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#2160623 - 10/01/13 10:10 PM tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto
slava_richter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Providence, RI
I have a question about the tremolos/trills in the 1st movement of Brahms’ D-minor concerto. In measure 110, they’re written as tremolos in the right hand, but then in measure 111, they’re written as octaves with a trill on the top note. I’m sure that Brahms knew exactly what he wanted, but is there any chance that he wrote the octaves with trills on the top note (in measure 111) as a short-hand for the tremolos, since he had already written them as such in measure 110 and it is now assumed that that’s how they should be played from now on? I’m thinking that this is not the case, and they should be played exactly as written.

I can play them either way, I just wanted to make sure I’m playing what’s intended (which I’m almost sure is as written). I actually think that they sound better as tremolos, but that’s beside the point.

Thanks!

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#2160624 - 10/01/13 10:12 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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I think he probably did it as a possible way to play it -- every time it occurs, not just where written like that.

As you know, there are lots of things in many pieces that may be executed in various different ways, including very often in ways that don't appear in a literal way in the score at all anywhere. I think he was just giving a sample of one of the ways to execute this.

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#2160645 - 10/01/13 11:02 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
slava_richter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Providence, RI
Thanks for your thoughts, Mark! This is why I asked - I want to get some knowledgeable opinions on this, since it's not such a black and white issue. I might just play it as a tremolo each time.

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#2160650 - 10/01/13 11:08 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: Mark_C]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6070
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
I think he probably did it as a possible way to play it -- every time it occurs, not just where written like that.

As you know, there are lots of things in many pieces that may be executed in various different ways, including very often in ways that don't appear in a literal way in the score at all anywhere. I think he was just giving a sample of one of the ways to execute this.


That seems to me like an inconsistent/confusing way for a composer to notate that... Any time I've come across a passage that the composer allows for multiple methods of execution, there is an ossia written in, or a note written in about alternative ways to play it.

I think it's just a shorthand way to say "keep doing the tremolo." It takes less ink to write out the "tr" than extra lines and extra notes, so that's my assumption.

I've heard that passage played many different ways, but in the end, I like the tremolo method best.

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#2160660 - 10/01/13 11:31 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: Orange Soda King]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
....Any time I've come across a passage that the composer allows for multiple methods of execution, there is an ossia written in, or a note written in about alternative ways to play it....

Think about that. smile
What you're saying is, that's how it's been any time that you've recognized it as such!

I'm not saying you're wrong, just that you don't really know it's right. All you've talking about is what you have assessed. And sure, in those kinds of places, it's explicitly obvious that the composer is allowing for alternate executions. You don't know that composers don't allow for it elsewhere.

What would make your view more solid for this example would be if there were places in the piece where Brahms does indicate "ossias" or some such. And I don't think there are. (Are there??)

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#2160707 - 10/02/13 01:55 AM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17822
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: slava_richter
I have a question about the tremolos/trills in the 1st movement of Brahms’ D-minor concerto. In measure 110, they’re written as tremolos in the right hand, but then in measure 111, they’re written as octaves with a trill on the top note. I’m sure that Brahms knew exactly what he wanted, but is there any chance that he wrote the octaves with trills on the top note (in measure 111) as a short-hand for the tremolos, since he had already written them as such in measure 110 and it is now assumed that that’s how they should be played from now on? I’m thinking that this is not the case, and they should be played exactly as written.

I can play them either way, I just wanted to make sure I’m playing what’s intended (which I’m almost sure is as written). I actually think that they sound better as tremolos, but that’s beside the point.

Thanks!


In the Schirmer edition the "trill" in the right hand is indicated by an octave B-flat alternating with a C-natural above it. In the next measure it's written as an octave with a tr mark above. To me, that is clearly a suggestion that you continue the "trill" as indicated in the previous measure. I don't see any discrepancy.

In the Schirmer edition there is an added ossia by the editor, Edwin Hughes. He suggests, that the Ossia indicating trilling by alternating octaves in each hand (actually the LH plays an octave on the B-flat, while the RH plays a C octave with a B-flat added) "... throughout the concerto are suggestions by the editor for a more modern and effective execution of the passages."

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2160948 - 10/02/13 07:06 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: BruceD]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2288
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: slava_richter
I have a question about the tremolos/trills in the 1st movement of Brahms’ D-minor concerto. In measure 110, they’re written as tremolos in the right hand, but then in measure 111, they’re written as octaves with a trill on the top note. I’m sure that Brahms knew exactly what he wanted, but is there any chance that he wrote the octaves with trills on the top note (in measure 111) as a short-hand for the tremolos, since he had already written them as such in measure 110 and it is now assumed that that’s how they should be played from now on? I’m thinking that this is not the case, and they should be played exactly as written.

I can play them either way, I just wanted to make sure I’m playing what’s intended (which I’m almost sure is as written). I actually think that they sound better as tremolos, but that’s beside the point.

Thanks!


In the Schirmer edition the "trill" in the right hand is indicated by an octave B-flat alternating with a C-natural above it. In the next measure it's written as an octave with a tr mark above. To me, that is clearly a suggestion that you continue the "trill" as indicated in the previous measure. I don't see any discrepancy.

In the Schirmer edition there is an added ossia by the editor, Edwin Hughes. He suggests, that the Ossia indicating trilling by alternating octaves in each hand (actually the LH plays an octave on the B-flat, while the RH plays a C octave with a B-flat added) "... throughout the concerto are suggestions by the editor for a more modern and effective execution of the passages."

Regards,


I don't know about more "modern and effective," but that solution is certainly kinder on pianists with small hands. If you are physically capable of playing it the way Brahms wrote it, it's quite electrifying.

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#2160966 - 10/02/13 08:23 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
slava_richter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Providence, RI
Thanks for the comments, guys!

Mark: there are no ossias, just the two different notations.

Bruce: I have the Peters edition of the 2 piano reduction, and since the solo part is urtext, there are no such alternate suggestions by the editor. I had actually read a 'rant' by Arrau in Joseph Horowitz's book (if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it) about people redistributing this passage, and until now, I didn't know how one could even do it (Arrau didn't describe it as you have here, he just said people redistribute it without giving the details), so thanks for the info! I don't know why anyone would have to resort to playing them as alternating octaves (other than hand size, as pointed out by jeffreyjones above); if your technique and hand span are good enough to play the rest of the concerto, you won't need such a 'cheat', it's hardly the most difficult spot. My hands aren't big - I can barely take a tenth on the white keys - but they're big enough to play these tremolos. In general, aside from considerations of hand size, I really don't understand the need for such simplifications, such as playing the leaps at the beginning of the Hammerklavier or Op. 111 with two hands; again if you can handle the rest of the work, you shouldn't have problems with those modest leaps.

The reason I had asked about this is that I couldn't figure out why Brahms would not want them played as tremolos every time. Firstly, it sounds much better (to me, of course). Secondly, he had already used these exact tremolos in the scherzo of the F-sharp minor sonata many years before, and in that case, they were written out explicitly as tremolos, not trills (not even with a tremolo notation - each note was written out throughout). So it seems that the general consensus is that it's just short-hand, so I will play them as tremolos throughout, not trills. Good thing, because I like it better that way, although it's obviously harder.

Outside of the F-sharp minor sonata and the concertos, he never used this unique type of tremolo, and I've actually never heard anyone else use it either. I think it's quite effective - and yes, electrifying - in the places that Brahms used it.

On the topic of the d-minor concerto, there is a scorching-hot live recording by Katchen that many may not be aware of. If you're in the mood for a hot-blooded, assertive reading of the work, I highly recommend it: http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Concerto-No-...brahms+concerto

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#2160991 - 10/02/13 10:13 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19636
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: slava_richter
....there are no ossias, just the two different notations.

That's what I thought (I assume you mean anywhere in the piece, for any passage) -- and maybe you don't agree, but IMO that lends support to the view I expressed. Or maybe more accurately I should say if there were "ossias" anywhere, that would argue against my view -- and if there aren't anywhere, there isn't anything internal to argue against it.

Quote:
....I had actually read a 'rant' by Arrau in Joseph Horowitz's book (if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it) about people redistributing this passage....

That doesn't mean much -- at least not specifically about this passage or this piece -- because he seems to have been adamantly against redistributions in general. I know that I read one thing that he wrote about a particular Beethoven passage -- not sure which, perhaps the octave 'glissandi' in the last mvt of the Waldstein -- where he used a metaphor that I remember because it was so severe: "For me it is like the red cape for the bull."

Quote:
....I don't know why anyone would have to resort to playing them as alternating octaves (other than hand size, as pointed out by jeffreyjones above)....

....and I don't know why anyone would even look at it as you are!

It's not at all about "having to resort" to anything; it's about how one thinks the passage is most effective. Many people seem to assume that the only reason or main reason for a redistribution or variant is to make something easier. At least for many of us, that's not it at all, in the least.

I played the Bach-Busoni Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue, and made dozens of modifications, none of them to make it easier. I do a few variants in Chopin's B minor Sonata, only a couple of them to make it easier. grin
If I were to play this Brahms, it would be all about what I thought made the music most effective. It wouldn't have anything to do with facilitation.

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#2160997 - 10/02/13 10:35 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17822
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: slava_richter
[...]My hands aren't big - I can barely take a tenth on the white keys - but they're big enough to play these tremolos. [...]
The reason I had asked about this is that I couldn't figure out why Brahms would not want them played as tremolos every time. [...]


I am not sure why you keep calling these "tremolos." The way Brahms has written the first occurrence of these, the don't really qualify as tremolos. Perhaps it's just a question of semantics. A trill alternates a note with the note above whereas a tremolo alternates (usually) with the octave i.e. the same pitch, while trills, alternate between two adjacent pitches; there is no alternating between the two B-flats; the alternating is between the B-flat and the C which makes it a trill, not a tremolo. As I said before, Brahms writing out of the first "trill" indicates to me that he wants the subsequent ones played the same way.

From the Dolmetsch musical dictionary :
tremolo : in piano music, the rapid repetition of a single pitch, a device used mainly in highly virtuosic compositions such as Liszt's La Campanella, where it also occurs in the form of quickly repeated octaves. The tremolo of strings is also imitated on the piano by the rapid alteration of a pitch and its octave

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2161000 - 10/02/13 10:46 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: BruceD]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19636
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: BruceD
I am not sure why you keep calling these "tremolos." The way Brahms has written the first occurrence of these, the don't really qualify as tremolos....

They do. smile

This is a thing where IMO you can't get too worried about definitions of the sort that you cited. There is a certain nature to trills and a certain nature to tremolos. Depending on your view of the music of those figures, they can be either. To me, pretty clearly they're both, and if anything they're more tremolos than trills.

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#2161005 - 10/02/13 10:56 PM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: slava_richter]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17822
Loc: Victoria, BC
Cashews!
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2161076 - 10/03/13 06:31 AM Re: tremolos/trills in 1st movement of Brahms' d-minor concerto [Re: BruceD]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7752
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: slava_richter
[...]My hands aren't big - I can barely take a tenth on the white keys - but they're big enough to play these tremolos. [...]
The reason I had asked about this is that I couldn't figure out why Brahms would not want them played as tremolos every time. [...]


I am not sure why you keep calling these "tremolos." The way Brahms has written the first occurrence of these, the don't really qualify as tremolos. Perhaps it's just a question of semantics. A trill alternates a note with the note above whereas a tremolo alternates (usually) with the octave i.e. the same pitch, while trills, alternate between two adjacent pitches; there is no alternating between the two B-flats; the alternating is between the B-flat and the C which makes it a trill, not a tremolo. As I said before, Brahms writing out of the first "trill" indicates to me that he wants the subsequent ones played the same way.

From the Dolmetsch musical dictionary :
tremolo : in piano music, the rapid repetition of a single pitch, a device used mainly in highly virtuosic compositions such as Liszt's La Campanella, where it also occurs in the form of quickly repeated octaves. The tremolo of strings is also imitated on the piano by the rapid alteration of a pitch and its octave



The Wikipedia article on tremolos is more complete, and includes tremolos between two pitches, or two chords, or combinations of both, all of which I think are fairly common. For example, the opening of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 11 is a tremolo.

The Brahms example is first notated as a tremolo, IMO, and then the trill sign substitutes for it as the music progresses. Brahms is making a witty little musical and notational joke/puzzle, I think, playing games with the performer, asking "which is it, a tremolo or a trill?" when he knows it is both.

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