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#2038282 - 02/24/13 04:07 AM Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2'
GrouchoMarx Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/10
Posts: 106
Hi

I was wondering if anyone who's played this could tell me of it's technical difficulties. How hard is it for example compared to the only other Rachmaninoff piece that I can play from beginning to end, Prelude Op. 32 No. 12? It seems somewhat similar except in the Etude it's the left hand that plays the fast 16th notes. And what's the hardest aspect of this piece?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated and if you could offer any tips on how to approach this piece in general I'd be very thankful.
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#2038356 - 02/24/13 10:09 AM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
I've read through it a few times, but never learned it. 32-12, I do play.

I think they each require different skills that are not congruous, meaning that, depending on what difficulties you have in your technique, your answer to this question may change.

However, one thing I will say is that several different skills are required for 32-12, whereas there is really only one major skill utilized in the majority of 33-2. For that reason, I would say 32-12 is more difficult. But again, answers may vary.
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#2038385 - 02/24/13 10:45 AM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
From the technical standpoint, I reckon Op.33/2 offers pretty well unbeatable material for learning how to - and how not to - go about cultivating suppleness of movement, without which the left hand and arm become agonizingly strained after the first page-and-a-half or so. In that respect, it's as much an "object-lesson" as Chopin Op.10 Nos. 1,9 & 11 and Op.25 Nos.1 & 3 are.

Teachers, hoping to induce in their students the degree of suppleness for playing all of these pieces effortlessly, commonly advocate using "stock-in-trade" lateral arm-movements with unfixated wrist-joints as a necessary basis on which cultivating control of key-striking movements can then proceed. Intuitively, that approach seems logical, since such movements help to steer the fingers onto their required keys (enabling the player to strike them as regular, patterned sequences of action) and since they seem to embody the essential characteristics of suppleness. That approach has never solved the fatigue problem for me. The reason is that it doesn't take into consideration the problem of exactly co-ordinating the muscular activity and the timing of the fingers' key-striking with the rate of motion of the lateral arm-movement and hence with the actual lining-up of the hand with the key(s) that are to be struck. This needs to be very accurately judged, and can only be determined in relation to the positions on the keyboard of the successive keys to be struck.

This means, that for all the pieces I've mentioned, the problem of fatigue is not to be solved by attempting to impose some stereotyped physical or kineasthetic formula for suppleness, but by discovering the specific requirements for achieving the particular variety of suppleness that's optimally suited for the efficient striking of each successive prescribed key. I find I can do that, and so avoid any build-up of fatigue, simply by starting work on such pieces by giving priority of attention to cultivating control of each key-striking finger-movement and, as my ability to control them as small (initially just paired) successions grows, almost unconsciously, just allow my arms to participate laterally on a strictly "as-required" basis, taking their cue from whatever my fingers need to be doing.

Hope this makes sense and helps - good luck with the piece!

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#2038536 - 02/24/13 04:23 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
dolce sfogato Offline
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Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2649
Loc: Netherlands
IMO the hardest aspect of this etude is to play as if it were a picture, indeed, what is the story? Technically it is a not so difficult study for the left hand, some stretching at page 3, some hand-crossings, a little nimble cadenza, ok, but there are some really delicate two-voiced melodic and dramatic right/left-hand issues at page 2, the whole piece is about something, try to figure out what it is that makes you want to convey to the audience, and try to project that to the 4th wall...
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#2038783 - 02/25/13 01:51 AM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
jeffreyjones Offline
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Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2358
Loc: San Jose, CA
Listen to Rachmaninoff's recording. It's not overly hard to play the notes at a moderate tempo, but you need unfathomable technique to make it sound as easy and effortless as he did.

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#2039024 - 02/25/13 01:34 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
GrouchoMarx Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/10
Posts: 106
Thanks to all of you for taking some time to answer my question.

Derulux, the fact you think 32-12 is harder is encouraging.

Scordatura, I printed the sheets today and played around with the first page. Didn't take too long for my left hand to get somewhat fatigued, but I hope that'll go away once I get more familiar with the piece. Just have to relax the whole arm and make the movements more efficient. THanks for your lengthy reply, good advice.

dolce sfogato, I know Rachmaninoff said that the inspiration for his etude came from some picture/visual source, but I have no idea what you mean by playing it like it's a picture.

jeffreyjones, I listened to his recording and can never hope to play it anywhere close to his level.
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#2039705 - 02/26/13 03:47 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18127
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: GrouchoMarx
[...]
Derulux, the fact you think 32-12 is harder is encouraging.

[...]


My experience is the opposite. I have recently performed the Op 32, No 12, but reading through the Op 33, No 2, I am confronted with considerably greater difficulties.

In the Prelude, the repeated broken chords in the right hand are always made up of single notes, and the span in that pattern is never more than an octave.

In the Etude, the fact that the left hand not only spans a tenth and sometimes an 11th, that stretch is made more difficult by the fact that the 10th or 11th often alternates with a two-note chord - or the stretch begins with a two-note chord, varying from a 3rd to a 7th and everything in between. I don't really see how this could be considered easier than the Op 32, No 12.

Regards,
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#2039762 - 02/26/13 05:28 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: BruceD]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2358
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: GrouchoMarx
[...]
Derulux, the fact you think 32-12 is harder is encouraging.

[...]


My experience is the opposite. I have recently performed the Op 32, No 12, but reading through the Op 33, No 2, I am confronted with considerably greater difficulties.

In the Prelude, the repeated broken chords in the right hand are always made up of single notes, and the span in that pattern is never more than an octave.

In the Etude, the fact that the left hand not only spans a tenth and sometimes an 11th, that stretch is made more difficult by the fact that the 10th or 11th often alternates with a two-note chord - or the stretch begins with a two-note chord, varying from a 3rd to a 7th and everything in between. I don't really see how this could be considered easier than the Op 32, No 12.

Regards,


Agreed. They look superficially similar, but the Etude calls for a much more developed and sophisticated technique. The OP getting tired from playing the first page is a sure sign he is not ready to play it near full speed.

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#2039793 - 02/26/13 06:26 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: BruceD]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: GrouchoMarx
[...]
Derulux, the fact you think 32-12 is harder is encouraging.

[...]


My experience is the opposite. I have recently performed the Op 32, No 12, but reading through the Op 33, No 2, I am confronted with considerably greater difficulties.

In the Prelude, the repeated broken chords in the right hand are always made up of single notes, and the span in that pattern is never more than an octave.

In the Etude, the fact that the left hand not only spans a tenth and sometimes an 11th, that stretch is made more difficult by the fact that the 10th or 11th often alternates with a two-note chord - or the stretch begins with a two-note chord, varying from a 3rd to a 7th and everything in between. I don't really see how this could be considered easier than the Op 32, No 12.

Regards,

I based my assessment on the idea that really there is only that one technical difficulty in the etude. It is not a superficial difficulty--it's real--but I think once you overcome it, that's it. There's nothing 'more'. With the prelude, you have many different technical issues, and once you solve one, there are still more.

Of course, I did say that I only have a cursory knowledge of the etude. I've run through it a few times, but never got it up to performance standards.
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#2039801 - 02/26/13 06:49 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: GrouchoMarx]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19443
Loc: New York City
Using the idea that the number of technical problems is the more important issue one could claim that some of the most difficult Chopin Etudes are easy. Many of them deal with a single technical problem.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/26/13 06:50 PM)

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#2039875 - 02/26/13 09:20 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: pianoloverus]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Using the idea that the number of technical problems is the more important issue one could claim that some of the most difficult Chopin Etudes are easy. Many of them deal with a single technical problem.

Once you learn that technical skill, they are. If you don't have any of the skill sets required for 32-12, it would be far more challenging to learn them all through working on the piece than just the one skill required for 33-2. Of course, we may have different opinions on the matter. That's just mine.
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#2040007 - 02/27/13 07:43 AM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: Derulux]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19443
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Using the idea that the number of technical problems is the more important issue one could claim that some of the most difficult Chopin Etudes are easy. Many of them deal with a single technical problem.

Once you learn that technical skill, they are. If you don't have any of the skill sets required for 32-12, it would be far more challenging to learn them all through working on the piece than just the one skill required for 33-2. Of course, we may have different opinions on the matter. That's just mine.
But "once you learn that skill set" they are(easy) doesn't factor in the difficulty of the technical skill(s). One might as well compare playing Op. 10 No.2 with playing Beethoven Op.49 No.1 and conclude that since the latter requires many different technical skills it is more difficult. But no one would say that. The difficulty of the technical skill or skills is generally far more critical than the number of skills.

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#2040316 - 02/27/13 05:27 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: Derulux]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2358
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Using the idea that the number of technical problems is the more important issue one could claim that some of the most difficult Chopin Etudes are easy. Many of them deal with a single technical problem.

Once you learn that technical skill, they are. If you don't have any of the skill sets required for 32-12, it would be far more challenging to learn them all through working on the piece than just the one skill required for 33-2. Of course, we may have different opinions on the matter. That's just mine.


1. The problem of playing large extensions with delicacy is not one to take lightly, and isn't one that will be solved easily. And the faster you try to play, the harder it is.

2. It's not just "one problem" in this piece. Each subtle variation in figuration is another one that you have to learn how to deal with properly, without changing the quality of the sound.

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#2040352 - 02/27/13 07:03 PM Re: Difficulty of 'Rachmaninoff - Etude-tableau Op.33 No.2' [Re: pianoloverus]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Using the idea that the number of technical problems is the more important issue one could claim that some of the most difficult Chopin Etudes are easy. Many of them deal with a single technical problem.

Once you learn that technical skill, they are. If you don't have any of the skill sets required for 32-12, it would be far more challenging to learn them all through working on the piece than just the one skill required for 33-2. Of course, we may have different opinions on the matter. That's just mine.
But "once you learn that skill set" they are(easy) doesn't factor in the difficulty of the technical skill(s). One might as well compare playing Op. 10 No.2 with playing Beethoven Op.49 No.1 and conclude that since the latter requires many different technical skills it is more difficult. But no one would say that. The difficulty of the technical skill or skills is generally far more critical than the number of skills.

I do generally agree with you. I would like to add that, without redistributing, the same technical skill--arpeggios greater than an octave--exists in 32-12 as well in two separate places.
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