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#1929445 - 07/20/12 04:22 AM How good do you think Chopin's technique was?
JoelW Offline
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Could he play his 24 etudes with ease? Did the technique of his day even come close to the technical wizards of today?

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#1929462 - 07/20/12 04:42 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Derulux Offline
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I think one thing to keep in mind, especially during a time period for which we have no recordings, is quite literally the "period" in which any comments about the artists are made. One can say, "Liszt played it flawlessly!" but that may mean something completely different in the 19th century than in the 21st. Today, we would think he played without technical error, but in the middle 19th century, that simply could have meant his expression was spot-on, and a missed note or two was ignored.

That said, I think Chopin would probably be very capable of playing his own pieces. As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself. (Of course, I could write four octaves of notes and say, "This is impossible!" but if I want to write something that could actually be played, I would most-likely have to stick within the limits of my own imagination, which typically means my own ability, or reasonably thereof.)
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#1929513 - 07/20/12 07:57 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Derulux]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Derulux
That said, I think Chopin would probably be very capable of playing his own pieces. As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself...
While the huge majority of great composers for the piano were also great pianists, there were definitely exceptions who could not adequately play some of their own music. Two of them would be Ravel and Schubert.

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#1929530 - 07/20/12 08:28 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Derulux]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Derulux

As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself.


Composers routinely write for instruments they can't play at all, much less expertly, so I don't understand your point of view.

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#1929603 - 07/20/12 10:44 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: pianoloverus]
Vitruvius Offline
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Registered: 05/03/12
Posts: 8
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Derulux
That said, I think Chopin would probably be very capable of playing his own pieces. As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself...
While the huge majority of great composers for the piano were also great pianists, there were definitely exceptions who could not adequately play some of their own music. Two of them would be Ravel and Schubert.


Composers don't practice. Ravel could have been a great pianist if he practiced. He won a piano competition over Cortot in his early years.

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#1929614 - 07/20/12 10:53 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: scherzojoe
Could he play his 24 etudes with ease?

No doubt.

Quote:
Did the technique of his day even come close to the technical wizards of today?

Probably way close, but hard to say because (I have the impression) his technique was of such a different nature than what you're talking about, with different priorities and emphases, that it would be hard to express such a comparison even if we were hearing him play.

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#1929622 - 07/20/12 11:05 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
beet31425 Offline
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Registered: 06/12/09
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Could Chopin have played his etudes with ease on the modern piano? Were the pianos of his time easier to play in some ways? Anyone know?

-J
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#1929628 - 07/20/12 11:10 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: beet31425]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: beet31425
Could Chopin have played his etudes with ease on the modern piano? Were the pianos of his time easier to play in some ways? Anyone know?

Easier to press the keys down. Easier to play faster. Easier to get clarity of sound. Harder or impossible to do other things.

If you're old enough to have learned typing on a "manual" and then moved to an electric, which you aren't grin that's a little bit like the reverse of what you're asking about.

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#1929639 - 07/20/12 11:26 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Vitruvius]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Vitruvius
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Derulux
That said, I think Chopin would probably be very capable of playing his own pieces. As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself...
While the huge majority of great composers for the piano were also great pianists, there were definitely exceptions who could not adequately play some of their own music. Two of them would be Ravel and Schubert.


Composers don't practice. Ravel could have been a great pianist if he practiced. He won a piano competition over Cortot in his early years.
I'm not sure he won a compeition over Cortot. Having read a biography of Ravel I got the strong sense that Ravel was never particularly good, by conservatory standards, as a pianist at any point on his life.

I also don't think it's true that "composers don't practice". Some certainly may not practice as much as full times pianists, but many others were performimg virtuosos and had to practice a reasonable amount.

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#1929746 - 07/20/12 02:41 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: pianoloverus]
Derulux Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Derulux
That said, I think Chopin would probably be very capable of playing his own pieces. As a very hackneyed and horrible composer (speaking, of course, about myself and not Chopin), I find that I cannot fathom writing something that is intended to be played by someone that I could not play myself...
While the huge majority of great composers for the piano were also great pianists, there were definitely exceptions who could not adequately play some of their own music. Two of them would be Ravel and Schubert.

Very good point. I must admit, I waned poetic there at what, 4:30am? We had a nasty thunderstorm swing through and I couldn't sleep much. I will, for the moment, set aside taste (I am not a huge fan of either of those composer's solo piano works, with very few exceptions of Schubert, but my personal taste should not weigh on the conversation).

Perhaps we should amend my statement to include, "...that I could not play myself, or have not heard someone else play." This would allow for non-pianists to certainly compose adequately for the piano, which many do, while also suggesting that the great pianist composers were the ones who advanced the musicality and technicality of the instrument. (This, I think was probably more to my point, considering we were originally looking at Chopin's Etudes, and at 4:30am, my brain was in the sack.) smile

Originally Posted By: wr
Composers routinely write for instruments they can't play at all, much less expertly, so I don't understand your point of view.

See above, my friend. I think I began answering this in my further discussion with pianoloverus.
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#1929766 - 07/20/12 03:17 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted By: scherzojoe
Could he play his 24 etudes with ease? Did the technique of his day even come close to the technical wizards of today?


The best - if quite incomplete - answer to this question is to read what the critics of his day had to say of his playing as well as his own writings on piano technique and style.

He does write, (20 June, 1833) how much he envies Liszt's playing of his (Chopin's) Etudes : "I'm writing you without really knowing what I am scribbling because Liszt is playing my Etudes at the moment and is transporting me beyond any reasonable senses." [my translation from the French].

Critics have written that, even in his younger years, his tone, full of shading and infinite variety was nevertheless not robust; some complained that his sound was inadequate to fill the halls on the very rare occasions he played in public. Others admired the suppleness of his technique, the ease with which he played.

That said, of course that was judged against the technical standards of his day which were not necessarily those that we use as modern standards.

Regards,
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#1929771 - 07/20/12 03:23 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Look, dudes -- don't forget, we have VIDEO of him playing!
This should easily erase any doubts.



Yeah, some measures and stuff are left out -- but y'know how it is, anyone can have memory lapses....

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#1929855 - 07/20/12 05:35 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
dolce sfogato Offline
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what a stupid idea: that Chopin wouldn't be able to play his own etudes, who would be capable of inventing such audacious novelties without the tools to execute them, why, this space must serve something more useful than this.
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#1929867 - 07/20/12 05:43 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: dolce sfogato]
ClsscLib Online   content

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Registered: 03/14/08
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Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
what a stupid idea: that Chopin wouldn't be able to play his own etudes, who would be capable of inventing such audacious novelties without the tools to execute them, why, this space must serve something more useful than this.


I didn't understand the question to be whether he could play his compositions at all, but rather how well he played those (and other) works.

Personally, I don't view that as a stupid question. A lot of composers have been okay-but-not-great pianists.
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#1929872 - 07/20/12 05:48 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
ChopinAddict Offline
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Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Originally Posted By: scherzojoe
Could he play his 24 etudes with ease? Did the technique of his day even come close to the technical wizards of today?


Of course!
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Music is my best friend.


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#1929873 - 07/20/12 05:49 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: ClsscLib]
dolce sfogato Offline
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Registered: 03/29/10
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Loc: Netherlands
people who doubt genius's capabilities, like that of Chopin's, should question their own. Could Bach play his Goldberg-variations, did Liszt actually toss off Mazeppa, and how was the premiere of Mahler's 8th under his own baton, let's not question those things, let's accept them and be humble and strive..
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Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!

Mussorgski tableaux d'une exposition/Ravel miroirs

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#1929894 - 07/20/12 06:16 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: dolce sfogato]
ClsscLib Online   content

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Registered: 03/14/08
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Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
people who doubt genius's capabilities, like that of Chopin's, should question their own. Could Bach play his Goldberg-variations, did Liszt actually toss off Mazeppa, and how was the premiere of Mahler's 8th under his own baton, let's not question those things, let's accept them and be humble and strive..


Stuff and nonsense.

No one doubts Chopin's ability as a composer. But is there anything to suggest that, as a pianist, he should be mentioned in the same breath as Liszt? I'm certainly willing to consider any evidence that may exist. I'm not willing simply to assume that he was a great pianist just BECAUSE he was a great composer. That's a non sequitur.


Edited by ClsscLib (07/21/12 09:08 AM)
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#1929904 - 07/20/12 06:34 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: dolce sfogato]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7864
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
people who doubt genius's capabilities, like that of Chopin's, should question their own. Could Bach play his Goldberg-variations, did Liszt actually toss off Mazeppa, and how was the premiere of Mahler's 8th under his own baton, let's not question those things, let's accept them and be humble and strive..


Could Tchaikovsky and Brahms play their violin concertos?

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#1930050 - 07/21/12 12:48 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Mark_C]
Ferdinand Offline
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Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 943
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Could Chopin have played his etudes with ease on the modern piano? Were the pianos of his time easier to play in some ways? Anyone know?

Easier to press the keys down. Easier to play faster. Easier to get clarity of sound. Harder or impossible to do other things.

If you're old enough to have learned typing on a "manual" and then moved to an electric, which you aren't grin that's a little bit like the reverse of what you're asking about.

Would repeated notes have been more difficult?

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#1930053 - 07/21/12 12:54 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Ferdinand]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
....Would repeated notes have been more difficult?

Good question -- I don't know! I'd guess yes.
Let's see if someone does know....

And come to think of it, wouldn't we think repeated notes would be even harder on a harpsichord? Yet Scarlatti wrote all that repeated note stuff....

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#1930069 - 07/21/12 01:58 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: ClsscLib]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: ClsscLib

Stuff and nonsense.

Not necessarily. Have you read the chapter on Chopin in Harold Schonberg's 'The Great Pianists'? There is quite a bit of information about Chopin's piano playing from his contemporaries.

Chopin may not have had the dashing power and charisma of Liszt -though I think their respective egos were fairly well matched- but there seems to be a sense that Chopin was a far more subtlety sensitive pianist than Liszt.

For all that, at the time Liszt confronted Thalberg there is every indication that if Thalberg could play his operatic fantasies as well as his horribly difficult scores suggest -and there is much evidence to say he did- then Thalberg was also at that time Liszt's equal.

I only bring this up because my local classical radio station played Thalberg's fantasie on Rossini's La donna del lago Wednesday morning. The recording was incredible, I was in the car at the time, but later when I went to IMSLP to check the score, I couldn't believe how nasty the technical demands were.
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#1930101 - 07/21/12 05:24 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
stores Offline
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There isn't any question that Chopin possessed an incredibly strong technique. Did he arrive at said technique in the same manner Liszt, and his "school" did? No. Chopin, was concerned, first and foremost, with sound production and the music, while Liszt believed in pounding out exercises until you no longer could. Was the technique of their day the likes of that which we witness from the technical wizards of our day? Absolutely not. Look no further than the difference in pianos then and now. Chopin, would struggle mightily on a modern day grand and Liszt, would have difficulty as well, though he would more easily adapt. Present day conservatories are full of students with technique that would blow Chopin, and Liszt, both away and leave them wide-eyed.
_________________________

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#1930123 - 07/21/12 07:10 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: dolce sfogato]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2469
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
people who doubt genius's capabilities, like that of Chopin's, should question their own. Could Bach play his Goldberg-variations, did Liszt actually toss off Mazeppa, and how was the premiere of Mahler's 8th under his own baton, let's not question those things, let's accept them and be humble and strive..


+1

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#1930132 - 07/21/12 07:35 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
here is an example of a superb athlete... perhaps a bit too sexy for PW. She is warming up, she is happy, she knows she is going to win this race and just takes off like a rocket. I cry when I see her because i used to be a superb athlete and mourn the loss of my tone and strength.

I can imagine Chopin being blown away by the strength and ease that Lizst was able to play his compositions (especially the etudes). I certainly am jealous of Lizst's aptitude. Even tho Chopin's techniques are not all that 'hard', if he wanted to create an exercise that taught one how to fling up and down the keyboard with ease, he could and just did.

the beauty of Chopin's techniques taught in the etudes is that they teach the fingers how to travel with ease, how to acquire the skills to semiquaver in thirds or sixths for instance.. to stretch octaves into glorious glissandos of sound. One could read analyses (is that the proper plural?) of semiquavering 3rds and the how to books, but one would simply be better off playing the 3rds etude repeatedly (it's hard). smile

There are some interesting organ (pipe organ) techniques that emerge in Lizst's compositions.... they make playing his music easy. I don't know that it is easy to spot these techniques from the scores. but Franz was an incredibly able keyboardist.. he used his thumb wisely. I don't know too much about Lizst editions, but his transcriptions of other people's pieces are brilliant. It is not easy to create a continuity of melody or legato to put it simply, without some convolutions of the fingers.

just rambling i guess. I don't know that i contributed much to this discussion.
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#1930163 - 07/21/12 09:10 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: stores]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
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Originally Posted By: stores
There isn't any question that Chopin possessed an incredibly strong technique. Did he arrive at said technique in the same manner Liszt, and his "school" did? No. Chopin, was concerned, first and foremost, with sound production and the music, while Liszt believed in pounding out exercises until you no longer could. Was the technique of their day the likes of that which we witness from the technical wizards of our day? Absolutely not. Look no further than the difference in pianos then and now. Chopin, would struggle mightily on a modern day grand and Liszt, would have difficulty as well, though he would more easily adapt. Present day conservatories are full of students with technique that would blow Chopin, and Liszt, both away and leave them wide-eyed.

I'm not sure about blowing Liszt away, but certainly a step in the right direction. The young pianists coming out today are just amazing. The ease with which they navigate the keyboard is astounding, and in due time, I'm sure they will develop a musicality that appeals to each new generation.

Case in point: I just listened to Yuja Wang the other day. First time I ever heard her play. Found her playing Rach 3 on Youtube. Phenomenal technique. But left me down right at the end. Something about the way she interpreted the big finale, cutting notes short and lengthening other odd ones, really broke up the drama in the lines. But right up to that point, it was quite well done.

So, as I said, case in point: her technicality was nearly flawless. Her interpretation was not quite to my liking there at the end, but it was a wonderful performance nonetheless.
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#1930168 - 07/21/12 09:15 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: argerichfan]
ClsscLib Online   content

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Registered: 03/14/08
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Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib

Stuff and nonsense.

Not necessarily. Have you read the chapter on Chopin in Harold Schonberg's 'The Great Pianists'? There is quite a bit of information about Chopin's piano playing from his contemporaries.



What I was describing as "stuff and nonsense" is the argument that simply because Chopin was a great composer, he must therefore have been a great pianist. I also wrote in the same post that *evidence* of his possible greatness as a pianist would be important to me, but that I rejected as false the syllogistic conclusion that Chopin must be a great pianist because he was a great composer for the piano. The major premise fails: It is not true that everyone who writes beautifully for an instrument plays it beautifully.

You, on the other hand, have actually brought evidence to the discussion, and it's very helpful to the question. Thanks.
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#1930203 - 07/21/12 10:44 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: ClsscLib]
Derulux Offline
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Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
You, on the other hand, have actually brought evidence to the discussion, and it's very helpful to the question. Thanks.


I would submit to this discussion that all evidence of this period, for which we have no remaining records other than written, is entirely circumstantial at best.

Now, I do not want to preclude the possibility of examining "expert opinion", of which certainly the words of other renowned professionals of the day should constitute, but namely the position that we can compare the words of the 19th century to the pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries (or the surrounding cultures that produced them).
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#1930208 - 07/21/12 10:56 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Derulux]
ClsscLib Online   content

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Registered: 03/14/08
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Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
You, on the other hand, have actually brought evidence to the discussion, and it's very helpful to the question. Thanks.


I would submit to this discussion that all evidence of this period, for which we have no remaining records other than written, is entirely circumstantial at best.

Now, I do not want to preclude the possibility of examining "expert opinion", of which certainly the words of other renowned professionals of the day should constitute, but namely the position that we can compare the words of the 19th century to the pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries (or the surrounding cultures that produced them).


Not to pick nits, but the words of other expert pianists of the time is "testimonial" rather than "circumstantial" evidence. In customary evidence evaluations (e.g., a trial) testimonial evidence is given considerable weight, subject to concerns about expertise, relevance, and veracity.

But your general point is valid: No one here heard Chopin play, and we have no recordings. Testimonial evidence from the best players of the day is probably the best direct evidence we'll ever get.
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#1930221 - 07/21/12 11:15 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: ClsscLib]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
You, on the other hand, have actually brought evidence to the discussion, and it's very helpful to the question. Thanks.


I would submit to this discussion that all evidence of this period, for which we have no remaining records other than written, is entirely circumstantial at best.

Now, I do not want to preclude the possibility of examining "expert opinion", of which certainly the words of other renowned professionals of the day should constitute, but namely the position that we can compare the words of the 19th century to the pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries (or the surrounding cultures that produced them).


Not to pick nits, but the words of other expert pianists of the time is "testimonial" rather than "circumstantial" evidence. In customary evidence evaluations (e.g., a trial) testimonial evidence is given considerable weight, subject to concerns about expertise, relevance, and veracity.

But your general point is valid: No one here heard Chopin play, and we have no recordings. Testimonial evidence from the best players of the day is probably the best direct evidence we'll ever get.


Hence my second paragraph, which I admit could have been written in a fashion that was a little easier to understand. But I think we're on the same page. smile
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#1930339 - 07/21/12 03:48 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5159
The Pleyels and Erards of Chopin's day (many of which are preserved and fully restored today, and played by non-period instrument specialists) feel and sound different to today's concert grands: they have lighter keyweight, shallower key travel and poorer damping and poorer sustain which makes passagework and glissandi - and rapid thirds etc - easier (I could play octave glissandi on them, which I can't on a modern grand), and bel canto melodies sound different: notes blend into each other because of the 'inefficient' damping, but the notes themselves decay faster.

One can almost imagine how Chopin would cultivate his renowned beauty of sound on these pianos. However, he probably never had the kind of power that Liszt had to do his heavier works full justice - the contemporary reports often commented on how softly he played (and he sometimes only played the slow and soft sections of some of his own music like the Ballades), while Chopin himself envied Liszt's playing of some of his music.

It's true that some composer-pianists of the 19th century, like Brahms, played 'like composers', but many composers wrote (and still write) music that they themselves weren't good enought to play even if they were quite proficient. In our own time, Thomas Adès can easily play all his own piano music, but Carl Vine can't.
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"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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