Hi! A few questions

Posted by: aznxk3vi17

Hi! A few questions - 01/13/02 10:36 PM

I just discovered these forums, and as an avid pianist, I'm glad I found somewhere to post my Piano discussions!

Being a fan of Chopin, I have a few itchy problems to ask. In the Alfred editions I own, they make some pretty daring declarations, because no other edition I know of state it. They say that his grace notes are played on the beat, and his trills are played starting on the auxillary note, and arpeggios are started on the beat as well. Can anybody tell me if these are really true? I do play them that way, but I'd like to know if it's accurate.

On music like Ravel and Debussy, the slur lines that indicate to let the notes ring, are you supposed to let the notes ring only as far as the slur lines indicate? For example, if the slur lines begin on a note at the start of a measure, and then do not extend over to the next measure, then I could lift up the pedal?
Posted by: Rick

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 12:51 PM

According to my teacher, you are correct regarding the grace notes (on the beat) and the trills (start on upper note always). That is the way I play Chopin (or try to play him). But, I notice very frequently that most pianists (including Rubinstein and Ashkenazy) put those grace notes just ahead of the beat. In fact, when I do it "on the beat", it almost sounds weird. That's because most recordings I hear don't do it that way.
Regarding the arpeggios, I will put in my two cents. I can't imagine starting a left-hand arpeggio on the beat. That would have to sound weird I think. I play (and listen to) the Brahms populart waltz (#15). I've never heard those arpeggios begin simultaneously with the RH notes. And being musically/pianistically limited, I personally don't think I could do it if I wanted to. Sorry if this example doesn't help with the Chopin situation. Hope I haven't forgotten the original question! I wish there was a way to see the message you reply to as you're replying.
Posted by: MacDuff

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 01:29 PM

I have a hard time with the concept of playing romantic grace notes as "short appoggiaturas." It's hard for me to think of the grace notes in the middle section of the "Minute Waltz," for example, played on the beat as in Mozart. My old (2nd) edition of the "Harvard Dictionary of Music" leaves this matter up in the air saying they could be played either way.

In the Chopin 3rd Ballade, when I first studied this in the mid-1980s, I ended up playing the RH arpeggios in small notes before the beat. My teacher mentioned that Willard Palmer (of Alfred Publications fame) was advocating playing these on the beat, which wasn't quite in vogue as "historically informed" at that time.

Part of what is confusing is the case where a trill is approached from above melodically, in which case most would concede that the trill begins on the main note (as in the E-flat Major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2, where IMHO all the trills--saw-toothed and tr abbreviated--start on the main note).

[ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: MacDuff ]
Posted by: Matt G.

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 04:17 PM

I seriously doubt we'll ever get more than two people to agree on the performance of trills, grace notes, appoggiaturas and arpeggios in the works of Chopin! The schools of thought on them are as numerous as the possible permutations of potentially correct interpretations.

We will probably never know precisely what Chopin wanted. It is unlikely that anyone ever pinned him down for the answer of how to play each and every instance of ornamentation in all of his works. Nor was there any practice generally accepted as authoritative at the time Chopin was composing. Thus, the performance of such things in Chopin is decidedly a function of interpretation.

If this is indeed the case, I would suggest an approach often used in highly ornamented Baroque music: learn the piece first without ornaments. Once you have a decided feel for how you would interpret the piece, add the ornaments gradually, trying them different ways in different situations (on the beat, before the beat, etc.) and finding the performance that best matches the style of your interpretation.

Yes, I know that sounds like a total cop-out, and it is, sort of. But I think that in many of these cases, there is no wrong way to play them (with the exception of horribly massacred), as long as the performance is interpretatively consistent.

Please feel free to disagree.
Posted by: aznxk3vi17

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 05:27 PM

Oh I didn't mean left hand arpeggios, just right. I play all left hand arpeggios ahead of the beat. And thanks for your answers, I guess I'm not the only one who's confused on this topic!
Posted by: MacDuff

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 05:44 PM

Somehow interpretation of ornaments debates remind me of the Yogi Berra quote, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" \:\)

We ignored the Debussy/Ravel question! What's the specific piece? I can think of several Debussy examples of "quittez, en laissant vibrer" ties that are context dependant.
Posted by: aznxk3vi17

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 06:03 PM

In the Menuet from Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, near the end, the coda, where the left hand plays bass notes that are showed to ring, the slur lines are over one measure line, but the editor suggests pedaling for the entire sequence until the next bass notes start, and the last set of bass notes are suggested to be held until the arpeggio upwards, even though the slur lines are only over one measure. Is it okay to hold the pedal, or does the notation indicate that you're only supposed to hold it for the measures that the slur lines reach?

P.S. Ah! That quote from Debussy is from Les Collines d'Anacapri, no? That is my favorite prelude from Debussy! I don't know why it isn't more popular though.

[ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: aznxk3vi17 ]
Posted by: MacDuff

Re: Hi! A few questions - 01/14/02 11:01 PM

Originally posted by aznxk3vi17:

P.S. Ah! That quote from Debussy is from Les Collines d'Anacapri, no? That is my favorite prelude from Debussy! I don't know why it isn't more popular though.

[ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: aznxk3vi17 ][/b]

Yes, "Les collines" is a favorite of mine to play.

I can't really help with the Ravel, I don't own the score and it doesn't seem to be on-line. I would tend to think these things would be held as long as possible, but without seeing the score ...