Performing Preludes

Posted by: JoelW

Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 02:52 PM

Are preludes supposed to be performed one after the next? Would it be okay to perform nos. 3, 6 and 9 for example? The impression that I have is that you should only perform preludes one after the next i.e. 3, 4, 5 etc... if this were true then one would have to learn all 24 preludes to perform the ones they want to play.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 03:13 PM

If you mean Chopin's Op.28 (or Shostakovich's Op.34), yes, almost all concert pianists except Sviatoslav Richter plays them as a complete set as the composer intended, from the key structure. Though amateurs often pick and choose: after all, the B flat minor (No.16) is a far cry from the 'Raindrop' that precedes it.....

Alkan's Op.31 is also usually played complete.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 03:28 PM

I see nothing wrong with programming a selection of Preludes (Chopin?), nor do I feel that they must be performed in chronological order, unless one is playing the complete set.

Regards,
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 03:53 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
I see nothing wrong with programming a selection of Preludes (Chopin?), nor do I feel that they must be performed in chronological order, unless one is playing the complete set.

Absolutely!

I think very few would object to their being selected and ordered however one might choose, provided the selecting and ordering are done reasonably well -- and in fact this can be extremely interesting, for both the performer and the audience.

I'm not sure they're 'usually' played as a complete set (as Bennevis said) but certainly it's not uncommon. Whether or not that's the more frequent thing, IMO nobody should feel discouraged from doing selections.

P.S. A little off the subject, but....one of the most interesting and moving concerts I ever went to was Chopin's complete Op. 28 combined with all the Bach Preludes from Book I -- two pianists at separate pianos alternately playing Bach Preludes and Chopin Preludes, each leading into the other of the pair and with the last note of one overlapping with the first note of the next (usually both being in the same key). IMO it worked spectacularly. We could perhaps say that "Preludes" in general invite creativity in concert design, and it is to be welcomed.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 03:55 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
If you mean Chopin's Op.28 (or Shostakovich's Op.34), yes, almost all concert pianists except Sviatoslav Richter plays them as a complete set as the composer intended, from the key structure. Though amateurs often pick and choose: after all, the B flat minor (No.16) is a far cry from the 'Raindrop' that precedes it.....

Alkan's Op.31 is also usually played complete.


What about Debussy?
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:01 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
Originally Posted By: bennevis
If you mean Chopin's Op.28 (or Shostakovich's Op.34), yes, almost all concert pianists except Sviatoslav Richter plays them as a complete set as the composer intended, from the key structure. Though amateurs often pick and choose: after all, the B flat minor (No.16) is a far cry from the 'Raindrop' that precedes it.....

Alkan's Op.31 is also usually played complete.


What about Debussy?


Ah, Debussy.... grin
He may be an exception, partly because his Preludes are much longer and unrelated to what precedes and follows each particular Prelude. And he also gives each one a title, which further underlines their disparate nature.

Unlike Chopin's, where several Preludes appear to be introductions to the next one (like No.23 for No.24).
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:08 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: BruceD
I see nothing wrong with programming a selection of Preludes (Chopin?), nor do I feel that they must be performed in chronological order, unless one is playing the complete set.

Absolutely!

I think very few would object to their being selected and ordered however one might choose, provided the selecting and ordering are done reasonably well -- and in fact this can be extremely interesting, for both the performer and the audience.

I'm not sure they're 'usually' played as a complete set (as Bennevis said) but certainly it's not uncommon. Whether or not that's the more frequent thing, IMO nobody should feel discouraged from doing selections.



I was of course referring to the professional concert circuit, rather than competitions or amateur concerts or student recitals. I've heard the Chopin Op.28 many, many times in concert, and they're always played complete. In fact, as far as I know, Richter is (or was) the only great pianist who only ever played a selection in concert.

But there's always Chopin's Op.45 wink .
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:10 PM

Perform how the music will complement each other best, rather than just following opus numbers, catalogue entries, or chronological order whenever programming anything.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:13 PM

I like the idea of playing them in chronological order. You could play, say, Prelude #3 by Chopin, Debussy, Shostakovich, and Messiaen, for instance.

(I may have the dates of Shostakovich and Messiaen reversed.)
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:19 PM

It's very rare to have anything but the entire set performed in a professional recital nowadays but a selection of preludes was quite common in the 19th century. Since the OP is an amateur a selection or even a single prelude is totally fine. If playing just a couple then one should order them in some way that makes musical sense.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 04:28 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
It's very rare to have anything but the entire set performed in a professional recital nowadays but a selection of preludes was quite common in the 19th century.


Very true. Chopin himself even played just the first section of his Ballade No.2 in a concert because he felt too weak to play the tempestuous sections. And in the classical era, single movements of symphonies were often played, sometimes interspersed with something lighter - something that concert-goers wouldn't tolerate these days. What did Franz Clement do to Beethoven's Violin Concerto? grin
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 05:12 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
I was of course referring to the professional concert circuit, rather than competitions or amateur concerts or student recitals. I've heard the Chopin Op.28 many, many times in concert, and they're always played complete. In fact, as far as I know, Richter is (or was) the only great pianist who only ever played a selection in concert.

That is not to say that how concert pianists of our times perform this music is also how it was meant to be performed. Let it not be forgotten that we have giants from the golden age of piano playing who found it suitable to play Chopin preludes as...yes, that's right, preludes to something else:



Not only is Busoni doing a literal repeat of the tiny A major prelude (Liszt used to do the same, but with the 2nd time being more of an echo of the first), but he's also using the theme to invent his own modulation, going straight into op 10 nr 5. As much as I'd love to see someone in recitals today do something as "daring" (though as a matter of fact such things were a common procedure roughly until the time that the recording industry started to expand), I know it won't happen among the "great pianists" of the professional concert circuit today. As common it was in those days to start a piece with a suitable "prelude" - like here, by one of the greats of the concert circuit from the old days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX6PXkqOr0Y -, typically improvised, it is a habit that disappeared from the concert platform a long long time ago.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 05:17 PM

One doesn't have to look deeply into concert programs of this era to find that performing only selected preludes was a fairly common phenomenon. For further reading on "the art of preluding", I recommend Kenneth Hamiltons "After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance".
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 05:24 PM

Yes, you're right, I have a wonderful CD of Raoul Koczalski whose Chopin playing is wholly individual - and he plays his own improvised 'prelude' to some of the works, as well as linking different works together thus. His sense of phrasing and overall flexibility is something from a bygone age. We've definitely lost a lot...

But in the case of Chopin's Preludes, I think it's a common consensus that he meant them to be played as a set when he composed them, with the ordered key structure and logical leading from one to the next, in several of the pieces.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 05:31 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
But in the case of Chopin's Preludes, I think it's a common consensus that he meant them to be played as a set when he composed them, with the ordered key structure and logical leading from one to the next, in several of the pieces.

I do think the preludes can be played in groups and as separate pieces as well. I would hardly object to hearing them this way in concert - or, indeed, as preludes to something else. Certainly, some preludes wouldn't fit entirely in such an arrangement - the F major comes to mind, with that 7th coming towards the end of the piece. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if there weren't some pianists of the past who either decided to omit the E flat while playing it as a separate piece, or how about continuing with a piece in B flat...? Why restrict ourselves to only performing the entire set...?
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:10 PM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: bennevis
But in the case of Chopin's Preludes, I think it's a common consensus that he meant them to be played as a set when he composed them, with the ordered key structure and logical leading from one to the next, in several of the pieces.

I do think the preludes can be played in groups and as separate pieces as well. I would hardly object to hearing them this way in concert - or, indeed, as preludes to something else. Certainly, some preludes wouldn't fit entirely in such an arrangement - the F major comes to mind, with that 7th coming towards the end of the piece. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if there weren't some pianists of the past who either decided to omit the E flat while playing it as a separate piece, or how about continuing with a piece in B flat...? Why restrict ourselves to only performing the entire set...?


It's the difference between the professional and the amateur pianist, and their audiences: I'd think critics would raise an eyebrow (maybe even two, or three wink ) if a professional concert pianist played just a selection of the Op.28 for a paying audience today. They'd probably think - are the others too difficult for the pianist? grin

Argerich, for instance, in her recording runs many of the preludes into the next attacca, seemingly to make the point that she regards them as inseparable from each other, that Op.28 is 'one' work. Many other pianists I've heard in concert also do the same.

In general, Chopin's music is regarded with a reverence not applied to someone like Liszt, where octave doublings, interpolated cadenzas, rewritings etc aren't regarded as blasphemous in many of his pieces.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:15 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: bennevis
But in the case of Chopin's Preludes, I think it's a common consensus that he meant them to be played as a set when he composed them, with the ordered key structure and logical leading from one to the next, in several of the pieces.

I do think the preludes can be played in groups and as separate pieces as well. I would hardly object to hearing them this way in concert - or, indeed, as preludes to something else. Certainly, some preludes wouldn't fit entirely in such an arrangement - the F major comes to mind, with that 7th coming towards the end of the piece. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if there weren't some pianists of the past who either decided to omit the E flat while playing it as a separate piece, or how about continuing with a piece in B flat...? Why restrict ourselves to only performing the entire set...?


It's the difference between the professional and the amateur pianist, and their audiences: I'd think critics would raise an eyebrow (maybe even two, or three wink ) if a professional concert pianist played just a selection of the Op.28 for a paying audience today. They'd probably think - are the others too difficult for the pianist? grin

In general, Chopin's music is regarded with a reverence not applied to someone like Liszt, where octave doublings, interpolated cadenzas, rewritings etc aren't regarded as blasphemous in many of his pieces.


So it's not okay for a pro to play a few preludes, say.. 6, 7, 8 from op. 28 in a recital?
Posted by: dolce sfogato

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:25 PM

it's not accepted as the rule, may be as an exception, but it is 'not cricket, not done' to this date.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:26 PM

The playing of all the Preludes as a set is mostly just a tradition over the last maybe half century or so. In the 19th century(for at least 50 years after Chopin's death)it was far more common to not play the entire set.

There are occasional pro pianists today who play just a selection, and this is fairly common in all Chopin recitals. I'm pretty sure Artur Rubinstein did this.

I think it's rather silly to say that critics would assume the pianist couldn't handle all of them was the reason for only playing a selection.

From everything I've read, today's preference for playing the entire set has a lot more to do with today's fashion to play complete sets of works(both in recital and concerts)than any reverence for Chopin.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: bennevis
But in the case of Chopin's Preludes, I think it's a common consensus that he meant them to be played as a set when he composed them, with the ordered key structure and logical leading from one to the next, in several of the pieces.

I do think the preludes can be played in groups and as separate pieces as well. I would hardly object to hearing them this way in concert - or, indeed, as preludes to something else. Certainly, some preludes wouldn't fit entirely in such an arrangement - the F major comes to mind, with that 7th coming towards the end of the piece. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if there weren't some pianists of the past who either decided to omit the E flat while playing it as a separate piece, or how about continuing with a piece in B flat...? Why restrict ourselves to only performing the entire set...?


It's the difference between the professional and the amateur pianist, and their audiences: I'd think critics would raise an eyebrow (maybe even two, or three wink ) if a professional concert pianist played just a selection of the Op.28 for a paying audience today. They'd probably think - are the others too difficult for the pianist? grin

In general, Chopin's music is regarded with a reverence not applied to someone like Liszt, where octave doublings, interpolated cadenzas, rewritings etc aren't regarded as blasphemous in many of his pieces.


So it's not okay for a pro to play a few preludes, say.. 6, 7, 8 from op. 28 in a recital?


Well, nothing is black and white. Richter got away with it because he is Richter, and nobody doubted his ability to play, say, no.16 (though in fact he's never played it). But the only time when I've ever heard a pro play a single Prelude from Op.28 (of course, Op.45 is also a favorite encore as well as a stand-alone piece in concert) is as an encore, and it's usually the Raindrop or No.24. I exclude piano competitions, of course.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:33 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The playing of all the Preludes as a set is mostly just a tradition over the last maybe half century or so. In the 19th century(for at least 50 years after Chopin's death)it was far more common to not play the entire set.

There are occasional pro pianists today who play just a selection, and this is fairly common in all Chopin recitals. I'm pretty sure Artur Rubinstein did this.

I think it's rather silly to say that critics would assume the pianist couldn't handle all of them was the reason for only playing a selection.

From everything I've read, today's preference for playing the entire set has a lot more to do with today's fashion to play complete sets of works(both in recital and concerts)than any reverence for Chopin.


Don't you think it's rather silly to contradict yourself?
Try a different word next time - it sounds less silly wink
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:41 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The playing of all the Preludes as a set is mostly just a tradition over the last maybe half century or so. In the 19th century(for at least 50 years after Chopin's death)it was far more common to not play the entire set.

There are occasional pro pianists today who play just a selection, and this is fairly common in all Chopin recitals. I'm pretty sure Artur Rubinstein did this.

I think it's rather silly to say that critics would assume the pianist couldn't handle all of them was the reason for only playing a selection.

From everything I've read, today's preference for playing the entire set has a lot more to do with today's fashion to play complete sets of works(both in recital and concerts)than any reverence for Chopin.


Don't you think it's rather silly to contradict yourself?
Try a different word next time - it sounds less silly wink
Where's the contradiction?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:42 PM

"We don't know if Chopin intended them to be played as a cycle, although today's pianists usually perform them that way in recital."

David Dubal from an article in The Wall Street Journal
Posted by: dolce sfogato

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:45 PM

as a cycle they work remarkebly well, for more than a century, why change a winning team?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:54 PM

Abram Chasins discussed playing complete sets in his book, including what Hofmann had to say about it. He said it was something forced on pianists by record companies, which has ended up being a requirement to the detriment of the music.
Posted by: dolce sfogato

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 06:57 PM

audiences as well as pianists have become used to the whole of op.28, it's Trrrradition.
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/05/13 07:36 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
I see nothing wrong with programming a selection of Preludes (Chopin?), nor do I feel that they must be performed in chronological order, unless one is playing the complete set.

Regards,


I agree. Apparently Chopin himself never played more than four at a single performance. It is also true that most professionals play the whole set, but in itself (at least IMO) it is not necessary.
Posted by: Damon

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 03:29 AM

I would never play them as a set unless it was for a recording. That's about 40 minutes of straight Chopin! Yikes!
Posted by: btb

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 05:49 AM

Thanks for the reminder chaps ... that even Debussy got into the Preludes act ... I'm busy with Prelude I ... and though at a tempo of Lent et grave ... Claude is decidedly "busy"... I've only sampled up to measure 10 (most of the 1st page from
IMSLP.
Posted by: wr

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 06:24 AM

Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
as a cycle they work remarkebly well, for more than a century, why change a winning team?


Except that they don't work remarkably well as a cycle...the only reason people think they seem to think they do is simply because we've become used to them in that format. Personally, I find them a tedious slog all at once, with the sum being a good deal less than the parts.

And the fact that Chopin came up with a key sequence in which to arrange them for publication says nothing about how he thought they should be performed - if he even imagined they should be performed in concert at all. I think it is just as likely, given his sensibilities, that he would have thought it grotesque and in horrible taste to perform them all at once.

IMO, the only multi-movement pieces of Chopin are the sonatas and concertos. The sets defined by opus number or pieces having the same titles just are not well-suited for single-gulp intake, and I think it is because of sheer programing laziness and timidity that we keep getting recitals of those groupings.

And yes, that kind of programming definitely reflects the priorities of the recordings industry, who liked to market Pianist X playing a complete set of something or another. And the pianists would dutifully go on tour playing stuff in support of the marketing. Now that the old recording industry is rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror, maybe there's a chance musicians will learn that there are more interesting ways to put together a recital than throwing together all of a composer's works in some genre or even worse, doing a gradisose "cycle", like all the Beethoven sonata cycles that always seem in progress.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 07:12 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
From everything I've read, today's preference for playing the entire set has a lot more to do with today's fashion to play complete sets of works(both in recital and concerts)than any reverence for Chopin.


Originally Posted By: BDB
Abram Chasins discussed playing complete sets in his book, including what Hofmann had to say about it. He said it was something forced on pianists by record companies, which has ended up being a requirement to the detriment of the music.


Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
audiences as well as pianists have become used to the whole of op.28, it's Trrrradition.



Originally Posted By: wr
the only reason people think they seem to think they do is simply because we've become used to them in that format. Personally, I find them a tedious slog all at once, with the sum being a good deal less than the parts.

And yes, that kind of programming definitely reflects the priorities of the recordings industry, who liked to market Pianist X playing a complete set of something or another. And the pianists would dutifully go on tour playing stuff in support of the marketing. Now that the old recording industry is rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror, maybe there's a chance musicians will learn that there are more interesting ways to put together a recital than throwing together all of a composer's works in some genre or even worse, doing a gradisose "cycle", like all the Beethoven sonata cycles that always seem in progress.


I like how these quotes somehow sum up the discussion so far. There's since long a tendency for doing "complete" sets because that's normally how we record things. A "Trrrrradition" that arises merely from habit isn't necessarily anything more than a false tradition, is it? The only thing I'm personally against is a sort of uniform view of how things should be played. Just go back in time a century and you'll find that on the one hand there were people like Busoni or Feinberg who did monstrous piano fests with extremely ambitious programs (Feinberg with complete WTC, or complete Scriabin sonatas, or complete Beethoven sonatas, in a season, or Busoni with his generally long and "heavy" programs), while there were people like Rubinstein or Paderewski on the other hand whose concert programs frequently included only selections of miniatures, with only few large-scale works. Just read Rubinsteins biography to see what variety he had in his concert programming - sometimes offering heavy works like Hammerklavier (Godowsky came backstage afterwards thanking him, adding: "But you must practice" smile ), sometimes offering miniatures like Szymanowski preludes and etudes, Medtner smaller pieces, Chopin miniatures...and so on. Is there any good reason for thinking that the only thing acceptable in the concert hall is to play COMPLETE works?

One thing we know for sure - not all composers that performed their own works thought so. Among Medtner's solo recordings, is there a single "complete" set of fairy tales or other pieces? The concerti (and other large-scale works - I hear he recorded the quintet but it hasn't been published?) are a different story of course. What about Rachmaninoff, and his recordings of selected preludes, etc? Story has it that he never performed his Corelli variations in its entirety in concert but skipped variations here and there. Feinberg reportedly never performed his 3rd piano sonata in its entirety, only in parts - possibly due to the difficulty of this particular piece.

Then again, such attitudes as performing only parts of a work - were they partially because of how different audiences were back then, comparing with today? We are more civilized and mannered these days. Kapell described how he played the Copland sonata in south america where two gentlemen got up and started hitting one another with newspaper, one saying that "this is not music", the other responding - "yes it is!". In one of his Fairy Tales, Medtner writes that a repeat may be omitted if the concert audience seem to be losing their interest. (I don't remember exactly how he phrased it)
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 07:34 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
as a cycle they work remarkebly well, for more than a century, why change a winning team?
Except that they don't work remarkably well as a cycle...the only reason people think they seem to think they do is simply because we've become used to them in that format. Personally, I find them a tedious slog all at once, with the sum being a good deal less than the parts.
Except that's just opinion although you state it as fact.

It's hard or maybe impossible to know whether people thinking the Preludes work well as a set is because they really do or because they are just used to hearing them this way. The only way to judge that would be to get peoples' opinions after they hear the set for the first time. I do think they really work well and don't see any obvious reason why most would find them tedious when played together. They have a huge variety of mood and tempi. They are certainly performed as a set very frequently, and a significant number of great pianists have done so.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 07:37 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
as a cycle they work remarkebly well, for more than a century, why change a winning team?


Except that they don't work remarkably well as a cycle...the only reason people think they seem to think they do is simply because we've become used to them in that format. Personally, I find them a tedious slog all at once, with the sum being a good deal less than the parts.

And the fact that Chopin came up with a key sequence in which to arrange them for publication says nothing about how he thought they should be performed - if he even imagined they should be performed in concert at all. I think it is just as likely, given his sensibilities, that he would have thought it grotesque and in horrible taste to perform them all at once.

IMO, the only multi-movement pieces of Chopin are the sonatas and concertos. The sets defined by opus number or pieces having the same titles just are not well-suited for single-gulp intake, and I think it is because of sheer programing laziness and timidity that we keep getting recitals of those groupings.

And yes, that kind of programming definitely reflects the priorities of the recordings industry, who liked to market Pianist X playing a complete set of something or another. And the pianists would dutifully go on tour playing stuff in support of the marketing. Now that the old recording industry is rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror, maybe there's a chance musicians will learn that there are more interesting ways to put together a recital than throwing together all of a composer's works in some genre or even worse, doing a gradisose "cycle", like all the Beethoven sonata cycles that always seem in progress.




I think you're making many assumptions, based on your own perceptions rather than what reality was. For instance, Chopin's Funeral March Sonata was described by Schumann (who, don't forget, introduced Chopin to his learned chums with 'Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!') as 'four of Chopin's wildest children strung together' - and indeed, the March was composed first, with the other movements composed almost as an afterthought to make it into a Sonata. No wonder the March is frequently played by itself. The fact that the four movements sound logical as a Sonata to us is because we're used to hearing it that way, but that wasn't what happened in Chopin's time. But Chopin did compose the Preludes Op.28 as a group, partly in Majorca - whether or not he ever played them all as a set is irrelevant: as I've already said earlier, he had no qualms about just playing the first slow section (Andantino) of his Ballade No.2 all by itself. Would anyone today allow a pianist to get away with doing that? And that's not withstanding the fact that the Andantino ends with a perfect cadence, and could have been a self-sufficient Nocturne if one didn't know any better.....

As for associating the Preludes with the Waltzes, Mazurkas, Ballades, Polonaises, Impromptus, Scherzi, Nocturnes etc, that's talking chalk and cheese. None of the the latter which have the same opus numbers have the same relation to each other as the Preludes have: they were just published together, that's all. And all concert pianists today recognize this, and pick and choose from them (though that doesn't stop a few brave souls like Maria-Joao Pires from performing all the Nocturnes in one concert (and nothing else...) in chronological order in the Proms a few years ago).

And several of the Preludes are very brief, lasting well under a minute, and sounding very insubstantial by themselves - take No.1, for instance, which sounds like, er, a prelude. Chopin never composed anything shorter than several of the individual Preludes. There's nothing to stop an enterprising pianist from using one or other of these Preludes as a prelude to some other piece, as pianists used to do in the Golden Age, but the fact remains that unlike any of Chopin's other pieces grouped under the same opus number (or title), his Op.28 was conceived as a cycle. Which is the way almost all concert pianists of renown play it today.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 07:50 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
As for associating the Preludes with the Waltzes, Mazurkas, Ballades, Polonaises, Impromptus, Scherzi, Nocturnes etc, that's talking chalk and cheese. None of the the latter which have the same opus numbers have the same relation to each other as the Preludes have: they were just published together, that's all.

It's fine to argue this way regarding Ballades, Impromptus, Scherzi and several Polonaises, as these pieces typically (with the exception of some polonaises) were not published in groups but under separate opus numbers. However, Chopin quite frequently took pains in the exact ordering of Mazurkas and other pieces that were to be grouped together, sometimes to create a more logical sequence of keys for example. Read Jan Ekier's comments in the national edition of, say, the mazurkas, for more information - op. 56 was supposedly first grouped with the short fast C major opening the set, followed by the B major one and then the big C minor mazurka. The way they eventually became grouped, there was a logical sequence between the last two - both in C, first in major, then the last one in minor.
Posted by: wr

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 07:53 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

I think you're making many assumptions, based on your own perceptions rather than what reality was. For instance, Chopin's Funeral March Sonata was described by Schumann (who, don't forget, introduced Chopin to his learned chums with 'Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!') as 'four of Chopin's wildest children strung together' - and indeed, the March was composed first, with the other movements composed almost as an afterthought to make it into a Sonata. No wonder the March is frequently played by itself. The fact that the four movements sound logical as a Sonata to us is because we're used to hearing it that way, but that wasn't what happened in Chopin's time. But Chopin did compose the Preludes Op.28 as a group, partly in Majorca - whether or not he ever played them all as a set is irrelevant: as I've already said earlier, he had no qualms about just playing the first slow section (Andantino) of his Ballade No.2 all by itself. Would anyone today allow a pianist to get away with doing that? And that's not withstanding the fact that the Andantino ends with a perfect cadence, and could have been a self-sufficient Nocturne if one didn't know any better.....


Let's see if I'm getting this right - Chopin was so clueless he didn't really know what a sonata was, but still, somehow, for unknown reasons and although it was never explicitly stated, he wanted the preludes performed as a group simply because of some vaguely defined compositional proximity, which substituted for all that was lacking in his comprehension of what a sonata might be. Or something....
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 08:00 AM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: bennevis
As for associating the Preludes with the Waltzes, Mazurkas, Ballades, Polonaises, Impromptus, Scherzi, Nocturnes etc, that's talking chalk and cheese. None of the the latter which have the same opus numbers have the same relation to each other as the Preludes have: they were just published together, that's all.

It's fine to argue this way regarding Ballades, Impromptus, Scherzi and several Polonaises, as these pieces typically (with the exception of some polonaises) were not published in groups but under separate opus numbers. However, Chopin quite frequently took pains in the exact ordering of Mazurkas and other pieces that were to be grouped together, sometimes to create a more logical sequence of keys for example. Read Jan Ekier's comments in the national edition of, say, the mazurkas, for more information - op. 56 was supposedly first grouped with the short fast C major opening the set, followed by the B major one and then the big C minor mazurka. The way they eventually became grouped, there was a logical sequence between the last two - both in C, first in major, then the last one in minor.


That's interesting. But what about the Nocturnes and Waltzes that have the same opus number? Were they also ordered and grouped by Chopin with intent?
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 08:05 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis

I think you're making many assumptions, based on your own perceptions rather than what reality was. For instance, Chopin's Funeral March Sonata was described by Schumann (who, don't forget, introduced Chopin to his learned chums with 'Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!') as 'four of Chopin's wildest children strung together' - and indeed, the March was composed first, with the other movements composed almost as an afterthought to make it into a Sonata. No wonder the March is frequently played by itself. The fact that the four movements sound logical as a Sonata to us is because we're used to hearing it that way, but that wasn't what happened in Chopin's time. But Chopin did compose the Preludes Op.28 as a group, partly in Majorca - whether or not he ever played them all as a set is irrelevant: as I've already said earlier, he had no qualms about just playing the first slow section (Andantino) of his Ballade No.2 all by itself. Would anyone today allow a pianist to get away with doing that? And that's not withstanding the fact that the Andantino ends with a perfect cadence, and could have been a self-sufficient Nocturne if one didn't know any better.....


Let's see if I'm getting this right - Chopin was so clueless he didn't really know what a sonata was, but still, somehow, for unknown reasons and although it was never explicitly stated, he wanted the preludes performed as a group simply because of some vaguely defined compositional proximity, which substituted for all that was lacking in his comprehension of what a sonata might be. Or something.....



Yes, you've got it right wink

Incidentally, Schumann's Piano Concerto too was never conceived as such - he originally composed the first movement as a concert piece by itself. But his wife egged him to turn it into a 'proper' concerto, so like a dutiful husband,......
Posted by: wr

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 08:23 AM

Originally Posted By: fnork
One doesn't have to look deeply into concert programs of this era to find that performing only selected preludes was a fairly common phenomenon. For further reading on "the art of preluding", I recommend Kenneth Hamiltons "After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance".


And various composers of the day published preludes through all the keys, to be used as that kind of "filler". Chopin would have been familiar with such sets of preludes, and would have seen his own as perhaps a comment of sorts on that tradition.

Chopin revered Hummel, and Hummel was one of the composers who published such a set of preludes in all the keys - it's not outside the realm of possibility that they were the specific inspiration for Chopin's own set, which extended the idea to make them into short, independent pieces. But there's nothing to suggest that Chopin thought his should all be played at once, any more than those of Hummel were intended to be played as a group.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 08:45 AM

In addition to that, let's not forget that Chopin was greatly influenced by Bach's WTK in his writing - he knew WTK intimately and practiced these pieces frequently. Often prior to a performance (where he played his own works, of course), he would shut himself in and practice Bach several hours.

Did Bach intend WTK to be performed in its entirety...?
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 08:51 AM

There were other sets of preludes in all keys than just Hummels - Joseph Christoph Kessler dedicated his set of 24 preludes op. 31 to Chopin. In return, the German edition of Chopin's op. 24 was dedicated to Kessler.

It is not true by the way that all preludes were written while Chopin was in Mallorca. He started the work in 1835, and the Mallorca trip took place around 1838-39.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 09:01 AM

Originally Posted By: fnork
In addition to that, let's not forget that Chopin was greatly influenced by Bach's WTK in his writing - he knew WTK intimately and practiced these pieces frequently. Often prior to a performance (where he played his own works, of course), he would shut himself in and practice Bach several hours.

Did Bach intend WTK to be performed in its entirety...?


Bach probably never intended his WTC to be performed in public - they were written 'for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning'.

Whatever that means....

BTW, I didn't say that Chopin wrote all his Preludes in Majorca wink .
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 09:23 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
I think you're making many assumptions, based on your own perceptions rather than what reality was. For instance, Chopin's Funeral March Sonata was described by Schumann (who, don't forget, introduced Chopin to his learned chums with 'Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!') as 'four of Chopin's wildest children strung together' - and indeed, the March was composed first, with the other movements composed almost as an afterthought to make it into a Sonata. No wonder the March is frequently played by itself. The fact that the four movements sound logical as a Sonata to us is because we're used to hearing it that way, but that wasn't what happened in Chopin's time. But Chopin did compose the Preludes Op.28 as a group, partly in Majorca - whether or not he ever played them all as a set is irrelevant:
I have never heard or read in a listing of concert programs of the Funeral March being played separately in at least the last 50 years. Perhaps you're referring to the fact it's played separately at funerals. In the 19th century perhaps it was played separately because many sonatas or other multi-movement works were played only in parts then.

Schumann's opinion about the movements of Op.35 not working well together is just one person's opinion. Many think otherwise among the greatest pianists and important critics, and this work has been performed as a whole for a long time and by many of the greatest pianists. The fact that the Funeral March was composed before the rest of the Sonata or that the Preludes were composed within a smaller time frame is IMO not really relevant in terms of whether or not the movements work together.

David Dubal is considered to be one of the most expert pianophiles and he has stated that no one knows whether Chopin intended the Preludes to be played as a set.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 10:37 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I have never heard or read in a listing of concert programs of the Funeral March being played separately in at least the last 50 years. Perhaps you're referring to the fact it's played separately at funerals. In the 19th century perhaps it was played separately because many sonatas or other multi-movement works were played only in parts then.

Schumann's opinion about the movements of Op.35 not working well together is just one person's opinion. Many think otherwise among the greatest pianists and important critics, and this work has been performed as a whole for a long time and by many of the greatest pianists. The fact that the Funeral March was composed before the rest of the Sonata or that the Preludes were composed within a smaller time frame is IMO not really relevant in terms of whether or not the movements work together.

David Dubal is considered to be one of the most expert pianophiles and he has stated that no one knows whether Chopin intended the Preludes to be played as a set.
.

I've heard the Funeral March played at least three times as encores over the years, in all-Chopin recitals. The last time was by Louis Lortie, who decided to play also the finale (attacca). I don't think any pianist would fish out any other Chopin Sonata movement to play as stand-alone pieces, even as encores. I've certainly never heard any pianist play a Chopin Prelude as an encore (apart from Op.45), even though one or two of them might serve well.

As for what Chopin actually thought when he composed the work - who knows? Composers often do things with their music that they probably wouldn't want others to do - like what Rachmaninoff did when performing his Corelli variations, skipping the next one whenever the coughing increased grin (apparently, in one particularly noisy concert, the audience only got to hear half the total number of variations) . We only have the evidence of the music to go on, and some of the Preludes do seem to lead logically on to the next . And most Chopin scholars agree that Op.28 work logically as a complete set, for instance Jeffrey Kresky in A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes.
Posted by: Piano Again

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 11:04 AM

On the cello, I once played the preludes of Bach's first three solo cello suites as a group -- it was on a program with other chamber music. I have never heard of that being done by anyone else, but IMO it worked pretty well!

I would think whether you play something like Chopin's preludes as group or selections from them would depend on what else was on your program, what you were trying to accomplish or express with the performance, and so on. I for one am tired of concert programs that include an entire set, or only music by one composer. You might as well listen to a recording. It's more interesting to hear juxtapositions of pieces not usually played side by side.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 01:47 PM

Originally Posted By: fnork
....The only thing I'm personally against is a sort of uniform view of how things should be played....

Sorry to quote just one sentence from your terrific post. grin
Love the whole post, wanted to highlight that part.

And regarding these Preludes I think we can say that the good news for Joel is that this in fact is the most commonly-held view (I mean not just here, but in general): There isn't just one way to do it. And I don't remember if this has been mentioned (sorry! but I think not, and I think that interestingly nothing at all has been said about his specific selections) ....the idea of beginning with the 'hardest' of the ones that he's playing is striking and interesting, and I think his ordering can be very effective.

BTW I think Op. 28 does work great as a full set. To me it's tedious or questionable only when not done well. Although I realize that what Plover said is true:

Quote:
It's hard or maybe impossible to know whether people thinking the Preludes work well as a set is because they really do or because they are just used to hearing them this way.



P.S. Years ago (before our time) Horowitz played all 4 Ballades at a recital -- but backwards. (OK, I don't mean..... ha you know what I mean.) smile
I was struck when I saw that, but thinking about it, it made immediate sense to me. Doing them in the 'regular' order would make sense too, but this seemed more compelling, and more interesting.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 02:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: fnork
....The only thing I'm personally against is a sort of uniform view of how things should be played....

Sorry to quote just one sentence from your terrific post. grin
Love the whole post, wanted to highlight that part.

And remember y'all, we're answering the OP -- or at least we want to partly answer the OP, right? ha
He wondered if it's OK to do excerpts, and if he can do them in whatever order he might choose.

And the answer is yes, isn't it? Let's be clear about that. About these Preludes, the good news for him is that while maybe they are usually played as a full set by professionals, I think the most common view on the OP question is in fact pretty much what fnork said here: There isn't just one way to do it.

BTW I think Op. 28 does work great as a full set. To me it's tedious or questionable only when not done well.


In case anyone gets the wrong impression from all that I've said earlier (wouldn't be the first time wink ), I'd reiterate what I said in my first reply to the OP here - that amateurs often play selections from the set, and would add that there's nothing wrong with that. I don't often attend student recitals, but do know that many students choose programs quite differently from professional pianists: they might play just one Schubert Klavierst├╝cke from D946 and pair it with an Impromptu from D899 for instance, whereas professionals will almost invariably play the whole set in concert, even though there's really no reason to. (Saying that however, I've not heard any student play his own selection from Chopin's Op.28 either). Similarly, no professional will play just a few pieces from Schumann's Kinderszenen, or Kreisleriana, or Carnaval, or even from Fantasiest├╝cke Op.12 (except Richter, again....), except as an encore.

Interestingly, I've never heard Krystian Zimerman play the Chopin Op.28 in concert, though I have a CD from the Chopin Competition where he played a few selected Preludes. Maybe he only likes a few of the Preludes but didn't feel able to just play those he liked in concert? Does anyone know anything different?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 02:35 PM

Would you not go to a concert because the pianist played just a few of the Preludes, rather than all of them?

Frankly, what the pianist plays rarely has anything to do with whether I go to a concert or not.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 02:43 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
....Similarly, no professional will play just a few pieces from Schumann's Kinderszenen, or Kreisleriana, or Carnaval....

How 'similar' would you really say those are to the Preludes?
I would say not very. I wouldn't consider doing excerpts from those, but I'd most definitely consider it fair game for the Chopin.

Quote:
....or even from Op.12

As you sort of imply, that's not really with the above group that you mentioned either -- a little bit sort of, but not really. And I have heard just selections performed from that in a professional recital. And we could argue that Kinderszenen doesn't really belong in the group either.

Distinctions on something like this make a difference. When we start lumping things together we can get into trouble.

Originally Posted By: BDB
Frankly, what the pianist plays rarely has anything to do with whether I go to a concert or not.

I agree, and I'd be surprised if anyone would boycott a recital because someone was doing just excerpts from Op. 28. ha

But I do sometimes go to piano recitals for a particular piece.


P.S. The main "excerpting" that I hate, probably the only, is when people at amateur competitions play a single movement of a late Beethoven sonata.
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 02:47 PM

Pianists break up sets all of the time. You hear selections of Miroirs, Liszt's Annees, Scriabin prelude and etude groups, transcendental etudes, etc. and it's not unusual...
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 04:02 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

I've heard the Funeral March played at least three times as encores over the years, in all-Chopin recitals. The last time was by Louis Lortie, who decided to play also the finale (attacca). I don't think any pianist would fish out any other Chopin Sonata movement to play as stand-alone pieces, even as encores. I've certainly never heard any pianist play a Chopin Prelude as an encore (apart from Op.45), even though one or two of them might serve well.

As for what Chopin actually thought when he composed the work - who knows? Composers often do things with their music that they probably wouldn't want others to do - like what Rachmaninoff did when performing his Corelli variations, skipping the next one whenever the coughing increased grin (apparently, in one particularly noisy concert, the audience only got to hear half the total number of variations) . We only have the evidence of the music to go on, and some of the Preludes do seem to lead logically on to the next . And most Chopin scholars agree that Op.28 work logically as a complete set, for instance Jeffrey Kresky in A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes.
My point and statement was that the Funeral March is virtually never played as part of the regular (non-encore) part of a recital. I think it would work fine as an encore. As far as pianists not playing any other Chopin sonata movement separately that is not the case. As an encore Katsaris has played the last movement of Op. 58.

I never said that Preludes don't work logically as a complete set...in fact, I said the opposite somewhere previously in this thread. My statement was that apparently no one knows what Chopin's intentions were in this regard.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 04:09 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

I don't often attend student recitals, but do know that many students choose programs quite differently from professional pianists: they might play just one Schubert Klavierstucke from D946 and pair it with an Impromptu from D899 for instance, whereas professionals will almost invariably play the whole set in concert, even though there's really no reason to. (Saying that however, I've not heard any student play his own selection from Chopin's Op.28 either). Similarly, no professional will play just a few pieces from Schumann's Kinderszenen, or Kreisleriana, or Carnaval, or even from Op.12 (except Richter, again....), except as an encore,
I think what you mean is "there's no reason they have to". There's clearly a reason why they play them together as they are the same opus. It's like playing Chopin Mazurkas...some pianists will group a random selection, but others will play an entire opus and there's a clear reason when they choose to do that.

Kinderscenen is virtually always performed as a whole(except in encore situation)as are Kreisleriana and Carnaval. Op. 12 probably has more instances of being played only in part than the other three.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 04:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
And regarding these Preludes I think we can say that the good news for Joel is that this in fact is the most commonly-held view (I mean not just here, but in general): There isn't just one way to do it.
Since Joel is an amateur pianist in high school most of the discussion in the thread is irrelevant for him. I think the most commonly held view among professionals today(based on what they do)is that the Preludes should be played as a group. It's quite rare for them to play selections although this occurs sometimes in all Chopin recitals.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 05:57 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
And regarding these Preludes I think we can say that the good news for Joel is that this in fact is the most commonly-held view (I mean not just here, but in general): There isn't just one way to do it.
Since Joel is an amateur pianist in high school most of the discussion in the thread is irrelevant for him. I think the most commonly held view among professionals today(based on what they do)is that the Preludes should be played as a group. It's quite rare for them to play selections although this occurs sometimes in all Chopin recitals.


You know, PLOV... even the Chopin competition regularly includes a selection of preludes from op. 28 in the competition repertoire.
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/06/13 06:53 PM

Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
as a cycle they work remarkably well, for more than a century, why change a winning team?

I will accept that Chopin may not have intended his Preludes to be played as a whole, but I agree that 'they work remarkably well' as a cycle. I have heard them done so in recital at least four times, and it was a very powerful experience. I was never bored.

OTH, I have heard a selection of the Preludes played (though mostly by students I might add), but I didn't have a problem with that either.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 06:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
P.S. The main "excerpting" that I hate, probably the only, is when people at amateur competitions play a single movement of a late Beethoven sonata.

I must admit to having committed such a sin at a "professional" competition wink I did the outer movements of Hammerklavier, and whatever objections could be made for doing such a thing, it was partially a statement on my part. What the heck are you supposed to do when the time limit is 30 minutes and you're supposed to include a baroque piece, something classical, and two etudes? There was a judge who criticized me for doing this, while there apparently was no problem for him to vote in favor for pianists (who were among the finalists) who performed either the final two movements of appasionata or the first one.

In any case, playing late beethoven in any competition is certainly risky business laugh Hammy fares a bit better than the even later ones because of its reputation (Antti Siirala, who these days teaches at my academy, was only around 18 or so when he won the Beethoven competition playing this piece - it's quite a feat for anyone but especially for someone his age. Maria Mazo seems to have been seen in a more favorable light at the Cliburn competition due to the fact that she performed this in the semifinals, although I'd easily find numerous things to criticize in her playing), but it only works if you play it in a bigger competition where you have room for such a huge piece.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 11:47 AM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
P.S. The main "excerpting" that I hate, probably the only, is when people at amateur competitions play a single movement of a late Beethoven sonata.

I must admit to having committed such a sin at a "professional" competition wink I did the outer movements of Hammerklavier, and whatever objections could be made for doing such a thing, it was partially a statement on my part. What the heck are you supposed to do when the time limit is 30 minutes and you're supposed to include a baroque piece, something classical, and two etudes? There was a judge who criticized me for doing this, while there apparently was no problem for him to vote in favor for pianists (who were among the finalists) who performed either the final two movements of appasionata or the first one.

In any case, playing late beethoven in any competition is certainly risky business laugh Hammy fares a bit better than the even later ones because of its reputation (Antti Siirala, who these days teaches at my academy, was only around 18 or so when he won the Beethoven competition playing this piece - it's quite a feat for anyone but especially for someone his age. Maria Mazo seems to have been seen in a more favorable light at the Cliburn competition due to the fact that she performed this in the semifinals, although I'd easily find numerous things to criticize in her playing), but it only works if you play it in a bigger competition where you have room for such a huge piece.


Is Siirala still giving concerts? He seemed to have disappeared off the radar soon after winning the Leeds, though he did make a nice recording of Brahms's Op.5 Sonata. It seems that Olli Mustonen gets all the international glory among pianists from Finland, in spite (or maybe because) of his 'wood-pecking' pianism...

It's quite common for pianists to play just the first movement of a Sonata, or the last two in the earlier rounds in international piano competitions, but playing just both fast outer movements is probably not the done thing. I've not heard that done in the Leeds, for instance.
Posted by: fnork

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 11:57 AM

Yes, he maintains a rather busy concert schedule as far as I know, just as some other finnish pianists I know, like Paavali Jumppanen. And then in addition, there's a rather sizeable group of freelancers that play here and there (in Finland mainly) and keep themselves busy, but in spite of their qualities as pianists, you won't hear much about them outside of Finland.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 12:46 PM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
P.S. The main "excerpting" that I hate, probably the only, is when people at amateur competitions play a single movement of a late Beethoven sonata.

I must admit to having committed such a sin at a "professional" competition wink I did the outer movements of Hammerklavier....

Oh -- I wasn't talking about the Hammerklavier! grin
In fact, I wasn't even thinking about it. (If I had been, I would have said "except maybe for the Hammerklavier.")

Why I didn't: People in amateur competitions don't play the Hammerklavier.


(Also maybe another reason but that's the main one.) smile


Another possible exception: I wouldn't go nuts over someone playing just the 1st mvt of Op. 101. I wouldn't do it, but I don't think it's terrible.
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 01:07 PM

I think that if you really had time constraints, the last movement of op.109 or 110 sort of work alone in the same way that the Chaconne can sort of stand alone from the D minor partita.
Posted by: SlatterFan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 02:02 PM

Originally Posted By: argerichfan
I will accept that Chopin may not have intended his Preludes to be played as a whole, but I agree that 'they work remarkably well' as a cycle.

I agree. And, while we don't know Chopin's intentions, it seems to me that of his Opus 28, numbers 8, 12, 16 & 24 all make very dramatic and effective final pieces when playing them in groups. If one were programming an old-fashioned music evening, one might choose to play 1-8, then accompany a singer for a couple of songs, then play 9-16, then do another couple of songs, then play 17-24, with a popular waltz or mazurka and an improvisation on a popular melody to finish. In a formal, modern-style concert, one could finish the first half with 1-12, then start the second half with 13-24.

Put simply, there are other ways of playing the whole of Opus 28 to an audience than presenting all 24 pieces in a row. Having said that, I think some of the preludes sound pretty good on their own or in pairs. And some could work well as preludes to other works, by Chopin or other composers.

(I have only seen them played once, as a complete set by Pollini in London in 2011, and it was fun seeing and hearing a flutter of recognition amongst some audience members when number 15 began, as if to say, "Ohhhhh, I never knew that this lovely piece was part of a whole set!")
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 03:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
....the last movement of op.109 or 110....

What exactly is the last movement of Opus 110? ha

Honest -- I don't know. Because I think it's impossible really to delineate it in such a way.

Here's what I know about the movements of 110:
The first movement is clear.
The second movement is clear.
After that, it's up for grabs.

I honestly don't even know where you mean that you would begin. I could guess but I don't know.
Posted by: beet31425

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 04:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
....the last movement of op.109 or 110....

What exactly is the last movement of Opus 110? ha

Honest -- I don't know. Because I think it's impossible really to delineate it in such a way.

Here's what I know about the movements of 110:
The first movement is clear.
The second movement is clear.
After that, it's up for grabs.



Last movement is crystal-clear; we've had this discussion before, and I don't accept that there's any ambiguity. smile

The last movement begins at the "Adagio ma non troppo".

The form of the last movement is startlingly original. But let's not confuse that with the straightforward question of where it starts. And I'm not even getting into whether there are "actually" more than three movements in this sonata.

(On the other hand the question of why the Ab-minor section is written with only six flats remains deeply puzzling to me.)

-J
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 04:21 PM

I don't agree, and if I had to say what's the last movement, that's not what I'd say.

I'd say where the 2nd fugue begins. I wouldn't be happy with that either, but less unhappy than lumping all that stuff together starting where you said.
Posted by: MarkH

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 04:58 PM

Another example of a pro of some authority playing just a selection of preludes - Shostakovich in duet with Leonid Kogan plays just Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 24 from his preludes Op. 34:

Posted by: beet31425

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 05:31 PM

Back to the preludes...

I've sometimes heard (and sometimes thought) that a disadvantage to hearing all 24 Chopin preludes at once is that the slow pieces tend to dominate the experience. Many of them are significantly longer in duration than the average, and I'm not sure the balance is quite right for hearing all 24. I'm thinking about Db, Ab (and F# and Bb if I remember right) especially.

I don't tend to have this problem with the Shostakovich op.34 preludes, btw.

It's also interesting btw to think about Scriabin along these lines. His op.11 is preludes in all 24 keys, but I just found out that his *other* early preludes are also one in each key, scattered among different opuses. Interesting to think about whether the op.11 make more sense to hear at once than the other scattered 24 preludes.

Also interesting to think about Rachmaninoff, whose 24 preludes, one in each key, are distributed among three opuses. Does it "make sense" to hear all of his op.23 or 32 at once?



-Jason
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 06:23 PM

Originally Posted By: beet31425

Does it "make sense" to hear all of his op.23 or 32 at once?

To me, yes.

I'm not saying that is how it should be done, or that there is any disgrace in cherry picking, but I have enjoyed hearing the preludes played complete by opus.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 06:29 PM

Originally Posted By: beet31425
Back to the preludes...

I've sometimes heard (and sometimes thought) that a disadvantage to hearing all 24 Chopin preludes at once is that the slow pieces tend to dominate the experience. Many of them are significantly longer in duration than the average, and I'm not sure the balance is quite right for hearing all 24. I'm thinking about Db, Ab (and F# and Bb if I remember right) especially.

I don't tend to have this problem with the Shostakovich op.34 preludes, btw.

It's also interesting btw to think about Scriabin along these lines. His op.11 is preludes in all 24 keys, but I just found out that his *other* early preludes are also one in each key, scattered among different opuses. Interesting to think about whether the op.11 make more sense to hear at once than the other scattered 24 preludes.

Also interesting to think about Rachmaninoff, whose 24 preludes, one in each key, are distributed among three opuses. Does it "make sense" to hear all of his op.23 or 32 at once?



-Jason


I don't think I've ever sat down to hear just one or two of Chopin's Op.28 - it's always been all 24 - except when I was comparing different recordings. For me, it's not a satisfying experience to listen to a few at a time, because the vast majority are so short that they're almost over before they've begun, and I feel like they're not 'complete' by themselves. But I never get the feeling that the slow preludes dominate (except from Grigory Sokolov, who does tend to drag out the slower ones....) - hearing the whole set from a great pianist is one of the most satisfying and rounded Chopin experiences. Pianists like Cortot, Argerich and Pollini keep things moving along satisfyingly and logically, without over-egging the pudding of the slower preludes. For me, the Raindrop (No.15) marks the end of the 'slow movement', and No.16's furious outburst is the start of the inexorable trajectory towards the 'finale' of the relentlessly agitated No.24 culminating in the pounding low Ds.

Rachmaninoff's 24 Preludes are totally different. For a start, the famous C sharp minor Op.3/2 doesn't really belong to the others, being an early piece as one of the Morceaux de fantaisie: the composer later on decided to emulate his hero Chopin by writing 23 other Preludes to make up the 'complete set'. But even so, the Op.32 ones are in his slightly later style compared to the Op.23 ones. Therefore, coupled with the fact that they're also all completely self-contained and most are a lot longer than any of Chopin's, there's no reason to play the 24 as a set - and I've never heard any pianist do so. (Whereas I've heard quite a few play the Etudes-tableaux - Op.33 or Op.39, or even both, as a set).
Posted by: MarkH

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 07:01 PM

I'm one of those who prefers hearing a selection of the Chopin Preludes. IMO, hearing all of them in a row is enjoyable but tiring in the same sense as having a bunch of short conversations about disparate topics, rather than having one lengthy conversation that really "goes somewhere" while still continually referring back to its main points (like a Sonata or a Ballade). [I can anticipate complaints that the set DOES go somewhere, because such an expansive range of emotions are explored, but from my perspective, it doesn't go anywhere or formally cohere because there's no thematic continuity]. Besides mere technique, I very much enjoy hearing how a pianist has organized the larger-scale architecture of a piece, and in Chopin's Preludes (and in most sets of "smaller" preludes), if a pianist has the technique, the pieces mostly just play themselves, without any architectural thought necessary.
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 08:07 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

But even so, the Op.32 ones are in his slightly later style compared to the Op.23 ones.

Very true.
Quote:
Therefore, coupled with the fact that they're also all completely self-contained and most are a lot longer than any of Chopin's, there's no reason to play the 24 as a set - and I've never heard any pianist do so.

Max Harrison's book on Rachmaninoff has some interesting remarks on the Preludes.

Rachmaninoff never played either opus complete, in fact he appears never to have performed Op 23 Nos.7 or 8 or Op. 32 Nos. 7 or 9. So clearly he didn't conceive either opus as a performing set. OTH, there is quite a sense of finality about the Db from Op. 32, and therefore no surprise that it comes last.

So if Rachmaninoff didn't envision them as performing cycles, he may very well have envisioned them as cycles in a more abstract, spiritual sense.

Like you, bennevis, I've never heard (or heard of) either opus played complete in concert, but on a studio recording in the comfort of one's home -Santiago Rodriguez has a fine performance of the Op. 32, which moves inexorably towards the final peroration of the Db- it can be quite a different matter.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 08:21 PM

I heard a recital by Vladimir Shakin around six ago at the Mannes IKIF where he played all 24 Rachmaninov Preludes ordered by keys and not by opus. Here he is playing two of them but not from that recital:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Anegh-BjDM
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 08:48 PM

^ What an interesting idea. Since I love all the Rachmaninov Preludes, including, yes, the C# minor, I would be more than happy to hear them played that way in recital.

But it would have to end with the Db!
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 08:49 PM

Originally Posted By: argerichfan


Rachmaninoff never played either opus complete, in fact he appears never to have performed Op 23 Nos.7 or 8 or Op. 32 Nos. 7 or 9. So clearly he didn't conceive either opus as a performing set. OTH, there is quite a sense of finality about the Db from Op. 32, and therefore no surprise that it comes last.

So if Rachmaninoff didn't envision them as performing cycles, he may very well have envisioned them as cycles in a more abstract, spiritual sense.

Like you, bennevis, I've never heard (or heard of) either opus played complete in concert, but on a studio recording in the comfort of one's home -Santiago Rodriguez has a fine performance of the Op. 32, which moves inexorably towards the final peroration of the Db- it can be quite a different matter.


I've often thought that Rachmaninoff got the idea of that air of 'finality' of his last Prelude from Chopin, substituting pounding chords for Chopin's pounding single notes. Shostakovich's conclusion to the last Fugue of his own 24 Preludes & Fugues also has the same idea......
Posted by: beet31425

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 08:55 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
[quote=argerichfan]I've often thought that Rachmaninoff got the idea of that air of 'finality' of his last Prelude from Chopin, substituting pounding chords for Chopin's pounding single notes. Shostakovich's conclusion to the last Fugue of his own 24 Preludes & Fugues also has the same idea......

That Shostakovich ending is amazing, isn't it?

There's a difference though between rounding the work out with a real ending, and intending the whole thing to be played straight-through. Take Book I of the WTC. It has a real beginning (C major prelude) and a real ending (B minor fugue, whose subject uses all 12 tones). But very few people expect that cycle of 24 to be played in sequence....

-J
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/07/13 10:21 PM

Originally Posted By: argerichfan
there is quite a sense of finality about the Db from Op. 32, and therefore no surprise that it comes last.


I love that the Db from Op. 32 quotes Op. 3#2, completing the bookends!

(Apologies if this has been mentioned already, I just skimmed the thread real quick.)
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/08/13 08:32 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
I've often thought that Rachmaninoff got the idea of that air of 'finality' of his last Prelude from Chopin, substituting pounding chords for Chopin's pounding single notes. Shostakovich's conclusion to the last Fugue of his own 24 Preludes & Fugues also has the same idea......
It's possible but also possibly just coincidence. Countless pieces end in a similar fashion.
Posted by: SlatterFan

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/11/13 04:13 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
I've often thought that Rachmaninoff got the idea of that air of 'finality' of his last Prelude from Chopin, substituting pounding chords for Chopin's pounding single notes. Shostakovich's conclusion to the last Fugue of his own 24 Preludes & Fugues also has the same idea......

I think it's just a coincidence. The pounding chords in the final page serve to reiterate the Op.3 No.2 theme of four notes slinking down in semitones, and their final transformation to a D flat major flourish. Op.32 No.13 features a confrontation between the two main Op.3 No.2 themes of the initial falling minor sixth and the four descending notes (pessimism, crisis) and the Op.32 No.13 fanfare-like theme (optimism, faith). The falling minor sixth is pulled around in a turbulent passage before being transformed in the final page into a triumphant falling MAJOR sixth, but still with the stubborn descending notes beneath until they finally relent.

Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Max Harrison's book on Rachmaninoff has some interesting remarks on the Preludes.

Rachmaninoff never played either opus complete, in fact he appears never to have performed Op 23 Nos.7 or 8 or Op. 32 Nos. 7 or 9. So clearly he didn't conceive either opus as a performing set. OTH, there is quite a sense of finality about the Db from Op. 32, and therefore no surprise that it comes last.

So if Rachmaninoff didn't envision them as performing cycles, he may very well have envisioned them as cycles in a more abstract, spiritual sense.

Like you, bennevis, I've never heard (or heard of) either opus played complete in concert, but on a studio recording in the comfort of one's home -Santiago Rodriguez has a fine performance of the Op. 32, which moves inexorably towards the final peroration of the Db- it can be quite a different matter.

That is part of why I think Op.32 deserves to be played as a set. Apart from an abrupt shift from No.2 to No.3, every other transition ensures that when you play them in order, a prominent final note from the end of one piece appears at or near the beginning of the following piece, cleverly encouraging the listener to feel a connection. Also I do feel an emotional connection and logic to the sequence of pieces: an arc, a progression, a mosaic story. For example, the first page of No.4 has a passage that very closely anticipates one in the first page of No.10, but while No.4 seems to mark a departure and a loosening of ties, with the associated uncertainty of the unknown, No.10 marks a return home and a closing of ties, with the familiarity of the known. And I agree, Jason, that the last few pieces do have an inexorable flow to them. At the bottom of this post I share my personal titles for these pieces, as spoiler text for anyone who finds such things absurd or annoying. Whether or not listeners have similar impressions is not important, but I think such sets of pieces are more compelling to hear when the performer does have some kind of emotional/narrative logic in mind.

Click to reveal..
1. Mischief
2. Dream: Tilting at windmills
3. Celebration
4. Departure - Sunset in the hills - Highway adventure
5. Afternoon in the meadows
6. Night storm
7. Ride to shelter
8. Morning showers
9. Thinking of a distant loved one
10. The Return
11. Back at home
12. Premonition
13. Faith overcomes a crisis
Posted by: wr

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/11/13 06:57 AM

I think that many "connections" that are seen in published sets are really a kind of musical pareidolia, much like seeing faces in clouds. Nothing wrong with that, and it can enrich experience, but mistaking it for actual fact can be troublesome.
Posted by: Numerian

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/11/13 11:23 AM

I doubt Chopin expected anyone to play his Preludes as a complete set, and as others have pointed out, there is no evidence he played more than a few at a time. He performed in an age when audience listening standards were quite different. At least at the opera, you could eat, talk, play cards, visit the chamber pot, even leave the hall and come back. Whatever was happening on stage was often incidental to the socializing. Piano recitals were probably more formal but not much more so. You had to wait until Wagner before music was performed in a darkened hall and the audience was expected to be reverent and silent (it was Wagner after all - his genius demanded respect, IHHO).

The important thing is that Chopin composed them as a complete set. They have one opus number, they explore all the major and minor keys, they follow the circle of fifths and alternate from major to minor. His inspiration was no doubt two composers he adored: Bach and Hummel, both of whom composed pieces in all 24 keys. The Hummel preludes had to be fresh in Chopin's mind in particular. They are each very short and they contain hardly a musical thought in any of them. They are academic exercises intended to explore the tonal properties of the keys on the piano, and they can be played quickly as a set. I suspect Chopin set out in his Preludes to transform the genre entirely into something deeply musical, just as he had transformed the Nocturne invented by John Field, and transformed the etudes being published by JB Cramer, Carl Czerny and others. Also - and this is important -Chopin wanted to explore the different tonal qualities of the 24 keys. Remember that the pianos of Chopin's days were tuned very differently from now, and that the key of F# minor sounded much more remote from C major than it does to us today. Tones we take as discordant against other tones sounded wonderfully harmonious on Chopin's piano, and the reverse was true - some chords which work well in our equal temperament tuning clashed somewhat on 1830's pianos.

Here is a performance of the Preludes using Chopin's Unequal Temperament. Notice how the second Prelude, which sounds notoriously discordant on modern pianos, sounds much more agreeable with Unequal Temperament.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdsFLIo9l88

As to playing them today as a complete set - of course, why not? The best argument for doing so is the recording by Grigory Sokolov. While I agree with Bennevis that Sokolov takes tremendous liberties with tempo and cadences, he has such control of tone that his concept works very well with Chopin. Even the slow Preludes, taken much more slowly by Sokolov, are completely convincing. It is hard to turn away from this recording and his live performances must offer a fantastic tonal wonderland for Chopin devotees.
Posted by: wr

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/14/13 02:16 AM

Originally Posted By: Numerian

The important thing is that Chopin composed them as a complete set. They have one opus number, they explore all the major and minor keys, they follow the circle of fifths and alternate from major to minor. His inspiration was no doubt two composers he adored: Bach and Hummel, both of whom composed pieces in all 24 keys. The Hummel preludes had to be fresh in Chopin's mind in particular. They are each very short and they contain hardly a musical thought in any of them. They are academic exercises intended to explore the tonal properties of the keys on the piano, and they can be played quickly as a set.


I think the Hummel preludes were not intended as stand-alone pieces - I think they were probably meant to be used as either examples of or actual use for "preluding", as it was done in those days. It was a sort of warm-up or introduction to the main piece one was performing. And for that utilitarian purpose, it would be desirable for them not have too much musical content, so they wouldn't distract from what follows. Many pianists simply improvised a few bars of similar stuff for their preluding.

Albrechtsberger published some similar material in 1812. And, as one might expect, Czerny went all-out with his "The Art of Preluding" , which has 120 examples of how to do it, from the simplest cadences to relatively complex "fantasias".
Posted by: Numerian

Re: Performing Preludes - 01/14/13 03:04 AM

I think you are right. They don't stand alone, and they don't make much of a musical statement played as a set, though I have done that just to show the tonal differences among the keys (I have my piano tuned to an unequal temperament).

I wasn't aware of the Czerny book on preluding. Thanks, He was mighty prolific. He can also be difficult to play, and the problem I have with his music is deciding whether it is worth the effort to master his compositions if the musical content is somewhat limited. If I am going to put in that much work, usually Hummel is a better option.