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Topic: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano  (Read 3334 times)

Offline nerd

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Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
on: May 31, 2004, 07:02:32 PM
I started Chopin's etude Op.10 No.2 a while ago and have the right hand of first and last sections (bars 1-18, 36-49) almost up to tempo (currently 120) and the middle section is accelerating... ::)

So, I thought it was time to start learning something else in addition to the notes, mainly dynamics. The problem is, the piece should be played
a) allegro
b) piano (mostly)
c) legato
, which is quite an impossible combination for my technique at the moment. How should I practice and play fast, quiet leagato? Or does it just come with time? So far I have usually just cheated with the pedal :-[, but this time it won't work :P.

Thanks,
nerd
DDN 8)

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #1 on: June 02, 2004, 08:46:12 AM
Allegro

More important than the speed of the sixteenths is their evenness.  You can fool the listener into believing what they are hearing is faster than reality.  Even Chopin himself talks about this.  But this requires absolute evenness of rhythm.  The piece will catch on fire if you remain steady.  

Also, having a clear direction per each four bar idea will make the listener feel as though they are being pulled forward.  Each phrase and rise and fall of scale passages should have its own momentum and personality.

Give the listener a great deal of information to digest as you are playing.  Interesting playing doesn't necessarily equal fast playing.  I would rather hear an physically relaxed, interesting interpretation with fantastic rhythm at 120 than a tight, struggling, machine-like interpretation at 144.  

Also, the tempo should hover AROUND 144.  You should have periods where you are a bit faster and some periods that are slower.  This idea is not opposed to an even rhythm; your subtle accelerandos and ritards should be even, like an engine revving.  The engine doesn't jump from 2000 rpm to 3000.  It gradually gets there, and so must your tempo.



Piano (soft)

Playing softly generally requires two ideas to be in your head simultaneously.  

First, there is the basic concept that a bigger motion or impulse creates a louder sound, while a smaller, more compact motion will create a smaller sound.  Different technique = different sound.  Same technique = same sound.  So, you must simply move less.

Secondly and similar to the first idea, move slower.  Many people try to play piano, yet they still use fast attacks.  I want to beat people over the head when I see them do this because it is such an easy problem to fix.  Move fast = louder sound.  Move slower = softer sound.  

These ideas work well together and they are easy to remember.  So work to make your impulses smaller and slower.  This idea works on just about everything, especially chords.



Legato

One thing I wish people would learn is that many times what we do physically at the piano will be the opposite of the way it sounds.  For instance, every piece of music we play should feel as though it is made up of a thousand separate little pieces, with mini split second relaxations in between each note/group/phrase/etc.  However, it will sound like one continuous stream of music.  Those are opposite ideas, yet the listener is unaware of what we are thinking or feeling.  It cannot be a continuous stream of physical work.  If it is, then we will get tight or tired.

So, with that preface I suggest that you play "up".  Instead of thinking down for each sixteenth, think up for lighter playing.  Legato will be an illusion you create.  The motion would be as if you pushed a piece of paper across a table to your friend (without using your arm, only fingers).  See how your fingers kinda flick upwards?  On the piano, it will sound like mini-staccatos.  This technique will create a certain type of sound.  The listener will hear legato, but you are doing something completely opposite.

If you want a true physical legato, I would suggest practicing the 3,4, and 5 fingers by themselves - only the sixteenths.  Do this until they are connected the way you want.  Also, make sure your thumb and index finger are just floating in space.  I tell my students to take their left hand and lightly grab 1 and 2 of the RH to make sure there is no tension.  Make sure you are playing each note to the keybed.  If it becomes too loud, refer to my earlier comments.  If you can't do legato sixteenths by themselves, you can't do it with the chords added.  So, be patient.  Now, this type of physically connected playing will make a different kind of sound than the one listed above.  It will be deeper and richer.  It is up to you to decide what sound you want.  Listen to recordings and consider which sound they are creating and which technique they are using to achieve it.

This is a milestone piece in one's development - you will learn immensely from studying it.

Robert Henry




Offline nerd

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #2 on: June 02, 2004, 11:12:32 PM
Thanks for your reply, Robert :)

Quote

Interesting playing doesn't necessarily equal fast playing.

Hehe, this took me a long, long time to learn. But once I learned how to phrase on an organ (ie. without any dynamic/etc. tricks) I've been able to play many of the slow piano pieces much more interestingly ;D

Quote

So, with that preface I suggest that you play "up".  Instead of thinking down for each sixteenth, think up for lighter playing.  Legato will be an illusion you create.  The motion would be as if you pushed a piece of paper across a table to your friend (without using your arm, only fingers).  See how your fingers kinda flick upwards?

The sound produced by this technique would probably fit into my interpretation of the piece. But the score is full of sempre legato -markings. Most of my teachers say that when a passage should be played legato, it should be a "physical" legato (even when using the sustain pedale). Actually, only one teacher said something else (but I cannot remember what it actually was). What are your opinions? What would Chopin say? ;)

Anyway, this is a new technique to me and I'm not sure if I've understood it correctly.
- The key must be pressed down after all. Will this happen during the flick motion or do you first press the key and then immediately flick? Should the key go all the way down to the keybed?
- Is there a name for this technique so that I could search for more information on the net?

Quote

Move fast = louder sound.  Move slower = softer sound.  
...
If you want a true physical legato, I would suggest practicing the 3,4, and 5 fingers by themselves - only the sixteenths. ...  Make sure you are playing each note to the keybed.  If it becomes too loud, refer to my earlier comments.

I tried practicing so that I start pressing the next key earlier. It will give me time to press the key slower. This seemed to work even at faster tempos. But how about the tricky places like the third groups in measures 20 and 22? I'll have to cut the chord notes to some very short ones...?

Quote

Listen to recordings and consider which sound they are creating and which technique they are using to achieve it.

Any (good) recordings on the net?
DDN 8)

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #3 on: June 03, 2004, 12:04:04 AM
Quote


Hehe, this took me a long, long time to learn.



No offense, but if you learned this lesson, then why did you specifically mention speed as a problem on a piano forum?  Just keeping it real...

Quote
 But the score is full of sempre legato -markings. Most of my teachers say that when a passage should be played legato, it should be a "physical" legato (even when using the sustain pedale). What would Chopin say? ;)
 

It doesn't matter who said what or how many agree with the other guy, or when Harry met Sally, or whatever.  What you have to do is challenge everything you are being told by everyone, including your teachers' thoughts and my suggestions, and come up with your own solutions.  

Please reread and think more about what I am saying about legato because I'm afraid you aren't there yet.  You assume that my suggestion is antithetical to the markings in the music.  One can play legato with the eraser of a pencil.  Music is sound, not a series of physical movements.  It is sound.  Legato is sound.  Do you also become physically tense when the music becomes tense?  Of course not.  Projecting an illusion of some sound or emotion doesn't mean you have to be physically invested in it.  Acting, for instance.  It is not the woman who cries, but the actress.  The two are separate.  She moves her body and forces her body to do something that will demand an emotional reaction from the audience, but she doesn't cry herself.  She knows that engaging her body and face in a certain way will manipulate the audience.  It is an illusion.  Sometimes legato is an illusion, too.

In music, and when teaching, I search for general truths - truths that are principled and well thought-out and able to be defended.  It is a truth that what we do physically sometimes is and should be the opposite of its intended effect on the ear.  It is up to you to figure out when and where to apply this to your playing.  Having priciples such as these gives the performer/student a firm foundation on which to stand.  They are like tools, if you will.  Not every tool is right for a given situation.  In other words, I'm not at odds with your teachers, nor are they with me.  There are times when multiple approaches will work, but first you must decide what sound you want.  It MUST begin with the mind.  Then apply the appropriate physical action to realize that sound.


Quote


- The key must be pressed down after all. Will this happen during the flick motion or do you first press the key and then immediately flick? Should the key go all the way down to the keybed?
- Is there a name for this technique so that I could search for more information on the net?



The technique is not two separate events, i.e. pressing the key down, then flicking.  It is a single event.  The flick sends the key down.  And no, the key is not sent to bed. Hehe.  It is very surfacy playing.  It is also a trick of mind.  It is a way of thinking about pressing the key more than actually doing so.  There is a subtle flick but it is less physically involved than what you are thinking.  I sure there is name for it, but I don't know what it is.

I wish I could show you in person.  :'( [/quote]

Quote


I tried practicing so that I start pressing the next key earlier. It will give me time to press the key slower.


That is a good idea.  

Robert Henry

Offline nerd

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #4 on: June 03, 2004, 01:37:57 AM
Quote

No offense, but if you learned this lesson, then why did you specifically mentioning speed as a problem on a piano forum?  Just keeping it real...

Well, it's still speed which is the problem since the piece cannot be played slowly. When I said what I said, I had slow pieces in mind. Let's take, for example, Chopin's C minor prelude. It's a slow piece and I think I can now play it much more interestingly than, say, two years ago. This applies to faster pieces, too. I once heard someone playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody 2 at top speed. He slowed down at hard passages and speeded up at easy ones. Horrible.

Sorry about the confusion. I also hope the above won't cause more :)

Quote

It doesn't matter who said what or how many agree with the other guy, or when Harry met Sally, or whatever.  What you have to do is challenge everything you are being told by everyone, including your teachers' thoughts and my suggestions, and come up with your own solutions.

That became clearer. Though I'm afraid I have to question you ;)

Quote

You assume that my suggestion is antithetical to the markings in the music.

No, I didn't assume anything. You mentioned that the two methods produce different sound. What I was thinking was that maybe Chopin wanted the piece to be played with the sound produced by "physical" legato. And the things I had heard about how to play legato affected, too.

Quote

And no, the key is not sent to bed.

I just love this kinds of little jokes in otherwise quite formal texts. ;D I wish there were more of them.

Anyway, I'll try the flick-technique and physical legato. But I'm open to more ideas, too :)
DDN 8)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #5 on: June 04, 2004, 01:50:55 AM
This was a beautiful post, Robert Henry. As usual excellent ideas packed in superlative writing. And so very true the non-intuitive idea that very often movements and sounds are in direct contradiction. Perhaps never more so than when trying to sound even: that is where the movements may have to be at their most uneven.

Check out some more Robert Henry gems relating to this etude in this excellent thread:


https://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1002221638


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 robert_henry

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #6 on: June 04, 2004, 07:13:39 AM
Bernhard, flattery will get you nowhere!  Just kidding.  You command the respect from everyone on this forum, and I congratulate you for that.  I always know I'm on the right track when we agree.

I wrote those comments in the other thread so long ago, they don't even seem familiar anymore.  I still agree with them, of course.  It's quite funny to see how many grammatical mistakes I made.  Also, was I really such a smartass?!  Shame on me sometimes, hehe.

Robert Henry

Offline nerd

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #7 on: June 04, 2004, 09:07:11 PM
That "impulse-glissandi" stuff you talked about in the other thread feels promising. You basically play the chord by dropping the wrist, then slide to the next chord lifting the wrist up at the same time (and play the rest of the group, of course) and drop it for the next chord. Or something like that?

Also, it would be cool if someone could give a more detailed explanation of the "flick" technique and maybe some excercises to get the feeling of the technique. I recall Bernhard being very good at this... *cough* ;D ;)

There's only one negative aspect with holidays: no teacher :P
DDN 8)

Offline jennbo

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #8 on: June 06, 2004, 09:18:46 PM
haven't played this etude yet.
but with the others, my teacher says to go control my arm weight.  
i do it by slightly lifting itup.  SLIGHTLY
SLIGHTLY SLIGHTLY SLIGHTLY being the keyword.
keep your wrists supple.  
have control of your fingerings.  
to play allegro- practice SLOWLY make sure all the fingerings/ the weight of which you press the keys are even.  when you practice slowly, use what my teacher calls "smart fingers" [i dunno she's russian] and press down, and almost lightly hit it but with force.  [wow that makes no sense]
well buddy hope everything goes swell for you

Offline nerd

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Re: Chopin: Op.10 No.2 - making it piano
Reply #9 on: June 08, 2004, 11:16:48 PM
Quote
when you practice slowly, use what my teacher calls "smart fingers" [i dunno she's russian] and press down, and almost lightly hit it but with force.

So, you hit the key with force but don't press it all the way down? Just quickly hit it?

Quote
[wow that makes no sense]

::)
DDN 8)
 

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