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#2139982 - 08/28/13 02:13 AM Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
I'd just like to discuss this piece with whoever's interested, since I'm obsessed with it right now. laugh Favorite passages? Quirky interpretative things? Story to go along with the piece (I came up with a few cheesy ones)? grin

And Mark, if you'd like to rave about the technical difficulty, be my guest. I probably agree with you. ha
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Polyphonist

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#2139987 - 08/28/13 02:18 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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My new favorite story about it is from the recent competition where one of the contestants made an incredibly gauche and bizarre memory lapse right near the beginning -- then, even more unbelievably, did exactly the same thing again a couple of minutes later where it came back and she had another crack at it.

But my favorite thing about it isn't even that it happened, but that hardly anyone noticed and that so many people were shocked when she didn't advance.

But seriously folks....I love this piece. It's unique among Chopin's works in many ways, and an incredible technical challenge, much more than may meet the eye.

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#2139989 - 08/28/13 02:20 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
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Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
My new favorite story about it is from the recent competition where one of the contestants made an incredibly gauche memory lapse right near the beginning -- then, even more unbelievably, did exactly the same thing again a few minutes later when she had another crack at it.

Ah, yes - I guess she decided she didn't want to play that section today. ha

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
But seriously folks....I love this piece. It's unique among Chopin's works in many ways, and an incredible technical challenge, much more than may meet the eye.

Care to elaborate?
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Polyphonist

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#2139991 - 08/28/13 02:23 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Nah, I already have. grin

OK, OK, I'll say this: You need extremely precise fingerwork, and an ear to hear the slightest unevenness so that you can correct it; plus an ability to shape it all, and to pedal it in a way to give richness and interest to the sound but without losing the precision and clarity.

....and also, an ability not to care that when you play it for people, usually all they'll care about is the "easy" middle part because it's so beautiful, and so all your hard work went to waste. ha

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#2139994 - 08/28/13 02:29 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Eduard Hanslick Offline
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Registered: 05/22/13
Posts: 528
Poor gal. I hope she didn't read any of our threads. Two bites at the apple, and she bites in the same place both times!

I find this a hard piece to like, but I can't really explain why.

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#2139995 - 08/28/13 02:30 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
Let's see...favorite sections...I have so many, I can't list them all. The range of colors and emotions in this piece is incredible, perhaps unequaled.

One moment that never fails to bring tears to my eyes (when played well) is the section at bar 865, and the transition into the next section at 873. It's one of the most beautiful passages in Chopin, indeed in all piano music. The harmonies are all so perfect, and then that little gesture at 888-889 - it is not just emotion, it transcends emotion, it is in a way otherworldly. Schumann, Liszt, or Brahms, while all great composers in their own right, could never have written this passage.
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2139997 - 08/28/13 02:31 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
...when you play it for people, usually all they'll care about is the "easy" middle part because it's so beautiful, and so all your hard work went to waste. ha

Not me. I appreciate every aspect of a great performance of this piece.

...and the middle section - it's not "easy." Anyone who thinks it's easy is a deluded blockhead.
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2139998 - 08/28/13 02:31 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Eduard Hanslick]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Originally Posted By: Eduard Hanslick
Poor gal. I hope she didn't read any of our threads.

I'm sure our threads are nothing compared to what her teacher must have said to her.

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#2139999 - 08/28/13 02:33 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
Eduard Hanslick Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/13
Posts: 528
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Eduard Hanslick
Poor gal. I hope she didn't read any of our threads.

I'm sure our threads are nothing compared to what her teacher must have said to her.


Disasters happen. At that point just hug the victim, there's no need for scolding.

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#2140000 - 08/28/13 02:33 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Eduard Hanslick
Poor gal. I hope she didn't read any of our threads.

I'm sure our threads are nothing compared to what her teacher must have said to her.

Maybe her teacher liked it, thought it was innovative. grin
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2140001 - 08/28/13 02:34 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Eduard Hanslick Offline
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Registered: 05/22/13
Posts: 528
It was definitely innovative.

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#2140005 - 08/28/13 02:41 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
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Loc: New York City
Let's see - in addition to the passage I talked about above, another amazing place is the passage at 217, and specifically the incredible moment at 225...The 8 bars starting at 217 are like a little shadow, a cloud passing over the sun, and 225 has that amazing "bursting into the sunlight" feeling that only Chopin could have achieved. This passage also happens to be extremely difficult to pull off convincingly.
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2140010 - 08/28/13 03:03 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
...when you play it for people, usually all they'll care about is the "easy" middle part because it's so beautiful, and so all your hard work went to waste. ha

Not me. I appreciate every aspect of a great performance of this piece.

...and the middle section - it's not "easy." Anyone who thinks it's easy is a deluded blockhead.

Following up on the discussion on the middle part, a few words could be said. I recently saw Henri Barda teach this scherzo in a masterclass, and the student played many of the technically difficult parts with some kind of fluency, but clearly hadn't given much thought to the middle part, beyond playing the notes. The entire lesson was devoted to those pages. One of the most fascinating things he had to say was that we pianists always tend to forget about the notes we just struck, and we don't pay enough attention to connecting them (as they decay) with the next notes. Sure, there ain't a lot we can do after having struck a note (though K-U Schnabel would disagree here - there's some talk about it in one of the links in my thread about him), but we have to remember that it's there, and that it must be beautifully connected with what follows. Any idea of legato dies the moment we forget about this. So, what did he tell the student to do? Play the melody, but re-strike the note, as though it would be 8th-note repetitions. It sounds simple, I know, but the effect was quite stunning, and in this simple excercise he made the student aware of the line. Then he did the most extraordinarily beautiful thing...The 2nd time the theme comes, it's in double-notes, more or less a love duet. He tremolated this entire passage in such a way that it sounded like a chorus of guitars/mandolins - just extraordinary! He also pointed out how some harmonies must really be highlighted, but without playing louder. One such instance is when a diminished chord pops up when you're expecting a tonic, towards the end of the middle section - he demonstrated all possibilities Chopin COULD have used, the various traditional cadences that would be appropriate, and then played what Chopin actually did write...and suddenly it was so much more dramatic!


Saint-saens loved this Scherzo, perhaps more than anything else Chopin wrote - or so he said to the young Rubinstein when they met. Rubinstein felt he was a great pianist but that he played it rather too fast...And of course, that upward tonic chordal idea from the opening of the scherzo can be heard in the 2nd movement of S-s's 2nd piano concerto.

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#2140013 - 08/28/13 03:10 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: fnork]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
One such instance is when a diminished chord pops up when you're expecting a tonic, towards the end of the middle section.

Can you give a bar number for this? Good post, by the way.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2140018 - 08/28/13 03:21 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
fnork Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1801
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Strangely, none of the imslp scores had barlines. Go to page 80 here, look at the last line:

http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks....54_Joseffy.pdf

Now, that diminished chord is a surprise on so many levels! Note that the bass note sounds the same, although it is re-spelled - from C to B#...the thing to remember is that this very diminished chord comes again in Fortissimo two pages later (just before some fast flourish brings us back to the opening theme), BUT while there's still some C's in the bass, the lowest bass note has been altered to B, giving us a dominant 9th chord. Meanwhile, the first appearance of the diminished chord is what leads us back from a dominant to F major back into C# minor...The second time, it leads us back to E major. Very clever way of using diminished chords, chords that which after all can have many different bass notes under them...

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#2140128 - 08/28/13 09:17 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
JoelW Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4933
Loc: USA
Haven't we talked about this piece like twice in the past few months?

All I will say is that I think 99% of pianists play this the wrong way.

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#2140159 - 08/28/13 10:33 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
pianorigami Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/13
Posts: 293
Loc: United States
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
My new favorite story about it is from the recent competition where one of the contestants made an incredibly gauche and bizarre memory lapse right near the beginning -- then, even more unbelievably, did exactly the same thing again a couple of minutes later where it came back and she had another crack at it.

Daneshpour, right?
It really was a shame, because she's a great artist. I probably would've supported her. She's taking competitions by storm, too! She was in the Rubinstein and played some wonderful Scarlatti smile
_________________________
Currently working on:
Chopin Etudes Op. 10; Scherzo Op. 54
Beethoven Sonata Op. 53
Prokofiev Sonata Op. 83
Bach Prelude and Fugue in f# minor, WTC II
Grieg Concerto, Op. 16
Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 no. 3

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#2140169 - 08/28/13 10:59 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Tim Adrianson Offline
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Registered: 08/07/10
Posts: 1130
Polyphonist, my general reaction to the Op 54 Scherzo was that it was not nearly as good as his other Scherzi -- although light and mercurial, it always felt to me like it went on and on, as if Chopin couldn't really figure out how to end it. That reaction, however, doesn't square at all with other late Chopin compositions, starting with Op 40 or so -- which are without exception complex and deeply thought through -- everything from his "top drawer", so to speak. And so I tend to agree with JoelW that probably 99% of pianists "play it wrong", meaning that they approach it with an insufficient regard to exhibiting the structural cohesion connecting the seemingly disparate episodes. I can't remember the pianist who provided this, and "turned my head around" regarding this piece, but that it IS possible to present this composition as "all of a piece", like other harmonically complex but focused late Chopin works.

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#2140175 - 08/28/13 11:08 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
It's my favourite scherzo, and maybe my favourite Chopin work. It's also absurdly difficult... my favourite performance is Richter in that Chopin recital video from the 70s in the great hall in Moscow.
_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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#2140181 - 08/28/13 11:14 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Tim Adrianson]
JoelW Online   content
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Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4933
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Tim Adrianson
I tend to agree with JoelW that probably 99% of pianists "play it wrong", meaning that they approach it with an insufficient regard to exhibiting the structural cohesion connecting the seemingly disparate episodes. I can't remember the pianist who provided this, and "turned my head around" regarding this piece, but that it IS possible to present this composition as "all of a piece", like other harmonically complex but focused late Chopin works.


Hi, Tim. I want to invite you to listen to this performance. I think it is the most likely to "turn your head around" on this piece.

You might find pleasure in the judicious and incredibly wise use of rubato in this performance.



Edited by JoelW (08/28/13 11:26 AM)
Edit Reason: Mark C knows.

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#2140186 - 08/28/13 11:21 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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(judicious) smile


I'll let better pianists handle the scherzo, I'll just do the grammar. ha

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#2140189 - 08/28/13 11:25 AM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Mark_C]
JoelW Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4933
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
(judicious) smile


I'll let better pianists handle the scherzo, I'll just do the grammar. ha


Oh my, how embarrassing. Too much Government homework... grin

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#2140251 - 08/28/13 01:18 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Tim Adrianson
I tend to agree with JoelW that probably 99% of pianists "play it wrong", meaning that they approach it with an insufficient regard to exhibiting the structural cohesion connecting the seemingly disparate episodes. I can't remember the pianist who provided this, and "turned my head around" regarding this piece, but that it IS possible to present this composition as "all of a piece", like other harmonically complex but focused late Chopin works.


Hi, Tim. I want to invite you to listen to this performance. I think it is the most likely to "turn your head around" on this piece.

You might find pleasure in the judicious and incredibly wise use of rubato in this performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8X1Rs_LNeQ

Here is another recording which is a good counterpoint to the more youthful interpretation by Bunin, being more reflective in nature.

This is the Richter recording I mentioned above.

_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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#2140266 - 08/28/13 01:38 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Ian_G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/10
Posts: 168
Loc: Germany
I, too, love this piece and count among my favorite Chopin. Seems to be a trend.

Here are my two favorite recordings:

Horowitz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvoJD-fJIEI

Godowsky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFprBOe-AVw

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#2140295 - 08/28/13 02:49 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
PrestoConFuocco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/13
Posts: 92
Definitely chopin's best scherzo, though underrated by most.
Most of chopin's scherzos (Or even romantic scherzos in general...) lack the playfulness a scherzo, by definition, requires.
But this scherzo really captions the original essence the scherzo was designed for - energetic and angry, but still playful and "cynical".
It's kind of cheesy to say, but I love the calm middle section. I think it has one of the most beautiful melodies chopin ever composed. I also like the ending very much, it really sends out the rich musical color E major has.
_________________________
"If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord."
- Johann Sebastian Bach.

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#2141473 - 08/30/13 05:22 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
I have never heard a performance of this piece that I thought was great. It's one of my favorite works of all time, and I'm incredibly picky about all aspects of it. If you're playing in an audition or competition that I'm judging, this scherzo is one piece you do NOT want to be playing. ha
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2141484 - 08/30/13 05:57 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
PrestoConFuocco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/13
Posts: 92
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
I have never heard a performance of this piece that I thought was great. It's one of my favorite works of all time, and I'm incredibly picky about all aspects of it. If you're playing in an audition or competition that I'm judging, this scherzo is one piece you do NOT want to be playing. ha


That's one of the key aspects of a favorite piece - you're never satisfied with anyone's preformance of it smile
(Take me with Chopin's etude in B minor, for example.)
_________________________
"If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord."
- Johann Sebastian Bach.

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#2141485 - 08/30/13 06:03 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
Dwscamel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 516
Here is the last recording Godowsky ever made - supposedly he died of a stroke during the session.

It was my first time hearing this scherzo, and my favorite parts were the slow middle section and the E major scale at the end:

http://youtu.be/pFprBOe-AVw
_________________________
Casio PX-150

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#2141493 - 08/30/13 06:15 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2398
Loc: San Jose, CA
I've probably played this piece thousands of times, since I was quite young and could barely manage to fake it.. there are still a couple of passages that consistently slip away from my memory. I would say it's almost unavoidable, given the piece is nearly 1000 bars, but I keep practicing it and it never stays correct in my head!!!

I'm always torn between accenting the lightness and bringing out the musical lines.. it's quite a challenge to do both, and I don't know if I will ever find the right solution.

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#2141936 - 08/31/13 06:55 PM Re: Chopin E major scherzo Opus 54 [Re: Polyphonist]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8940
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
I absolutely adore this delectable work. I only formally studied the Bb minor Scherzo, but I did read through the E major... wow, and yeah...

Lately on this board there seems to be some criticism of Ashkenazy, imagine that?, glad to know so many folks here play better than he does. (Why not listen to his recording of the last movement of Prokofiev 8? In comparison, Berman sounds so uncomprehending.)

Ashkenazy is the best I have heard. You can find it on yt.
_________________________
Jason

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