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Topic Options
#1107357 - 05/18/07 04:43 PM fantaisie impromptu troubles
Chris R. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 5
Loc: Baltimore, MD
Hey guys. I've been practicing this intermittently over the last few months (while trying to get over a case of tendinitis that's lasting ridiculously long--9 months and counting). I can play the right hand alone pretty well, and the left hand alone pretty well, but when I try to put them together, the left hand part gets noticeably uneven.

I know the "trick" about both hands hitting the notes at the same time on every downbeat, but all that does is guarantee that my hands are synchronized on every downbeat--the notes in between are still a mess. The problem is that the downbeat always comes a split second earlier than my left hand is ready, so my left hand "hurries up" and hits the next note a little sooner, and the result is that it almost sounds like I'm playing the left hand part in a "swung" rhythm. The only way I know to make sure my hands stay synchronized the whole time through is if I try to consciously count the four-against-three rhythm, and that's where I always get stuck.

This is all made even harder by the fact that I'm usually too busy focusing on what my right hand is doing to even notice when my left hand starts straying from the exact rhythm. It wasn't till I started recording myself that I noticed this. (It jumped out at me right away.)

I think most of the amateur performances of this on Youtube have slight inaccuracies in the left hand (since some of the left hand arpeggios require you to jump around a little bit, which is hard to do at tempo), but they still sound basically all right. When you're playing it with a consistent swing rhythm, like Chopin meets boogie woogie, the result is (predictably) awful!

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#1107358 - 05/18/07 08:00 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
gerg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/07
Posts: 1651
Loc: Houston, TX
Play it slower hands-together than hands-separately.

For the unevenness, you need to get the separate rhythm for each hand.

Cycle the LH in one measure - say, the where the RH first opens. Play it over and over again, relaxed.

Add in the RH for one rep. Play it every other time, keeing the LH going the whole time.

Mathematically, you can calculate where each beat falls, to give you a "feel" for where each RH note should hit with respect to the two temporally-adjacent LH notes (remembering that every four, I think, RH-beats they will hit simultaneusly). However, don't try to follow this too carefully because it will drive you bonkers. Just get a feel.

So your keys are

1) Be able to play hands-separately very quickly, and faithfully to the beat;

2) Get a feel for the temporal relationship between RH notes and LH notes;

3) Put hands together slowly. Start cycling LH, add in RH.

Once you master this for one measure, you'll have mastered it for the majority of this piece.

Good luck!
_________________________
http://www.ecital.net
Wikicital: A collaborative effort to build a knowledgebase of classical music history combined with examples. Your chance to both perform and write...

Don't click here!

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#1107359 - 05/18/07 08:08 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
YD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 590
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
3/8 playing, especially at tempo is one of the hardest hand independence issues a pianist faces (the harder being 5/8 , and 7/8 is actually easier).

May I suggest that you play the first one of Brahms 51 exersises? That would help a lot IMHO.

FYI: it is rather theoretical suggestion on my part as FI is not (and never was) in my repertoir. (I played some other 3/8 pieces though)
_________________________
Yuri
FWIW; YMMV

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#1107360 - 05/18/07 08:08 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that
this piece is something that should be avoided
unless you're a top notch player, and even then
it would probably still be a questionable
addition to one's repertoire.

At one time I could play it fairly well, but
now, although I've made great progress overall
and can now take on (ie: struggle with)
advanced pieces like concertos, I can
no longer play it smoothly and
all my recent attempts to resurrect it as part
of my repertoire have petered out.
This shows the odd character of this
piece: the technique necessary to play
it well is so highly specialized, that mastering
it can come at the expense of developing
good, all around technique, which is
needed to advance to the higher levels of
repertoire. Jettisoning this piece from
my practice routine was a critical step
in the gradual improvement of my overall
technique.

I say this all with some sadness, because
this piece was my first real experience
with higher-level repertoire. As a teenager
I aspired to play it, but at that time
it was hopelessly beyond my reach. And
it was the main piece I worked on as
I restarted as an adult, and working it
on my own up was greatly encouraging and
made me aspire to even more advanced
repertoire. But I found that working it
up had come a a high price, apparently,
because it then seemed like I could play it
and nothing else. Shelving it was the
first step in the long process of improving
my overall technique to the point where
I could finally edge out of the advanced-
intermediate level and into the boundries
of the advanced level.

And there is other evidence of the questionable
nature of this piece. You'll note that
few people can play it well and that
many top concert pianists avoid it like
the plague. Many apparently cannot play it
well--Claudio Arrau was a notable example.
I believe that the best
teachers will not allow their students
to play it, since it will ruin their
technique for more advanced work.

Thus, I suggest that you shelve this piece.
It's a great crowd pleaser, but mastering
it comes at too great a price, in my opinion.

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#1107361 - 05/18/07 08:13 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
YD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 590
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that
this piece is something that should be avoided
unless you're a top notch player, and even then
it would probably still be a questionable
addition to one's repertoire.
[/b]
OK, Gyro said it. I was thinking about saying the same thing, but did not (sucker!) because I was afraid to sound arrogant.

Ditto Gyro
_________________________
Yuri
FWIW; YMMV

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#1107362 - 05/18/07 08:17 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
gerg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/07
Posts: 1651
Loc: Houston, TX
Respectfully, Gyro, I completly disagree, with the caveat that we do not know Chris R's level. In good faith, since he says he can play it hands-separately all the way through we must assume he indeed has the necessary technique.

Again, master one measure. Focus like a laser beam on just that one measure. Get it perfect. Once you get that, you've essentially mastered the timing for over half the piece. That's all there is to it!

I've not mastered this particular work, but was working on it earlier this year. Technical difficulties are not what stopped me, simply interest in other works. There are no showstoppers in FI. I've played other works with similar difficulties - a 5-against-4 passage in Debussy followed by 6-against-4 (3-2), several 3-against-8 sections in a Fauré Nocturne, and the FI is no different.
_________________________
http://www.ecital.net
Wikicital: A collaborative effort to build a knowledgebase of classical music history combined with examples. Your chance to both perform and write...

Don't click here!

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#1107363 - 05/18/07 08:24 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
Peyton Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 2552
Loc: Maine
I think it also depends on what it is you wish to do with the piece. I learned it and although would never attempt to play it in public had a wonderful time playing it for myself. I've since let it lapse but intend to come back to it eventually and continue "the battle". :p
_________________________
"One's real life is often the life that one does not lead."- Oscar Wilde
www.youtube.com/Biffer5
www.peytonart.com


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#1107364 - 05/18/07 08:31 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Being a complete and utter novice here, can anyone tell me the specifics of just why this piece is so unbelievably difficult and why learning it would "come at too high a price."

Is it a matter of possible harm one might experience with the technique required? Is it the amount of practice required or perhaps the length of time required? The emotional and/or physical drain on the body and/or spirit?

And just why would it be a "questionable addition to one's repertoirie?" Is it not beautiful enough? Is it too overplayed, too much of a crowd pleaser, become too trite??

I just get the strong impression that this piece is being given an unfair appraisal. But then, what do I know? That's why I'm asking you.

Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107365 - 05/18/07 09:15 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
There is no other piece like this in the
popular repertoire, so you're knocking yourself
out developing technique that is unique
to this piece only. You're playing
both hands in polyrhythm at blazing fast
speed (you're never going to run across
this in any other commonly played piece),
and, what's more, even at these speeds
you're still going to need to inject
tempo rubato into the r.h. part in order
to get the piece to sound impressive. So
you pound your body into the necessary
form to play this, and it's not applicable
to anything else, and moreover, not appropriate
for anything else, and so your overall
technique suffers.

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#1107366 - 05/18/07 11:15 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
Darla Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/03/05
Posts: 43
Chris,

I am just finishing FI. I had similar problems as you and I did a lot of research and trial and error. This is a summary of the "tricks" that worked best for me after you have done the initial work--HS, HT, memorization,etc.

1. Heavily accent each beat where the hands come together.
2. After you have HS up to speed with the correct physical motions, play slowly to feel, hear and see how the fingers interchange.
3. Learn each hand without having to look at it and then you can watch (and listen to) your left hand while playing your right.
4. Play one hand loud and the other soft.

Continue to mix and match these ideas over and over, and after awhile it will click. The key is even after you have it down, occassionally go back and play the fast section using #1.

Good luck

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#1107367 - 05/19/07 06:58 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Perhaps I have found the answers to my questions. I have the book: “The Pianist’s Repertoire CHOPIN - A graded practical guide” by Eleanor Bailie. In it she describes the Fantaisie-Impromptu as:

Level (8+)
“This much-played piece was published after Chopin’s death by his friend Fontana. It was written in 1835, before the first Impromptu, Op. 29, and it is presumed that Fontana added the “Fantaisie” to the title. It is not known why Chopin did not publish it during his lifetime. Since it is treated dismissively by most commentators on numerous counts (weak construction, repetitiveness, effeteness and lack of direction the middle section, general frivolity, and so on) it has been widely assumed that Chopin suppressed it because he also thought poorly of it. Arthur Hedley, on the other hand, suggests that Chopin was embarrassed by its resemblance to a recently published Impromptu by Moscheles. Whatever the reason for its suppression by Chopin, no amount of high-toned critical opinion has dimmed, nor will dim, its perennial popularity--there can be few Chopin lovers who did not thrill at an early age to the rush of its effervescent semi quavers. Indeed, writing as long ago as 1900, Huneker remarks that ‘it is the joy of the Piano Student, who turns its Presto into a slow, blurred mess of badly related rhythms, and its slower movement into a long-drawn sentimental agony’. He nicely sums up the problems of the piece. However, while nothing is more awful than a blunderbuss attack on the cross-rhythms by rhythm-less players, it is on the other hand, a lovely show-piece (and an excellent ‘learning’ piece as well) for the young student with nimble fingers and a keen sense of rhythm."


Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107368 - 05/19/07 07:38 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Chris:

Also...although I am NOT in the position to give my advice, I believe Eleanor Bailie has written a wonderful guide as how to approach and play this piece, with wonderful detail. I would be happy to scan the four pages in her book and post them to you, if you would like. Just PM me and let me know.

Regards,
Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107369 - 05/19/07 07:56 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
vladn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/07
Posts: 65
Loc: NJ, USA
FI inspired me to return playing after 30yr hiatus (I studied for 4 years as a kid). Unless you are on the path to become a professional pianist (in which case you may want to follow specific training plan) do not let the stigma associated with this piece discourage you from attempting it. The piece is beautiful regardless of what people think of it. The only warning is do not put 100% time towards it, learn other pieces in parallel.

As an evidence that different people learn differently I can tell you that polyrhythm while scary initially ended up being not a problem for me even though the piece is clearly beyond my skill level. I have drawn on paper exact 3 on 4 beat alignment and then practiced it away from piano by clapping my LH and RH against something in that rhythm while walking, driving etc. In two weeks the rhythm became perfectly natural.

Step two was memorizing single measure (#5) HS to the point that I can play each hand with finger memory looking in the window and thinking about something unrelated.

Only then try HT. Cycle over single measure until you get it right. It sort of clicks in your head and the tempo is locked. Sometimes it unlocks and then locks again ;-). Try it very slow.

Oh, and do not use pedal with this piece until you learn HT at decent tempo and perfect sync, otherwise it hides the polyrhythm errors. Even when you get to that point play it without pedal from time to time to make sure your rhythm is still perfect.

As for myself I found that I simply have not enough dexterity to get the fast sections up to proper speed. I hit a brick wall at about 2/3 the required tempo (and some measures lower than that). So my goal for this year is to get it all to 2/3 tempo with proper rhythm, wrist articulation, accents etc. IMHO it still sounds good if played cleanly at that speed (at least to a non-professional ear ;-))

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#1107370 - 05/19/07 09:31 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
CONGRATULATIONS, vladn: Your story is most inspiring. Not just to those who are or might be considering playing the FI, but also to others who are having difficulties with other pieces. Your dedication, patience and "plan" are all to be admired. And perhaps will be a lesson to many who have "hit that wall."

There is that old saying that anything is possible if one tries hard enough. I believe you are a prime example who proves this statement to be true.

Best regards and good luck, \:\) \:\)
Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107371 - 05/19/07 10:43 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
vladn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/07
Posts: 65
Loc: NJ, USA
Kathleen,
Thanks for the kind words but I do not beleive I deserved it. I have much more respect for people that have will and stamina to focus on scales, arpeggios, Hannon and Czerny exercises for a while as it builds solid foundation and opens up future possibilities. However some people (like myself) can only get motivated strongly enough by certain pieces that moves them and I consider that approach quite acceptable, certainly better than quitting.

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#1107372 - 05/19/07 10:57 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
quote from vladn

 Quote:
However some people (like myself) can only get motivated strongly enough by certain pieces that moves them and I consider that approach quite acceptable, certainly better than quitting.
Put me in this category. I just don't have the time now for building a basic technique. So I have to go about it...the hard way.

Regards,
Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107373 - 05/19/07 11:35 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by vladn:
Unless you are on the path to become a professional pianist (in which case you may want to follow specific training plan) do not let the stigma associated with this piece discourage you from attempting it. The piece is beautiful regardless of what people think of it.[/b]
Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your inspiring story, vladn.

Unfortunately, the Fantaisie-Impromptu's stigma is two-fold. The opinion of some scholars that, as a posthumous piece Chopin chose not to publish, it's less than fully worthy musically is one of the factors. The other is the notion that it is outlandishly difficult, or requires exotic skills to do exotic things. I've always found the demands of this piece rather prosaic and straightforward, and I'd like to share my own experience.

Even when I returned to piano as a teen, it had already been many years since I'd had lessons. I discovered a Chopin volume called Introduction to Chopin: A Progressive Course of Study Including a Treatise on the Pedal," edited by Alfred Mirovitch, and bought Volume I of two volumes. In his foreword, Mirovitch writes:

"My principal aim in the planning of the present edition has been to offer genuinely constructive and practical help and guidance to the serious student, the teacher and to the amateur pianist and music lover.

"The printed page only partly reflects the emotions, imaginative splendor, ecstasies and esthetic finesse that are the real essence of Chopin's music. The printed page has to be recreated, brought to life each time it is played either by the intuition of a great talent, or by wisdom gained through scholarship and experience."

I've italicized those words that leaped out at me even back then. It gets even more intriguing:

"It seemed imperative to me to offer to the student, teacher and amateur pianist a substantial selection of Chopin's works arranged in order of progressive difficulty, beginning with a number of comparatively easy works, easy not only in a mechanical sense, but more important, in interpretative demands."

Without question, my experience with Alfred Mirovitch is what bumped my playing up from the level of Chopin's waltzes and easier nocturnes to much more challenging stuff. I credit him for breaking it all down for me, and making me feel like I could do it—and the Fantaisie-Impromptu was one of the first pieces I chose from his selection.

Mirovitch closes his foreword with these words:

"I have added copious and explicit notes which, I hope, will further elucidate many technical and interpretative points. These notes contain many examples for preparatory technical exercises (see notes on the Etudes), suggestions for practise methods, and other advice in the realm of general pedagogy and piano technics. It is my aim and hope that this material will amplify and clarify much that our imperfect symbols, and the frequent vagueness of Italian words leaves only half grasped or misunderstood!" (Here, the emphasis is his own.)

This is Mirovitch's complete preface to the Fantaisie-Impromptu:

"The 'broken chord' accompanying figure in the l.h. part of this composition is a device frequently used by Chopin. We will encounter it in a much more difficult form int he B-flat minor Scherzo, the Nocturne Op. 27, No. 2, the G-minor Ballade and in many other works. It is important to correctly understand the structure of this figure.

"The figure [graphic] is not a sequence of notes of equal importance, played evenly. We must differentiate between the firstnote of the group, the bass and the other notes of the broken chord. The bass note has to be given much more tone-depth, and played louder; the other notes of the group are always played evenly, piano. Thus: [graphic]. In many instances Chopin himself gave indications to that effect, by writing the bass note as [dotted half note], [half note] or [quarter note], [dotted quarter note].

"The problem in the first section, of coordinating the 8 notes of the r.h. with the 6 notes of the l.h., is in reality no problem at all, if the piece is studied correctly. Study each hand separately, with very sharply marked phrase accents (l.h. as outlined above; r.h. with accents on beat 1 and 3 [sic]only), until you are able to play each hand in full tempo. then and then only study with both hands together. The coordination of the two parts will be automatic and effortless.

"A finely syncopated pedal at half level is essential in the middle section."

Mirovitch's advice about approaching the Fantaisie-Impromptu is comparable in scope and length to what he says about his other choices. I mention this to clarify that it's quite pithy and not on the detailed level of, say, Alfred Cortot's commentaries. I wouldn't want anyone who purchases it to be disappointed on that account.

The "treatise" on the damper pedal is similarly brief, but likewise spells out plainly the essentials that a pianist needs to understand (though the information about partial damping techniques will only be applicable to a grand piano's action).

Anyone who's read this far might be interested in a list of what's here, in the order Mirovitch chose. This is it:

Prelude 28/20
Waltz 69/2
Nocturne 37/1
Waltz 64/1
Nocturne 9/2
Polonaise 26/1
Mazurka 67/4
Mazurka 24/1
Three Ecossaises
Prelude 28/4
Prelude 28/6
Prelude 28/7
Prelude 28/15
Fantaisie-Impromptu
Polonaise 40/1
Nocturne 55/1
Nocturne 72/1
Mazurka 33/1
Mazurka 67/2
Mazurka 68/2
Waltz 64/2
Waltz 34/1
Etude 25/2
Etude 25/1
Etude 10/2
Etude 10/3
Etude 10/12

I figured, based on what comes before and after the piece in question, that I could play it. And, yes, I could, and I bet many people reading this can, too, and don't realize it!

I never bought Mirovitch's second volume, I guess because it seemed like I could apply his strategies to other pieces on my own—and he had already given me the confidence to do so. But the progression of difficulty he continues with is valuable nonetheless:

Nocturne 15/2
Mazurka 50/2
Mazurka 63/3
Waltz 70/1
Prelude 28/9
Prelude 28/10
Prelude 28/11
Polonaise 26/2
Nocturne 27/1
Mazurka 24/4
Waltz Op. 42
Prelude 28/3
Prelude 28/12
Prelude 28/22
Etude 10/5
Etude 10/7
Etude 25/4
Etude 25/7
Etude 25/9
Scherzo Op. 31
Berceuse Op. 57
Ballade Op. 23
Polonaise Op. 53

I imagine that the order Mirovitch suggests has got to be a little bit controversial. I don't think I've ever seen 25/2 or 10/2 offered as starter études! (I skipped 25/2 because I don't find it terribly attractive, though I did proceed with some of the others in the recommended order.)

I hope that the length of this post is mitigated by some degree of usefulness!

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1107374 - 05/19/07 12:07 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
Bach-in-a-Minuet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/07
Posts: 35
Loc: Massachusetts
Fascinating! I definitely want to buy these books. Thanks for sharing.

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#1107375 - 05/20/07 08:34 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Me too. Anyone care to lend me some $$$.

Thanks, Sotto Voce,

Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107376 - 05/21/07 05:09 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Chris: I sent you two PM's that should, hopefully, be of great help to you.

Kathleen
_________________________
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

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#1107377 - 05/21/07 05:32 PM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
[QUOTE]Originally posted by vladn:
[QB] FI inspired me to return playing after 30yr hiatus (I studied for 4 years as a kid). Unless you are on the path to become a professional pianist (in which case you may want to follow specific training plan) do not let the stigma associated with this piece discourage you from attempting it. The piece is beautiful regardless of what people think of it. The only warning is do not put 100% time towards it, learn other pieces in parallel.

Ditto, Such good advice!! Take your time...

I have a Chopin Etude that is my "HAVE - to - learn" piece- I've learned the first page....it may be another year or so before I learn the next part.... but... I've more technical challenges to overcome ..."
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1107378 - 05/22/07 05:31 AM Re: fantaisie impromptu troubles
bruceee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/04/05
Posts: 317
Loc: Wellington, New Zealand
The Fantaisie Impromptu is my dream piece that I want to (and will!) play one day. Sure there are technical difficulties, but for me there are technical difficulties in everything I play ;\)

Here is what Chang says about the FI and to some extent, it matches the cycling technique discussed earlier.

I think the keys here are a positive attitude and finding a practice technique that suits your style -- and there are a lot of very useful ideas here. I well remember a 12yr girl who once visited our house and did a very passable performance of the FI -- so it is possible for folks of normal ability!

Sandy, I listened to your cunningly shortened version of the Étude 10/3 and very nice it was too. I am working on that piece now and it is slowly coming together. I was interested to see Steven's list that indicates the FI is somewhat easier than the the 10/3. So when we master the 10/3, the FI will be a doddle \:\)

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