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#2047142 - 03/12/13 05:51 PM Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2?
1091Piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 31
So I need to learn either Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2 for a competition, but the competition is in the end of June Which concerto do you think I can learn quicker, or in other words, which is "easier"? I've always thought the Prokofiev is definitely harder, but everyone else I've talked to thinks Brahms is harder. I know I shouldn't just pick a concerto based on the difficulty level, but I only have a few months to learn one.

Any advice given is appreciated smile

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#2047152 - 03/12/13 06:00 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7571
Loc: New York City
If you think the Brahms will be easier for you, then learn that (assuming difficulty is the only factor in the decision). What other people think should not be a concern, as what is difficult for one may not be difficult for another.

I hate to be the guy to say this, but if you can't decide for yourself, then you're not ready to play either one of them.
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Polyphonist

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#2047257 - 03/12/13 09:22 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17913
Loc: Victoria, BC
1091 :

These two concerti are quite different from each other. You are the only one who really knows which Concerto you want to work on, can live with with the intensity that is going to be required for the next few months, and can bring to some degree of perfection in the short time you have before you have to perform it. Perhaps your teacher can be of some help, knowing your skills and abilities better than any of us; we really know nothing of your skills, abilities nor your musical preferences.

I agree, almost verbatim, with Polyphonist : "If you can't decide for yourself, then you're [possibly] not ready to play either one of them."

Regards,
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BruceD
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#2047328 - 03/12/13 10:42 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
jdhampton924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1009
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
I do not feel that the Brahms first piano concerto is difficult(well difficulty is relative in this, they are all difficult at one point). Considering how long, I would pick Brahms.

Have you played a concerto before? If so, which one(s)? Also consider the group you are playing with. Are they stronger in certain repertoire? Brahms may be technically easier, but when you consider how much the orchestra is apart of it?


Edited by jdhampton924 (03/12/13 10:44 PM)

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#2047345 - 03/12/13 11:15 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
Loc: New York
For the great majority of pianists, I don't think this is enough time to get either one of them confidently enough under one's belt for a competition from scratch, but I guess you think you can.

I don't know the Prokofiev well, but I cringe at terms like "easier" and "not that difficult" being used about the Brahms.

Not that there necessarily can be good answers to this, but, why did you wait till now? And since you did, why do you have to do this competition which is so soon, rather than waiting for ones where you'll have more lead time?

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#2047346 - 03/12/13 11:19 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7571
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
For the great majority of pianists, I don't think this is enough time to get either one of them confidently enough under one's belt for a competition from scratch in this amount of time, but I guess you think you can.

I don't know the Prokofiev well, but I cringe at terms like "easier" and "not that difficult" being used about the Brahms.

Not that there necessarily can be good answers to this, but, why did you wait till now? And since you did, why do you have to do this competition which is so soon, rather than waiting for ones where you'll have more lead time?


Valid points...
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Polyphonist

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#2047353 - 03/12/13 11:31 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2137
Loc: Canada
Depends on the kind of pianism you're good at. If you're a regular with playing pieces that are insanely virtuosic, then Prok 2 might fit your hands better and work better musically with you. Brahms will contain different textual difficulties and musical ones.
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#2047354 - 03/12/13 11:31 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Mark_C]
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5298
Loc: McAllen, TX
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
For the great majority of pianists, I don't think this is enough time to get either one of them confidently enough under one's belt for a competition from scratch in this amount of time, but I guess you think you can.


It might be a little tight, but learning either of those concerti in three and a half months of practice (albeit focusing solely on it for a minimum of 4-6 hours per day, preferably 6-8) is within the realm of ability for most conservatory-level pianists. Presuming one can finish learning the notes in two months, that leaves a little time for studio class performances, open rehearsals, and a run-through recital or two. Having learned the notes to the Prokofiev, I think it's possible given dedicated practice. It's actually not as hard as it sounds and is fairly repetitive/predictable in its patterns.

As far as which concerto I'd play in a competition, I'd go with the Prokofiev for sure. The Brahms is a better piece, IMO, but it sounds awful on two pianos. It really needs the full orchestra part to flourish.
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#2047356 - 03/12/13 11:35 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Mark_C]
jdhampton924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1009
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
Originally Posted By: Mark_C

I don't know the Prokofiev well, but I cringe at terms like "easier" and "not that difficult" being used about the Brahms.


You understand I mean in the relative sense? Every piece has their own challenges, but I do feel that the technical issues are not the most difficult part of the Brahms. There is definitely ensemble issues. It is not a clear cut piece of piano vs. orchestra like many concertos. As well as it is a big test of endurance in some cases. Those aspects can make it more difficult to pull off then other concertos. There are aspects I find about Mozart concertos, that I feel can be more difficult to pull off then Rachmaninoff concertos. Though, that being said, I do feel it is okay to say sometimes, that something is not as difficult.

Though this could just come down to a more philosophical difference between us, and how we view music. I love getting into the grit of pieces, seeing what puts them together, what inspired them, but at the same time I have to admit that I am more practical by nature.

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#2047362 - 03/12/13 11:48 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Brendan]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Brendan
It might be a little tight, but learning either of those concerti in three and a half months of practice (albeit focusing solely on it for a minimum of 4-6 hours per day, preferably 6-8) is within the realm of ability for most conservatory-level pianists. Presuming one can finish learning the notes in two months, that leaves a little time for studio class performances, open rehearsals, and a run-through recital or two.....

You know better than I do grin ....but I'd think that for a competition, for various reasons a whole higher level of comfort and command is necessary than for other purposes, and that it's not likely to work out well with this time frame.

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#2047384 - 03/13/13 12:34 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Brendan]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5239
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Brendan
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
For the great majority of pianists, I don't think this is enough time to get either one of them confidently enough under one's belt for a competition from scratch in this amount of time, but I guess you think you can.


It might be a little tight, but learning either of those concerti in three and a half months of practice (albeit focusing solely on it for a minimum of 4-6 hours per day, preferably 6-8) is within the realm of ability for most conservatory-level pianists. Presuming one can finish learning the notes in two months, that leaves a little time for studio class performances, open rehearsals, and a run-through recital or two. Having learned the notes to the Prokofiev, I think it's possible given dedicated practice. It's actually not as hard as it sounds and is fairly repetitive/predictable in its patterns.

As far as which concerto I'd play in a competition, I'd go with the Prokofiev for sure. The Brahms is a better piece, IMO, but it sounds awful on two pianos. It really needs the full orchestra part to flourish.
WOW!

explanation of the WOW factor: It goes to me rather than anyone else... I always considered the Prokofiev 2 to be a hellishly difficult piece, rather harder than the Brahms 1. When I first saw the thread subject I said to myself "this will be fun" (exactly because someone is asking, etc). Then I read that the competition is in June and I became sure of myself that "there's NO way someone can learn this in 3 and a half months".

Yet, I trust your experience MUCH MUCH MORE than my own in such subjects and I'm quite surprised that someone would learn the Prokofiev 2 or Brahms 1 in 3 and a little months... If you, however, say so then... yes... I believe you, and I repeat that I trust your experience!

So WOW for my lack of experience and judgement...

_____________________

I'd also say the Prokofiev 2. As a two piano version it sounds much much fuller and the cadenza alone is a single piano version already! :P
_________________________
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#2047388 - 03/13/13 12:39 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Nikolas]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
So WOW for my lack of experience and judgement...

Not so fast.... grin

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#2047406 - 03/13/13 01:16 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Mark_C]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5239
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
So WOW for my lack of experience and judgement...

Not so fast.... grin
In what professional pianists can do... probably yes! frown (The opposite goes for composing I guess. Give me an opportunity (commission *ahem*) to work on a piano concerto and you can have it in July the latest! grin)
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#2047545 - 03/13/13 09:19 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5298
Loc: McAllen, TX
Well, the caveat again would be that you'd have to drop everything else in order to do it. If it were a multi-round competition with the concerto in the finals, it's probably not possible to get it to where it needs to be!

As for Prok 2, I'm not saying that its s cakewalk, but I was surprised about how quickly it was going. i felt like there were large swaths of it (especially in the outer movements) that are sight-readable or based on simple patters (arpeggios, mostly). It's definitely an endurance test, though.
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#2047597 - 03/13/13 11:18 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
If the competition in question is the one I'm almost certain it is, I can explain why these two concerti and why the late notice: these are the two concertos on the repertoire list, and the list was made public just last week. It's no small shakes, either (think of the Juilliard concerto competitions for a specific concerto).

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#2047601 - 03/13/13 11:30 AM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
I feel relatively confident that I could learn one of these in three and a half months. Of course, I'd end up decimating my social life and tearing my hair out in the process I'm sure, and it probably wouldn't be a particularly good interpretation by the end of it, but it could be done. The question is: should it?


Edited by debrucey (03/13/13 11:31 AM)

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#2047637 - 03/13/13 12:26 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Brendan]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Brendan
Well, the caveat again would be that you'd have to drop everything else in order to do it. If it were a multi-round competition with the concerto in the finals, it's probably not possible to get it to where it needs to be!....

And even if it isn't a multi-round competition: It's really considered OK to spend such a period of time working on just one piece, and cramming it for a competition?

I don't doubt that people do do that. But I'm skeptical if it works well for many, and wouldn't think it's considered advisable, from any standpoint, including even for learning that one piece, if we're talking about reaching a competition-appropriate comfort with it. Seems like just a bad diet grin and something to be discouraged.

Originally Posted By: debrucey
I feel relatively confident that I could learn one of these in three and a half months. Of course, I'd end up decimating my social life and tearing my hair out in the process I'm sure, and it probably wouldn't be a particularly good interpretation by the end of it, but it could be done. The question is: should it?

Well, you tell me. grin

Would you do it, knowing that after all that, you'd be going to a competition with it and not playing it that great?

I'm surprised that you even say "could be done," because how you put it isn't really "doing it." If we're talking only about 'sort of' learning the piece, sure, that can be done, even in a lot less time, but it isn't what we're talking about. And I think there would be a lot more holes than just interpretation, including about solidity of even just the notes (in the pressure setting) and comfort with the ensemble aspects.

BTW this sure has a lot of similarity to the old thread on the 4th Ballade, eh? smile
And most of the same applies, with the difference that yours was for a recital, not a competition. Almost everyone encouraged you to go ahead with the piece. If it was for a competition rather than a recital, the views might well have been different.

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#2047656 - 03/13/13 12:53 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
I would probably not chose to learn one of these concertos in that time, but mainly because I know that everything else would suffer because of how much time I would have to dedicate to it. Even with doing the Ballade in a short space of time I was still only dedicating about a third of my daily practice to it. Plus, the Fourth Ballade is quite a bit less demanding than Prokofiev 2.

I personally would be more concerned for the quality of the work for a recital than for a competition. If I seriously doubted that I could do it I wouldn't have done it, and I think the time I spent struggling with that piece made me better for it in the end. I've performed it several times since and it feels surprisingly comfortable to play now. Concertos are a whole other ballpark.

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#2047721 - 03/13/13 03:24 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: 1091Piano]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2306
Loc: San Jose, CA
I consider myself a pretty good pianist, have a degree in piano performance and all that, and I'm giving myself 6 months to learn Mozart K. 488 for a symphony performance. I took even longer when I played the Stravinsky, I think close to a year. 3 months to learn either of those concertos is a big ask.

I wouldn't recommend the Brahms unless you are sure you can do it justice. It was a youthful work, but it belongs to the same category as his Ballades - it falls flat unless you are miraculously gifted in the melodic department. For a younger pianist, the virtuoso writing of Prokofiev is probably a better idea. It's just a lot of muscle memory and hard work; there aren't a lot of deep musical problems.

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#2047727 - 03/13/13 03:29 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: jeffreyjones]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
[...] - it falls flat unless you are miraculously gifted in the melodic department. For a younger pianist, the virtuoso writing of Prokofiev is probably a better idea. It's just a lot of muscle memory and hard work; there aren't a lot of deep musical problems.


We're not all the same, you know! smile

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#2047729 - 03/13/13 03:32 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: AldenH]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2306
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: AldenH
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
[...] - it falls flat unless you are miraculously gifted in the melodic department. For a younger pianist, the virtuoso writing of Prokofiev is probably a better idea. It's just a lot of muscle memory and hard work; there aren't a lot of deep musical problems.


We're not all the same, you know! smile


Maybe he has the temperament for the Brahms. If he did, though, I don't think he would be asking us any questions. A good musician should know what he likes to play and where his strengths lie.

The fact that he doesn't seem to know makes me lean towards the Prokofiev. I've found that his lexicon is pretty accessible to my generation and younger.

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#2047740 - 03/13/13 03:56 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: jeffreyjones]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones

Maybe he has the temperament for the Brahms. If he did, though, I don't think he would be asking us any questions. A good musician should know what he likes to play and where his strengths lie.

The fact that he doesn't seem to know makes me lean towards the Prokofiev. I've found that his lexicon is pretty accessible to my generation and younger.


That's an excellent deduction, and although I'm not fond of generalizations, in my personal experience your original assertion is generally (ha!) accurate. For my temperament, though, the Prokofiev would be a nightmare! It's a great work and I adore it, but to play it? Disaster!

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#2047778 - 03/13/13 05:27 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Mark_C]
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5298
Loc: McAllen, TX
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
And even if it isn't a multi-round competition: It's really considered OK to spend such a period of time working on just one piece, and cramming it for a competition?


YMMV. I've had to do just that before, and so far I haven't grown any warts! There have been several instances when a concert series or conductor wanted to hear a certain piece, and only that piece, leaving little choice in the matter (this has actually happened to me four times this year already, ugh). If you're subbing last minute (and lots of great gigs come about this way), there's really no choice!

Quote:
I don't doubt that people do do that. But I'm skeptical if it works well for many, and wouldn't think it's considered advisable, from any standpoint, including even for learning that one piece, if we're talking about reaching a competition-appropriate comfort with it. Seems like just a bad diet grin and something to be discouraged.


I think it all depends on how you look at it. If you have some downtime in your schedule, I don't see anything wrong in focusing on one piece for a few months, especially if it's something that you'll likely play a lot in the future (and I think Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2 fits that bill). However, you're right in that it's probably not an advisable plan for long-term study.

Anyway, back to practicing Rzewski, which I will be doing exclusively from now until the end of summer. smile
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#2047799 - 03/13/13 06:20 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Brendan]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5239
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Brendan
Anyway, back to practicing Rzewski, which I will be doing exclusively from now until the end of summer. smile
A bit off topic, but worth mentioning I think:

I made a thread asking for contemporary works for a gift to a friend of mine. because of you I decided to go for Rzewski variations... wink (you didn't post in the thread, but I remembered you mentioning it)...
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http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2047824 - 03/13/13 07:05 PM Re: Brahms 1 or Prokofiev 2? [Re: Brendan]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Brendan
....I've had to do just that before, and so far I haven't grown any warts! There have been several instances when a concert series or conductor wanted to hear a certain piece....

I figured you could do stuff like that. smile

But IMO you're sort of changing the subject. That's not competitions. I guess you don't think there's the difference that I think there is. And I guess "YMMV" on this too, because, after all, to Debrucey it would be the other way around!

I think for most people, though, a competition is a more stressful and more demanding thing. I would think our advice should best take that into account, and we mostly aren't.

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