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To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53 (Read 4317 times)

Offline gvans

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To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
« on: March 03, 2011, 03:29:17 AM »
I'm primarily a chamber music pianist, but I've been working on a solo concert program. I'll play it at several venues this fall. A violinist I work with talked me into playing shorter pieces rather than the three sonatas I originally envisioned--easier on the audience, in his opinion.

Here's the proposed program: Beethoven opus 26 (the only sonata), four works by Chopin, (the first Impromptu, op. 10 #3 and #12, and, ending the first half, the Ab polonaise, op. 53). Intermission. Brahms op. 79 (two rhapsodies), Liszt Db "Un Sospiro" (happy 200th, Franz), and Debussy Estampes.

This same fiddle player heard me play the polonaise and insisted I include it. My question to the
piano forum: Is performing this beating a dead horse, or not? There was a time, surely, when the "Heroic" was overplayed; yet in 2011, with our electronic-overloaded, iPod-earphoned audiences here in S. California, perhaps less. A dean in grad school years ago once told me never to perform the thing, he'd heard it too many times and thought it ruined by exposure.

I try to bring a fresh approach to the work; I've been playing Chopin with a lighter touch these days, keeping the tempos under control, using less pedal. The composer is famously said to have complained upon hearing someone play the octave section overly rapidly. Years ago I did play it too fast--especially those E/Eb octaves. But still--a war horse is a war horse.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this matter. Perhaps a more general question would be, how can one know when a piece is overplayed? "Stairway to Heaven," "Hotel California"--for sure. Chopin Opus 53--quien sabe?


piano sheet music of Polonaise


Offline stevebob

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #1 on: March 03, 2011, 03:47:10 AM »
What's the nature of your recital?  Who is the intended audience?

For what it's worth, the description (and criticism) of "warhorse" status isn't applicable just to the Polonaise; people familiar with classical piano repertoire will surely find those etudes and even the pieces by Brahms and Liszt overexposed as well.

I can't help be curious about the program you originally planned.  What were those other two sonatas?
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Offline retrouvailles

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #2 on: March 03, 2011, 05:44:37 AM »
Where exactly are you in southern California? I have found that audiences here are generally very flexible and will generally listen to anything. The one thing I would say is that if you put a warhorse like this on a program, you should balance it out with something underplayed, such as a piece by an obscure Romantic composer, an underplayed work by a known master, or a piece of 20th/21st century music. That is just my opinion, but I think something like your proposed program would do well. Give more credit to our audiences here. Classical music is doing better here than in many other places in the country, so I think you need not worry.

Offline omar_roy

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #3 on: March 03, 2011, 02:57:55 PM »
Warhorses are labeled as such for a reason: People want to hear them!

There's nothing like hearing our favorite works performed live by a good pianist!  Yes, from an educational standpoint it's nice to open my ears to something new that I have not heard before.  However, I would much rather listen to the works that I already love.  Call that close minded, but we're human and we like what's familiar.

Play the hell out of it!

Offline gvans

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #4 on: March 03, 2011, 09:19:18 PM »
Thanks for the responses...

"What's the nature of your recital?  Who is the intended audience? Where do you play?"

We're physicians: we play at libraries, churches, retirement homes. Last season we played both here in San Diego and in Atlanta. We usually draw from one to two hundred people--we try to play, as Joni Mitchell sang, "...real good, for free."  About one-third of the audience are true aficionados, one-third are people who go to concerts maybe once a year, and the rest are total newbies whose idea of classical music is "Roll Over, Beethoven."

"What were those other two sonatas?"

Aaron Copland's 1945 sonata and the Liszt B minor. Both works I've played before.

Offline pianowolfi

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #5 on: March 03, 2011, 10:56:28 PM »
I think you shouldn't worry about if a masterwork is underplayed or overplayed. That's not your problem. Just try to play it confidently and convincingly :) Good luck! :)

Offline oxy60

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #6 on: March 04, 2011, 05:10:36 PM »
With the lack of almost any classical music to hear in Southern California, one should not shy away from playing familiar pieces. It's very nice to hear something I know or have played.

Remember, if you're old enough, KFAC AM-FM whose number of listeners dropped so low they went off the air? So what do we have now? That Mexican station and KUSC are it. We have no commercial broadcaster in the classical market.

Keep up the good work!
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  John Muir  (We all need to get out more.)

Offline retrouvailles

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #7 on: March 04, 2011, 07:12:18 PM »
With the lack of almost any classical music to hear in Southern California, one should not shy away from playing familiar pieces. It's very nice to hear something I know or have played.

Uh, there are PLENTY of opportunities to hear classical music here. Between the multitude of universities with active music programs, all the various festivals, programs, etc., there are many, many ways to hear classical music performed live or on the radio. KUSC is a great station with no commercials and a large amount of support. This is much better than what many other markets have. Why are you two so negative about the state of classical music here? You really don't know how well off you are here!

Offline 51072

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #8 on: March 04, 2011, 07:23:31 PM »
Your audience is there to hear music. If you have played the piece before, and you think you play it well, play it. If it is overplayed, it is for a good reason!

Offline countrymath

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #9 on: March 04, 2011, 09:14:08 PM »
What is a war horse? :p
  • Mozart-Sonata KV310 - A minor

Offline pianowolfi

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #10 on: March 04, 2011, 09:36:52 PM »
What is a war horse? :p

A misguided concept about the role of certain very virtuosic classical music pieces. Better forget about it. It's actually completely irrelevant.

Offline oxy60

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #11 on: March 05, 2011, 05:25:09 PM »
Uh, there are PLENTY of opportunities to hear classical music here. Between the multitude of universities with active music programs, all the various festivals, programs, etc., there are many, many ways to hear classical music performed live or on the radio. KUSC is a great station with no commercials and a large amount of support. This is much better than what many other markets have. Why are you two so negative about the state of classical music here? You really don't know how well off you are here!

When I lived in LA it was fabulous. Just like you mentioned. However 50 years ago I was working on publicity to get people to come out for FREE concerts. KFAC was instrumental getting the word out. So even then the couch potato syndrome had already started. 

I agree with you that KUSC is wonderful. However it is still low powered and non-commercial. In an ideal world they should be the ones atop Mt. Wilson with 50 KW!
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  John Muir  (We all need to get out more.)

Offline ch101

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #12 on: March 07, 2011, 09:28:17 PM »
I really do suggest that you change a piece. Your program is loaded to quite a degree. I am wondering if your Un Sospiro is going to be as good as it can be if you change the polonaise to something for example Liszt Liebaustraum No.3
Pieces I am working on
Complete Chopin mazurkas
Pictures at an Exhibition
Beethoven Pathetique sonata
Schumann Papilions

Offline pianoplayjl

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #13 on: October 14, 2011, 10:03:40 AM »
If the Polonaise is played to a high standard, then it is good. however, like others who said, change it if possible
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Offline nearenough

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Re: To program a war horse or not: Chopin Opus 53
«Reply #14 on: May 09, 2012, 02:53:25 AM »
Rubinstein and Horowitz programmed this piece very frequently throughout their careers, especially toward the latter parts, and no one seemed to get tired of listening.