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Beethoven Waldstein questions (Read 12341 times)

Offline jehangircama

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Beethoven Waldstein questions
« on: November 18, 2009, 11:18:38 PM »
I'm working on this at the moment, and was curious about a couple of things.

1. The page before the prestissimo in the 3rd mvt- how do most people play this? is it with the right hand jumping all the time (with 1-3-1-3-1-3 on each of the sets of notes) or doing something like 4-5-4-2-1-2 (with the hand staying more or less in the same position)? I personally have been trying to mix up the 2- I find it easier to keep the hand position the same except for 1 line where I need to jump (just as the left hand has to start hitting the low C). But am not sure whether the melody will come out at a higher tempo using 4-5-4 for the upper notes. The reason I'm keeping it like this is that I believe that the continuous jumps will make the whole page sound harsher than it should...not one seamless flow which is the way i believe it needs to be played.

2. In the prestissimo, do most people play the octaves as a glissando? The recording I like is that of Ashkenazy where he doesn't gliss. Further, there is no indication saying gliss on my (urtext) edition. What is the consensus on this? (and btw, how DOES one play an octave gliss? Have never really attempted it...)

fingering is everything in this piece, was surprised with some of the sections in the first mvt.  they are pretty tricky to play cleanly. but have managed to now set most of the fingering, just not sure abt this one page.
thanks
jc
You either do or do not. There is no try- Yoda

Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it

piano sheet music of Sonata 21 (Waldstein)


Offline Bob

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #1 on: November 19, 2009, 04:17:08 AM »
For #2, I've heard glissando if that's the section I'm thinking of.  It's prestissimo.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 06:22:36 AM »
1. The page before the prestissimo in the 3rd mvt- how do most people play this? is it with the right hand jumping all the time (with 1-3-1-3-1-3 on each of the sets of notes) or doing something like 4-5-4-2-1-2 (with the hand staying more or less in the same position)?
You should use your whole hand to play this passage. Sometimes it is 353 sometimes 454 depending on the shape your hand must control. For instance, bar 352 use 3 on the G (3rd group), bar 353 use 4 on the A. Another example, bar 357 use 3 on C in the 1st group CFC, but use 4 when in the 3rd group it plays CEC. A good way to work out the fingers is play group 1+2 as a chord and group 3+4. LH is more challenging than the RH as it goes through different figures where you must control more than 1 position, where the RH can often hold one position.

Using only 1 and 3 fingers is too much effort and doesn't develop enough control imo.

2. In the prestissimo, do most people play the octaves as a glissando? The recording I like is that of Ashkenazy where he doesn't gliss. Further, there is no indication saying gliss on my (urtext) edition. What is the consensus on this? (and btw, how DOES one play an octave gliss? Have never really attempted it...)
I also choose NOT to gliss but gently does it :)
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Offline birba

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #3 on: November 19, 2009, 06:51:48 AM »
Follow the fingering you use when you play those broken chords as one chord. (e.g. c-e-c use 4, d-g-d use 3, etc.)
When I first learned the Waldstein, I used the von Bulow edition of breaking the octave passage up into two hands.  I've seen quite a few pianists use this fingering.  Once I heard an awful performance of Jeffrey Swann where he slowed down like 3/4 the speed and played octaves, why? I'll never guess.  I haven't heard the Ashkenazy recording.  But I can't imagine even him having octaves that fast.  Because it's the speed that's so intimidating.  I use, now, glissando.  I think the resulting "leggerezza" is what Beethoven was after.  Who knows.  One of those problems they'll still be discussing long after we're gone.

Offline jehangircama

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #4 on: November 19, 2009, 01:30:21 PM »
thanks for the replies.

@lostinidlewonder- yes, i did mean to say 4-5-4 or 3-5-3 etc for the RH upper notes depending on the positions, and 3-1 or 2-1 depending again on the positions of the lower notes for the RH. and thanks for the 357 fingering, those were the 3 bars i was thinking of jumping on- 357-359.  ok, even i thought that was the better option, was just checking...

the octaves seem the right speed on ashkenazy's rec. and they're very clear, but i'd imagine that's really hard to do (esp. as its pp). i never thought of breaking it into 2 hands, as my edition clearly writes that the fingering shld be 5-1 on the octaves (i think that's probably the only fingering marking in the entire volume!) and the pedal is cut just before the section, so you can't hold the chords and play the octaves at the same time that way. that said, it sure makes it much easier if you lightly pedal the chord and split the octaves, will try it out. but i have a feeling i'm going to have to learn to gliss it. that's going to be painful...
You either do or do not. There is no try- Yoda

Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it

Offline aslanov

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #5 on: November 21, 2009, 05:40:44 AM »
Andras Schiff addressed the problem of the octaves in his lectures that he gave before his performances.
As i recall, he's adamant that they are meant to be played as octaves...really quickly, not a glissando. But he did mention that it's very difficult, and that you cannot play it at speed on all pianos.......which seemed odd to me. But give that a listen, and see what he says.

Offline jehangircama

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #6 on: November 21, 2009, 10:28:47 AM »
I did listen to those lectures some time ago, but i thought he wanted it played glissando (i heard them a long time ago, i may be mistaken...) and i would imagine its possible (if u have the technique) to do the rapid octaves on all pianos, but not the glissando.... if the keys are a bit hard, a gliss would be extremely difficult.
You either do or do not. There is no try- Yoda

Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it

Offline lohshuhan

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #7 on: December 11, 2009, 12:10:07 AM »
hmmm.  you gave me something to think about here.  interesting fingering for that passage

1) if you can maintain the flow and the legato, then i think te  1 3 1 3 1 3 fingering will be much better because it helps to bring out the higher notes, rather than leaving it to the weaker 4th and 5th fingers.  however, you do realise the complications of using that fingering, as you have to be a lot more accurate in it.  everybody who i know who have played this pieces before uses the 3/4 5 3/4 2 1 2 fingering, including myself.  But yes, it does make voicing the top melody a little harder. 

2) i did a very ineffective glissando on octaves when i was learning the waldstein, basically because i did not intend to use that for any major examination or performance, so it was not a detailed reading of the score.  But, here's a version for you to consider.  Presenting to you, Nelson Freire.



The passage in discussion is around 8:04, just in case you wish to skip straight there. 

All the best! 

Offline birba

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #8 on: December 11, 2009, 07:25:28 AM »
Interesting!  Never seen it done that way.  It does work - still prefer the double gliss. though.  Not difficult at all and creates a slight more sonorous fog which I love at that point.

Offline jehangircama

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #9 on: December 22, 2009, 06:29:38 PM »
yes, just heard the schiff lec... he maintains that as there is the legato arch over the notes and they're marked 5-1 (btw, this is probably the ONLY place in my entire edition of the sonatas that fingering is given), its meant to be a gliss...

interesting method shown there in the video, you can't really make out too much difference in how it sounds, but its still 'cheating'! maybe if nothing else works...

i still haven't given up on the normal double octaves, though at that speed, it'll be tough.

for the passage 352-378 i am using a combination of both methods as of now, it seems to work for me so i'm sticking to it.

but i have a couple of other doubts now about the trills...

1. in the prestissimo: bar 493: it starts on the A flat. so i guess it goes Ab-G-Ab-G... Then does the higher G (melody) get played simultaneously with an Ab and not with the lower G in the trill? (this pattern is there in a couple of places, even in the earlier part of the mvt- eg bar 51 the trill starts on the A. so its A-G-A-G... so in bar 55 is the higher G played with A or G in the trill?)

2. in the prestissimo trill again, just wanted to check that i'm hitting the right notes:
first trill (bar 477 onwards) is G-A-G-A....
then 493 onwards its Ab-G.... then an issue comes up at bar 495 the 2nd G minim... does the trill hit Ab simultaneously with the G?
bar 497 first half is Ab-Bb, second half is Eb-F.... which changes to E-F in the second part of bar 500.
bar 501-first half is F-G, then second half of the bar is Db-C which will become D-C in 507 and D-E in 511. in 513 the LH trill is B-C holding the lower G.
Are these correct?

3. Also would appreciate an opinion on a fingering passage in the beginning of the sonata- bar 24 1st mvt- i use starting with the D#-3212 1212 1212 1213 and then 54... for the next bar... at speed its a little tricky.. can anyone suggest a fingering more suited for the speed? this isn't one of the tricky parts of this mvt, some of the fingering took me a while to work out, but its been nagging me a bit.

Another issue with the 3rd mvt is the pedaling...do you chaps use the flutter pedal technique for those long holds (eg bars 9-22,etc). and do you'll follow the strict pedal markings elsewhere? i find it a bit dry and generally add in a bit of pedal here and there....

Thanks a ton
jc
You either do or do not. There is no try- Yoda

Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it

Offline daniloperusina

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #10 on: January 22, 2010, 04:02:49 AM »
Some clues to be found on Beethoven's own manuscript:

These are the bars preceding the octaves. As you can see, he writes "Ped" and "O" for dampers on and off.


continued... the last bar here is where the octaves begin. His own writing then is with a legato slur above the notes, pedal off indicated by the "O", pianissimo in dynamics, and, unusually enough, his fingering 1-5 1-5 1-5 etc. It's not clearly visible that it says "pp", but you can see better in the following bars


continued... more clearly visible "pp", again the fingering, the legato slurs, and observe that he repeatedly marks "pp" and legato slur, and no pedal:


and here's a close-up of the first octave-bar:


I don't pretend to be a scholar, but there are no other fingerings in the whole manuscript. Why did he bother to write them down here? Even a beginner would understand how to play a C-major scale in octaves up and down. I think that since the glissando wasn't "invented" yet, Beethoven here makes a first attempt at writing one down, therefore meticulously repeating the "pp", the fingering and the legato slurs, and indicating no pedal. How are you going to achieve that at Prestissimo tempo if you don't do a glissando?

But that's just my idea of what Beethoven originally had in mind. A glissando, no doubt.
The manuscript is free for downloading perfectly legally here:
http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/f/f7/IMSLP51155-PMLP01474-Op.53_Manuscript.pdf

Offline slow_concert_pianist

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #11 on: January 22, 2010, 05:17:57 AM »

2. In the prestissimo, do most people play the octaves as a glissando? The recording I like is that of Ashkenazy where he doesn't gliss. Further, there is no indication saying gliss on my (urtext) edition. What is the consensus on this? (and btw, how DOES one play an octave gliss? Have never really attempted it...)



There are various schools of thought on how to approach the glissando, or whether it is a true glissando. It has precluded a number of professional pianists approaching the work with view to performance. Personally I cannot play an effective glissando and present seperate fast octaves thus, but it is technically no harder than the one(s) in Balakirev's Islamey An Oriental Fantasy, so I do not agree with Schiff that "it must be so". Indeed is my span was greater, I might think it was easy :P
Currently rehearsing:

Chopin Ballades (all)
Rachmaninov prelude in Bb Op 23 No 2
Mozart A minor sonata K310
Prokofiev 2nd sonata
Bach WTCII no 6
Busoni tr Bach toccata in D minor

Offline daniloperusina

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #12 on: January 22, 2010, 06:17:09 AM »
But, slow-concert-pianist, can you or anyone else deduct anything other than a glissando from beethoven's manuscript?
Also, any good Beethoven biography (like a very recent one from Oxford Library) will tell how he competed with other pianists in Vienna in coming up with new unheard-of techniques, like his use of double trills, trill and melody in the same hand etc. I remember some letter of his saying something like "..and I must close the windows when I practice for jealous pianists are spying on me to see how I perform this or that 'trick'.."

That was of course during his years as a performer.

Further, our modern pianos are heavier in touch and such a glissando might have been much easier on his pianos.

I just want to emphatically point out that the original idea is a glissando. It's the only correct interpretation. However, if it cannot be done, it cannot be done. Then it's better to find another solution to just sounding the right notes at the right time in the right tempo. That's a pragmatic solution.

Offline jehangircama

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #13 on: January 22, 2010, 06:41:13 PM »
thanks for that. yes, i agree that the glissando is what beethoven wanted, it works on some pianos but certainly not on most i've played on...
You either do or do not. There is no try- Yoda

Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it

Offline slow_concert_pianist

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #14 on: January 25, 2010, 03:11:23 AM »
But, slow-concert-pianist, can you or anyone else deduct anything other than a glissando from beethoven's manuscript?
Also, any good Beethoven biography (like a very recent one from Oxford Library) will tell how he competed with other pianists in Vienna in coming up with new unheard-of techniques, like his use of double trills, trill and melody in the same hand etc. I remember some letter of his saying something like "..and I must close the windows when I practice for jealous pianists are spying on me to see how I perform this or that 'trick'.."

That was of course during his years as a performer.

Further, our modern pianos are heavier in touch and such a glissando might have been much easier on his pianos.

I just want to emphatically point out that the original idea is a glissando. It's the only correct interpretation. However, if it cannot be done, it cannot be done. Then it's better to find another solution to just sounding the right notes at the right time in the right tempo. That's a pragmatic solution.

I think your answers are already in front of you, although your comments about Beethoven’s trills I find surprising. Certainly Beethoven used trills in a whole new way, but I am not sure that Scarlatti did not present double trills in some sonatas, while JS Bach certainly scored many inner/outer part trills in his works (even ‘editions’ I suspect would have preceded Beethoven). Regards the glissando, you can play it as fast octaves or as a glissando if you master that technique. We have no recordings of Beethoven, so as for its musical presence in the score; the ultimate judge will be you.
Currently rehearsing:

Chopin Ballades (all)
Rachmaninov prelude in Bb Op 23 No 2
Mozart A minor sonata K310
Prokofiev 2nd sonata
Bach WTCII no 6
Busoni tr Bach toccata in D minor

Offline daniloperusina

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #15 on: January 27, 2010, 02:11:09 AM »
I think the point of a discussion like this is keeping to the facts. I withdraw what I said about double trills, for as a matter of fact, the Andante of Mozart's a minor sonata has this:)

I do think that Beethoven uses, in the Waldstein, a sort of "novelty", which is playing a trill and a melody simultaneously in one hand, and that he, apart from the musical points, liked to come up with such things to outdo the competitors. I wish I could quote, but I don't have my sources here, they were borrowed books.

Still, is there another explanation for why Beethoven wrote fingerings for the octave-passages in his own manuscript, as well as legato slur, pp, and no pedal? I'd be most interested in hearing another explanation!

The manuscript is available to download free and legally here:
 http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/f/f7/IMSLP51155-PMLP01474-Op.53_Manuscript.pdf
This is Beethovens own handwriting of the complete Waldstein sonata. In all three movements, this is the only place were he wrote down a fingering. Why? Because he wanted to make sure that the printed edition instructs pianists to play a fast C major scale in octaves with fingers 1 and 5?

This is a case where I don't think the ultimate judge should be me, not in judging what Beethoven is literally saying.

Offline birba

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #16 on: January 27, 2010, 06:17:33 AM »
 i, myself, never really ever doubted that beethoven intended glissandi.  and that fingering proves it.  and on pianos of that period, the light action facilitated it.  that's so typical of beethoven to try for an effect through means never used before.  (his pedaling was equally revolutionary for his time.)
octave glissandi are not really that hard to perform.  especially if it's piano.  you have to find the right proportion between the rigidness of the octave position of the hand, and the freedom and lightness of the upper arm that guides it.

Offline slow_concert_pianist

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #17 on: January 28, 2010, 01:54:07 AM »
I tend to agree with you Birba & only if I were Beethoven ;), because I can't play it that way - yet :P Although if you were to play rapid octaves there would be no time for the traditional legato, i.e. a 4/1-5/1-4/1-5/1 combination is usual. Not all editions include the 'glissando' instruction, but as an effect it seems consistent with the music.

Back the trills, yes the siginifant difference is that Beethoven issued entire phrases or multiple phrases in the inner part (double sometimes - cf Hammerklaviar 1st movt) trills.

Currently rehearsing:

Chopin Ballades (all)
Rachmaninov prelude in Bb Op 23 No 2
Mozart A minor sonata K310
Prokofiev 2nd sonata
Bach WTCII no 6
Busoni tr Bach toccata in D minor

Offline 46streicher

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #18 on: September 17, 2010, 01:54:25 AM »
Concerning the Waldstein Sonata, it's helpful to remember that the piece was composed in 1804. Viennese pianos of that time had tiny hammers that weighed almost nothing, so the keys didn't have to move very far to activate the hammers. The key depth was a fraction of today's piano key depth and weight. Also, the keys were rounded on the edges! Playing an octave glissando on that kind of piano was the easiest part of the piece, that any kid could master in a minute.

People today think of Beethoven as some kind of Titan, who needed a bigger piano to execute his music. Actually, that's a Germanic myth propagated after his death. When Beethoven was given a French piano in 1804, with an action we would find ridiculously light, he sent it off to Viennese piano builder Nannette Streicher, to see if she couldn't do something to lighten up that unplayably heavy action!

Yes, he smashed pianos; he smashed all the furniture in his apartment, because he was losing his hearing, and he was extremely angry and frustrated about that! And he knew that because he was generously supported by the nobility, he could get away with smashing things, and they would buy him new stuff, because they recognized his genius and were willing to cut him a lot of slack with his personal tantrums.

Offline demented cow

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #19 on: September 22, 2010, 10:13:51 AM »
Once I heard an awful performance of Jeffrey Swann where he slowed down like 3/4 the speed and played octaves, why? I'll never guess.
Horowitz also played staccato ocatives in this passage. Here it is on the tube:

It's interesting to see how he ALMOST manages to make the emergency rubato a convincing alternative.

Offline birba

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Re: Beethoven Waldstein questions
«Reply #20 on: September 22, 2010, 12:48:59 PM »
As much as I admire Horowitz - who possibly can't?! -  I don't like this changing to octaves and playing it mezzoforte when Beethoven specifically writes in PP.  It breaks out of character and has no relation or consequence to what went before.