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Learning Chopins preludes (Read 3629 times)

Offline mark1

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Learning Chopins preludes
« on: March 02, 2004, 08:51:11 AM »
Does anyone know of any web sites that deal with Chopins preludes? Not a history lesson necessarily, but what a piano teacher would teach a student such as... :) ornamentation, measure by measure breakdowns, chord identification... etc... Any help is GREATLY appreciated!!!                                  Mark
"...just when you think you're right, you're wrong."

Sheet music to download and print: Preludes by Chopin



Offline Hamfast

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #1 on: February 11, 2005, 07:47:52 AM »
Do you know Paderewski's edition?
The piano is an orchestra with 88...... things, you know.

Offline lenny

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #2 on: February 11, 2005, 07:53:17 AM »
for someone with 'fast' in your name, the speed of that reply was incredibly ironic!  :P

whats in paderewski's edition?
love,peace,hope,fresh coconuts

Offline Alde

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #3 on: February 11, 2005, 06:54:46 PM »
Try using the Alfred edition.  This is a wonderful student edition that has useful fingerings, dynamics, etc.

Offline Hamfast

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #4 on: February 11, 2005, 10:35:37 PM »
for someone with 'fast' in your name, the speed of that reply was incredibly ironic!  :P

I FAST besause today is friday
The piano is an orchestra with 88...... things, you know.

Offline Hamfast

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #5 on: February 11, 2005, 10:37:01 PM »
Try using the urtext it helps you FAST
The piano is an orchestra with 88...... things, you know.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #6 on: February 12, 2005, 11:21:02 PM »
Does anyone know of any web sites that deal with Chopins preludes? Not a history lesson necessarily, but what a piano teacher would teach a student such as... :) ornamentation, measure by measure breakdowns, chord identification... etc... Any help is GREATLY appreciated!!!                                  Mark

Not a website, but a book:

Eleanor Bailie – “Chopin: A graded practical guide” (Kahn & Averrill)

It covers not only the preludes as all of Chopin’s piano solo music.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline erik-

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #7 on: February 15, 2005, 06:24:18 PM »
Although it's not a website, the Alfred Cortot's practical editions of the preludes can give ideas on how to practice them. There are very detailed directions sometimes to  achieve specific technical difficulties.

Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #8 on: April 12, 2005, 09:41:12 AM »
No that it helps much right now but I have in my plans to write a complete study guide (together with a difficulty rating) for all of the Chopin preludes in op.28.
A similar guide as Malcolm wrote for the etudes (http://www.pianosociety.com/index.php?id=37) but likely not as extensive but more like tips and tricks.
If there is a specific problem, I might be able to help.
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Offline Egghead

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #9 on: April 12, 2005, 11:35:51 AM »
No that it helps much right now but I have in my plans to write a complete study guide (together with a difficulty rating) for all of the Chopin preludes in op.28.

Great idea!  :) When?  ;)
I look forward to it,
Egghead
tell me why I only practice on days I eat

Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #10 on: April 12, 2005, 01:10:27 PM »
I have recently finished a recording of the preludes which is located here:
http://www.pianosociety.com/index.php?id=36 (Ståhlbrand)
I will post the study guide there as well and need perhaps a month or so to write it.

About the recordings...I put rather much effort in some of the preludes, not enough time on several and ripped some direct from sheet. I will make new recordings starting with the worst. 19-24 should be ok though but I won't tell which are the worst as you would probably go directly for them and eat me alive ;-). Or maybe you do anyway.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #11 on: April 12, 2005, 03:25:01 PM »
I have recently finished a recording of the preludes which is located here:
http://www.pianosociety.com/index.php?id=36 (Ståhlbrand)
I will post the study guide there as well and need perhaps a month or so to write it.

About the recordings...I put rather much effort in some of the preludes, not enough time on several and ripped some direct from sheet. I will make new recordings starting with the worst. 19-24 should be ok though but I won't tell which are the worst as you would probably go directly for them and eat me alive ;-). Or maybe you do anyway.

Very nice effort.

You asked for comments...  ;D ;D I have a few regarding No. 4, but only because it is one of my all-time favorite piano pieces. Of course, what follows is my opinion. One does not have to agree with it.

1. Too fast for my taste. Overall, I prefer the piece at about 2 to 2.5 min.
2. Not enough rubato. The sighs don't come out well. Some rubato is necessary here. Also, the sobs are not dramatic enough. Use rubato and dynamics.
3. Not enough dynamic variation. Some sighs should be soft, others louder. Overall, use more dynamic range.
4. The grace notes are played way too short! Lengthen.
5. If this is one of the pieces you played from the sheet, then please memorize it. There is too much feeling in this piece; one shouldn't get distracted by having to look at the music.

For comparison, check out Grigory Sokolov's rendition: http://www.rogev.com/sokolov/music_en.html
I find this practically perfect, but others would object. He is really milking the piece wherever he can. But that's how I like it. Call me sentimental...

Offline rafant

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #12 on: April 12, 2005, 05:53:12 PM »
In this very same forum there are several threads having worthwhile advice about playing the Preludes. As an example here is a post by Bernhard referred to the No. 4 and applicable to many others:
Quote


   Re: Bad sound in Chopin's Prelude #4 in E
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2004, 10:52:04 PM »
   
Is the piano a problem? Do you always sound rustic . harsh and rough no matter what piano you play? It is amazing the difference a good piano can make.

Assuming the piano is not the problem, do you have a very clear representation in your mind of how you want this prelude to sound? This is the first and most important step.

If you know exactly the sound you want, go after it. Usually the fingers always comply with what is in your mind. If you are not getting the sound that you want, you must somehow change something. It is no good repeating exactly what you always do, since you will only get more of the same.

Without seeing and hearing you play, it is almost impossible to tell you what to do in a way that will solve your problem. So you must do some investigation. Look at the suggestions below as areas of investigation, rather than ultimate solutions. Keep what works, discard what does not.

1.      Use different dynamics for the right and left hand: the left hand chords softer than the right hand notes (this will bring out the melody).

2.      Use a fingering (this will require a lot of experimentation on pairs of chords) for the left hand that allows you to achieve perfect legato between chords without the pedal (you will use the pedal as well, but later)

3.      Keep your fingers touching the keys constantly (let the keys go back by releasing the finger pressure, but still touching the keys). Release the keys as little and as late as possible. The hands should feel “rooted” to the keyboard.

4.      Spend time on a single chord trying different touches/movements and listening to the resulting sound. This is slow, painstaking work. Eventually you may hit on the precise co-ordinates that give you the desired sound. Then you must start practising these co-ordinates so that you can produce the sound at will and subconsciously.

5.      Use a forward circular movement of the arms rather than and up and down movement to play the left hand.

6.      Do not play this too slow. If you do, the chords loose its fluidity and become too “solid”. You want a mist of sound on the left hand, and if you play too slow the sound decay will not allow continuity.

7.      Don’t regard the chords as simply chords, but as three different voices. Break the left hand in three melodic lines and practise each line separately, so that the voices inflections become obvious. Then try to follow such inflections when you join the notes into chords again.

8.      Another way to work on the harmonic inflections is to hold the notes that do not change in the chord and play only the changing notes. Then listen as the voices descend or ascend. Your aim here and on (7) above is to hear the chords not as blocks of sound, but as moving voices. Above all you want to avoid a “staccatto” feeling on the left hand.

9.      On the RH, practise a singing tone by making the notes say “Oh dear”, in a plaintive way, accenting the “Oh”, so in the initial sequence of C-B you would have C (Oh) – B (dear). If necessary say it as you play, so that the notes have the same inflection as the voice.

10.      Now you must join hands and balance the oh dear inflection on the RH with the voice movement on the left. Displace the RH notes ever so slightly, so that they do not fall on the brunt of the chord, but on its decay. This has to be precisely timed, otherwise the effect is horribly sentimental.

11.      Take your time on Bar 13 (where only the right hand plays). Do not rush it (a lot of people are really eager to go back to the initial motif), since this a really expressive moment in the prelude.

12.      On Bar 18, really make the bass octave B ring. Think Budhist temple bells (the huge ones that are struck horizontally with logs). Pedal is crucial here.

13.      You can also try changing the pedal every crochet beat, instead of every harmonic change.

14.      As you can see it has everything to do with being obsessed with details and minutiae. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.


I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

I play the fourth Prelude much better now.



Offline xvimbi

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #13 on: April 12, 2005, 06:21:39 PM »
In this very same forum there are several threads having worthwhile advice about playing the Preludes. As an example here is a post by Bernhard referred to the No. 4 and applicable to many others:
I play the fourth Prelude much better now.

I wasn't aware of that post. Great reference! And yes, it is indeed just the tip of the iceberg...

Also, it is often said that No. 4 is Chopin's easiest Prelude, and one of his easiest pieces at all. I don't think so!

Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #14 on: April 12, 2005, 08:02:24 PM »
Strict technically, the 4:th prelude is one of the easiest compositions. No doubt about that but musically...I have heard many versions of this prelude, at least 20 and they differ a lot. To be able to play Chopin, you need to know a lot about him, how he acted as a teacher, how he intended his music to be played etc. I did collect some info about his advice to student which shares some information.

- Every pupil, however advanced, should study Clementi's Gradus ad Parnassum.
- Right hand should be places on the notes E, F#, G#, A# and B. Left hand should be placed on C, Bb, Ab, Gb and E. These positions help rapid performance of scale passages.
- Hands should be held quite flat.
- C major is the most difficult scale to play well. Let us begin with with the scale of B, Gb and Db which tends to place the hand naturally, long fingers for the black keys.
- Chromatic scale should be practised with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger.
- Use pedals most sparingly, at least in the beginning. And even later on.
- Compositions used by Chopin for instruction: Works of Beethoven, Hummel, Field, Dussek, Hiller and Scarletti. To study music: Bach, Mozart and Händel.
- Listen to great singers. From them you learn how to phrase. Beautiful sound is the secret.
- Practise three hours a day is enough.
- To lift your hands in the air is undignified: it is "catching pigeons".
- A clean, even staccato helps to develop a clean, even legato.
- Rhythm: The left hand should act like ac orchestra conductor...It is the clock...Rhythm must not be violated.
- Always practise on a good piano, not a second-rate one.
- Interpret your own way, as long as you do not change what is written.
- Rubato is for the right hand and should be restricted to a single bar or a melody figure but for where the rubato resides within the marked dynamics. The Mazurkas are the excpetions.
- Do not play unnecessary loud or over-virtuostic. It will ruin the beauty.
- Do not strive for equally powerful fingers. The fingers are different in shape and function and have different tasks as for example, the middle finger creates the most beautiful voice. Therefore, the marks of fingering must not be changed as it will violate the phrasing.
- Learn a few Preludes and Fugues from Bach's WTK. They will automatically get your fingers right and use them as warm-up exercises before a performance.

Not all of the above apply to the topic but a few things about tempo and rubato can be learned. There is a reason he stopped marking his score "rubato". You will only find this in his earliest compositions.
What I dislike most about different interpretations with Chopin is over use of tempo rubato. According to what I have learnt, Chopin's music is more "baroque reincarnated in a romantic form" compared to his contemporaries. Frankly speaking, follow the metronome and you might be suprised to learn that he never let his metronome escape his piano.
But despite all the above, I think the most important thing for a pianist is to follow his/her heart. Don't try to be someone else or play like someone else. Collect inspiration by studing the composer and pianists interpretations carefully and use this information to find your own path.
I used to listen a lot to what people thought about my playing but I tend to listen less these days when I only play for fun and to keep my mind off the work.

My interpretation of the 4:th prelude is like a photo from this very day. A moment caught in music and if I record it again, most likely, a different version will come out but you will still hear it is me.
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Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #15 on: April 13, 2005, 08:35:39 AM »
I have begun the study guide, staring in descending order. Here is no.24:

Prelude no.24 – D minor

Advanced - Difficulty Level 23

One of the most difficult of the preludes in the set, seen both from a technical and musical aspect.
If you ever are going to perform the entire set, make sure you perfect this as it will be in most peoples head after a performance. And it is such a pleasure to hit the last low D fff keys and I cannot help to think that Chopin had the idea of the last prelude in his head when he started the composition of this opus from the very start and knew in which state he would leave the audience after a performance of the entire set.

The overall important aspect of this prelude is to keep the drive throughout the prelude. The drive is produced with left hands accompaniment and it is crucial that you learn to play the left hand well.

The reason that prelude no 24 is so difficult is the timing problem with the fast runs of right hands while left hand keeps the drive and tempo. Also, the left hand gets very tired and you can only practice it in short dozes.
The prelude easily divides into the following sections. Bar 1-20, 21-37, 38-57 and 58-77. Learn each section thoroughly before moving on to next.

Bars 1-20
This is the least hard (I refuse to call it easy) out of the four sections. Begin to understand how left hand must rotate around the third finger. It is very hard to keep it forte as the stretches are wide. If you don’t confidently reach 11 keys, this left hand pattern will make you tired. The trick is to not make all keys of the groups of five of left hand forte. It will be sufficient with the first and last (number one and five) and even get more drive this way. You can try make all equally hard but you must either have very large hands or be very enduring to be able to produce this all the way through.
Another trick which applies for all runs is to not make the runs tempo even but rather start very fast and slow down on the last two or three keys to hit the very last key clear and sharp and at exactly the same time as you begin the next measure with left hand. It is not of great problem if you smudge a couple of keys in between the couple of first and last keys but never miss the last.
The first run is a straight F major run and for anyone how knows their scales, this scale will be in your muscle memory. The second run (starting at bar 17 and last to bar 18) is more tricky as you begin with a descending group of four keys (F-E-C-A) in three octaves and then play an ascending A major scale up to A, but with a minor third. My advice is to use finger 4-3-2-1 in the group of four keys down.
For the left hand, my advice is to not follow the fingering in the scores I have seen but rather always use 5-3-1. Otherwise you will have in some bars a too wide grip between finger 2-1 which means you will have to speed up the pattern. If you always use finger 3, you can more or less rotate around it and about almost rest it on the key. This is a more reliable method and it is also easier to memorize.

Bars 21-37
The pattern from the first section repeats but in A minor rather than D minor. If you have memorized the first section to perfection, this one comes for free. The last run is what differs as it is, instead of a straight scale, an arpeggiated diminuendo C chord. An extremely clever variation which brings the right mood for the softer middle section.

Bars 38-57
This section is a softer to build up tension for the furious two finger chords in thirds. Make sure you catch the piano section starting at bar 46 to bar 49 and build gradually up to forte in bar 50. Try to bring the feel of that the prelude draws breath before the two finger chord section starting at bar 55. Make sure you hit the first chord ff and apply the same method as for the runs. Start faster and do not pay too much attention to that the triols groups in three for each left hand pattern. Learn left hand so well that you hardly notice that you play it. This is necessary to be able to concentrate on the right hand and believe me when I say that you will need to do so. Use the following fingering, 1-5, 2-4, 1-3, 1-5, 2-4, 1-5, 2-4, 1-3, 2-4, 1-3, 1-5, 2-4 and so on. There is no other way than just repeat and repeat until you know it by heart. Then gradually increase the speed and finally, combine it with the left hand. This will take time for anyone to learn.

Bars 58-77
Bar 58-66 is not very difficult but you will by now be very tired (unless you are superman) in the left hand. Try to keep first and last key of each group of five for left hand strong but I know how hard this is.
At bar 67, you face a descending F-E-D-B-G pattern for right hand (finger 5-4-3-2-1) and repeats four times. The last time, start it with finger 3 instead of finger 5. It fits the hand rather natural and should not be much of a problem. Think of it as a chord and apply the chord attack method to get it fast.
So, the end which starts with bar 64. I personally think this should be played very fast. It is a group of four with the keys Bb-A-F-D and one trick I use to make this very fast is to use both left and right hand. For right hand, use the fingers 4-3-2-1 and for left hand, 1-2-4-5 (yes thumb on black key). You will end with left hand for the last group which is Bb-A-F-E-D but please, do not try to hit the last low fff key with finger 5 as it is too weak. Use right hands finger 3 (or most confident finger) and why not use karate technique for the following two D:s with left hand.
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Offline rafant

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #16 on: April 13, 2005, 07:45:41 PM »
Robert did a good summary of several advises about Chopin's music, which have became dogmas in many cases. Particularly this one

Quote
- Rubato is for the right hand and should be restricted to a single bar or a melody figure but for where the rubato resides within the marked dynamics. The Mazurkas are the excpetions.

is quoted often in that methaphor about the right hand swinging as tree's branch whereas the left hand remains firm as the trunk. I wonder how could one do that without advancing or delaying the right hand notes with respect to the left hand ones, which of course would be a mess.

As far as I'm concerned one of the resources to improve my playing of the 4th Prelude was precisely left hand rubato. I do it by prolonging a little the first chord in every bar, what also establishes a better bass background. (This I copied from Idil Biret in her Naxos recording). The other resources were bouncing the chords, emphasizing the dynamic contrasts and not playing too much slowly.

Robert did not use left hand rubato at all, neither for 4th nor 6th Prelude. But I think that specially for 6th Prelude, as for 15th, the "raindrops" sounds more natural and expressive with some rubato. Romantic pianism allows such licenses, or doesn't?




Offline thierry13

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #17 on: April 14, 2005, 02:02:28 AM »
All your fasts prelude are WAY too slow. IMO. All recordings I heard are faster, and I like better when they are played faster. But, the interpretations are quite good, but not enough fast. If you can keep the same interpretation at higher speeds it would be very good! The slow preludes are OK tough. But the fast ones are quite to work...

Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #18 on: April 14, 2005, 08:23:51 AM »
I am aware of this and my technique is not what it used to be. That is what a 7-8 years break from playing will do to you. I try to find my way back to what I remember my playing once was like 10-15 years ago but the older you get and with all the other stuff in life that needs you (work, children, house, two cars, boat, teaching...wife ;-)), the slower this process gets.
I am an amateur and do not pretend to be anything else and what I tried to do was to bring a special touch to the preludes. I will continuously replace the recordings once I am able to make a better.
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Offline thierry13

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #19 on: April 14, 2005, 10:29:24 PM »
Yeah well, like I said, musically they are pretty good, there is only technique lacking. So, with a 7-8 years break, it is understandable. This was only a constructive post, nothing of an attack. Continue like that, and improve your thechnique, since your interpretations are allready quite good!

Offline robert

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Re: Learning Chopins preludes
«Reply #20 on: April 15, 2005, 06:42:26 AM »
Thierry13, I did not take your reply as an attack so don't worry  ;).
I just explained a few things around the recordings.
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