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Topic: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties  (Read 6544 times)

Offline paxxx17

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Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
on: June 15, 2017, 06:40:11 PM
Hey everyone, I was lurking these forums for quite a while
I'm now studying chemistry at university (piano only as a hobby since musical high school). I'm bored, so I want to start a discussion (and ask some questions) regarding Chopin's Op. 61 (may not be a smart idea since this is finals week lol)

I've always been that guy who tackles difficult pieces while not being able to play them well (at the age of 12, I was ''playing'' Chopin Scherzo no 1, i.e.). But I've noticed that I've been getting progressively better at playing piano in the last two years (since I've finished high school). Since I've tried playing Grande Polonaise Briliante Op. 22, every new piece I took was actually sounding better and better (them being Polonaise Op. 44 and Barcarolle Op. 60). The last one I tried is Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61, and now when I've learned it, I can say I've never actually played a difficult piece this well, I wouldn't even be ashamed to play it in front of someone who actually knows the piece. I may post the recording in near future to get some criticism/advice from you guys

What do you think are the musically/technically most challenging parts?
I find thirds part tricky, especially the ending 4 note group (triad + GBb), but I've managed to make it sound clean. It's interesting that I find double trills and the part starting from bar 242 not that difficult at all, when many people find it extremely difficult (but I struggle even with elementary arpeggios and scales, which are easy to most). Bars 250 and 251 are also not that difficult to me (I find the RH run preceding these bars the most challenging).
However, the Ab major ending part is probably the hardest section to me.
Btw, I've never before found a single note that I'd change regarding Chopin, but I tend to think that bar 250 would maybe even sound better if there was double B in the left hand (the first note in the bar) instead of double F# (basically a B major triad instead of T64).

Also, since I'm starting to find ''thirds'' etude interesting, how would you compare the etude to the thirds section in Polonaise-Fantaisie?

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Offline mjames

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 07:09:35 PM
Btw, I've never before found a single note that I'd change regarding Chopin, but I tend to think that bar 250 would maybe even sound better if there was double B in the left hand (the first note in the bar) instead of double F# (basically a B major triad instead of T64).

Don't worry. Chopin and his editors never really were the type to adhere to "purity", if you want to modify something for fun then just do it. It's just music, not chemistry. ;)

Offline nw746

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #2 on: June 16, 2017, 01:34:46 AM
Maybe this is also a beginner pianist thing, but I honestly find the left hand accompaniment to the main theme (from bar 24 onwards) to be difficult. It has a lot of leaps, some difficult 5-2 stretches, and chords that are hard to play legato, and it all must be done effortlessly with smooth hand motions... and of course, since it's an accompaniment, without emphasising anything or even looking at it apart from with one's peripheral vision, since what you really need to focus on (and what listeners need to pay attention to) is the melody and its larger phrases.

Also the thirds bars 52-55, and wherever the trills are. Obviously easier than Op. 25/6 since you only have four bars of thirds and four bars of trills vs. an entire two and a half minute long etude. <.< I struggle with even really short passages in thirds though, like the opening bar of Beethoven Op. 2/3 is something I still can't do cleanly.

Musically speaking I find 152-179 hard. Also technically I guess, with the stretches, but balancing the three voices properly in a way that makes musical sense is difficult, in particular not letting the left hand get too loud. It's also hard to maintain the upper voice in what sounds like a continuous legato.

Finally I'm pretty sure bars 268-271 are physically impossible and any pianists who claim to have played them are actually two smaller pianists in a trench coat.

Offline paxxx17

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #3 on: June 16, 2017, 10:40:27 AM
mjames, wow didn't know you can to that, what if you went to a competition with changes to the piece like that?

nw746, Yeah, LH might get tricky when legato
And 168-171 is possible if you play lower voice in the RH just using your thumb (instead of 121), if you can keep pressing the thumb fast enough (practice playing drums :D)

Offline lmpianist

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #4 on: June 19, 2017, 04:13:01 AM
Oh, I can relate to that... learning things that I shouldn't be, or that no teacher would recommend, due to difficulty.  But... I'd suggest that doing "stretch assignments" repeatedly can really help improve your technique very rapidly.  That's been my experience anyway...but I'm not a pro, so I have the luxury of going my own way.

Anyway, I've learned this piece and these were the hardest parts for me, and unfortunately my edition doesn't number the measures, so I'll just describe them.

1. Starting off: Second page, after the staccato'd Eb octaves in the LH, the next 3 lines or so.  This was just a different way of playing than I was used to (I hadn't played Chopin in a long time) and was my first major roadblock.  Things went much more easily after that.
2. Round about the fourth page, chromatic thirds in the RH were very difficult, also because I hadn't dealt with chromatic thirds much.  Great for your technique though and it would help me later on in Beethoven op. 101.  Come up with your own fingering if you have to but write down exactly what your plan is and practice slowly with staccato if necessary.  Some people may tell you to use exactly the fingerings that are written down already and that may be the right answer too.
3. 5th page or so, just before the key change to E major, the preceding 4 measures were difficult to learn, but once learned, not difficult to execute.  Same with the 4 measures preceding the key change to Ab on the next page.
4. The agitato section of page 7.  So much slow practice to get this down.  But this is soooooo much fun to play once you have it and feels very fluid under the hands.  It gave me a mental rush every time.  Trust me.
5. Don't underestimate the difficulty of the piu lento.  It may be easier to sight read, but takes some time to learn to play well.  Later on there are some trills in thirds in the RH... conveying the proper effect (which I always viewed as growing agony -> release, or...other metaphors) was very hard for me to get spot on and be satisfied with.
6. If you make it to the a tempo primo, chances are you can make it through the next page or two, to the forte assai.  Takes a lot of practice for sure.  Strange: the teacher that I played this for at the time wrote in this section of my score in big letters, "7'2" Chinese basketball player!" and I now have no idea what that's supposed to mean.
7. Technically, I found the first page of the forte assai to be the hardest of the entire piece to execute (up to the key change to Ab).  Very very awkward and requires a lot of stamina and jumping around.  My recording that I have posted somewhere on this board has a lot of slop in this section, but overall I was mostly happy with it.  The rest is not that hard, if you can make it to that point then you should be conditioned to finish it with no problem.

I wouldn't worry too much about the ending just yet, if you plan to study it seriously.  The process of learning this will at least somewhat condition you to be ready for the ending when you get there.  That goes for the more difficult middle sections too.  Like the third and fourth ballades, I found that it "fits under the hands" very well most of the time, so the difficulty is more in learning it than executing it.

Offline symphonicdance

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #5 on: June 19, 2017, 07:19:11 AM
If you have successfully conquered Op 22, then you'll likely be able to swallow Op 61 without much trouble.  On Trinity UK syllabus, Op 22 is on fellowship diploma syllabus, while Op 61 is on licentiate.

Offline arpeggio

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #6 on: August 03, 2023, 08:39:29 PM
Itís like saying: oh! I can play Beethoven op. 10 no. 2 pretty well, so now I can play Hammerklavier!

Offline lelle

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Re: Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 difficulties
Reply #7 on: August 06, 2023, 05:33:44 PM
Itís like saying: oh! I can play Beethoven op. 10 no. 2 pretty well, so now I can play Hammerklavier!

Do you really think the difference in difficulty between the Op. 22 and Op. 61 Polonaises is comparable to the difference in difficulty between those Beethoven sonatas? If anything, I'd say Op. 22 is obviously much harder than Op. 61.
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