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Producing a beautiful tone in the Chopin Nocturnes. (Read 3521 times)

Offline cheeriosok

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Producing a beautiful tone in the Chopin Nocturnes.
« on: November 19, 2018, 08:29:29 PM »
Hello all,

I would like to ask for some advice on producing a pure, and enjoyable interpretation of the Chopin Nocturne in B Major Op. 62 No. 1. This nocturne is rather complex, more so than most of his other works, I think. My main source of inspiration to tackle this gem was Kate Liu's interpretation in the International Chopin Competition in 2015. (I will post the link). At the moment, the notes are somewhat learned and I have spent the past 3 months shaping this piece but without much luck. I am simply amazed by Kate's delicate touch and tone, it makes my playing seem harsh and dissonant in comparison. All I want for my piano career is to produce a sound like that, to demonstrate that level of control with all the repertoire I chose to tackle. This is my fourth/fifth year practicing the piano, I have tackled some Bach Inventions some Chopin Nocturnes, Rachmaninov Preludes and Debussy solo works. How do I go about producing a beautiful legato touch, a nice tone, to assist me in my ambitious plan of performing all of the Chopin Nocturnes well?

I will post some more specific questions below.

Offline cheeriosok

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Re: Producing a beautiful tone in the Chopin Nocturnes.
«Reply #1 on: November 19, 2018, 08:54:50 PM »

More specifically- what sort of exercises/composers would you recommend for producing an even touch for phrasing, and a better legato touch? Are there any general tips you would like to share?

For measures 11-20, (34 secs into Rubinstein's vid) during the modulation section. The pedaling can get very difficult, what do you suggest I do because that section can get muddy pedaling just two of the different harmonies and dry if I pedal one at a time. This is especially true at measure 14 with the chords.

For measures 15-20, how do I practice playing left hand and inner voices quietly so that I am not drowning the melody line or suppressing the other voices altogether?

The entire sostenuto section is not that good, its the lack of legato touch, phrasing and making the chords quiet I think that takes its toll.

In the poco piu lento section with the trills, how many trills do I assigned each eighth note, how many does Kate assign (I cannot tell, its too fast.) Am I supposed to lead the trills into the next note? (Ex. C#D#,C#,D#,C#,D#C#,B,C#B,C#... or C#,D#,C#,D#,C#,D#,B,C#,B,C#...) If so how would I do that while keeping the rhythm?

How do you practice playing trills lightly and quickly?

Offline dw4rn

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Re: Producing a beautiful tone in the Chopin Nocturnes.
«Reply #2 on: November 20, 2018, 12:54:54 PM »
Greetings cheeriosok,

That's a lot of (very good) questions! As you point out, this is a complex work, and surely one of the most difficult nocturnes, so it's not surprising that you struggle with it if you have only played for four or five years.

A simple answer, and one that you probably don't want, would be that you could be satisfied for the moment with having learnt the notes, leave it and come back to it in a few years...

Anyway, about the pedal: I wouldn't worry about getting too dry. Much better to pedal each chord. You can hold certain notes that you don't want to lose with the fingers when you change pedal (eg bass notes in m 14?).

Yes, I think you are supposed to lead the trills into the next note. Does that make keeping the rhythm difficult? I think that when you practice, it's good to assign a certain number of trill notes to each eighth note (in this case maybe 5, i.e. c#,d#,c#,d#,c#b,c#,b,c#,b), but  when you get to a certain point it's better to stop counting and just let the trill flow freely. 

The problem of producing a beautiful legato touch is of course essential - at the same time it's hard to formulate a recipe for it in writing that would work for everyone. I think you are already doing one of the most important things, which is listening for what you want and recognizing it in other people's performances. I suppose some of the obvious elements of a beautiful, cantabile-style, legato have to do with: balance; the ability to use exactly the right amount of weight to connect each note to the next; knowing how you want to shape the phrases dynamically etc.

The thing is that to develop in this field, you simply need to work regularly and for a long time with a good teacher, who is able to listen objectively and competent enough to be able to instruct and correct your movements in a way that helps you achieve the sound you are looking for.

Offline latrobe

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Re: Producing a beautiful tone in the Chopin Nocturnes.
«Reply #3 on: February 03, 2019, 10:15:16 PM »
I can see why you go for the Kate Liu interpretation - there's great delicacy there. However knowing the piece you might try the sample on https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX99gNWyxQ2OR?locale=nl&fo=1 and see how you get on with that interpretation also.

There's something important about phrasing which not many people demonstrate - the sound of the piano note dies away. So one has to try to get the next note not to interrupt the previous note and to increase the intensity only when the phrase allows you to.

And Chopin often indicated the pedal to be held down for very extended periods - go to the very first edition you can find to look for original pedalling indications. It often requires the left hand to be more gentle and less emphatic.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm