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#574362 - 11/21/07 12:06 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
Aviator1010110 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/06
Posts: 134
Loc: United States
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
I alternated the high and low notes in the octaves like so:
515 151 515 151

or like this:
515 515 515 515

(this represents the four triplets in each bar).

When the piano part was exposed, I would attempt to play as written:

555 555 555 555
111 111 111 111

It is a truly exhausting piece! Unless you are accustomed to practicing repeated octaves (which I simply don't have time to do)...

[/b]
AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Simplifying it like that destroys it! I agree that it can be exhausting to play if the wrists have ANY tension. Try "Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist" Part Two Lesson 58. It's called "Sustained Octaves with Detached Notes". Play it to speed and then transpose it. Erlkonig will become much easier and crisper AND it doesn't take much time to do this exercise once daily.
_________________________
Technical skills should never come before artistry. I think of technical ability as a necessary tool for extracting a truly moving performance from a sensitive interpretation. -Aviator1010110

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#574363 - 11/21/07 12:52 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
vanityx3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/06
Posts: 269
[/QUOTE]AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Simplifying it like that destroys it! I agree that it can be exhausting to play if the wrists have ANY tension. [/QB][/QUOTE]

---
But it might have drowned out the singer if he played it as written anyways; and that wouldn't be a good thing either. The piano's in Schubert's day probably didn't have the same fullness in sound as modern pianos. I think he was just stuck between a rock and a hard place and had to make a difficult decision, which he did, and it was the right one for him.
_________________________
well I'm 20 years old, and I'm teaching myself piano.

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#574364 - 11/21/07 01:05 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
Witold Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/07
Posts: 128
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
When the piano part was exposed, I would attempt to play as written:

555 555 555 555
111 111 111 111[/b]
It is a lot easier if you use Liszt's fingering for repeated octaves:

545 454 545 454
111 111 111 111

At least I find this fingering a lot better for long octave passages, allows my hand to stay much more relaxed. I was never able to play the last pages of Liszt's Hungarian no.6 until I discovered this fingering.

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#574365 - 11/21/07 01:13 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I'll ditto Brendan also on this. I've reduced orchestral transcriptions to a more playable score. Why do the editors try to cram every voice in the music then expect the pianist to play the multitude of repeated chords at an amazingly fast tempo? I've turned many a repeated notes and chords into either long chords, or tremolo with little if anything lost in the music just to make the music playable.

However as Brendan says, when it's solo music I play true to the written page.

In regards to the Erlkönig. The music is dastardly difficult on a modern piano, but quite easy on an early Viennese fortepiano. I heard this performed on a Conrad Graf 1828 grand, and the performer flew through the repeated notes like butter. The action is very light and shallow so there's less effort for the hands and wrists to contend with. The overall lightness of the piano made keeping the tone soft as well so there's no added tension of trying to play the repeated notes quietly.

I also heard some of the Czerny studies played on an early Bösendorfer (1820's) at the metronome markings he indicated. They are a far cry from what we labor at, and are far more musical than we could ever make them on our pianos today.

Our modern pianos have actions that have become heavier over the past century to a point where it can become difficult to play many things at the tempos indictated in the score.

John
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Nothing.

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#574366 - 11/21/07 01:16 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
hopinmad Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
People consider not to play them as octaves?!?!?!
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Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

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#574367 - 11/21/07 01:20 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by hopinmad:
People consider not to play them as octaves?!?!?! [/b]
I tried once and it didn't sound right. This is one of those places where the octaves have to be played.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#574368 - 11/21/07 03:53 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
It all depends!

I based my choice on the following:

1. The tempo. The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues. No, it wasn't an option to ask the singer to NOT do this piece! In a different situation I might have refused.

2. The acoustic, which was very reverberant. It was hard to hear exactly what I was playing.

3. The piano: a century old and seriously out of regulation - it played like a truck! Also very loud. It is extremely poor musicianship to drown out a singer just because you are being a stickler!

By the way, arrogant accompanists do not get jobs. ;\)

4. The audience, who for this event were most likely there to enjoy a "show". At least, I didn't see any concert-goers arrive with a Schubert score tucked under their arm. \:\)

I got the music about a week before the concert - not much time to rehearse it. Besides, when I'm rehearsing/accompanying eight hours a day the LAST thing I want to do is come home and practice octave repetitions!

As I mentioned, I make all of my income from playing and performing, so it is just not worth stressing my arm or risking injury for one piece!

All pianists have limitations. Few professional accompanists are in a situation to choose their repertoire. A good accompanist does the best they can with the time and technique they have: the show must go on!

In the end, it has everything to do with making music[/b] and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'.
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#574369 - 11/21/07 04:11 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
It all depends!

I based my choice on the following:

1. The tempo. The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues. No, it wasn't an option to ask the singer to NOT do this piece! In a different situation I might have refused.

2. The acoustic, which was very reverberant. It was hard to hear exactly what I was playing.

3. The piano: a century old and seriously out of regulation - it played like a truck! Also very loud. It is extremely poor musicianship to drown out a singer just because you are being a stickler!

By the way, arrogant accompanists do not get jobs. ;\)

4. The audience, who for this event were most likely there to enjoy a "show". At least, I didn't see any concert-goers arrive with a Schubert score tucked under their arm. \:\)

I got the music about a week before the concert - not much time to rehearse it. Besides, when I'm rehearsing/accompanying eight hours a day the LAST thing I want to do is come home and practice octave repetitions!

As I mentioned, I make all of my income from playing and performing, so it is just not worth stressing my arm or risking injury for one piece!

All pianists have limitations. Few professional accompanists are in a situation to choose their repertoire. A good accompanist does the best they can with the time and technique they have: the show must go on!

In the end, it has everything to do with making music[/b] and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'. [/b]
Sounds like you did a good job of getting on with it.
Thanks for the dose of reality.

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#574370 - 11/21/07 04:59 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5943
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues.
In the end, it has everything to do with making music[/b] and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'. [/b]
Couldn't agree more.
And I wish that any singer who has to sing Erlkönig at MM160 for breath control issues would leave it alone!
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#574371 - 11/22/07 08:56 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
How would "changes" be treated at competitions, entry tests to universities, exams?

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#574372 - 11/22/07 10:30 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18131
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano&Violin:
How would "changes" be treated at competitions, entry tests to universities, exams? [/b]
Some competitions and exams specify which editions must be used for performance. However, I don't think that would necessarily exclude changing the distribution of notes between the hands as long as the notes played are those that are printed in the score.

I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#574373 - 11/23/07 08:54 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
Witold Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/07
Posts: 128
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however. [/b]
Depends how you define textual changes. Most people seem to only consider the actual notes as sacred, while the rest of the text is important, though not unforgivable if you make slight alterations. In fact, ignoring an accent, ignoring dynamics, changing phrasing, changing the tempo, ignoring staccatos, adding pedaling, etc. are much bigger changes to the music than omitting one occassional note from an ostinato accompaniment figure. However, all of the above are done frequently even by the best pianists, and it is considered allowed as part of their personal interpretation. I sometimes find it amusing how the actual notes have become such holy cows compared to the rest of the text. If a piano viruoso giving a lecture on a Beethoven sonata says "I like to add a little ritenuto here and add an accent to this chord", that's perfectly valid. However, if the same virtuoso said "I would leave out this G flat", or even worse "I would add a G flat here", the reactions would be very different.

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#574374 - 11/23/07 10:36 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18131
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Witold:
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however. [/b]
Depends how you define textual changes. Most people seem to only consider the actual notes as sacred, while the rest of the text is important, though not unforgivable if you make slight alterations. In fact, ignoring an accent, ignoring dynamics, changing phrasing, changing the tempo, ignoring staccatos, adding pedaling, etc. are much bigger changes to the music than omitting one occassional note from an ostinato accompaniment figure. However, all of the above are done frequently even by the best pianists, and it is considered allowed as part of their personal interpretation. I sometimes find it amusing how the actual notes have become such holy cows compared to the rest of the text. If a piano viruoso giving a lecture on a Beethoven sonata says "I like to add a little ritenuto here and add an accent to this chord", that's perfectly valid. However, if the same virtuoso said "I would leave out this G flat", or even worse "I would add a G flat here", the reactions would be very different. [/b]
You make very valid point in yours post; thank you for bringing them up.

Yes, of course, some of us focus only on the notes, forgetting to take into account that the dynamic markings in the score are every bit as important as the notes themselves. Of course, we do have to consider which are original dynamics and which might be editorial additions. However, with many modern editions one can pretty well determine which dynamics are original and which are added.

I was recently playing a Grieg piece at my lesson and intentionally avoided some of the pedal markings in the score. I was aiming for a "dryer" sound than what the indicated pedal would give, until my teacher midly disapproved of my choice. She reminded me that, since I was using an Urtext edition, the pedal markings were probably Grieg's and that the more impressionistic effect using the pedal was probably what Grieg was aiming for. I had to admit that she was right.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#574375 - 11/23/07 12:00 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i think it is silly to follow pedal markings particularly..

the pianos of yesterday were so much less sustainable..

some of the romantic pedal markings are absurd on today's pianos. perhaps i don't care for the blurry quality..

i don't know... just my opinion of cours, i am not very learned.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#574376 - 11/23/07 01:24 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18131
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by apple*:
i think it is silly to follow pedal markings particularly..

the pianos of yesterday were so much less sustainable..

some of the romantic pedal markings are absurd on today's pianos. perhaps i don't care for the blurry quality..

i don't know... just my opinion of cours, i am not very learned. [/b]
You are certainly right about following pedal markings in scores that have been edited with 19th century pianos in mind. As you say, the sustain power of 19th century pianos was so different from that in modern pianos. Indeed, one has to adjust pedaling from piano to piano dependent upon the sustain qualities of each individual instrument.

In the instance I cited, however, the question was whether to use some pedal or no pedal at all, and I was wrong not to use light touches of pedal where indicated.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#574377 - 11/23/07 03:08 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
All of this discussion about playing every note reminds me of something (slightly off-topic, but I hope you will indulge me):

César Franck's works are revered and played by many organists, who mistakenly think they are not too difficult (other than the large hand stretches and lots of accidentals).

However, if you really study the pieces you begin to discern some fascinating things happening: interesting movements and dissonances among the inner voices, 'hidden' hemiolas - a very long list of things that are too numerous to mention here. There are many options for an earnest performer to consider - none of them are the only correct way.

Now when I hear someone playing Franck literally 'off the page' I find it quite uninteresting.

I've coached with a well-known French organist on the works of Franck. She told me something which I will always remember:

In Franck ... if you play every note on the page, observe every mark... you have achieved nothing! [/b] Without fail you must interpret it, [/b]and play it in the correct style for the era, and in the correct style for Franck.

I am just as likely to get fixated with 'note perfection' as the next performer (I suppose). When I start feeling overwhelmed I recall my teacher's words and I am comforted to know that the notes are only part of making music.
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Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#574378 - 11/25/07 06:12 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7891
I'm coming to this topic a little late, sorry. Getting back to the original interesting question, I'd say it depends on the music, for one thing. Albeniz's Iberia is fairly well-known as requiring some adjustments to the score in order to be playable - for someone with small hands like de Larrocha, there were quite a few. And there's a story that when Rubinstein played some of it (I think Triana) for members of Albeniz' family (this was some time after Albeniz was dead), one of the kids commented, "He leaves out the same notes that Papa did."

Besides the Erlkonig, a couple of other things that are rarely played as written are the glisses in Beethoven's op. 53 sonata, and the double note runs in Brahms 2nd concerto. And Bernstein once said that nobody plays the repeated notes in Ravel's Alborada del grazioso as written, but instead slip in notes an octave higher, to facilitate things (he was wrong, though, because some pianists do play them as written). In the same piece, I think many pianists don't do the double note glisses.

I'm fairly used to the idea of adjusting scores to make them more playable (or playable at all), but I was a little shocked when I once heard a world-famous pianist complain during an interview that Ravel had written his left hand concerto in such a way that it was not really feasible to fake anything without getting totally derailed, unlike, say, the Rachmaninoff concertos, where things like busy passagework could be fudged. The way he made it sound, faking it was a regular and ordinary activity for pianists.

wr

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#574379 - 11/26/07 08:31 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1263
Loc: Tomball, Texas
I'm not so sure that we are not talking about the exceptions rather than the rule. Part of the classical piano music allure, is the fact that a lot of it is darned difficult and rising to the challenge is half the fun. I played Erlkonig for a few vocalists in undergrad in its original form. I never thought of leaving anything out.That being said, I have seen a video of Moore and Dieskau performing Erkonig and it is absolutely wonderful musically.

Leaving stuff out because of worrying about damaging one's musculature is an interesting consideration. It sort of makes me wonder about the ages of some of my esteemed colleagues on this list. Every now and then while playing some percussive piece like Ginastera, I have bruised some fingers, but being actually preoccupied with thinking about long-term physical damage? I can't imagine how much exertion that would take to actually do oneself physical harm.

As to the "textual changes" issue, I'm 1000% with Bruce.I would never have dreamed changing anything at jury time. I think that there is a big difference between altering dynamics and accents and changing notes. Sometimes though....I do change some registrations. I have THAT weakness. But there again, if the masters had the instruments to work with that we do they might have done the same thing. Certainly Rachmaninoff exploits the full range of the modern instrument, unlike many of his predecessors. How's that for a rationalization?

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#574380 - 11/26/07 03:50 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
 Quote:
Originally posted by John Pels:
Leaving stuff out because of worrying about damaging one's musculature is an interesting consideration. It sort of makes me wonder about the ages of some of my esteemed colleagues on this list.
I beg your pardon? \:o

I assure you I'm several decades away from the convalescent home!

My point was that if the piano itself [/b]is old and out of regulation, why risk hurting myself? I derive all of my income from constant rehearsals and performances (yes, there is some risk of overtaxing myself anyway). If I injure myself trying to attain someone's ideal of "perfection" for a single piece of music then I risk going without income, or playing under par for all of my other commitments. Not a good idea.

People don't hire me to play absolutely perfectly, but to play musically. That is a pretty important criteria for an accompanist, and it seems to keep me quite busy!
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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