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Author Topic: Opinions on the Hardest piano piece ever written  (Read 69708 times)
rachfanatic
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« on: July 12, 2005, 10:49:43 AM »

I have heard several views on this but the two pieces which have nearly always come up in conversation are Islamey by Balakirew and Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel. What is every one elses opinion on this topic. Undecided
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piano sheet music of Islamey - Oriental Fantasy

Sheet music to download and print: Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
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Waldszenen
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2005, 12:53:50 PM »

All I can say that it's definitely neither of those two...
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sevencircles
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2005, 01:07:28 PM »

There is a diferrent thread about this.

Conlon Nancarrow wrote pieces that even the greatest pianoduos in the world would find impossible.

The hardest completely recorded piece I can think of right now is Opus Clavicembalisticum by Sorobji.

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thalberg
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2005, 01:40:57 PM »

Luciano Berio's sequenzas are said to be hard. 
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BoliverAllmon
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2005, 03:10:29 PM »

that brings up an interesting idea. if you don't think it is hard, then you will probably learn it faster.
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Etude
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2005, 03:31:39 PM »

that brings up an interesting idea. if you don't think it is hard, then you will probably learn it faster.

That's a point I made on JCarey's forum, if a piece is legendary for difficulty, the main difficulty is then psychological.

Some of the hardest music would be Nancarrow which has inhuman rhythmic demands.  His studies for player piano are often written across a number of staves, eight at the most I think.  Many staves have different tempi to other staves in the system, so it could take less time to play a bar on one stave than another.  In addition there are bars longer or shorter than each other at one point in the music.  The score is handwritten needless to say.  His "tango?" uses three staves, each with a different time signature, with all bars meant to be equal in length:



The difficulty is ridiculous.

There's also Finnissy, his music is just unplayable.  His English country tunes have been recorded by himself.  The difficulty of his music is beyond anything I've ever seen before.  Take a look at two pages of his 'English country Tunes':





Now listen to Finnissy himself playing this: http://fuwatm.hp.infoseek.co.jp/finnisy_english_country_tune002_choice.mp3

I disagree that Opus Clavicembalisticum is the most difficult piece to be recorded since Finnissy recorded his piece, which is much more difficult than anything in OC.
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steinwayguy
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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2005, 03:46:14 PM »

I should think Boulez's second and third sonatas should be on there, not to mention the Busoni and Ligeti concerti.
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anda
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2005, 04:55:31 PM »


i thought this thread was about music, not about banging on the piano as fast as you can  Roll Eyes
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BoliverAllmon
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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2005, 04:55:53 PM »

Busoni is playable though. some of this other stuff isn't playable.
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BoliverAllmon
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2005, 04:56:38 PM »

i thought this thread was about music, not about banging on the piano as fast as you can  Roll Eyes

one person's banging is another person's music.
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anda
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2005, 05:07:46 PM »

one person's banging is another person's music.

sorry, i didn't mean to offend anyone! it's just... i fail to see the point.
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BoliverAllmon
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2005, 05:10:47 PM »

no offense taken. I was just saying that some people find pleasure in these things. I personally haven't listened to the mp3. Every time I try to open the file it closes down my browser.
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anda
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2005, 05:28:18 PM »

i listened to that mp3 (the one you posted a link to) - it's short, about 50 sec., and it sounded to me like my cousin's 5 year-old son who always has to bang with his fists on my piano whenever they come visit Smiley

but then again, maybe it's just me...
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Dazzer
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2005, 05:49:13 PM »

well it being hard is one thing, but isit musical? Does it fit the purpose ofmusic? Like building a car engine faster than a plane and yet requires so much petrol it defeats the purpose.
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2005, 07:49:12 PM »

A 2 year old can write a work that no one in the world could ever play by fooling around in Noteworthy Composer.

I think we should only mention works with some level of musical quality in this thread (Nancarrow´s crazy stuff being the limit).
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2005, 08:29:02 PM »

sorry, i didn't mean to offend anyone! it's just... i fail to see the point.
Me too. If i pushed my piano off a cliff (as i am tempted to do some days), i would simulate such a noise.
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Etude
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« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2005, 10:57:30 PM »

well it being hard is one thing, but isit musical? Does it fit the purpose ofmusic?

Of course, just because something is dissonant doesn't make it unmusical.  I think that piece is very expressive, to me it's like a storm.  Look at Penderecki's threnody, it may not be possible to become more dissonant that that, and it is painful to hear, but that's the point of the piece.  It expresses the horror of what happened in Hiroshima, and all the emotions that the victims would have felt.  The piece by Finnissy is obviously trying to express something, as he wrote it.  I can't imagine a composer who would write music that is nothing to them or anyone else.  Sorabji, who has often been called unmusical on these forums, wrote all his mature music for his friends, and for his friends to hear, so it has some value, and so does 'English Country Tunes'.  The fact that it is so difficult means it may not be able to be played with a lot of accuracy, however, just as in Penderecki's Threnody, individual notes are not as important as the overall effect, its the crashing waves of sound that hold the expression.
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Waldszenen
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2005, 01:17:32 AM »

That MP3 of Finnissy.... how's anyone meant to tell if he's actually playing the written notes or just banging his hands on the keyboard like a two year old?
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« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2005, 01:57:08 AM »

I'm  not sure there would be much of a difference if he was playing the written notes.  From listening to it slowed down slightly it seems that the second is true, but in music like this the written notes probably just serve as a guide to the effect that the composer wants.
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rachfanatic
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« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2005, 10:07:24 PM »

The Ligeti etudes are a beast to play
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jeremyjchilds
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« Reply #20 on: July 14, 2005, 01:16:36 AM »

I think those "indian dance" songs in the method books are the hardest to play...you just keep going faster and faster untill a primal urge overtakes you, and suddenly you are transformed into a savage virtuoso.
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #21 on: July 14, 2005, 06:04:32 AM »

I'm  not sure there would be much of a difference if he was playing the written notes.  From listening to it slowed down slightly it seems that the second is true, but in music like this the written notes probably just serve as a guide to the effect that the composer wants.


You make an interesting point.  Each composer of course has his own view of things as he writes, and those composers that write so many notes, that are really impossible to play as written, throw somethingi n the face of those who believe the best way is to alway play exactly as written.  Well, it is the safest way yes.
There is another Welsh composer, who is not so well known at this time, who writes incredibly difficult and long piano music.  My friend and former teacher studies with him and plays his music.  Recently we listened to a recording of one of the pieces, played by Boris Berezovsky, with the score.  He followed the score for about 18 measures before a significant departure in the notes.  Then we caught up with him somewhere later, and before we knew it he was playing something that seemed totally different.  What makes this all so interesting, is that the composer himself endorsed the recording, and passed it on to my friend.   In the score a cut was sanctioned for Berezovsky personally, but even beyond that he was playing many different notes.  But all the real ones, either verge on the impossible, or are impossible.

Walter Ramsey
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invictus
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« Reply #22 on: July 14, 2005, 11:44:05 AM »

No doubt it is Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto. It's almost impossible to play them
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ail
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« Reply #23 on: July 14, 2005, 12:11:24 PM »

I listened to the MP3. If you want my opinion on what he did, he just recorded it on a digital piano with disk, copied the resulting Midi to a computer and then wrote the notes by hand to give that effect. Tongue

I'm not completely serious, but it is feasible, and if his only aim were to impress, then it would be completely believable too.

so, take your bets. That music sounds like a blur in the wall, completely abstract music, just the impression of movement, speed and pitch. That's it, like impressions of different colours on a canvas.

I don't like it, but that's me. And it's not playable by anyone else.
As for the other guy with the different staves, what's the point? Computer music? Trying to be famous only due to artificialities? If the technical difficulty is on the difficulty of reading it because he has used more staves than necessary and different metrics when he didn't have to, then he as good a composer as the Harlem Globetrotters are a good NBA team.

Then again, that's just my opinion. I don't want to offend anyone.

Ail
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JPRitchie
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« Reply #24 on: July 14, 2005, 12:51:09 PM »

Since the sheet music is posted above in this thread, I programmed a MIDI performance of the first 12 bars of Tango? by Nancarrow. It's here.
There is no overall tempo marking, but I chose 90,60,75 quarter notes per second.

The multiple time signatures are unusual, but, once heard, the rhythm isn't that complicated. A way  to figure it is to realize that the 3, 4, and 5 beats per measure in each of the staves have to be played in the same interval of time. It's similar to a triplet, except that instead of playing 3 notes in the time of 2, you're playing 5 beats worth of notes in the time of 3 beats, etc.

A more technical consideration in the arithmetic is that the amount of time required to play a measure in the top stave and its pitch is unchanged if the time signature is set to 6/8 and the tempo, in beats per minute, for that stave is doubled. (The tempo remains unchanged as quater notes per second.) Then the three staves all have the eighth note getting a beat. It also accounts for why the tempo in the lower staves in qps is numerically smaller than that for the top stave, even though the top stave, formally, has 3 beats per measure, while the lower two have 4 and 5.

It's also possible that the score might have been simplified a bit. One can get the top two staves to the 6/8 time signature by multiplying the t.s of the uppermost stave by 2/2 and then dotting every mark in the middle stave. Had this been done, it would have been possible to combine the two staves, although two voices would be used. The 5/8 stave isn't easily altered to 6/8 time because the fraction 6/5 isn't simply represented by combining inverse powers of two. So you would still have to play five beats in the time for six. Or if you chose the bottom stave for the root tempo, somewhat like a 6:5 tuple.

Although rhythmically involved, this piece might be played by ear. Otherwise there seems little in the way of melody, harmony, or other musical elements.

Regards,
Jim Ritchie
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Derek
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« Reply #25 on: July 14, 2005, 12:58:21 PM »

-
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Waldszenen
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« Reply #26 on: July 14, 2005, 01:15:38 PM »

No doubt it is Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto. It's almost impossible to play them


I wouldn't say that's the hardest piano piece of all time - nowhere near that level.
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thracozaag
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« Reply #27 on: July 14, 2005, 01:27:25 PM »

That's a point I made on JCarey's forum, if a piece is legendary for difficulty, the main difficulty is then psychological.

Some of the hardest music would be Nancarrow which has inhuman rhythmic demands.  His studies for player piano are often written across a number of staves, eight at the most I think.  Many staves have different tempi to other staves in the system, so it could take less time to play a bar on one stave than another.  In addition there are bars longer or shorter than each other at one point in the music.  The score is handwritten needless to say.  His "tango?" uses three staves, each with a different time signature, with all bars meant to be equal in length:



The difficulty is ridiculous.

  *Getting heinous flashbacks* Embarrassed

koji
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« Reply #28 on: July 14, 2005, 02:24:30 PM »

i listened to that mp3 (the one you posted a link to) - it's short, about 50 sec., and it sounded to me like my cousin's 5 year-old son who always has to bang with his fists on my piano whenever they come visit Smiley

but then again, maybe it's just me...

it just seems like one of those moody rainlike piece to self

it actually is quite nice
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« Reply #29 on: July 14, 2005, 04:22:05 PM »

I listened to the MP3. If you want my opinion on what he did, he just recorded it on a digital piano with disk, copied the resulting Midi to a computer and then wrote the notes by hand to give that effect. Tongue

Finnissy wrote the piece in 1977, so that would actually be some trick Smiley

I'm not completely serious, but it is feasible, and if his only aim were to impress, then it would be completely believable too.

That definitely wasn't his only aim...

English Country-Tunes (1977)
solo piano - duration: 52 minutes

eight movements: 'Green Meadows'; 'Midsummer Morn'; 'I'll give my love a garland'; 'May and December'; 'Lies and marvels'; 'The seeds of love'; 'My bonny boy'; 'Come beat the drums and sound the fifes'

English Country-Tunes is, most simply, a totentanz - a dance of death, a Lament, a wake - celebrating arcadia, the product of a long fantasy tradition of 'rural innocence' (maybe stemming from the Garden of Eden). The melodic ('tune') element, clearly enough derived from the modalities of English folk-song, predominates in the second and seventh sections - the fife-and-drum band of the actual totentanz is isolated in the final (eighth) section. The remainder is made up of a series of responses to, meditations and variations upon, the 'issue' of folk-music, and how one integrates it now (with meaning and vitality) into 'art-music'.

© Michael Finnissy


There's actaully all sorts of music in this huge piece, from this kind of furious clustering to very spare monodic melodies.
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presto agitato
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« Reply #30 on: July 14, 2005, 08:08:21 PM »

If the piece does not sound decent i dont care if it is the hadest piece ever written.

BTW  For those in love with avant-garde piano pieces:

All the great pianists agree that the most difficult piano music was written in the romantic era period.
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The masterpiece tell the performer what to do, and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the cocomposer what he ought to have composed.

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musicsdarkangel
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« Reply #31 on: July 14, 2005, 08:25:19 PM »

presto, actually,

Most pianists seem to agree that avante-garde poses the most difficult technical and mental challenges.


Why do you think Hamelin is such a monster?  His Rach 3 tour was probably a walk in the park.  Why was Ogden the same?

They both played insane modern music.

Of course, who cares.... romantic rules.
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #32 on: July 14, 2005, 11:30:06 PM »

If the piece does not sound decent i dont care if it is the hadest piece ever written.

BTW  For those in love with avant-garde piano pieces:

All the great pianists agree that the most difficult piano music was written in the romantic era period.

About the romantic music Vs avant-garde "Modern music" difficulties, I only want to contribute this quote, from Arthur Friedheim's memoirs of his time with Liszt, and other subjects (which are rather dull):

"Liszt's technique has been the subject of much discussion and conjecture on the part of those who never heard him.  Was it so prodigious, and has it been equalled since?  The answer is that it was truly prodigious but that in certain respects it has not only been equalled since, but also surpassed.  Moritz Rosenthal and Leopold Godowsky went beyond Liszt in specialized phases of mechanisme.  However, while Godowsky's chief metier was dexterity of fingers and Rosenthal concentrated on brilliance and power, Liszt shone in every department of technique and probably has never been approached as a builder of 'orchestral' climaxes, overwhelming masses of sound and exciting effects.

It would be difficult for the most gifted pianist, even today, to do more at the piano with one of Liszt's operatic fantasies.. than the composer could could do himself."

Interesting that Friedheim labels Godowsky's pianistic advances specialized.  Godowsky intended them to be an essential addition to pianism, and to ways of composing for the piano.  But I thought this quote might shed light on what after all is the true difficulty, making the music so real and alive as to be unforgettable.

Walter Ramsey
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Waldszenen
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« Reply #33 on: July 15, 2005, 12:04:43 AM »

Godowsky's 53 Etudes are considered by Harold Schonberg to be the hardest pieces for piano.
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« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2005, 12:55:51 AM »

Godowsky's 53 Etudes are considered by Harold Schonberg to be the hardest pieces for piano.

Harold Schonberg obviously never encountered Sorabji's 100 Transcendental Etudes then Tongue

Anyways, Merry Christmas
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Etude
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« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2005, 01:08:14 AM »

That is not music, that is art.   Roll Eyes 

Anyway, it's not piano.   Tongue
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Waldszenen
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« Reply #36 on: July 15, 2005, 03:03:07 AM »

Harold Schonberg obviously never encountered Sorabji's 100 Transcendental Etudes then Tongue

Anyways, Merry Christmas



what is that!?!??!
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presto agitato
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« Reply #37 on: July 15, 2005, 03:24:24 AM »


what is that!?!??!

A piece of sh*t
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The masterpiece tell the performer what to do, and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the cocomposer what he ought to have composed.

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« Reply #38 on: July 15, 2005, 03:28:38 AM »

A 2 year old can write a work that no one in the world could ever play by fooling around in Noteworthy Composer.

I think we should only mention works with some level of musical quality in this thread (Nancarrow´s crazy stuff being the limit).

I 100% agree with you.
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The masterpiece tell the performer what to do, and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the cocomposer what he ought to have composed.

--Alfred Brendel--
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« Reply #39 on: July 15, 2005, 03:47:03 AM »

So do I (apart from Nancarrow's crazy stuff being the limit, I have yet to encounter a piece with absolutely no musical quality, with the exception of Cage's really weird stuff like Organ2/ASLSP or 4'33)
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Skeptopotamus
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« Reply #40 on: July 15, 2005, 06:30:18 AM »

That piece by Shonberg is a joke.  I promise.  It really is like a joke; not even supposed to be a joke for the piano- string instrument of some sort.  I have that on my computer somewhere.



Anyways, the Finnissy piece is real music unfortuneately....

But anyways.  I'm sorry to tell you guys this but not only is that not only not finnissy's most difficult work, but that Finnissy did not write the most difficult piece.  Neither did Sorabji.

The most difficult piece of music is unarguably, and I MEAN unarguably, as in any pianist with experience in these fields, or even seeing the sheets ought to prove it for you, is XENAKIS EVRYALI.  Compared to Herma even, Xenakis HIMSELF says he wrote it to be difficult, and when Xenakis writes to be difficult...... well you know what that means.  Only lasting about 10 minutes, Evryali is more difficult that Stockhausen Klavierstucke XII, Sorabji Opus Clavicembalisticum, Barrett Tracks, Finnissy's History of Sound in Photography or even the infamous piece "Trinity".  Ian Pace, who plays the COMPLETE WORKS OF FINNISSY says that Evryali is the most rediculous and nearly-impossible piece of music to ever play.  I have only heard what the sheets look like and I desperately want to see them; I have an MP3 so if anyone wants it I can send it.

Anyways... the lesson is when Xenakis writes something to be "a marathon for both the mind and body" you better get scared.
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c18cont
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« Reply #41 on: July 16, 2005, 07:11:03 PM »

For me,

The most wonderful experiences in music, including piano, were subject to discovery of absolute simplicity in it's most beautiful form. By way of example, I mention only two, and know many could find other simple themes of enourmous beauty in piano....

My Favorite, an orchestral...is Tschaikovsky...Nutcracker...Pas De Deux...the descending octave.

And there is the Rach theme upon which the song "Full Moon and Empty Arms" made the world stage, far beyond general knowledge of the concerto....(True even if you hate the use of classical themes in pop music...)

Of course, in the Pas De Deux, it is the rhythmic and harmonic elements that bring the wonder...But it is still just a descending octave of notation...Only a master can find such a wonderful small miracle, I believe...

I wonder if there has ever been a thread to find the most beautiful but most simple piano composition... Smiley Smiley Smiley

John

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« Reply #42 on: July 16, 2005, 08:00:57 PM »

I wonder if there has ever been a thread to find the most beautiful but most simple piano composition... Smiley Smiley Smiley

Have a look here:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2147.0.html
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,7008.0.html
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c18cont
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« Reply #43 on: July 17, 2005, 12:18:46 AM »

 Smiley...Regards,

John
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bernhard
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« Reply #44 on: July 17, 2005, 01:06:00 AM »


Wasn’t this the tune that Gerard Depardieu played in “Green Card”? Grin Wink
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The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
i_m_robot
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« Reply #45 on: July 17, 2005, 04:35:44 AM »


take this humans



 Grin
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WATASHI NO NAMAE WA

AI EMU ROBATO DESU

立派のエビの苦闘及びは立派である
Etude
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« Reply #46 on: July 17, 2005, 04:43:44 AM »

thats easy







for midi
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i_m_robot
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« Reply #47 on: July 17, 2005, 05:04:27 AM »

oh yeah then take this Angry



only human Cool

ahahahahahahahahahahaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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WATASHI NO NAMAE WA

AI EMU ROBATO DESU

立派のエビの苦闘及びは立派である
Dazzer
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« Reply #48 on: July 17, 2005, 06:19:34 AM »

Harold Schonberg obviously never encountered Sorabji's 100 Transcendental Etudes then Tongue

Anyways, Merry Christmas


the irony of that is that that's the 2nd page. there's a first page .Cheesy

here's the first page

http://www.whitetreeaz.com/gibber/faeries_aire_and_death_waltz.jpg

never mind found a full version

http://www.bbirney.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=59
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Me? A Piano-monkey? I'm not good enough to be one. - Dazzer's thoughts on piano monkeys.
The last recording i did was Etude in A Flat. It would have sounded better in A Hall though.
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pita bread
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« Reply #49 on: July 17, 2005, 06:26:57 AM »

 Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin
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