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#2070413 - 04/25/13 03:06 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: beet31425]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 20356
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Islamey's main theme sounds like a childhood taunt....

....but of course not all such pieces are best left in the 3rd grade schoolyard.... grin

Piece by my former teacher....and by remarkable coincidence ha (really, basically) happens to be my current teacher playing....


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#2070450 - 04/25/13 06:07 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
pianoloverus Offline
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Islamey is meant to be a brilliant and exciting but not profound technical display/show off piece. Criticizing for lack of profundity or comparing to supreme masterpieces like Chopin Sonata Op. 58 or Scarbo makes little sense IMO. It's meant to include virtuosity for virtuosity's sake and be bombastic...just like a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody or many pieces from the transcription literature (Volodos' Variations on Rondo Alla Turca, Grunfeld Waltz transcriptions, Gounud Liszt Faust Waltz, etc.). I think both the fast theme and slow middle section theme are extremely good but that the fast theme is repeated too much especially in the third section.

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#2070501 - 04/25/13 08:46 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4610
Loc: not somewhere over the rainbow
I just don't think it's worth all the time and trouble it takes to learn it... why not learn Rach 3 instead.. or Liszt sonata... much more substantial pieces.
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#2070502 - 04/25/13 08:46 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5476
Loc: McAllen, TX
Two bars loud, two bars soft
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For 8 minutes
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#2070503 - 04/25/13 08:47 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: pianoloverus]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4610
Loc: not somewhere over the rainbow
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Islamey is meant to be a brilliant and exciting but not profound technical display/show off piece. Criticizing for lack of profundity or comparing to supreme masterpieces like Chopin Sonata Op. 58 or Scarbo makes little sense IMO. It's meant to include virtuosity for virtuosity's sake and be bombastic...just like a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody or many pieces from the transcription literature (Volodos' Variations on Rondo Alla Turca, Grunfeld Waltz transcriptions, Gounud Liszt Faust Waltz, etc.). I think both the fast theme and slow middle section theme are extremely good but that the fast theme is repeated too much especially in the third section.



I thought everyone knew it's devilishly difficult and therefore that's why most people play it? It's pretty hard technically... very awkward and uncomfortable to play.
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#2070507 - 04/25/13 08:54 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Mark_C]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 786
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Islamey's main theme sounds like a childhood taunt....

....but of course not all such pieces are best left in the 3rd grade schoolyard.... grin
Piece by my former teacher....and by remarkable coincidence ha (really, basically) happens to be my current teacher playing....


I hope that I'm not hijacking by saying "Thank you for posting that clip, Mark_C! Beautiful piece and performance....."
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#2070528 - 04/25/13 09:55 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
didyougethathing Offline
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Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 545
Loc: New York
By the way, why isn't Balakirev's Piano Sonata more widely played? I find it fresh and well written.

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#2070538 - 04/25/13 10:09 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2715
some wrote rather harsh things about Islamey. I like it, it's a masterpiece, the first real 'Russian' rhapsody, no wonder Liszt had it on his piano all the time, no wonder it got it's status as 'unplayable, savage' , no wonder people don't like it as they just can't play it...It's orientalism is the same as 'Sheherazade's' by Rimsky or 'Lesghinka's' by Lyapunov, one might listen to 'Tamar' by the same author for surprise's sake...it's technique is a novelty, it doesn't strive for great depth, don't blame it for not doing so.
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#2070542 - 04/25/13 10:14 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Brendan]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5888
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Brendan
Two bars loud, two bars soft
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For 8 minutes

lollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollol
lollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollollol

what?

I'll be honest that in music I'm turned off by two general issues:
a. Too much technical difficulty for the shake of making it difficult.
b. Ethnic music. (and I'm Greek and have composed some things that appear a tiny bit ethnic, but I hope not too much).

Islamey fits the above categories so well that I can't stand it. And to think that I heard the whole work on that previous thread and wasn't aware of it before hand...


Edited by Nikolas (04/25/13 10:14 AM)
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#2070543 - 04/25/13 10:16 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Nikolas]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 20356
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
....a. Too much technical difficulty for the shake of making it difficult....

Extremely well said!!! grin

(Even if it wasn't exactly on purpose.) ha

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#2070551 - 04/25/13 10:37 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Pogorelich.]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6298
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
I just don't think it's worth all the time and trouble it takes to learn it... why not learn Rach 3 instead.. or Liszt sonata... much more substantial pieces.


But (Rach 3 and Liszt Sonata) are also a lot harder! And longer.

And why not?? It's perfectly fine to have less-than-masterpiece works in your rep. laugh


Edited by Orange Soda King (04/25/13 10:39 AM)

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#2070559 - 04/25/13 10:52 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Orange Soda King]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5888
Loc: Europe
because musically it's not satisfying to her perhaps?

Just sayin'...
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#2070571 - 04/25/13 11:10 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Orange Soda King]
Polyphonist Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 8418
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
But (Rach 3 and Liszt Sonata) are also a lot harder! And longer.

Many would disagree with you that the Liszt Sonata is technically harder than Islamey, disregarding length.
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#2070577 - 04/25/13 11:16 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
bennevis Offline
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 6646
The world of classical music would be pretty boring if every note had to count for something (what was that Emperor Joseph II said about a Mozart opera? wink ). Once you've reached a certain standard of technical proficiency, a certain fascination with difficulties for their own sake is no bad thing: it encourages the acquisition of more technical armory which leads to dividends in the long term with simpler music. Noone would claim that Paganini's Caprices are great music like Bach's Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin are, but their difficulties are precisely the reason great violinists are fascinated enough to want to play them.

Personally, I find that that the pieces I choose to keep in my memorized repertoire (not the same as the majority of pieces I actually learn to play, but not memorize) are those with technical difficulties that are a delight to play again and again, just as a runner enjoys the exhilarating sense of exertion as he pushes himself hard up a hill, or sprinting for the finish.

While Islamey doesn't encompass quite the range of technical difficulties as Scarbo (and is a lot more repetitive), one can safely say that if you have the chops to do it full justice, you've got a technique better than 99.99% of pianists. Add to that its charming Russian folksiness, the fact that it actually looks fiendishly difficult, and a conclusion that you can really go to town with (hopefully eliciting some 'Bravo's/'Brava's from the audience grin), and you have everything you need for a great showpiece.
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#2070595 - 04/25/13 11:44 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Brendan]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Brendan
Two bars loud, two bars soft
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For 8 minutes

Perhaps that's why Horowitz played it in 7 minutes? To get it done more quickly? laugh


pianoloverus- I think you're right about the 3rd section.. it seems like he did it to balance the work, almost mathematically, so the tranquillo is split relatively evenly.. but to me, it just starts to get a little long at that point. (Probably why there's the optional cut.)


Originally Posted By: bennevis
The world of classical music would be pretty boring if every note had to count for something (what was that Emperor Joseph II said about a Mozart opera? wink ).

What was it Mozart said back to the Emperor? smile


Edited by Derulux (04/25/13 11:45 AM)
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#2070633 - 04/25/13 12:23 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Derulux]
bennevis Offline
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 6646
Originally Posted By: Derulux

What was it Mozart said back to the Emperor? smile


The same as what Balakirev said to all those naysayers about his Oriental Fantasy: "Only as many as I require, Your Honor". (Substitute the Russian equivalent of 'you duffers!" for 'Your Honor' in his case wink - Mili Alexeyevich wasn't known for his diplomatic skills....).
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#2070726 - 04/25/13 03:03 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: bennevis]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2898
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: bennevis
The world of classical music would be pretty boring if every note had to count for something <snip>. Noone would claim that Paganini's Caprices are great music like Bach's Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin are, but their difficulties are precisely the reason great violinists are fascinated enough to want to play them.

Personally, I find that that the pieces I choose to keep in my memorized repertoire (not the same as the majority of pieces I actually learn to play, but not memorize) are those with technical difficulties that are a delight to play again and again, just as a runner enjoys the exhilarating sense of exertion as he pushes himself hard up a hill, or sprinting for the finish.

I find an important point in here. There's a difference between music that's difficult for the sake of being difficult (Islamey) and music that's difficult but also entertaining (Pagannini's Caprices) and finally music that is difficult but also has gravitas (Bach Sonatas and Partitas). If Islamey has a problem it's that it's a bit too repetitious and in the process loses some of its entertainment value. Then there's music like Sorabji which is just difficult and the only appeal is that it's difficult and for me the problem then is that it's only fascinating for a short period of time. Sadly, most of Sorabji's music is far too long by several orders of magnitude.

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#2070734 - 04/25/13 03:12 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Steve Chandler]
beet31425 Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 4008
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
Then there's music like Sorabji which is just difficult and the only appeal is that it's difficult and for me the problem then is that it's only fascinating for a short period of time. Sadly, most of Sorabji's music is far too long by several orders of magnitude.

(Sorry to be OT for a moment, and I've said this before: but for me, discovering Sorabji was life-changing! Try some of his 100 Transcendental Etudes, many of which are on YouTube. Difficulty is *not* the only appeal. These are fascinating pieces. I sometimes think that the length of his "Opus Clavicembalisticum" (which I don't really know) has made him something of a punch-line, much as 4'33" did with Cage.)
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#2070736 - 04/25/13 03:12 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
If Islamey has a problem it's that it's a bit too repetitious and in the process loses some of its entertainment value.

I would also object for this reason (more so than being "difficult for the sake of being difficult"). I do find it to be repetitious, and it definitely brushes up on that borderline of "too much repetition".

But I'm not sure I would agree that it is difficult for the sake of being difficult. It doesn't seem to have any particularly bombastic technical sections that add nothing more than a technical challenge to the piece (where I think select measures in Liszt pieces, particularly the transcendental etudes, do this frequently).

Perhaps this has more to do with my unfamiliarity with composing, though. I've admitted that before, and I still offer it freely now. smile I'm interested, Steve: what do you see from a composer's standpoint that makes it seem like Balakirev wrote it purely for the sake of being difficult?
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#2070758 - 04/25/13 03:51 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Derulux]
Goomer Piles Offline
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Registered: 04/14/13
Posts: 203
Does anyone know if the subtitle 'Oriental Fantasy' came from Balakirev? Considering the roots of the tunes in the Caucasus and the Crimea, it seems inappropriate and even misleading.

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#2070763 - 04/25/13 03:52 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
BDB Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Goomer Piles
Does anyone know if the subtitle 'Oriental Fantasy' came from Balakirev? Considering the roots of the tunes in the Caucasus and the Crimea, it seems inappropriate and even misleading.


Why? Do you not know the meaning of the word "oriental"?
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#2070769 - 04/25/13 03:58 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: BDB]
Goomer Piles Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/13
Posts: 203
Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: Goomer Piles
Does anyone know if the subtitle 'Oriental Fantasy' came from Balakirev? Considering the roots of the tunes in the Caucasus and the Crimea, it seems inappropriate and even misleading.


Why? Do you not know the meaning of the word "oriental"?

If you consider the Caucasus or the Crimea 'Oriental', I believe it is you who doesn't know the meaning of the word. And if you don't know where the subtitle came from, what motivated you to make such a condescending reply?

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#2070770 - 04/25/13 03:59 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5888
Loc: Europe
Depends on where are you from, no?
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#2070779 - 04/25/13 04:16 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Nikolas]
Goomer Piles Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/13
Posts: 203
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Depends on where are you from, no?

To me, it means of the Far East. Even if it means 'Near East' or 'Middle East', it's certainly Asia. But the Crimea is in Europe and the Caucasus straddles the 'boundary' of Europe and Asia - so I think the term 'Oriental Fantasy' is a big stretch.

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#2070780 - 04/25/13 04:19 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5888
Loc: Europe
I think that given the time when Islamey was composed, it must've sounded quite oriental... :-/ It is a big stretch by todays standards, but back then I think it was perfectly fine. (plus I 'named' it "ethinc" a few posts back, which goes to show that it gives out a rather non classical feeling)
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#2070822 - 04/25/13 05:41 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
antony Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 400
Loc: Portland, OR
I don't actually know the piece but my "Islamey" would be Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy

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#2070866 - 04/25/13 06:34 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Nikolas]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8410
Originally Posted By: Nikolas

I'll be honest that in music I'm turned off by two general issues:
a. Too much technical difficulty for the shake of making it difficult.
b. Ethnic music. (and I'm Greek and have composed some things that appear a tiny bit ethnic, but I hope not too much).



Given that there is a vast amount of classical music with a pretty strong ethnic flavor, from Chopin's mazurkas and polonaises to Bartok's folk arrangements (actually, much of Bartok, come to think of it), it is a bit surprising to hear that you have some kind of problem with it.

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#2070877 - 04/25/13 07:04 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: dolce sfogato]
Damon Offline
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Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6419
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
no wonder people don't like it as they just can't play it...


That makes no sense.
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#2070927 - 04/25/13 08:18 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Goomer Piles
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Depends on where are you from, no?

To me, it means of the Far East. Even if it means 'Near East' or 'Middle East', it's certainly Asia. But the Crimea is in Europe and the Caucasus straddles the 'boundary' of Europe and Asia - so I think the term 'Oriental Fantasy' is a big stretch.

"Orient" means "East". The Near East is widely regarded as the extent of the Ottoman Empire, which included both Crimea and Caucasia. I think, today, most people consider the Far East to mean the "Orient", but at the time, that wasn't necessarily the case.
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#2070939 - 04/25/13 08:29 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22778
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Originally Posted By: Goomer Piles
Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: Goomer Piles
Does anyone know if the subtitle 'Oriental Fantasy' came from Balakirev? Considering the roots of the tunes in the Caucasus and the Crimea, it seems inappropriate and even misleading.


Why? Do you not know the meaning of the word "oriental"?

If you consider the Caucasus or the Crimea 'Oriental', I believe it is you who doesn't know the meaning of the word. And if you don't know where the subtitle came from, what motivated you to make such a condescending reply?


In other words, you do not know that "oriental" means "eastern." To people in Europe at the time, anywhere to the east of Europe was "oriental."
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