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Pachelbel - Canon in D

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Author Topic: Schubert Dotted Rhythm question  (Read 30560 times)
ehpianist
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« on: February 19, 2005, 02:44:16 PM »

Ok, this is something I should know and I thought I did, until I came across this piece.

In notation, Schubert only wrote a dotted eighth with sixteenth, even when he meant triplet eighth dotted rhythms. I had always assumed that if he wrote a dotted eighth with a sixteenth while the other hand was doing triplets this should be performed within the triplet rhtyhm (the sixteenth note being played together with the last note of a triplet).  And when no triplets where around, it should be played as written.

BUT

I am now learning Schubert's Eight Variations on a French Theme in E minor, D.624 which makes me question the validity of such performance practice.  In the Secondo part, the final variation has two equal sections where, in both, the left hand is doing a repetitive accompanying written as a  dotted  eighth with sixteenth going to a quarter note, then again and again.  This is accompanied in the first section with continuous sixteenth notes in the right hand.  The second  section has the same left hand notation, same exact notes, but this time with triplets on the right.  Should I be modifying the rhythm to fit into the triplets? 

This final variation is a constant play between triplet eighths and sixteenths so I am at a loss as to what the correct performance practice would be and when to make a judgement of triplets or non-triplets when written as dotted eighths with sixteenths.  Would appreciate any leads to researchers who have figured this one out.

Elena

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anda
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2005, 08:58:00 PM »

i don't know this work, i have never seen the score, so i can only tell this: as far as i can understand from your description, i think it's a classical case of binary rhythm in one hand against ternary rhythm in the other (even if the binary one is uneven).

could you perhaps post the fragment in question?

(or even better, send me the whole score  Wink )

best luck
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Nordlys
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2005, 11:28:20 PM »

Aha.
What EHpianist is talking about is the old practice (from baroque times) to notate a rhythm, even though it should be performed as a triplet rhythm (fourth note plus eight note), as dotted rhythm. This was a shorthand notation, and shows maybe that the performance of dotted rhythms was more flexible than we think. A dotted rhythm could also be performed over-dotted in some instances.

This practice probably lasted into the 19th century, for example Schubert. It is often easy to see in autograph scores; if notes that are written directly above each other they should be performed simultaneously.  It has been said that even Chopin did this, one famous example is the prelude in e-major, which has dotted rhythms, but which the autograph shows should be aligned to the triplets.

But there is no easy answer to all this, as EHpianist's variation piece shows.

Another difficult example is the impromptu in c-minor by Schubert. It has a dotted rhythm march-like theme. This theme is later combined with a triplet rhythm.
- Should the theme be performed in a triplet way, and lose a lot of its character, only to get it to fit into the triplet rhythm that comes in later?
- Should it be performed really dotted, and than changed to triplet rhythm when the triplets enter?
- Should it be performed dotted all the way like its written, and create polyrhythms when the triplets enter?

Short answer:
I think the musicologists cannot tell us for sure, and that we as pianists have to trust our musicality and artistic intuition.

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Hmoll
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2005, 04:02:43 PM »

I pretty much agree with what Nordys said. Since I don't know the 8 Var. on a Fr. Theme, using the Impromtu as an example, Schubert seems to be very vague in his notation Not only does he use the dotted rhythm of the theme over triplets. He uses it over 16ths, and eighths. Are you supposed to be consistent with the rhythm of the theme throughout, or change the rhythm to match the character of the particular section of the piece. For example, the dotted rhythm accompanied by the triplets sections have a more serene character that might lend itself to playing the theme in a triplet rhythm.

Since Schubert was vague and inconsistent, the question has to do more with performance practices. If you really wanted to research this, you could listen to some recordings of his lieder sung by people like Fischer-Diskau (sp.), or others who are good Schubert musicians. I'm sure there is lots of examples in the vocal repertoire where this type of notation is present - dotted rhythns against triplets between piano and voice. How do the singers handle this?
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ehpianist
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2005, 04:13:42 PM »

Thanks Nordly and Hmoll.  From what I've been able to gather recently, there is no absolute solution.  I did forget to add on a teeny tiny detail which makes the whole thing more difficult to figure out, which is that while my right hand is doing 16th notes the first time, the Primo is doing triplets, and while my right hand is doing triplets the 2nd time the primo is doing 16th notes!!!  So should the left hand rhythm follow my right hand or the primo?Huh

 I guess anything goes in this section.  I am posting the Secondo and Primo page of this section so you get a better idea.  I'm surprised not to find any in depth research on the rhtyhmic issues in this variation, they are puzzling, even for Schubert.

Elena
http://www.pianofourhands.com

Secondo


Primo
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Hmoll
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2005, 06:25:49 PM »

EH,

My teacher plays a lot of 4 hand stuff. She might have some insight into this. I'll see her in 1 1/2 weeks, and will ask her.
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anda
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2005, 07:10:58 PM »

play it as it is written - polyrhythmical (i've had the same problem playing brahms, i know it's more difficult this way, but i'm pretty sure that's what you should do)

best luck
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ehpianist
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2005, 01:27:10 AM »

Thanks. Actually the polyrhythm is not tht complicated, I just want to make sure I would be making the right decision regarding bringing it out or not.  But you may be raight, he clearly wants to contrast 3 against 4 so I will keep the continuity and play the left hand as written throughout this section.

Hmoll, I'd be curious if your teacher knows this piece, it sems to be rather obscure in his giant catalogue of duets and rarely played.  Any insight is appreciated.

Thank you all for your input.  It is always good to hear ideas from other pianists.

Elena
http://www.pianofourhands.com
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jlh
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2005, 07:05:34 AM »

Although I haven't even heard this piece before, after looking at the score, I think I'd be more inclined to play the dotted rhythms as written -- that is, to follow the primo.  Looking at the previous 8 measures, that seems like the only logical way to keep the rhythm consistent.  While a look at the autograph might be revealing, I would tend to think Schubert knew the difference between writing in triplets and dotted 8ths.
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ehpianist
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2005, 12:46:00 PM »

actually, jlh, the controversy stems from the fact that Schubert always wrote a dotted eighth with sixteenth even when he meant triplets quarter with triplet eighth.  If you read Nordlys post in this thread you will see it stems from the Baroque period.  So many composers, even though they knew how to write it, never did as it was understood that that was how it was supposed to be played.  Nevertheless I do think that the polyrhythm is the point of these pages.

Any idea where the Schubert autographs are?

Elena
http://www.pianofourhands.com
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claudio
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2005, 05:18:57 PM »

hi elena,

i believe the most extensive collection of schubert autographs can be found in the
municipal library of vienna (in german though  Tongue):

http://www.stadtbibliothek.wien.at/index.htm

a small selection can be seen here:

http://www.unesco.org/webworld/mdm/2001/eng/austria/schubert_intro.htm
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j_a_waggoner
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« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 11:59:22 PM »

So I'm a bit late in adding to this forum. However, Schubert has answered your question. The answer lies in the 4th movement of his 2nd piano trio in E-flat Major, Op. 100. Listed as D. 929, the impromptu which would seemingly use much polyrhythm (No.1 in C minor), is D. 899. In the trio, Schubert frequently changes time signatures from 6/8 to 2/2 and even marinates them together with the strings at 2/2 and the piano at 6/8 for a spell. Point here, is that given that they were likely written around the same time, had Schubert wanted us to play in the style of the traditional short-hand baroque method, he would have changed the time-signature on us; however, he didn't. Secondarily, Schubert is more classified as a Romantic composer rather than a Classical/Baroque composer for a reason. Not only are his melodies and harmonies romantic (textbook definition) in nature, but what distinguishes Schubert from all other composers of his era were his unique rhythms. I play his along with Chopin's pieces as written - lots of polyrhythm. Thanks for creating this forum!
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2010, 02:55:46 AM »

Secondarily, Schubert is more classified as a Romantic composer rather than a Classical/Baroque composer for a reason. Not only are his melodies and harmonies romantic (textbook definition) in nature, but what distinguishes Schubert from all other composers of his era were his unique rhythms. I play his along with Chopin's pieces as written - lots of polyrhythm. Thanks for creating this forum!

I don't know what classifies Schubert as a Romantic composer, but we can be fairly sure that it is not the fact that he notates dotted eights/sixteenths against triplets and means it.

The problem we, in our time, have here is one of convention.

Conventions die out slowly.  When the first pianos were invented, harpsichords, clavichords, and virginals did not disappear.  They existed for decades, while pianos grew in popularity.

So it is with notation: slowly, composers entered into a more and more precise form of notation.  Less could be taken for granted as belonging to an enclosed musical culture.  Bach could write, in the gigue of the B-flat partita, a whole movement of dotted eights/sixteenths vs. triplets, and it is fairly obvious what he meant.

Schubert, on the other hand, was on a cusp of a radical change.  It was a new thing for composers to actually write down the way the music should sound in a practical way

Conventions existed in learned circles which would have dotted eighths/sixteenths and triplets even out; however practical notation (look at the impromptu in c minor) negated such a theoretical perspective.

Now, today, we are equally prisoners of convention.  We think that all composers, in all epochs, notated music exactly as it should be heard.  We are sorely mistaken.  It is only in modern times, that composers agreed on a conventional notation that was universal and objective.  When we apply the standards of Stravinsky, Bartok, Messiaen, and Boulez to composers of two or three hundred years ago, we err grievously.

No doubt: we should always ask, was something specific and intentional meant by this notation?  But we should also be prepared for the answer, "no."  And that is what is sorely lacking in musicians of today: creativity.  The ability to say, "no, all the parameters were not defined on a piece of paper.  We have to interpret this by our own tastes."

Random thoughts.

Walter Ramsey


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brogers70
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« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2010, 12:35:53 AM »

Can't really help with the variations, but in the C minor Impromptu I play the dotted eighth/sixteenth against the triplet accompaniment as written, as a poly rhythm. Fitting the previously established march theme to the triplet accompaniment makes it lose its character. So in this case, anyway, I'm for playing as written.
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2010, 02:22:51 AM »

Can't really help with the variations, but in the C minor Impromptu I play the dotted eighth/sixteenth against the triplet accompaniment as written, as a poly rhythm. Fitting the previously established march theme to the triplet accompaniment makes it lose its character. So in this case, anyway, I'm for playing as written.

That's a good example, because it shows that Schubert was not following any hard and fast rule.  I heard a very prominent piano teacher assert that in Schubert, the dotted eigthts/sixteenths, when appearing with triplets, should always be assimilated...

That convention is like all conventions: it dies out slowly.  Remember, composers of those days were not born from the head of Zeus fully formed, but studied with composers who were much older and came from traditions that were already relics.

So someone of Schubert, with his uneven education, was not necessarily precise in his notation.  We make a mistake, when we assume that all composers are equally exact.  That is the prevalent philosophy today, frankly.  We don't realize that they didn't always have the tools to write music in a practical way, by which I mean, write music exactly the way they think it should be heard.

Walter Ramsey


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darkstar87
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« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2010, 10:50:06 PM »

Walter,

I'm sorry I have to completely disagree with you. What is this so called uneven education of Schubert's? Was it that he was born into a highly musical family, earned a scholarship to the school of the Imperial Chapel at a young age, and then went on to study composition with SALIERI for several years, until his adulthood? In what way is that uneven? Schubert was as learned as the best of them, he was a highly cultured man.

And lets add a couple pieces to the list to compare.... the last movements of D. 960 and D.958.
In the last movement of 960 he uses the polyrhythm extensively with the right hand playing dotted 16ths over left hand triplets. In the last movement of 958 he consistently uses triplets in BOTH hands throughout the entire piece. He wrote these two pieces at the same time, during the final months of his life. why would he take the effort to notate these two pieces which have similar textures differently? listen to 10 recordings of each and you will see how they are traditionally played.... AS WRITTEN!. Schubert adored polyrhythms, if you browse through his music, they are everywhere.
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pianowolfi
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« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2010, 09:50:51 PM »

I agree with Walter: It can differ. If you look at the Autograph of "Wasserflut" the last triplet eighths are written precisely above (or below) the sixteenths, also the voice part follows this notation (except for some measures where it's completely out of sync with the piano part) and Schubert doesn't even write a triplet 3 above some of the triplets:

http://www.schubert-online.at/activpage/manuskripte_en.php?werke_id=440&werkteile_id=&image=MH_05391_D911_033.jpg&groesse=100&aktion=einzelbild&bild_id=34&rotation=&negate=&sharpen=&lineal=

And I see no sense in playing it differently.
Whereas for instance in the beginning of the B flat maj Trio I would play the polyrhythm. To me it doesn't make sense to assimilate there.
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2010, 04:04:24 AM »

Thank you for the reply.  Although I didn't mention that example, that is the one that is usually given as an example of how Schubert didn't always notate precisely (in other words, if he did it there, why didn't he do it everywhere?)

It also illustrates how conventions die slowly.  Schubert was educated by a pedantic person, from a previous generation, who had certain ideas about this, and certain ideas about that.

When I said he had an "uneven" education I did in fact express myself badly.  However, we must admit, that an education from Salieri was not enough to prepare a student for the wildly individual example of Beethoven, whose music so powerfully dominated musical thought in those decades.  (Also Schubert himself thought his education was incomplete; before he died he started taking counterpoint lessons).

Also, Beethoven's method of notation was far more specific and thorough than any composer who preceded him.  That is nothing then that could have been taught by the best education, if that education preceded Beethoven (which it all did).

Walter Ramsey


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prongated
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« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2010, 07:05:58 PM »

Hmm...
And lets add a couple pieces to the list to compare.... the last movements of D. 960 and D.958.
In the last movement of 960 he uses the polyrhythm extensively with the right hand playing dotted 16ths over left hand triplets. In the last movement of 958 he consistently uses triplets in BOTH hands throughout the entire piece. He wrote these two pieces at the same time, during the final months of his life. why would he take the effort to notate these two pieces which have similar textures differently? listen to 10 recordings of each and you will see how they are traditionally played.... AS WRITTEN!. Schubert adored polyrhythms, if you browse through his music, they are everywhere.

I would suggest that the difference in notation in those 2 sonatas reflects not so much the difference in rhythm as it is the articulation and thus the character and direction in which the theme can come across. The one in D958 has a rest between the first and last note in each beat, and thus with the slurs creating a more leggiero, playful effect. The D960 though has no rest, creating long, singing phrases.

Check also the RH chord and melody in the last 2 pages of Chopin's Polonaise Fantaisie. Would you play the melody as 16th note and the chord as triplets? And this was written after Schubert wrote the sonatas!
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schubert2b
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« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2011, 09:32:56 AM »

Interesting this one. I don't know the piece in question, but my experience as a performer of Schubert's songs leads me to the conclusion that each case should be taken separately.  So, for instance, the polyrhythms in "Frühlingsglaube" should be respected, but not necessarily in "Wasserflut" (Winterreise).  Currently studying "Normans Gesang", one of the Scott songs, and I have to admit to being very confused, such is the plethora of different notatations, often without  logic( to modern performers, at least).  In the case of the songs, a good rule-of-thumb would seem to be to respect the underlying poetic content of the song, and one can also apply that to solo piano pieces (or duets, thinking of the dotted adagio section of the (Fantasy in f) - in other words if one adopts the approach that Schubert's piano pieces are songs without words.

Best wishes,
Conor Biggs
www.artsong.eu
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #20 on: September 14, 2011, 05:41:16 PM »

Interesting this one. I don't know the piece in question, but my experience as a performer of Schubert's songs leads me to the conclusion that each case should be taken separately.  So, for instance, the polyrhythms in "Frühlingsglaube" should be respected, but not necessarily in "Wasserflut" (Winterreise).  Currently studying "Normans Gesang", one of the Scott songs, and I have to admit to being very confused, such is the plethora of different notatations, often without  logic( to modern performers, at least).  In the case of the songs, a good rule-of-thumb would seem to be to respect the underlying poetic content of the song, and one can also apply that to solo piano pieces (or duets, thinking of the dotted adagio section of the (Fantasy in f) - in other words if one adopts the approach that Schubert's piano pieces are songs without words.

Best wishes,
Conor Biggs
www.artsong.eu

Interesting post.  Yes, indeed, often in composers of the past we try and find a logical system for their notation and often end up failing.  In my opinion, we do them and their artistry a disservice by assuming they notate as pedantically and specifically as composers of the 20th century.  That's a main problem we face today: everyone thinks all notation throughout history always meant the same thing, or has a very limited array of meanings.

But that attitude, born from composers in the 20th century like Schoenberg, Bartok, and Stravinsky, totally neglects the varying origins of music.  Not every composer was writing music with a concert in mind.  Sometimes, composers were writing music to specific performers who they knew and trusted.  Notation could differ a lot in different circumstances.

Walter Ramsey


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sashaco
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« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2011, 02:05:44 PM »

Walter writes that Beethoven was far more specific in notation than his predecessors.  Two or three years ago I was reading an article in which one pianist remarked of another (I think Richter, sorry not to be more definite) that he was so devoted to the score that he played the 32nds in the theme of the second movement of the Pathetique as a polyrythm, rather than uniting them to the triplets.  I took the implication to be that it is overly pedantic, or perhaps a misapplication of modern standards, to play a polyrhythm there.
I can easily imagine reasons to play it either way.  It seems like a load of work to write the 32nds as part of a sixteenth note triplet.  I am no scholar of notation and wonder what the educated among you think.  (Evenly or unevenly educated will do.)

Sasha
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