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Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament? (Read 18553 times)

Offline latrobe

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Hi!

Below are examples of Chopin's 24 preludes performed by a student of Adolfo Barabino in Unequal Temperament -




Do they feel "right"?

Here's the 4th Ballade performed in Unequal Temperament by another Barabino pupil -


Does the unequal temperament throw the chords interspersing the two appegiated sections into a new dimension possibly missed in Equal Temperament?

As one goes through the keys
http://www.wmich.edu/mus-theo/courses/keys.html
could the key colour descriptions even be the programme notes? . . . :
   1. Agitato ­ C major
Completely Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naivety, children's talk.
   2. Lento ­ A minor
Pious womanliness and tenderness of character.
   3. Vivace ­ G major
Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,--in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.
   4. Largo ­ E minor
Naive, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.
   5. Molto allegro ­ D major
The key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key.
   6. Lento assai ­ B minor
This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting ones's fate and of submission to divine dispensation.
   7. Andantino ­ A major
This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.
   8. Molto agitato ­ F-sharp minor
A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language
   9. Largo ­ E major
Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major.
  10. Molto allegro ­ C-sharp minor
Penitential lamentation, intimate conversation with God, the friend and help-meet of life; sighs of disappointed friendship and love lie in its radius.
  11. Vivace ­ B major
Strongly coloured, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring coulors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere.
  12. Presto ­ G-sharp minor
(A flat minor . . . ?) Grumbler, heart squeezed until it suffocates; wailing lament, difficult struggle; in a word, the color of this key is everything struggling with difficulty.
  13. Lento ­ F-sharp major
A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language.
  14. Allegro ­ E-flat minor
(D sharp minor . . . . ?) Feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key
  15. Sostenuto ­ D-flat major ("Raindrop Prelude")
A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key.
  16. Presto con fuoco ­ B-flat minor
A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.
  17. Allegretto ­ A-flat major
Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.
  18. Molto allegro ­ F minor
Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.
  19. Vivace ­ E-flat major
The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God.
  20. Largo ­ C minor
Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key.
  21. Cantabile ­ B-flat major
Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world.
  22. Molto agitato ­ G minor
Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.
  23. Moderato ­ F major
Complaisance & Calm.
  24. Allegro appassionato ­ D minor
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.

Is this temperament for those recordings "right"? Is it too strong? Does it give the desired effects?

Is this how instruments for the performance of Chopin should be tuned or is the experimental tuning a mere distraction from the music? Does the temperament help or hinder enjoyment and appreciation?

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Sheet music to download and print: Preludes by Chopin



Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #1 on: December 04, 2010, 03:53:41 AM »
Does "Unequal Temperament" refer to a specific tuning, or is the term used generically?  If the latter, I'm curious as to the specific temperaments employed here.

For what it's worth, I used to have a technician who regularly tuned my piano to a well temperament (the Thomas Young temperament of 1799, which he believed would suit Romantic-era repertoire).  As explained to me, certain intervals would be found to have escalating dissonance as their key signatures became increasingly remote from C major/a minor, i.e., that F-sharp major and D-sharp minor (and their enharmonic equivalents) would have the greatest tension or piquancy in those intervals and chords containing them.

I liked the idea, in theory, of playing Chopin in a temperament close to that actually used in the early 19th century.  In reality, though, I found that the difference was too slight to be truly significant.  Maybe with ear training I could appreciate it more, but another consideration is that any typical piano begins to drift out of tune immediately after tuning.  Except on a freshly tuned instrument, the distinctions between equal temperament and various unequal temperaments would be even more subtle (if not blurred completely).

Listening to these recordings didn’t change my mind or persuade me that historical tunings are very consequential (for me, anyway).  And as to whether Chopin should be played with unequal temperaments, I don’t think it matters—unless you also believe that music of any era should be performed on period instruments as well.  That just doesn’t seem very practical.

I’ve seen lists, and read discussions, of purported associations between key signatures and specific sentiments or emotions.  Personally, I think that the feelings we associate with various key signatures are derived from the pieces with which we’re familiar in the respective keys.  Universal perception of certain attributes of “key color” for a given key doesn’t make sense, and some of those in the list provided are quaint, hilarious or absurdly off the mark.  (A-flat major—Chopin’s most frequent choice by far—was assuredly not the “key of the grave” for him; it is the voice of some of his warmest, lushest and most ardently romantic compositions.)
What passes you ain't for you.

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #2 on: December 04, 2010, 10:35:09 AM »
It was interesting.  I liked the preludes, especially.  I think stevebob is right, actually, in that the difference is not that noticeable. (See?  Where does absolute pitch get you?!).  It just sounds like an old piano slightly out of tune.  But I did like that sound and it was very congenial to certain preludes.  I thought the pianist did a great job, too, without exaggerating tempi.
I, too, feel these indications on the color of each prelude higly arbitrary.  I've been working on them lately in just this light of finding the right spirit for each prelude.  And some of yours are diametrically opposed to mine!  (e.g. no. 13 I don't find gloomy at all!  To me, it's like a sweet caress.  A loving embrace.) Very interesting, however.  Topic for another thread!

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #3 on: December 04, 2010, 01:26:11 PM »
Does "Unequal Temperament" refer to a specific tuning, or is the term used generically? 

Hi!

Unequal temperament is a generic term from Meantone at the extreme to Vallotti at the mildest end and some quasi equal temperaments in which some keys were more equal than others  ;)

Quote
For what it's worth, I used to have a technician who regularly tuned my piano to a well temperament (the Thomas Young temperament of 1799, which he believed would suit Romantic-era repertoire).  As explained to me, certain intervals would be found to have escalating dissonance as their key signatures became increasingly remote from C major/a minor, i.e., that F-sharp major and D-sharp minor (and their enharmonic equivalents) would have the greatest tension or piquancy in those intervals and chords containing them.

Yes - this is the idea of a well behaved unequal temperament and Young has a lot of followers.

Quote
I liked the idea, in theory, of playing Chopin in a temperament close to that actually used in the early 19th century.  In reality, though, I found that the difference was too slight to be truly significant.

This may be because Young is quite mild, grouped with Vallotti, and for the purposes of presentation to untrained ears, I think one needs the strongest one can get away with. I use a stronger temperament and we have tried a concert in all the "wrong" keys -
here's Liszt in F sharp


I have tried Kirnberger III on a Viennese instrument and I'm debating whether it's too strong. In addition, I'm fighting with harmonics and inharmonicities, which makes the distant keys jangle like a fortepiano if one has used the wrong harmonics to tune to particularly in the bass in loud passages where a lot of strings are sounding together
.

Quote
  Maybe with ear training I could appreciate it more, but another consideration is that any typical piano begins to drift out of tune immediately after tuning.  Except on a freshly tuned instrument, the distinctions between equal temperament and various unequal temperaments would be even more subtle (if not blurred completely).

It would be interesting if you can hear the strain in the Liszt videos above? With regard to decay of tuning accuracy, a good piano tuned by a good tuner should stay significantly in tune with itself and preserve the temperament effect for months or years at a time. Tuned properly, a good instrument tuned by a good tuner should be still in tune after a concert of everything excepting perhaps Prokofiev:



With equal temperament I understand that professional tuners fudge the tuning by detuning each of the trichords away from each other but for unequal temperament to show the contrasts one needs each of the three strings for each string to be _exactly_ in phase so that the sound is coherent. Furthermore, there is skill in "setting the pins" so that the string tensions on each side of the agreffs are equalised - and if not the string goes out of tune when hit successively in use. Some hack piano tuners wiggle each pin and don't set them well - and for that reason I won't entrust my instruments to anyone else or just only one technician who worked for Glydnebourne for many years.

Quote
Listening to these recordings didn’t change my mind or persuade me that historical tunings are very consequential (for me, anyway).  And as to whether Chopin should be played with unequal temperaments, I don’t think it matters

Try
and with explanation
on a different instrument. After a recital in unequal temperament which brought me close to tears, a recital on a Yamaha in equal temperament left me unmoved. When we gave a CD of the two recitals to a couple of people who could not come to the recitals, they experienced the same indifference to the equal temperament performance.

Quote
I’ve seen lists, and read discussions, of purported associations between key signatures and specific sentiments or emotions.  Personally, I think that the feelings we associate with various key signatures are derived from the pieces with which we’re familiar in the respective keys. 

That is our collective _memory_ of what the keys used to sound like.

Quote
Universal perception of certain attributes of “key color” for a given key doesn’t make sense,

That's the point - we should be able to hear them for real when correctly tuned

Quote
and some of those in the list provided are quaint, hilarious or absurdly off the mark.  (A-flat major—Chopin’s most frequent choice by far—was assuredly not the “key of the grave” for him; it is the voice of some of his warmest, lushest and most ardently romantic compositions.)

Yes - this is interesting. Of course the unequal temperaments aim for good intonation in the home keys leaving the remote keys to be variously disturbed from equilibrium. The extent of the disturbances are divided between C sharp, F sharp, G sharp and normally to a lesser extent B. The flavour of the different brands of unequal temperament, possibly French vs German (Rameau & D'Alembert vs Werkmeister and Kirnberger) depends on the shifts between these keys. So finding the one that Chopin would have liked for A flat has to be a matter of experiment.

So putting the description aside, does A flat in the recording work for Chopin?

Of course Schubart's descriptions of 1806 (although I saw some reference to them of the late 18th century) are separated by time and distance to Chopin. Local tuners would tune in different ways, although perhaps with broad principles and practices in common, and to different pitches which varied from 392 in France to 460 or so in Vienna.

History is a foreign country - and all we can do now removed by over 1 1/2 centuries is to try to decipher the language. That's what such tuning and performance experiments are all about . . . and perceptions expressed on this forum are very helpful guidance and appreciated.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline richard black

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #4 on: December 05, 2010, 06:32:31 PM »
Well, that's fascinating, and as far as I'm concerned the answer to the question in the heading is 'Yes - _as well as_ in equal temperament' - great to have the choice!
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #5 on: December 05, 2010, 11:41:36 PM »
  2. Lento ­ A minor
Pious womanliness and tenderness of character.

For me, key characteristics are so subjective!  For instance, I have always heard a minor as representing the oppressed condition of the Negro.

Quote
  4. Largo ­ E minor
Naive, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.

For me, this has always been the most erotic, sluttiest key.

Quote
  5. Molto allegro ­ D major
The key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key.

That's strange.  I have never heard a Hallelujah intoned in this key.

 
Quote
 10. Molto allegro ­ C-sharp minor
Penitential lamentation, intimate conversation with God, the friend and help-meet of life; sighs of disappointed friendship and love lie in its radius.

Nay, for me 'tis the key of devout atheism!

Quote
 15. Sostenuto ­ D-flat major ("Raindrop Prelude")
A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key.

D-flat major, the most trivial key!

 
Quote
 17. Allegretto ­ A-flat major
Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.

A-flat is surely the key of decomposed, decripit bodies; half rotten skin, half nest of maggots, but all piety, poetry, and passion contained therein.
Quote
 22. Molto agitato ­ G minor
Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew was written in this key.

Quote
 24. Allegro appassionato ­ D minor
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.

The key of red pulp, white pulp, and cancer of splenic origin.

How I love the music!

Walter Ramsey



Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #6 on: December 12, 2010, 10:25:55 AM »
Hi!

The funny comments on the different keys were really enjoyable and great fun to read, but doesn't the issue of this thread really deserve more serious thought and listening? What does anyone think having _listened_ to the recordings?

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #7 on: December 12, 2010, 03:39:43 PM »
I think the general impression is the one stated in the first answer to this thread.  Not that much difference in the end.  They just sound out of tune at times.

Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #8 on: December 12, 2010, 05:28:47 PM »
I thought the "funny" remarks were a disappointing reminder that the requisite critical mass for discussion of serious topics is frequently not available.  There's just no accounting for the sorts of threads that have immediate traction and those that don't get off the ground.
What passes you ain't for you.

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #9 on: December 12, 2010, 08:40:04 PM »
I still think it would be interesting to compare the impressions, pictures, thoughts, that the preludes inspire to each of us.  I myself never knew there were so many "subtitles", like "duel", "suicide", etc. until I sarted researching them.

Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #10 on: December 12, 2010, 09:16:03 PM »
I still think it would be interesting to compare the impressions, pictures, thoughts, that the preludes inspire to each of us.  I myself never knew there were so many "subtitles", like "duel", "suicide", etc. until I sarted researching them.

The scary thing about that is that some zealous Wikipedia editor might presume to make those labels "official."  ::)

I'm not big on extramusical associations, but I do love this description of Op. 28 No. 8 (from Chopin: A Graded Practical Guide by Eleanor Bailie):

Quote
Robert Collett [sic] records that Baudelaire, 'paraphrasing' Delacroix, described it as 'a brilliant bird flying over the horrors of an abyss' ....

I wish I had a concrete source to cite for such a strikingly imaginative epigram, but I guess we can rely on Bailie saying that Collet said that Baudelaire said that Delacroix said it.  :)
What passes you ain't for you.

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #11 on: December 13, 2010, 07:39:28 AM »
Whoever said it, it's great!  I wish I had that poetic voice.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #12 on: December 13, 2010, 05:23:09 PM »
I thought the "funny" remarks were a disappointing reminder that the requisite critical mass for discussion of serious topics is frequently not available.  There's just no accounting for the sorts of threads that have immediate traction and those that don't get off the ground.

Sorry to be so flippant!  But the reason is, with those key descriptions, I frankly just find them stupid.  No matter which treatise describes them, I can think of a thousand pieces, all wonderful and effective, in each key that have nothing to do with the characteristics described.  The only true way to respond to that is satire.

As for tuning, I also think it is overrated in most cases (ie from 1750 on essentially), but also I have often found that the application of it is so subjective.  One musician I know insists that because of old tunings, Beethoven's Sonata op.109 should actually be played in E-flat on our modern instruments.  Nothing could be more ridiculous.  But he justified by saying that it "feels" right because the harmony is a little darker and warmer than E major.  Put aside the fact that that shows a misunderstanding of the musical material, why shouldn't we then play sonata op.27 in C minor?  Or the 5th concerto in D major?  The application of these things is always so subjective.

And that shows in how people listen to them too; the tunings don't really make much difference in the case of Chopin preludes, but somebody will always come along and say they sound so much better for this or that one. 

Walter Ramsey



Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #13 on: December 19, 2010, 01:04:21 AM »
Hi!

The answer to this may well be in the experience of playing rather than listening. In playing an instrument with an unequal tuning one is more conscious of beat notes, resonances and "solidity" of chords by which I mean the extent to which the resultant timbre achieves greater foundation by all of the notes being exactly part of the harmonic series. This also, of course, depends on the inharmonicities of the piano.

In playing an instrument tuned to unequal, triads in the white keys and especially the home keys of C, F, G etc sound solid, calm, coherent and relaxed whilst the notes of black key triads c#, f#, g# do not relate with each other harmonically and sound tense. Moving from a tense black triad to a white triad releases tension.

Beyond
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there is also a set of Ballades and Scherzi:
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We have also tested the Schaumann Carnaval:




Today Adolfo Barabino brought his Masterclass students and demonstrated a piece of Chopin in C# and then he transposed it into C - it might have been F# and F or Ab and G - I don't recall - but he posed the question to his students "Why did Chopin write this in this key - it's not simply a matter of pitch". When Adolfo played in the transposed white key rather than the black key as written, there was a contrast as between the descriptions "solid" and "fragile".

This should be audible and hopefully, to anyone who knows these pieces well, there should be an audible effect.

Can anyone hear these effects?

It's certainly audible in the 2nd Sonata:


as explained and illustrated:


Does this lead to a different appreciation of these works or is it merely a backwater of academic interest?

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #14 on: December 19, 2010, 10:15:20 AM »
I have listened through these links that you have listed - certainly, not completely, but bits here and there.  I wish there had been more of a direct comparision.  Let's say, the funeral march played  in  unequal temperament and then played on a normal "modern" keyboard.  Back to back.  Maybe it would be easier to appreciate - actually, come to think about it, I could have done that myself.  But I think the result would be clear - at least to my ears:  I hear no difference.  It just sounds like an old piano.  You're really beginning to make me feel paranoid!  Maybe I have no ear at all and I'm completely insensitive to the finer aspects of unequal temperament.  Excuse my ignorance, but I have googled around trying to find out if Chopin or Schumann used the equal or unequal temperament.  What if they had composed on an equal temperament keyboard?  Then all your arguments of why a certain key was chosen over another, etc. would be invalid.  I couldn't help but feel that the cinematrographic tricks (black and white old film illusion)  used in the funeral march recording you presented were trying to convince us that this was the "sound" heard in the 19th century.
I once performed on an Erard from 1886 - but it was tuned according to modern norms.  And, of course, the mechanics and strings were relatively new.  Maybe this made a difference.  I tried to really show my appreciation and enthusiasm at playing on such a reverable instrument, but I have to admit it wasn't one of my most enjoyable evenings.  Give me a modern Steinway or Fazioli any day, thank you!

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #15 on: December 19, 2010, 12:24:53 PM »
I have listened through these links that you have listed - certainly, not completely, but bits here and there.  I wish there had been more of a direct comparision.  Let's say, the funeral march played  in  unequal temperament and then played on a normal "modern" keyboard.  Back to back.  . . . Maybe I have no ear at all and I'm completely insensitive to the finer aspects of unequal temperament.  Excuse my ignorance, but I have googled around trying to find out if Chopin or Schumann used the equal or unequal temperament. . . .  I couldn't help but feel that the cinematrographic tricks (black and white old film illusion)  used in the funeral march recording you presented were trying to convince us that this was the "sound" heard in the 19th century.

Hi!

Interesting - thanks.

Taking the last first, the black and white old film illusion was simply that the camera had run out of memory for the video so I fillled in repeating the first bit of video in different ways. Merely that . . . and in having no other video to use I took the opportunity of using the analogy of the fading quality of the image with the fading and loss of life expressed by the music - no intention to persuade anyone about temperament or authenticity.

Now the more serious stuff - there are perhaps two matters of importance - one is that live music is so much more important and ALIVE than recorded music, especially through YouTube video compression and the normal standard of computer speakers. When playing or listening to a real piano live, the resonances and harmonies are so much larger than small speakers can convey.

The second is that of academic precedent - possibly at around the same time that I realised that Chopin's keys were clearly exploiting temperament - (why else compose in the remote keys to the extent that he did?) - unbeknown to me other researchers were on the trail:
http://www.millersrus.com/dissertation/

http://www.law-guy.com/dummygod/Entries/S27643.htm is interesting:
Quote
Kirnberger held that a good temperament ‘must not injure the variegation of the keys’ (1776–9), and his disciple (in this regard) Tempelhof in 1775, while acknowledging that any key could express any affect, held nonetheless that in a good temperament each key would do so in its own particular way (‘auf eine ihnen angemessene Art’) and that without such expressive resources music would be ‘nothing more than a harmonious noise that tickles the ear but leaves the heart slumbering away in a disgusting indifference’. In 1780 the polymath J.J. Engel, in a book dedicated to Reichardt, placed the choice of key before melody and harmony as a resource of musical portrayal, and said that among the major keys, C and A differed most since the steps of their scales differed most.
In 1784 Cramer’s Magazin der Musik reported that Clementi used a tuning in which C–E was tempered ‘ein klein wenig hoch schwebend’ (‘beating, slightly high’), E–G ‘sehr hoch’ (‘very high’) and A–C ‘noch höher’ (‘even higher’). In 1785 Mozart’s pupil Thomas Attwood recorded in his notebook that G was a note which ‘the Harpsichord has not, but all other instruments have’ (Chesnut, 1977). According to A.F. Schindler (1860), Beethoven in his last years maintained a keen interest in the expressive characteristics of different keys and suggested that they were most apparent in piano music. It is unclear to what extent Beethoven may have attributed the differences to acoustical factors, but his piano music does in fact benefit from an 18th-century unequal temperament (Lindley and others, 1997, chap. 5).
In 1826 the leading champion of Viennese Classical music in Italy, Peter Lichtenthal, wrote that equal temperament ‘cannot subsist’ or else the keys would lose their character and ‘one could equally [well] compose a nocturne in A minor or a military blare in A’ – an opinion that was excised, however, in Dominique Mondo’s French translation 13 years later. Yet the late Baroque associations of different qualities with different keys cast their shadows far into the 19th century. This legacy warrants investigation. A good point of departure is that Schubert’s piano music benefits from an unequal well-tempered tuning if the nuances are subtle enough that C–E is tempered more than half as much as in equal temperament (rendering E suitable to such melodious uses as shown in ex.15) and D–F is no nearer in size to a Pythagorean 3rd than to an equal-tempered one (since Schubert used very freely the key of D major). Equally telling is the curious fact that D minor, the most eminent of keys in Baroque keyboard music and one that to a large extent retained its old mean-tone-like sound in the 18th-century irregular temperaments, was the key least favoured by Chopin, except in the last and most magnificent of his 24 preludes.

Later on reference is made to Hipkins and equal temperament, arriving in Chopin's life only in 1848 so really hardly significant in determining his intentions or lack thereof in his compositions over earlier decades.

Beethoven -
and



In due course I will upload Adolfo Barabino and Michele D'Ambrosio playing all four sonatas which may provide further elucidation.

Schubert:


Tuning pianos to unequal temperament is very difficult - on

and
(Liszt)
I got the tuning wrong with inharmonic harmonics clashing and leading the instrument to sound like a fortepiano. This happened to work rather well on


and this might tell us something quite interesting about fortepianos and methods of their tuning.

Best wishes

David P


David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #16 on: December 19, 2010, 02:34:34 PM »
The second is that of academic precedent - possibly at around the same time that I realised that Chopin's keys were clearly exploiting temperament - (why else compose in the remote keys to the extent that he did?)

I don't think it can be assumed that key color in unequal temperaments was the sole reason that a composer chose a given key signature for a composition.  Because of the layout of the keyboard, different key signatures feel different.  The physical aspect of playing the same figure or device before and after transposition is likely to be very different (and possibly very awkward).

One reason that Chopin is regarded as an eminently pianistic composer is that his music is comfortable to play.  (That's a generalization, of course, but I believe it reflects the opinion of most pianists about most of his compositions.)  I have a strong sense that for Chopin especially (and probably other composers, too), employing a key signature in which the notes best fit the conformation of the hands was at least as important a criterion as auditory associations.

Still, one has to wonder why he found A♭ major so regularly suitable and, conversely, chose d minor on just two isolated occasions.  (And would the 24th prelude even have been written in that key if it weren't obligatory to complete a set?)
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Offline mnmleung

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #17 on: December 19, 2010, 11:07:36 PM »
I am afraid it sounds like an old slightly out of tune piano to me.  I have been playing for years on an old fairly out of tune piano...

I will keep listening, thanks.
learning
Chopin etude op 10 no 6
Chopin mazurka op 24 no 4
Szymanowski prelude op 1 no 1

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #18 on: December 20, 2010, 02:11:03 PM »
We have also tested the Schaumann Carnaval:




Today Adolfo Barabino brought his Masterclass students and demonstrated a piece of Chopin in C# and then he transposed it into C - it might have been F# and F or Ab and G - I don't recall - but he posed the question to his students "Why did Chopin write this in this key - it's not simply a matter of pitch". When Adolfo played in the transposed white key rather than the black key as written, there was a contrast as between the descriptions "solid" and "fragile".

This should be audible and hopefully, to anyone who knows these pieces well, there should be an audible effect.

Can anyone hear these effects?

It's certainly audible in the 2nd Sonata:


as explained and illustrated:


Does this lead to a different appreciation of these works or is it merely a backwater of academic interest?

Best wishes

David P

I listened to the Funeral March and the Carnaval, and reacted to both in different ways, and I think that will help to clarify my thoughts on the matter.

I enjoyed the Funeral March very much.  The "out of tune" sounding G-flat chords added a haunting, vibrato effect that cannot be easily replicated on a modern piano.

The Schumann Preambule sounded unpleasant.  The "out of tune" chords added little, in my opinion, to the character of the piece.

And there is the rub: we are hearing this all through a poetic filter.  When the distance of the harmony adds all the beats as in the Sonata, we associate it with a tragic feeling, and feel it is right.  When harmonies of similar distance beat wildly in the opening of the Carnaval, it actually takes away from the grandeur of the conception, which should be a celebration of simple consonance.

In other words, it is all totally subjective.  There is no greater truth, in my opinion, in playing these pieces tuned to a way that might have been used two hundred years ago.  It is possible that the way they tuned the pianos, was simply inadequate.  We have to take that into consideration.  Beethoven surely thought the actual keyboards of his time were inadequate, as did Liszt.  I don't believe that everything evolves for the better, but it has to be considered.

You said your teacher posed the question of why Chopin wrote in c# rather than C for some piece.  But was his c# in the same place as ours?  What if his c# was the same level as our C today?  And on a modern piano, it would be wrong for us to play in c#?

Like I posted before, a friend argues strenuously that because pitch was generally lower in the days of Beethoven, our E major in op.109 on a modern piano is actually E-flat to Beethoven.  He justifies it also by saying the music sounds better, more warm and luxurious in E-flat.  But I think he is wrong on the merits.  If that's the case, then everything has to be played a half step lower.  The c minor concerto has to be in b minor.  The d minor symphony has to be in c# minor.  It makes no sense whatsoever - but is purely based on his subjective reaction to the nature of the music.

So my main point is that you've convinced me these tunings can add something - but not that it is necessary, or even better.  In some cases, it may just purely be inadequate science of the time.

I think also, that there is a psychological disconnect that figures into ideology about old tunings and things in that category.  There is sometimes a feeling that we cannot truly understand the music until we discover a secret that was known to the people of the time, but hidden from us.  We have to play on the old instrument, we have to play with an old tuning, realize a totally objective meaning behind all the expression markings, and then we will be priviliged to know the secret, and play the piece with truth.

In a way, and I say this without rancor, I pity those with those feelings.  It suggests to me that a veil exists between music they want to love with their whole heart, but cannot do so.  I would suggest that this veil is not a layer of historical soot on the music that has to be cleansed in order to appreciate it, but that the veil comes from within.

Walter Ramsey



Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #19 on: December 20, 2010, 02:23:55 PM »
Quoting an essay from a website, you wrote:

Quote
In 1826 the leading champion of Viennese Classical music in Italy, Peter Lichtenthal, wrote that equal temperament ‘cannot subsist’ or else the keys would lose their character and ‘one could equally [well] compose a nocturne in A minor or a military blare in A’

I think that's rather the point.  That music of any character can be effectively written in any key.  It was partly curmudgeonly "rules" like this, that prevented people from realizing it for as long as they did.

Your posting of the Schumann Carnaval was particularly damaging to these theorists.  Here are some selected keys of the movements, compared with the characteristics of each of those keys according to Christian Schubart (1806):

Preamble in A-flat, also the most prominent key of Carnaval: "Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius."

Pierrot, the drunken clown, in E-flat: "The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God."

Coquette, that vixen, in F: "Complaisance & Calm."

Pantalon et Colombine, in f: "Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave."

Promenade, in D-flat: "A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key."

Do you honestly feel those movements describe those characteristics?  Was Schumann a bad composer, who didn't understand the fundamental characteristic of each key?

Walter Ramsey




Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #20 on: December 21, 2010, 01:45:18 AM »
Your posting of the Schumann Carnaval was particularly damaging to these theorists.  Here are some selected keys of the movements, compared with the characteristics of each of those keys according to Christian Schubart (1806):

Preamble in A-flat, also the most prominent key of Carnaval: "Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius."

Pierrot, the drunken clown, in E-flat: "The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God."

Coquette, that vixen, in F: "Complaisance & Calm."

Pantalon et Colombine, in f: "Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave."

Promenade, in D-flat: "A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key."
 . . .
Do you honestly feel those movements describe those characteristics?  Was Schumann a bad composer, who didn't understand the fundamental characteristic of each key?

Hi!

We recorded the Schumann and I posted it on YouTube, as an experiment. Nothing more nothing less.

From theory and possibly resulting from the results of our experiments I think that Chopin works in Unequal Temperaments and arguably would have expected his music to be played and heard in them.

But arguably perhaps Schumann not? Was there any reason why Schumann would have come across Equal Temperament more ubiquitously than Chopin?

Best wishes

David P

David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #21 on: December 21, 2010, 02:28:39 AM »
It would be a mistake to assume that the specific key characteristics described here represent any sort of genuine historical consensus; they're frankly absurd, and I'm inclined to think they reflect the solitary, fanciful and baseless opinion of the person who wrote them.

Or maybe Chopin, Liszt and their myriad contemporaries—who in their collective oeuvres employed key signatures in a fashion that completely contradicts Christian Schubart's claims—didn't get the memo about what the various keys are supposed to convey.  :)
What passes you ain't for you.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #22 on: December 21, 2010, 05:01:40 AM »
It would be a mistake to assume that the specific key characteristics described here represent any sort of genuine historical consensus; they're frankly absurd, and I'm inclined to think they reflect the solitary, fanciful and baseless opinion of the person who wrote them.


You're right, but my point is, why were they quoted at all?  There is so much contradicting them, that they are not even worth being taken seriously.

Walter Ramsey



Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #23 on: December 21, 2010, 05:11:39 AM »
Hi!

We recorded the Schumann and I posted it on YouTube, as an experiment. Nothing more nothing less.

From theory and possibly resulting from the results of our experiments I think that Chopin works in Unequal Temperaments and arguably would have expected his music to be played and heard in them.

But arguably perhaps Schumann not? Was there any reason why Schumann would have come across Equal Temperament more ubiquitously than Chopin?

Best wishes

David P



That's fine that it was an experiment; I gave my analysis of what I believed the results showed.

I think your last question is a good one.  Why would Schumann have heard the particular chords of the Preambule in a way that was dissonant with alleged tunings of the time?  Or, maybe the question is, how is that possible?

I don't know.  I know that many composers thought outside of the limitations that we, in the future, try to impose on them.  Beethoven thought outside the range of every keyboard constructed in his day; Liszt thought outside of the strength of the machine itself.  Bach was known to transcribe his own music to different keys, therefore showing that he himself thought outside of whatever theories existed about keys and characteristics.

With all this circumstantial evidence, it is easy to imagine that Schumann wasn't composing music according to what he heard already outside of him, but what he heard inside.  In fact, he is the ideal candidate for such an honor, as he was eventually driven mad by aural hallucinations, that nobody could experience but himself.  Maybe these hallucinations were in equal temperament, who can say?  You quoted someone from 1826 arguing about how people should avoid it, obviously it was around early on.

Personally, I think your experiments showed exactly what I articulated: these old tunings can show some interesting things, but in the grand scheme, they are not really necessary, or not even revelatory.  Although I liked the sound of the G-flat chords in the Chopin Funeral march, it didn't show me something essential about the music that was different from what I knew.  I didn't feel like all of a sudden, I understood that movement, whereas before, I was in the dark.

But then again: perhaps I am just different.  Perhaps everyone else approaches works like that, in the standard repertoire, in complete complaisance, in indifference, in passivity.  For them to hear the chords seem "out of tune," may impart a new meaning to them.  I, though, never took those G-flat chords for granted - so perhaps I cannot fully appreciate what these old tunings do.

Walter Ramsey


PS I would be curious for your thoughts and response to my post here:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=39288.msg441457#msg441457

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #24 on: December 21, 2010, 03:47:43 PM »
I listened to the Funeral March and the Carnaval, and reacted to both in different ways, and I think that will help to clarify my thoughts on the matter.

I enjoyed the Funeral March very much.  The "out of tune" sounding G-flat chords added a haunting, vibrato effect that cannot be easily replicated on a modern piano.

The Schumann Preambule sounded unpleasant.  The "out of tune" chords added little, in my opinion, to the character of the piece.

And there is the rub: we are hearing this all through a poetic filter.  When the distance of the harmony adds all the beats as in the Sonata, we associate it with a tragic feeling, and feel it is right.  When harmonies of similar distance beat wildly in the opening of the Carnaval, it actually takes away from the grandeur of the conception, which should be a celebration of simple consonance.

In other words, it is all totally subjective.  There is no greater truth, in my opinion, in playing these pieces tuned to a way that might have been used two hundred years ago.  It is possible that the way they tuned the pianos, was simply inadequate.  We have to take that into consideration.  Beethoven surely thought the actual keyboards of his time were inadequate, as did Liszt.  I don't believe that everything evolves for the better, but it has to be considered.

You said your teacher posed the question of why Chopin wrote in c# rather than C for some piece.  But was his c# in the same place as ours?  What if his c# was the same level as our C today?  And on a modern piano, it would be wrong for us to play in c#?

Like I posted before, a friend argues strenuously that because pitch was generally lower in the days of Beethoven, our E major in op.109 on a modern piano is actually E-flat to Beethoven.  He justifies it also by saying the music sounds better, more warm and luxurious in E-flat.  But I think he is wrong on the merits.  If that's the case, then everything has to be played a half step lower.  The c minor concerto has to be in b minor.  The d minor symphony has to be in c# minor.  It makes no sense whatsoever - but is purely based on his subjective reaction to the nature of the music.

So my main point is that you've convinced me these tunings can add something - but not that it is necessary, or even better.  In some cases, it may just purely be inadequate science of the time.

I think also, that there is a psychological disconnect that figures into ideology about old tunings and things in that category.  There is sometimes a feeling that we cannot truly understand the music until we discover a secret that was known to the people of the time, but hidden from us.  We have to play on the old instrument, we have to play with an old tuning, realize a totally objective meaning behind all the expression markings, and then we will be priviliged to know the secret, and play the piece with truth.

In a way, and I say this without rancor, I pity those with those feelings.  It suggests to me that a veil exists between music they want to love with their whole heart, but cannot do so.  I would suggest that this veil is not a layer of historical soot on the music that has to be cleansed in order to appreciate it, but that the veil comes from within.

Walter Ramsey



I find it to be much ado about nothing!  I did not hear what you seemed to have heard in the funeral march posting.  The tone production here is much more important than the tuning of the piano, itself.  Maybe I'm tone-deaf to this refined art of tuning.  Or maybe I'm listening for something else.  The extremely long line of the phrasing, for example.  Or the marching rhythm which has to have that feel of a procession as Chopin (I think - or maybe Cortot, I don't know) pointed out.  In a way, it sounded like those village bands you hear in Italy when they play at a funeral.  Maybe that's unequal temperament, as well.
At any rate, I find this thread to be extremely interesting and I enjoyed listening to the examples.  There was, in fact, one Schumann from the Carneval that sounded particularly different from the way it usually sounds.   The valse allemande I think it was.  But other than that,  I don't think the unqual tuning had any effect on me. 

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #25 on: December 21, 2010, 06:59:16 PM »
Hi!

There's a lot to reply to here and I hope to find the two contrasting recordings of the Funeral March in Equal and Unequal temperament.

But there is something interesting going on here to the extent of the arguability that anyone can hear anything different. In demonstrating Unequal Temperament one has to use a temperament giving the maximum discomfort that one can get away with without ruining the music whilst at the same time achieving an effect at a level at which people don't think they hear a difference. It's on this cusp that the maximum subliminal effects are achieved and after the Raindrop Prelude

I cannot now listen to an ordinary recording of it without screaming and tearing my hair out in boredom at being denied the colour that this piece gives in unequal temperament.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #26 on: December 21, 2010, 07:55:56 PM »
Interesting.  So, in effect, what you're saying is that without the unequal temperament, you cannot appreciate the music?

Offline stevebob

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #27 on: December 21, 2010, 09:06:25 PM »
I think it would be interesting to contemplate why we might perceive different key characteristics to exist even in equal temperament.  C major and G♭ major should sound the same, for example, but they don’t.

Or do they after all—and the traits we mistakenly impute to key signatures are instead descriptive of the pieces we know in the respective keys?

Or maybe it’s just me!  (For what it’s worth, I don’t have absolute pitch.)
What passes you ain't for you.

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #28 on: December 22, 2010, 09:48:50 AM »
C major and G-flat major should sound the same?!  Wooaa.  I don't get that.
Besides not having perfect pitch,  Argerich says she can't tell the difference between one key or another.  Now you figure that one out...

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #29 on: December 23, 2010, 09:22:57 PM »
C major and G-flat major should sound the same?!  Wooaa.  I don't get that.
Besides not having perfect pitch,  Argerich says she can't tell the difference between one key or another.  Now you figure that one out...

:-)

Does this
Bach D minor sound the same as
in D minor too?

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #30 on: December 23, 2010, 10:00:14 PM »
Hi!

There's a lot to reply to here and I hope to find the two contrasting recordings of the Funeral March in Equal and Unequal temperament.

But there is something interesting going on here to the extent of the arguability that anyone can hear anything different. In demonstrating Unequal Temperament one has to use a temperament giving the maximum discomfort that one can get away with without ruining the music whilst at the same time achieving an effect at a level at which people don't think they hear a difference. It's on this cusp that the maximum subliminal effects are achieved and after the Raindrop Prelude

I cannot now listen to an ordinary recording of it without screaming and tearing my hair out in boredom at being denied the colour that this piece gives in unequal temperament.

Best wishes

David P


I'm curious if you could articulate what the temperament adds to this prelude... I listened to the whole thing, but didn't feel differently about the piece afterwards, ie, I didn't feel like I never understood it before, or like it would be boring played on a modern tuning system.

Also, I didn't care much for the performance, which was meandering, and rhythmically monotonous.

Walter Ramsey



Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #31 on: December 26, 2010, 12:15:08 AM »
The point about unequal temperament is that melodic lines take on a more interesting structure and chords shape-shift. Emotion aside, this makes the music intrinsically more interesting and equal temperament more boring and grey. In the case of the Raindrop, the tuning makes the clouds darker and the mist more obscure and the rain dropping at times onto a tin roof with a metallic twang and the glimpses of sun are more that mid mediterranean stronger sun than we see in the greyness of mor northerly climes.

Happy Christmas!

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #32 on: December 26, 2010, 07:30:08 AM »
:-)

Does this
Bach D minor sound the same as
http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLu-d-sAOG4 in D minor too?

Best wishes

David P
Excuse my ignorance, because I really am ignorant when it comes to things like this.  But isn't the difference due to the lower tuning of the pitch?  I would say the first one is probably almost 420=A rather then the modern 440.  So, of course, it sounds like it's almost in C# minor.  But other then that, I don't hear any difference with the second clip (apart from the performance).
Now, what I'm asking is about your statement about c major and g-flat major being the same.  I truly don't understand.

Offline birba

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #33 on: December 26, 2010, 07:31:39 AM »
The point about unequal temperament is that melodic lines take on a more interesting structure and chords shape-shift. Emotion aside, this makes the music intrinsically more interesting and equal temperament more boring and grey. In the case of the Raindrop, the tuning makes the clouds darker and the mist more obscure and the rain dropping at times onto a tin roof with a metallic twang and the glimpses of sun are more that mid mediterranean stronger sun than we see in the greyness of mor northerly climes.

Happy Christmas!

David P
Call me dull and unimaginative but I find that far-fetched and contrived.  I do like your prose, though.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #34 on: December 27, 2010, 04:30:05 AM »
Excuse my ignorance, because I really am ignorant when it comes to things like this.  But isn't the difference due to the lower tuning of the pitch?  I would say the first one is probably almost 420=A rather then the modern 440.  So, of course, it sounds like it's almost in C# minor.  But other then that, I don't hear any difference with the second clip (apart from the performance).
Now, what I'm asking is about your statement about c major and g-flat major being the same.  I truly don't understand.

A thought occured to me that since Baroque times tuned their A to a different level, then the key descriptions they give are all for different keys than what we are used to hearing.  In other words, if their d minor is "Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood," wouldn't that then be a description of our approximate e or e-flat minor?

Sorry I can't get off those ridiculous key descriptions, but I am amazed that people still take them seriously, then go out to listen to music they love in those keys that has nothing to do with the descriptions whatsoever.

In the end, the question you pose is provocative because it doesn't really have an objective answer, so it is useless for either side of this question to argue in logical terms.  "Should" they be performed in unequal temperament?  It depends purely on how you experience it subjectively, and I think your description of prelude XV just bolsters that point.

Personally, I didn't have any eye-opening moments listening to these preludes in different temperament.  I think I understand the music just as well as I do listening to it in a modern tuning.  Therefore, "should" they be performed in unequal temperament?  No, not necessarily.  It's not inherently superior.  If it was inherently, objectively superior, I believe it would be evident.

Walter Ramsey



Offline rjsilva

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #35 on: December 29, 2010, 11:13:15 AM »
Quote from: ramseytheii
Sorry I can't get off those ridiculous key descriptions, but I am amazed that people still take them seriously, then go out to listen to music they love in those keys that has nothing to do with the descriptions whatsoever.

I think part of the problem in this discussion is that the accuracy of those descriptions is a distraction away from the emotional effects of well temperaments. Just because the descriptions may not match our own assessments does not mean that well temperaments don't produce a genuine emotional response. Further, that we may believe Chopin's pieces in Ab contradict the descriptions could easily mean that our view of the pieces are not the same as Chopin's.

(I should say that I'm not a fan of the key descriptions.)

Another problem is that making an assessment based on recordings on instruments we've never played or heard in person is difficult. Of course that's what was being asked by David, but the responses need to admit the tremendous difficulty with it.

Quote from: ramseytheii
Personally, I didn't have any eye-opening moments listening to these preludes in different temperament.  I think I understand the music just as well as I do listening to it in a modern tuning.  Therefore, "should" they be performed in unequal temperament?  No, not necessarily.  It's not inherently superior.  If it was inherently, objectively superior, I believe it would be evident.

As pianists and musicians we should all be intimately familiar with the notion that finer details often take a long time to appreciate, and sometimes to even hear at all. We are used to hearing in equal temperament which has formed a certain harmonic view in both pianists and other instrumentalists (check out the book "How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony").

Learning to confidently hear the unequally tempered intervals may take time, and it will take time to develop your own personalised emotional response to them. Just because they're not immediately and evidently superior doesn't mean you wouldn't come to feel that way with more exposure. Well temperaments are harmonically interesting at the very least, and to some they are invigorating. Why close your mind prematurely?

John

Offline rjsilva

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #36 on: December 29, 2010, 04:44:38 PM »
Hi David,

I wondered if you'd be able to give more details about the temperament used in the Preludes videos.

Also, I can see from the Hammerwood website that you don't like the idea of large pianos for chamber concerts. Whether that be a good or bad thing could be debated, but as I'm sure you know larger pianos have the wonderful advantage of being able to have less inharmonicity and a more even tone across the scale. To further your cause in promoting unequal temperaments it would be extremely helpful to the "uninitiated" if you made the videos on a larger piano. The smallest piano I've played which doesn't have silly inharmonicity in the tenor and bass is the Steinway A at 6'2"/188cm (which has a nice sounding scale design for the size), but I've played even larger pianos which suffer.

Thanks for your work! I appreciate your ideals.

Offline mnmleung

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #37 on: January 06, 2011, 09:30:54 PM »
Would you mind explaining what inharmonicity is please?  And for an upright piano as well please.  Thanks
learning
Chopin etude op 10 no 6
Chopin mazurka op 24 no 4
Szymanowski prelude op 1 no 1

Offline rjsilva

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #38 on: January 07, 2011, 06:51:19 PM »
To make it simple, the strings in a piano are not able to vibrate effectively enough to produce overtones/harmonics that are precisely in tune. This is due to the stiffness and length of the strings, and therefore it is the same for an upright or grand. The smaller the piano the greater the problem, particularly in the bass since the strings are thicker and shorter.

The "tenor" region of a piano (around where the treble bridge ends and the bass bridge begins) can also be a problem on smaller pianos, due to string tension issues.

Here's a more technical article on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics#Inharmonicity_and_piano_size

John

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #39 on: January 07, 2011, 10:01:35 PM »
To make it simple, the strings in a piano are not able to vibrate effectively enough to produce overtones/harmonics that are precisely in tune. This is due to the stiffness and length of the strings, and therefore it is the same for an upright or grand. The smaller the piano the greater the problem, particularly in the bass since the strings are thicker and shorter.

The "tenor" region of a piano (around where the treble bridge ends and the bass bridge begins) can also be a problem on smaller pianos, due to string tension issues.

Here's a more technical article on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics#Inharmonicity_and_piano_size

John

I thought the point of the original post was that they rather enjoyed the wildly pulsating chords that were deliberately not "precisely in tune."  Or should we ask what anyone means anymore by "precisely in tune"?

It also occured to me that in unequal temperaments, "distant" chords are only distant because the tuner starts on a white key?  In other words, wouldn't we consider C major "distant" if he started tuning the whole instrument on an F#.

Walter Ramsey



Offline sashaco

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #40 on: January 08, 2011, 12:02:22 PM »
That's certainly true, Walter, but isn't it typical to start with C in all tunings?

It occurs to me in reading these posts that we are all used to hearing string quartets and a capella singing groups who have over time and without intention gravitated to more "natural" tunings.  There are now many early music groups who specialize in these and with intent.  They don't sound out of tune- audiences and critics often use the word "brighter" to describe their sounds.  One thing that distinguishes the keyboard instruments is their ability to be played easily in all keys. Equal temperament is so consistently used with them that it may be harder for us to hear them as "in tune" when they are tuned differently.  The evenly distributed "out-of-tuneness" is probably part of what we associate with the actual timbre of a piano, particularly because we are almost always hearing more than one voice played. The Etudes above sound mildly (though not unpleasantly) "honky-tonk" to my untutored ear, not an adjective that most pianists would like associated with their Chopin, although I don't mean it at all disparagingly.

Translators of classical poetry used to strive for a slightly archaic sound to flavor the work a bit- to give the reader the feeling that he was reading something from the golden past.
Every few generations new translations became popular because what was mildly archaic at a given time could sound a bit twee and put on fifty years later. Could that be a problem for most listeners to re-tuned pianos?

I like a few "thees" and "forsooths" in Robin Hood, but I don't want the trouble  of deciphering him in Old English.  Now that I've written that, I realize that, conversely, I prefer Chaucer in its natural state.  Where does that leave me?

Idle and uninformed musings!  How do the rest of you folks manage to sit down and turn out such finished sounding miniature essays?  Cheers, Sasha   



Offline rjsilva

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #41 on: January 08, 2011, 11:24:34 PM »
Quote from: ramseytheii
I thought the point of the original post was that they rather enjoyed the wildly pulsating chords that were deliberately not "precisely in tune."  Or should we ask what anyone means anymore by "precisely in tune"?

We are talking about two very different things.

1. I was referring to a piano's overtones/harmonics being out of tune. I was saying that the inharmonicity of the smaller piano in the recordings can make it more difficult for the listener to accurately distinguish the tonal variations in keys.

2. You're referring to the tempering of intervals, or more precisely, the unequal tempering of intervals. What supporters say about well vs. equal temperament is two-fold. 1) Firstly, since equal temperament tempers all like intervals equally out of tune, it is not a good thing that pianists' generally are not even able to recognise a pure vs. a tempered interval, and 2) well temperaments, in having greater purity in some keys and greater dissonance in others, provide harmonic variety and create an environment where the pianist (and his listeners) can enjoy the emotional effects of this variety. Some well temperaments reach harsher intervals than others, but are then able to reach purer ones as well. It's always a trade-off, even with equal temperament.

Quote from: ramseytheii
It also occured to me that in unequal temperaments, "distant" chords are only distant because the tuner starts on a white key?  In other words, wouldn't we consider C major "distant" if he started tuning the whole instrument on an F#.

Of course. However, the temperaments were developed in connection with the compositional practices of the time. You have to consider the history of keyboard, composition and temperament development to really understand why C, G, F, etc. are considered common keys as where Gb, Db, etc., are considered distant. Just look at the musical output of composers before Bach's time, when they were using meantone temperament, and you'll get a better idea of the history of common and distant keys.

John

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #42 on: February 28, 2011, 09:27:38 PM »
Also, I can see from the Hammerwood website that you don't like the idea of large pianos for chamber concerts. Whether that be a good or bad thing could be debated, but as I'm sure you know larger pianos have the wonderful advantage of being able to have less inharmonicity and a more even tone across the scale. To further your cause in promoting unequal temperaments it would be extremely helpful to the "uninitiated" if you made the videos on a larger piano. The smallest piano I've played which doesn't have silly inharmonicity in the tenor and bass is the Steinway A at 6'2"/188cm (which has a nice sounding scale design for the size), but I've played even larger pianos which suffer.

Thanks for your work! I appreciate your ideals.

Dear John

The preludes at the top of this thread were recorded on quite a large Bechstein - 6ft - but usually I'm used to a larger Bechstein - from memory 7ft or 7ft 6 . . . The larger instrument has never given me inharmonicity problems but, as you say, the inharmonicity of shorter strings is a challenge . . . By "larger" I really mean larger sounding instruments. On one or two occasions we have hired in a Steinway and been deafened by the effect in the library. . .

Sorry to have been absent here - I was distracted by someone inviting me to another forum on account of having seen a number of my videos. So a technical discussion has gone on there finishing with a request to hear the effect of unequal temperament on a modern piano . . . and http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1629577.html#Post1629577 gives the links to those recordings. They're interesting possibly for the purity of the piano sound together with everyone's familiarity with the context of the idiom of the modern piano removing the variables which are otherwise ascribed to the instrument all too apparent with
http://www.jungleboffin.com/mp4/jill-crossland-unequal-tempered-fortepiano/well-tempered-bach.mp3  . . . !!! (An 1854 Viennese instrument)

Of the recordings on the modern instrument, the Study in A flat I find one of the most charming.
In theory A flat should be really hideous in the unequal tuning and here the pianist is having to dance around the temperament, just as I surmise Chopin would have intended. On the other forum I made a comment similar to yours above that perhaps if we don't agree with the descriptions, perhaps it's us not quite appreciating how Chopin would himself have approached the key . . .

The interesting thing is that having played peices on unequal temperament musicians are caused to emphasise things they like and deemphasise things they don't like. This comes through with the every second chord of the funeral march of which there is an extracted link
This recording is interesting as it's on a modern piano so the beats are to do with the tuning rather than the piano.

Having played in this manner, a pianist can take this memory of expression over to performance on Equal Temperament and give a similarly spirited performance. This would be why in the course of the changeover to Equal Temperament the memory of the old tuning and old performances would have hung over and not necessarily changed the effect of performances a very great deal, until those memories were lost and leaving us all, until now, with only the legend that different keys have different characters.

gives the 3rd and 4th movements of the second sonata first in unequal temperament on the Hammerwood Bechstein and second on a concert Yamaha at a performance 2 weeks later. In putting the two recordings together I changed the equalisation slightly to account for different recording characteristics and to account for the different pianos so as to try to reduce the variables to the temperament rather than other distractions.

Best wishes

David Pinnegar
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline pianowolfi

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #43 on: February 28, 2011, 10:02:55 PM »

That's strange.  I have never heard a Hallelujah intoned in this key.



Hmm are you sure?  ;D



Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #44 on: March 03, 2011, 04:16:26 PM »
Hi!

http://www.jungleboffin.com/mp4/jong-gyung-park-unequal-temperament/liszt.mp3 might be of interest in hearing the colours of performance . . .

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline latrobe

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Schubert in Unequal Temperament
«Reply #45 on: October 03, 2011, 10:58:21 AM »
Hi!



and


might be interesting

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #46 on: January 24, 2019, 07:36:29 PM »
In having been asked to give a talk about tuning in Mozart's time I discovered that the descriptions of keys detailed in this thread apply to Meantone tunings, which is why the correlation of emotions in this thread was felt to have been so subjective.

When one moves to Meantone, the emotions are displayed


This led to my tuning of an 1802 piano in Meantone, with dramatic effect in the Mozart K280 sonata relating to being buried in the grave and coming to life again

and illuminating Beethoven's Tempest

with the ethereal and supernatural atmosphere intended from Shakespeare's play "The Enchanted Isle"

Best wishes

David Pinnegar
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline klavieronin

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #47 on: January 24, 2019, 09:54:02 PM »
I feel like whether or not these tuning systems truly make any difference could only be determined by some kind of double blind experiment. If you didn't know you were listening to unequal temperament, would you notice the difference? I pretty certain I wouldn't.

Offline latrobe

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #48 on: January 24, 2019, 11:36:23 PM »
The tunings with many notes of the scale tuned to the harmonics of the bass strings give an extra quality to the sound, more resonance and cogency to the sound. And I bet you heard the difference with the Meantone examples above for Beethoven!

The tunings often give a subliminal effect which affects both performer and more unconsciously the audience. A deeper emotional effect is experienced. If you're performing and want to make an emotional effect upon your audience, then get your tuner to tune the performance instrument to Kellner. Perhaps the audience won't notice specifically but they'll be more impressed by your interpretation.

Best wishes,

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline klavieronin

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Re: Chopin 24 preludes - should they be performed in Unequal Temperament?
«Reply #49 on: January 25, 2019, 06:47:32 AM »
The tunings often give a subliminal effect which affects both performer and more unconsciously the audience. A deeper emotional effect is experienced. If you're performing and want to make an emotional effect upon your audience, then get your tuner to tune the performance instrument to Kellner. Perhaps the audience won't notice specifically but they'll be more impressed by your interpretation.

That may be true but where is the your evidence? How do you determine that the audience has experienced a deeper emotional effect? How are you measuring that? And what are you comparing it to?