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Piano Humour: A Victor Borge Tribute

“And now, in honour of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven’s death, I would like to play Clear the Saloon, er, Clair de Lune, by Debussy. I don’t play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.” Read more >>

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Author Topic: Rachmaninoff - Prelude op. 23 no. 5  (Read 1919 times)
Ha_Thi
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« on: February 01, 2003, 05:53:11 PM »

Hi fellows,

I'm studying the prelude by Rachmaninoff. Unfortunately my arm get tired each time. Could you give me some suggestions how to relax while playing that great piece?

And a basic question, I play piano for 4 years now, but  I started playing the piano very late (at the age of 14). You you think one can reach a perfect technique though?

Thanks.
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piano sheet music of Prelude
Rachmanoinoff
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2003, 11:10:40 PM »

Hey!

I did that piece about a year ago, (I'm assuming you mean the march-like thing in g minor?)  I LOVE that piece, play it everyday and my parents are quite sick of it!  Yes, I do have that arms problem.... but there are a lot of chords and tiresome passages, so I guess it's quite normal.... what I would do, is i wouldn't play it as if I were "playing" it- what I mean is, don't play it so loud and fast, unless you're playing for people.  That's the mistake I make-  I can play the thing 5 times in a row, ocmpletely alone, and after that I never want to play the piano again.

I'm 15, started piano at about 7 or 8.... sure you can get "perfect technique".... anthing is possible.

Happy playing
Martin
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Music is music, don't try to tamper with it
tosca1
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2003, 03:28:52 AM »

I agree with Martin (Rachmaninoff) that the danger is to keep playing it as if performing it.  Play your pieces mostly slowly (twice slowly to once up to speed. Work on the difficult sections( and this piece is full of them) in sectional practice rather than playing the whole thing through.  
The other point is that if your arms are tired and tense you will not make a full, rich sound.  You need to practise to relax your arms at the keyboard by letting go from the shoulders so the arms feel heavy and the muscles should feel soft to the touch. You must "feel" relaxation as it can be elusive and many pianists have a terrible battle with overly tensed muscles which inhibit technical freedom.
You could also experiment at the piano listening to the quality of the sound that you make and as your arms relax the sound will become more lustrous and beautiful.
In our impatience to play a piece we can sometimes play all the notes but the resulting sounds may be utterly unmusical which is counterproductive.
Relax your arms, listen to the sounds and  focus on practice rather
just playing through the piece.

Good luck!
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Rachmanoinoff
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2003, 05:28:35 PM »

Well said!
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rachfan
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2003, 10:37:54 PM »

In playing Op. 23 No. 5, particularly in the alla marcia parts, touch control is very important and plays some role in avoiding fatigue in the arms.  There has to be eveness but fluidity too in the playing.   Rachmaninoff employs a number of touches, and that variety demands different uses of the playing mechanism, rather than just one.  Responding properly to the variety of touches helps to avoid arm pain too.  So it's important to notice whether a passage is legato, nonlegato, or staccato.   Speaking of legato, be sure not to catch the middle note of those three-not slurs in the pedal.  And some sections require no pedal at all, such as measures 8, 15, 16, and certainly the coda.  

Distinguish also forearm octaves from wrist octaves (or chords).  On page two, for example, the first 8th notes on the downbeats in several measures are accented and are forearm octaves played with weight for tone production.  The following chords in the octave mold are staccato and played with the wrist, are intended to be quieter,  and are background only.  The last four 16th octaves in those measures are scalar, melodic, and legato.  Be aware: If you play background music with equal force to foreground music, you'll tire quickly and never get through this piece.

On page 2 in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th measures there, the RH octive scales played legato need to be fingered 4-5-4-5 in the top notes.  It not only connects the notes better, but allows you to play those figures with the fingers and less with the wrists, which also reduces arm fatigue.  In the very last measure of page 2, be sure to brush the repeated notes in the RH with 3-2-1.  That too serves to keep the wrist more quiet and to execute in a more relaxed way.  (In this piece you need to find every opportunity to relax that you can!)  

After all of the bombast of the last page, some people rush like a house afire to accommodate the coda marked leggiero, a totally different touch from what has just occurred previously.  (Beethoven used to love to pull these pranks on the nervous system too.)  And, of course, performers' arms are so tired that the short cadenza gets messed up as well.  Turn on the metronome and discover how it is really to be played--far more unrushed than imagined--to be consistent with the rest of the piece.  Also you need to totally reconceive the RH note groupings there, as they are not apparent.  For instance, in the first measure of the coda, despite how the score appears to the eye, the last two 16ths are mentally paired with the first two 16ths in the next measure.  Similarly, in the second measure there,  the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th 16th notes form another easily-executed four-note grouping, despite appearances of the written notation.  Playing it that way also reduces physical effort.  Several authors have pointed out that note groupings that you see on a page sometimes need to be recast to better choreograph the hand and make the passage more playable.  You're not changing any notes or rhythm really, simply reordering the note groupings mentally which enables the hands to better cope technically.  This is one of those cases.  

Finally, pay attention to dynamics.  True, there are many parts marked f and ff that consume energy, but there are also fallbacks to p and other diminuendos too.  Take advantage of every one of those changes to put less stress on the playing mechanism.  Also the quiet, lyrical middle section enables you to regroup and gather your forces for the last two pages that revert to Tempo I.

So there are numerous tricks that you can employ to take the strain off yourself in playing this piece evenly yet with  fluididity.  Having said all of that, it's still very demanding nonetheless and does require stamina!  No two ways about it.   I agree with martin and tosca1.  Do not play through pain either in the forearms or on the backs of the hands.  Get up from the bench, stand straight, drop your arms and dangle them like a couple of loose ropes for a while.  Then wait awhile before resuming practice on that part of the piece.  Work instead on the middle lyrical section.  Hope this helps.
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Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.
willcowskitz
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2003, 12:17:47 AM »

"And a basic question, I play piano for 4 years now, but  I started playing the piano very late (at the age of 14). You you think one can reach a perfect technique though?"

Sure thing... says I.

That was the piece I started my piano playing, played it up to 1/6 or so and started playing Bach. It was pretty horrible at first but as I'm the type of a person who really gets down to do things, I started to develop "quickly" (that's what my teacher [yes I started to take lessons after playing for a couple months] says) and also gained some kind of 'tonal ear' so I could play musically too.  Grin

Conclusion; Technique comes with musicality.  Shocked
Also, some little man called Vladimir Horowitz said: "I found out that when playing, my fingers just figured out what to do."

At least pretty much so.  Huh

Now I don't know if I could play the Prelude you're talking about, but I don't look at it as before. I have a more realistic view on things. I did get my hand hurt playing it, but only because I wasn't able to play so much with emotion, due to lack of technical orientation.  Cry

Now I'm practicing Liszt's hungarian rhapsody and some Bach. Here and then, I try to get down to work on Prokofiev's toccata.  Cool

...What you say? We're not here to work on our egos?! Go to hell! Pagan!  Angry

p.s. Do not believe just ANY thought that passes by.  Wink

Humorously,
- Willie the Pooh

p.p.s. Smileys are very "joyful":  Kiss
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stokes
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2003, 02:48:37 AM »

I have played all the preludes Op 10 and I must admit that I had some technical problems here and there. When I once was practicing the #5 I was experimenting with my arms and I found out that it was so much easier (for me) to play this prelude when making my arms more flexible by moving my elbows up and away from my body. (The concept was very useful in many of the other preludes as well.) By doing that I could get more power from my entire body instead of only from my under arms and wrists. Be careful not to exagerate this, since you easily can get pain in your wrists then.
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a romantic
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2006, 01:46:47 AM »

I'm struggling to get more dynamic variation by playing softly whenever I can.  The starts of both "A "sections are supposed to be soft, and I can play the melody softly, but not the staccato notes that are supposed to be even softer.  How do I play staccato notes softly?
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