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Learning Islamey (Read 19660 times)

Offline w0mbat

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Learning Islamey
« on: November 08, 2006, 10:14:07 PM »

I have loved this piece many years for a number of reasons, but resisted learning until recently as I finally feel 'ready' to devote to playing it.  (After just having learnt Beethoven's Appassionata, I realize this may be a bit of a jump in technique, but am willing to work hard to achieve it.) 

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions / tips on how to approach it, if it is a piece that you learn from beginning to end, what to look out for, or any other insightful things about the piece that you may have discovered or read about. 

Thank you!

piano sheet music of Islamey - Oriental Fantasy


Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #1 on: November 09, 2006, 12:47:11 AM »
This peice can be easily played if you slow down the tempo, but the real challenge is to find a good EXCITING tempo. Personally I think little of a pianists abilty if they take this peice too slowly, listen to how Kissin plays it, thats how you should play it once you really own it.

The piece is in my opinion slightly more difficult than the 3 movemnts of the Apassionata together (even though it is shorter), but if you can command the Beethoven without fuss then you should have the capability to play Balakirev's Islamey and learn to control some keyboard acrobatics you will face in it. Like any work you should take time to section it up into its musical parts, you should highlight parts which you find difficult (note patterns you haven't experienced or had much exp with before) as well as those which has procedure which is standard for you.

There is unfortunately no general tips or rules people can give you for any piece you study unless you specify which bars are troubling you and why. This is because everyone has different problems and face different challenges, so if anyone tries to give you tips it might not help you at all, and in fact distract you from what you should be actually focusing on.

Good luck.
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Offline maxy

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #2 on: November 10, 2006, 05:40:37 PM »
you may want to start from the recap, just after the "slow" section.  The coda is also quite challenging.  Speed is not that much of an issue.  Bronfmann has a good rec that is quite slow compared to the average rec.

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #3 on: November 10, 2006, 05:45:50 PM »
I found the great difficulty inplaying Islamey was to get the voices to speak. It can easily sound like a big mess, as your hands are everywhere, and very hard to control. It's a hard piece to play well as you can't hide behind anything, it's very precise, and wrong notes can't be covered. The textures are very dense, and the pedal cannot be realied on. Thats what Ifound the greatest challenge, and obviously learning the notes is a pretty hard task in itself. The speed is a problem, as once it starts getting fast small things start going wrong, and then they get worse.

Be patientwith it, and be prepared to work at it for a long time, and you'll be fine learning it.

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #4 on: November 11, 2006, 03:22:13 PM »
if you can command the Beethoven without fuss then you should have the capability to play Balakirev's Islamey and learn to control some keyboard acrobatics you will face in it.

I don't agree with this.

Through the romantic period octave technique and double notes were used alot more, and require dedication to learn these new techniques.

I'd say - on top of learning the islamey, work on your octaves- for speed and endurance, and become adept at double notes (chromatic 3rds and 6ths).
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Offline ralessi

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #5 on: November 13, 2006, 12:04:48 AM »
I agree with Maxy.  I began learning this piece a while back and found myself stuck after the slow section.  I had worked so much on the first section, then the slow section thinking that I was in the clear, but as difficult as different parts of the first section are, they are nothing compared to what's to come.  If you can start after the slow section and actually work it and make progress, then go back to the easy part and you're done.  Otherwise, you'll give yourself a false sense of security and be pissed off cause you can't learn the 2nd half of the piece.  Many people (including myself) overlook the endurance factor.  Even if you think you're technically ready (go through and break down the different little sections of different technique use and make yourself aware of what you're going to need to solidify in your studies) remember that after the slow section, it doesnt stop so you can rest.  Overall I found that as much as i love everything about this piece, there are SO many other pieces out there that you could learn in HALF the time if not less, and get more mileage out of.  You really cannot do anything with islamey.  But hey, this is just my opinion.  That's why i started the Liszt sonata :)

Cheers!
Rick

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #6 on: November 13, 2006, 10:36:29 PM »
My teacher once told me...."Some pianists can play Islamey, some cannot. If you cannot, don't try to learn it, your wasting time, if you can...good for them"

Islamey is very much the same techncally, all octaves and fast double notes, and repeated notes. If you have that ability then the piece comes easy (not easy but you know what I mean, speed is not that much of an issue). Best advice I can offer anyone doing this piece is to not get depressed learning it, I would wake up some days and go to the piano, and it would fel as if I'd never practiced it the day before. That happens a lot with big stuff like islamey, but remember...if you spent 4 hours on it one day, and go to it the next day and play badly, it will take a lot less time to get it back to where it was the day before, and it will be stronger. Practice it all seperate voices, but using same fingers, do dotted rhythms, slow metronome work, seperate hands, eyes closed, and then build from there. Some of the worst passages are the LH double notes, and the Leaps. The leaps are evil, just bear with it and eventually it will come with ease.

Offline mycrabface

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #7 on: November 15, 2006, 03:56:15 PM »
I have loved this piece many years for a number of reasons, but resisted learning until recently as I finally feel 'ready' to devote to playing it.  (After just having learnt Beethoven's Appassionata, I realize this may be a bit of a jump in technique, but am willing to work hard to achieve it.) 

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions / tips on how to approach it, if it is a piece that you learn from beginning to end, what to look out for, or any other insightful things about the piece that you may have discovered or read about. 

Thank you!
This is one of my favourite songs!! Its too advanced for me, but I plan to learn it by the time I turn seventeen!! :)
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Offline w0mbat

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #8 on: November 17, 2006, 03:23:10 AM »
Thank you for your insights, so far it's been an absolute blast learning the piece.  (I can never wait to get home to practice it!)

This peice can be easily played if you slow down the tempo, but the real challenge is to find a good EXCITING tempo. Personally I think little of a pianists abilty if they take this peice too slowly, listen to how Kissin plays it, thats how you should play it once you really own it.

That's a great point - I've been trying to play each section/page to speed before moving on, although I wonder if I can get away with trying to get through the piece first a little below the tempo marking.  Do I run into a LOT of trouble when it's time to speed up or does it come naturally?

...but as difficult as different parts of the first section are, they are nothing compared to what's to come.  If you can start after the slow section and actually work it and make progress, then go back to the easy part and you're done.  Otherwise, you'll give yourself a false sense of security and be pissed off cause you can't learn the 2nd half of the piece.

This was a little bit disconcerting, but I wonder if you could elaborate on "what's to come" (and where exactly this part begins.)  I think I might keep plowing through from the beginning (so far so good, but that's the trap you're warning me about!)

As for the mileage issue, I simply love this piece too much not to learn it - although it was a little disappointing playing parts of it for my parents over the weekend ("Why don't you learn something nicer?":-\)

Thank you, I can use all the help and support!

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #9 on: November 18, 2006, 06:10:13 PM »
Play them the middle section? That will win them over into the Islamey camp.  ;)

Offline ralessi

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #10 on: November 18, 2006, 07:27:34 PM »
It's SO funny because you explaining it, is EXACTLY EXACTLY what was going through my head and what i was doing! But, like i said, the first section seems very difficult when first going into it (just knowing the piece and beginning to learn it) but then seems much easier when you start working on it.  So you start to work and things are going well, but there will always be those 2 parts (fast octaves in right hand) that will give you trouble, but overall you feel pretty good about it.  The second section is even better cause it's easier and as you're learning it and getting further you seem to be making so much progress and you'll be so happy with it! then you get the 2nd half of the piece and it's just hell! When you are not working on it yet, you don't feel too bad about it, because it sounds very similar with a lot of the same techniques and melodies, but don't judge a book by it's cover.  I like to think of the 2nd half of this piece (after the slow section) as very similar to Liszt's Mazeppa (only harder),  It's just a test of endurance and technical superiority.  You will find that you have to work 5 times as hard IF NOT MORE, in the 2nd half than you have in the other 2 sections.  I don't know exactly what it is that makes this section so much more difficult, it just is.  So a year and a half later, I still pound on the first half of the piece once a day or so! One day you'll realize that it's just a waste of time right now.  While your younger and developing as a musician as we are (me only being 20), there's no reason to put so SO SO many hours in toward this when you could be learning and working on SO many other things.  I'm really sorry if i'm not being clear, if not just ask me more specific questions.

cheers!
Ricky

Offline pianolist

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #11 on: November 19, 2006, 12:44:00 AM »
I've just posted a recording of Islamey, made in Russia in early 1910, a few months before Balakirev died. The pianist was Ida Michelsohn, and I know nothing about her, but it's a fine performance on Welte-Mignon piano roll, and it has the distinction of having been made while Balakirev was still alive.

There is an introduction to it here:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,20511.msg241183.html#msg241183

And the mp3 is here:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,20642.msg241179.html#msg241179

This isn't going to help you technically, but it will give you an idea of old performance styles.
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Offline fingersflying

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #12 on: November 22, 2006, 06:12:48 AM »
Take a look how EASY this piece can be :D


Offline bflatminor24

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #13 on: November 22, 2006, 06:20:33 AM »
This piece has an undeserved and yet notorious reputation for difficulty. It sounds impressive because it has a lot of octaves and is very percussive, which allows the listener to fully pay attention to each note.

HOWEVER

I don't advise actually spending the time to learn this piece. I don't think it's time well spent. In the time it takes you to learn it, you could learn much greater romantic literature such as a Chopin Sonata or Gaspard de la Nuit.

On a more personal note, I don't find the technique that difficult in this piece. I think it just "sounds" really hard, but ultimately it is still pretty shallow. However learning it up to speed would take some time. I would much rather put the time into Gaspard, which is a much better piece of music.

But go ahead, learn Islamey. Then you can say you did it.

~Max~
My favorite piano pieces - Liszt Sonata in B minor, Beethoven's Hammerklavier, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Alkan's Op. 39 Etudes, Scriabin's Sonata-Fantaisie, Godowsky's Passacaglia in B minor.

Offline maxy

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #14 on: November 23, 2006, 05:55:13 PM »
Islamey is a FUN piece.  PARTY mood!!!  Shallow? Hell yeah! So what?  It can be quite refreshing.

Offline bflatminor24

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #15 on: November 23, 2006, 08:06:33 PM »
Ok, whatever you say. If you're going to learn shallow pieces, learn shorter pieces.

Good examples:

Dohnanyi Cappriccio in F minor, Op. 28

Grieg Wedding Day at Troldhaugen

Liszt Grand Galop Chromatique

Liebermann Gargoyles

All of those are fun and in my opinion, worth learning.

~Max~
My favorite piano pieces - Liszt Sonata in B minor, Beethoven's Hammerklavier, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Alkan's Op. 39 Etudes, Scriabin's Sonata-Fantaisie, Godowsky's Passacaglia in B minor.

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #16 on: November 26, 2006, 05:02:03 AM »
Despite it's great difficulty, Islamey is far more than a mindless technical showpiece; the kind of ignorance that makes it out to be is one of the reason that so much of Balakirev's superb piano music remains unexplored.

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #17 on: November 27, 2006, 03:13:11 AM »
I'nm not quite sure how Islamei is any more 'shallow', musically, than Schumann's Traumerei
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Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #18 on: November 27, 2006, 03:18:05 AM »
I'nm not quite sure how Islamei is any more 'shallow', musically, than Schumann's Traumerei

I actually think the middle section of Islamey is a far better moist than Traumerai. Traumerai is a cheap piece of music, imo.

Offline w0mbat

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #19 on: November 28, 2006, 09:52:50 PM »
Thank you for all your suggestions and comments so far, I had a quick technical question about the way the notes line up in this measure...

(Are these alignments right?  I am using for reference 2 measures before this one.)


Offline iumonito

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #20 on: November 29, 2006, 01:55:20 AM »
Yep.
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Offline alejo_90

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #21 on: December 14, 2006, 04:26:15 AM »
This may be slightly off-topic, but if you want to hear (In my humble opinion) the most accurate, technically and musically interpretation of this piece, you should look for Boris Berezovsky's marvelous live rendition from the Tchaikovsky Competition Finals. That one is my favourite, followed closely by Kissin's version from his Amsterdam Recital.

Best,
Alex
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Offline thaicheow

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #22 on: December 17, 2006, 03:26:38 PM »
I never quite like Islamey, and yeah, find that it is shallow. Gaspard seem worth the time learning. But I just listen Idil Biret's playing and find it quite cute, witty, and fun. She makes the piece seem easy under her fingers:

http://www.idilbiret.net/Archive/files/Balakirev_Islamey.mp3

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #23 on: December 18, 2006, 06:41:19 AM »
Barere, Berezovsky, Cziffra...[100 or so interpreters later]...Biret.

Offline elevateme

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #24 on: December 29, 2006, 05:29:20 PM »
Personally I think little of a pianists abilty if they take this peice too slowly, listen to how Kissin plays it, thats how you should play it once you really own it.

I didn't know Kissin played it  - do you have a recording? his technique is totally flawless
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Offline houseofblackleaves

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #25 on: December 30, 2006, 02:54:06 AM »
I agree that Gaspard is a better peice.... but you need more emotional control than any other peice I am aware of to pull it off well.

Offline ihatepop

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #26 on: December 30, 2006, 01:15:18 PM »
Ask imbetterthenyou.

He claims he can play this piece.

ihatepop

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #27 on: December 30, 2006, 08:29:26 PM »
SURE you could ask iambetterthenyou [sic] for advice on Islamey, -OR- you could ask someone who has *actually* played Islamey...like e60. Personally, I recommend the latter.

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #28 on: December 30, 2006, 09:34:43 PM »
I didn't know Kissin played it  - do you have a recording? his technique is totally flawless

No, he can't play fast enough to be considered flawless.
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Offline infectedmushroom

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #29 on: December 30, 2006, 11:18:35 PM »
I didn't know Kissin played it  - do you have a recording? his technique is totally flawless


Here a live recording of Kissin playing Islamey (played live in Amsterdam 2002):

http://download.yousendit.com/11136C9034B23296




Here a video of a 17 year old guy playing Islamey:




Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #30 on: January 01, 2007, 09:02:55 PM »
Quote
Ask imbetterthenyou.

He claims he can play this piece.

ihatepop

hmmmm. His repertoire list in November certainly doesn't suggest this.

Quote
No, he can't play fast enough to be considered flawless.


Brilliant, I was expecting that lol  :)

Offline csy

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #31 on: January 02, 2007, 12:34:05 AM »
I would say Pletnev's Islamay Encore in his DG Carnegie Hall debut is among the best.
Pogorelich 's encore of Islamay  in one of his live recitals that I attended is also superb.

This may be slightly off-topic, but if you want to hear (In my humble opinion) the most accurate, technically and musically interpretation of this piece, you should look for Boris Berezovsky's marvelous live rendition from the Tchaikovsky Competition Finals. That one is my favourite, followed closely by Kissin's version from his Amsterdam Recital.

Best,
Alex

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #32 on: January 02, 2007, 02:51:30 AM »
Quote
Here a video of a 17 year old guy playing Islamey:


e60's vid is much more interesting than this.

Offline Mozartian

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #33 on: January 02, 2007, 04:19:17 AM »
I actually think the middle section of Islamey is a far better moist than Traumerai. Traumerai is a cheap piece of music, imo.

oh snap!

Actually someone said that to some famous music person (i cant remember who atm), and s/he responded by writing a huge long thing, expounding on the depth of Traumeri so convincingly that the guy who said traumeri was shallow had to shut up.

For some reason I think this has to do with kapell or his teacher or something... ugh I wish I could remember. I'll get back to you if I can remember.

Anyways, the point is that Schumann is NOT shallow. He does require a special kind of understanding, though (as does much music).
[lau] 10:01 pm: like in 10/4 i think those little slurs everywhere are pointless for the music, but I understand if it was for improving technique

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #34 on: January 02, 2007, 04:51:51 AM »
Well, I have weird opinions about Schumann. I think a lot of it is just a bunch of overrated drivel that could certainly be improvised comparably by a talented conservatory student, whereas stuff like the Fantasy, Symphonic Etudes, 3rd Sonata, and Kreisleriana are wonderful, profound musical statements that will stand the test of time.

Offline elevateme

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #35 on: January 11, 2007, 10:19:37 PM »
No, he can't play fast enough to be considered flawless.

how do you know he [kissin] cant?
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Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #36 on: January 12, 2007, 12:06:39 PM »
I believe Kissin can play it faster if he wanted to easily. Islamey is often played to fast, it is a piece of MUSIC. My teacher goes mad at people who play it fast, he says they are just destroying the music and making it an excercise.

What is the obsession with fast Islamey's? It sounds pathetic at a stupid tempo, nothing adds up. The opening always sounds faster than the 2nd half becasue it's easier, Beresovsky plays opening super fast, his 2nd half is slower, it makes no sense at all. Freddy Kemppf plays so slowly, that the presto at the end sounds riddiculous.

I havn'y heard Kissin's so I can't pass judgment on his, but I think any claim that he can't play fast enough is stupid and really immature.

Offline elevateme

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #37 on: January 12, 2007, 04:30:04 PM »

Here a live recording of Kissin playing Islamey (played live in Amsterdam 2002):

http://download.yousendit.com/11136C9034B23296

the links expired, can we have a new one please?
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Offline burobbi

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #38 on: July 14, 2008, 05:05:15 PM »
I believe Kissin can play it faster if he wanted to easily. Islamey is often played to fast, it is a piece of MUSIC. My teacher goes mad at people who play it fast, he says they are just destroying the music and making it an excercise.

What is the obsession with fast Islamey's? It sounds pathetic at a stupid tempo, nothing adds up. The opening always sounds faster than the 2nd half becasue it's easier, Beresovsky plays opening super fast, his 2nd half is slower, it makes no sense at all. Freddy Kemppf plays so slowly, that the presto at the end sounds riddiculous.

I havn'y heard Kissin's so I can't pass judgment on his, but I think any claim that he can't play fast enough is stupid and really immature.


Actually, for me, part of the excitement comes from the speed at which it is played. True enough, the beautiful middle section is maligned and oft neglected by pianists who concern themselves overly with the virtuosic textures of the outer parts of the music.

Berezovsky's studio recording is amazing,  the volume he generates is tremendous, almost like a horowitz, yet controlled. I don't mind slow recordings ONLY IF it can bring out the tiny details, small little intricacies and lines in the music, and is accurate. Otherwise, slow recordings of this are of little value, truth be told.

A very good way to study the music in Islamey is to listen to many orchestral expansions of it, and their respective interpretations. Islamey is a very suitable work for orchestration, and orchestration brings many lines to different instruments, and you get a very interesting sound, which makes for very good study, and re-adaptation back into piano.

I have been studying this work on-off for about 3 years already, and it's still not noteperfect. But to my knowledge, kissin sometimes eschews speed for detail. havent heard his recording, but hope its good. but for now, my favourite is still the Berezovsky.


Offline byarbrough

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #39 on: July 15, 2008, 01:00:55 AM »
I haven't seen Valentina Lisitsa's interpretation up here yet, I do like it even though she plays it very fast.

&feature=related

Offline general disarray

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #40 on: July 17, 2008, 01:44:16 AM »
Islamey!  (shudder)

I don't know, but, as someone mentioned above, some pianists can play this bear and others, equally worthy, just can't.

I've seen this piece (and that cursed "Wanderer Fantasy") drive some fine pianists to complete breakdowns.

Even WORSE, I've seen some fine pianists end up -- as they say in Wyoming -- "tits-up in the ditch." 

Not a pretty sight.
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Offline zahara000

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #41 on: July 22, 2008, 12:36:31 PM »
think I changed my mind about trying to learn this peice for my FTCL, I have little hands and will never be able to manage the octaves....

Offline nearenough

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #42 on: January 24, 2009, 02:53:46 AM »
"...Berezovsky's studio recording is amazing,  the volume he generates is tremendous, almost like a horowitz...."

Somewhere in cyberspace is a peformance of Islamey by not "a" Horowitz but by "the" Horowitz, properly exciting.

Offline Petter

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #43 on: January 24, 2009, 03:09:03 AM »
Maybe he meant a howitzer?  ???
"A gentleman is someone who knows how to play an accordion, but doesn't." - Al Cohn

Offline point of grace

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #44 on: February 05, 2009, 03:14:18 AM »
This is one of my favourite songs!! Its too advanced for me, but I plan to learn it by the time I turn seventeen!! :)
nice quote, i think its not worth learning
Learning:

Chopin Polonaise Op. 53
Brahms Op. 79 No. 2
Rachmaninoff Op. 16 No. 4 and 5

Offline hardybar

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #45 on: September 01, 2009, 06:05:07 PM »
To ZAHARA000, I would suggest that you find a school (such as UNT Denton TX) which has a 7/8ths keyboard. These pianos are lifesavers for those with big dreams and small hands. :)

Offline hardybar

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #46 on: September 01, 2009, 06:12:06 PM »
to Jakev and Mozartian:  Traumerei? Oh please. As far as the slow section of Islamey goes, Victor Borge, bless his soul, would have dropped Lehar's Barcarole squarely in the center of it. But seriously, if Islamey were not a great piece of music that has challenged & confounded hundreds of great pianists for over 100 years, we would not be discussing it at all.

Offline gorucan

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #47 on: September 01, 2009, 07:05:56 PM »
I also played this and I must say It's good to practise it for some months, then leave for some months and practice and leave etc. Then it gets better and better, otherwise you will just be fed up of it !

Offline hardybar

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #48 on: September 02, 2009, 02:44:01 AM »
To: nearenough,
Horowitz cut 40 bars from his performance, (starting at bar 260 if your checking) and he "flashed up" the ending unnecessarily. I don't think he respected the piece. Played it like he wanted to get it over with.

Offline hardybar

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Re: Learning Islamey
«Reply #49 on: September 06, 2009, 10:04:13 PM »
HELP! Islamey has mutated into an EARWORM to me!  I can't get it out of my head; I hear it going to sleep(?), I hear it when I wake up. It's driving me nuts.  Can anyone help??