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#2173501 - 10/29/13 01:12 AM Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed?
PianoSlave Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/25/13
Posts: 1
I'm learning Rach's prelude in C# minor and I just don't see the point in crossing the hands in the way he wrote it. I've been working on it for a couple of days now and want to get some good input before I get some long term muscle memory down. Would it be ok to rearrange the notes (switching bottom note of right hand with top note of left hand) or is there a deeper purpose in his arranging besides him just being Rachmaninoff? LOL

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#2173504 - 10/29/13 01:28 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6220
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
You can do whatever you want, but you will gain very little by switching.

As for a "deeper purpose," this Prelude is all about RH and LH octaves. Learn it as written - crossed hands and all.
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#2173509 - 10/29/13 01:33 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
It probably fit his hand better, or he wrote it that way for voicing. Do what you need to do to make it comfortable.
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#2173511 - 10/29/13 01:38 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6096
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
I asked myself the same question, but then I decided to cross hands because it was not difficult, just a bit uncomfortable (maybe) in the first phase of learning.
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#2173513 - 10/29/13 01:42 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
PianistOne111 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/19/06
Posts: 292
Loc: Utah
Unless you have really small hands, it will end up being easier if you play octaves.


Edited by PianistOne111 (10/29/13 01:43 AM)
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#2173524 - 10/29/13 03:05 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
Alan Lai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
Originally Posted By: PianoSlave
I'm learning Rach's prelude in C# minor and I just don't see the point in crossing the hands in the way he wrote it. I've been working on it for a couple of days now and want to get some good input before I get some long term muscle memory down. Would it be ok to rearrange the notes (switching bottom note of right hand with top note of left hand) or is there a deeper purpose in his arranging besides him just being Rachmaninoff? LOL

So in a nut shell you think you have better ideas than Rakhmaninov himself on his own compositions?

Alrighty then!

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#2173532 - 10/29/13 04:01 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Alan Lai]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5221
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Alan Lai
So in a nut shell you think you have better ideas than Rakhmaninov himself on his own compositions?

Alrighty then!
Even if it is so... so what?

I do think that anybody has a right to experiment a bit. Especially if at first he's asking for advice in a pianoworld thread! wink
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#2173568 - 10/29/13 07:12 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3511
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Experimenting is fine, but I think the way it's written is the far superior way. The most important notes in both hands are the octaves. By redistributing notes, you create more difficulties in trying to emphasise these octave notes. Besides, I think crossing the hands is quite fun, not that difficult, and certainly not harder than redistributing the notes.

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#2173578 - 10/29/13 07:41 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1048
I'm learning this piece now and the chord voicing makes more sense with the hands crossed. Plus, later, when the hands separate for the last section, the fingering scheme is more related.

Once you have the crossing worked out it actually is quite easy and natural. It was only strange for the first couple of days. After that it didn't bother me at all.
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Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
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#2173633 - 10/29/13 09:50 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Nikolas]
Alan Lai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: Alan Lai
So in a nut shell you think you have better ideas than Rakhmaninov himself on his own compositions?

Alrighty then!
Even if it is so... so what?

I do think that anybody has a right to experiment a bit. Especially if at first he's asking for advice in a pianoworld thread! wink

First of all, those chords really have no other way to play them. It is awkward no matter what, but what Rakhmaninov did is the least awkward.

It's completely fine to experiment, but don't make it sounds like "he did it because he's just because."

As a composer yourself, I believe you won't appreciate any performer tells you that you wrote that bit "just because," right?

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#2173700 - 10/29/13 11:41 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4846
Originally Posted By: PianoSlave
I'm learning Rach's prelude in C# minor and I just don't see the point in crossing the hands in the way he wrote it. I've been working on it for a couple of days now and want to get some good input before I get some long term muscle memory down. Would it be ok to rearrange the notes (switching bottom note of right hand with top note of left hand) or is there a deeper purpose in his arranging besides him just being Rachmaninoff? LOL

You probably haven't got to the final section yet, where the themes are restated in big ff chords with the hands spread far apart.

When you start learning that, you'll understand the logic of the composer's earlier hand-crossing: the hand movements are the same, only with more notes in each hand.

Why learn two different muscle movements for what is essentially the same music? It just increases your risk of memory lapses if you eventually play it from memory. Learning the logic of the composer's written notation now will pay dividends in the long term.

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#2173714 - 10/29/13 12:12 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
sandalholme Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 760
Loc: Dorset, UK
I read this thread in bemusement. Are we talking about Op3 No2? Have played it (badly, in case you ask) for years. Where are the crossed hands? Looked at alternative score on the Net. Where does the RH reach over the LH, or the LH over the RH? Have I always had a simplified (!) score? Was thinking over hand over, rather than fingers crossed - needed when playing this!

So I realised "crossed hands" meant "interspersed" hands, which is quite commonly needed.

I am not being pedantic, but it shows how words can be misinterpreted.

In answer to the OP, as everyone else: use the original scoring. I looked at the music, mentally trying to visualise unscrambling the hands. Surely it's easier the way it was written. And unscrambling here won't help you play music where it just is not possible to play without intertwining the fingers, to use yet another term.

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#2173742 - 10/29/13 01:18 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Alan Lai]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5221
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Alan Lai
First of all, those chords really have no other way to play them. It is awkward no matter what, but what Rakhmaninov did is the least awkward.
I have quite large hands (C-F# and middle notes) in which case this particular preludes comes rather easy to me...

I don't think it's awkward at all!

Quote:
It's completely fine to experiment, but don't make it sounds like "he did it because he's just because."
Personally I'm not. Or at least I didn't. Point is that the guy made a thread about it, asking why the cross-hands section is written like that and if he can alter it. The apparent reply from most is that no it's not ok, because:
a. This is how Rach wrote it
b. It's easier this way.
c. Voicing sounds better/correct this way.

I agree with all three sentiments, but I didn't get a vibe of "I'll do whatever I want just because" from the OP.

Quote:
As a composer yourself, I believe you won't appreciate any performer tells you that you wrote that bit "just because," right?
No, but I certainly get pointers (especially on other instruments) on how something could be written or notated better. In fact I do know that even Stravinsky would be altering his parts, after recommendations from performers.

This is one large reason why my scores lack pedal instructions and fingerings almost always (except in Sketch Music, where I didn't add them myself, btw): It's too personal and I find that I would be dictating things to the performer which may not work for them, as they do for me... My pedalling, my piano, my hands. Not theirs!

_______________________

But just to be clear: I think that this particular prelude works like this very fine, since it gets out the melody with the right hand and works fine for people with large hands! smile There's no reason to change it.


Edited by Nikolas (10/29/13 01:19 PM)
Edit Reason: messed up the quote tags...
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#2173762 - 10/29/13 02:05 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: bennevis]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6220
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: bennevis
You probably haven't got to the final section yet, where the themes are restated in big ff chords with the hands spread far apart.

When you start learning that, you'll understand the logic of the composer's earlier hand-crossing: the hand movements are the same, only with more notes in each hand.

Why learn two different muscle movements for what is essentially the same music? It just increases your risk of memory lapses if you eventually play it from memory. Learning the logic of the composer's written notation now will pay dividends in the long term.


Excellent response !!! thumb
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#2173772 - 10/29/13 02:23 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19229
Loc: New York City
As a few have already said, it was written this way for either voicing or ease of execution. I think it only makes sense to consider rearranging the chords if one has small hands or finds the original version too difficult. There are some editions(Alfred masterwork?) which show, in addition to the original, an alternate version with uncrossed hands and usually with the note "for small hands".

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#2173776 - 10/29/13 02:36 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2290
Loc: San Jose, CA
It seems like a bit of a shallow question on the surface, but there's a lesson to be learned from it. Most great composers for the piano were also great pianists, and based on his recordings, I feel Rachmaninoff was a greater pianist than a composer. So it's more safe to follow the score and assume that he knew better than you do, rather than second-guess him. In the case of the hand distribution, it's a subtle effect which emphasizes the emptier sonority of the open fifth in the right hand, rather than the thickness of the full chord. Subtle though it may be, though, it's key to the way Rachmaninoff conceived the opening.

It seems extremely common to disregard most of the directions that Rachmaninoff wrote in his scores. The editions of the C-sharp minor Prelude with "sffff" directions seem to sum up the attitude that people have towards a piece which Rachmaninoff himself recorded several times, but never slammed through. He wasn't after bombast - he was after the sound of bells ringing.

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#2174014 - 10/29/13 09:01 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
SBP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 258
I do the hand-crossing thing only because it looks impressive when people see me do it. Tbt it actually fits quite nicely under the hands once you get used to it. The ending is still pretty tough, simply because of all the big block chords that you have to time 100% perfectly (while playing FFF) :P
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2012 Kawai K3

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#2174028 - 10/29/13 09:47 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: SBP]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6220
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: SBP
I do the hand-crossing thing only because it looks impressive when people see me do it.


Seriously???? grin
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#2174093 - 10/30/13 12:30 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: bennevis]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1635
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: bennevis
...You probably haven't got to the final section yet, where the themes are restated in big ff chords with the hands spread far apart.

When you start learning that, you'll understand the logic of the composer's earlier hand-crossing: the hand movements are the same, only with more notes in each hand....


Appreciate the responses.

Was given the original to learn when too young and hands very small. The "crossing" was no problem. The ff chords were. Think my hands grew a tad that year.
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Retired piano technician
Piano Technic

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#2174103 - 10/30/13 01:24 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Nikolas]
Alan Lai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
No, but I certainly get pointers (especially on other instruments) on how something could be written or notated better. In fact I do know that even Stravinsky would be altering his parts, after recommendations from performers.

This is one large reason why my scores lack pedal instructions and fingerings almost always (except in Sketch Music, where I didn't add them myself, btw): It's too personal and I find that I would be dictating things to the performer which may not work for them, as they do for me... My pedalling, my piano, my hands. Not theirs!

Come on, Nikolas.

You clearly know that is comparing apple to oranges. And you are talking about completely different things. You can't be serious in comparing the way you compose vs. Rakhmaninov's.

Originally Posted By: Nikolas

But just to be clear: I think that this particular prelude works like this very fine, since it gets out the melody with the right hand and works fine for people with large hands! smile There's no reason to change it.


Glad you agree with me.

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#2174109 - 10/30/13 01:31 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Alan Lai]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5221
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Alan Lai
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
No, but I certainly get pointers (especially on other instruments) on how something could be written or notated better. In fact I do know that even Stravinsky would be altering his parts, after recommendations from performers.

This is one large reason why my scores lack pedal instructions and fingerings almost always (except in Sketch Music, where I didn't add them myself, btw): It's too personal and I find that I would be dictating things to the performer which may not work for them, as they do for me... My pedalling, my piano, my hands. Not theirs!

Come on, Nikolas.

You clearly know that is comparing apple to oranges. And you are talking about completely different things. You can't be serious in comparing the way you compose vs. Rakhmaninov's.

to be honest no I don't think I'm comparing apples to oranges.

Obviously I'm not trying to compare myself to any other composer.

But what I'm saying is that, over the course of studying piano for almost 30 years now (or playing the piano, not only studying), at some points I did consider changing the hand distribution, for example, in a few passages.

And this idea was reinforced by the idea that the final score that we see is the result of many people, not just the composer. In this case it's pretty obvious that the hand distribution and the way it's written is Rachmaninoffs, but in other scores it can be a little peculiar to know who put in what and what's going on exactly. (especially in more contemporary scores).

So, again, I think that the passage should be played as it's written, but in other instances it's not bad to be considering alternatives.
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#2174225 - 10/30/13 09:19 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
C minor Prelude by Rachmaninoff

Piano Slave is right on the money in suggesting
omission of the HAND OVERLAPPING,


The “big guy Rach ” was renowned for his giant stretch.

But for mere mortals like us, that loopy overlap
(presumably to effect a singular grand chord) ...
can so easily be played by separate hands,
playing IDENTICAL CHORDS .

Why try to stretch smaller hands to breaking point,
when matching 3-note chords shouts recognition.

The Asian chappie Lai from Singapore,
has obviously been brainwashed into thinking that the
Rach original score needs to be defended ...
forgive me for saying that this is quite a wrong deduction, for the reason fore-mentioned.

Kind regards, btb

PS With big hands, I have always played the two hands separately ... my dog doesn’t howl so I must be doing something right.

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#2174228 - 10/30/13 09:26 AM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: btb]
Alan Lai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
Originally Posted By: btb
C minor Prelude by Rachmaninoff

Piano Slave is right on the money in suggesting
omission of the HAND OVERLAPPING,


The “big guy Rach ” was renowned for his giant stretch.

But for mere mortals like us, that loopy overlap
(presumably to effect a singular grand chord) ...
can so easily be played by separate hands,
playing IDENTICAL CHORDS .

Why try to stretch smaller hands to breaking point,
when matching 3-note chords shouts recognition.

The Asian chappie Lai from Singapore,
has obviously been brainwashed into thinking that the
Rach original score needs to be defended ...
forgive me for saying that this is quite a wrong deduction, for the reason fore-mentioned.

Kind regards, btb

PS With big hands, I have always played the two hands separately ... my dog doesn’t howl so I must be doing something right.

You are such a character! laugh

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#2174357 - 10/30/13 01:58 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
Louis Podesta Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 675
1) Earl Wild wrote that it was most common for pianists in the 19th and early 20th centuries to re-arrange chords to fit a particular hand. In other words, everybody, especially Josef Hoffman, did it.

2) Not only do I re-arrange it here, I also do it in the "C" section of the Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2. The reason being is that in the Rachmaninoff some of the chords are rolled (all of them in the Brahms) and the emphasis is on the voicing at the top.

3) Listen for yourself. And, as far as the end is concerned, he is playing so loud you couldn't possible tell the difference if the beginning section was re-arranged.

4) Oh, in regards the Agitato section, there is a nun here in San Antonio, by the name of Sister Lucy Marie, who studied under Lili Kraus up in Fort Worth. Well, one day Rachmaninoff came to town, and she told me personally that yes he did play it that fast.

Jeez, just listen to all of those rolled chords.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXGSfJn3nKQ

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#2174404 - 10/30/13 03:49 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: PianoSlave]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7514
Loc: New York City
The day when Louis Podesta makes a post in which arpeggiation of chords is not mentioned will be the same day that pigs fly and the cow jumps over the moon.
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Polyphonist

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#2174408 - 10/30/13 03:59 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Polyphonist]
Louis Podesta Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 675
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
The day when Louis Podesta makes a post in which arpeggiation of chords is not mentioned will be the same day that pigs fly and the cow jumps over the moon.


Oh, and I almost forgot about his use of asynchronization, especially when he plays the octave chords, which along with the arpeggiation is also not "in the 'sacred' Urtext score."

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#2174413 - 10/30/13 04:09 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: Louis Podesta]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6220
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: Louis Podesta
3) Listen for yourself. And, as far as the end is concerned, he is playing so loud you couldn't possible tell the difference if the beginning section was re-arranged.

4) Oh, in regards the Agitato section, there is a nun here in San Antonio, by the name of Sister Lucy Marie, who studied under Lili Kraus up in Fort Worth. Well, one day Rachmaninoff came to town, and she told me personally that yes he did play it that fast.

Jeez, just listen to all of those rolled chords.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXGSfJn3nKQ


A unique interpretation indeed. grin

Thanks for posting it !!
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YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2174419 - 10/30/13 04:15 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: jeffreyjones]
antony Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 392
Loc: Portland, OR
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
It seems like a bit of a shallow question on the surface, but there's a lesson to be learned from it. Most great composers for the piano were also great pianists, and based on his recordings, I feel Rachmaninoff was a greater pianist than a composer. So it's more safe to follow the score and assume that he knew better than you do, rather than second-guess him. In the case of the hand distribution, it's a subtle effect which emphasizes the emptier sonority of the open fifth in the right hand, rather than the thickness of the full chord. Subtle though it may be, though, it's key to the way Rachmaninoff conceived the opening.

It seems extremely common to disregard most of the directions that Rachmaninoff wrote in his scores. The editions of the C-sharp minor Prelude with "sffff" directions seem to sum up the attitude that people have towards a piece which Rachmaninoff himself recorded several times, but never slammed through. He wasn't after bombast - he was after the sound of bells ringing.

I've heard it debated before about what Rachmaninov was best at, piano, composition or conducting. I find it hard to believe that this would ever be up for consideration. Being a composer at the level of a Rachmaninov is an achievement far beyond that of any conductor or pianist


Edited by antony (10/30/13 04:17 PM)

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#2174423 - 10/30/13 04:19 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: antony]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2290
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: antony
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
It seems like a bit of a shallow question on the surface, but there's a lesson to be learned from it. Most great composers for the piano were also great pianists, and based on his recordings, I feel Rachmaninoff was a greater pianist than a composer. So it's more safe to follow the score and assume that he knew better than you do, rather than second-guess him. In the case of the hand distribution, it's a subtle effect which emphasizes the emptier sonority of the open fifth in the right hand, rather than the thickness of the full chord. Subtle though it may be, though, it's key to the way Rachmaninoff conceived the opening.

It seems extremely common to disregard most of the directions that Rachmaninoff wrote in his scores. The editions of the C-sharp minor Prelude with "sffff" directions seem to sum up the attitude that people have towards a piece which Rachmaninoff himself recorded several times, but never slammed through. He wasn't after bombast - he was after the sound of bells ringing.

I've heard it debated before about what Rachmaninov was best at, piano, composition or conducting. I find it hard to believe that this would ever be up for consideration. Being a composer at the level of a Rachmaninov isabel achievement far beyond that of any conductor or pianist


He certainly left some unqualified masterpieces, like Vespers and the Symphonic Dances. But his performances of Schumann's Carnaval, Chopin's 2nd Sonata, the Grieg violin sonata with Kreisler, and his own smaller works are so arresting. It's hard to believe what you're hearing sometimes.

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#2174433 - 10/30/13 04:45 PM Re: Rachmaninoff Prelude C# minor hands uncrossed? [Re: jeffreyjones]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7514
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
He certainly left some unqualified masterpieces, like Vespers and the Symphonic Dances.

...and the second and third symphonies, and the second and third concertos, and the Opus 28 sonata, and the cello sonata, and etc, etc, etc. Opus 27 in particular outdoes the symphonies of even Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Elgar.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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