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#1943370 - 08/15/12 07:23 PM Cheating on Liszt's fingerings
evilpacman18 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/12
Posts: 152
Loc: Glendora, CA
I'm playing Transcendental Etude No. 2, A minor, and there's that really rocky octave arpeggio. I've cropped and shopped these two pictures together to illustrate the measure, and how I feel about it:


Now, every time the figure appears, it's possible to play the second to last note with the thumb left hand instead of 5 in the right hand. It makes it smoother, easier, and all around it sounds better, but I'm under the impression that all the fingerings are the composer's own and he obviously had a reason for asking that the whole figure be played with the right hand. I watched Berezovsky's and Sgouros' performances on youtube and as far as I can tell it looks like they both snuck a thumb in there where it "shouldn't" go. What's your opinion?


Edited by evilpacman18 (08/16/12 12:31 AM)

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#1943389 - 08/15/12 08:02 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
It's an etude. There's a certain aspect of technique to be mastered. What's the point of the etude, if you don't do it?

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#1943443 - 08/15/12 09:48 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
Michael Glenn Williams Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 113
Loc: Southern California
Absolutely do whatever works! You could even play the higher A with LH 1, and the lower A with LH 5 if you want.

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#1943454 - 08/15/12 10:10 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17939
Loc: Victoria, BC
Yes, it's an Etude, but is it an etude in fingering or in musical production? I would opt - yes, even for an Etude where the composer has given the fingering - for what produces the best musical result. Surely there's enough other material that the Etude focuses on to give you the training or workout that Liszt required. All hands are not created equal.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#1943456 - 08/15/12 10:26 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
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Loc: Oakland
If it were an etude in fingering, I think the proper fingering of the right hand octaves would be 1 5 1 5 1-5 1-5 1, which involves switching fingers on the descending notes.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1943457 - 08/15/12 10:30 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: BruceD]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Yes, it's an Etude, but is it an etude in fingering or in musical production?


Why does it have to be one or the other? Seems to me that particular fingering at that particular moment may very well be about both.

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#1943459 - 08/15/12 10:38 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: Michael Glenn Williams]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: Michael Glenn Williams
Absolutely do whatever works! You could even play the higher A with LH 1, and the lower A with LH 5 if you want.


Liszt's fingering does work. And if you cheat on it, you are just cheating yourself out of learning something from one of the more important piano virtuosos in history. But, of course, if you don't care about such things, go right ahead and cheat.

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#1943504 - 08/16/12 01:07 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: BDB]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8848
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: BDB
If it were an etude in fingering, I think the proper fingering of the right hand octaves would be 1 5 1 5 1-5 1-5 1, which involves switching fingers on the descending notes.

But certainly the 1-5 1-5 you suggest would not be practical at the tempo Liszt requires.

I have worked on the etude, and I feel Liszt's fingerings make the most sense. For all that it is not the most difficult passage in that killer etude.
_________________________
Jason

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#1943511 - 08/16/12 01:35 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
evilpacman18 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/12
Posts: 152
Loc: Glendora, CA
You don't think so? What would you say is? I feel like it really lets up after the first two pages.

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#1943522 - 08/16/12 02:18 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: wr]
Michael Glenn Williams Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 113
Loc: Southern California
Ignore the title Etude. Using your own fingering is not cheating, it's doing what you are supposed to do. People give the editor or composer's fingering a try, but at the end of the day, what Liszt did with that fingering and what you do are going to be different anyway.

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#1943529 - 08/16/12 02:45 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: Michael Glenn Williams]
ScriabinAddict Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/12
Posts: 333
Originally Posted By: Michael Glenn Williams
Ignore the title Etude.

No
Originally Posted By: Michael Glenn Williams
Using your own fingering is not cheating

Considering it's an etude and the composer provided fingerings, yes it actually is.

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#1943575 - 08/16/12 05:48 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
debrucey Offline
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Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Use whatever fingering you like as long as it gets the required effect.

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#1943581 - 08/16/12 06:10 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: debrucey]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Use whatever fingering you like as long as it gets the required effect.


IMO, the effect Liszt wanted depends on using the fingering given, which, of course, is exactly why it is written that way. To me, it is unlikely that he conceived of that figure without the fingering being an intrinsic part of how to get it to sound the way it should sound. Maybe I'm being too literal-minded about it, but it just seems blindingly apparent to me that using the given fingering is the only way to really get the sound Liszt had in mind. There's a certain fire and edginess that gets lost if you change the fingering.

And of course, you've also lost the opportunity to learn something about the physical aspect of playing the piano, as well. I just don't understand why anyone would want to learn an etude, while at the same time trying to subvert one of the reasons for the piece's existence. That's just kind of bizarre, to my way of thinking. There are certain circumstances in which I can understand doing some workarounds as expedient for concert performance, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here.

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#1943802 - 08/16/12 01:04 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: wr]
beet31425 Offline
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: wr
I just don't understand why anyone would want to learn an etude, while at the same time trying to subvert one of the reasons for the piece's existence. That's just kind of bizarre, to my way of thinking.

It sounds like you view etudes as fundamentally different from other pieces of music, at least as far as their reasons for existence. I think that's a fine viewpoint-- but I don't share it.

Of course, etudes tend to be difficult, and tend to focus on a particular technical challenge. But that's true of many other pieces too. I approach etudes the same as I approach anything else, as far as what motivates me to learn one, how I deal with technical and musical challenges, what liberties I allow myself to take, etc.

I'm working on Chopin's op.25/1 and his first scherzo right now. Both are fiendishly difficult, beautiful pieces. I've learned a tremendous amount from trying to play them at speed while still being true to their musical essence. Am I being less true to the etude, compared to the scherzo, if I don't follow a composer's fingering, or even redistribute the hands occasionally? I don't think so. I see them as the same kind of thing-- pieces of music.

My teacher says "I don't care if you play it with your nose-- I just care about making it musical." This doesn't mean that she doesn't care about technique and fingering. It means that it's such an incredibly difficult task to be true to the musical essence of a piece, that all these things should just be tools to that end. With this approach, every piece of music is an etude.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#1944069 - 08/16/12 07:30 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: beet31425]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: beet31425


I'm working on Chopin's op.25/1 and his first scherzo right now. Both are fiendishly difficult, beautiful pieces. I've learned a tremendous amount from trying to play them at speed while still being true to their musical essence. Am I being less true to the etude, compared to the scherzo, if I don't follow a composer's fingering, or even redistribute the hands occasionally? I don't think so. I see them as the same kind of thing-- pieces of music.



To me, that is not the issue. It's more about the composer of the etude giving the pianist something worthwhile they can learn, and if the pianist doesn't take advantage of it by following the instructions, they've missed out on something valuable that is there for the taking.

I do see etudes as a special category of composition. If they weren't, why would they have that special title? It's not just poetic whimsy. They are, in essence, teaching pieces, in a way that other music isn't.

Which is not to say that other music can't be used as teaching material, but that the etude is designed specifically with that in mind, and it usually will contain a "lesson" (or several) to be learned. This doesn't mean that the etude can't function beautifully on a musical level as well - many do - but, again, that isn't the point, I don't think.

To me, the point is that, in an etude, the composer is giving a gift. The gift is in the form of sharing some very particular pianistic and/or musical knowledge they have. The pianist really does have to work on playing it exactly as written, difficult fingerings and all, in order to receive what is being offered.

In the Liszt example, he is teaching the pianist a certain possibility regarding rapidly shifting the hand in a certain kind of musical situation. He is saying, "I want to share with you this amazing thing I've discovered that may look crazy, but you can do it." I don't understand why any serious pianist would want to turn down the opportunity to learn something about playing the piano that comes directly from Liszt, and that is exactly what happens if the fingering and distribution is changed.

As I said earlier, I think that there may be performance situations in which a pianist really does have a legitimate need to cheat (to avoid fatigue in a long program, for example), but I think that should be the exception, and should never be done as the first approach to an etude.

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#1944079 - 08/16/12 08:04 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: wr]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17939
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: wr
[...] I don't understand why any serious pianist would want to turn down the opportunity to learn something about playing the piano that comes directly from Liszt, and that is exactly what happens if the fingering and distribution is changed.

As I said earlier, I think that there may be performance situations in which a pianist really does have a legitimate need to cheat (to avoid fatigue in a long program, for example), but I think that should be the exception, and should never be done as the first approach to an etude.


You seem to be making the assumption that I don't think that Liszt, the teacher, would make: that all hands are the same size and and shape, and that all should function at the piano in the same manner. You also seem to be going against the wisdom of many respected editors and performers who do give/use alternate fingerings to what might be "original."

In Liszt's Etude de concert, "Un sospiro," measures 13 through 18 are clearly marked in both my editions to play the broken octave melody with alternating hands. Yet, Earl Wild, a noted "Lisztian," plays the melody with the right hand throughout these measures. Is he playing it "wrong"? Is he not "learning something" coming directly from Liszt that he should be?

How do we know that the fingering in question in the OP's post is Liszt's fingering? I have an Urtext edition (Henle) of the Chopin Etudes with fingerings given by Hermann Keller. Those fingerings differ considerably from those given by Cortot in his edition of the Chopin Etudes. Are you saying that, since these are obviously not Chopin's fingerings that these are not valid?

I fail to see how the changing of a fingering pattern in a few places in a complex work is contrary to what the Etude is "teaching," unless one is so literal-minded that one believes that only one fingering in an Etude will work and must be adhered to from start to finish. What do you suggest when the composer does not give fingering? i.e. Debussy? Why would devising one's own practical fingering where it is not given by the composer by any different than changing what the composer - or maybe an editor - has suggested, if doing so produces the musical results one is aiming for?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1944106 - 08/16/12 09:04 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: BruceD]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: wr
[...] I don't understand why any serious pianist would want to turn down the opportunity to learn something about playing the piano that comes directly from Liszt, and that is exactly what happens if the fingering and distribution is changed.

As I said earlier, I think that there may be performance situations in which a pianist really does have a legitimate need to cheat (to avoid fatigue in a long program, for example), but I think that should be the exception, and should never be done as the first approach to an etude.


You seem to be making the assumption that I don't think that Liszt, the teacher, would make: that all hands are the same size and and shape, and that all should function at the piano in the same manner. You also seem to be going against the wisdom of many respected editors and performers who do give/use alternate fingerings to what might be "original."

In Liszt's Etude de concert, "Un sospiro," measures 13 through 18 are clearly marked in both my editions to play the broken octave melody with alternating hands. Yet, Earl Wild, a noted "Lisztian," plays the melody with the right hand throughout these measures. Is he playing it "wrong"? Is he not "learning something" coming directly from Liszt that he should be?

How do we know that the fingering in question in the OP's post is Liszt's fingering? I have an Urtext edition (Henle) of the Chopin Etudes with fingerings given by Hermann Keller. Those fingerings differ considerably from those given by Cortot in his edition of the Chopin Etudes. Are you saying that, since these are obviously not Chopin's fingerings that these are not valid?

I fail to see how the changing of a fingering pattern in a few places in a complex work is contrary to what the Etude is "teaching," unless one is so literal-minded that one believes that only one fingering in an Etude will work and must be adhered to from start to finish. What do you suggest when the composer does not give fingering? i.e. Debussy? Why would devising one's own practical fingering where it is not given by the composer by any different than changing what the composer - or maybe an editor - has suggested, if doing so produces the musical results one is aiming for?



If a pianist physically cannot manage some aspect of an etude as written, I think they are just flat out of luck, in terms of getting the etude value from whatever it may be. Sure, one can play the piece anyway with cheating, for the musical value that may be found in it, but that removes something from the piece that the composer put into it.

Editors love to mess with the work of others, it's what they do (and earn money from doing). If an editor gives an alternate to what a composer wrote, then the pianist can judge for themselves the value of it relative what the composer provided. Personally, I think little of that practice - it encourages a kind of second-guessing of the composer that I find of questionable value. Which applies to Earl Wild as well as anyone else. The purpose of etudes isn't to learn how to be dodgy, even if that can be a useful thing to know.

Isn't part the lesson in the Debussy etudes to work out one's own fingerings? That doesn't contradict anything I said. He's the composer, and that's his purpose.

My point remains that if the composer does in fact provide a fingering in an etude, then it should be seen as part of what the etude is teaching. Clearly, if no fingering is provided, an editor's suggestion may be valid. Liszt provided the fingering in the OP - it's in the "unedited" first edition.


Edited by wr (08/16/12 09:08 PM)

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#1944141 - 08/16/12 10:36 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Although it's an etude, it's not a mere finger exercise; it's also for concert performance, and I don't feel that the purpose of the whole etude is to execute every note with Liszt's fingering. He probably put it there as a suggestion. Each person's hand is different - what works for one person doesn't work as well for another. I would rather hear this performed smoothly with whatever fingering works well for the performer rather than poorly executed with Liszt's suggested fingerings.

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#1944159 - 08/16/12 11:12 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: pianist87]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: pianist87
Although it's an etude, it's not a mere finger exercise; it's also for concert performance, and I don't feel that the purpose of the whole etude is to execute every note with Liszt's fingering.



Since he didn't provide fingering for most of the etude, it isn't even possible to "execute every note with Liszt's fingering".

Quote:

He probably put it there as a suggestion.


A rather convenient and unsubstantiated assumption.

Hey, I know, maybe the tempo is just a suggestion, too, and if it's easier to play as an adagio, then it's just fine for me to play it that way. Right? Or maybe that whole figure is, you know, just this weird idea that Liszt put in as a suggestion...maybe it's okay to just leave it out if it bugs me.

Quote:

Each person's hand is different - what works for one person doesn't work as well for another.


Then again, maybe Liszt had something particular in mind that he thought did apply to pretty much everyone. Of course, if you have the hand the size of an infant, and it is nearly paralyzed with arthritis, and your wrist is in a cast because of RSI... But then, maybe this etude isn't for you if you can't physically do what is asked.

Quote:

I would rather hear this performed smoothly with whatever fingering works well for the performer rather than poorly executed with Liszt's suggested fingerings.


Did anyone say it should be poorly executed with Liszt fingering? I don't think that's the idea...

I'm actually a bit amazed at the effort people are putting into attempting to rationalize away what is right there on the page, as if Liszt didn't know enough about what he was doing to have thought it through. We know he had been gestating and refining these etudes in his mind for years, since he'd already published earlier versions. So, unlike some of his music, it's not likely that anything in them is casual.

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#1944222 - 08/17/12 01:07 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
evilpacman18 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/12
Posts: 152
Loc: Glendora, CA
For the record, I'm learning it with Liszt's fingerings, but once I'm able to do that at a performance tempo, I'll probably switch to the easier route for performances. Same powerful effect, but much less dangerous. So I'll get what Liszt wanted me to learn from it, and then perform it in a manner that allows for the easiest execution of the best interpretation I can imagine.

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#1944271 - 08/17/12 05:10 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: evilpacman18
For the record, I'm learning it with Liszt's fingerings, but once I'm able to do that at a performance tempo, I'll probably switch to the easier route for performances. Same powerful effect, but much less dangerous. So I'll get what Liszt wanted me to learn from it, and then perform it in a manner that allows for the easiest execution of the best interpretation I can imagine.


Cool. BTW, if you aren't already doing this, you may want to try practicing that bit with eyes closed. It can be weird and frustrating at first, but it can really help with security in a passage like that.

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#1944323 - 08/17/12 08:19 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
lisztvsthalberg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/10
Posts: 121
Originally Posted By: evilpacman18
For the record, I'm learning it with Liszt's fingerings, but once I'm able to do that at a performance tempo, I'll probably switch to the easier route for performances. Same powerful effect, but much less dangerous. So I'll get what Liszt wanted me to learn from it, and then perform it in a manner that allows for the easiest execution of the best interpretation I can imagine.
This is also my approach to etudes. In fact, to reap maximum reward from etudes, I often try to learn multiple different fingerings if the piece is focused on a very specific technical challenge. I'm also sure that Berezovsky could use the original fingering of the Liszt etude at a respectable tempo even though he chooses not to do so in a performance.

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#1944616 - 08/17/12 05:07 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3459
Loc: US
If Liszt's students are to be believed, he was not overly rigid in terms of his fingerings. In accounts of his teaching, students reported that he always stressed having to work with one's own hand in terms of making fingerings work. So I doubt he would have insisted on a particular fingering if it was not working for someone. The fingerings are likely suggestions rather than rules.

Sophia


Edited by sophial (08/17/12 05:07 PM)

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#1944727 - 08/17/12 08:50 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: sophial]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: sophial
If Liszt's students are to be believed, he was not overly rigid in terms of his fingerings. In accounts of his teaching, students reported that he always stressed having to work with one's own hand in terms of making fingerings work. So I doubt he would have insisted on a particular fingering if it was not working for someone. The fingerings are likely suggestions rather than rules.



Actually, in this particular example, it's more than a suggestion, since you can't play it any other way except by doing a redistribution between hands, which is somewhat different than just a slight change in fingering.

Secondly, generalizing from student reports to apply to specific situations is a dangerous thing - just because Liszt might have been relaxed about it with Student X in a certain spot in Piece Y, doesn't mean he would therefore not insist on a certain fingering in a certain place in a different piece if he thought it was something the student should learn. The exactness of the effect and the writing in this particular instance suggests to me that he, in fact, would ask a student to play it as written.

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#1944784 - 08/17/12 11:52 PM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8848
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Never mind.
_________________________
Jason

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#1944811 - 08/18/12 12:45 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: BruceD]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5295
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: wr
[...] I don't understand why any serious pianist would want to turn down the opportunity to learn something about playing the piano that comes directly from Liszt, and that is exactly what happens if the fingering and distribution is changed.

As I said earlier, I think that there may be performance situations in which a pianist really does have a legitimate need to cheat (to avoid fatigue in a long program, for example), but I think that should be the exception, and should never be done as the first approach to an etude.


You seem to be making the assumption that I don't think that Liszt, the teacher, would make: that all hands are the same size and and shape, and that all should function at the piano in the same manner. You also seem to be going against the wisdom of many respected editors and performers who do give/use alternate fingerings to what might be "original."

In Liszt's Etude de concert, "Un sospiro," measures 13 through 18 are clearly marked in both my editions to play the broken octave melody with alternating hands. Yet, Earl Wild, a noted "Lisztian," plays the melody with the right hand throughout these measures. Is he playing it "wrong"? Is he not "learning something" coming directly from Liszt that he should be?

How do we know that the fingering in question in the OP's post is Liszt's fingering? I have an Urtext edition (Henle) of the Chopin Etudes with fingerings given by Hermann Keller. Those fingerings differ considerably from those given by Cortot in his edition of the Chopin Etudes. Are you saying that, since these are obviously not Chopin's fingerings that these are not valid?

I fail to see how the changing of a fingering pattern in a few places in a complex work is contrary to what the Etude is "teaching," unless one is so literal-minded that one believes that only one fingering in an Etude will work and must be adhered to from start to finish. What do you suggest when the composer does not give fingering? i.e. Debussy? Why would devising one's own practical fingering where it is not given by the composer by any different than changing what the composer - or maybe an editor - has suggested, if doing so produces the musical results one is aiming for?

Regards,

Seconded. No two people have the exact same anatomy, and what works for one may not work for another. I think the intent of an etude is to learn a technique that allows you to play the specific technical passage in whatever way you are able and comfortable. The idea is to be able to play the piece, not to be able to play the fingering. I've never heard a beautifully sounding fingering.

In the martial arts, there are those who are "purists" and feel that one should stand exactly as the masters stood, and perform the martial arts exactly as the masters did. One major personality in changing this method of thought was, based on some of the arguments I've read (and heard outside this forum), a little known and obviously very poor martial artist named Bruce Lee.

To the pianist side, take a look at Evgeny Kissin playing Liszt's La Campanella. In his widely-viewed London 1997 performance, which is one of my personal favorite interpretations of the piece, he plays the ascending chromatic about mid-way through with just his right hand. Most fingerings indicate this should be split between the two hands.

Another good example: just about anyone playing Mazeppa. I see very few performances use the original 42-42 fingering indicated.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#1944835 - 08/18/12 01:13 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: Derulux]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7789
Originally Posted By: Derulux
No two people have the exact same anatomy, and what works for one may not work for another.


So there's no point in providing any fingerings, ever, because the people with eight fingers per hand are going to do it quite differently than those with just three. And of course, those who may possess thumbs really should totally ignore what Debussy had to say about his etude that, for most of us, leaves them out of the picture - I mean, what would he know about MY hand.

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#1944852 - 08/18/12 01:48 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: Derulux]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8848
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Derulux

Another good example: just about anyone playing Mazeppa. I see very few performances use the original 42-42 fingering indicated.

Looks to me like it's happening here:
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Jason

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#1944862 - 08/18/12 02:27 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
Bosendorff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 274
Josef Hofmann had small hands and asked Steinway to build him a custom keyboard with slightly narrower keys. So instead of the usual octave span distance of about 165 mm, his was approximately 155 mm.

One day, Hofmann saw a new composition from Rachmaninoff on which the great composer wrote his own personal fingerings. Hofmann was so impressed he decided to follow them blindly instead of using them as a guide as he used to do in the past.

He quickly ended up calling Steinway again and asked for a new custom keyboard, this time with an octave span distance of 60 mm. Then he called Rachmaninoff to ask him about all the missing fingerings that were not indicated on the score, because he didn't know what to do as he thought he had to follow exactly what the composer wrote. Luckily, Rachmaninoff could tell him as he and Hofmann were contemporaries.

Then Hofmann wanted to do the same with compositions from Beethoven and Liszt. He left a message on their answering machines, but for some reason they never called him back. So Hofmann decided to continue using fingerings as a guide.

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#1944867 - 08/18/12 02:41 AM Re: Cheating on Liszt's fingerings [Re: evilpacman18]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2139
Loc: Canada
There's a distinction between fingerings provided to "aide the performer", and fingerings provided with a distinct musical sound in mind. There's a passage at the end of Rachmaninoff's op.39 no.8 where an arpeggio for the left hand is notated as being played with only the left thumb, suggesting a tenuto sound that's more loudly voiced.

Likewise, Liszt and his 2-4 staccato chromatic thirds are an important musical effect, not just technical.

So what do we have in this case?

Well, the fingering is provided in an etude, indicating that it may have value in reinforcing a technical aspect that Liszt is trying to teach. Or it might be a suggestion for a particularly difficult passage. If you do a bit of research, you might find out that it may not even be Liszt's fingering suggestion anyway.

Bottom line is, you'll have to do some thinking and research to understand why that marking is provided there. Part of studying the score involves not just reading the score and memorizing all of the notes, dynamics, tempis and articulation, but questioning the composers intent for each. As an intelligent performer, you'll have to make judgements in order to bring about a performance that adheres the score as reflecting your own personality.


Edited by Kuanpiano (08/18/12 02:42 AM)
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Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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