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Pianist stamina and difficult recitals (Read 1577 times)

Offline irrational

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Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
« on: September 29, 2016, 08:15:44 AM »
I am looking forward to a recital by Konstantin Scherbakov in 2 weeks.
But the program made me wonder about the sheer physical stamina required for some performances.

He is playing some really demanding works.
Beethoven OP. 126 bagatelles, Op.35 Eroica Variations and finishing off with Bethoven/Liszt symphony no.3.

Another local pianist is going to perform all 5 Beethoven concertos over 2 concerts in 2 days a week later.

I am still learning, but 6 minutes of presto Haydn wear my arms out. This program is 90 minutes of mentally and physically demanding work.
So I am wondering how professional pianists prepare for something like this. Are the abilities learned as a matter of course over years of training, or do you have to specially focus on gaining the stamina and strength needed for a repertoire like this, both mentally and physically.

Surely you can't just decide to play such a recital. I'd think it takes a very long preparation plan to work towards this. Do you decide at an early age that you'll be a virtuoso pianist and work towards it?

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #1 on: September 29, 2016, 10:41:26 AM »


The question made this come to mind!
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #2 on: September 29, 2016, 11:59:55 AM »


The question made this come to mind!
Indeed! Jack Gibbons has also presented all 12 in a single performance, as has Jonathan Powell all 10 numbered Scriabin sonatas in a single performance (including an interval following no. 5).

Compare even those ordeals by pianistic fire to Sorabji's 4½ hour long Opus Clavicembalisticum (which five pianists to date have presented complete), his nearly 7½ hour long Sequentia Cyclica (which has only ever been performed by Jonathan Powell) - or indeed to the all-Sorabji recital that Jonathan Powell gave in 2005 for Radio France in Montpellier which comprised Sonata No. 1 and Gulistān (around an hour in total) - interval - the world première of Il Grido del Gallino d'Oro (around 85 minutes) - interval - Concerto per suonare da me solo (around an hour) and carried the added pressure of being broadcast and the other examples pale into insignificance in terms of mental and physical stamina requirements; compare even these, purely in stamina terms, with Sorabji's Organ Symphony No. 2 which, at more than 8½ hours (its three movements respectively occupying c. 75 minutes, 4¼ hours and at least 3 hours) + intervals between each movement - and bearing in mind also that the organist uses considerably more physical energy in managing four manuals, pedals, pistons et al - and even the challenges of those massive piano works are exceeded.

Best,

Alistair
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The Sorabji Archive

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #3 on: September 29, 2016, 12:09:22 PM »
All fascinating but in terms of practical application - playing the pieces WELL and accurately is the thing that requires the stamina.
I mean anyone can practice for 8 hours a day if they try, but to maintain focus and concentration for that time? This is why I feel in many ways longer works exceed the attention span of the audience also.
I find my attention when listening to works like Sorabji etc. are maintained far better while reading along with the score.
Somehow lapses in auditory fatigue are compensated/reinforced by having visual stimulus also.
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Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #4 on: September 29, 2016, 02:54:50 PM »
Compare even those ordeals by pianistic fire to Sorabji's 4½ hour long Opus Clavicembalisticum (which five pianists to date have presented complete), his nearly 7½ hour long Sequentia Cyclica (which has only ever been performed by Jonathan Powell) - or indeed to the all-Sorabji recital that Jonathan Powell gave in 2005 for Radio France in Montpellier which comprised Sonata No. 1 and Gulistān (around an hour in total) - interval - the world première of Il Grido del Gallino d'Oro (around 85 minutes) - interval - Concerto per suonare da me solo (around an hour) and carried the added pressure of being broadcast and the other examples pale into insignificance in terms of mental and physical stamina requirements; compare even these, purely in stamina terms, with Sorabji's Organ Symphony No. 2 which, at more than 8½ hours (its three movements respectively occupying c. 75 minutes, 4¼ hours and at least 3 hours) + intervals between each movement - and bearing in mind also that the organist uses considerably more physical energy in managing four manuals, pedals, pistons et al - and even the challenges of those massive piano works are exceeded.

I think the listener requires more stamina than the performer with all that crap.

Thal
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #5 on: September 29, 2016, 03:49:11 PM »
I think the listener requires more stamina than the performer with all that crap.
The listener certainly requires stamina but I'd not recommend that you assert that he/she requires more than the performer in front of any such performers!

Best,

Alistair
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Curator / Director
The Sorabji Archive

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #6 on: September 29, 2016, 05:01:32 PM »
OK, will do.

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Offline gep

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #7 on: September 29, 2016, 05:20:50 PM »
I think the listener requires more stamina than the performer with all that crap.

Thal
Having been present at performances of Sorabji's Symphonic Nocturne (130mins); Piano Symphony 6 (5 hours), Sequentia Cyclica (7,5 hours) and Organ Symphony 2 (8,5 hours), I can very much say: not so. Even the longest single stretch in these works (the 2nd movement from the Organ Symphony at 4,5 hours of previously unknown music) went by without a single moment of dullness or fatigue (and then some 3 hours of music had still to come!). Of course, if the music doesn't work for you, it would be torture, but that is so for all music. How anyone can survive the whole of Einstein on the Beach is beyond me.

De gustibus, and all that...

all best,
gep
In the long run, any words about music are less important than the music. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not worth talking to (Shostakovich)

Offline ahinton

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #8 on: September 30, 2016, 06:41:46 AM »
OK, will do.
"Will do" what?

Best,

Alistair
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Curator / Director
The Sorabji Archive

Offline ahinton

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #9 on: September 30, 2016, 06:59:05 AM »
Having been present at performances of Sorabji's Symphonic Nocturne (130mins); Piano Symphony 6 (5 hours), Sequentia Cyclica (7,5 hours) and Organ Symphony 2 (8,5 hours), I can very much say: not so. Even the longest single stretch in these works (the 2nd movement from the Organ Symphony at 4,5 hours of previously unknown music) went by without a single moment of dullness or fatigue (and then some 3 hours of music had still to come!). Of course, if the music doesn't work for you, it would be torture, but that is so for all music.
Indeed. The listener does need "stamina" but any listener who cares about what he/she listens to and gets as much from the listening experience as possible can be preseumed to possess the requisite stamina, but that stamina is purely mental, not physical as is required of the performers. Also, as you note, that listener stamina might in any case seem to be less than one might assume because of the effect (when it manifests itself) that real time is overriden by perceived time; I well recall John Ogdon "warming up" for Opus Clavicembalisticum recording sessions wih Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica and thinking that the piece was probably a little over a quarter of an hour whereas in fact it was about twice that.

I also recall the Dutch pianist Reinier van Houdt saying, after having given the world première of Sorabji's Piano Symphony No. 4 (which is almost as long as the same composer's 6th and final piano symphony), that the music itself somehow seemed to energise him during his performance; it is curious but John Ogdon said almost exactly the same after his performance in 1988 of Opus Clavicembalisticum in London; indeed the performance itself had clearly gained strength and energy as it progress and John must have realised this because he said that he'd like nothing more than to go out onto the stage and play it again - and he'd have done it, too, had no one restrained him! So it's not just a question of how much stamina of all kinds is required; it's also a matter of where and how it might be sourced and how much of it can be sourced thereby.

I think, therefore, that what needs to be taken into account when considering this phenomenon is not only how much the music takes out of its performers and listeners but also how much it gives them back.

How anyone can survive the whole of Einstein on the Beach is beyond me
Indeed; one can pehaps understnd the prescience in Churchill's "we shall fight them on the beaches".

e=mc2 - where e = enervation/ennui, m = minimalism and c = c**p; never once is a fillip provided and the ears glaze over. Had the work included some kind of Knut character trying vainly to push back the sound waves on that beach, it might have been just that little bit more bearable.

Someone  who did survive that work in its entirety once said that he had to rush to cleanse his ears and mind with a good dose of Elliott Carter; I can imagine that listening to his Concerto for Orchestra after that would do the trick very effectively...

Best,

Alistair
Alistair Hinton
Curator / Director
The Sorabji Archive

Offline lontano

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #10 on: October 08, 2016, 10:52:35 PM »
Having been present at performances of Sorabji's Symphonic Nocturne (130mins); Piano Symphony 6 (5 hours), Sequentia Cyclica (7,5 hours) and Organ Symphony 2 (8,5 hours), I can very much say: not so. Even the longest single stretch in these works (the 2nd movement from the Organ Symphony at 4,5 hours of previously unknown music) went by without a single moment of dullness or fatigue (and then some 3 hours of music had still to come!). Of course, if the music doesn't work for you, it would be torture, but that is so for all music. How anyone can survive the whole of Einstein on the Beach is beyond me.

Yes I actually grabbed that live performance recording of Sequentia Cyclia from the site where it was posted. Then I bought the score mp3 from Alistair. I KNEW what I was in for, but call me OCD or such and I have never even made it thru page 3. If you want a testament to absolute endurance and committal just look at what Alistair has done to keep the project going!
Best wishes Alistair and all. Hurricane Andrew seems nigh upon us. Maybe I'll just bang away with full arms and thumbs to quiet the trumpeting storm.
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Offline lontano

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #11 on: October 08, 2016, 10:57:05 PM »
Re: Alkan etudes in total in one recital. Powell is just one of those rare super-humans that continue to astound me.
ndeed! Jack Gibbons has also presented all 12  Is there any recorded mp3 of this recital anywhere?
In my mind and soul I know them all by heart.
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Offline Bob

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #12 on: October 09, 2016, 02:15:49 AM »
Yes, I'd wonder about mental stamina.  Physical I can see.  You work up to it.  Mentally though...?  I found it it a bit challenging just to listen through the Beethoven sonatas and that's not doing much (which may be why it was more difficult).
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #13 on: October 09, 2016, 04:11:25 PM »
Re: Alkan etudes in total in one recital. Powell is just one of those rare super-humans that continue to astound me.
He astounds me, too, just as he does many others although, as far as I know, the only pianists to have performed Alkan Op. 39 in a single recital are Jack Gibbons and Vincenzo Maltempo (Jonathan P. has performed some of them including the Concerto and Symphonie but not all in one programme).

To maintain the necessary physical and mental energy through Sorabji's Sequentia Cyclica in its 7¼+-hour entirety to the point at which it's all still systems go as the final pages approach is, however, an unique achievement and quite where and how Jonathan manages to source the means to accomplish this is utterly beyond me; he doesn't even appear to be especially tired after it, either.

As I've said, there is a sense in which the music itself provides some of the source of such energy, methinks.

Jack Gibbons has also presented all 12.  Is there any recorded mp3 of this recital anywhere?
I'd thought that it was all up on YouTube but might be wrong about that, although there are quite a few uploads of his playing Alkan on that medium.

Best,

Alistair
Alistair Hinton
Curator / Director
The Sorabji Archive

Offline richard black

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #14 on: October 15, 2016, 07:35:26 PM »
I've played the whole piano score of Wagner's 'Die Walküre' nearly twice (technical run with a few bits cut, then public performance), on two occasions, in fact. Wouldn't recommend it to a casual or occasional player, but if you're used to longish days involving lots of playing it's not too bad. You need to remember to move your legs occasionally, shake the shoulders a bit, that sort of thing - and of course sit comfortably in the first place.
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Offline irrational

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #15 on: October 17, 2016, 08:37:36 AM »
Well I have no attended the recital that prompted this question.

Having seen Scherbakov perform the works I was very happy to experience a master pianist at work again. There are obvious differences between a very good pianist and a top artist.
Even up to the final notes of the Liszt/Beethoven Symphony 3, it was clear that the technique was there under full control. There was not even one suggestion of fatigue. Instead a rock-solid controlled and measured playing all the way.
It was very clear to me that his age and experience has shaped his playing.
Linking to the post above he obviously was comfortable and relaxed and played the music his way. It was quite refreshing.
So I believe from what I observed that physical stamina for this kind of work is practiced in early and the mechanical part of playing is fine. It also seemed that mentally there is no problem as the maturity in making music was quite evident. It seemed easily flowing.

I can understand that the marathon works of Sorabji will touch on physical fatigue for sure, but perhaps mental focus is not as hard as I thought it might be for long works.

Offline minor9th

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #16 on: October 25, 2016, 05:01:55 PM »
I just saw Denis Matsuev play this program:

Beethoven Sonata No.31
Schumann Symphonic Etudes
   Intermission
Liszt Mephisto Waltz
Tchaikovsky Meditation
Prokofiev Sonata No.7
 plus 3 encores

Not quite the stamina-fest of Jonathan Powell when I saw him play Sorabji's "OC" but it was enough!

Offline richard black

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Re: Pianist stamina and difficult recitals
«Reply #17 on: November 25, 2016, 10:38:03 PM »
By the way, to add to this discussion - Julian Jacobson has played all the Beethoven sonatas in one day, I believe on at least three occasions, and Kevin Bowyer has played Sorabji's Second Organ Symphony in public - 9 hours (the performance I heard, anyway) of actual playing, plus intervals, which has got to be just about the most extreme feat of musical endurance I've heard of.
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.