Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums Over 2.5 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!
....The comment about warblers is often thought to allude to the trilled reprise of the B major Nocturne, op. 62 no. 1....
Absolutely works for me!
BTW, even though I sort of hate saying what's my "favorite" of any group of Chopin's works, this is my favorite Nocturne.
Ahh, what the hey......
Favorite Waltz: E minor, Op. posth. Ballade: 4 Scherzo: changes a lot, but now, 4 Etude: golly that's tough....F major (Op. 10 #8) Prelude: ditto....A-flat major (#17) Mazurka: mucho ditto.....B major, Op. 56 #1 Polonaise: F# minor Impromptu: 3 (even though it's the only one I haven't really played) Sonata: 3 Barcarolle: Barcarolle
Jeff: Is there anything you don't know about Chopin or (at least) can't get your hands on really quickly? You have a phenomenal memory.
I am listening to that nocturne as I write this. One can almost float on this lovely melody as EdwardianPiano suggested. But those runs and trills are about the most beautiful, I think, I've heard in any of his music. A very special nocturne because of this.
MaryRose and I both agreed that when we were teenagers, we thought the nocturnes too sticky sweet, but now...WOW! So many have such turbulance in the middle sections. Since Chopin got his idea for the nocturnes from Field, do you know if Field's music followed (more or less) the same pattern?
So happy you are still with us. It's been quite a journey and far from over.
PS EdwardianPiano: No, thank goodness, Katie doesn't howl. But that whining and gruff little barks are more than enough to let me know she is NOT happy.
You're very kind, as always!
On Chopin and Field: while Chopin certainly knew Field's nocturnes, his ideas for the genre derived as much from other composers' piano nocturnes (and related pieces) from the 1820s (including examples by Kalkbrenner and Herz) and (this is very important) from the vocal nocturnes that were still very popular. (Field derived his idea of the piano nocturne from the vocal nocturnes. And if you said "nocturne" in the early 1830s in Paris, the first association that would have come into most listeners' minds would have been the vocal genre rather than the piano genre.)
Field's nocturnes mostly lack the turbulent middle sections that we hear in many of Chopin's. His contemporaries (especially Schumann) associated the turbulent middle sections with Chopin, though he didn't actually invent the idea. And some of his contemporaries were disturbed at the intrusion of agitated music into the otherwise graceful realm of the nocturne.
....while Chopin certainly knew Field's nocturnes, his ideas for the genre derived as much from other composers' piano nocturnes (and related pieces) from the 1820s (including examples by Kalkbrenner and Herz) and (this is very important) from the vocal nocturnes that were still very popular..... Field's nocturnes mostly lack the turbulent middle sections that we hear in many of Chopin's. His contemporaries (especially Schumann) associated the turbulent middle sections with Chopin, though he didn't actually invent the idea....
That immediately made me think of a piece by another composer, written just shortly before Chopin started publishing nocturnes -- and it certainly fits with "vocal": Schubert's "Piano Piece" (Klavierstuck) in E-flat major:
Like, the part at 2:28.
I'm not saying that this aspect of Chopin was directly inspired by Schubert or this piece, but we do know (I think?) that Schubert was one of the few composers that Chopin could stomach.
I have a question about Chopins posthumous nocturne in c# minor...The ending section with the scale runs, the very first run(in my edition) has the RH notes grouped in alignment with the LH eighth notes as follows; 4 notes for first beat(3rd beat in the measure actually), 3 for 2nd,6 for 3rd and 4 for 4th beat. That leads me to believe I should play the first beat counting, 1-e-a-e and then on the second use a triplet. Then for the 3rd beat I would count 1 and 2 and 3 and for 6 notes which would lead smoothly into the 4th beat which has 4 notes, instead of playing the 3rd beta as triplets...Is this a correct assumption/interpretation?
I have the same question for the next scale run that comes, the largest one in the piece; First beat has 8 notes so count evenly(1-e-a-a2-e-a-a) 2nd beat has 9 notes so count 3 of the notes as triplets and the rest evenly, 3rd beat has 10 notes so do a triplet then 2 notes then a triplet and 2 notes and those final 2 notes would transition into the finale 8 notes of the 4th beat....Is this a correct interpretation of those scale runs? To me I get the idea that they runs are written to be played evenly on some beats and then add triplets to give it an interesting effect...Is this the way I should study these runs? Thanks...
....the very first run(in my edition) has the RH notes grouped in alignment with the LH eighth notes as follows; 4 notes for first beat(3rd beat in the measure actually), 3 for 2nd,6 for 3rd and 4 for 4th beat. That leads me to believe I should play.... Is this a correct assumption/interpretation?....
No! It doesn't mean you can't do it that way. I'm just saying it doesn't mean that you're supposed to.
While I'm saying it flat out, in fact many people would say "yes." I hold to the flat-out 'no,' as would many people.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean about how it is in your edition. What I'm familiar with about the notation of those runs is that they're indicated totally ungrouped, and what I said above is with regard to Chopin runs that are totally ungrouped.
Assuming that all you meant was how the notes appear to align with the left hand notes, rather than that they're truly grouped as you said, I would say that we are totally free to 'group' them as we wish. Group them in whatever way makes the most musical sense to you. Maybe that will wind up being how you said they appear, maybe it won't; and maybe you'll do it differently at different times.
P.S. Expect contrary opinions to be expressed.
BTW, when I played the piece, I grouped the notes fairly evenly -- i.e. pretty exactly the same number of R.H. notes for each L.H. note in a given measure.
Mark_C, Do you have any hints on speeding up that 35-note scale run in the right hand to 4 notes in the bass (measure 56)?
I'm working on this piece,too, and I always have to slow it down a bit there because I am not speedy enough with long runs like that.
I'm trying to play it even more delicately because then I can get it a little faster. I realize it's marked "p" and my edition says sempre piu p underneath the bass notes, but there's a hairpin crescendo/decrescendo there also.
If I play it too fast, it sounds too uneven. My teacher at one point said that long runs don't have to be in strict time, but since it has the left hand rhythm to match, I would guess that it should be in strict time or as close as possible.
When I slow down there, I have to keep that tempo, so I've already slowed down before the "rall." marking.
Do you have any hints on speeding up that 35-note scale run in the right hand to 4 notes in the bass (measure 56)?
"Practice, practice, practice."
I don't have much of a better answer than that. That question very often is asked about various passages and pieces, and I think that many of the answers that are given are way too specific. Different specific things will be useful for different people, and I think it's impossible to know what specific things to suggest for someone we don't know and whose playing we don't see.
I think the only things we can reliably offer are very general things that might seem like nothing at all because they're pretty obvious, but anyway....
-- Make sure you really really know the passage -- I mean, what the notes are and "how it goes" -- so that you can play it at some speed (even a very slow speed) without worrying about the notes, and even without thinking of them very much.
-- Try to speed it up gradually with a metronome, starting at a very slow speed and turning it up a notch when you're comfortable playing it at each speed. That's a general method for almost any fast passage, followed by many people, and maybe you already know it. With this method, you might get it to a desired speed in just a few minutes, or maybe it will take days or weeks, or (unfortunately) maybe never, depending on the passage and on your technique.
-- Practice, practice, practice.
But IMO more importantly, see this next thing....
I'm trying to play it even more delicately because then I can get it a little faster.
It's kind of unusual to see it put that way, but GREAT, because it means that for whatever reason, your technical work on the passage is hand-in-hand with the musicality. I think that when people have trouble with such passages, they usually play more intensely when they try to speed them up, even though that takes them away from the musicality. I think the fact that it's this way for you means that you're well on your way to playing it well, and before long that the speed will take care of itself.
If I play it too fast, it sounds too uneven.
Maybe take a speed at which you can play it evenly, practice it a few times at that speed (with a metronome), then work on very gradually speeding it up (as said above), and listen carefully for unevenness. Wherever you hear it, try to take care of it at that speed before going any higher; don't tolerate even the slightest unevenness before going up. If you hit a wall where you can't get it faster without being uneven, so be it; you'll probably be able to go higher at your next sitting. Also maybe try breaking through the wall by playing even more delicately.
My teacher at one point said that long runs don't have to be in strict time....
Sure, but make sure that the unstrictness represents musical choices, rather than technical unevenness.
....but since it has the left hand rhythm to match, I would guess that it should be in strict time or as close as possible.
I wouldn't say so at all. The R.H. notes can go at different speeds in different parts of the measure, provided that it reflects good musical choices -- and the left hand can do a little rubato too.
BTW I think I totally violated what I said at the top.
Thanks so much, Mark_C! You are a wealth of information! This is great advice!
Yes, I need to practice, practice, practice, and I think I was kind of practicing without thinking enough about how.
I like your suggestion about using the metronome and ticking it faster. I haven't tried that. I do think that will push me, and I might break it into sections (8 or 9 notes) to work on each section to get each one faster and then overlap them. I will try it as you said, evenly and without allowing any unevenness before going faster.
You're right--I need to make sure I really, really know it.
Playing delicately--when I do that quickly, I'm really playing without really hitting the key bottom so much--more quickly on the keys--at least that's what I've been experimenting with.
My old teacher used her arm to fly through passages like that; she'd kind of use her arm/wrist movement to gain momentum as she went up the scale. She was helping me with arm movements before she moved, so I'm experimenting with that, too.
It's good the left hand can do a little rubato, too. I guess you have to play it convincingly and musically if you slow it down. But, I'm going to keep working on it so I won't have to slow it down!
Thanks so much for all your very helpful advice! I really appreciate it, and I'll put it to good use! Kathy
Sure, but, a couple of things: The first is, "I should talk." I mean sarcastically, because I'm hardly a great player myself. Plus, in view of that, I'd really be insulting others if I say too much about what I think a lot of people do wrong. Anyway, here goes.
First of all, about the left hand thing: Yes, I think it's a key thing about not-so-good Chopin playing, and, as I think I said in that other thread (which was a little while ago, so I'm not sure), IMO it applies to the playing of many other composers too, especially Mozart. It's one of the main things that enables us to tell very quickly (if we listen for it) the difference between someone who's advanced and real good, and someone who isn't.
To a large extent, this is because of what we might even call a defect of piano design. I think that on almost all pianos, the bass produces a loud sound easier than the treble does, and so unless we're 'really trying,' the bass will drown out the treble. It is said that when Chopin played 4-hand music he insisted on playing the bass part, "because he wasn't going to let anyone drown him out" (and presumably he was going to make sure he didn't drown out the other player). I've wondered, why do they make pianos like that? I imagine that a big part of it is just that longer fatter strings (i.e. the lower strings on the piano) tend to be louder than shorter thinner strings (the upper strings), and either it's impossible to make them differently or (astonishingly) they've never tried.
So, with pianos being as they are, if the music is of the type that really requires subduing the bass but the player isn't aware of all this, or isn't trained well enough or innately sensitive enough to adjust for it (and few people are), the bass will generally be too loud. The music won't sound sensitive or delicate, and nuances of the melody will be almost impossible. And after all, isn't sensitivity, delicacy, and nuances of melody a lot of what Chopin is about?
I think that most beginner and intermediate players will make their Chopin playing immediately twice as good just by subduing the left hand (except perhaps for the bottom bass line, which usually is a melody in itself and needs to ring out a bit, but still not so much that it overwhelms the melody.....golly, this is hard, isn't it? And that's just how it is with Chopin -- it's real hard, even harder than most people realize, and this left hand stuff is a big part of it.....but I digress) ....immediately twice as good by just subduing the left hand, PLUS, it then gives them the opportunity to do better things with the right hand, because now, they can really hear nuances of the melody, and therefore develop them further.
Here's an exercise, perhaps: Take some Chopin piece where the melody is mostly in the right hand, and play the left hand (except the lowest bass line) absolutely as softly as possible, not being afraid to let some of the notes not sound at all.
For most people, IMO they would then be playing the left hand almost as soft as it needs to be. It usually still wouldn't be soft enough. But it would be a great step toward much more beautiful playing, and toward having Chopin sound like we want it to. It will probably feel strange and even "nothing-ish" at first, but I think for most people interested enough to try it, it will soon feel like a revelation because of how much more masterly it sounds and because of what else it enables.
Having said all that, I better add that this is all an oversimplification, and that there are pieces and passages where it doesn't apply. But even there, it sort of does. Like, the Polonaises are probably the main exception among Chopin's pieces, yet IMO it's still true that except when played by the very best players, most of the left hand tends to be too loud.
That's more than long enough for a post, so I'll mostly leave it at that, except to say that another huge aspect, deserving of at least as much space, is rhythm. The trick is to be flexible yet steady -- not rigid, but not wayward either. And similarly about "phrasing," which involves the dynamics within a phrase as well as rhythmic things: we want an ebb-and-flow, rather than all the notes being equally loud, but it has to be "musical," and it has to make sense. These things apply to some extent in all music; I think they apply most 'severely' to Chopin.
....any tips, thoughts, philosophies, cavates re playing nocturne 9/3? That's my current obsession.
An excellent obsession!
All I'd say is, don't lose sight of how in the first and last sections (i.e. the 'main' sections of the piece), the whole feel of the music often shifts suddenly and drastically within a phrase, sometimes from note to note -- there are just so many surprises -- and those surprises should be given their due in some way, yet without overdoing it; how is up to you.
When working on a piece and playing it repeatedly, it's easy to get inured (good word!) to those things and to stop feeling them for the extraordinary things that they are. This is another thing we might include in the general considerations in playing Chopin: making sure not to just slide past wonderful and unusual moments as though nothing special were happening. IMO this piece is among the very best examples of this challenge among all of Chopin's works.
....which is (I suppose) the hardest part -- and I didn't even get to that because of all the stuff about the "easy" part!
I'm just a glutton for punishment I guess. But I'm in no hurry and have no one to please but myself. It's not as bad as I've expected it to be. So far the hardest thing I've ever learned is 62/2. This one is at least a lot easier to "read."
Slow down and do it right.
I have a question on the proper playing of Chopin's Prelude no.4 in e minor; which I just started working on in my last lesson. This my first attempt at one of his preludes quite a thrill for me as I admire his music a great deal. I can not seem to achieve the correct sound in Measure 10, the sheet music seems to indicate that the melody in the right hand should be played in the same tempo as the left hand chords, but when I play it sounds discordant, which I know it should not. I know they should fit seemlessly together, but I am at a lost to understand how to achieve it. Do I need to change the pedal more that with the new chord in the left hand? Thanks!
....I can not seem to achieve the correct sound in Measure 10, the sheet music seems to indicate that the melody in the right hand should be played in the same tempo as the left hand chords, but when I play it sounds discordant, which I know it should not. I know they should fit seemlessly together, but I am at a lost to understand how to achieve it. Do I need to change the pedal more that with the new chord in the left hand? Thanks!
I hope my answer won't keep other people from answering, because there could be different ways to see this. Here are a few thoughts....
BTW I'm pretty sure you mean measure 9; the counting of measures generally starts with the first complete measure.
Yes, you probably ought to change the pedal more than what you're doing -- but what makes you think you shouldn't? It sounds like you're implying that your edition shows a pedal marking through the whole measure? If it does, I think that's an editor's addition; I don't think Chopin indicated any pedal marking. But even if he had, a 'continuous' pedal marking doesn't necessarily mean you don't change the pedal in the middle of it, sometimes even more than once. It's easy to fall into unmusical traps by assuming it means you 'can't' change the pedal, and in fact for years I committed that sin in the mazurka middle section of Chopin's F# minor Polonaise. Most of the measures seem to show a continuous pedal throughout the measure, but that's AWFUL, and in fact few top pianists follow it literally. I learned the piece before I realized that the marking doesn't necessarily mean that you hold the pedal continuously, and it took years for me to rethink it.
Actually in this case, maybe it might be possible indeed to hold the pedal the whole time and maybe could be very effective if you play the left hand very softly and do some nuanced things with the dynamics of the right hand; I'm not sure that could work and I can't test it out because I'm not near a piano. Anyway, I think the main answer is, yes indeed -- change the pedal, according to what your ear tells you.
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
I guess you mean measure 9? Yes, the first chords in the LH will sound a bit discordant because of C and B played together, but discordance also has its meaning, like conveying angst. Or do you mean something else?
Music is my best friend. “Haters don't really hate you. They hate themselves because you are a reflection of what they wish to be.” ― Yaira N
Mark C and ChopinAddict You are both right I did mean measure 9, this is what comes of hurriedly counting in Italian before posting one's question. My question about playing this particular measure is trying to find a way of playing it so that the two lines don't sound oppossed to each other. I will try changing the pedal more often in my practice tomorrow, but I know you need the sustain pedal to keep that wondrous singing aspect to the piece. I don't know quite how to describe the sound maybe muddled is a better word, as the notes before and after this measures sound clearer.
....I will try changing the pedal more often in my practice tomorrow, but I know you need the sustain pedal to keep that wondrous singing aspect to the piece....
OK, you're ready for the next clue!
I don't usually like getting into details like this unless they involve some major principle for piano playing in general -- and this does.
Wherever you do the extra pedal changes, play the next note softer -- softer than what preceded, and softer than what immediately follows. You don't have to do this; it's sort of "extra credit." Feel free to leave it for much later.
While of course there are exceptions to everything, this is a good and fairly uniform 'rule' for beautiful playing of passages that have any amount of lyricism. It's a good bet that any famous pianist whose playing we find particularly beautiful tends to do this. It's usually subtle, and barely perceptible unless you're looking for it, or (I suppose) if you put an oscilloscope to it.
The reason this works is that a pedal change inherently makes the next note sound louder. So, in order to not have a "bump," we have to play it softer. Plus, it allows us to have a clearer sound with the notes that follow, because the softness of that first note will prevent it from competing too much with the new notes. This is one of the main 'tricks' for playing beautiful lines and creating great pedal effects: having a feel for which notes to 'soften,' sometimes seeming to be illogical and especially involving the first note after a pedal change.
This is a collection of diary notes by Liszt's student August Göllerich, describing events he witnessed at master classes. It's somewhat like the anecdotes told about Chopin's teaching in the Eigeldinger book. My teacher has it, and today while we were working on the 48/1 nocturne, we looked to see if Liszt had made any comments about that. What we found was his takedown of a student who played it in an overly emotional manner: "Do not disturb yourself so much; it is by no means so bad!"
While practicing this piece, I've thought often of one of the points that Mark brought up, that there is so much going on in the LH and one must "subdue" it and make the few RH notes sing above it all. This piece has that challenge in spades, with huge handfuls of LH chords (later in the RH as well), so many of which must be played gently and kept in balance with the melody.
Regarding the too-loud left hand (several comments up) - could this be because the bass strings are boomier on our current pianos than they were on the old Pleyels? Or whatever Chopin played (assuming French piano)