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#2171860 - 10/25/13 02:07 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: DanS]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19460
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: DanS
Elegance isn't part of the picture, eh? Well, that's the great thing about music, we can all interpret it the way we like. We're free to play with grace or to bang our way through it. To each his own...
I don't think it's a choice between grace or banging our way through it. That's a false dichotomy that almost forces one to choose grace since most don't want to be accused of banging.

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#2171869 - 10/25/13 02:22 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19798
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think the Scherzo No.1 is one of his most angry and ferocious works, and "elegant" is not really part of the picture.

My impression is that the poster you quoted was describing how he developed the technical control for the piece. He said something to the effect that this was how he was able to achieve the level of ferocity he required....

Agree on all counts -- but what I found most interesting about Jason's post was that he tied together what I consider two very different possible ways of viewing and playing the piece.

My first exposures to the piece were from recordings by Horowitz and Rubinstein. Horowitz's was as you said (brilliantly and frighteningly so); Rubinstein's was more elegant, a bit meditative. I much preferred Horowitz, that's what I felt the piece "is," and I had to wonder, 'What the heck is Rubinstein doing? That's not this piece.'

But years later, I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing Horszowski play the piece, at age 97 or so. (Rumor had it that he was actually 5 years older than that but didn't want people to think he was old.) grin
When I saw the Scherzo on the program, I wondered how a 97 year old could think of playing such a piece. What I heard was a revelation. He played it in a completely elegant, subdued, dreamlike way. It was transfixing, surely in part because you couldn't help appreciating the fact that this was a very old man doing this, but mainly because of how original and gorgeous it was.

If not for that performance, I wouldn't have much understood how Jason could have approached the piece as he did. And maybe I'm understanding it in a tilted way because of Horszowski, but anyway I'm understanding it. smile

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#2171881 - 10/25/13 02:47 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: Mark_C]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3810
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Agree on all counts -- but what I found most interesting about Jason's post was that he tied together what I consider two very different possible ways of viewing and playing the piece.

My first exposures to the piece were from recordings by Horowitz and Rubinstein. Horowitz's was as you said (brilliantly and frighteningly so); Rubinstein's was more elegant, a bit meditative. I much preferred Horowitz, that's what I felt the piece "is," and I had to wonder, 'What the heck is Rubinstein doing? That's not this piece.'

But years later, I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing Horszowski play the piece, at age 97 or so. (Rumor had it that he was actually 5 years older than that but didn't want people to think he was old.) grin
When I saw the Scherzo on the program, I wondered how a 97 year old could think of playing such a piece. What I heard was a revelation. He played it in a completely elegant, subdued, dreamlike way. It was transfixing, surely in part because you couldn't help appreciating the fact that this was a very old man doing this, but mainly because of how original and gorgeous it was.

If not for that performance, I wouldn't have much understood how Jason could have approached the piece as he did. And maybe I'm understanding it in a tilted way because of Horszowski, but anyway I'm understanding it. smile


Interesting thoughts, Mark.

Here's another perspective on my approach. First, I sometimes think that there's a tremendous gulf between what the performer is actually doing and what the listener hears, so that performance becomes like a magic trick, in which the pianist is aware of all kinds of tricks behind-the-scene and the listener is only aware of the effect of those tricks. For example, sometimes to conquer a difficult passage I insert some small pauses to allow for hand repositioning. Eventually, at speed, the pauses aren't noticeable to the audience, but I still feel them, and they still help me. They're a trick for executing the passage that only I know about.

Similarly, I think, with "elegance" in this Scherzo-- for concreteness, look at the B-minor arpeggio at the end of the 2nd measure after the opening chords. It's a beautiful, graceful phrase, and hearing its beauty, and therefore playing it lightly and not forcefully, greatly helped me bring this piece up to speed. Once it was there, ferocity was quite easy to add-- given the speed and the raw power of the notes themselves, a little goes a long way-- and I think the audience mainly hears ferocity. But I'm still hearing it through that elegant foundation I used-- it's my trick, and the audience probably doesn't know just how delicately I'm experiencing this very harrowing music.

But if you go for the ferocity directly, as I tried to do for a while, the piece becomes clumsy, tiring, hard to control.

I'll even make one of those annoyingly unprovable statements here, and say that perhaps the great pianists who do play this Scherzo ferociously actually have elegance and lightness built into their conception and practice of the work. We don't hear it, and maybe they're not even aware of it-- they are natural talents, after all. But I think it's there. I even think that a kind of lightness is there in almost *all* fast passagework at its core-- heaviness and ferocity, if they're desired, are added "on top".

-Jason
_________________________
Schubert: Bb Impromptu D.935/3; Mozart: D minor concerto; Chopin: first Ballade

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#2171887 - 10/25/13 03:09 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: beet31425]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19460
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Here's another perspective on my approach. First, I sometimes think that there's a tremendous gulf between what the performer is actually doing and what the listener hears, so that performance becomes like a magic trick, in which the pianist is aware of all kinds of tricks behind-the-scene and the listener is only aware of the effect of those tricks. For example, sometimes to conquer a difficult passage I insert some small pauses to allow for hand repositioning. Eventually, at speed, the pauses aren't noticeable to the audience, but I still feel them, and they still help me. They're a trick for executing the passage that only I know about.

Similarly, I think, with "elegance" in this Scherzo-- for concreteness, look at the B-minor arpeggio at the end of the 2nd measure after the opening chords. It's a beautiful, graceful phrase, and hearing its beauty, and therefore playing it lightly and not forcefully, greatly helped me bring this piece up to speed. Once it was there, ferocity was quite easy to add-- given the speed and the raw power of the notes themselves, a little goes a long way-- and I think the audience mainly hears ferocity. But I'm still hearing it through that elegant foundation I used-- it's my trick, and the audience probably doesn't know just how delicately I'm experiencing this very harrowing music.

But if you go for the ferocity directly, as I tried to do for a while, the piece becomes clumsy, tiring, hard to control.

I'll even make one of those annoyingly unprovable statements here, and say that perhaps the great pianists who do play this Scherzo ferociously actually have elegance and lightness built into their conception and practice of the work. We don't hear it, and maybe they're not even aware of it-- they are natural talents, after all. But I think it's there. I even think that a kind of lightness is there in almost *all* fast passagework at its core-- heaviness and ferocity, if they're desired, are added "on top".

-Jason
To me this is mostly saying you found some tricks to help you solve the technical problems in this piece, but the bottom line is that you think it is a ferocious piece. IMO it's one of Chopin's most consistently ferocious pieces, and almost impossible to classify otherwise. I remember Janina Fialkowska saying in a master class that it was important to use a fair amount of body language when playing the opening chords because this was one of Chopin's most violent works.


Edited by pianoloverus (10/25/13 03:11 PM)

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#2172088 - 10/25/13 10:36 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: Mark_C]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19798
Loc: New York
Afterthought about what piece has a comparable kind of difficulty:

Our guy asked for other Chopin pieces but I'm going to ignore the Chopin part of it, and give a "comp" that might seem bizarre, and I'm not sure it isn't. ha

I recently read an article on Nancy Williams' website, which is known to some people here. (I'll be posting about the article in a separate thread.) Something from that article made me think of this other piece in relation to the Scherzo. I'll bypass the details here and just get to the point at hand (literally). grin

Before, I said:

Quote:
I think it's impossible to talk meaningfully about degree of difficulty without also talking about type of difficulty, and there isn't really anything else like it.


Well, something else like it did pop into my mind. Nancy's article seemed to highlight the way in which pieces of very different natures can be more similar than they seem, and it struck me that at times we may only realize it by seeing that the hand is doing a similar kind of thing.

In that light, I offer my off-the-wall nomination for 'technical challenge most similar to the 1st Scherzo' (and I'm serious!):

Click to reveal..



I suspect that most people would think right off the bat that this other piece can't possibly be a meaningful comp because it's not nearly as hard. But I think it is indeed comparably hard, and for what it's worth, for me it happens to be much harder.

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#2172089 - 10/25/13 10:45 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: A Guy]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4826
Loc: USA
God, that is seriously the best Prelude and Fugue he wrote. Both are absolutely perfect.. and the end of the Fugue is so noble, so powerful, as if he was composing for royalty. Very moving. Agghhh... The BEST!

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#2172365 - 10/26/13 01:16 PM Re: Difficulty of Chopin Scherzo 1? [Re: A Guy]
Pathbreaker Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/04
Posts: 1094
Loc: Massachusetts
That's awesome. And I was completely distracted and mesmerized by the scrolling guitar hero notation.

I agree with playing softly and gracefully in addition to playing slowly when learning difficult passages. It definitely helps me to understand my phrasing and playing louder or fiercer can be "added on top" later. It has the added bonus of ensuring that you don't hurt yourself from over-practice.

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