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Topic: Advice on Piano Sonata in B minor, H.XVI: 32 by Joseph Haydn  (Read 728 times)

Offline saibot

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      Hello! I am new to this forum. I was occasionally entering the website and reading some topics.

      I am playing piano for a not-so-short time but I have never been the most technical nor sensational player, though I enjoy and feel the sensation when I'm playing or listening.

      I've started to work on the first movement of Piano Sonata in B minor, H.XVI: 32 by Joseph Haydn a couple of months ago. I can play it on full tempo without too many mistakes but I don't like the way I play it. I am listening some performers like Alfred Brendel (which is my favourite interpretation of the sonata among I've listened), and it sounds so natural to my ears. Mine is full of sharp staccatos, not-so-good-sounding legatos, and improper phrasing.

      I really need some advice on this point.

      When I hear Brendel playing, I definitely hear more "resonance" than I hear on my piano. I don't know if he uses sustain pedal because Haydn appearantly didn't write any pedal marks nor any dynamics. This is the point I struggle the most because I cannot decide what he is doing to change the sound of the piano. Do you think it is the environment causing reverberations? Do you think he uses half-pedalling occasionally? Do you think he is just playing legato very well and with some "finger pedalling"?

      Any advice would be appreciated because I don't want to imitate Brendel's playing but I want to learn how he controls the music in such a way so I can control the music according to my taste. Otherwise, I may surrender and drop this beautiful piece.

Online anacrusis

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Re: Advice on Piano Sonata in B minor, H.XVI: 32 by Joseph Haydn
Reply #1 on: February 21, 2021, 05:49:58 PM
Hi and welcome to Piano Street!. This sonata is very beautiful indeed.

It's difficult to give you specific advice without hearing your playing. In terms of the quality and control over staccato, legato, phrasing and sound, that is very much a skill you develop and goes hand in hand with your technical control over your body and the piano. A lot of that has to do with not tensing/stiffening your fingers/hands/wrists/arms/body as you play. And Brendel is, well, a titan among pianists, so his recording is not exactly the most forgiving thing to compare yourself against  ;D

Recordings are often done in a hall or otherwise reverberant space. His staccotos sound pretty dry though in the recording I am listening to.



I wouldn't be surprised if Brendel uses some light touches of pedal. You can press down the pedal not even 1/4 of the way and change often to give color without blurring things.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Advice on Piano Sonata in B minor, H.XVI: 32 by Joseph Haydn
Reply #2 on: February 21, 2021, 09:04:21 PM
Yeah!  I didn't know of this sonata before.  Very good performance by one of my favorite pianists.

About pedalling?

It's really difficult to say.  At least on this recording, it's a lot of reverb, and knowing the label and its engineers a bit, just from listening over the years, I'd have to guess some of it was done deliberately, by using a microphone in a reverb chamber. 

The Alberti bass sections, if I were forced to try to recreate the sound Brendel recorded, I'd be using about 1/2-1/4 pedal on the downbeats, but very careful to not blur anything.

It would be interesting to see how the recording was made:  beautiful piano, and the reverb, I'm guessing, was made live from a chamber, mixed in with the various other microphones including the sound of the room. 

It wouldn't surprise me if, at the end, there were a dozen or more microphones used to create this sound.

Perhaps not.

I can't really give advice on how you should play this, having never played nor heard this one.  (edited:  But I will now play this, so thanks for the tip on a pretty neat little sonata of Haydn).  I do about a handful of the very last Haydn sonatas, every now and then, and I'm happy with having playful or sometimes even dramatically accented staccato notes.  It's almost like funk music, this sonata, and others:  the emphasis is always tending to the first downbeat, the "one" of every phrase. 

It's hard to tell how Brendel performed them, because of the long tail of the reverb.  But it does seem that Brendel agrees with me about phrasing:  his attack is actually pretty fierce, at the beginning of each phrase.

EDITED:  I did just now read through this sonata at the keyboard.  Astonishing.  And, actually, not that easy to play.  My impression after one reading of it at the piano is that the longer lines or phrases are the main challenge of the piece.  Everything appears to require a kind of propulsion from the inside logic of the piece.

For me, since it was my first time playing it, I was inclined to be a bit playful about the accent marks on the score, but the pace of the piece is rather quick, so it hardly matters in context of the larger musical phrases and statements  Yes, it matters, of course, but I think there's plenty of room to interpret in different manners.

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Offline saibot

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Re: Advice on Piano Sonata in B minor, H.XVI: 32 by Joseph Haydn
Reply #3 on: February 22, 2021, 05:46:08 PM



I really need to improve my control over the things you mentioned, especially on controlling my body stiffness to manipulate the sound and using pedal in a more natural way. I am going to work on those things even though I don't know where to start yet.






This really provided me some insight about the structure of the piece (whole post I mean, I didn't quote the text on purpose). It is almost like a pulsatile propulsion going without a stop. I don't mean pause when I mean stop, but I mean the flow is continuous. When it stops, it just increases the tension. Also thank you for your advices and opinions on pedalling, phrasing, and how that sound could be produced (which is a really important point I struggle due to my limited insight about it).


I thank you both for your detailed answers! Very precious to me without a doubt, especially in the confused state I am currently in about the piece and my playing in general. I am more of an absorber of ideas than a good replier when I am confused but be sure that I'll be thinking about these over and over for some time.
 

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