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#2117068 - 07/13/13 03:50 PM Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 451
Recently, we had two threads discussing whether or not the score is "sacred". I was delighted to see the number of people who mentioned Rachmaninoff's prelude op.23 no.4 in those threads, saying specifically that they don't follow the fingering as written. By this I mean: some notes written for the left hand one gives to the right hand, and vice versa.

I had been working on this piece when I saw those threads, and I had already thought to do the same thing. "Who can play it as written?" I thought.

With that big difficulty out of the way, I have two other problems with this piece:

1. Voicing! I don't know how to practice making the three voices "distinct"; I usually end up with two distinct voices. But in recordings, especially Ashkenazy's, the three voices are beautifully clear and distinct.

2. Difficult chords: on the first page, the right hand must (loudly) play the chord "C# - D - A - C#". I saw OSK mentioned this chord specifically in one of his posts in the threads discussed above. My thumb can't bend to play the C# and D at the same time, so my two solutions are:

- play C# - A - C# - D instead;
- leave out the D entirely, but I don't want to do this.

So, does anyone know how I can practice/resolve issues 1 and 2? I overcame the difficult-for-me 3-against-2 rhythm, I overcame the 3-against-4, I got most of the notes under my fingers. I really don't want to quit this piece now!

BIG EDIT: I almost forgot: I have to roll some large chords. On the last page, the left hand is given F# - F# - C#, and the right hand is given C# - F# - A - C# - A. When I roll, should I play the F#-F# in the left hand together, and then C#? No matter how I do it, I always match up the C# in the left with the last A in the right.


Edited by Dwscamel (07/13/13 03:53 PM)

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#2117080 - 07/13/13 04:17 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
Recently, we had two threads discussing whether or not the score is "sacred". I was delighted to see the number of people who mentioned Rachmaninoff's prelude op.23 no.4 in those threads, saying specifically that they don't follow the fingering as written. By this I mean: some notes written for the left hand one gives to the right hand, and vice versa.

I had been working on this piece when I saw those threads, and I had already thought to do the same thing. "Who can play it as written?" I thought.
Although I haven't looked at YouTube perfromances, my guess is that most professionals play it the way it was written regarding the distribution of notes. I think this is a case where one could argue that not doing it that way makes it harder to voice the melody and accompaniment correctly. Of course, for those that have great difficult playing the LH as written, ease of execution by dividing up the LH notes becomes more important.

I believe that when the composer is also a great pianist(as is the case here) one should carefully consider how a piece was written in terms of distribution of notes because the composer probably had good reasons for choosing to write it that way.

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#2117089 - 07/13/13 04:32 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
With that big difficulty out of the way, I have two other problems with this piece:

1. Voicing! I don't know how to practice making the three voices "distinct"; I usually end up with two distinct voices. But in recordings, especially Ashkenazy's, the three voices are beautifully clear and distinct.
You could practice each voice separately, then practice two of the voices together. Try and listen to figure out why it doesn't sound the way you want it to.

Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
2. Difficult chords: on the first page, the right hand must (loudly) play the chord "C# - D - A - C#". I saw OSK mentioned this chord specifically in one of his posts in the threads discussed above. My thumb can't bend to play the C# and D at the same time, so my two solutions are:

- play C# - A - C# - D instead;
- leave out the D entirely, but I don't want to do this.

So, does anyone know how I can practice/resolve issues 1 and 2? I overcame the difficult-for-me 3-against-2 rhythm, I overcame the 3-against-4, I got most of the notes under my fingers. I really don't want to quit this piece now!
I don't think you can put the D on top because that would change the melodic line. Why can't your thumb bend? Can you play just the C# and D without the other two notes?

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#2117112 - 07/13/13 05:40 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Since I believe I was one of those people, I would be remiss if I didn't respond here. smile

Play the D with the tip of your thumb, and the C# with your knuckle. If it's a difficult stretch to play "vertically", try laying your thumb a little flatter on the key and see if you can't get that extra bit out of it.

If what I wrote makes no sense, I can try to get you a picture of what I mean.. let me know.


Voicing is a matter of both technique and ear. It's a tricky subject to get into without knowing more about why you're having difficulty. Can you post a video recording? Might help identify issues. smile

As for redistributing: yes, absolutely do it. In looking at what Rachmaninoff wrote, I believe he wrote it the way he did for voicing and not necessarily for practicality in the fingers. I've redistributed in more than one of his pieces because my hands just aren't big enough to get to the notes easily. (And sometimes, the hands are crossed, and it's just easier to tag the note with the other hand, like in this piece.)

That said, I would advise at least attempting it "as written" first, because Rachmaninoff was a pianist. And that can make all the difference. In the end, you have to problem solve and decide what is easiest, and what works best, for you.
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#2117116 - 07/13/13 05:44 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
For the C# D A C# chord, I use 1-1 2 4. I started out using 1-1 3 5 which seems more logical, but is harder to control the voicing of the thumb.

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#2117141 - 07/13/13 06:28 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1193
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Dw,

The voicing past m. 18 is really a tone color issue.

What I mean by that is that, in order to make the voices heard separately, they require a distinctly different and even exaggerated, consistent color applied to each one. That is the sound effect Ashkenazy pulls off that you are hearing.

Bringing out an inner voice is difficult because, acoustically and neurolinguistically, the top notes are always heard by the listener as a melody even if you don't intentionally bring them out. In order to get the middle voice in that section to pop out, you have to make it much louder and thicker for it to even be heard to match the sonic importance of the top. If you do that with the middle, and then play the top voice with the most transparent color you can manage, the middle will be heard as a separate voice. Effectively, you are bringing the middle voice as far forward as is possible, all the while pushing the top voice back as far as you can make it practicably go. You don't have to worry about the bottom so long as it doesn't overpower the other two. It's so far away in pitch most of the time that it will be heard separately if it's not too loud.

You should try this out with two hands to see if you can even do it at all. Remember, if it doesn't sound like a huge exaggeration to you, then it won't be heard by listeners even 10 feet away.

A couple of things to consider:

1- When the voices get closer together in pitch, you have to exaggerate the effect even more to keep the voices distinct. This is not a terrible problem in this piece, but it happens often enough in Bach and other counterpoint that you should be thinking and listening about it in the same way.

2- Consecutive notes played one after the other that match in color and volume will sound like one voice no matter where they are or what else is playing. This is useful when voices cross, as in m. 31. You can keep the effect going if you match a thick, full color in the ascending voice notes, while maintaining a thin, quiet color in the accompaniment notes.

3- When colors match between the voices, they will cancel each other out. The better you maintain the color matching in each voice "layer", the more easily the listener will distinguish them.

4- When colors match on notes played at the same time vertically, they will also cancel each other out. Sometimes this is an effect you will want to do on purpose, most of the time not. In this piece, mostly not.

Let us know how it goes!
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#2117670 - 07/14/13 07:46 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7513
Loc: New York City
There is so much debate going on about how to do some weird twisting thing with the thumb to play the C#-D-A-C# chord. Why not just 1-2-4-5? This seems much simpler, and trying to bend the thumb backwards seems likely to cause injury. It's also much easier to voice well.
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#2117681 - 07/14/13 08:11 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
There is so much debate going on about how to do some weird twisting thing with the thumb to play the C#-D-A-C# chord. Why not just 1-2-4-5? This seems much simpler, and trying to bend the thumb backwards seems likely to cause injury. It's also much easier to voice well.


Because hands that can handle 1245 on that chord are rare, and even when you can stretch enough to reach it, it's difficult to voice.

A couple of creative solutions:

Leave the low C# out. It doubles the melody, so at least the note is still in the chord. Not ideal, but possible.

Roll it. Use a fingering like 2135 or 1135.

Something that always crosses my mind is - What would Rachmaninoff say?

If you can't play it "as written", would Rachmaninoff rather you:

1) Create a version that fits you and is still beautiful and musically interesting.
2) Have you convene a committee to settle on a version that will be acceptable to as many as possible or draw as little ire as possible from those who insist on faithfulness to the score. (Which is what this thread is.)
3) Not play his music.

I cannot believe that Rachmaninoff would choose #2 or 3.

Respect the composer's *musical* wishes, play some music and screw the critics. laugh
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#2117682 - 07/14/13 08:12 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
There is so much debate going on about how to do some weird twisting thing with the thumb to play the C#-D-A-C# chord. Why not just 1-2-4-5? This seems much simpler, and trying to bend the thumb backwards seems likely to cause injury. It's also much easier to voice well.

For me, maybe 2-1-4-5, but not 1-2-4-5.

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#2117686 - 07/14/13 08:14 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Mwm]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7513
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
There is so much debate going on about how to do some weird twisting thing with the thumb to play the C#-D-A-C# chord. Why not just 1-2-4-5? This seems much simpler, and trying to bend the thumb backwards seems likely to cause injury. It's also much easier to voice well.

For me, maybe 2-1-4-5, but not 1-2-4-5.

2-1-4-5 is more difficult (for me, at least).
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Polyphonist

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#2117694 - 07/14/13 08:25 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
There is so much debate going on about how to do some weird twisting thing with the thumb to play the C#-D-A-C# chord. Why not just 1-2-4-5? This seems much simpler, and trying to bend the thumb backwards seems likely to cause injury. It's also much easier to voice well.
My guess is only 1 in 10 have big enough hands to play that fingering. I can easily play a tenth but cannot come even close to using that fingering.

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#2117696 - 07/14/13 08:27 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Mwm Offline
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Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
I use 1-1-2-4

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#2117702 - 07/14/13 08:32 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2116
Loc: Canada
It's not bending the thumb backwards, it's just bending it down as if you're holding a mechanical pencil and trying to get more pencil lead to come out (very natural motion). Then play the D with the tip of your thumb, and play the C# with the joint.

Concerning the big roll at the end, I just roll the whole thing up. I guess you could take the two F#s are a bass octave, but it's sort of an abrupt departure from the rest of the page.

As for the tricky second page, start by first playing the inner (main) melody very loud with he left hand more quiet, and the top voice very quiet, and then start to shift around your balance in sound - emphasizing maybe top-middle, top-bass, bass-middle, top-only, etc. to practice. The go-to balance I use is very middle-heavy, but you might have your own preferences too. Practice adjusting the volumes and "weights" assigned to each voice and you'll be able to get an effect you want.
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#2117768 - 07/14/13 10:23 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Mwm]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17835
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Mwm
I use 1-1-2-4


So do I. I quickly slide the thumb from the C-sharp (as though it were a grace note - but caught with the damper) to the D, playing the D/A/C-sharp as a solid chord. I really don't care what others think of that as I find it a reasonable and musical solution.

Regards,
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#2117771 - 07/14/13 10:25 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17835
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,
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#2117775 - 07/14/13 10:28 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: BruceD]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7513
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh
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Polyphonist

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#2117783 - 07/14/13 10:35 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17835
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh


Really? You don't? Hmm...

Well, what about the first question : Can you play that chord with that fingering?
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#2117791 - 07/14/13 10:41 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: BruceD]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7513
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh


Really? You don't? Hmm...

Well, what about the first question : Can you play that chord with that fingering?

Of course, or would I have suggested it? wink
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Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2117801 - 07/14/13 10:51 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh


Really? You don't? Hmm...

Well, what about the first question : Can you play that chord with that fingering?

Of course, or would I have suggested it? wink

You must have gorilla paws! lol laugh

I can technically "reach" it, but man is it uncomfortable to play a perfect 5th with 24.

After reading you could reach it (hopefully easier than I can if you're playing it that way), I went back to find that thread with a pic of Liszt's hands. Looks like he's got a full inch in palm width on me, and 1.5 inches with fingers resting comfortably. Bet he's got a minor third on me in span, at least. Guessing you're in that neighborhood.. can you reach an 11th or a 12th?
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#2117805 - 07/14/13 10:55 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Derulux]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7513
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh


Really? You don't? Hmm...

Well, what about the first question : Can you play that chord with that fingering?

Of course, or would I have suggested it? wink

You must have gorilla paws! lol laugh

I can technically "reach" it, but man is it uncomfortable to play a perfect 5th with 24.

After reading you could reach it (hopefully easier than I can if you're playing it that way), I went back to find that thread with a pic of Liszt's hands. Looks like he's got a full inch in palm width on me, and 1.5 inches with fingers resting comfortably. Bet he's got a minor third on me in span, at least. Guessing you're in that neighborhood.. can you reach an 11th or a 12th?

I have an 11th, but not a 12th. I can reach a 6th with 2-4, and an octave with 2-5.
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Polyphonist

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#2117815 - 07/14/13 11:22 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 451
Wow, I didn't realize this thread would focus so much on the fingering of one chord.

I suppose I owe an update:

I can now successfully play the chord using 1 - 1 - 3 - 5. As Derulux suggested, I use the knuckle of my thumb to play the C#, and the side of my thumb to play the D.

Now, I'm just finishing learning the notes. The main issue to tackle is the voicing; I'm following the suggestions posted by Kuan (a real lifesaver, Kuan also helped me with the op.32 no.10 a while back), Greg, and others.

Thanks everyone.

As a funny side note: maybe we should start a separate thread to challenge each other to play chords with strange fingerings.

EDIT: Maybe I should add: I can only reach a 10th.


Edited by Dwscamel (07/15/13 12:08 AM)

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#2117829 - 07/15/13 12:03 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: BruceD]
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2621
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I'm afraid I am one of those people who can comfortably play that C#-D-A-C# chord with 1-2-4-5. I must be a freak of nature. grin Oh well, I guess that means I must learn this piece so I can show off with that chord!
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#2117832 - 07/15/13 12:19 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
I have an 11th, but not a 12th. I can reach a 6th with 2-4, and an octave with 2-5.

An octave with 25? Ok, now you're just showing off. laugh

I wish I had that kind of span. Awkward stretches (for me) make some pieces difficult that would otherwise be far easier.
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#2117841 - 07/15/13 12:59 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
Allan W. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 371
Loc: Michigan
You know.. I just tried a C#-D-A-C# with 1-2-4-5 and found 2-1-4-5 to be more comfortable. Reminds me of guitar chord fingering.
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#2117846 - 07/15/13 01:34 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Kreisler]
wower Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 242
Loc: Calgary
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
If you can't play it "as written", would Rachmaninoff rather you:

1) Create a version that fits you and is still beautiful and musically interesting.
2) Have you convene a committee to settle on a version that will be acceptable to as many as possible or draw as little ire as possible from those who insist on faithfulness to the score. (Which is what this thread is.)
3) Not play his music.

I cannot believe that Rachmaninoff would choose #2 or 3.


I've said something similar to this in regard to other composers many in the past - only with a drink in front of me. +1
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#2117858 - 07/15/13 03:29 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Polyphonist]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3508
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
[...]Why not just 1-2-4-5? [...]


You can do that? How many people do you know who can?

Regards,

I don't know. Generally I don't walk up to people and ask, "Hey, by the way, can you reach the chord C#-D-A-C# in that D major Rachmaninoff prelude, Opus 23 No 4, with the fingering 1-2-4-5?" laugh


It's the first thing I ask anybody. I don't trust anyone who can't do that fingering. laugh

I actually find all of the variants mentioned so far to be quite fine for my hand.

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#2117906 - 07/15/13 06:56 AM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 848
Loc: Scotland
AT first I found that left hand impossible. On first learning I shared between the hands wherever convenient. This achieved something approaching the right sound for the LH accompaniment figures. Stopped practising it.

Sometime later started to relearn and found LH far easier to play as written - freeing up the right hand to cope with enough difficulties of its own. I actually found the redistributions unnecessary or more difficult than the written way.


John


Edited by drumour (07/15/13 06:57 AM)
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#2117995 - 07/15/13 12:27 PM Re: Rachmaninoff's op.23 no.4 [Re: Dwscamel]
TimV Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/11
Posts: 68
Loc: New York, NY
Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
BIG EDIT: I almost forgot: I have to roll some large chords. On the last page, the left hand is given F# - F# - C#, and the right hand is given C# - F# - A - C# - A. When I roll, should I play the F#-F# in the left hand together, and then C#? No matter how I do it, I always match up the C# in the left with the last A in the right.


I learned this piece under the guidance of an excellent teacher. In both the 1st and 4th sections, the F# minor chord is a "destination point." It's a pretty dramatic harmonic moment. You should be sure to *arrive* there and give it some space to sink in with the audience. I don't have my penciled-up score with me at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I took the top A going over with the left hand. I know it seems really awkward at first, but it forces you to take some time to get your LH back down to the A-C#. Then the RH bounces up for the high F#. By the time you get to this point in the piece you really shouldn't be in strict metronomic tempo anyway. The underlying pulse should be there, but I don't think it's realistic to expect to get all of the massive chords and upper register "echo" notes all in perfect time. Using your LH to hit some of the upper notes of the rolled chords will facilitate stretching the tempo.

As to the question of how Rach would have played this himself. It's almost irrelevant. Unless you have enormous hands like he had, you'll never be able to hit all of those knuckle-crushers in the same way.
_________________________
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Bach WTC 1 #7
Brahms Op 76 #1, Op 118 #5
Debussy Suite Bergamasque

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