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#1938513 - 08/06/12 10:02 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3489
Loc: US
It may well be that the number of young virtuosos is increasing or that they are playing harder repertoire at a younger age but then what? if there are so many ultra-virtuosos floating around in the high schools and colleges where are they and are they really all that much better than the last generation of virtuosos? It does not seem like the current crop of competition winners, or Lang Lang or Yuja Wang can take the likes of Martha Argerich or Maurizio Pollini and "blow them off the stage". You might be seeing more fast finger twiddling at a younger age, but I'm not all that impressed that they will ultimately be better at the highest levels.

As far as the argument about athletics and people running faster, jumping higher, etc. it doesn't translate as well to the piano since size and strength are not as critical to playing piano. People are larger and have better nutrition and fewer diseases, hence the larger size and better physical attributes of today's athletes in general. But piano playing does not depend on that.

Sophia

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#1938514 - 08/06/12 10:05 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: piette]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5379
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: piette
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: stores
For those not aware, the explosion in China is an amazing thing and the kids coming out of their system(s) are often something to behold.


Right. I totally forgot about China!


Whilst I am not fond of Lang Lang's piano playing, I feel this article is a good indicator as to why so many good pianists are coming out of China: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/14/lang-lang-piano-china-father

For those who can't be bothered to read, basically when he was 9 Lang Lang's piano teacher said he wasn't very good, so his father demanded the he kill himself to remove the shame from the family.


No pressure... wink
_________________________
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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#1938606 - 08/07/12 03:24 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: piette]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: piette
a good indicator as to why so many good pianists are coming out of China


There are?
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1938607 - 08/07/12 03:30 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: sophial]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: sophial
It may well be that the number of young virtuosos is increasing or that they are playing harder repertoire at a younger age but then what? if there are so many ultra-virtuosos floating around in the high schools and colleges where are they and are they really all that much better than the last generation of virtuosos? It does not seem like the current crop of competition winners, or Lang Lang or Yuja Wang can take the likes of Martha Argerich or Maurizio Pollini and "blow them off the stage". You might be seeing more fast finger twiddling at a younger age, but I'm not all that impressed that they will ultimately be better at the highest levels.



Technically, Wang blew Martha and Pollini away long ago. The thread is about technique. I don't particularly care who can blow who away. That has no place in my musical world. The fact is, however, that there ARE more pianists in the world now than at any other time and they're younger than ever before and they're more technically advanced at younger ages than ever before.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1938691 - 08/07/12 09:37 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
A good question might be to ask why. Why is there a larger number of people who display outstanding piano "athletism" now? Is it that we have a larger denominator (a bigger pool to select from)? better teaching? better instruments? better work ethic? greater value placed on "virtuosity" ? (that definition may have also shifted some since the 19th century.)
I have seen some interesting charts of athletic world records that seem to be steadily improving over the years. There too the reasons are not fully clear, though in some fields improved equipment plays a good role and probably doping.

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#1938692 - 08/07/12 09:39 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Batuhan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 908
Loc: Istanbul
I'm not so sure about Chopin was able to play his own pieces with flawless technique or not. But one thing that I'm precisely so sure is he was able to play with impeccable musicality. Also don't forget he invented a new piano technique. And died, while he was working on his own piano technique method. Chopin's technique was so different than the Liszt's. While Chopin keep his hands in the natural position while playing. Liszt's hands are in the strict, swaggering position. Chopin was always break the standards and he succeed. He was the only composer can think outside the box.
_________________________
Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.


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#1938894 - 08/07/12 05:47 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
acortot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 485
Loc: Italy
I am a bit late on this thread, and many things have already been pointed-out

I can maybe clarify a few things regarding pianos of the time and technique as well as interpretation

first of all the Pleyel pianos had a very soft and easy pp which went from dark obscurity to a progressively more pronounced vocal sound. Fortissimo was bright compared to piano and mezzo forte etc. but nowhere as bright as a modern piano

this enables the pianist to play on different levels.. the piano to mf range can be used to murmur a theme or arpeggios in the background while the melodic lines can be accented. This is what was referred to as a 'veiled' sonority

the loudest sounds sound like the 'aaaahh!' sound a singer might make using his full chest voice.. nowhere as percussive and metallic as modern pianos... the sound was more robust in the 1840-1849 Pleyels as the ones made before were made for iron strings and had a more dainty quality of sound

chopin was said to play the etudes like an aeolian harp with pronounced leading notes.. the sound of the pleyel can achieve a wash of notes which melt into each other when playing soft and playing louder makes the sound more defined

To my knowledge there are no pianos currently on display or on recording anywhere which have the correct sonority. The felts used on the hammers were very soft and the manufacturing process was quite complicated by today's standards

you cqn reqd more about that on my blog acortot.blogspot.com

the feel of the action for these pianos in general is quite different, not only for the single escapement english action, which in the end is quite similqr to modern vertical piano actions, which are also a british design and single escapement

the action has much less lead in the keys and whatever weight you feel on the fingertip is mostly the hammer

modern actions have a lot of lead in the keys in comparison.

if you strike a modern key, the inertia of the lead will absorb the shock and the key will gather momentum as a result of the shock. this means you can reach a high note in a difficult passage and just hit the key very quickly and the mass of the key will make the hammer play relatively well

on an old action the keys are too light to be struck. If you do strike them you send a shock-wave to the hammer which is too violent and it makes an ugly sound. The actual keys were also noisy when struck

this is why Chopin played with no arm weight (as documented by Hipkins) and used mainly the fingers, according to the school of the day. He was more traditional than Liszt in this regard, although he did expand the technique

I believe he could play his etudes but he would have played thim in a much more subtle Salon-style

Chopin did not like the idea of 'concert pianists' as he was fundamentally an old-school aristocratic by taste

the traditional role of a musician had been to perform in private homes of the wealthy and powerful, the church but never to a paying public

Chopin was a highly regarded pianist and teacher. Within a short time from his arrival in Paris he had already been introduced into society by the Rothschild family who hired him as a teacher and made him instantly fashionable

he charged the highest fees of any piano teacher, asking 20 francs per lesson in the home and 30 at the student's home. a new Pleyel grand cost around 2000 francs, and they were compareable to Bosendorfers today as far as market so do the math to see roughly how much

yes he mentioned that too much practice harms the music, probably because mechanical memory replaces thought and concentration

I imagine that he was technically limitless in certain moments of inspiration, within the limts of his own compositions

the modern approach is mostly athletic and goal-driven, as conservatory students must compete in contests to get anywhere, like the olympics

this creates a different approach to playing music because the goal is to beat the other pianists in a way that is tangible to a jury

Chopin wanted no jury, he expressed many times that he preferred to play for groups of sensitive people willing to listen to him, perhaps as friends, perhaps for spiritual reasons more than anything else.. he never sold himself but was lucky to be assisted all of his life


Edited by acortot (08/07/12 05:48 PM)
_________________________
rhythm must be inborn - Alfred Cortot

An Article on the unusual makeup of original Pleyel hammers, during Chopin's lifetime:

http://acortot.blogspot.it/2012/07/pleyel-hammers-in-chopin-era-i-martelli.html

Max DiMario

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#1938950 - 08/07/12 07:47 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Andromaque]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5379
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
A good question might be to ask why. Why is there a larger number of people who display outstanding piano "athletism" now? Is it that we have a larger denominator (a bigger pool to select from)? better teaching? better instruments? better work ethic? greater value placed on "virtuosity" ? (that definition may have also shifted some since the 19th century.)
I have seen some interesting charts of athletic world records that seem to be steadily improving over the years. There too the reasons are not fully clear, though in some fields improved equipment plays a good role and probably doping.

I think we can probably include all of those things, with the possible exception of "better work ethic". I am not sure that we can say for certain that work ethic improved over the centuries. Certainly not in Liszt's case, if the evidence that he practiced more than 10 hours a day is any example. But your other questions are certainly right on.

What I think people fail to consider is, guys like Liszt did it "first". They were very far ahead of the times in their day, but in order for the next generation to be competitive, they must do it as well or better. So, once one person can do it, eventually a second person either figures it out or is taught. Then a third. A fourth. Soon, nearly everybody is capable of doing it. Some outliers are certainly still there, but the rolling average improves with every passing day. This will, of course, move the bar up for the outliers as well. If the bar is at "20", an outlier at "50" is amazing. But if the bar moves up to "45", now "50" isn't that impressive.

The Legend of Liszt translates itself to nearly every human endeavor. Look at baseball. There are still people out there who say that Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player who will ever play the game. Would he be able to stand in with today's players? That is a much more difficult conversation to have (objectively, of course--- subjectively, people can say whatever they want). It is so difficult, AND we have VIDEO evidence of Ruth playing ball! There is literally NO direct evidence of Liszt's playing, so that makes the conversation much more difficult. We can quantify the hearsay of "evidence", but nothing direct exists. So, largely, it becomes an exercise in futility to even try. But we do try, because by and large, we all really really want to know the answer. wink
_________________________
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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#1939018 - 08/07/12 09:36 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
I'm pretty sure that Liszt would seem to be much more proficient than today's pianists because of his ability to improvise fluently on what he was playing. He might not be able to play Prok 2 or the Ligeti etudes, but Liszt's ability to introduce bravura, or improvise technically demanding cadenzas and integrate them into works would make them seem that much greater.

His ability to sight read scores would still also be deemed incredible by today's standards.

So while today's pianists may outshine Liszt in terms of clean technique, velocity and precision, I'm still confident that he would still be one of the most virtuosic and exciting musicians around.
_________________________
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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#1939298 - 08/08/12 11:32 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: stores]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3489
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: sophial
It may well be that the number of young virtuosos is increasing or that they are playing harder repertoire at a younger age but then what? if there are so many ultra-virtuosos floating around in the high schools and colleges where are they and are they really all that much better than the last generation of virtuosos? It does not seem like the current crop of competition winners, or Lang Lang or Yuja Wang can take the likes of Martha Argerich or Maurizio Pollini and "blow them off the stage". You might be seeing more fast finger twiddling at a younger age, but I'm not all that impressed that they will ultimately be better at the highest levels.



Technically, Wang blew Martha and Pollini away long ago. The thread is about technique. I don't particularly care who can blow who away. That has no place in my musical world. The fact is, however, that there ARE more pianists in the world now than at any other time and they're younger than ever before and they're more technically advanced at younger ages than ever before.


Well, "blow off the stage" was the phrase you introduced into the conversation. I agree with your most recent points that there are more pianists, and they are more technically advanced at younger ages. However, it remains to be seen if that translates into whether they attain significantly greater prowess at the highest levels than the best players of the past-- perhaps more will attain high technical levels but will the very best be greater than the very best we have seen? I'm not yet convinced. The next big thing is always waiting in the wings.... but does not always materialize or stand the test of time.

Back to Liszt-- in regards to instruments, it could be argued that in fact Liszt's power and technique had outpaced the instruments of his day (evidenced by his destruction of them early in his career) and he likely may have felt quite at home on today's instruments. In that sense he was likely considerably ahead of his time and in fact was trying to transcend the limitations of the nineteenth century piano. The idea that given his abilities he could not have learned things like Prok 2 or to play pieces that conservatory kids play today as someone suggested above is rather laughable.

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#1939301 - 08/08/12 11:42 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: sophial]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6084
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Originally Posted By: sophial
The idea that given his abilities he could not have learned things like Prok 2 or to play pieces that conservatory kids play today as someone suggested above is rather laughable.


Well, I am sure that he easily could, but he would have an easier time with it on his own piano than modern pianos.

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#1939309 - 08/08/12 11:53 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Kuanpiano]
ScriabinAddict Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/12
Posts: 335
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
I'm pretty sure that Liszt would seem to be much more proficient than today's pianists because of his ability to improvise fluently on what he was playing. He might not be able to play Prok 2 or the Ligeti etudes, but Liszt's ability to introduce bravura, or improvise technically demanding cadenzas and integrate them into works would make them seem that much greater.


This ability wasn't exactly exclusive to Liszt. At the time, most performers were able to improvise fluently. Aren't there tales of Henselt improvising fugues? (possibly apocryphal)


Edited by ScriabinAddict (08/08/12 11:57 AM)

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#1939529 - 08/08/12 07:18 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: ScriabinAddict]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ScriabinAddict
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
I'm pretty sure that Liszt would seem to be much more proficient than today's pianists because of his ability to improvise fluently on what he was playing. He might not be able to play Prok 2 or the Ligeti etudes, but Liszt's ability to introduce bravura, or improvise technically demanding cadenzas and integrate them into works would make them seem that much greater.


This ability wasn't exactly exclusive to Liszt. At the time, most performers were able to improvise fluently. Aren't there tales of Henselt improvising fugues? (possibly apocryphal)

Yeah but he makes it extreme. Like he hears about Dreyshock doing the revolutionary etude in octaves, and then feels like doing an encore. So he takes the first bar of Chopin's op.25 no.2, plays it in octaves a few times, repeating, and getting faster. Then he proceeds to play the whole thing in octaves like that. I mean, one can probably practice and do it better than him, but if he just pulls it out of his back pocket, it's just ridiculous.

Source - Harold Schonberg, "The Great Pianists"
_________________________
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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#1943463 - 08/15/12 10:47 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: stores]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Originally Posted By: stores
Why would Liszt and Chopin have a difficult time keeping up with conservatory students of today? Why would pianists like Yuja Wang, for example, blow them off the stage? The piano itself is vastly different.

Do you think that Yuja Wang surpasses- in terms of mechanical dexterity- pianists such as Horowitz, Hofmann, Hamelin, and Rachmaninov?

Even though Liszt's piano had much lighter action than a modern Steinway, it is still an enormous leap of logic to conclude that- on a modern piano- Liszt's technique would be vastly inferior to that of the average conservatory student. For all we know, Liszt's technique could have been far beyond that of even Yuja Wang. If that was the case, then it is possible that even on a piano with much heavier action, Liszt still would have been mechanically superior to the average conservatory pupil. A pianist of Liszt's stature might be able to adjust to a new instrument quite quickly. We simply do not know how much- if any- technical ability Liszt would lose on a modern Steinway. Furthermore, even assuming that Liszt would experience a loss in technique, we don't know if such a loss would put him below the level of the average conservatory student. Maybe Liszt was so good that even at his worst (if we assume he would be at his worst on a Steinway grand), he would still be technically superior to the average conservatory student.

Although we don't have recordings of Liszt, we do have recordings of his student Rosenthal. Rosenthal played- on a Steinway- with a technique that could rival the best of them. Do you believe that Rosenthal had much better technique than Liszt did?

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#1943569 - 08/16/12 05:22 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: sophial]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: sophial
I agree with your most recent points that there are more pianists, and they are more technically advanced at younger ages. However, it remains to be seen if that translates into whether they attain significantly greater prowess at the highest levels than the best players of the past-- perhaps more will attain high technical levels but will the very best be greater than the very best we have seen? I'm not yet convinced. The next big thing is always waiting in the wings.... but does not always materialize or stand the test of time.


1+ thumb
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Slow down and do it right.

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#1944860 - 08/18/12 02:14 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: stores]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8935
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: stores

The fact is, however, that there ARE more pianists in the world now than at any other time and they're younger than ever before and they're more technically advanced at younger ages than ever before.

But stores DOES have a point, like him or not. I don't think Horowitz could ever have exceeded this:
_________________________
Jason

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#1944990 - 08/18/12 10:52 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: argerichfan]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
....I don't think Horowitz could ever have exceeded this....

A couple of things:

-- IMO Horowitz absolutely did.

-- And anyway, going back to the original question smile it wouldn't be whether Horowitz or Liszt or Chopin exceed this, but whether this exceeds them!

i.e. In terms of the original question, a tie would be OK for them. grin

And BTW it's hard for me to see how one could think this exceeds Horowitz. I can see how one might feel it equals him, if you don't count some of the kinds of things that Horowitz did.

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#1945003 - 08/18/12 11:21 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
In the latest issue of International Piano magazine two teachers said this in response to the question about how conservatory level pianists today differ from those 30-40-50 years ago:

Gary Graffman:
Whsn I was growing up, only Horowitz and Rachmaninov were capable of playing the Rachmaninov Third Concerto. Then Willy Kapell was the first young American to play it. Now every 14-year-old Korean girl with tiny hands plays it!

Alexander Braginsky: I have young kids playing repertoire that in my generation very few people could ever master. Eleven year olds playing Feux follets in a way that once only Ashkenazy and Berman and Richter could play it. I have two teenagers playing the Brahms Paganini Variations on a level that was hardly heard of when I was growing up in Russia. That said they are all much less cultured than 50 years ago.

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#1945020 - 08/18/12 11:45 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: argerichfan]
Damon Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6248
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: stores

The fact is, however, that there ARE more pianists in the world now than at any other time and they're younger than ever before and they're more technically advanced at younger ages than ever before.

But stores DOES have a point, like him or not. I don't think Horowitz could ever have exceeded this:
[Gavrylyuk wedding march video removed]


You may have a point, but I never want to hear this guy play it again. Even though his technique is gigantic, does it serve the music? Not that I would want him to copy Horowitz, but is his technique good enough to thrill me musically like Horowitz did. I'm not separating technique from musicality as it is popular to do around here. I think one instructs the other.
This guy wins, hands down I suppose, if we are to judge his technique the same way we would judge a typist.
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1945023 - 08/18/12 11:47 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3489
Loc: US
As I wrote to stores previously, I don't dispute the idea that there are more pianists who are achieving high levels of technical proficiency earlier in life. But will they continue to improve or are they just reaching their maximum technical potential earlier and will stay there? And will the best of them really exceed people like Richter, Berman, Horowitz, Argerich ? that remains to be seen.

I found Braginsky's ending comment interesting, about them being much less cultured than 50 years ago. Is that the price for being so intensely focused on technical development? does that translate into a lower level of interpretive and artistic development? Frankly, I don't find today's competition winners for the most part to be all that compelling to listen to on an artistic and musical level. The idea that we can simply consider technique divorced from musicality and expression is part of the problem IMO-- technique should always be in service to the musical concept.

Sophia

addendum: Damon, we were writing at the same time and obviously had some similar reactions!


Edited by sophial (08/18/12 11:48 AM)

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#1945049 - 08/18/12 12:37 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: sophial]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: sophial
technique should always be in service to the musical concept.

The weird thing is that technique has always been a vehicle of expression and bravura seemed to be a defining element of good technique until a belief of being "less showy, less technical, to be more *musical*".

If you look at the development of piano music in particular, technique has always been a defining factor in how expression is relayed - one can look at Liszt's works and say that his keyboard language is almost purely composed of only bravura technique.

The so called "golden age" pianists all had monster techniques. Gilels, Horowitz, Richter were all regarded as technical wizards. Going further back, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Lhevinne, Hofmann and all of the Liszt pupils had incredible technique which defined their musical expression. In Hofmann's book, he describes that technique is the most essential element in being able to develop musical expression.

I guess it almost seems like we're taking the reverse approach to music today. We study the score, to discover the musical essence, and then we bring our technique up to the prerequisite level. Whereas before, one might imagine that after developing an incredible technique, one of the great pianists would then apply their musicality that is enabled by their mastery of the keyboard.

Another small quote that I find funny which might also describe why all of those greats played so damn fast: Once Horowitz and Rachmaninoff were listening a record of Cortot playing the Chopin etudes. They started joking: "Oh, his playing is so musical, especially in the most difficult sections!". The joke being that being "musical" meant slowing down and trying to inject more "expression" because the fingers couldn't keep up with the technical demands.
_________________________
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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#1945066 - 08/18/12 01:32 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3489
Loc: US
By saying that technique should be in service to the music, I don't mean that more musicality equals playing slower or with less virtuosity or less bravura when it is called for-- but rather that the virtuosity and bravura should be for the purpose of expressing the musical concept rather than for showing off the technical capability of the pianist. Liszt himself condemned that type of playing (speed and virtuosity simply for its own sake and not for musical purposes).

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#1945119 - 08/18/12 03:36 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Kuanpiano]
Damon Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6248
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano

I guess it almost seems like we're taking the reverse approach to music today. We study the score, to discover the musical essence, and then we bring our technique up to the prerequisite level. Whereas before, one might imagine that after developing an incredible technique, one of the great pianists would then apply their musicality that is enabled by their mastery of the keyboard.


I think the only thing that is different today is that musicality is almost completely absent.

Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano

Another small quote that I find funny which might also describe why all of those greats played so damn fast: Once Horowitz and Rachmaninoff were listening a record of Cortot playing the Chopin etudes. They started joking: "Oh, his playing is so musical, especially in the most difficult sections!". The joke being that being "musical" meant slowing down and trying to inject more "expression" because the fingers couldn't keep up with the technical demands.


They were probably talking about Cziffra. smile
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1945196 - 08/18/12 08:34 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: Kuanpiano]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8935
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Once Horowitz and Rachmaninoff were listening to a record of Cortot playing the Chopin etudes. They started joking: "Oh, his playing is so musical, especially in the most difficult sections!".

Oh yes, that one. If anything permanently ruined Cortot for me, it is those two titans.

I realize Cortot is highly regarded in some circles (every note -and wrong note- fawned over with a cultish admiration), but I just don't get it all. Every couple years I check in again with a Cortot recording, but I remain unconvinced of his stature.

Talk about the emperor's clothes...
_________________________
Jason

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#1945228 - 08/18/12 10:31 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: argerichfan]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: stores

The fact is, however, that there ARE more pianists in the world now than at any other time and they're younger than ever before and they're more technically advanced at younger ages than ever before.

But stores DOES have a point, like him or not. I don't think Horowitz could ever have exceeded this:


There is Horowitz's recording of the Wedding March. Do you believe that, from a mechanical perspective, Gavrylyuk exceeds Horowitz? In general, Horowitz plays with clearer articulation, although Gavrylyuk plays many of the single-note runs at a faster tempo than Horowitz does. Nevertheless, Horowitz may well have been capable of playing the runs as fast or faster than Gavrylyuk.

Horowitz might have chosen to only play as fast as is musically necessary. He might have felt that because the composition is a march, the tempo shouldn't be insanely fast and should remain consistent with the tempo of a march. Horowitz did complain about how bands frequently play Stars and Stripes Forever way too fast. He said that it should be played at a pace where you can march to it. Perhaps he had a similar view about the Wedding March.

Toward the end of the piece, Horowitz plays the octaves much faster and more easily than Gavrylyuk than does. Furthermore, from a musical perspective, Horowitz greatly surpasses Gavrylyuk. So I'm not convinced that Gavrylyuk can equal Horowitz, even from a purely technical perspective.

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Whsn I was growing up, only Horowitz and Rachmaninov were capable of playing the Rachmaninov Third Concerto. Then Willy Kapell was the first young American to play it. Now every 14-year-old Korean girl with tiny hands plays it!

Horowitz and Rachmaninov may have been the only people who had chosen to record Rach 3, but I'm sure that Josef Lhevinne also could have played it. I also wonder about Rubinstein and Arrau. Although they weren't virtuosi on the level of Horowitz, Rubinstein or Arrau might've been able to give an adequate performance of Rach 3.

In Harold Schonberg's book The Great Pianists, which was published in 1987, Schonberg said that some people are under the impression that current pianists have better technique than pianists from the early part of the twentieth century, but nothing could be further from the truth. Schonberg pointed out that pianists such as Hofmann, Rachmaninov, Lhevinne, and Moiseiwitsch possessed technical ability that is now practically nonexistent. The same might hold true for today. There are certainly a lot of technically advanced pianists, but would their technique be able to rival that of Hofmann, Rachmaninov, and Lhevinne?


Edited by LaReginadellaNotte (08/18/12 11:21 PM)

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#1945241 - 08/18/12 11:11 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
(BTW, just a detail about the Harold Schonberg book:
1987 was the updated edition. The original was 1963.)


Great breakdown/comparison there by LaReginadellaNotte.
I love it. smile

Nobody should doubt that Horowitz could have played the runs "faster" if he'd felt like it. For all his technical wizardry, to me he never gave the slightest impression that he thought playing the piano was any kind of race. What Horowitz was about wasn't speed, but range of expression and effects.

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#1945244 - 08/18/12 11:23 PM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: argerichfan]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Once Horowitz and Rachmaninoff were listening to a record of Cortot playing the Chopin etudes. They started joking: "Oh, his playing is so musical, especially in the most difficult sections!".

Oh yes, that one. If anything permanently ruined Cortot for me, it is those two titans.

I realize Cortot is highly regarded in some circles (every note -and wrong note- fawned over with a cultish admiration), but I just don't get it all. Every couple years I check in again with a Cortot recording, but I remain unconvinced of his stature.

Talk about the emperor's clothes...

I don't know much about Cortot, but I will admit the insight he brings while playing this piece by Schumann is astonishing:
_________________________
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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#1945274 - 08/19/12 01:30 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8935
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte

Horowitz and Rachmaninov may have been the only people who had chosen to record Rach 3, but I'm sure that Josef Lhevinne also could have played it.

No doubt Lhevinne would have played it magnificently (but did he ever?) and I still would love to have heard his NYC debut with Rubinstein 5. As I have posted before, if anyone could bring off that bombastic slug-fest (the coda of the first movement alone), it would be Lhevinne.

There are two Gieseking recordings of Rachmaninov 3: 1938 with Barbirolli and 1940 (live) with Mengelberg. I've only heard the latter (thanks to wiki for news of the former), and whilst Gieseking takes the 'big' cadenza, I don't think the recording is particularly competitive compared to the usual suspects today.

Also I would like to mention that George Thalben-Ball -best known to British church musicians as organist for almost 60 years at London's the Temple Church- was the first English-trained pianist to play Rachmaninov 3... in 1915 at the age of 19!

Edit: listening to the Horowitz Wedding March posted above, I can only say mea culpa. Stupendous. (Too long since I last heard it.)


Edited by argerichfan (08/19/12 01:45 AM)
Edit Reason: Listened to Horowitz
_________________________
Jason

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#1945292 - 08/19/12 04:06 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: JoelW]
allegro_concerto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/08
Posts: 181
Alfred Cortot was an exceptional musician, have a listen at this famous recording (made in 1919):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJot3tfsUBM

And don't forget Clara Haskil, Samson François and Dinu Lipatti were his students, among many others.

I also agree Gavrylyuk was not as good as Horowitz in the video. Technique is there to support music not the other way round. Music is not an Olympics of finger sprint where we award prizes for the fastest scales, fastest octaves and fastest thirds...

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#1945338 - 08/19/12 07:59 AM Re: How good do you think Chopin's technique was? [Re: pianoloverus]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
In the latest issue of International Piano magazine two teachers said this in response to the question about how conservatory level pianists today differ from those 30-40-50 years ago:

Gary Graffman:
Whsn I was growing up, only Horowitz and Rachmaninov were capable of playing the Rachmaninov Third Concerto. Then Willy Kapell was the first young American to play it. Now every 14-year-old Korean girl with tiny hands plays it!

Alexander Braginsky: I have young kids playing repertoire that in my generation very few people could ever master. Eleven year olds playing Feux follets in a way that once only Ashkenazy and Berman and Richter could play it. I have two teenagers playing the Brahms Paganini Variations on a level that was hardly heard of when I was growing up in Russia. That said they are all much less cultured than 50 years ago.



Thank you. Gosh, it would seem I'm not the only idiot that doesn't know what he's talking about... go figure.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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