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Topic: Un Sospiro  (Read 5487 times)

Offline annm377

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Un Sospiro
on: January 22, 2016, 03:47:31 PM
Hello! I am learning Liszt's Un Sospiro, and I was wondering if anyone had any practice tips or advice on how to learn this piece in the most efficient and effective way. Thank you!

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Un Sospiro
Reply #1 on: January 23, 2016, 01:21:53 AM
You are better off trying to learn the whole piece yourself first then submit any problems you are having in particular sections.
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Offline isaach

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Re: Un Sospiro
Reply #2 on: January 27, 2016, 09:00:08 AM
Liszt's advice was to play the piece through without the dynamics, then again with dynamics,  and if you still haven't learned it. Have another go! (Or something along those lines.) Is that helpful?

Offline diomedes

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Re: Un Sospiro
Reply #3 on: January 29, 2016, 02:16:09 AM
The cadenzas are demanding, if it was me I'd learn those from the start with other difficult parts like the broken octave crossings near the start.
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Offline thejeev

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Re: Un Sospiro
Reply #4 on: January 31, 2016, 02:51:34 AM
My tips would be:

1. When you sit at the piano, make sure you are completely relaxed. The tempo is allegro, so it's meant to be played quite briskly. Don't strike any notes (unless accented), rather just relax, no sudden movements of any sort, play fluidly, and let your hands fall naturally into the piano. LESS IS MORE. The more relaxed you are, the faster and more fluid you can play. Liszt himself said that a good pianist will have relaxed and flexible hands - they are absolutely needed in this piece. I'd recommend watching Hamelin play this piece, to give you an idea of how delicately he plays. He moves very little, but produces a lot. Less is more.

2. Make sure you agitate the arpeggios as marked, I recommend making the top note of each arpeggio your "home" mark, and keep tempo by making sure this note falls exactly on each beat (use a metronome to give you an idea, start with around 70-80bpm, it really is marked "allegro affetuoso" (fast with affect) so I would work up to playing as fast as possible until you start getting even slightly tense and start losing the fluid motion. The instant you feel tension anywhere below your elbows, take it slower. I still think nobody plays it the proper speed as Liszt would have. He probably took it up to 110 or 120 bpm, I personally opt for around 100.

3. Play with the mindset of being ahead of the game: ready your hand positions before the notes are called for, and begin gently pressing the notes as delicately as you can.

4. This piece has a lot of mood changes and dynamics - Liszt is correct to advise that technique must come before dynamics, as this piece is, after all, intended to develop the skill of the crossing of the hands. Nail this first, then focus on the narrative through use of dynamics.

5. As the previous poster suggested, the cadenzas are actually very difficult to pull off - again the key is completely relaxation. Before you attempt a real reading, spend time on what your fingers are doing, work out all of the technique before hand, but keep in mind that these passages are marked "presto" and "velocissimo". Keep this in mind as you're working out fingerings, your hands will literally be flying at full speed, so factor this in when mapping fingering.

6. Pay attention to the stem directions - Liszt indicates when he wants certain notes played by the right or left hands - up for right, down for left. This should give you an idea of how to properly cross over.

After the notes and technique are down, it really is a pleasure to play, because it's more than just a study piece, it's almost a poem or narrative. This is why he included it in his concert etude collection - it's intended to be a showpiece. Really exploiting the dynamics should keep your audience on the edge of their seats until the very last note. Speaking of which, there are two versions with two different endings. I prefer the first, many others prefer the second, this is a matter of taste. Pay close attention to all the markings, don't skimp on the dynamics (however, don't go all Lang Lang and start inventing dynamics and accents when you think they fit, even if they fit the narrative, the audience wants some room for themselves to interpret).

Common traps:

1. Cadenzas. They move fast. Learn them as if you are playing them fast. Fingerings change drastically between really slow and really fast. This is what makes hard passages so difficult to learn: we need to be aware that these passages go by fast, and the planning of our fingering must take this into account. Generally, efficiency is the word of the day: the less you have to move and adjust your position, the easier and more natural the result. More eratic motion is more tension, and more tension is less fluidity. Make the piano sing, not stutter.

2. Not agitating the arpeggios. This just produces a dull sound. You want the sound to fill the room. From the very first note, the piano will begin to vibrate. You have to time your arpeggios so that they build off of one another and really "take hold" of the piano, and ultimately your audience. This might sound strange, but I honestly recommend humming a single note as you play the opening, place your knee or foot about the piano somewhere, feel the vibration of the piano (this is how Beethoven coped with his deafness and still composed), and keep playing the arpeggios over and over until you find the "lock-in zone", where each arpeggio picks up after the last. Listen to Hamelin's rendition on youtube, just the first bar. This is exactly what I mean, his arpeggios are so perfectly timed and agitated that he just makes the piano sound like a full orchestra.

3. Not paying attention to dynamics and markings: this is the last piece of the puzzle, but an important one. I would treat each marking and dynamic as important, and almost exaggerate or exploit it. Be subtle where you need to be, but don't be afraid to go big when Liszt asks for it. (the first 11 bars contain 11 crescendos and decrescendos, really expressive).

Hope this helps, good luck! Upload us a clip once you get something going, would love to hear!
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