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Author Topic: Méreaux - Most difficult romantic composer according to Hamelin  (Read 10685 times)
opus10no2
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« on: April 04, 2009, 01:03:20 AM »

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I have a set of études by a very, very little-known French composer. Of the same period as Alkan, as it turns out. His name was Amédée Méreaux. It’s a big set of 60 études. Some of this stuff is just hair-raising and makes Alkan look like nothing.

http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:M%C3%A9reaux%2C_Jean-Am%C3%A9d%C3%A9e_Lefroid_de

http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2009/03/interview-with-marcandr%C3%A9-hamelin.html

Quote
[pulls out penis]

EI:  Oh wow.

MAH:  An extreme example, here.

EI:  Oh for sure. Look at that!

[There are two-fisted chords leaping in every direction.]

MAH:  I mean, this is the only piece I know in which you can actually catch vertigo… and it’s in C Major, probably the worst key to do this in.

EI:  [Paging through] I feel like there’s something of Henselt in the figurations?

MAH:  Maybe, a lot of it is very widely spaced… I laughed my head off when I saw this… The problem with these pieces is that, musically, they are sub-zero. The melodic invention is...it’s not enough to say that it’s poor, it’s just not there. And it just goes on and on and on and on. He writes 60 pieces in an absolutely worthless idiom.

If I was interested in difficulty for difficulty’s sake, I could play this, I suppose. But this stuff just isn’t interesting.




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thalbergmad
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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2009, 08:02:42 AM »

 Shocked
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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2009, 09:05:30 AM »

They're fairly mad.
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jlh
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2009, 10:47:10 AM »

Never heard of him... but apparently they're musically worthless according to Hamelin.
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2009, 11:29:15 AM »

just technically bull sh*ting around
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2009, 12:26:22 PM »

What a great interview. It's funny to see you single out this little side topic from it....
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opus10no2
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2009, 12:30:19 PM »

They ARE interesting, they reveal innovations in figurations and in technical issues.

I'd have to hear them to judge their musical merit, even some Czerny is melodic and interesting, especially in variation form.

Even if the musical substance is unintereresting, their pianistic inventiveness inspired and can continue to inspire others.

Imagine if Chopin wrote the melodic/harmonic material, for example...
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2009, 01:18:36 PM »


I'd have to hear them to judge their musical merit, even some Czerny is melodic and interesting, especially in variation form.


Well said sir
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2009, 09:37:51 PM »

a
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presto agitato
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2009, 03:44:05 PM »

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,27744.msg323883.html#msg323883
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2009, 09:35:09 PM »

The works of Mereaux, for the most part, fall into the category of inconsequentiality in regard to their harmonic material.  They are simply uninteresting: think of the most boring works by Reger or Franck, and then assume that all of his music is similar.  His piano etudes are ferociously difficult and over-notated, but they *are* very interesting to look at.  He was using notational techniques that probably weren't used until the Post-Darmstadt Era to convey some of his ideas, which are very impressive from an academic standpoint.  He was a composer without a lot of skill but with some very interesting ideas.

His stuff is certainly worth looking at, but probably not worth listening to, with a couple exceptions here and there.
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opus10no2
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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2009, 10:02:36 PM »

Where is there any available to hear?
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2009, 10:03:32 PM »

Where is there any available to hear?

I do not have any recordings.  I am only making inferences from the sheet music.  Get on AIM and I'll send you the whole etude set, assuming you don't have it.
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opus10no2
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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2009, 10:07:51 PM »

Thanks, actually could you attach the .pdf using the 'additional options' feature so that others may see too.

I'm assuming you've either played some through? Grin
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2009, 10:20:41 PM »

Number 55 (fuga) looks pretty intimidating as does 27.

Perhaps they are less difficult than they look, but i have no intention of finding out.

Supervirtuoso stuff.

500 pages of hell

Thal
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2009, 10:44:57 PM »

Injury is likely to result from attempting to play Il Trillo No. 48.

4/5 trills with both hands whilst playing the melody in thirds with both hands.

Thal

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« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2009, 11:00:59 PM »

Can someone post the whole .pdf? Grin
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2009, 07:22:26 AM »

It was scanned by one of me mates, but not for public consumption. It must have taken days to do it.

I will ask him if it can be posted.

Thal
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2009, 10:00:26 AM »

From IMSLP (my very favorite website in the whole Internet).

I will take a look, but from starters:

a.  Reger and Franck are highly understimated,
b.  Only a fool would think of holding any of this, so the question is really whether there are written in such way that they fit the hand with good alignment and without antagonistic muscle pulls, the rest simply being finding what is the right shape to render the music,
c.  Melodic and harmonic invention is a tricky thing.  I hate Alkan, but not because of the virtuosity, but simply because the lines and the harmony don't sound good to me; on the other hand, there is plenty of Czerny that I find quite lovely in spite of being so unbold.

There is no question that Czerny did not have the compositional talent of Beethoven or Liszt, and I suspect that Mereaux is closer to Czerny than to, by way of example, Franck, Berlioz or Saint-Saens.

But he gets a go at my music rack.  Let's compare notes in a few days.

* Selections from Mereaux Op. 63.pdf (4116.12 KB - downloaded 150 times.)
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2009, 11:07:06 AM »

I agree that this chap is SUPERCZERNY.

I had a go at "Il Trillo" this morning, but it is so much above my ability that i did not get very far. It was disctinctly uncomfortable under my hands, but i do not keep my fingers in good pianistic condition.

Got a touch or the old forearm cramp.

Thal
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« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2009, 04:31:32 PM »

lol SUPERCZERNY  Grin

I wonder if Méreaux himself could play his stuff..  Shocked
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« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2009, 05:28:04 AM »

Reger and Franck are highly understimated
Not by organists.  And speaking as an organist, Franck is considered by many to be second only to Bach as a composer for the organ.  The whole subsequent 'French' school of organists would not be possible without Franck's pioneering example. 

As far as Méreaux is concerned, it is interesting that his music has a bit of the appearance of Alkan on the printed page, but having read through those available on IMSLP, the difficulties far outweigh any musical value.  They simply are not worth the time.

But IMHO, that is also true of many of Alkan's Op. 35.  (Not so of the Op. 39.) 

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ahinton
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« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2009, 10:10:37 PM »

Not by organists.  And speaking as an organist, Franck is considered by many to be second only to Bach as a composer for the organ.  The whole subsequent 'French' school of organists would not be possible without Franck's pioneering example.  

As far as Méreaux is concerned, it is interesting that his music has a bit of the appearance of Alkan on the printed page, but having read through those available on IMSLP, the difficulties far outweigh any musical value.  They simply are not worth the time.

But IMHO, that is also true of many of Alkan's Op. 35.  (Not so of the Op. 39.)  
Tenth-rate Alkan at best, frankly although there can be no doubting the interest value qua interest value as far as that goes. It's interesting that you refer here to organists, because it occurs to me to cite Alkan's twelve studies for pedals alone, the sheer ferocity of whose difficulty similarly outweighs the end results as pieces of music, yet even here we are on a level of musical value well above anything that I've yet encountered from Méreaux. These pieces, like most of Alkan's "organ" music, were largely intended for pédalier rather than organ per se, but the entire output is being recorded by Kevin Bowyer and two of the three CDs of it are already out on the Toccata Classics label (all recorded in Blackburn Cathedral, England); this might seem somewhat odd given that Alkan was himself a distinguished organist by all accounts, in addition to being a decent violinist...

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2009, 01:11:01 AM »

I do know Kevin Bowyer (I've met the man, utterly glorious musician), and certainly I know about the 'pédalier'. 

Better yet, Alistair... how about a reply to my PM?  Or is Gerontius rather a difficult thing to come to terms with?  I would understand... at least I suppose.  Personally there is nothing greater... if I rate it over the Bach B minor, well I have a few years to sort that out. 
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ahinton
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« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2009, 07:16:35 AM »

I do know Kevin Bowyer (I've met the man, utterly glorious musician), and certainly I know about the 'pédalier'. 

Better yet, Alistair... how about a reply to my PM?  Or is Gerontius rather a difficult thing to come to terms with?  I would understand... at least I suppose.  Personally there is nothing greater... if I rate it over the Bach B minor, well I have a few years to sort that out. 
My sincere apologies for omitting to respond to your PM; I will endeavour to redress that now in the public arena of this forum by agreeing that Gerontius - the most consistent and successful by far of Elgar's several journeys into the world of oratorio, I think - is indeed worthy to be spoken of in the same breath as the B Minor Mass and the Missa Solemnis and one certainly does not have to be English (which I am not, anyway) or a Roman Catholic (which I am also not) to be profoundly moved by it. I hope to attend a performance of it later this year in the Three Choirs Festival which, as you may know, takes place in Hereford this year; I am living temporarily not far from Hereford at the moment, so I will not have to go forth upon an especially long journey(!) to be able to attend...

To return momentarily to Kevin Bowyer, will you be able to attend his world première of Sorabji's Second Organ Symhony in Glasgow? It takes place eight weeks tomorrow...

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #25 on: April 15, 2009, 04:03:12 AM »

To return momentarily to Kevin Bowyer, will you be able to attend his world première of Sorabji's Second Organ Symhony in Glasgow? It takes place eight weeks tomorrow...
It has been on the calendar for some time, it does interest me, and I always try to catch a Bowyer performance.  (Also would like to meet you.)  Alas, there could be conflicts (heavy schedule at work, possible church substitute job- I can use the money), but not least the difficulties in getting to Glasgow on short notice.  It's a hefty rail trip from London Euston, and I don't own a car.  (My mother would unlikely lend me hers for the comparably long duration.)

Thank-you for the comments re Gerontius.  I note with interest that you live near Hereford, a cathedral I have visited many times, most recently after the major organ rebuild.  I have once met Peter Dyke, the organist, a terrific chap.  And I must add: the rail journey from Great Malvern to Hereford passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in England.  But it's those Elgarian associations again... 

Cheers
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ahinton
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« Reply #26 on: April 15, 2009, 06:45:46 AM »

It has been on the calendar for some time, it does interest me, and I always try to catch a Bowyer performance.  (Also would like to meet you.)  Alas, there could be conflicts (heavy schedule at work, possible church substitute job- I can use the money), but not least the difficulties in getting to Glasgow on short notice.  It's a hefty rail trip from London Euston, and I don't own a car.  (My mother would unlikely lend me hers for the comparably long duration.)

Thank-you for the comments re Gerontius.  I note with interest that you live near Hereford, a cathedral I have visited many times, most recently after the major organ rebuild.  I have once met Peter Dyke, the organist, a terrific chap.  And I must add: the rail journey from Great Malvern to Hereford passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in England.  But it's those Elgarian associations again...  

Cheers
If you are based in Great Malvern, why would you need to travel to Glasgow from London Euston? You would surely be better off flying from Birmingham or Bristol; it would probably be cheaper than travelling by train.

It is a pity, however, that the rebuild of Hereford Cathedral organ did not include manual and pedal compass extensions (C-C and C-G respectively); otherwise, it is a fine instrument indeed though, to my ears, a few notches down from the magnificent Harrison at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol (which also underwent a major overhaul some years ago) on which I had the privilege to hear Sorabji's First Organ Symphony and my own Pansophiæ for John Ogdon recorded by Kevin Bowyer.

I know what you mean about the area of which you write. Elgar did say that he "found" music in those hills, as though it was waiting for him to discover it; I actually commemorated this in one of my seven character pieces for piano in which I sought to create an association between this fact and Busoni's notion of the composer merely repeating what he/she used his/her skill to discover as well as Schönberg's idea of being a vessel though which the music passed; the piece is entitled Malvern Air, although there is no intention to suggest that any Worcestershire folk tune is involved!

It occurs to me that we'ver strayed rather a long way from Méreaux!...

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #27 on: April 15, 2009, 06:03:01 PM »

If you are based in Great Malvern, who would you need to travel to Glasgow from London Euston? You would surely be better off flying from Birmingham or Bristol; it would probably be cheaper than travelling by train.
Born in Great Malvern (to an American mother), but currently resident in Greater London.  So I can see why you were mystified about a London Euston departure! 

St. Mary Redcliffe is indeed a marvel.  Sorry, OT....
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opus10no2
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« Reply #28 on: April 16, 2009, 04:14:08 AM »

Can anyone upload the complete set?
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opus10no2
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« Reply #29 on: May 10, 2010, 02:18:41 AM »




more on http://www.youtube.com/user/tomekkobialka

Some undeniable wikidness.
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« Reply #30 on: May 11, 2010, 03:20:37 AM »

I have been trying to perform Massenet's Valse Folle and have gotten nowhere with it. Hamelin provides an excellent recording, offering a balanced musical interpretation which is technically impecible. He seems to play french late romantic very well. Though he made a wonderful performance I did not like his interpretation of Godowsky's piano sonata - changing the subject slightly Wink
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« Reply #31 on: May 11, 2010, 04:31:49 AM »



Some undeniable wikidness.

I know it's probably relatively obvious, but these are not actual performances, but rather midi sequences.
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lontano
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« Reply #32 on: May 14, 2010, 11:42:21 PM »

lol SUPERCZERNY  Grin

I wonder if Méreaux himself could play his stuff..  Shocked
I've seen this question go unanswered, so I'll ask straight out: does ANYONE know if Méreaux actually performed (any) of these works? One friend of mine stated that these Etudes were well known among students at the conservatoire, etc yet there seems to be very little information available on the composer himself. Was he self-"educated" in composition? Who did he study with and who did he influence (or teach)? I haven't found much of anything with Google and/or Wiki and my 7th Ed. of Baker's (1984) doesn't mention him. If anyone has access to the New Grove could you check to see if there's anything on the man and his madness in that epic tome?  Cool

Many thanks!
L.
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« Reply #33 on: May 15, 2010, 12:34:01 AM »

The fifth edition (1954) of Grove's says the following:

Quote
(b. Paris, 1803; d. Rouen, 25 Apr. 1874), pianist and composer, son of the preceding [Jean Nicolas Mereaux].  He became a remarkable pianist and a very successful teacher.  He studied under Reicha from the age of ten and appeared with great success in Paris and London before 1835, when he settled in Rouen as a teacher.  Of his original compositions his studies are the most important, but his fame rests chiefly upon his excellent collection published in 1867 under the title of 'Les Clavecinistes de 1637 à 1790'.  He was also in great repute as a musical journalist.

I don't know if this is widely known, but Mereaux composed an etude specifically for the Méthode des Méthodes of Moscheles and Fétis.  It's a scant 21 bars of Andante patetico con moto in c-sharp minor; the technical objective concerns trills in the outer fingers of the right hand (i.e., 1-2 and 4-5) while the middle finger is occupied holding successive notes of longer duration.
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« Reply #34 on: May 15, 2010, 01:51:55 AM »

The fifth edition (1954) of Grove's says the following:

I don't know if this is widely known, but Mereaux composed an etude specifically for the Méthode des Méthodes of Moscheles and Fétis.  It's a scant 21 bars of Andante patetico con moto in c-sharp minor; the technical objective concerns trills in the outer fingers of the right hand (i.e., 1-2 and 4-5) while the middle finger is occupied holding successive notes of longer duration.
Well thanks very much. It's not a lot of info, but it's something. It still seems odd that "He became a remarkable pianist and a very successful teacher." - yet this (so far for me) seems to be the sum of all biographical info that's out there.
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« Reply #35 on: May 15, 2010, 02:33:25 AM »

Well thanks very much. It's not a lot of info, but it's something. It still seems odd that "He became a remarkable pianist and a very successful teacher." - yet this (so far for me) seems to be the sum of all biographical info that's out there.

You're welcome, and you're right about the apparent dearth of substantive information.  I was surprised to find that there's no article about Mereaux at Wikipedia; his page at IMSLP offers instead a link to a mini-biography at answers.com.  Even the Wikipédia français lacks an entry about him!
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« Reply #36 on: June 06, 2010, 06:41:43 PM »

I think Libetta does a service where people can pay for him to record any pieces you want. Maybe someone should send him these scores?  Shocked
Could be expensive due to the difficulty and duration though... but there should be a recording made so that people who cannot imagine the music from the score can evaluate it...
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« Reply #37 on: June 06, 2010, 07:10:13 PM »

I think Libetta does a service where people can pay for him to record any pieces you want. Maybe someone should send him these scores?  Shocked
Could be expensive due to the difficulty and duration though... but there should be a recording made so that people who cannot imagine the music from the score can evaluate it...
Forgive me but who is Libetta? And can he, to your knowledge, perform works of this outrageous, and often pointless, difficulty? There is a "Méreaux Project" on youtube, where someone is creating midi versions of a number of these studies, and reading the score to these midi performances is laugh out loud crazy! The one in C with the wild chords in "the wrong hands" is so stupid it's funny. But I'd probably pay to see a human pull this off - it's an acrobatic feat more than a musical study.

L.
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« Reply #38 on: June 06, 2010, 10:38:05 PM »

Forgive me but who is Libetta? And can he, to your knowledge, perform works of this outrageous, and often pointless, difficulty? There is a "Méreaux Project" on youtube, where someone is creating midi versions of a number of these studies, and reading the score to these midi performances is laugh out loud crazy! The one in C with the wild chords in "the wrong hands" is so stupid it's funny. But I'd probably pay to see a human pull this off - it's an acrobatic feat more than a musical study.

L.

Libetta is probably the best pianist for this kind of job.His technique is absolutely amazing. He has amaong several things played all of the Chopin-Godowsky etudes in concert.






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« Reply #39 on: June 06, 2010, 11:04:26 PM »

Injury is likely to result from attempting to play Il Trillo No. 48.

4/5 trills with both hands whilst playing the melody in thirds with both hands.

Thal

In that same study (#48), starting on score page 106 the 4/5 trills become octave/9th trills, eventually in both hands, while sustaining melodies in several registers. Another one I'd pay to see performed.
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« Reply #40 on: October 29, 2012, 02:19:25 AM »

Just for your information, I happened to discover that Cyprien Katsaris has recorded 5 of these Etudes. You can also hear them on Youtube...

His Ballade (cf. IMSLP) looks more interesting than the etudes, but I'll give it a try soon.
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rachmaninoff_forever
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« Reply #41 on: October 29, 2012, 02:34:35 AM »

Etude no. 50

Sweet mother of god...
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perprocrastinate
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« Reply #42 on: October 29, 2012, 03:14:30 AM »

Were these the "Chopin-Godowsky Etudes" of the time?
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fftransform
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« Reply #43 on: October 30, 2012, 04:23:00 AM »

The Mereaux Etudes are etudes in the stricter, now-antiquated sense of the word.  They have relatively little musical content, for the most part; all of them are very repetitive.  However, none of them are completely devoid of value.  I feel like it somebody edited them down into a set of 40"-2' preludes, they could actually be nice (to listen to, definitely not to play).  The ones which Katsaris decided to learn are not the better ones, actually, IMO:




Unfortunately, the better ones aren't the ridiculously impossible ones, which are the ones people were interested in making MIDI's of, it seems.
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emrysmerlin
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« Reply #44 on: October 30, 2012, 05:02:00 AM »

Were these the "Chopin-Godowsky Etudes" of the time?

IMO a lot of them are not meant to be playable. They're more like experiments than refinements, which is what the "Chopin-Godowsky Etudes" are.
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ahinton
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« Reply #45 on: October 30, 2012, 07:37:42 AM »

Were these the "Chopin-Godowsky Etudes" of the time?
Only in the most superficial of senses, I would say. Méreaux's explored particular aspects of technique (I'd prefer to say mécanique) to extreme ends rather as did Alkan's, whereas Godowsky's are for the most part far more concerned with the total independence of each finger for the purpose of creating complex counterpoints and sophisticated balances between material that result in pieces that are for the most part harder to play well than they sound. Whilst Méreaux's, as I noted above, have considerably less musical worth than either of the others, they are not entirely devoid of interest, although at least some of that interest comes inevitably to centre around what his contemporaries - especially, Chopin, Liszt and Alkan - might have thought of his writing and the motivations behind it. Few of the Méreaux studies are the kinds of pieces that most pianists would want to take the trouble to work up to perform in public and, as such, their pedagogical and historical value arguably exceeds their musical value; that said, of course, few pianists ever prepared and presented Alkan's or Godowsky's until relatively recently, but for quite different reasons, I think!

My judgement of the Méreaux études is not as hard as that of Hamelin but I cannot help but feel that they are for the most part of limited and passing interest at best.

Best,

Alistair
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emrysmerlin
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« Reply #46 on: October 30, 2012, 02:40:53 PM »

I must say we might be focusing too much on his etudes (not that his other works we currently have access to would make up, by any means, a portion of his output half as great.) Perhaps we should wait for ppl like ebubu to tackle the ballade and see if we should be as critical as we currently are now on his compositions.

Quote
My judgement of the Méreaux études is not as hard as that of Hamelin but I cannot help but feel that they are for the most part of limited and passing interest at best.

Did you not yourself contribute to the creation that collection of etudes? I thought they sound fantastic, with a couple of exceptions.

Slightly digressing from topic, why isn't Lyapunov getting as much credit for finishing where Liszt left off?
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ahinton
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« Reply #47 on: October 30, 2012, 02:44:16 PM »

Did you not yourself contribute to the creation that collection of etudes? I thought they sound fantastic, with a couple of exceptions.
No, I didn't.

Slightly digressing from topic, why isn't Lyapunov getting as much credit for finishing where Liszt left off?
Because he hardly did that! - but I do agree that his work is deserving of far more attention than it gets.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #48 on: October 30, 2012, 08:28:33 PM »

I'm surprised no one has posted the only video I know of of a live Mereaux video.  This kid from japan has some serious technique....
http://youtu.be/k57Tl7qAGFs

Musically, really no quality in the composition.
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emrysmerlin
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« Reply #49 on: October 31, 2012, 12:06:07 AM »

I'm surprised no one has posted the only video I know of of a live Mereaux video.  This kid from japan has some serious technique....
http://youtu.be/k57Tl7qAGFs

Musically, really no quality in the composition.

I think most ppl here who has ever looked up Alkan videos on youtube would know him...he played the entire solo concerto op.39 without cuts!
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