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Leif Ove Andsnes and Robin Rhode Reframe Pictures

The project Pictures Reframed, unites two strikingly original artists – pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and visual artist Robin Rhode in a collaborative performance which centres around Mussorgsky’s epic piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Improvisation in Concerts  (Read 1021 times)
beethovenfan01
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« on: November 03, 2017, 12:32:00 AM »

Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and many other composer-pianists of that latter era used to do this all the time. But does anyone ever do this anymore? Just make up a piece of music on the spot? Aside from this guy , I rarely find anyone who does this. And I've never heard of this happening in a real live concert! We have fallen a long ways from the concerts that the masters themselves gave, it seems ...
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Derek
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 12:45:51 AM »

There's an entire sub-forum on this website devoted to improvising.
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2017, 01:53:54 AM »

Yea, but how often do people actually improvise in concert? From what I've heard and seen, there is a massive gulf between the concertizing pianist and the improvising pianist ... they have never gone together, from what I have ever heard. Am I mistaken? You never hear about concert pianists who improvise a piece on the spot, even the composer-pianists like Marc-Andre Hamelin.

I mean, I've got max respect for the classical repertoire, but to be honest, most of those pieces have been performed thousands (even perhaps millions) of times since their composition. Perhaps the reason that the audience for this kind of music is so much smaller than it once was is because the modern repertoire is so rarely added too ... and stuff that's been composed since the 1920s or so isn't exactly easy to listen to or understand. And so we have a diminishing audience of this kind of music--the kind of music that is almost a hundred years old, at least, and three hundred at most. We need more fresh stuff--and the spirit of improvisation in concert, which seems to have been extinguished for the most part, was the true flame that bore those classical composer's popularity.

Does anyone have any explanations or counterpoints for this? I want to bring my improvisation skills to the same level as what I hope to attain for my classical-rep level, but I don't want to go to a conservatory, come out, and be another classical pianist. I want to do something different, and in doing so win a new audience for this style of music, as well as the current one.
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Derek
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 02:43:52 AM »

Yea, but how often do people actually improvise in concert? From what I've heard and seen, there is a massive gulf between the concertizing pianist and the improvising pianist ... they have never gone together, from what I have ever heard. Am I mistaken? You never hear about concert pianists who improvise a piece on the spot, even the composer-pianists like Marc-Andre Hamelin.

I mean, I've got max respect for the classical repertoire, but to be honest, most of those pieces have been performed thousands (even perhaps millions) of times since their composition. Perhaps the reason that the audience for this kind of music is so much smaller than it once was is because the modern repertoire is so rarely added too ... and stuff that's been composed since the 1920s or so isn't exactly easy to listen to or understand. And so we have a diminishing audience of this kind of music--the kind of music that is almost a hundred years old, at least, and three hundred at most. We need more fresh stuff--and the spirit of improvisation in concert, which seems to have been extinguished for the most part, was the true flame that bore those classical composer's popularity.

Does anyone have any explanations or counterpoints for this? I want to bring my improvisation skills to the same level as what I hope to attain for my classical-rep level, but I don't want to go to a conservatory, come out, and be another classical pianist. I want to do something different, and in doing so win a new audience for this style of music, as well as the current one.

Well if some brave young souls maybe start doing it when the audience isn't expecting, say as an encore, word will get out and maybe it'll form demand for improv.

Problem is classical music is still such a museum art.

I look at things like Power Metal and I see composers and improvising musicians there, particularly with guitar, whose genius for composition easily rivals that of the greats, but nobody's minds are open enough to admit this possibility.

The classical world can't let go of its obsession with greatness of the past and has stagnated itself completely into the ground while the rest of the world has moved on.

Not to say it couldn't revive within the context of classical recital halls, it'd just have to take a rather dramatic cultural shift I think.
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 04:14:06 AM »

Well perhaps it could still happen. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev all pushed the limits, causing some kind of change on some level. So it's not impossible.
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 05:47:28 AM »

The classical world can't let go of its obsession with greatness of the past and has stagnated itself completely into the ground while the rest of the world has moved on.

Very well put.

I think there is a cultural push back from the classical music establishment.  There are many who would rather stay in their comfort zone.  There are also those that may have ability, but refrain from doing it because it is outside their specialty - they do not know enough about it to do it and because of that do not even attempt to do it. Ironically, in order to learn you must first attempt.  The classical music world is filled with a culture of expertise, and some feel that not knowing everything about a subject means one should not do so in public. 

One of the reasons I decided upon the serious study of the organ, was it is one of the few art music traditions that actively practices, performs and teaches improvisation.  In the study of organ, improvisation is basic training, it is like learning your scales and arpeggios. 

Improvisation requires vulnerability, and that is not a trait often encouraged by the classical crowd.  Even more so with the purist, urtext mafia folks, that will only accept their music just so, and no other way.  It makes me sad for the music, just to think about it.  People need to come to the realization that certain samples of classical music are not great because that is what they have come to be labeled, but because some human dared to have the courage to create something, even to the point of being scorned by the establishment for that creation. 

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Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2017, 07:44:09 PM »

To be fair, Gabriela Montero does some improvisation. I think the issue is part of a greater mindset, where spontaneity is seen as necessarily a bad thing; whereas I'd say some people are naturally given to spontaneity and others are more calculating. Imo solo performance should contain at least an element of a performer's character. Otherwise why on earth bother going when you can sit at home and listen in comfort?

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Derek
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2017, 08:07:02 PM »

Improvisation requires vulnerability, and that is not a trait often encouraged by the classical crowd.  Even more so with the purist, urtext mafia folks, that will only accept their music just so, and no other way.  It makes me sad for the music, just to think about it.  People need to come to the realization that certain samples of classical music are not great because that is what they have come to be labeled, but because some human dared to have the courage to create something, even to the point of being scorned by the establishment for that creation. 

Excellent paragraph here.

Thinking of classical musicians who improvise in concert, I have yet to see any who make themselves vulnerable insofar as creating something radically new on the spot. Literally the only musician I know of who has ever done this in public is Keith Jarrett. Montero does the type of impressive improvising-in-a-style type of improvisation, but I think the most interesting type of improvisation is this kind where the artist just gets totally lost in a world of pure imagination (lol) for lack of better words.
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cuberdrift
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2017, 11:00:10 AM »

I think that when considering "Classical Music", it is guided by a notion of "Perfection". Improvisation isn't "perfection". Reproducing a "perfect" work is.
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vmishka
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2017, 04:21:46 PM »

I attended a very nice Wigmore Hall recital by Cyprian Katsaris in London last Sunday morning. A Haydn Sonata in C major. Lots of Schubert.

When it came time for an encore, he came out and announced that one of this "faults" was that he liked to improvise, and he was going to do that on some themes that came to mind. He preceded to play for about 15 minutes on lots of different themes, several of them by Rachmaninoff. The improvisation was full of the pyro-technical displays that he is capable of with his prodigious technique.

Whether or not what he played was a true extemporaneous "improvisation," I would have no way of knowing, but it was totally original.
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louispodesta
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2017, 12:32:10 AM »

I attended a very nice Wigmore Hall recital by Cyprian Katsaris in London last Sunday morning. A Haydn Sonata in C major. Lots of Schubert.

When it came time for an encore, he came out and announced that one of this "faults" was that he liked to improvise, and he was going to do that on some themes that came to mind. He preceded to play for about 15 minutes on lots of different themes, several of them by Rachmaninoff. The improvisation was full of the pyro-technical displays that he is capable of with his prodigious technique.

Whether or not what he played was a true extemporaneous "improvisation," I would have no way of knowing, but it was totally original.
I Proffer for the OP, once again for "troll" abuse, one of the following responses to my video by Charles Blanchard, which I include in its entirety.  It addresses comprehensively not only improvisation, but also common 19th Century performance practice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VPgg3armCI

"The purpose of this video is to bring the knowledge of original performance practice to the general public.  That is how the composer pianists who wrote this great music actually played their own music.

It is not a commentary on style, but is instead a revelation of existing research as to how the music was played.  Today, this music is played in a strict Urtext fashion which is a total bastardization of the modernity promoted in the early 20th century.  Modernism was never meant to apply to pre-existing works

It would be considered insanity to enter an art museum and announce that everything needed a new coat of paint.  However, that is exactly what the music schools of this planet have done with the piano music of 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

Every Fine Art matriculate in the world is required to study the early masters of their particular art form in order to fully understand how to effectuate it today.  However, with the exception of the UK, no university music school requires their students to be knowledgeable of the original historic performance practice of their particular instrument or genre.

Once again, I recommend that one peruse the book "Off The Record" by Dr. Neal Peres Da Costa, a student of Dr. Clive Brown who is considered to be the leading applied musicologist in the world regarding Classical and Romantic Period interpretation.  Also, there is the new doctoral thesis published in May of 2015 by Dr. Miaoyin Qu, "Piano Playing in the German Tradition 1840-1900. Rediscovering the Un-notated Convention of Performance."  She is also a student of Dr. Brown.  Like Dr. Peres Da Costa she extensively discusses the original performance practices of the breaking of the hands, arpeggiation, improvisation, and tempo modification.

Finally, it needs to be said that there is a significant difference between performance practice and style.  Clara Schumann, and her students Fanny Davies, Adelina de Lara, Ilona Eibenschutz , and Carl Friedberg, all played in different styles.  However, they all played with the same performance practices listed above.

Conversely, Arrau, Backhaus, Gieseking, and the pianists of today, all played/play in different styles,.  Yet, in terms of performance practice, they all render the same note-perfect, robotic meticulous attention to the score that never existed when the music was originally composed."
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tenk
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2017, 12:34:37 AM »

I Proffer for the OP, once again for "troll" abuse, one of the following responses to my video by Charles Blanchard, which I include in its entirety.  It addresses comprehensively not only improvisation, but also common 19th Century performance practice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VPgg3armCI

"The purpose of this video is to bring the knowledge of original performance practice to the general public.  That is how the composer pianists who wrote this great music actually played their own music.

It is not a commentary on style, but is instead a revelation of existing research as to how the music was played.  Today, this music is played in a strict Urtext fashion which is a total bastardization of the modernity promoted in the early 20th century.  Modernism was never meant to apply to pre-existing works

It would be considered insanity to enter an art museum and announce that everything needed a new coat of paint.  However, that is exactly what the music schools of this planet have done with the piano music of 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

Every Fine Art matriculate in the world is required to study the early masters of their particular art form in order to fully understand how to effectuate it today.  However, with the exception of the UK, no university music school requires their students to be knowledgeable of the original historic performance practice of their particular instrument or genre.

Once again, I recommend that one peruse the book "Off The Record" by Dr. Neal Peres Da Costa, a student of Dr. Clive Brown who is considered to be the leading applied musicologist in the world regarding Classical and Romantic Period interpretation.  Also, there is the new doctoral thesis published in May of 2015 by Dr. Miaoyin Qu, "Piano Playing in the German Tradition 1840-1900. Rediscovering the Un-notated Convention of Performance."  She is also a student of Dr. Brown.  Like Dr. Peres Da Costa she extensively discusses the original performance practices of the breaking of the hands, arpeggiation, improvisation, and tempo modification.

Finally, it needs to be said that there is a significant difference between performance practice and style.  Clara Schumann, and her students Fanny Davies, Adelina de Lara, Ilona Eibenschutz , and Carl Friedberg, all played in different styles.  However, they all played with the same performance practices listed above.

Conversely, Arrau, Backhaus, Gieseking, and the pianists of today, all played/play in different styles,.  Yet, in terms of performance practice, they all render the same note-perfect, robotic meticulous attention to the score that never existed when the music was originally composed."


You have derailed. Again.
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indianajo
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2017, 02:07:16 PM »

I've heard two organ performers improvise.  Some tyro from a cathedral of Ilse de France played 12 minutes of improv on a hymn I don't know, Mary Queen of Heaven, and Michael Dirk of Vancouver did 10 minutes of a mash of popular TV and movie themes, which I actually enjoyed.  
The name of improv in piano is "jazz" and most of it was so bad after Coleman Hawkins burned the rule book, no venue can survive that charges admission or drinks for performances of it in this state, or the next either.  
George Winston probably improvises at home, but before he goes on the road he makes his performances rehearsed.  I don't know how consistent he it at reproducing what was on the CD.  I heard him live once at Kentucky Center for Performing arts.  Try December, Winter into Spring, Forest CD's.  Last year he was in town but performing at some school auditorium way out a narrow road with no berms, sidewalks, or bus service, so I couldn't go without renting a car, which I didn't do.  
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louispodesta
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« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2017, 12:08:23 AM »

I've heard two organ performers improvise.  Some tyro from a cathedral of Ilse de France played 12 minutes of improv on a hymn I don't know, Mary Queen of Heaven, and Michael Dirk of Vancouver did 10 minutes of a mash of popular TV and movie themes, which I actually enjoyed.  
The name of improv in piano is "jazz" and most of it was so bad after Coleman Hawkins burned the rule book, no venue can survive that charges admission or drinks for performances of it in this state, or the next either.  
George Winston probably improvises at home, but before he goes on the road he makes his performances rehearsed.  I don't know how consistent he it at reproducing what was on the CD.  I heard him live once at Kentucky Center for Performing arts.  Try December, Winter into Spring, Forest CD's.  Last year he was in town but performing at some school auditorium way out a narrow road with no berms, sidewalks, or bus service, so I couldn't go without renting a car, which I didn't do.  
1)  Vis a Vis "tenk," you never disappoint:  "You have derailed. Again."

2)  One cannot attain a Graduate Degree from any accredited College or University Music School (take my word for it) without being able to play a recital utilizing "Classical Improvisation."
 

 
 
 
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2017, 12:26:46 AM »

Quote
I Proffer for the OP, once again for "troll" abuse, one of the following responses to my video by Charles Blanchard, which I include in its entirety.  It addresses comprehensively not only improvisation, but also common 19th Century performance practice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VPgg3armCI

"The purpose of this video is to bring the knowledge of original performance practice to the general public.  That is how the composer pianists who wrote this great music actually played their own music.

It is not a commentary on style, but is instead a revelation of existing research as to how the music was played.  Today, this music is played in a strict Urtext fashion which is a total bastardization of the modernity promoted in the early 20th century.  Modernism was never meant to apply to pre-existing works

It would be considered insanity to enter an art museum and announce that everything needed a new coat of paint.  However, that is exactly what the music schools of this planet have done with the piano music of 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

Every Fine Art matriculate in the world is required to study the early masters of their particular art form in order to fully understand how to effectuate it today.  However, with the exception of the UK, no university music school requires their students to be knowledgeable of the original historic performance practice of their particular instrument or genre.

Once again, I recommend that one peruse the book "Off The Record" by Dr. Neal Peres Da Costa, a student of Dr. Clive Brown who is considered to be the leading applied musicologist in the world regarding Classical and Romantic Period interpretation.  Also, there is the new doctoral thesis published in May of 2015 by Dr. Miaoyin Qu, "Piano Playing in the German Tradition 1840-1900. Rediscovering the Un-notated Convention of Performance."  She is also a student of Dr. Brown.  Like Dr. Peres Da Costa she extensively discusses the original performance practices of the breaking of the hands, arpeggiation, improvisation, and tempo modification.

Finally, it needs to be said that there is a significant difference between performance practice and style.  Clara Schumann, and her students Fanny Davies, Adelina de Lara, Ilona Eibenschutz , and Carl Friedberg, all played in different styles.  However, they all played with the same performance practices listed above.

Conversely, Arrau, Backhaus, Gieseking, and the pianists of today, all played/play in different styles,.  Yet, in terms of performance practice, they all render the same note-perfect, robotic meticulous attention to the score that never existed when the music was originally composed."

So I did watch your video. While partially agree with a few of the points you made, I disagree with the broad assertion that, "my piano teacher taught me wrong," because of x, x, and x.

The idea of rolling chords instead of blocking them is an interesting liberty to take--and while I do agree that there are times where it is appropriate in certain places (ie, in the choral of Chopin's Op. 48 No. 1 Nocturne), I disagree that it should be used anywhere near as often as you imply it should be.

Your other point was that composers often deviated from the score as they played. While I agree that deviating from the score now and adding or taking away from the piece is a liberty that may be appropriate from time to time, that is NOT what I started this thread about. You are talking about changing what the composer wrote on the fly during a performance--which, I think, may one day again be a viable option for creativity. But what I was talking about was composing something completely new out of nothing in performance.

Thanks for your input.
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Practicing:
Beethoven Sonata 21
Chopin Ballade 3
Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue 3
Rachmaninoff Prelude C minor
Want to Play:
Bach Partita 2
Ravel Scarbo
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody 6
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