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#451460 - 02/18/02 09:18 PM Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
JoeTownley Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/02
Posts: 77
Loc: Glendale Ca
Dairmuid's comment to be about purism in playing tweaked me to toss out this question to those who are familiar w/ the Rach Preludes. The D-major Prelude, Andante. In the 16th measure Rach has a g-natural in the right-hand chord and in the bass line. Far be it from me to tell someone of the stature of Serge how to write his own music but this just doesn't make it for me. In this one respect I think ol' Rach was all wet. I substitute a g-sharp, making the harmony in that measure E7 so that it can smoothly resolve to G6 (or e7, if you prefer) w/ A-base. Much more colorful and romantic, to my ear. Of course I know all the purists will scream "That's not how Serge wrote it", but I can't help myself. I'll stand on the fact that my way is better from a harmonic point. For those of you who play and have the music, try it out and then give me your opinions.

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#451461 - 02/18/02 09:42 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5325
Loc: McAllen, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by JoeTownley:
I'll stand on the fact that my way is better from a harmonic point.[/b]


Ok, that's where you did yourself in.

If you're advanced enough to play Rachmaninoff, then I'll make this discourse on secondary dominants and tonicizations brief since it is probably old news to you.

Here is the chord progression that Rachmaninoff writes beginning in m. 14:

([] indicates a barline)
D: vi (I6) [] ii7(6-5) [] V7(9/4- [] V7(8/3) [] I

Ok, basically a fairly simple use of the hypermediant as preparation for and secondary dominant - dominant (added 7th)- tonic perfect authentic cadence. Textbook, with Rachmaninoff's use of suspensions (he obviously did his theory homework). Up until this point, the only foreign key that Rachmaninoff tonicizes is f# minor, the mediant, but just by looking at it you can see more than anything that Rachmaninoff is merely preserving the f# pedal point moves stepwise up to g briefly and then returns to the tonic.

Basically, what you are suggesting is that out of nowhere and with no significant harmonic precedent that we tonicize V. Furthermore, all of the major V-I perfect authentic (or even imperfect authentic) cadences include the secondary dominant as ii7 (sometimes with further suspensions), with only the penultimate cadence using the G# to tonicize V. If Rachmaninoff wanted to do it earlier, he would have written it; in fact his non-usage of the dominant tonicization up until the final point makes it even more beautiful then. Using it earlier means squandering the effect in a piece that is all about pedal points and harmonic tension.

The reason why Rachmaninoff's music is still played is because he knew what he was doing. He doesn't need your help. But I guess that doesn't matter, because you already knew all of this.
_________________________
http://www.BrendanKinsella.com

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#451462 - 02/18/02 10:26 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5325
Loc: McAllen, TX
First off, the harmonic analysis that I did starts at m. 15, not 14. My mistake for miscounting; that's why I'm a pianist, not an accountant.

 Quote:
Originally posted by JoeTownley:
[QB]Okay, Brendan, you've proved to the world you know your music theory. Now let's KISS, as in keep it simple, stupid. [QB]


Well, I can already sense that this is just going to turn into a tirade of insults, so let me just reiterate my point even though it seems that you don't want to consider other views.

I can guarantee you that Rachmaninoff tried a G# when he was composing this piece and decided that it wasn't the right moment, didn't fit the context, etc. What he DID decide to do was to save the G# for the end, making it special there and its lack thereof in previous cadences seem more yearning by comparison.

Honestly, I don't care if you want to go ahead and put your special little touches into the music. Would you feel just as comfortable to rewrite passages of MacBeth that you felt were linguistically awkward or to correct e.e. Cummings' punctuation? Somehow I believe that great music is great music (as well as other forms of art) and it doesn't need to be improved upon. It lasts because of its quality. Like I said, it's a free country and you can play G# just as easily as I would play G natural, but if you feel justified in altering someone else's work because it sounds good to your ear, then I'm afraid that you're mistaken.

We know this piece because it was fine to begin with and doesn't need tampering.
_________________________
http://www.BrendanKinsella.com

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#451463 - 02/19/02 09:21 AM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Brendan, I agree that great music need not be tampered with. A little bit of artistic interpretation is ok, but I for one cringe every time I hear the US national anthem sung at a major sporting event!
_________________________
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

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#451464 - 02/19/02 11:18 AM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
JS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/14/01
Posts: 306
Loc: Lubbock, TX
Except that E7 "resolution" to G6 has a lot of voice-leading problems. While Rachmaninoff often writes this type of harmonic gesture, he always remains true to the principles of voice-leading. Perhaps the most compelling reason against the G# is that having a G# in bar 16 means that there's no smooth resolution. For it to work, it would have to resolves to a G-natural or A in the next bar, which it cannot, since the melody drops too low.

Regarding your comment about color, there are other ways of making music colorful besides harmony, and Rachmaninoff does exactly this in that passage - he writes a sudden decrescendo from f to p in the next bar. He's a good composer - he knows that staying on a ii7 (Em7) chord for two bars is a bit static, and he compensated for it with a gesture of dynamics.

 Quote:
Originally posted by JoeTownley:
Dairmuid's comment to be about purism in playing tweaked me to toss out this question to those who are familiar w/ the Rach Preludes. The D-major Prelude, Andante. In the 16th measure Rach has a g-natural in the right-hand chord and in the bass line. Far be it from me to tell someone of the stature of Serge how to write his own music but this just doesn't make it for me. In this one respect I think ol' Rach was all wet. I substitute a g-sharp, making the harmony in that measure E7 so that it can smoothly resolve to G6 (or e7, if you prefer) w/ A-base. Much more colorful and romantic, to my ear. Of course I know all the purists will scream "That's not how Serge wrote it", but I can't help myself. I'll stand on the fact that my way is better from a harmonic point. For those of you who play and have the music, try it out and then give me your opinions.[/b]

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#451465 - 02/19/02 12:17 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Rick Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/01
Posts: 559
Loc: Chicago
Amen Stanza. You touched on a sensitive subject for me. The composer of any great piece had something in mind, had some great inspiration when writing the piece, including the melody. To go and screw up (i.e., change) 60 or 70 % of the melody notes is absolutely unforgiveable. That is, unfortunately, what most "singers" have been doing with our national anthem. Those notes absolutely MUST be hit, or I, for one, feel emotionless. Granted, that is one of the toughest songs to sing. The black woman who sang at the World Series game (the one where the president threw the strike) did a wonderful job though! I was moved. Too bad I don't know who she was.

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#451466 - 02/19/02 01:37 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
MacDuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 560
Loc: Southeast, U.S.A.
All this reminds me that I need to re-read Walter Piston's HARMONY. (Or, are the conservatories using a better textbook now?)

I take it that hypermediant means submediant? Isn't this getting away from the tonic as center model of tonality?

There needs to be a "School House Rock" cartoon (remember those?) done about secondary dominants!

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#451467 - 02/19/02 02:22 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Diarmuid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 219
Gosh, I wish you hadn't dragged my name into the title of the thread, but since you did I might just play the devils advocate here and ask why we should sanctify composers and their compositions so much. What's wrong with taking liberties with music? What's wrong with trying something different? Are we so afraid of doing something wrong (and I mean that only in relation to convention). At best this is a boring attitude at worst it's narrow minded, musical snobbery. Of course it's very easy to patronise people:

"Oh so you think you're good enough to question Rachmaninoff, do you?"

Answer:

"I don't care, now **** off and go iron you're underwear or something".

Ok let me have it \:D

[ February 19, 2002: Message edited by: Diarmuid ]

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#451468 - 02/19/02 06:43 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Rick:

I'm not at all positive, but I think the person singing at the World Series game 3 was Audra McDonald??

Nina

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#451469 - 02/19/02 08:02 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Here's, as they say, my 2 cents worth. I don't think there is anything wrong with taking liberties in private. But if you're going to do it in recital, you'd better be sure your audience knows they are listening to you and not the known composer. Otherwise you do a disservice to the composer. If your program explicitly states that you're going play your adaptation, they will then be in a posisiton to judge whether you've succeeded or not.

I was never so angry as the time I was in a local restaurant and ordered the French onion soup, one of my favorites. Well what I got was a clear broth with onions in a soup bowl--NOT French onion soup in a crock with deep rich broth, onions, crouton and cheese. When I mentioned to the waiter that what he brought me was not French onion soup he said "well, that is the way we make it here." !!! Seesh. If you ask me, the menu should have stated "Our rendition of French onion soup, not the traditional kind you are familiar with".
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#451470 - 02/19/02 10:35 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Eldon Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 597
Loc: Illinois
Bernard,
You think that you've had it bad? Check this out. I was at a Denny's one evening, kind of late. It was actually a Denny's Diner. To make a long story short, after waiting several minutes for the order to be taken, when I finally got my order, the manager came out and said that, "they were out of hollandaise sauce, and I gave you GRAVY instead"! Now I ask you....have you EVER???
_________________________
Sincerely,
Eldon

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#451471 - 02/19/02 11:05 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Eldon, oh, I have lot's of fantastic restaurant tales, but I'll refrain since it's so off-topic.

But I sure hope you didn't have to pay. They certainly had a responsibility to ask you what you wanted instead of deciding for you!! Go figure!
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#451472 - 02/20/02 07:30 AM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18223
Loc: Victoria, BC
Joe:

To get back to musical examples, the two most obvious ones that come to mind are in the Chopin F major Prelude (Op. 28, No. 23) and the Grieg Piano Concerto, last movement. In the former, would you take out the Eflat of the final arpeggio, (and replace it with a C, as one of my editions suggests!) because the way Chopin wrote it, the piece ends on an unresolved dominant 7th chord, something that just isn't right for the first half of the nineteenth century?

Similarly, in the final movement of the Grieg where the now majestic melody returns in A major, would you subsitute a G# (8 bars from the end) to remain consistent with the theme the first couple of times it was stated (in F major, originally) instead of the G natural that Grieg wrote? The G natural, by the way that Liszt is reputed to have claimed as a touch of genius?

In the performance practice of classical music as we see and know it, the object is to remain faithful to what the composer wrote. In the example you cite, you are not simply changing the one note of the melody, you are suggesting a change of the whole harmony of that particular bar which, in turn, changes the whole harmonic progression of the phrase.

As Brendan observed (and as Stanza concurred) make these changes if you like in private, but if you do so in public performance, you should not try to pass off your "improvements" on the original as the original.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#451473 - 02/20/02 10:46 AM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Diarmuid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 219
Fair enough, I agree with not passing off your own version as the original.

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#451474 - 02/20/02 12:22 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
JoeTownley Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/02
Posts: 77
Loc: Glendale Ca
BruceD,
You ask a very valid question and I will try to elucidate my feelings about the matter. Point No. 1 : I don't believe that every note the composer wrote is sacrosacnt, sacrosact, sacrosa--- sacred. We have to take in matters of different editors, goofs on the printers, etc. Final decision hinges on what makes the most sense musically. In the case of the Grieg I cannot imagine anyone in their right minds changing the G to a g# without being ripe for a session on the couch. In the case of the Chopin, I see no musical sense at all in having that %$#^ E-flat at the end of the Prelude. It makes absolutely no sense. If it were a segue into an upcoming B-flat Prelude I could see it, but as it stands the E-flat drives me and millions of other listeners to want to murder soneone. So I'd have no qualms at all about changing it if I felt inclined to. Fortunately I don't play it, don't care for the piece so it's not a life or death issue for me. In the case of the Rach Prelude let me say that, as you know, I've capitulated to Brendan after trying out Rach's own version for the 1st time in about 15 years. It works for me. For some reason my first time through the Prelude 15 years ago, (and I'd never even heard a recording of it, just got a photocopy from another student) it just didn't sound right. I tried the G# and it sounded much more colorful and romantic to my ear. I still don't think it works as well in the exposition as it does in the recap in all its fortissimo glory, though to use both would be musical heresy. Let me just conclude by saying that I think both versions work from a musical POV, but mine doesn't work from an analytical one, in deference to Brendan's excellent musical instincts. And we all know that Rach was nothing if not one of the greatest analytical minds of music we've yet seen.

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#451475 - 02/20/02 06:29 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Rodion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/01
Posts: 296
Loc: Salt Lake City
 Quote:
Originally posted by JoeTownley:
In the case of the Chopin, I see no musical sense at all in having that %$#^ E-flat at the end of the Prelude. It makes absolutely no sense. If it were a segue into an upcoming B-flat Prelude I could see it, but as it stands the E-flat drives me and millions of other listeners to want to murder soneone.[/b]



that's crazy talk, it's beautiful and it makes perfect sense, it adds wonderful color to simple arpeggios on a lovely little piece.

how do you get through listening to or playing any twentieth century music? make sure you stay away from liszt's late music!
_________________________
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. - Hector Berlioz

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#451476 - 02/20/02 07:30 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Hank Drake Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/01
Posts: 1664
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Whenever I go to Denny's late at night (or VERY early in the morning) I go for the crowd, not the food. They are invariably more entertaining--and sometimes more nourishing.
_________________________
Hank Drake

The composers want performers be imaginative, in the direction of their thinking--not just robots, who execute orders.
George Szell

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#451477 - 02/20/02 07:58 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
Dear lord, brendan! you need to help me with my theory homework! we are working on all that "tonicizing" crap right now...not that its crap itself, mind you, but sometimes all the notes and analysis and cadences and inversions and the &@$# secondary dominants (ohh i just shudder at the mere thought of those..)just make me totally want to quit music altogether...but i will hang in there!
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#451478 - 02/21/02 12:43 PM Re: Re Dairmuid's Comment about purists & my own habits re Rachy
Vid Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/01
Posts: 870
Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it. I'm with Brendan on this one. You may have a point if there were discrepancies with the original manuscripts and published versions etc. But I don't think you should tamper with what the composer wrote down. Historically, musicians took much more interprative freedoms in the Baroque and Classical eras, but composers like Beethoven changed all that by insisting that performers follow what has written down. Rachmaninoff, while being steeped in the Romantic tradition, was a 20th century composer and I am certain that he expected performers to play his works as he wrote them. Of course, what you do in your own practice chamber is your business, but pay the composers their due respect when you perform in public. If you really like doing things your own way, I would recommend taking up jazz improvisation.
_________________________
Kawai VPC1, Pianoteq, Galaxy Vintage D

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