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Topic Options
#1969755 - 10/07/12 10:00 AM What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark)
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,

Leaving the "bright vs dark" tone thread, for this side discussion of Chopin's music and the comparisons of old pianos and new ones. They have very different sounds.

I think the more pertinent question could be "What would Chopin play if given a choice between a 1850 Pleyel or a 2012 Steingraeber, or even the (now generic) sound of a stage-ready, happily lacquered-up Steinway D ?"

We listen to his music on a far wider variety of instruments than he ever did, and it is easy to distinguish between the modern piano, with its attack-defined clarity, and the earlier instruments that produced the note without such emphasis on the higher overtones.

I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?

Just wondering...
Regards,

Top
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#1969760 - 10/07/12 10:19 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
Here are some quotes of Chopin about his preferences about pianos:

"Quand je suis mal disposé, disait Chopin, je joue sur un piano d'Erard et j'y trouve facilement un son fait. Mais quand je me sens en verve et assez fort pour trouver mon propre son à moi, il me faut un piano de Pleyel."

"All the same it is being said everywhere that I played too softly, or rather, too delicately for people used to the piano-pounding of the artists here."

"Chopin ne supportait pas le son trop intense du piano ; il l'appelait "un aboiement de chien"." (Mikuli, propos relaté par A. Michalowski)

"Chopin aimait spécialement les cottage pianos "Boudoir" que Broadwood fabriquait à cette époque [1848] ; il prenait plaisir à jouer sur ces instruments à deux cordes, mais de sonorité très douce." (Hipkins)
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#1969787 - 10/07/12 11:14 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Lluís]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Paul McNulty answer to Ed's question is in the fortepianos he builds. See http://www.fortepiano.eu/about/workshop.html.

Recording of his Pleyel reproduction here: http://www.fortepiano.eu/instruments/models/pleyel.html


Edited by Withindale (10/07/12 12:45 PM)
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#1969792 - 10/07/12 11:29 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
I think that Paul (not Phil) McNulty sound of Pleyel is not really good....
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

Top
#1969809 - 10/07/12 12:16 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?

Just wondering...
Regards,
I think most home pianos can't be correctly described as stage cannons. I have no problem playing my Mason BB very softly and my room is only 12'by 18'( but opening into other rooms). I don't think "delicate" necessarily implies more nuance and charm.

I don't know whether pianos of Chopin's time would be suitable for large venues like Carnegie Hall and with the size orchestras commonly used today. I don't know how big the largest venues using those piano were but I'd guess they were generally smaller than the big concert halls of today. And I'd guess the orchestras were generally smaller also.

I do know that my feeling about the tone of most of the older pianos posted in recent PW videos is not particularly positive. Whether that's just because I'm used to one kind of sound or because I'd really prefer the sound of the newer pianos if I had heard the older ones equally as often, I don't know.

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#1969814 - 10/07/12 12:25 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Lluís]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Lluís
Here are some quotes of Chopin about his preferences about pianos:
"All the same it is being said everywhere that I played too softly, or rather, too delicately for people used to the piano-pounding of the artists here."
I believe Chopin liked Liszt's playing and Liszt wasn't known for his delicate playing. Unless we know which "piano pounders" Chopin was referring to it's hard to evaluate his statement. He may have been referring to pianists of his time who would be called pounders even by today's standards.

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#1969815 - 10/07/12 12:26 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5292
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Leaving the "bright vs dark" tone thread, for this side discussion of Chopin's music and the comparisons of old pianos and new ones. They have very different sounds.

I think the more pertinent question could be "What would Chopin play if given a choice between a 1850 Pleyel or a 2012 Steingraeber, or even the (now generic) sound of a stage-ready, happily lacquered-up Steinway D ?"

We listen to his music on a far wider variety of instruments than he ever did, and it is easy to distinguish between the modern piano, with its attack-defined clarity, and the earlier instruments that produced the note without such emphasis on the higher overtones.

I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?

One problem with this question is that most of us have absolutely no idea what the pianos Chopin might have played on really sounded like when they were new (or nearly so). We know only what they sound like today. And, in terms of comparison with so-called “modern” pianos, that is often not very good.

Even if well cared for, a century and a half of time takes its toll. Hammer resilience changes and soundboard panel stiffness changes. Strings age. We can make broad assumptions about how their voice has changed; the balance between the attack sounds and the sustain rate—i.e., there will be a stronger attack with the fundamental and lower partials dying out at a faster rate than when new—but none of us really knows from firsthand experience what that tone was really like on the day Chopin sat down to play. What is safe to assume is that the sounds he heard coming from the piano were nothing like the sounds we hear today. So when we make assumptions about what kinds of pianos he would have liked today they are just that, I think, assumptions. And if we go only by the evidence of our ears those are often based on faulty evidence.

Given a reasonable knowledge of basic piano design and construction theory we can extrapolate some and assume that the original sound of these pianos would have had a little less abrupt attack sound, a little slower decay rate (longer sustain) and a little more energy in the higher partials.. We can make these assumptions but, until someone makes an accurate copy of an early Erard or Pleyel these will remain just that: assumptions.

What we can say with certainty is that the remaining examples of these instruments no longer sounded the way they sounded in Chopin’s day. We can also say with certainty that no recording of any of these pianos will give us sounds anything like those of the originals.

Given all this we can also say with some certainty that—given their lower-tensioned scaling and lighter, (probably) more resilient hammers—the original sounds of these instruments would have been considerably less loud, the attack would not have been as sharp and I suspect the decay rate would have been much slower (longer sustain). We also know that, properly regulated, the touch and feel of the actions is lighter, quicker and more precise.

I believe modern pianists have the right to interpret the music composed by these musical masters as they see fit given the realities of modern pianos. Just as I, as an audience member, should have the right to walk out when the performance turns offensive. As it did a few years ago at a sadly memorable performance at one of our PTG annual conventions. Admittedly, the piano was not one of the all-time greats—a S&S D fully fitted with some of those happily lacquered-up hammers you mentioned and a nicely dead soundboard—but when the pianist got to his Chopin piece and started pounding on the keys with enough animal force to lift his butt off the piano bench while sending very un-pianistic crashing sounds bouncing around an acoustical disaster of a room at painful sound pressure levels it is (was) time for me to leave. If enough people leave these “performances” perhaps both the pianists and the instrument makers will take the hint.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1969818 - 10/07/12 12:33 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Del-I found it interesting that you mentioned the probably longer sustain(based on their design) of the Chopin era pianos. At least for the examples posted in the recent threads about older pianos, I felt(not sure if I'm correct here?) the pianos were lacking in sustain and wooden sounding. Of course, you also mentioned that these pianos might very well not sound much like Chopin's pianos sounded when new. So if in fact my description of those piano's tone is correct, this seems to imply that these pianos don't sound much like new pianos in Chopin's time sounded.

Am I making sense here?


Edited by pianoloverus (10/07/12 12:38 PM)

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#1969841 - 10/07/12 01:32 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Thrill Science Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 513
Loc: California
You can get some information by reading the Eigeldinger book

http://www.amazon.com/Chopin-Pianist-Teacher-Seen-Pupils/dp/0521367093

where there are several pages of excerpts from Chopin's letters about instrument selection. Of course, you can't tell too much from a written description. But this book is a must have for anyone studying Chopin.
_________________________
Robert Swirsky
Thrill Science, Inc.

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#1969848 - 10/07/12 01:53 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7431
Loc: Rochester MN
Ed,

To answer your direct question about playing/performing Chopin, when I program it, it would never even cross my mind to play it on a period instrument. I am a product of the 20th Century and now perform for 21st Century listeners.

To me, it isn't so much a question of should we prefer what Chopin played upon, but rather, would Chopin have chosen the modern "stage cannons" if they were available to him? That question is equally as valid.

Before I get argumentative replies, let me state that I enjoy period instrument performances. Music history, performance history, and musicology are all part of musicianship. I rely on all of those skills in what I strive to accomplish as a pianist.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1969888 - 10/07/12 03:11 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Minnesota Marty]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty


To me, it isn't so much a question of should we prefer what Chopin played upon, but rather, would Chopin have chosen the modern "stage cannons" if they were available to him? That question is equally as valid.


Greetings,
I don't like to use the word 'should'. I asked of the pianists , " which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? "

So far, it has been addressed more by instrument builders and technicians than players!
I think we techs can suffer some occupational hazards inre how things "should" be, at times concentrating more on the instrument than the music, but there is some reason that the piano styles of the 1840's went obsolete.
Regards,

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#1969896 - 10/07/12 03:36 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
To me, it isn't so much a question of should we prefer what Chopin played upon, but rather, would Chopin have chosen the modern "stage cannons" if they were available to him? That question is equally as valid.


Greetings,
I don't like to use the word 'should'. I asked of the pianists , " which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? "


Read what Chopin had to say about pianos and you will see what he would have thought about stage "cannons".

Here is one pianist, Adolfo Barabino, who knows what sort of piano produces the most musical result for Chopin. Please focus on what he says about about the piano and the music, rather than unequal temperament: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41xRupc3Hz8

On reflection he goes on a bit and you might prefer to listen to him playing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zxNrQuxfNY.

No "stage cannons" for Mr Barabino, methinks.


Edited by Withindale (10/07/12 03:45 PM)
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

Top
#1969914 - 10/07/12 04:25 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Del]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 625
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Leaving the "bright vs dark" tone thread, for this side discussion of Chopin's music and the comparisons of old pianos and new ones. They have very different sounds.

I think the more pertinent question could be "What would Chopin play if given a choice between a 1850 Pleyel or a 2012 Steingraeber, or even the (now generic) sound of a stage-ready, happily lacquered-up Steinway D ?"

We listen to his music on a far wider variety of instruments than he ever did, and it is easy to distinguish between the modern piano, with its attack-defined clarity, and the earlier instruments that produced the note without such emphasis on the higher overtones.

I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?

One problem with this question is that most of us have absolutely no idea what the pianos Chopin might have played on really sounded like when they were new (or nearly so). We know only what they sound like today. And, in terms of comparison with so-called “modern” pianos, that is often not very good.

Even if well cared for, a century and a half of time takes its toll. Hammer resilience changes and soundboard panel stiffness changes. Strings age. We can make broad assumptions about how their voice has changed; the balance between the attack sounds and the sustain rate—i.e., there will be a stronger attack with the fundamental and lower partials dying out at a faster rate than when new—but none of us really knows from firsthand experience what that tone was really like on the day Chopin sat down to play. What is safe to assume is that the sounds he heard coming from the piano were nothing like the sounds we hear today. So when we make assumptions about what kinds of pianos he would have liked today they are just that, I think, assumptions. And if we go only by the evidence of our ears those are often based on faulty evidence.

Given a reasonable knowledge of basic piano design and construction theory we can extrapolate some and assume that the original sound of these pianos would have had a little less abrupt attack sound, a little slower decay rate (longer sustain) and a little more energy in the higher partials.. We can make these assumptions but, until someone makes an accurate copy of an early Erard or Pleyel these will remain just that: assumptions.

What we can say with certainty is that the remaining examples of these instruments no longer sounded the way they sounded in Chopin’s day. We can also say with certainty that no recording of any of these pianos will give us sounds anything like those of the originals.

Given all this we can also say with some certainty that—given their lower-tensioned scaling and lighter, (probably) more resilient hammers—the original sounds of these instruments would have been considerably less loud, the attack would not have been as sharp and I suspect the decay rate would have been much slower (longer sustain). We also know that, properly regulated, the touch and feel of the actions is lighter, quicker and more precise.

I believe modern pianists have the right to interpret the music composed by these musical masters as they see fit given the realities of modern pianos. Just as I, as an audience member, should have the right to walk out when the performance turns offensive. As it did a few years ago at a sadly memorable performance at one of our PTG annual conventions. Admittedly, the piano was not one of the all-time greats—a S&S D fully fitted with some of those happily lacquered-up hammers you mentioned and a nicely dead soundboard—but when the pianist got to his Chopin piece and started pounding on the keys with enough animal force to lift his butt off the piano bench while sending very un-pianistic crashing sounds bouncing around an acoustical disaster of a room at painful sound pressure levels it is (was) time for me to leave. If enough people leave these “performances” perhaps both the pianists and the instrument makers will take the hint.

ddf

Del, is it possible to build an exact copy of a Chopin-prefered Pleyel given materials available today?
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

Top
#1969919 - 10/07/12 04:32 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Chris Leslie]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
Originally Posted By: Chris Leslie
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Leaving the "bright vs dark" tone thread, for this side discussion of Chopin's music and the comparisons of old pianos and new ones. They have very different sounds.

I think the more pertinent question could be "What would Chopin play if given a choice between a 1850 Pleyel or a 2012 Steingraeber, or even the (now generic) sound of a stage-ready, happily lacquered-up Steinway D ?"

We listen to his music on a far wider variety of instruments than he ever did, and it is easy to distinguish between the modern piano, with its attack-defined clarity, and the earlier instruments that produced the note without such emphasis on the higher overtones.

I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?

One problem with this question is that most of us have absolutely no idea what the pianos Chopin might have played on really sounded like when they were new (or nearly so). We know only what they sound like today. And, in terms of comparison with so-called “modern” pianos, that is often not very good.

Even if well cared for, a century and a half of time takes its toll. Hammer resilience changes and soundboard panel stiffness changes. Strings age. We can make broad assumptions about how their voice has changed; the balance between the attack sounds and the sustain rate—i.e., there will be a stronger attack with the fundamental and lower partials dying out at a faster rate than when new—but none of us really knows from firsthand experience what that tone was really like on the day Chopin sat down to play. What is safe to assume is that the sounds he heard coming from the piano were nothing like the sounds we hear today. So when we make assumptions about what kinds of pianos he would have liked today they are just that, I think, assumptions. And if we go only by the evidence of our ears those are often based on faulty evidence.

Given a reasonable knowledge of basic piano design and construction theory we can extrapolate some and assume that the original sound of these pianos would have had a little less abrupt attack sound, a little slower decay rate (longer sustain) and a little more energy in the higher partials.. We can make these assumptions but, until someone makes an accurate copy of an early Erard or Pleyel these will remain just that: assumptions.

What we can say with certainty is that the remaining examples of these instruments no longer sounded the way they sounded in Chopin’s day. We can also say with certainty that no recording of any of these pianos will give us sounds anything like those of the originals.

Given all this we can also say with some certainty that—given their lower-tensioned scaling and lighter, (probably) more resilient hammers—the original sounds of these instruments would have been considerably less loud, the attack would not have been as sharp and I suspect the decay rate would have been much slower (longer sustain). We also know that, properly regulated, the touch and feel of the actions is lighter, quicker and more precise.

I believe modern pianists have the right to interpret the music composed by these musical masters as they see fit given the realities of modern pianos. Just as I, as an audience member, should have the right to walk out when the performance turns offensive. As it did a few years ago at a sadly memorable performance at one of our PTG annual conventions. Admittedly, the piano was not one of the all-time greats—a S&S D fully fitted with some of those happily lacquered-up hammers you mentioned and a nicely dead soundboard—but when the pianist got to his Chopin piece and started pounding on the keys with enough animal force to lift his butt off the piano bench while sending very un-pianistic crashing sounds bouncing around an acoustical disaster of a room at painful sound pressure levels it is (was) time for me to leave. If enough people leave these “performances” perhaps both the pianists and the instrument makers will take the hint.

ddf

Del, is it possible to build an exact copy of a Chopin-prefered Pleyel given materials available today?


Yes, maybe the only material no-longer avaible is the mahogany from Cuba , but thats a decorative issue.
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

Top
#1969920 - 10/07/12 04:36 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Withindale]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Withindale
No "stage cannons" for Mr Barabino, methinks.
So what piano does he perform on?


Edited by pianoloverus (10/07/12 04:36 PM)

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#1969928 - 10/07/12 05:02 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: pianoloverus]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Withindale
No "stage cannons" for Mr Barabino, methinks.
So what piano does he perform on?

The question was what type of piano produces the most musical result when playing Chopin.

Barabino is a Steinway artist according to David P's post on another forum:

"I used to joke that every note on a Steinway was an interruption of the music, but under the hands of Steinway artist Adolfo Barabino that's far from the case."

http://www.organmatters.com/index.php?topic=1150.0
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#1969932 - 10/07/12 05:14 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Withindale]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Withindale
No "stage cannons" for Mr Barabino, methinks.
So what piano does he perform on?

The question was what type of piano produces the most musical result when playing Chopin.
But my point was that Barabino apparently performs on a "stage cannon"(not a fair term I think, but used in the OP) although you said "No stage cannons for Mr. Barabino".

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#1969992 - 10/07/12 07:38 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Withindale]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Turandot posted this recording of Chopin Mazurkas in the original bright v mellow thread, saying that for him the second Mazurka comes closest to typifying Steingraeber qualities.



To my ear the recording sounds a bit brash, but it may be just be the recording.

As I'm on a YouTube recordings spin, here for comparison are Horowitz and Menahem Pressler who was named last week as one of Fifty Great Pianists in the current BBC Piano Season.

"It's very intimate now" says Horowitz, but would you say his piano is the most musical for Chopin, as the OP asks?
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#1970003 - 10/07/12 08:07 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: pianoloverus]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Withindale
No "stage cannons" for Mr Barabino, methinks.
So what piano does he perform on?

The question was what type of piano produces the most musical result when playing Chopin.
But my point was that Barabino apparently performs on a "stage cannon"(not a fair term I think, but used in the OP) although you said "No stage cannons for Mr. Barabino".


Well, in the first video, Adolfo Barabino explains that the Bechstein came as a revelation after 30 years. From what he says, and how he plays, I can only imagine he would give a sympathetic answer to Ed Foote's question.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#1970029 - 10/07/12 08:56 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Withindale]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Withindale


As I'm on a YouTube recordings spin, here for comparison are Horowitz and Menahem Pressler who was named last week as one of Fifty Great Pianists in the current BBC Piano Season.
"It's very intimate now" says Horowitz, but I would you say his piano is the most musical for Chopin, as the OP asks?


Greetings,
I think Horowitz was going deaf. I played that piano after he died, at the factory, before it was totally de-regulated. It sounded like a tin can, or,a Nashville recording studio piano. That he was able to get it to speak as well as he did is a testament to his control. Perhaps Chopin would have liked an extremely light and brilliant piano like this, I think it makes his music really sparkle, but there was nothing in 1850 that sounded like this.
( I was able to also examine this piano after it was "restored" and sent out on tour. It was a totally different action, and nothing at all like what Horowitz was playing. )
Regards,

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#1970135 - 10/08/12 02:28 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: pianoloverus]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5292
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Del-I found it interesting that you mentioned the probably longer sustain(based on their design) of the Chopin era pianos. At least for the examples posted in the recent threads about older pianos, I felt(not sure if I'm correct here?) the pianos were lacking in sustain and wooden sounding. Of course, you also mentioned that these pianos might very well not sound much like Chopin's pianos sounded when new. So if in fact my description of those piano's tone is correct, this seems to imply that these pianos don't sound much like new pianos in Chopin's time sounded.

Am I making sense here?

Most of us base our impressions of the pianos of Chopin's era on hearing music being played on period instruments. Unfortunately those instruments are a century and a half old (or more). They no longer sound like the did when they were in their early years.

It is my belief that the only way we are going to hear anything like the sounds Chopin heard is to make new instruments that are as close to the originals as possible and perform on those. While we will never know for sure that the tone performance of the new instruments is exactly the same as those played by Chopin they will be closer than anything else we have available.

Whether this sound "correct" either to our modern ears or to the ear of someone who is enamored with the sound of the carefully preserved original instruments is a whole other question. I listened to the sample of the McNulty Pleyel and I have to say--understanding that I have heard this only only on the in-ear noise-suppressing ear buds that I travel with--it sounds pretty much like I would expect a new instrument of that design to sound. I look forward to getting and hearing more and better (non-YouTube) recordings of this instrument.

If I were attempting to reproduce an instrument of that era I'd be quite pleased with that result. On the other hand, if my own new version of the mid-19th century instruments sounds like that I won't be happy at all.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1970145 - 10/08/12 03:00 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Chopin was very good and accomplished in his technique. Some say one of the best. So undoubtedly he'd need an instrument that was capable of his technique (i.e. quick playing, fast repetition, etc.). so the action had to be able to keep up with him. Liszt was even faster and considerably more "show-boat-ish" than Copin was. They were at the same place at the same time and were good friends, so they undoubtedly used some of the same instruments (at least on occasion). If they could handle Liszt they could handle Chopin.

However, due to many illnesses as a child he didn't have much stamina or endurance, could't play very loudly, and so preferred to play in small salons instead of large halls like Liszt and others did. I don't expect that he'd have much use for the ol' stage canons. And Steinway wasn't making any D's at the time.

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#1970241 - 10/08/12 09:57 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
acortot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 477
Loc: Italy
Chopin learned to play on a Bucholtz piano, made in Poland out of pine-wood in his early years.

when he played a concert on his Bucholtz, which was a piano fasioned after the English design (a la Broadwood etc.) his music teacher mentioned that the bass notes could not be heard in the crowd and the next concert a Viennese piano was borrowed which allowed the bass notes to be heard in the room.

Chopin mentions in his letter that he would have preferred to play his own piano.. this gives an indication of his tastes.

It appears, that the English-styled, Polish-built piano which Chopin used before moving to Paris was quite a soft-sounding instrument..

this coincides with a letter written to Erard by his nephew, who was setting-up a factory in London (Erard London) .. he mentions that the English pianos of the time had softer darker hammers than the French model.. he says that the "English pianos have a beautiful yet CONFUSED sonority"...

the round shape of the english hammer and it's construction gave the hammer a deeper, darker sound, as opposed to the pear-shaped hammers which began to come-out in the 1840's, which had a brighter, more focused sound..


The Pleyel hammer was covered with an extremely soft felt made of rabbit fur, alpaca, cachemire and other soft fibres

I have a Pleyel with original hammers and have found two other Pleyels with this exact same felt, one of which was Rossini's Pleyel and the other being built in 1845

I can safely say that there is NO WAY that the piano would sound brilliant or nasal unless the keys were struck very hard..


I had the opportunity to play Mc Nulty's Pleyel, and it is a great instrument, well built etc... great attention to detail.. the sound of the hammers is too hard though, because he is using a felt which typically is used in restorations but is historically inaccurate.


the great problem is achieving BOTH a mellow ppp and a relatively bright FF

A good-quality felt made today of the same density (about 250 grams weight)will give a mellow ppp but the fortissimo is dull..

the fibres of the original Pleyel felt are extremely fine and curly and when the hammer hits the string SOFTLY, the soft felt sets the string in motion without coupling to the firmer layers of leather underneath..

...when the hammer is played harder, the Pleyel felt has the ability to squash and 'bottom-out' almost completely, therefore coupling the harder leather layers to the string and producing a brighter sound..

this is perhaps why the way that the felts were manufactured was VERY different from today's felt

You can read the original PATENTS OF THE FELT MAKING PROCESS IN THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE...








Pleyel Hammer Article



Edited by acortot (10/08/12 10:15 AM)
_________________________
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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#1970254 - 10/08/12 10:42 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Del]
acortot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 477
Loc: Italy
Originally Posted By: Del



It is my belief that the only way we are going to hear anything like the sounds Chopin heard is to make new instruments that are as close to the originals as possible and perform on those. While we will never know for sure that the tone performance of the new instruments is exactly the same as those played by Chopin they will be closer than anything else we have available.

Whether this sound "correct" either to our modern ears or to the ear of someone who is enamored with the sound of the carefully preserved original instruments is a whole other question. I listened to the sample of the McNulty Pleyel and I have to say--understanding that I have heard this only only on the in-ear noise-suppressing ear buds that I travel with--it sounds pretty much like I would expect a new instrument of that design to sound. I look forward to getting and hearing more and better (non-YouTube) recordings of this instrument.

If I were attempting to reproduce an instrument of that era I'd be quite pleased with that result. On the other hand, if my own new version of the mid-19th century instruments sounds like that I won't be happy at all.

ddf



Hi,

I mentioned above that I played the Mc Nulty Pleyel, and my opinions of the instrument (which are mostly good).

There is one major aspect to reproducing the old pianos which is usually not within the modern accepted 'sphere' of how a piano works..

the Pleyel piano was built with a very small soundboard area which was limited by a cutoff bar and was further made more rigid by a tone-bar..

the soundboard is relatively thin..

the design of the soundboard, with the lower tensions and smaller bridges, produced a sound which was bass-shy and had resonance in the midrange frequencies..

with the dark, soft hammers, the more resonant and lean-sounding soundboard balanced the sound, which otherwise would be too boomy and out-of-focus.

With harder and brighter hammers, the piano is louder but the balance is way off, making the piano sound thin, lacking a strong fundamental and emphasising the dirty harmonics of the small scale's strings..


there were a lot of designs for soundboards, with lattice or X-bracing, simple bracing, tuned braces, different grain-orientations but most Pleyels hat the grain of the wood at a 45° angle to the spine of the piano..

as far as sustain, it was not as much as today's pianos, and to an extent, it was actually engineered OUT of early pianos because it 'clouded the harmony'

pianists in the early 1800's did not use the pedal like modern pianists, partly because the dampers were small and tended to allow a degree of sympathetic vibration... partly because the pedal was not seen as a tool to be emplyed constantly until the pianos became so large and full of sustain that it became impossible NOT to use the pedal..
_________________________
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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#1970585 - 10/09/12 12:02 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Chris Leslie]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5292
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Chris Leslie
Del, is it possible to build an exact copy of a Chopin-prefered Pleyel given materials available today?

I don't know. You'd have to ask those instrument makers who specialize in building reproductions of early keyboard instruments.

It should certainly be possible to build instruments using a design philosophy and construction techniques and materials to come up with representative action and voice characteristics.

Again, this may not satisfy the purest but then I doubt that any two consecutive instruments built by the early keyboard makers were exactly the same either.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1970660 - 10/09/12 04:50 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Del]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 625
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Chris Leslie
Del, is it possible to build an exact copy of a Chopin-prefered Pleyel given materials available today?

I don't know. You'd have to ask those instrument makers who specialize in building reproductions of early keyboard instruments.

It should certainly be possible to build instruments using a design philosophy and construction techniques and materials to come up with representative action and voice characteristics.

Again, this may not satisfy the purest but then I doubt that any two consecutive instruments built by the early keyboard makers were exactly the same either.

ddf


Darn! whistle
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#1970674 - 10/09/12 06:54 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
acortot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 477
Loc: Italy
Del,

Pleyel experimented with different soundboard designs as well as hammer shapes and sizes.

The pianos until 1839 had a volume which was too low for halls, it was a private, indoor instrument


In the 1840's the bridges became a little bigger, the scaling a little longer, hammer-mass increased

But the basic approach towards hammer-making and soundboard voicing was the Pleyel style (small surface area, midrange resonance as well as hammers with a soft outside and progressively harder core)

Pleyel also had unusually large hammers until just above middle C, making the left-hand-range sound darker than the right.

The question is what year is the Pleyel we are talking about?

From 1830 to 1849 Chopin Played only on Pleyels.


I've heard many restorers shrug-off responsibility for their actions by saying 'they were all different anyhow'

That is not a valid arument in my opinion.

So many pianos, after almost 200 years on the used piano market are in terrible shape with poor restorations and they are sold as being 'original'

This in not the case most of the time. Obviously.


Edited by acortot (10/09/12 07:30 AM)
_________________________
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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#1970680 - 10/09/12 07:52 AM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
sandalholme Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 770
Loc: Dorset, UK
I would hesitate before stating that old instruments no longer sound as they did. Not a piano or fortepiano I admit, but I had a David Rubio copy, built in 1972, of the 1769 Taskin harpsichord. I had the pleasure of playing the original in St Cecilia's hall, Edinburgh. It was like playing my copy and my wife thought it sounded the same. Quite an uncanny experience. So I would not rule out the possibility of old instruments not having deteriorated so much that they no longer resemble the sounds they produced when new.

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#1970785 - 10/09/12 12:59 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
acortot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 477
Loc: Italy
Depends. The soundboards on these pianos resonate quite a bit and the wood used before 1890 or so was of a different region. I think Alfred Dolge mentions that in his book.

Good soundboard wood is hard to come by.

But 90% of the sound is in the hammers imo so if you get those right you would have something
_________________________
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

Top
#1970950 - 10/09/12 06:56 PM Re: What would Chopin play? (was bright vs dark) [Re: Ed Foote]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1243
Loc: London
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
... I, as a technician, would like to hear from the pianists that play Chopin; which style of instrument do you think produces the most musical result when playing this music? The older delicate ones with their nuance and subtle charm, or the modern stage cannon that can really make a big show of it?


My favourite recordings of the Chopin piano concertos numbers one and two are those played by Emanuel Ax on an 1851 Erard. They seem just perfect.

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