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Loc: Land of Enchantment
I'm impressed by anyone brave enough to make videos of their playing. I second Mark's "Listening to other people's playing (especially amateurs), I'm delighted just to hear what they do. My own playing, it pains me that I'm not doing what I wish to."
(However, I keep trying to improve my attitude about my own playing and to become freer and less fearful.)
I keep meaning to tell you all that I now have a CD of piano works by Julian Fontana.
I'm finding this album thoroughly delightful. If poor Fontana hadn't had the misfortune of living at the same time as Chopin, surely he would be better known today (though in that case, his compositions wouldn't have been inspired and informed by his contacts with his talented friend, either). But while Chopin is considered the far greater of the two, it's Fontana who was also a lawyer, was fluent in Spanish and the first to translate Don Quixote into Polish, traveled the world, etc. Fontana is the reason mazurkas exist in Brazilian music, too-- he brought Polish music to Cuba and thence to other parts of the Americas. I'm glad he's getting his due to some extent.
....I AM in New York, and I never get to play on a good instrument. If you've got one, I'd love to play it! Have earplugs at the ready though
I think we might have a deal here. I sometimes run through programs at Merkin Hall (or at an auditorium upstairs in the building, when the recital hall isn't available), and if you'd like, you could drop by one of those times and we could use some of the time for you to play.
Sam, nice score! This has to be the best of Piano World. Mark, what a generous offer of your time and resources!
.....Anyone got Fontana's commentary on the Fantaisie in English? Thanks.
...and thanks for mentioning it, because.....I don't have it, don't know it, and didn't easily find it, but I did find this about Fontana, Chopin, and that piece:
Julian Fontana—Polish pianist and composer, friend of Chopin at the Warsaw Lyceum, and then at the High School of Music in Elsner’s class (theory and composition). As an emigrant following the November Rising, in which he took an active part, Fontana renewed his contacts with Chopin in Paris. The two musicians became warm and faithful friends. Their closest contacts were in the period 1837–1844, from which years we have the greatest number of letters addressed by Chopin to Fontana. Between 1837 and the end of 1841, Fontana was his permanent copyist, authorised to carry on negotiations with publishers, and also a general factotum. In recognition of his services, Chopin dedicated to him the two Polonaises, Op. 40.
When completing work on his Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, Chopin wrote to Fontana on 18 October 1841: ‘For God’s sake, take care of my manuscript and don’t crumple or soil it or tear it (things you cannot avoid doing), but I must write about it for I do so love the tedious things I write [in Polish, a play on words: nuty = notes, nudy = tedious things]. […] Get on with the copying out. The manuscript you have will remain in Paris. Tomorrow you’ll receive the Nocturne and at the end of the week the Ballade and Fantasy: I can’t quite finish it off. If you’re bored with copying, then do it for the forgiveness of your great sins, as I’d not like to give this spidery scrawl to any clumsy copyist. If I had to write these 18 pages out again, I’d go mad. Above all, don’t crumple the pages!!’ [Sydow, ii, 44].
There are numerous extant copies produced by Fontana which have often been mistaken for Chopin autographs, due to the similarity of the two men’s script.
Besides enjoying it (some of it is pretty funny, sort of) ....I was especially interested in that last part, because to me it means we have to take the piece's expressive indications with extra grains of salt. I don't mean we shouldn't take them seriously, just.....well, extra salt.
There are three indications in the piece that have always puzzled me a lot, and I've sort of ignored them, although with great consciousness and some guilt, and I've kept wondering what the heck they're about:
-- Some editions have the first "F" staccato and detached from what follows (unlike all the analogous notes in the section). I've tried many, many times to make sense of that, couldn't, and have always given up on it -- but I do keep re-trying. The first teacher I studied it with said he always did the same, and no other teacher that I've played it for has ever commented on my not following the indication.
-- At 2:01 in this video (I'm doing it this way instead of showing the score because I've never figured out how to do that)....
....Most editions that I've seen have the first melody note as a dotted 8th with no rest after it, unlike all the analogous places in the passage. Although I never really observe it, I always, always try to follow it in some way, and actually it does feel as though I'm doing something that contributes to the passage but I don't think anyone would know that I am.
BTW, in looking up stuff for this post, I found at least one edition that doesn't have it that way. I was thrilled.
-- The passage at 5:11 is marked p in every edition I've seen. In this video Rubinstein sort of follows that, and I try to sort of, but I think most people don't. Is it for real?? (I know that you don't have the answer, I'm just saying.)
BTW, I appreciate how you spelled "Fantaisie." From discussions on this site, I've learned that this is the French way, and Fantasie (which has become more common, for no good reason that I've seen) is the German way. All for what it's worth. Of course we could settle it by just doing "Fantasy," as on that video.
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)
P.S. It occurs to me that there are things we can gather from that info that are much more important than anything about this piece. First of all, that Chopin was dissatisfied with how lots of his pieces were copied -- and often even more than what he says there, because Fontana, whom he is lambasting for being so careless, was who he picked to be his main copyist for a few years! ("Permanent" copyist, it says). So, imagine what he thought of the job that others did. To me, this means even more that we need to use our own musical judgment on details in almost any Chopin score. I've never regarded them as rigidly immutable anyway, but mainly for other reasons. The fact that Chopin himself was horrified about the copies just adds to it, big time.
We also gather how concerned Chopin was about expressive details being indicated correctly. While many people (me included) think of him as having had flexible ideas about his pieces, 'changing his mind' over time and, y'know, "never playing a piece the same way twice," we see that the exact details of what he wrote mattered to him a very great deal. Too bad we don't necessarily know exactly what those were.
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)
Loc: Land of Enchantment
Oh, wow, Fontana wrote something in words about the Fantaisie-Impromptu? I haven't seen that, nor heard of it, and would love to find it in any language. For a moment it seemed to me that "his commentary" would be the edition of the piece he put out, so different from the one sold to the Baroness d'Est by Chopin some years earlier, which, as we've discussed here, may have been based upon a manuscript that has since been lost. Knowing something about his thinking regarding this piece would be fascinating.
(Frankly, I would have been likely to think first of the F Minor Fantasy if I saw the word "Fantaisie" without "Impromptu" myself, as well.)
Meanwhile, do any of you, especially those in Poland or with university library connections, have any idea how to get more Fontana sheet music? It obviously exists, since it's been recorded, but I'm afraid it may only be available from private sources in Poland. The producer of the only current CD of his works said there was a great deal of it, but not where he'd found it. I have yet to try to contact the recording company.
Only in men's imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life. -Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
I'm hanging around this conversation listening to you talk about the fantaisie. Just wanted to let you know I'm lurking, glass of wine in hand, and Chopin sheet music in the other. I'm a novice at playing Chopin but have been listening for years. What does "totally devoted" really mean? Must I give up all other music and throw myself into total concentration on my Chopin ambitions. Or can an occasional Beethoven or popular piece sneak onto the music rack?
Loc: Land of Enchantment
WiseBuff, I'm spending a lot of time on Barber, in particular....
Chopin r us, that commentary is still interesting, even though it doesn't talk about the specific piece. (It looks like Mikuli's comments for his edition-- one size fits all, same for each book.) On my small screen I'm zooming it and then wearing magnifying glasses! Dang-- I could translate it reasonably well if I had time, which I don't right now. I'll try to make a quick summary at least, if you don't or would rather not. It doesn't seem to tell us anything that we didn't know, but still, I'm interested to hear directly from Fontana himself.
I don't know whether this is where the "birthday fuss" started, but oh my, Fontana was in close contact with Chopin and with his family, and if he thought Chopin had been born in 1809, maybe that IS correct after all? Having looked at all the evidence both ways, I've never been convinced by the 1809 date. Double dang. I wish something could be clear and definite about that man's life.
I just wrote a response to WiseBuff regarding my use of the term "totally devoted." Then, as so often happens, the screen disappeared into cyberspace.
So I'll get right to the point and quickly before it happens again. I believe no other composer has been able to create such exquisite poetry for the piano. Music that touches the soul and lifts and spirit with remarkable charm and magnificent power. He and his music are in a class by themselves and will continue to be so.
Take this thread for example...I think it speaks for itself. I believe its sheer number of "hits" could very well mean that I am not alone in my devotion.
And a welcome to you, WiseBuff.
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891