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Brahms Intermezzo 118 a major (Read 1649 times)

Offline markjaffe

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Brahms Intermezzo 118 a major
« on: January 04, 2020, 02:04:58 AM »
I have gotten to the point where I can play through the intermezzo 118 no 2 fairly well. The part that I am having an issue with is with the repeat section from m49 to m56. Here the alto and tenor notes create a beautiful internal melody. I have concentrated on bringing out the notes that are stemmed but this doesn't seem to create the melody I hear in recordings. The same applies for the section m65 to m72. Would someont be so kind to "map" out these middle notes that create the melody for this section. I would greatly appreciate it.

Offline brogers70

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #1 on: January 04, 2020, 09:27:57 PM »
I think the best way to do what you are aiming for here is this. Listen to recordings in which those internal lines are clear and easy to hear. Listen to them many times. Then play that F# minor passage and focus on being able to hear those lines. Don't worry about trying to bring them out, at least not at first. Just listen for them. I find that doing that lets me bring out voices I want to bring out without focusing on striking this or that finger more strongly than ths or that other one, all of which can make you so focused on details of the mechanics that it's hard to play smoothly. So just listen intently for the line you want to bring out, and gradually you'll end up bringing it out.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #2 on: January 05, 2020, 03:37:45 AM »
Thank you I appreciate the advice

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #3 on: January 07, 2020, 12:35:38 PM »
OK so I have listened intently and can identify the "internal" melody and can sing it to myself, but I would love to see a highlight of these notes that contribute to the melody. If anyone can just list them in sequence it would help me greatly.

Thanks

Offline brogers70

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #4 on: January 07, 2020, 01:22:29 PM »
They're the notes in the LH which have staffs going up as well as down - so it starts  c#-f#-e-d-quarter rest-d-c# etc.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #5 on: January 07, 2020, 08:41:58 PM »
Thank you. One more thing. I don't know whether it is my imagination or not but when I listen to that passage the second time I not only hear the double stemmed notes coming out but also in some instances the preceding eighth note in the base. I am listening to it at
  around 2 min 18 secs to 2 min 21 secs. There are other examples of this. I might be wrong but the 2 note combinations seem to have sped up to closer to a sixteenth interval. Appreciate your thoughts on this. I have had 2 teaching lessons asking about this and have not gotten a satisfactory answer although I wasnt as specific as I am now. I was thinking about going for an online lesson with Josh Wright but he charges $50 dollars for 15 minutes and I would have to buy a microphone, set up software, etc.

Offline brogers70

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #6 on: January 07, 2020, 09:09:41 PM »
Ok I think what you are hearing is this. In the LH you mostly have running triplets, but you also have the internal melody in quarter notes that we are talking about. What you are hearing, I think, is that when there is a rest in the internal melody, the top of the triplet that is happening during the rest sounds like a quick note in the inner melody (its a triplet eight rather than a sixteenth, but I think that's what you are hearing).

It surprises me a bit that you can actually play this piece but have trouble seeing how the score correlates with the sound. I don't mean this in an offensive way, at all; it's just a bit of an odd gap in your skills, which basically have to be pretty good already if you can play this. One way to work on it is simply to listen to lots of music while following the score, making sure you can follow every line that's happening - it's nice to do this for Bach fugues or other contrapuntal things. Some work on sight singing or ear training will also help. Didn't know Josh Wright was so expensive. Ouch.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #7 on: January 07, 2020, 10:37:50 PM »
I appreciate your observations. I have been taking lessons for about 18 years consistently but started at around age 51. One thing that happens to me is that when I learn a piece the tactile memory becomes a strong reference point for playing and its challenging to modify something against that memory. The second variation requires a different reference in finger tension and it takes some work to deconstruct it from what is locked in if that makes any sense. But its seems to be loosening up and opening up to the second form.

Offline brogers70

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #8 on: January 08, 2020, 11:23:24 AM »
Hm, we are in similar situations; I started piano at 40 and have been at it for 21 years, though I didn't really make that much good progress until I found a good teacher 7 years ago. One thing I thing she would suggest about getting locked in to a way of playing based on muscle memory, which seems to be what you are describing is this. You have to discipline yourself to listen very carefully to the sounds you are making. That can be hard when you are playing something near the limit of your technical ability. So you can stick with a relatively difficult piece and record yourself and then make notes on the recording as you follow along with the score. Or you can take some time to play technically easier pieces. If you are playing that Brahms there are certainly lots of things within your technical range that are easier but still plenty interesting. Learn a couple of those easier things and then focus on playing them differently, different voicing, different articulations, different tempi. If the pieces are technically easy enough you should be able to break through the muscle memory of how you learned them and then be able to vary them musically.

Good options for this might be some of the easier movements from Bach's French Suites; there are not too many notes and yet there are all sorts of ways to imagine the phrasing, to bring out inner voices, to hear different lines as more or less prominent, etc. What you want to be able to do, for example, is here a bass line as, say, a cello part, with its own shape. So you listen to it carefully, imagine how you think it should sound and see if you cannot make it sound the way you want.

I think you want to get to a point where the thing that limits your ability to play beautifully is your ability to imagine how you want the piece to sound, rather than your ability to find the notes. To get there, I've found it helpful to work on less technically challenging pieces. I spent a whole year ditching my Schubert Impromptus and Beethoven sonata movements, just playing pieces from the easiest volume of "Music for Millions" as musically as I could; it was the most helpful year of practice I ever had. Since I've never actually heard you play, I could be way off base, but I hope it's helpful.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #9 on: January 08, 2020, 05:57:03 PM »
Thank you for sharing your story. I know that I will never reach a performance level, nor do I care to. Playing the piano is a wonderful personal journey that fulfills me in a way that other things do not. When I hear some piece every now and then I feel such a connection with it that I want to (or have to) try and play it. Two examples are Bach: WTC1 No. 22 in b flat minor BWV 867 and Schubert - Sonata in B-flat major, D.960 - Andante sostenuto. I played the Bach after some work pretty well but then I learned that it had 5 voices of which I was clueless. To play and bring out the voices was beyond my ability. The same thing happened with the Schubert. This piece to me is tragically beautiful (it was written during that last couple of months of his life) but there was a part I couldn't seem to play properly so I stopped trying after about 3 months of work.
Another piece that I love and played well and performed was  Beethoven Sonata No.7, op.10 no.3 (II) largo e mesto. But its the vertical pieces that come easier to me than the horizontal ones. I am drawn to the minor keys. I recently played in front of a group Chopin Nocturne Op. 37, No. 1 in G minor. It went pretty well.

I live in Miami and next month is the International Chopin Piano Competition which goes on for about a week. I go every day (9.30 am to 4 pm)and listen to these wonderful young artists play. Most of it is free admission. The finalist gets $100,000 goes on to compete in Warsaw for the grand prize.

Finally, this will be my fourth summer where I travel up to Vermont where they have the  Adamant music school. Its about 10 miles north of Montpelier, the capital. I go to a 5 day session where the well-known pianist John O'Coner, gives intensive master classes to around 15 young pianists who are pursuing a musical career. I go as an auditor and attend all the classes. It is set on over 100 acres of woods, ponds and trails with about 40 1 room cabins each of which housed with 1 or 2 pianos used for practicing. As an auditor I have the option of performing on a designated night in front of about 50 people. There is lodging there as well as chef prepared meals all for $900 for the week. Plus there is the added benefit of getting to know these young artists as well as John O'Coner who is an incredible teacher and performer. This has been an entirely different journey in itself where I have faced my fears of playing in front of strangers. It has been a wonderful experience. If you are curious about this go online and search for Adamant music school and look at the summer events.

Offline brogers70

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #10 on: January 08, 2020, 06:38:44 PM »
I didn't know about the Adamant music school and I live less than an hour north of there. I should definitely check it out. Sounds like a great program.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #11 on: January 09, 2020, 03:57:27 PM »
You dont have to sign up for the whole session. You can pay a la carte on a daily basis as well. I had a summer home in Colchester for 16 years and took lessons mainly from Elaine Greenfield from Burlington. She has performed nationally and participates in one of the Adamant sessions in the summer.

Offline associatex

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #12 on: January 13, 2020, 04:29:37 AM »
Hi,I learned this Brahms piece last year and I still come back to it because I find there are still challenges to overcome for me, and like you, I also consulted 2 teachers for help and was given some good ways to approach that section.

The middle section is actually the most challenging part..it has 2 voices but the melody swaps hands which is why you hear it differently than what you play. I feel your pain because I, too, was stymied for weeks comparing my recording against Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia and other professionals. Once I just focused on hearing the inner melody in my head, I was then able to have my fingers work on bringing it out.

This section is just one giant polyrhythm -  2 against 3.. if you just focus on 1 measure to get that 2:3 on time, then you have the entire piece done, then next step is accenting different notes in the RH, when you play the section the 2nd time, you accent the LH upper notes, which is that inner melody line. My teacher highlighted those specific notes for me in different colors so once I was able to see the 2 colors which helped me visualize the music going w the colored notes ..it was at that point when I could focus on emphasizing those specific notes with whatever finger happened to be playing them..i will try to find my score and post a picture if I could figure out how to do it on this forum...

This is my recording of this piece which is a work in progress...and that tricky section starts at 2:06. My left thumb is bringing out the inner melody. Sorry for the messy notes here and there.



Hope this helps..
Working on:
Chopin Nocturnes
Rach Preludes

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #13 on: January 14, 2020, 01:53:06 PM »
Thank you very much for your post.
I have listened to those pianists you mentioned and the one the resonates with me the most is Anna Fedorova (
).
She seems to play the accented parts in a 2 note sequence. You can hear it about 5 times starting at 2min 47 secs. I sat down and highlighted the notes that I hear her playing. see attachment

Offline c_minor

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #14 on: January 15, 2020, 11:56:43 AM »
Also studying this right now. The notes that I try to bring out during the second repeat for the f# section are the ones with two stems. I listened to Fedorova's recording but I can't hear her accent the eighth notes that you highlighted in the music.

My favorite recording of this piece is by Sunwook Kim. You might want to try listening to his version.

Offline markjaffe

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Re: brahms intermezzo 118 a major
«Reply #15 on: January 15, 2020, 04:52:57 PM »
Yes I have listened to Sunwook Kim as well and he is great! Those 8th notes may not be accented but the way she plays it seems like she is bring out a pair of notes where the 2nd one is accented. It just seems like more beautiful tension when it is played this way. Now I have to figure out how to play it because my muscle memory is fixed with the first time I  :-play it.    You may also want to listed to Arthur Jussen. He plays it a little too slow for my taste but his control is incredible especially for someone so young.