long as they sound convincing, and are voiced properly, I don't think it matters how you play them.

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#1867705 - 03/24/12 12:05 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: argerichfan]
didyougethathing Offline
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Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 534
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: beet31425

And my reach is also a tenth, and yet I cannot come close to playing them.

Hence my main point: The single number describing what you can "reach" is insufficient for measuring hand size. It also has to with what you can do with the fingers in between.

This is a very interesting discussion.

I can easily take a 10th (but nothing larger), and I have never thought that the opening chords in Rachmaninov 2 would be difficult for someone with that hand size. I just went to the piano, and yes, I can play those chords unbroken. But I do now see that there are other factors involved.


It's interesting indeed; I'm fascinated that so many can't make the stretch. But Beet is right, it isn't just about the span. It's obviously not just about finger length either because my hands are not long: My middle finger is exactly 3.5 inches.
It's not like I can palm a basketball or anything either grin

I guess my fingers are just flexible enough to make it comfortable. There has to be some sort of exercise or stretch that would help people to move their fingers in the way you have to for the chord in question.

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#1867826 - 03/24/12 06:01 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
Sir Monty Golfear Offline
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Registered: 03/23/12
Posts: 145
Loc: Leicester . UK
I have just found this regarding a broadcast by Robert Winston who interviewed Peter Dohohoemabout playing Rachmaninovs Piano Concerto No. 2.......

But the opening right-hand chords of that concerto over the tolling bass are the product of more than gloom. The rangy Rachmaninov, written off by Stravinsky as "a six-and-a-half-foot scowl", was probably suffering from Marfan syndrome, the condition that leads to exceptionally long limbs and elasticity. He wrote extraordinarily broad chords, possibly because he had lost confidence in composing for posterity – and thus for those with smaller hands. The concert pianist Peter Donohoe admits that by bar four of the concerto he has to leave out some of the notes.


SMG
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#1867830 - 03/24/12 06:07 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: beet31425]
SlatterFan Offline
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Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 783
Loc: Brighton, UK
Originally Posted By: beet31425
But the second RH chord involves a Db-C stretch using 2 and 5, which I can't come close to.

Why not play the bottom C and D flat together with the thumb? I tried tonight and found it surprisingly easy within a few minutes of practice to produce a fine-sounding simultaneous chord that way. I think it really helps if the notes in the RH are played simultaneously, and only the LH is rolled/split if needed. (IMO grin )
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#1867868 - 03/24/12 07:55 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
wr Offline
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Posts: 7422
Funny, I've been hearing about these notorious chords forever, it seems, but don't remember the last time I actually tried to play them. Must have been 40 or so years ago, when I was doing the orchestra part for someone and read through the solo part for fun (and to better understand what the soloist was up against).

Anyway, I just now tried them again and it turns out I can play them without breaking them (using the thumb for that Db and C). Do I get some kind of certificate for this? laugh I don't have huge hands, but think that doing Dohnanyi exercises has made them a bit more flexible and stretchy, which really helps for stuff like those chords.

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#1867880 - 03/24/12 08:22 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
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Originally Posted By: Sir Monty Golfear

I used to be the same about Julius Katchen's version in my youth, but it doesn't bear close comparison with some of the great performances we have of the concerto today as it now scrappy with its approximate runs and near misses in some of its passages IMO.

Well yes, we can identify some technical imperfections, but the overall thrust and ecstasy of Katchen's performance is not to be denied. He was on a mission!

But times change and we mature. Back when I was 22 I thought the close of Mahler's 1st the most overwhelmingly stupendous statement of human triumph, and I would run to the bathroom for tissue and just cry my heart out.

These days -and with due respect to those who still find something profound in Mahler's insistent heaven storming- I wonder what the fuss was all about. Now it seems very calculated and provincial to me.

But no one will agree. I'm the odd one out.
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#1868057 - 03/25/12 04:54 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: argerichfan]
Sir Monty Golfear Offline
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Registered: 03/23/12
Posts: 145
Loc: Leicester . UK
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: Sir Monty Golfear

I used to be the same about Julius Katchen's version in my youth, but it doesn't bear close comparison with some of the great performances we have of the concerto today as it now scrappy with its approximate runs and near misses in some of its passages IMO.

Well yes, we can identify some technical imperfections, but the overall thrust and ecstasy of Katchen's performance is not to be denied. He was on a mission!

But times change and we mature. Back when I was 22 I thought the close of Mahler's 1st the most overwhelmingly stupendous statement of human triumph, and I would run to the bathroom for tissue and just cry my heart out.

These days -and with due respect to those who still find something profound in Mahler's insistent heaven storming- I wonder what the fuss was all about. Now it seems very calculated and provincial to me.

I can late to that too!.
Perhaps after hearing all the increasingly technicaly perfect pianists and recordings of today, I am being harsh on Katchen. For as much wizardry that pianists such as Lang Lang display I cannot for life of me get any emotional or musical enjoyment from such school of pianists. In that respect Katchen wins for me every time.
Have you heard Simon Trpceski in his new recording of the Rachmaninov concertos's ?.....now he knows how to play, boy can he play !

MG


But no one will agree. I'm the odd one out.
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#1868145 - 03/25/12 10:33 AM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: Sir Monty Golfear]
jesseoffy Offline
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Registered: 05/16/10
Posts: 240
Learning the piece, I can fortunately play them without rolling, thanks to large enough hands. Though I've noticed that it's actually easier to play them hands crossed (left hand playing the right hand's notes) - not that I'm going to do that. The way the fingers are positioned when spread out makes this work easier than left hand playing left hand chords, interestingly.
Nevertheless, I've heard a few different variations of rolling, and I have to say my favorite is playing the bottom F first, then "jumping" quickly to the rest of the notes. I heard a recording where the pianist slowly rolled every note, and I just hated that, since it completely changes the idea of the bell-like chords.
(It helps if you can play the half step C-Db second chord with one finger, though that can get trippy).
Edit: as for the right hand, try to play the C-Db and C-D interval with on finger.


Edited by JesseOffy (03/25/12 10:34 AM)
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Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov

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#1868206 - 03/25/12 12:16 PM Re: Intro chords in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 [Re: wr]
didyougethathing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 534
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: wr
Funny, I've been hearing about these notorious chords forever, it seems, but don't remember the last time I actually tried to play them. Must have been 40 or so years ago, when I was doing the orchestra part for someone and read through the solo part for fun (and to better understand what the soloist was up against).

Anyway, I just now tried them again and it turns out I can play them without breaking them (using the thumb for that Db and C). Do I get some kind of certificate for this? laugh I don't have huge hands, but think that doing Dohnanyi exercises has made them a bit more flexible and stretchy, which really helps for stuff like those chords.


If you get a certificate, I should get a medal! ha I play that chord using full 1-2-3-4-5, without huge hands. To me it's just a DbMaj7 outlined with the major 7 note.

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