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BBC Award for a Life With Chopin

Chopin’s piano music does have a prominent place in the classical music repertoire. Janina Fialkowska’s Chopin Recital II recording on ATMA Classique confirmed the fact when it recently won the prestigious BBC Music Magazine Award for Best Instrumental Recording of 2012. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Brahms-works need large hands?  (Read 12460 times)
juliuskrause
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« on: January 23, 2005, 07:40:48 AM »

in my last piano lesson i talked with my teacher about my oppinion to the Brahms Sonatas I like them very much - he told me: 'especially for Rach and Brahms - you need large hands'

i got small hands, i play only a year, and now i can play a none
- so i looked in the score of the f-minor sonata by brahms, and already in the second line i saw a nice 5-voice-chord (e-flat, g, b-flat, e-flat, g) - well, it's a arpeggiert (how do you call this in england? ;-) one, but can you play such things

there are so many women which play brahms, but women mostly have small hands than men - it's true isn't it?!

i'm very curious about your advices
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pskim
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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2005, 09:44:02 AM »

If you only played the piano for a year, I'd put off playing Brahms' sonatas and Rachmaninoff.  They are too difficult even for people with large hands.  I also have small hands, believe it or not.  And I also used to complain about having small hands until I saw one of my classmate, a Chinese girl, with the smallest hands I had ever seen.  She could only reach a 7th from her thumb and the pinky.  So she had to play octaves with her 4th finger.  But the pieces that she played were big!  She played the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Schumann's Fantasy stucke, and so on.  And since then I have stopped complaining about my small hands.  My hands were bigger than hers.

Anyway, small hands are not a problem.  There are many ways of getting around technical difficulties with small hands.  Believe me, you can play big pieces with small hands.  John Nakamatsu, one of the previous winners of the Van Cliburn competition has one of the tiniest hands of professional pianists and he played the Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto at the final round.

As for the rep, you should build up your technique before you attempt anything too difficult to handle at your present level.  But with proper practicing and technical training, you can play difficult pieces with small hands.  I can now.
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juliuskrause
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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2005, 10:08:04 AM »

thanks for the help, it wasn't in my mind, to play the sonatas or rachmaninoff,

 it was only a look in the future- in the kind of 'when i can play good enough, i wanna play this pieces' - and i thougt there would be a physical border - but after that what you said - i have hope again
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SteinwayTony
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2005, 06:38:16 PM »

Brahms' hands were reportedly larger than average.

To answer your question bluntly, it does help to have large hands, but none of his pieces require it perse.  Chords usually won't be the problem...it's generally awkward leaps, usually in the left hand (Brahms loved the bass register).
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galonia
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2005, 09:57:48 AM »

I have quite small hands (full stretch gives me an octave) and I have no problems playing Brahms.  Sometimes it's a bit uncomfortable, but you just have to figure a way around it - there's always a way.  The large leaps are no problem at all if you practise them carefully and keep close to the keys.

a Chinese girl, with the smallest hands I had ever seen. She could only reach a 7th from her thumb and the pinky. So she had to play octaves with her 4th finger. But the pieces that she played were big! She played the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Schumann's Fantasy stucke, and so on. And since then I have stopped complaining about my small hands. My hands were bigger than hers.

This is interesting - I think it depends more on the shape of your hand rather than the size.  There's no way I could reach an octave using my 4th finger; this girl must have really long 4th fingers.  But it means that each person has to work out for themselves how best to accommodate large chords with the hands they have.
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pianowelsh
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2005, 06:44:09 PM »

Not true  - You don't have to have big hands to play all Brahms. Maybe in the sonatas it helps with fistfulls of chords but Helene Grimaud has release a Brahms cd and I'm quite sure her hands are not that large. Flexibility is much more important than size!
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anda
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2005, 06:37:28 AM »

no, but it sure helps  Wink
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johnnypiano
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2005, 11:22:14 PM »

I spoke to Rosalyn Tureck and had a close-up view of her hands.  Her fingers were about one and a half inches long.  Really!  Yet she plays the Brahms B flat concerto.   Smiley
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etudes
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2005, 01:21:52 PM »

it doesnt matter how big your hands (yeah as mentioned big hand can helps)
think more about flexible technique and working hard
am sure if you can manage to play octave and then you develop your technique
then the sky is the limit..
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kaff
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2005, 06:04:16 PM »

You may find your span stretches a bit anyway, over time.  I took up playing piano seriously again a bit less than 2 years ago, after about a twenty year gap.  At that time, I could stretch only an octave, and it was quite difficult to play a lot of octave runs in a piece.  Now less than two years later I can stretch a ninth, and the octave runs are reasonably comfortable.  I have been deliberately working on this, playing scales in octaves, and keeping going with some pieces which I find quite a stretch.  Chopin etude 10/3 I've found quite helpful at stretching my hands, even though it's sixths rather than octaves - the sixths are played not only with thumb and fifth fingers, but also with second and fifth fingers, or thumb and third fingers and doing those stretches seems to have helped my octave span too.  This is probably not a piece for someone who has only been playing for a year, but the principle could be applied to develop an exercise in sixths.

I was pretty much shamed into doing this by my teacher, who is a typically small Chinese woman with tiny hands, who can nevertheless play wider spans than I'm comfortable with!

Kathryn
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whynot
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2005, 04:41:31 AM »

Same here, very small hands but play lots of Brahms.  Good luck with your studies!
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robertp
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2005, 12:35:14 PM »

As others have pointed out, it's a canard. Cliburn has very large hands, for all the good it's done him. Serkin had rather small ones and it hardly hindered him. I'm reminded of a tale (from The Great Pianists, I think) about Hoffman and Godowsky at a reception. Someone gushed at them about how wonderfully they played, but asked "how do you eve do it with such small hands?" H. replied "who ever gave you the idea we play the piano with our hands?"

Actually, large hands aren't all they're cracked up to be Grin. I easily get a tenth, which means playing octaves can be...different.
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wing00
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2010, 04:57:17 PM »

I love what Brahm brought the piano. Peaceful melodies that mellows the world over... However I can't seem to find my favourite peace by him. Anyone know where Op.49 is on this site? Brahms Lullaby is what it's more known by...
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fleetfingers
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2010, 07:32:54 PM »

I don't play any Brahms Sonatas, but I can attest to what others are saying. I have very small hands and have been able to improve my stretch. It used to be hard for me to play an octave, but now I can do it easily - even fast runs of them and big jumps in the left hand.
I've come across pieces where I thought, "there is no way I can play this (because of my small hands)," but I was determined and learned them anyway. Stretching can hurt along the width of your palm and down the length of your forearm. When you experience this, just do as much as you can each day and keep at it. Eventually, you will become more flexible and it won't be so hard anymore.
As for playing 10ths, like the chord you mentioned, yeah, that will likely never happen for me no matter how much I work at it. I get around things like that by using my other hand to play extra notes, or by simply dropping the notes. Unless you're playing in a competition or something (I'm not), then it doesn't matter. Small hands don't have to get in the way of playing the music you love. Although, it some ways, it might make it more challenging.
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fleetfingers
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« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2010, 07:38:14 PM »

Errr...I have been answering questions that are years old. Is there a standard of etiquette in resurrecting old threads on here? Should a new one be started instead? Just wondering. I'm a Newbie.
I will pay more attention to the posting dates from now on.  Grin
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022366
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« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2011, 02:49:16 PM »

I have come across a piece called "Love Song" in a "Brahms - Very Best for piano" (Creative Concepts Publishing).  It's a beautifu,l flowing piece, fairly simple, and I've fallen in love with it.  But I can't find any information about it.  There is no opus or number.  Does anyone know anything about this piece? ~Marta
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gradedpiano
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« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2011, 05:58:17 PM »

im not too sure if large hands matter or not, althoug i have unusually large hands and long fingers. I can play an octave using my thumb and 2nd finger  comfortably
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fleetfingers
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« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2011, 05:20:22 AM »

 Shocked Shocked Shocked

Fingers 1 and 2??? I can't even imagine that. Crazy, just crazy.

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