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Author Topic: Big youtube "Pianist" bashes the chopin etudes?  (Read 15424 times)
chopinaninoff
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« on: July 03, 2011, 05:22:27 PM »

A pianist on youtube that goes by the name of BachScholar, who has over 5 million views on his videos, and 7 thousand subscribers has a long info on his channel. And at the end he writes...Before reading this, understand, that I understand everyone has personal taste...but to put down the entire 24 etudes that can help any pianist...is just absurd.opinions?


"I get many requests to play and teach Chopin's Etudes. I hate to disappoint you, but I dislike the Chopin Etudes. In my opinion they are overplayed and overrated and YouTube is already oversaturated with far too many performances of them. In my opinion the Etudes are Chopin's weakest works as a whole, which are simply made weaker by most pianists' obsession with speed. They have become pretty much speed contests more than anything, which I will have no part in. Czerny's op. 740 etudes are much better works of music in my opinion.

Some have tried to convince me that I am "wrong" and that the Chopin Etudes are great, but fail to understand what personal taste really means. For example, take a food you don't like and imagine all your friends constantly trying to convince you that this food is great and you are wrong for not liking it. Would this annoy you? Now put yourself in my shoes and imagine how annoying it would be if everyone said you really "should" like the Chopin Etudes. In other words, personal taste is personal taste. "
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richard black
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2011, 05:59:05 PM »

No idea who the guy is, but I completely respect his opinions and the way he expresses them - while disagreeing fundamentally with the opinions themselves.
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sordel
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2011, 06:24:26 PM »

to put down the entire 24 etudes that can help any pianist ... is just absurd.

Any teacher will choose the works that s/he feels will be of most value to students, and as a teacher he has obviously decided that he can do without them. I don't think that's an unreasonable position, although it may be an eccentric one.

As regards the musical value of the Etudes, he places himself in a small minority, but that hardly makes his opinion absurd.
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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2011, 07:12:55 PM »

"the Etudes are Chopin's weakest works as a whole, which are simply made weaker by most pianists' obsession with speed."
And you agree with this as well?
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sordel
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« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2011, 07:22:45 PM »

And you agree with this as well?

Why would you think that I do?
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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2011, 08:01:13 PM »

Well you said it hardly makes his opinion absurd after reading it...
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gerryjay
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2011, 08:08:02 PM »

I think he has quite a point here.

The obsession with speed goes much further than destroy Chopin' Etudes. It turns piano playing into a track and field modality. Unfortunately, a boring and often annoying modality.  Sad

Best regards,
Jay.
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lorditachijr
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2011, 08:17:05 PM »

Just because you don't think something is entirely absurd doesn't mean you are agreeing with it. Seriously... And also people are entitled to have their own opinions. I don't think we should never play Chopin etudes, but I also don't think a student needs to study all of them thoroughly to have good technique. My teacher never even brought up the subject of etudes until I requested to play some. And for the most part, I got to choose which etudes I was going to play (within reason of course).
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2011, 10:55:31 PM »



"I get many requests to play and teach Chopin's Etudes. I hate to disappoint you, but I dislike the Chopin Etudes. In my opinion they are overplayed and overrated and YouTube is already oversaturated with far too many performances of them. In my opinion the Etudes are Chopin's weakest works as a whole, which are simply made weaker by most pianists' obsession with speed. They have become pretty much speed contests more than anything, which I will have no part in.

Or in other words "I can't play them".
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2011, 11:46:22 PM »

Or in other words "I can't play them".

I was thinking the exact same thing.

He's cheating his students out of valuable learning experiences based purely on what he doesn't like. Chopin's etudes are some of the most important compositions for piano, regardless of how pianists today interpret them. And, judging some of his recordings on YouTube, his interpretations of Bach are boring and lack musical intuition. Then again, I wouldn't expect much from someone who can honestly compare Chopin's etudes to Czerny's op. 740.

I think this brings up a more important topic. Does the simple fact that he (or any teacher, rather) virtually ignores the existence of these works make him a bad teacher? In my opinion, the "I don't like these so you can't play them" mentality is very detrimental to a student.

Best wishes,
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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2011, 11:49:03 PM »

you know, I don't get it how when people bash out Bach everyone jumps on them and calls them a fool for not understanding Bach and saying how important he is to music and that everyone needs to play Bach to understand other composers. But the moment someone insults Chopin and his etudes its okay? The Chopin Etudes are one of the biggest contributions to the piano...Its like saying Rachmaninoff concertos are over rated and over played and that its weak. or Beethoven's sonatas are weak as a whole etc etc etc.
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perfect_pitch
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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2011, 12:09:51 AM »

I don't agree with BachScholar, in fact I think he's an arrogant prick. After correcting his phrasing in a piece (an etude in C or something) he kept accenting thre wrong beat making a 3/4 piece of music filled with semiquavers, sound like a 4/4 piece with triplet quavers.

He told me that this is how the composer would have wanted it played (and I find that very unlikely after viewing the music), so after he acted like some high and mighty tosser - I told him to *** off and that if he wanted to be an arrogant snob who can't take a little criticism - then he shouldn't have chosen pianism as a career.

The etude wasn't by Chopin or Bach - but he still seemed like an arrogant wanker.
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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2011, 12:22:17 AM »

He also decides to ADD to pieces....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM9lQfknSJA&feature=channel_video_title
Example 1- 0:4-:07
and THIS one always gets me: 1:02-1:03
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2011, 12:40:29 AM »

Wait, so he bashes the Chopin etudes for being overplayed on YouTube, but he posts a recording of the Fantasie Impromptu?

Jackass award, anyone?
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2011, 12:41:02 AM »

I don't agree with BachScholar, in fact I think he's an arrogant prick. After correcting his phrasing in a piece (an etude in C or something) he kept accenting thre wrong beat making a 3/4 piece of music filled with semiquavers, sound like a 4/4 piece with triplet quavers.

He told me that this is how the composer would have wanted it played (and I find that very unlikely after viewing the music), so after he acted like some high and mighty tosser - I told him to *** off and that if he wanted to be an arrogant snob who can't take a little criticism - then he shouldn't have chosen pianism as a career.

The etude wasn't by Chopin or Bach - but he still seemed like an arrogant wanker.

I honestly think he might be mentally ill. He actually seems to believe that a load of seemingly randomly selected calculations about ratios "prove" he employs the "correct" tempos for all the pieces. Also, read his (clearly self-penned) biography on youtube. He's a deluded nutcase, who must as least suffer borderline-autism.
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2011, 12:50:58 AM »

I honestly think he might be mentally ill. He actually seems to believe that a load of seemingly randomly selected calculations about ratios "prove" he employs the "correct" tempos for all the pieces. Also, read his (clearly self-penned) biography on youtube. He's a deluded nutcase, who must as least suffer borderline-autism.

I am having WAY too much fun reading through his profile. "Discoverer of Bach's secret tempo code." What? Did he find the decoder in his box of Cheerios?

Though I wish he were here to read all of the things we are saying about him. I almost feel bad...almost...

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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2011, 01:31:45 AM »

I am having WAY too much fun reading through his profile. "Discoverer of Bach's secret tempo code." What? Did he find the decoder in his box of Cheerios?

Though I wish he were here to read all of the things we are saying about him. I almost feel bad...almost...


"I disable comments on most of my videos not because of "bad comments" or "trolls" but rather because I would be reading and responding to comments for at least five hours a day considering the number of videos and views my channel has. In order for me to be productive I cannot afford to spend many hours a day reading and responding to comments. If you would like to correspond with me, please become a friend and send me a message!"
LOL! SURELY WE CANNOT DISTURB THE MAESTRO AT WORK WITH OUR COMMENTS!
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2011, 01:45:03 AM »

Ha, after watching his youtube videos I don't mind that he said that comment. If he played like a real master I would be worried.
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sordel
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« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2011, 07:40:36 AM »

Ha, after watching his youtube videos I don't mind that he said that comment. If he played like a real master I would be worried.

So, if Brendel came to you and told you that Bach's music was all rubbish, you would feel that you had to change your previous opinion to accomodate his?

Bachscholar's opinion regarding the musical and pedagoguic value of the Chopin Etudes doesn't get better or worse on the basis of how well he plays the piano. His opinion of their musical value is, for a start, completely subjective and can't be proved either way.

As for the pedagoguic value of the Etudes, if you could show that Bachscholar was a bad piano teacher that might indicate something, but of course he could be a bad teacher and this have nothing at all to do with his choice of teaching works.

As for the claim that "he's cheating his students out of valuable learning experiences based purely on what he doesn't like", well, there are surely plenty of valuable learning experiences for any student. Are we really at the point that one work is so essential to studying the piano that a student should feel cheated that s/he has not been invited to learn it?

I'm surprised that the fact that someone on YouTube dislikes one work by Chopin has so enraged people; pick any opinion you choose and you can find someone on the internet claiming to hold it.
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edward
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« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2011, 08:38:20 AM »

A pianist on youtube that goes by the name of BachScholar, who has over 5 million views on his videos, and 7 thousand subscribers has a long info on his channel. And at the end he writes...Before reading this, understand, that I understand everyone has personal taste...but to put down the entire 24 etudes that can help any pianist...is just absurd.opinions?


"I get many requests to play and teach Chopin's Etudes. I hate to disappoint you, but I dislike the Chopin Etudes. In my opinion they are overplayed and overrated and YouTube is already oversaturated with far too many performances of them. In my opinion the Etudes are Chopin's weakest works as a whole, which are simply made weaker by most pianists' obsession with speed. They have become pretty much speed contests more than anything, which I will have no part in. Czerny's op. 740 etudes are much better works of music in my opinion.

Some have tried to convince me that I am "wrong" and that the Chopin Etudes are great, but fail to understand what personal taste really means. For example, take a food you don't like and imagine all your friends constantly trying to convince you that this food is great and you are wrong for not liking it. Would this annoy you? Now put yourself in my shoes and imagine how annoying it would be if everyone said you really "should" like the Chopin Etudes. In other words, personal taste is personal taste. "

I knew I recognised the name "Bach Scholar" - he's the fellow who thinks that the standard performance of Paganini/Liszt "La Campanella" is too "fast", and has recorded a version at a speed he thinks more appropriate.  I know the piece mainly through the two versions on YouTube performed by Lisitsa which are considerably quicker than Mr Scholar's.  Let's say that I know which versions I have bookmarked (and they're not the turgid one that pays no heed to the title of the piece).

Personally, I think he's probably one of those rather unfortunate pianists who struggle with velocity, and who therefore attempt to make a virtue out of playing everything slowly.  This would explain his aversion to the Etudes.  He fails to understand the word "Etude" means "study", and that Chopin wrote the pieces to explore and test areas of technique with real music, as opposed to soulless technical exercises like Hanon.  Sure, the Etudes may be a little hackneyed, but musically inferior to Czerny Op 740?  Purlease?  And they're not all tests of speed - Op 10 No 3?  A little masterpiece.

Still, if he doesn't like the Etudes, then that is indeed his business, and there is plenty of other material (admittedly inferior, such as the Czerny) for his pupils.  In any case, anyone sufficiently advanced to be playing the Chopin Etudes can learn these outside the lesson, so Mr Scholar's poor opinion of them probably doesn't matter a jot.
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gerryjay
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« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2011, 01:41:14 PM »

Something that we miss sometimes is the fact that history is not something static and done: it depends on the reader. We can not confuse facts and the interpretation of the facts (i.e., history). If someone want to write the history of the piano ignoring Chopin, or dismissing him in some way, I think it is possible, although it would demand an enormous ingenuity and a very solid reasoning.

The most probable scenario would be a completely different view of the piano and its literature, since without Chopin many other composers would sink...

Anyway, Bachscholar is not about that. He simply does not like the etudes and, so, does not want to teach them. It is a naïve approach to teaching, but most teachers I know base their choices on pure personal taste. Otherwise, why so few do teach atonal music, for instance?

Best regards,
Jay.
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2011, 01:53:21 PM »

So, if Brendel came to you and told you that Bach's music was all rubbish, you would feel that you had to change your previous opinion to accomodate his?
I would respect his opinion greater and take interest in trying to understand his perspective. Even if I disagree with it I can learn something from it.

Bachscholar's opinion regarding the musical and pedagoguic value of the Chopin Etudes doesn't get better or worse on the basis of how well he plays the piano.
Perhaps for you, but when I hear someone say something stupid like this Bachscholar and then see how they play, it doesn't surprise me that what I see is second rate. At least this offers me some idea of the quality of his work and thus doesn't encourage me to investigate or take his opinions on music technique seriously.
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sordel
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« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2011, 03:57:36 PM »

At least this offers me some idea of the quality of his work and thus doesn't encourage me to investigate or take his opinions on music technique seriously.

Well, I agree with your point about technique. If someone is telling you how to play the piano and they can't actually play the piano themselves, then their opinion is at best suspect (hence my signature).

With regard to teaching, though, Nadia Boulanger was probably the best-known teacher of composition in the Twentieth Century, yet I'm not sure that I've ever heard a piece that she composed. So maybe Bachscholar is a good teacher.

For example, maybe students used to hearing a piece by Chopin at a certain pace try to rush their performance prematurely or neglect the printed score, whereas they might come to a less well-known piece with fewer preconceptions and learn more from studying it.

To go back to my example, if Alfred Brendel told me that Bach was rubbish, I wouldn't seriously consider that opinion because I don't see a way that the case could be convincingly argued. In the other hand, I think I can see how Bachscholar could seriously argue his case whether or not he can play well himself.
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chopinaninoff
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« Reply #23 on: July 04, 2011, 04:08:28 PM »

So, if Brendel came to you and told you that Bach's music was all rubbish, you would feel that you had to change your previous opinion to accomodate his?

Bachscholar's opinion regarding the musical and pedagoguic value of the Chopin Etudes doesn't get better or worse on the basis of how well he plays the piano. His opinion of their musical value is, for a start, completely subjective and can't be proved either way.

As for the pedagoguic value of the Etudes, if you could show that Bachscholar was a bad piano teacher that might indicate something, but of course he could be a bad teacher and this have nothing at all to do with his choice of teaching works.

As for the claim that "he's cheating his students out of valuable learning experiences based purely on what he doesn't like", well, there are surely plenty of valuable learning experiences for any student. Are we really at the point that one work is so essential to studying the piano that a student should feel cheated that s/he has not been invited to learn it?

I'm surprised that the fact that someone on YouTube dislikes one work by Chopin has so enraged people; pick any opinion you choose and you can find someone on the internet claiming to hold it.

To be honest...If a high class pianist like Brendel, Pollini, or Horowitz said something like that...I would try to listen to their opinion and see why they said that. why? because these pianists have had a life time of experience in the piano so they have a right to make such a claim like that. Not saying that it is right, but when someone devotes their life to the study of piano all their life, I think they can say a negative thing or two. On the other hand, when some unheard of youtube pianist starts babbling about how Chopin etudes are useless...it just looks stupid and no one will take them seriously. But when a high class proffessional comes and says something like that..it would make the audience think twice.. 
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gerryjay
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« Reply #24 on: July 04, 2011, 04:30:32 PM »

To be honest...If a high class pianist like Brendel, Pollini, or Horowitz said something like that...I would try to listen to their opinion and see why they said that. why? because these pianists have had a life time of experience in the piano so they have a right to make such a claim like that. Not saying that it is right, but when someone devotes their life to the study of piano all their life, I think they can say a negative thing or two. On the other hand, when some unheard of youtube pianist starts babbling about how Chopin etudes are useless...it just looks stupid and no one will take them seriously. But when a high class proffessional comes and says something like that..it would make the audience think twice.. 
Dear Chopinaninoff,
I'm sorry, but this is a classic fallacy known as appeal to authority. The fact that someone have a lifetime on the piano (or that someone have tons of writings/recordings/whatsoever) helps nothing to sustain an argument, although it might looks so. An argument is sustained by evidence, proof, reasoning, and this have no direct relation to what someone did previously in his life. I think we must listen to everyone, and then stand for our own conclusions. Otherwise, what are we doing here?

Best regards,
Jay.





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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #25 on: July 04, 2011, 04:53:50 PM »


Bachscholar's opinion regarding the musical and pedagoguic value of the Chopin Etudes doesn't get better or worse on the basis of how well he plays the piano. His opinion of their musical value is, for a start, completely subjective and can't be proved either way.

Yes it does. If someone of repute gave me a logical reason as to why the Chopin etudes are not necessary, I would take their opinion with great care. It's important to note, that no matter what an individual's opinion is, I'm going to study music and form my own; not conform around someone else. Judging from his videos, he has a severe lack of velocity which tells me that he cannot play a virtuosic work up to speed. Now his opinion goes from logical to subjective nonsense. This, in my opinion (speaking of subjective nonsense), is not a piano teacher.

Something that we miss sometimes is the fact that history is not something static and done: it depends on the reader. We can not confuse facts and the interpretation of the facts (i.e., history). If someone want to write the history of the piano ignoring Chopin, or dismissing him in some way, I think it is possible, although it would demand an enormous ingenuity and a very solid reasoning.

We generally have the same outlook on music, but I must disagree with you on this one. Chopin can be dismissed from history just as easily as the music of Bach and Debussy can be. I believe Chopin to be the most important composer for piano, and his etudes being some of the most important compositions in music. This man single-handedly revolutionized how the piano was to be played. His compositional output paved the way for the rest of the 19th century. Because of this, we MUST take every work as seriously as we can. I have a very big problem with "I don't like this, so it's not important."

Chopin's etudes are overplayed, as they should be. However to dismiss the entire set because "pianists take them too fast" is rubbish. When has it ever been acceptable to take a pianist's interpretation of something, not like it, and then blame the composer? BachScholar has not given sufficient evidence that he can logically dismiss Chopin's etudes. And, as said before, his recordings of him playing do not help his opinion.

Best wishes,

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gerryjay
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« Reply #26 on: July 04, 2011, 07:59:19 PM »

We generally have the same outlook on music, but I must disagree with you on this one. Chopin can be dismissed from history just as easily as the music of Bach and Debussy can be. I believe Chopin to be the most important composer for piano, and his etudes being some of the most important compositions in music. This man single-handedly revolutionized how the piano was to be played. His compositional output paved the way for the rest of the 19th century. Because of this, we MUST take every work as seriously as we can. I have a very big problem with "I don't like this, so it's not important."
Dear BBS,
I read twice your post and I don't follow you. If he is so important, how could he be easily dismissed? I mean, everyone is free to say rubbish, but to write a reasonable history of music without Chopin's figure is kind of a challenge, imho. That is because I agree with you: he was very important. Yet, he is also overplayed.

Now, about taking every work by him as seriously as we can, I agree on the sense that every piece of art deserves a respectful treatment. But Chopin wrote many works that do not stand to his stature as a composer, some etudes included.

Chopin's etudes are overplayed, as they should be. However to dismiss the entire set because "pianists take them too fast" is rubbish. When has it ever been acceptable to take a pianist's interpretation of something, not like it, and then blame the composer? BachScholar has not given sufficient evidence that he can logically dismiss Chopin's etudes. And, as said before, his recordings of him playing do not help his opinion.
Many things. The statement "overplayed as they sould be" is a most interesting one. I don't see things that way, but is important to know that someone else does. To me, overplaying is a problem, in any circumstances.

About dismissing Chopin because of his performers...that is quite a mess. Chopin music is one of the most tortured by pianists at least since the recordings can testimony. And the main cause is the rush-rush approach (which is the point I think Bachscholar have in all this): starts slowly, flowing, lyrical (choose the adjective you like), and then, out of nothing, without any indication, without no particular reason, simply start to play fast, and fast, until no discernible phrasing, or touching, or anything is there. The ballades are a traditional mark, but also the etudes in a simplified manner: people love to play it as fast as they can.

Anyway, you are right: he does not provide any argumentation, but I think he is not into it. He doesn't like the studies, so he doesn't teach them. Period. The fact that he seems an egomaniac (he have two "Best of" CDs) or a lazy teacher do not change a thing, because it is only a manifestation of his own taste, and that is sacred to me.

Best regards,
Jay.
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sordel
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« Reply #27 on: July 04, 2011, 08:19:30 PM »

He doesn't like the studies, so he doesn't teach them. Period.

Yet he obviously values Chopin, and devotes an entire hour-long video to How To Play the E-flat Nocturne.

There's something strange about BachScholar's performance repertoire ... no question. For example, he plays only the slow movement of the Moonlight Sonata, and when he posts Gaspard, it is just the audio from an old "warped" cassette copy. If he can play it, why not play it again and record it with video? (Is it because he can't?) Some of his timing shifts are just plain ghastly, such as the Minute Waltz, which is just a bizarre reading for someone who apparently prides himself on having extensive experience accompanying a dancer.

Like Jay, though, I don't think that BachScholar's ability to play has much to do with the merit of his claim that the Etudes are played too quickly; there is certainly a general problem in piano repertoire with pianists playing faster to show that they can. The reason for this is not difficult to establish, from this thread alone ... if a pianist chooses a slow tempo then there is always someone ready to accuse him or her of not being able to play at the "proper" speed.

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« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2011, 09:36:33 PM »

. It is a naïve approach to teaching, but most teachers I know base their choices on pure personal taste. Otherwise, why so few do teach atonal music, for instance?


Had a funny image of a parent saying, stop messing around on the piano and play some real music! I think more teachers should teach atonal music, all the wrong notes all of a sudden sound right and it is more fun  to play! Grin
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #29 on: July 04, 2011, 11:56:18 PM »

Dear BBS,
I read twice your post and I don't follow you. If he is so important, how could he be easily dismissed? I mean, everyone is free to say rubbish, but to write a reasonable history of music without Chopin's figure is kind of a challenge, imho. That is because I agree with you: he was very important. Yet, he is also overplayed.

Hi Jay,

I meant it to be sarcastic. "Easily dismissed from history just as we can easily dismiss Bach and Debussy." My opinion is that it cannot be done, as music as a whole and the art of composition would not be the same without these individuals. Of course I'm leaving out other important names. I more than respect the fact that you may disagree with me.

Quote
Now, about taking every work by him as seriously as we can, I agree on the sense that every piece of art deserves a respectful treatment. But Chopin wrote many works that do not stand to his stature as a composer, some etudes included.

I think this could be true about every composer (even our most sacred Bach Grin ). I will elaborate a little more in my next section.


Quote
Many things. The statement "overplayed as they sould be" is a most interesting one. I don't see things that way, but is important to know that someone else does. To me, overplaying is a problem, in any circumstances.

About dismissing Chopin because of his performers...that is quite a mess. Chopin music is one of the most tortured by pianists at least since the recordings can testimony. And the main cause is the rush-rush approach (which is the point I think Bachscholar have in all this): starts slowly, flowing, lyrical (choose the adjective you like), and then, out of nothing, without any indication, without no particular reason, simply start to play fast, and fast, until no discernible phrasing, or touching, or anything is there. The ballades are a traditional mark, but also the etudes in a simplified manner: people love to play it as fast as they can.

Because I find Chopin's etudes to be so vital, I feel every serious pianist should study ALL of them. Not necessarily learn and perform, but have an extensive knowledge on their form and Chopin's style. He wrote these when he was fairly young, the timeline is just as important. Now, I have to admit to you, if I have to hear another performance of Op. 25 No. 5, I'm going to throw my chair at the pianist. Because these works are indeed overplayed I find their place on the concert stage unnecessary, but I do not believe that we should prohibit others or ourselves from learning from them. Because other pianists play them so fast is irrelevant to me, as nothing is stopping anyone (despite one's own obsessiveness with being accepted by society) from taking it at the desired tempo. As a performer, I am relaying MY message to my audience. There is a very very very fine line from playing a work at a slower tempo because you can't play it faster and playing slower because you want to. The only way we can know this is based on how familiar we are with the artist. BachScholar is clearly not a virtuosic pianist, but that does not mean his opinion is worthless. Richter was heavily criticized for his tempo choice with the 1st movement of Schubert's D. 960 sonata. Can he play it faster than the snail speed he chose compared to the rest of recordings? Of course he can! When Gould performed Brahms' first piano concerto, he took it at a much slower speed than what was expected. Even in reviews, critics were saying that he played it slow because he couldn't play it faster (apparently they hadn't yet heard his 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations  Smiley ). We all know that is absolutely ridiculous. However, that is something I embrace: to go against the expected normality of how music should be interpreted. Chopin's etudes are no different. My theory teacher told me something I won't forget: "You will know a true Chopin artist based on their effectiveness of rubato." I find this to be the most important respect in Chopin's music, as it is the most butchered and misconstrued musical term in western music. This is no fault of Chopin, but our own misguided beliefs on his music. He is the most misunderstood composer in the history of music, and dismissing a set of works based on how others interpret them is lazy and ignorant in my opinion.

I think most of us can agree that BachScholar's opinions, while justified by his rights as a human being, are only said to be rubbish simply because he will not elaborate on them. If there was a logical attempt to fortify his opinion, I would take him seriously whether I agreed or not.

I find music to be a simple thing: A collection of different opinions. And as such, we must take each one with care.

Best wishes,
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #30 on: July 05, 2011, 12:36:04 AM »

When Gould performed Brahms' first piano concerto, he took it at a much slower speed than what was expected. Even in reviews, critics were saying that he played it slow because he couldn't play it faster (apparently they hadn't yet heard his 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations  Smiley ). We all know that is absolutely ridiculous.

Really? Gould tended to play fingerwork extremely fast. But look at his Beethoven/Liszt symphony, Scriabin sonatas, Prokofiev etc. Particularly telling for me is that early in the 1st movement of Brahms he plays perfectly measured trills yet later he just does a blur. Nothing wrong with a blur, necessarily- but why do the earlier ones so pedantically measured and then do the blur later? It makes no sense- unless he was actually struggling physically. I don't think he sounds like a pianist who was in control. It wasn't the tempo that bothered me about that performance.
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #31 on: July 05, 2011, 01:11:10 AM »

Really? Gould tended to play fingerwork extremely fast. But look at his Beethoven/Liszt symphony, Scriabin sonatas, Prokofiev etc. Particularly telling for me is that early in the 1st movement of Brahms he plays perfectly measured trills yet later he just does a blur. Nothing wrong with a blur, necessarily- but why do the earlier ones so pedantically measured and then do the blur later? It makes no sense- unless he was actually struggling physically. I don't think he sounds like a pianist who was in control. It wasn't the tempo that bothered me about that performance.

Which recording are you referring to? I have his performance with Victor Feldbrill and the Winnipeg Symphony. I sense no discrepancy with the octave trills (though I wouldn't blame any pianist who "fudged", so to speak, those trills in performance). It has been some time since I've heard the Bernstein recording.

As a side note, I find very little by Gould more marvelous than his playing of Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's 6th symphony. Truly a masterpiece.

Best wishes,
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #32 on: July 05, 2011, 01:52:43 AM »

Which recording are you referring to? I have his performance with Victor Feldbrill and the Winnipeg Symphony. I sense no discrepancy with the octave trills (though I wouldn't blame any pianist who "fudged", so to speak, those trills in performance). It has been some time since I've heard the Bernstein recording.

As a side note, I find very little by Gould more marvelous than his playing of Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's 6th symphony. Truly a masterpiece.

Best wishes,

I'm talking about the Bernstein one. He starts with exceedingly measured ones. Just very odd to start that way but then change. I'm a big fan of Gould- but he's no Cyprien Katsaris when it comes to Beethoven-Liszt. I don't believe it's a mere coincidence that his crazy tempos were almost unfailingly in finger work- rather than in thick chordal writing. I don't think Schonberg's comment is entirely unreasonable. The performance doesn't sound like a pianist who is entirely comfortable with the work. I don't think that thick chordal writing was really a strength of Gould's.
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gerryjay
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« Reply #33 on: July 05, 2011, 02:36:26 AM »

If a pianist chooses a slow tempo then there is always someone ready to accuse him or her of not being able to play at the "proper" speed.
Indeed, and the fact that I doubt about a pianist who is always pushing speed. Music is not about that, and a bad place to compensate for something else.

But I do not feel alone: Richter is famous for some very slow choices of tempi, as well as Arrau. Of course, they are major artists, who are able to choose the right tempo, either slow or - in some cases - damn fast. Another mighty example is Chopin's opus 35 as played by Samson François, in particular the first movement.

Best regards,
Jay.
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gerryjay
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« Reply #34 on: July 05, 2011, 02:48:28 AM »

Hi Jay,

I meant it to be sarcastic. "Easily dismissed from history just as we can easily dismiss Bach and Debussy." My opinion is that it cannot be done, as music as a whole and the art of composition would not be the same without these individuals. Of course I'm leaving out other important names. I more than respect the fact that you may disagree with me.

I think this could be true about every composer (even our most sacred Bach Grin ). I will elaborate a little more in my next section.

Because I find Chopin's etudes to be so vital, I feel every serious pianist should study ALL of them. Not necessarily learn and perform, but have an extensive knowledge on their form and Chopin's style. He wrote these when he was fairly young, the timeline is just as important. Now, I have to admit to you, if I have to hear another performance of Op. 25 No. 5, I'm going to throw my chair at the pianist. Because these works are indeed overplayed I find their place on the concert stage unnecessary, but I do not believe that we should prohibit others or ourselves from learning from them. Because other pianists play them so fast is irrelevant to me, as nothing is stopping anyone (despite one's own obsessiveness with being accepted by society) from taking it at the desired tempo. As a performer, I am relaying MY message to my audience. There is a very very very fine line from playing a work at a slower tempo because you can't play it faster and playing slower because you want to. The only way we can know this is based on how familiar we are with the artist. BachScholar is clearly not a virtuosic pianist, but that does not mean his opinion is worthless. Richter was heavily criticized for his tempo choice with the 1st movement of Schubert's D. 960 sonata. Can he play it faster than the snail speed he chose compared to the rest of recordings? Of course he can! When Gould performed Brahms' first piano concerto, he took it at a much slower speed than what was expected. Even in reviews, critics were saying that he played it slow because he couldn't play it faster (apparently they hadn't yet heard his 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations  Smiley ). We all know that is absolutely ridiculous. However, that is something I embrace: to go against the expected normality of how music should be interpreted. Chopin's etudes are no different. My theory teacher told me something I won't forget: "You will know a true Chopin artist based on their effectiveness of rubato." I find this to be the most important respect in Chopin's music, as it is the most butchered and misconstrued musical term in western music. This is no fault of Chopin, but our own misguided beliefs on his music. He is the most misunderstood composer in the history of music, and dismissing a set of works based on how others interpret them is lazy and ignorant in my opinion.

I think most of us can agree that BachScholar's opinions, while justified by his rights as a human being, are only said to be rubbish simply because he will not elaborate on them. If there was a logical attempt to fortify his opinion, I would take him seriously whether I agreed or not.

I find music to be a simple thing: A collection of different opinions. And as such, we must take each one with care.

Best wishes,
Dear BBS,
I wrote my previous post before reading this insightful lines of yours, and I now understand you. And I agree, by the way. Gould example is a most important one, because he played as he thought he should in every aspect, not only speed. The discussion about whether he did hit the spot or not is irrelevant, since his countless hours of recordings attest that he was serious and consistent about his musical beliefs. This commitment is the mark of a great artist, and something I try to pursue as much as I can.

Best regards,
Jay.
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #35 on: July 05, 2011, 03:20:04 AM »

I'm talking about the Bernstein one. He starts with exceedingly measured ones. Just very odd to start that way but then change. I'm a big fan of Gould- but he's no Cyprien Katsaris when it comes to Beethoven-Liszt. I don't believe it's a mere coincidence that his crazy tempos were almost unfailingly in finger work- rather than in thick chordal writing. I don't think Schonberg's comment is entirely unreasonable. The performance doesn't sound like a pianist who is entirely comfortable with the work. I don't think that thick chordal writing was really a strength of Gould's.

You bring up a good point that I have never really thought of, nor have I heard Katsari's Beethoven. I'll look into it. Thank you!

Dear BBS,
I wrote my previous post before reading this insightful lines of yours, and I now understand you. And I agree, by the way. Gould example is a most important one, because he played as he thought he should in every aspect, not only speed. The discussion about whether he did hit the spot or not is irrelevant, since his countless hours of recordings attest that he was serious and consistent about his musical beliefs. This commitment is the mark of a great artist, and something I try to pursue as much as I can.

Best regards,
Jay.

I couldn't agree with you more. It reminds me of a couple of moments I had recently with my piano teacher (who, let's just say, really knows what he's talking about). I really like to add things in Bach; ornaments, rolling chords, added notes to chords etc. He started to get a little impatient with me and said something along the lines of "Michael, I respect your opinion, but you are a nobody and cannot get away with this. Gould could do it, because he's Glenn Gould. Change the music when you graduate." It was interesting because I had never really thought about it. In my efforts to be "different" I was telling my audience that I didn't know what I was doing, whereas Gould, Richter, Argerich, etc. can do just about anything they want and it's OK. There are ways to be different without changing the music.

I came to a realization about myself: I was trying to immulate Glenn Gould. I was trying to be Glenn Gould. Obviously, I failed, but within that failure, I found my niche in performance. Through our failures to be other people, we find who we truly are. Though I guess that's more of a psychological discussion than musical.

Anyone, back on topic. That BachScholar really grinds my gears!  Grin

Best wishes,
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mcdiddy1
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« Reply #36 on: July 05, 2011, 03:49:20 AM »

Quote
"Michael, I respect your opinion, but you are a nobody and cannot get away with this. Gould could do it, because he's Glenn Gould. Change the music when you graduate." It was interesting because I had never really thought about it. In my efforts to be "different" I was telling my audience that I didn't know what I was doing, whereas Gould, Richter, Argerich, etc. can do just about anything they want and it's OK. There are ways to be different without changing the music.

I came to a realization about myself: I was trying to immulate Glenn Gould. I was trying to be Glenn Gould. Obviously, I failed, but within that failure, I found my niche in performance. Through our failures to be other people, we find who we truly are. Though I guess that's more of a psychological discussion than musical.

Glenn Gould did what he did based on his research and his personal beliefs of what the music was intended to be. You are right you should not try and immulate Glenn Gould but gain knowledge so you can make your own choices. I think it is not a good idea to listen to one pianist to emulate them but muliple pianist so your ideas on interpretation will be more broad. I don't think you failed. You succeeded in emulating him but playing like Glenn Gould is not the goal because Glenn Gould was trying to play as the music was intended to be.
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« Reply #37 on: July 05, 2011, 08:55:59 AM »

Gould could do it, because he's Glenn Gould.

This is an odd assertion, since Gould's interpretations were always subject to severe adverse criticism and, even today, I doubt that he would be the preferred performer of Bach amongst people who listen to a lot of Bach. To take one example, was it alright for Gould to sing along with his performances "because he's Glenn Gould"? Not really ... I just think that his interpretations were so interesting that we tend to put up with the singing.

With Lang Lang, do we say that he can get away with hammering the keyboard "because he's Lang Lang"? Some do say that, certainly, but I would have thought that a bad performance is just as bad whether it is given by a star pianist or a novice.

I'm sure that there are student pianists out there using too much ornamentation, and a teacher is right to try to rein that in, but it's always worth remembering that there was a time when Glenn Gould wasn't "Glenn Gould", and I bet he had plenty of arguments with people over his ornamentation at that time.
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« Reply #38 on: July 05, 2011, 12:33:22 PM »

Glenn Gould did what he did based on his research and his personal beliefs of what the music was intended to be. You are right you should not try and immulate Glenn Gould but gain knowledge so you can make your own choices. I think it is not a good idea to listen to one pianist to emulate them but muliple pianist so your ideas on interpretation will be more broad. I don't think you failed. You succeeded in emulating him but playing like Glenn Gould is not the goal because Glenn Gould was trying to play as the music was intended to be.

Glenn Gould cared nothing about what it was intended to be. This might be viewed as shameful by many (not myself) but he simply didn't think that way. He played as HE intended it to go. In some cases that may well correspond very closely with an educated guess about what was intended, but frequently it's not even close to that.
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« Reply #39 on: July 05, 2011, 01:21:58 PM »

Glenn Gould cared nothing about what it was intended to be. This might be viewed as shameful by many (not myself) but he simply didn't think that way. He played as HE intended it to go. In some cases that may well correspond very closely with an educated guess about what was intended, but frequently it's not even close to that.

As Wanda Landowska is supposed to have said, "You play Bach your way, and I'll play Bach his way".
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« Reply #40 on: July 05, 2011, 04:14:04 PM »

You bring up a good point that I have never really thought of, nor have I heard Katsari's Beethoven. I'll look into it. Thank you!

I couldn't agree with you more. It reminds me of a couple of moments I had recently with my piano teacher (who, let's just say, really knows what he's talking about). I really like to add things in Bach; ornaments, rolling chords, added notes to chords etc. He started to get a little impatient with me and said something along the lines of "Michael, I respect your opinion, but you are a nobody and cannot get away with this. Gould could do it, because he's Glenn Gould. Change the music when you graduate." It was interesting because I had never really thought about it. In my efforts to be "different" I was telling my audience that I didn't know what I was doing, whereas Gould, Richter, Argerich, etc. can do just about anything they want and it's OK. There are ways to be different without changing the music.

I came to a realization about myself: I was trying to immulate Glenn Gould. I was trying to be Glenn Gould. Obviously, I failed, but within that failure, I found my niche in performance. Through our failures to be other people, we find who we truly are. Though I guess that's more of a psychological discussion than musical.

Anyone, back on topic. That BachScholar really grinds my gears!  Grin

Best wishes,

Haha I can relate to that! I use to play with flat fingers like Horowitz did, and added octaves into Scriabin to make a bigger effect, and made sudden PP's after a huge FFF and I loved doing that...but the moment I did that my teacher stopped me and asked me what the hell I was doing, so I asked "But Horowitz does this as well yes??" and he said "When you become 1/80th of what Horowitz was, we shall discuss this"
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #41 on: July 05, 2011, 04:50:13 PM »

This is an odd assertion, since Gould's interpretations were always subject to severe adverse criticism and, even today, I doubt that he would be the preferred performer of Bach amongst people who listen to a lot of Bach. To take one example, was it alright for Gould to sing along with his performances "because he's Glenn Gould"? Not really ... I just think that his interpretations were so interesting that we tend to put up with the singing.

With Lang Lang, do we say that he can get away with hammering the keyboard "because he's Lang Lang"? Some do say that, certainly, but I would have thought that a bad performance is just as bad whether it is given by a star pianist or a novice.

I'm sure that there are student pianists out there using too much ornamentation, and a teacher is right to try to rein that in, but it's always worth remembering that there was a time when Glenn Gould wasn't "Glenn Gould", and I bet he had plenty of arguments with people over his ornamentation at that time.

I listen to a lot of Bach, and Gould is my favorite pianist. In fact, it's gotten so disgusting I don't ever want to hear another performer of Bach besides Glenn Gould. This is not necessarily a good thing as there are many other great interpreters of Bach's music. Though I am just one example of many counter examples.

Let me clarify my statement. Gould can "get away with it" because just how good he is. Lang Lang could not "get away with" playing Bach in that manner, because Lang Lang has nowhere near the talent Gould had. The timeline and location of Gould's performances are also important to his stature as a pianist. Performing Bach in Russia during Gould's time was not common, in fact, it never happened. Bach was seen as sacred and didn't fit the grand concert halls of Russia. So, not only did Gould perform Bach in Russia, he performed it in the way that he so eloquently does. Slouching, mumbling, sitting a foot off the ground, eccentric body motions etc. He completely turned the world of classical music on its face and (in my opinion) reinvented Bach much like Mendelssohn's revival in the 1820s. In further comparison with Lang Lang, Gould's body motions and singing are all products of his natural behavior; Lang Lang does it for the audience. It is clear to me that most of his motions are fake and rehearsed. I cannot respect that.

However, with all of this aside, I think we both agree that a concert pianist that has established himself as one of the greatest and most important pianists to have lived can "get away with" certain things in a performance, whereas an undergraduate loser in California cannot. Also, I think you may be severely underestimating just how good Gould truly was, opinions on his interpretations aside.

Glenn Gould did what he did based on his research and his personal beliefs of what the music was intended to be. You are right you should not try and immulate Glenn Gould but gain knowledge so you can make your own choices. I think it is not a good idea to listen to one pianist to emulate them but muliple pianist so your ideas on interpretation will be more broad. I don't think you failed. You succeeded in emulating him but playing like Glenn Gould is not the goal because Glenn Gould was trying to play as the music was intended to be.

A small anecdote about Gould: he was playing a piece written by a composer who was present at the time (I forget his name). As Gould started playing, the composer stood up and said, "no, Glenn, you're playing it wrong. It goes like this..." Gould responded, "Oh, just sit down, you don't understand your own music." Taken from the documentary Glenn Gould: A Genius Within.

Best wishes,
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« Reply #42 on: July 05, 2011, 04:54:32 PM »

Glenn Gould cared nothing about what it was intended to be. This might be viewed as shameful by many (not myself) but he simply didn't think that way. He played as HE intended it to go. In some cases that may well correspond very closely with an educated guess about what was intended, but frequently it's not even close to that.

Well lsiten to this interview especially around 2:11. He speaks about structure in Back music and displays a wealth of knowledge about not only Back but other composers and how it fits in the scheme of music. His depth of knowledge indicates his playing is a lot more than "an educated guess" but is based on intense study of music and music history and coming up with his own conclusions.

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« Reply #43 on: July 05, 2011, 05:13:07 PM »

It reminds me of a couple of moments I had recently with my piano teacher (who, let's just say, really knows what he's talking about). I really like to add things in Bach; ornaments, rolling chords, added notes to chords etc. He started to get a little impatient with me and said something along the lines of "Michael, I respect your opinion, but you are a nobody and cannot get away with this. Gould could do it, because he's Glenn Gould. Change the music when you graduate." It was interesting because I had never really thought about it. In my efforts to be "different" I was telling my audience that I didn't know what I was doing, whereas Gould, Richter, Argerich, etc. can do just about anything they want and it's OK. There are ways to be different without changing the music.
Dear Mike,
there are three points that I'd like to comment. Please, notice I don't know your teacher, thus is nothing even remotely personal. But his view of the process is a clear example of the traditional way.

1. When your teacher say "He's Glenn Gould", he thinks he is ending the discussion, but this is only an evasion, the old and good fallacy of appeal to authority. It happens a lot in the academic life, because everybody is very much concerned about having someone to quote, and to respect the scientific method. I'm fine with that, I have my articles published and the like, but when it comes to the creative process, is actual non sense, because the greatest creative minds in art history disregarded rules and tradition as much as they wanted to.

Notice that I don't talk about avant-garde necessarily: Bach is one of the most conservative composers of all time in the sense of innovations (because he did not innovate a single day in his life), but his rules of counterpoint are just that: his. The fact that he turned out to be The Law after his death is beyond his own control. But it is important to know that in his own time, he was not given any importance. Furthermore, in the famous contest to the Leipzig post, his talent was considered mediocre.

2. That leads me to the second interesting point. Why Glenn Gould is, today, Gleen Gould? Because he observed the boundaries of piano as an instrument? Because he respected the boundaries of academic interpretation? Because he was afraid of being misunderstood or not being commercially accepted? Quite the contrary, in all aspects! He had have a deep respect for his own musical view, and developed an exquisite art that is highly influential. Today, if you like or dislike his interpretations, you can't disregard them.

3. Finally, the "wait to graduation" phrase is a most common one. I listen to that in both sides, as a student and then as a teacher, and I never accepted it as a reasonable argument. First, and foremost, I think the undergraduate in particular but also the graduate studies are the best possible moment to experiment freely. As a teacher I also did encourage my pupils to try anything, to push the limits, to explore. It is another discussion, but again the question is the same: finding a spot under the sun is not about respecting the rules, but of understanding them and breaking the ones you must to.

Re-reading the above, there is a last thing to consider. I'm not in the self-help business, but you are not nobody, and the fact that Richter or Gould are names do not change anything. They were great pianists and artists because they were putting their efforts on their recordings/recitals/etc everyday. Gould never thought, on the start of a new day of work: "I'm Glenn Gould, I can do whatever I want and people will accept because, well, I'm Glenn Gould!" This is not a basis for anything, this is mere lunatic reasoning. Or no reasoning at all...

Best regards,
Jay.
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« Reply #44 on: July 05, 2011, 06:26:30 PM »

I think you may be severely underestimating just how good Gould truly was, opinions on his interpretations aside.

Unlikely, in that I listen to more Bach than most other composers pre-Wagner and Gould is my favourite performer of Bach.

Nevertheless, while I choose to listen to Gould I do recognise that his performances are not universally lauded. Many of those who are Bach devotees (as I am not) prefer to hear Bach performed on harpsichord, and many of those who listen to Bach on the piano prefer more measured performers such as Hewitt. There's a pretty broad range of Bach listeners, and Gould is still controversial, if far less so than when he first performed.
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« Reply #45 on: July 05, 2011, 10:47:04 PM »

Well lsiten to this interview especially around 2:11. He speaks about structure in Back music and displays a wealth of knowledge about not only Back but other composers and how it fits in the scheme of music. His depth of knowledge indicates his playing is a lot more than "an educated guess" but is based on intense study of music and music history and coming up with his own conclusions.



I agree entirely- but in Bach, not in general. There's so little we can easily say is in contradiction to definable rules in Bach, it's very hard to reasonably say anything Gould did is "wrong". Experts in treatises may perhaps be able to give detailed arguments that may perhaps be worth of serious consideration. However, I've long ago noticed that most people who argue Gould's Bach is "wrong" go silent when asked for evidence and illustration. In the case of Bach, most people simply go on hearsay about what some "expert" critic (who probably has as little evidence himself) said. Personally I suspect that most arguments against his Bach are extraordinarily dubious and based on a kind of emperor's new clothes styles of pretentious pseudo-intellectualism.

However, it's a different matter in other composers. Gould may well have sincerely believed in (most) of what he did (although I'm sure that such things as the Appassionata really were little more than a stunt to see what he could get away with). However, there's no question that everything was the product of sincere research etc. He did what he felt worked. I have no problem with that. But HE was behind the countless specific contradictions to more detailed scores- not some special research.
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bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #46 on: July 06, 2011, 04:14:07 AM »

Dear Mike,
there are three points that I'd like to comment. Please, notice I don't know your teacher, thus is nothing even remotely personal. But his view of the process is a clear example of the traditional way.

1. When your teacher say "He's Glenn Gould", he thinks he is ending the discussion, but this is only an evasion, the old and good fallacy of appeal to authority. It happens a lot in the academic life, because everybody is very much concerned about having someone to quote, and to respect the scientific method. I'm fine with that, I have my articles published and the like, but when it comes to the creative process, is actual non sense, because the greatest creative minds in art history disregarded rules and tradition as much as they wanted to.

Notice that I don't talk about avant-garde necessarily: Bach is one of the most conservative composers of all time in the sense of innovations (because he did not innovate a single day in his life), but his rules of counterpoint are just that: his. The fact that he turned out to be The Law after his death is beyond his own control. But it is important to know that in his own time, he was not given any importance. Furthermore, in the famous contest to the Leipzig post, his talent was considered mediocre.

2. That leads me to the second interesting point. Why Glenn Gould is, today, Gleen Gould? Because he observed the boundaries of piano as an instrument? Because he respected the boundaries of academic interpretation? Because he was afraid of being misunderstood or not being commercially accepted? Quite the contrary, in all aspects! He had have a deep respect for his own musical view, and developed an exquisite art that is highly influential. Today, if you like or dislike his interpretations, you can't disregard them.

3. Finally, the "wait to graduation" phrase is a most common one. I listen to that in both sides, as a student and then as a teacher, and I never accepted it as a reasonable argument. First, and foremost, I think the undergraduate in particular but also the graduate studies are the best possible moment to experiment freely. As a teacher I also did encourage my pupils to try anything, to push the limits, to explore. It is another discussion, but again the question is the same: finding a spot under the sun is not about respecting the rules, but of understanding them and breaking the ones you must to.

Re-reading the above, there is a last thing to consider. I'm not in the self-help business, but you are not nobody, and the fact that Richter or Gould are names do not change anything. They were great pianists and artists because they were putting their efforts on their recordings/recitals/etc everyday. Gould never thought, on the start of a new day of work: "I'm Glenn Gould, I can do whatever I want and people will accept because, well, I'm Glenn Gould!" This is not a basis for anything, this is mere lunatic reasoning. Or no reasoning at all...

Best regards,
Jay.

I don't want to drop the names of teachers or my teacher for the sake of privacy, but I am a conservatory student. I too find the "wait until you graduate" to be nonsense. Though, in a sense, that's his point in a nut-shell. However, I find with most teachers (though I'm careful not to generalize), creativity is often shunned in the music of Bach more than any other. This is not something that I quite understand.

What is interesting, is that he very rarely stifles my creativity, though when he strongly feels about something, and I strongly feel the exact opposite, we butt heads. An example that happened this year that I will keep short: I had the great honor of playing in a master class with Menahem Pressler; I prepared Beethoven's 32 Variations in C minor. My interpretation used little pedal, sharp shifts in dynamics and a much different interpretation of "allegretto." I often times didn't follow what Beethoven wrote, because that's not what I felt in the music. For example, Variations 10 and 11 are marked "sempre forte", well, I decided to ignore that. His argument was that Beethoven was so strict on his guidelines in the music, he has earned the respect that we follow them as a performer. My argument is that I really don't care, and Beethoven himself broke just about every rule in the book; I mean, c'mon, the guy started his first symphony on V7/IV! It's important to note that I didn't do these things for the sake of being different, but because this is what I felt in my heart.

After I finished playing for Mr. Pressler, he said something that will always stay with me, "Your creativity is overwhelming. I do not yet know if I want to stand and applaud, or walk out and never return. But if I could play these again, I would choose your tempo." This, to me, is the greatest compliment. Not his tempo remark, but because I made him think. For 12 minutes and 8 seconds, he questioned himself, my playing, the music, Beethoven...everything. And that is my sole purpose as a performer: to force my audience to sit on the edge of their chair, either in love, or getting ready to charge the stage to tear me away from the piano. And it is this belief that I feel is the only purpose for giving a performance.

This is clearly the Glenn Gould mentality. I'm no longer trying to be like Glenn Gould, however I've found my way of taking his beliefs and employing them into my own playing. Just as I take a piece of music and interpret it with my own mind. I find this to be the most important quality as any musician. Is this person playing the way their teacher or the composer told them to, or do they truly feel in their heart that this is the way the music has to be?

I'd also like to add that my teacher and I get along very well, and while we sometimes have our minor differences, there is no teacher I'd rather be studying with. And by the way, jay, he is also an advocate of the Chopin etudes. Though you'll be happy to know he despises Hanon.  Wink

Best wishes,
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gerryjay
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« Reply #47 on: July 06, 2011, 02:06:07 PM »

Dear BBS,
What is interesting, is that he very rarely stifles my creativity, though when he strongly feels about something, and I strongly feel the exact opposite, we butt heads. An example that happened this year that I will keep short: I had the great honor of playing in a master class with Menahem Pressler; I prepared Beethoven's 32 Variations in C minor. My interpretation used little pedal, sharp shifts in dynamics and a much different interpretation of "allegretto." I often times didn't follow what Beethoven wrote, because that's not what I felt in the music. For example, Variations 10 and 11 are marked "sempre forte", well, I decided to ignore that. His argument was that Beethoven was so strict on his guidelines in the music, he has earned the respect that we follow them as a performer. My argument is that I really don't care, and Beethoven himself broke just about every rule in the book; I mean, c'mon, the guy started his first symphony on V7/IV! It's important to note that I didn't do these things for the sake of being different, but because this is what I felt in my heart.
I think the role of a teacher - as far as conservatoire/undergraduate is concerned - is to make his students to think. And to stand for their own positions in an articulated way. I guess your teacher would agree with that.

The fundamental aspect is very simple: you are in the just and precise moment to feel the way you do about Beethoven. It is more than sympathetic, it is sheer necessity in the development of a creative mind. Let me give you a piece of advice, that you will find most interesting in the years to come: take notes of this kind of reasoning, of opinions, record your playing often...I mean, have a more or less documented diary of your process. Because one thing is sure: you will stick with many things, and change your mind in others. I always did find it cool to notice how I changed and how I stuck, and to learn and relearn with my own process.

A final comment: some great ideas come with rupture. When you decided to ignore a Beethoven direction, you may discover something that was hidden there. Or you just figure out, sometime later, that you behaved like an ass. But this courage is a primary requisite of our profession.

After I finished playing for Mr. Pressler, he said something that will always stay with me, "Your creativity is overwhelming. I do not yet know if I want to stand and applaud, or walk out and never return. But if I could play these again, I would choose your tempo." This, to me, is the greatest compliment. Not his tempo remark, but because I made him think. For 12 minutes and 8 seconds, he questioned himself, my playing, the music, Beethoven...everything. And that is my sole purpose as a performer: to force my audience to sit on the edge of their chair, either in love, or getting ready to charge the stage to tear me away from the piano. And it is this belief that I feel is the only purpose for giving a performance.
Fantastic comment by Mr. Pressler. And I agree with you: music is communication. If you can't make your audience think and feel, you are useless as an artist. Please notice that I don't think it is mandatory to provoke, but if you have nothing beyond the previous knowledge of your audience, why bother playing at all? This can be something simple as your idea of not following the sempre forte, or something quite dare as playing Beethoven's opus 111 at first sight, improvising as much as reading.

The thing is: if I will find in a recital exactly what I have at home, in my CDs and DVDs (not a bluray guy yet), I rather prefer staying at home. Self indulgence based on common sense reasoning is not among my current interests.

This is clearly the Glenn Gould mentality. I'm no longer trying to be like Glenn Gould, however I've found my way of taking his beliefs and employing them into my own playing. Just as I take a piece of music and interpret it with my own mind. I find this to be the most important quality as any musician. Is this person playing the way their teacher or the composer told them to, or do they truly feel in their heart that this is the way the music has to be?
Gould epitomizes that in every recording I know by him. And I think you already noticed the difference of influence and imitation. The later is easy, nice and quite boring. The former is a challenge, or the way you create your own challenges. An influence is something you deal with, sometimes in happiness, sometimes in struggle. For instance, how difficult is to abandon a most dear recording when you figure out you don't feel your own playing that way? But this is what art making is all about.

I'd also like to add that my teacher and I get along very well, and while we sometimes have our minor differences, there is no teacher I'd rather be studying with.
Finding a good teacher and having a good relationship with s/he is something to rejoice.

And by the way, jay, he is also an advocate of the Chopin etudes. Though you'll be happy to know he despises Hanon.  Wink
I swear I don't have a target mark with Hanon's picture in my studio!

Best regards,
Jay.
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Mayla
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« Reply #48 on: July 06, 2011, 04:30:23 PM »

.
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
bachbrahmsschubert
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« Reply #49 on: July 08, 2011, 05:28:24 AM »

Dear BBS,I think the role of a teacher - as far as conservatoire/undergraduate is concerned - is to make his students to think. And to stand for their own positions in an articulated way. I guess your teacher would agree with that.

The fundamental aspect is very simple: you are in the just and precise moment to feel the way you do about Beethoven. It is more than sympathetic, it is sheer necessity in the development of a creative mind. Let me give you a piece of advice, that you will find most interesting in the years to come: take notes of this kind of reasoning, of opinions, record your playing often...I mean, have a more or less documented diary of your process. Because one thing is sure: you will stick with many things, and change your mind in others. I always did find it cool to notice how I changed and how I stuck, and to learn and relearn with my own process.

A final comment: some great ideas come with rupture. When you decided to ignore a Beethoven direction, you may discover something that was hidden there. Or you just figure out, sometime later, that you behaved like an ass. But this courage is a primary requisite of our profession.
Fantastic comment by Mr. Pressler. And I agree with you: music is communication. If you can't make your audience think and feel, you are useless as an artist. Please notice that I don't think it is mandatory to provoke, but if you have nothing beyond the previous knowledge of your audience, why bother playing at all? This can be something simple as your idea of not following the sempre forte, or something quite dare as playing Beethoven's opus 111 at first sight, improvising as much as reading.

The thing is: if I will find in a recital exactly what I have at home, in my CDs and DVDs (not a bluray guy yet), I rather prefer staying at home. Self indulgence based on common sense reasoning is not among my current interests.
Gould epitomizes that in every recording I know by him. And I think you already noticed the difference of influence and imitation. The later is easy, nice and quite boring. The former is a challenge, or the way you create your own challenges. An influence is something you deal with, sometimes in happiness, sometimes in struggle. For instance, how difficult is to abandon a most dear recording when you figure out you don't feel your own playing that way? But this is what art making is all about.
Finding a good teacher and having a good relationship with s/he is something to rejoice.
I swear I don't have a target mark with Hanon's picture in my studio!

Best regards,
Jay.


Thank you for your post, and I agree with everyone you said (or typed).

I just had a lesson with him yesterday; my current big project is Beethoven's 4th concerto. Before we began, I mentioned that I wanted to experiment with the opening a little more and that he would surely disagree. I finished the introduction and he asked me to stop, then said "why?" To be honest, I had no real reason other than the fact that I wanted to gauge his reaction. Maybe the peach I had for breakfast had some weird drug in it...who knows. Anyway, I was honest and told him the only logical reason was because I felt the opening, and the entire concerto for that matter, was written in such a way that I was free to manipulate time and space. He felt that was an illogical reason. We discussed it for awhile and ultimately his point was that I should feel free to interpret a piece of music how I please, as long as it is done with conviction and logical reasoning. I forget the term he used (I know, I'm a terrible student), but his job is to be somewhat of a mediator; to challenge me in every possible way as I take this senior year to prepare for graduate school.

Ultimately, I am not pursuing a career as a concert pianist, but a teacher. And through observing, I notice that several teachers take it personally and get angry when a student ignores their advice. The "you think you know better than me?" complex that I hate so much. Thankfully, I find none of that here. School, anyway, these forums are...uh...a different matter.  Wink

Thank you again for all the advice, always a good discussion.

Best wishes,
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