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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:41 pm 
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Quote:
Interesting discussion, guys! I was going to add my two cents but keep deleting everything.


Don't be shy, they're probably excellent points, even if you only give us two cents worth of them:P

Quote:
Maybe because I'm a stickler for sticking with the rhythm that's on the page. Also, I don't care for players who push and pull things so much - it gets annoying real fast.


I see your point here, although sometimes it pays to experiment and then you can always go back later and discard or refine upon relistening. A problem I have with the musical establishment these days is the notion that there is ever an ideal performance of a piece, particularly with such a personal issue as rubato. Then it seems as though everyone is listening to everyone else and terrified to try anything new with an aspect like rubato with the overall result that it all starts to sound the same. I think in the end what we ideally want is to hear 50 completely new and individual performances of, e.g., any of the Chopin preludes. That's the interpretive aspect that makes listening to performances interesting.

That said, I agree with you that there are limits and strictures. The key is to find the happy medium of the individual discovering what works for him/her (i.e., what to do with each phrase dynamically, rubato-wise, etc.) without completely distorting the music. And I think it goes without saying that that's extremely difficult.

On that note, I'm still having a devil of a time with it on, as you may remember, preludes 4 and 6 :P The fast ones I have recorded so far still are far from perfect too, but I'm coming to terms with at least some of those interpretively (though the next one on my list, No. 16, still freaking terrifies me :cry: ), but I find these two apparently simple pieces two of the hardest pieces in Chopin's entire oeuvre to get right, at least for my taste. I have yet to hear a performance I'm satisfied with, and I'm sure I'll never be satisfied with mine either. Even Cortot's version that I listened to again recently sounds rather straight-laced, perfunctory, and monotonous to my ears. Ah well, maybe it's just me -- maybe I need to drink more :D . Hopefully I'll at least improve those two somewhat when I re-record them this weekend

Chopin I guess I just find the most difficult of anything to play. Every measure of it is replete with the most wonderful nuances yet at the same time great perils both interpretively and technically for the performer.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:42 pm 
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Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic. It's a matter of taste. Synchronicity is mathematical and absolute in written manuscript, but any tempo deviations via rubato really should involve BOTH hands, and not just one hand. Music is cohesive, not dissociative. The only time that I clearly remember playing a dis-synchronous passage, and have it still sound stylistically appropriate, was in Schubert Impromptu Op. 90/4: The beginning pp passage "can" be played with the low A-flat LH immediately preceding the C-flat RH passage. Try it and see for yourselves. (see attachment)

The golden age of Romantic pianists would do this kind of thing more often. But the argument is passe as tastes and conventions have changed over a 100 years. However, these days, regardless of the temptations to stray from what is written, "dissociating" or dis-synchronous playing is the trait of an amateur and not correct in almost all cases.

As in the aforementioned works of Chopin's Op. 9a, and Op. 28/24, the odd numbered rhythmic subdivisions in the RH against a metric LH accompaniment can be determined in most cases by the melodic importance, or how a passage resolves toward the end. Here is a thread where the Chopin Prelude No. 24 was discussed: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=4420

Re: Rubato?! Your damned if you do, and your damned if you don't. For those who don't use enough of it, their performance is sterile, devoid. For those who use too much, their performance is an emotional blasé mush. We all can hear this. Rubato is like herbs and spices in food - use in trace amounts!

Conclusion:
- Music is cohesive, and not dissociative to the score.
- Synchronicity is mathematical. Fluctuations in tempo (rubato) is subjective and is a matter of taste (or the lack thereof).
- Dis-synchronicity has almost no bearing in music, it's passé at best.
- Ultimately this whole topic is a matter of taste. We/you either like or don't


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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:07 am 
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88man wrote:
Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic.

Perhaps I should change the "diagnosis" to Munchausen's Musical Dissociative Disorder (MMDD) :D

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:00 am 
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richard66 wrote:
Indeed, Monica. Maybe you might listen to some of the Chopin performances on the site. I listened to one of the Prelude in e... I do not believe there were two notes for the left hand that had the same values.
If I was very serious about this rubato thing, then maybe I'd listen again to some PS recordings. But since I have listened to so many, many, many recordings for PS, I don't really feel like listening to any one of them again! I must be burning out or something regarding listening to piano music. I've even given up my series tickets for solo piano concerts at Chicago's Orchestra Hall and instead purchased a series of Chicago Symphony tickets for the upcoming season. Three times as expensive, but will provide much more variety than hearing the same pianists over and over again.

jlr43 wrote:
Don't be shy, they're probably excellent points, even if you only give us two cents worth of them:P
Well, it's Friday night so I'm a little loopy. But okay here goes...
Rubato - Mostly, I don't like to 'know' that I'm hearing it, nor do I want to 'try' playing it. When I know a piece well enough, and if I'm in the right mood, I can make my RH do rubato easily and it's very natural. Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.

Joe wrote:
Chopin I guess I just find the most difficult of anything to play. Every measure of it is replete with the most wonderful nuances yet at the same time great perils both interpretively and technically for the performer.


Agree with you one hundred percent! I've recently changed my mind about the way I (want to) play some mazurkas based on listening to the likes of Friedman. If I re-record any of my own mazurkas, I think they'd sound a lot different.

88man wrote:
Re: Rubato?! Your damned if you do, and your damned if you don't. For those who don't use enough of it, their performance is sterile, devoid. For those who use too much, their performance is an emotional blasé mush. We all can hear this. Rubato is like herbs and spices in food - use in trace amounts!

I like a lot of herbs and spices in my food (except hot pepper). It doesn't seem to do anything to my playing though... :lol: (kidding, George. I know what you mean.. :) )

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:53 am 
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Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:51 am 
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richard66 wrote:
Maybe you might listen to some of the Chopin performances on the site. I listened to one of the Prelude in e... I do not believe there were two notes for the left hand that had the same values.

Ha yes, many people who are unable to keep a steady pulse pass it off as rubato. It is so dangerous to start out with playing Chopin in a so-called romantic manner, without first having learned to play in time. It seems like all beginning pianists want to play Chopin above all. I was no different but have come to see the error of my ways.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:13 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."


As I think about this again, I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that! Also, I am right-handed - but if I were left-handed, I'm not sure I would be able to make my right hand play rubato. But then possibly I would be able to make my left hand do it....You know what I mean? Maybe that's confusing...I think I just confused myself... :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:04 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
Meaning, I'm just letting my current
thoughts/feelings/emotions guide my hands. That is my kind of rubato - it's very simple to do if I don't think about it.


Good point, I try to the do the same and be spontaneous. As Hofmann said, "Spontaneity is the soul of art."


As I think about this again, I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that! Also, I am right-handed - but if I were left-handed, I'm not sure I would be able to make my right hand play rubato. But then possibly I would be able to make my left hand do it....You know what I mean? Maybe that's confusing...I think I just confused myself... :lol:


This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:27 pm 
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Quote:
But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato?


One possible example I can think of is the middle section of Chopin Impromptu No. 3. It's such an expansive and deep melody in the middle register of the piano.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:02 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

I don't think so, because in my mind, tempo means the overall speed of the beats in the piece - the whole piece. If the RH was a faster tempo and the LH a slower tempo, then the RH would finish the piece long before the LH gets to the end, right? So rubato is not related to tempo at all - it's just a matter of altering the length of the RH notes, or changing when you drop down on some notes in certain passages. Maybe you guys already said something like this....?

jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato?


One possible example I can think of is the middle section of Chopin Impromptu No. 3. It's such an expansive and deep melody in the middle register of the piano.


Oh yes - I like that one a lot! Been meaning to put it up on my piano but just haven't gotten around to it. Probably won't for a while either. It's such a sweet piece, though! And really I think it should be an etude.

The middle part is definitely a contender for our left-hand melody-possible-rubato piece. However, I think that the rhythm already makes it automatically sound like you're playing rubato so it should be left as is.

Another piece I just thought of is Gershwin's no. 2 Prelude. It is on my piano right now, but earlier I wasn't thinking about rubato. Regarding the middle section where the LH is playing that cool little jazzy line - in this case, for sure! we wouldn't want our LH to mess around at all with rubato. That would totally ruin the music.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:31 pm 
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Quote:
musical-md wrote:
This is a very good point to raise because though this is a forum for pianists, our discussion is ultimately about music. Can a melody (RH, LH, soloist, etc.) have a tempo other than that of the accompaniment that it is composed with?

Pianolady replied:
I don't think so, because in my mind, tempo means the overall speed of the beats in the piece - the whole piece. If the RH was a faster tempo and the LH a slower tempo, then the RH would finish the piece long before the LH gets to the end, right? So rubato is not related to tempo at all - it's just a matter of altering the length of the RH notes, or changing when you drop down on some notes in certain passages. Maybe you guys already said something like this....?
I'm just one bit confused Monica. Does your "I don't think so" mean that you don't see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind of the accompaniment temporarily (not for any extended passages)? Then we are in agreement. But then you cite some music that is good for "melody-rubato," which is back to melody having fluctuation in tempo that the accompaniment does not have. Have you ever tried to play a melody faster or slower than its accompaniment for just short, limited passages? Have you ever heard anyone play in such a manner? I have never heard it (knowingly) and have never tried to execute it. I have also never read anything in a score or a text that recommended it's application in a particular spot, whether piano or orchestral literature. When I think of orchestral works that make use of goodly amounts of rubato, I think of Berlioz and the post-Romantics like Strauss and Mahler, but can't concieve of how such an idea as this thread is about could even be conveyed by the conductor. I really think this notion was born in Chopin's penchant for irregular groupings and their perception by auditors.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 10:39 pm 
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Sorry, Eddy. I'll try explaining my ideas again differently...

I can see a melody moving slightly ahead or behind the accompaniment but it's got nothing to do with tempo. I don't understand when some people call it tempo rubato, because like I said before, it's not the tempo that is changing at all. If you take one measure and you make the RH move ahead of or drag behind the accompaniment, you still have to make it so that both hands get to the 1st beat of the next measure at the same time, so you didn't change any tempo.

And no, those two pieces, Joe's Chopin Impromptu and my Gershwin Prelude are pieces that I was wondering about - whether there is such a piece where the LH may be instructed to play rubato. I can't see that happening, but maybe there is such a piece? That's what I was talking about.

Well....one thing for sure: Rubato is not only hard to play, but hard to talk about! :wink: :)

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:10 pm 
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Monica wrote:
Well....one thing for sure: Rubato is not only hard to play, but hard to talk about! :wink: :)

I find it a lot easier to talk about than to play, but I think that's mostly because my technique is bad. Talking about it helps me learn how to get better, though. (I have learned a great deal from PS about technique over the years.) I know what you mean about 'tempo rubato' but I think I addressed that in the longpost below which I had written before you posted again (sorry for the length...I've been distracted the past week and just got here), and it just so happens to be underneath my response to your other post. In short, what I said is that tempo=time, and rubato=stolen. Time is stolen (or borrowed), but theoretically it all adds up...because, as George said, it's a cohesive whole. With hands-together rubato, the time is stolen by one part of the piece from the other, and this is only reflected in an abstract way, if you happen to have a sense for that sort of thing. With hands-together rubato, the melodic hand steals time in one part of the phrase from another part of the phrase, or perhaps from the next phrase, and the accompaniment hands keeps on trucking because it's all going to add up anyway. In this case, it's less abstract because the accompaniment hand demonstrates the tempo - the fact that it all adds up in the end - in such a way that the listener will most likely be conscious of it.

techneut wrote:
...many people who are unable to keep a steady pulse pass it off as rubato.

Many people use it in the most difficult passages, too. You can see Ashkenazy doing this all the time in his complete Chopin recordings. It's not because he's not technically adept - I don't think I've ever heard anyone play the b-flat minor sonata as fast as he does (not in the complete recordings, but another recording) - but because he spent almost no time on most of the pieces. To the non-pianist, it might even sound musically appropriate...but the pianist (especially the pianist who has played these pieces) knows he's cheating.

Chris wrote:
It is so dangerous to start out with playing Chopin in a so-called romantic manner, without first having learned to play in time. It seems like all beginning pianists want to play Chopin above all. I was no different but have come to see the error of my ways.

A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher. Even his most difficult pieces are 'easy' in the sense that he only wrote what came naturally to his hand. The fact that everything came naturally to him (and the fact that he liked to challenge himself) means that it's still some of the most difficult music for piano, but it's easy to see why most people start with Chopin, and why most young pianists find Bach counterintuitive in comparison.

pianolady wrote:
I realize that yes, it's my right hand that I can direct more freely if I want to. And that's because it's the melody line we're talking about. But what if the melody was in the left hand? Has anyone encountered a piece of music where the left hand is supposed to play with some rubato? I doubt I could ever do that!

Sure you could, and I think you have. A good example is Chopin 25/7. A totally different but still nice example is 10/12. As I've said before, I hate that one when it's played straight...and yet, it suffers from a loss of pulse. As someone mentioned earlier, it's not as if we're talking about metronomic tempo anyway. A healthy pulse is regular, not metronomic. Without the regular pulse, then syncopations and the like lose their meaning completely, but in the operatic type of melodic (usually RH) writing that Chopin is known for, the accompaniment hand can keep the pulse and still allow much room for melodic freedom, and with that freedom, meaning is only added, rather than lost.

The most important point is that rubato is 'stolen' or 'borrowed' time. One part of the piece steals time from another - or on a smaller scale, one part of the melodic phrase steals time from another part of the phrase, so that it all adds up. Kallberg has talked some about these two types of rubato - the 'hands together' and the 'hands separate' types (in addition to the mazurka type), but generally Chopin preferred that the performer not insert ritardandos or accelerandos unless they were written in the score - the slowing down and speeding up of the hands-together rubato should never venture very far from the regular pulse. As Chopin said, it takes you more or less the same amount of time to play the piece as you would have with the metronome. If you speed up Here, then chances are he wrote the music so that it makes sense to slow down There, etc.

Someone mentioned polyrhythm earlier. I also mentioned this on Rich's nocturne thread in the AR. It's not rubato, but it can serve as an exercise in how to play hands-separate rubato because it teaches independence of the hands. Sometimes polyrhythm breaks up in simple proportions, like 2 against 3, and therefore the pianist generally learns to think of it as an exact science. 3 against 4 is a little bit tricker, and so on. Eventually you have to learn to think by the larger beat that encompasses both sets, and play each hand independently against that beat. I like the TN F minor nocturne for this because rubato is appropriate in it. Chris might say that's because I like to cheat...but I can do 3 against 4 exact. I don't think that is what Chopin is trying to teach people with this etude. I think he is trying to teach people how to play his music the way he played it. If it's contrived, it's not going to be good, but maybe if we make the attempt it will get easier for us as time goes on.

I had this conversation with Alfie in email some time ago, and he provided some recordings of Mikuli's students to demonstrate that this 'school' of piano playing is extinct (as if to say, 'if it ever existed'). In a way, I see what he was getting at - playing with discipline and freedom at the same time is immensely difficult, and I really doubt Mikuli was any good at it. Most agree that Princess Czartoryska and some of the other talented females were most true to their master's style, along with Karl Flitsch (who unfortunately didn't last long). So why should Mikuli's students have carried on the tradition? As was demonstrated in the Chopin etudes thread on the Repertoire forum (?) pianists tend to see piano technique in this way, as a school of thought that must be passed down from teacher to student...but in practice that's probably an unproductive way of looking at it. All of us who play Chopin are students of Chopin. No one living can tell us how he played, and the accounts from the past are only useful to an extent.

88man wrote:
Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic. It's a matter of taste. Synchronicity is mathematical and absolute in written manuscript, but any tempo deviations via rubato really should involve BOTH hands, and not just one hand.

This, I disagree with, mostly because I think the pulse is often broken by this type of rubato. I think people use it often because it is by and far the easiest way to execute rubato in Chopin's music, and Chopin's music sounds awful without it (even the most mechanical of the etudes). But I also think that Chopin's music suffers from a loss of pulse, if not so much as from a lack of rubato.

George wrote:
Music is cohesive, not dissociative.

In general, this is true, but that doesn't meant that dissociative elements cannot be effective within the cohesive whole. Undoubtedly, it depends on the talent and skill of the interpreter...and that of the composer, of course.

George wrote:
The golden age of Romantic pianists would do this kind of thing more often. But the argument is passe as tastes and conventions have changed over a 100 years. However, these days, regardless of the temptations to stray from what is written, "dissociating" or dis-synchronous playing is the trait of an amateur and not correct in almost all cases.

If the music suffers from an amateur class performance, then it's probably not best to judge the value of this type of rubato from this type of performance. By all accounts, Chopin was unparalleled in his pianism, though some criticized his amateurish approach. Notably Czerny. :lol: Later in his life, when he wished he could make a living as a concert pianist, he only half-regretted his refusal to make a machine out of himself in his youth in order to pull it off. Probably not even half.

One thing that I do too often, and that many do too often, is the delay of the RH note when it's obviously intended to be in sync with the LH, such as on a downbeat or another strong beat. Chopin hated that, not because it's never appropriate, but because it's so easy for we, the amateurs, to overuse it. When we overuse the expressive device, it loses its meaning. I have a tendency to do this more when 1) I'm tired/distracted/stressed, or 2) I'm playing the piece faster than I should, and therefore my grip on the piece is less secure.

In conclusion...it's easy to see why Brendel said that Chopin requires specialization more than any other composer. It's not that the technique requires specialization, exactly. The interpretation requires specialization. Brendel knew that, and he chose to give up on Chopin, probably not because he didn't get into it, but because he had the choice of 1) playing nothing but Chopin all the time, or 2) playing other stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:15 am 
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Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:33 am 
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Terez,
Your post above was most interesting. Regarding the learned stylistic habit of the slight dissynchrony on the down beat between hands (usually RH just after the LH), the first time I played that at my first serious teacher's house, she said "Eso es picúo" and I was immediately forbidden to ever do it again! The word is negative in connotation and "refers to cheap, sentimental and superficial substitues for true aesthetic phenomenon." <New art of Cuba By Luis Camnitzer, pg.18> I understand all of your explanation regarding rubato, but I would still be interested to hear a passage blantantly played this way. My only retort to you is that for me, Chopin's "difficult" works are difficult, not easy, but they are, however, idiomatic for the piano.
Eddy

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 10:27 am 
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hanysz wrote:
Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

And I did not know that the definition of "amateur" was one who had had no teacher. Having had a teacher then I by definition am a concert pianist! Ha! I never thought I would have made it; change the definition and change the result:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:15 pm 
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richard wrote:
hanysz wrote:
Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

And I did not know that the definition of "amateur" was one who had had no teacher. Having had a teacher then I by definition am a concert pianist! Ha! I never thought I would have made it; change the definition and change the result:lol:


:lol: Me too! :lol:

Chopin did have many lessons from Zywny and then went to the Warsaw Conservatory to study with Elsner. Not sure what kind of 'degree' he received, and maybe he was not paid to perform when he was in his youth playing at dinner parties of the Polish aristocracy. But he certainly was a paid performer later when he was Paris (playing to packed audiences), so coupled with that and selling his compositions plus being a highly sought-after teacher, I think it's pretty far-fetched to call Chopin an amateur. If that's the case, then you might as well call Mozart an amateur too. :roll: :? :)

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 7:39 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
richard wrote:
hanysz wrote:
Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

And I did not know that the definition of "amateur" was one who had had no teacher. Having had a teacher then I by definition am a concert pianist! Ha! I never thought I would have made it; change the definition and change the result:lol:


:lol: Me too! :lol:

Chopin did have many lessons from Zywny and then went to the Warsaw Conservatory to study with Elsner. Not sure what kind of 'degree' he received, and maybe he was not paid to perform when he was in his youth playing at dinner parties of the Polish aristocracy. But he certainly was a paid performer later when he was Paris (playing to packed audiences), so coupled with that and selling his compositions plus being a highly sought-after teacher, I think it's pretty far-fetched to call Chopin an amateur. If that's the case, then you might as well call Mozart an amateur too. :roll: :? :)


Let us give a concert, you and I: you do the playing and I will turn th pages. Just remember to nod at the right moments so I do not get lost! :D

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 7:53 pm 
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Now, seriously, I was reflecting the other night, 3am philosophy and I thought thus:

Rubato is when you slacken or speed tempo here and there, making up for it later on. But if both hands do the same slackening or speeding, what need is there to compensate further on? After all, if one sets off alone to go to the station it makes no difference how fast or slow you go; it is only when you are in two. If two set out separately to go to the station and bith must arrive together and if one goes faster than the other, why, yes, he must slow down further onb, or else he will arrive earlier.

If I may give a poor example, I submitted a recording to the site, Camellieri it was, where there is a slow waltz rhythm thoughout the piece, exepting for the last 3 or 4 bars. There is a ritardando there too, but otherwise, I felt the rhythm had to keep steady or else the piece did not hold together. Of course that mean the meledy came out square. I have the impression (I might be very wrong, of course) that I might have applied this type of rubato, always within the beat, so that not all quavers or semi- or demisemiquavers are precisely divided over the crotchets, but that some might be slighly longer than others, in a way that time is precise while the melody still sings.

Might this be rubato to you?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:50 pm 
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88man wrote:
Rendering any "Musical dissociative disorder" seems a bit stretched, because deviations relating tempo or synchronicity is intentional on part of the pianist, and it is not involuntary, nor pathologic. It's a matter of taste. Synchronicity is mathematical and absolute in written manuscript, but any tempo deviations via rubato really should involve BOTH hands, and not just one hand.
Terez wrote:
This, I disagree with, mostly because I think the pulse is often broken by this type of rubato. I think people use it often because it is by and far the easiest way to execute rubato in Chopin's music, and Chopin's music sounds awful without it (even the most mechanical of the etudes). But I also think that Chopin's music suffers from a loss of pulse, if not so much as from a lack of rubato.

Not really. Pulse is a subjective term. Pulse doesn't have to be broken in the presence of rubato, as music is a dynamic process that can embrace change within the same piece. Even a driving pulse needs a break from time to time to add a degree of contrast, hence different themes, etc. In proper use of rubato, it's the tempo that is interrupted, not the rhythm. In other words the music may slow down, but the elements which define rhythm remain intact - accents, meter, etc. Our sense of pulse is primarily driven by rhythm, so our perception of pulse within a piece doesn't suffer.

Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher. Even his most difficult pieces are 'easy' in the sense that he only wrote what came naturally to his hand.

Stated bluntly, but marginally true. He really didn't have the opportunity to delve deeply into the formal tools of composition. This can be seen with the use of awkward enharmonics within a given key signature. Even Józef Elsner allowed a free reign on composition during the "formal years" from 1826-29. Making up for any inadequacies, however, his understanding of form, style, musical creativity equaled or transcended his contemporaries.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:14 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
After all, if one sets off alone to go to the station it makes no difference how fast or slow you go;

Unless it makes you miss your train :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:59 am 
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I thought I might see (finally) what the Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd Ed) has to say on the subject:
Definition: "An elastic, flexible tempo involving slight accelerandos and ritardandos that alternate according to the requirements of musical expression."

Then it identifies "two types of rubato, one that affects the melody only and another that affects the whole musical texture. The first type has become well known through its use in jazz. However it was also used during the second half of the 18th century. Tosi (1723), Quantz (1752), K.P.E. Bach (1753), Leopold Mozart (1756), and D.G. Turk (1789) maintain that rubato applies only to the melody and should not affect the accompaniment. Chopin is reported to have taught this type of rubato, which may extend over several measures, after which the melodic and harmonic accents should again coincide."
<Material on the 2nd type skipped.>

Definition No.2: "About 1800 the term "rubato" was used to indicate modifications of dynamics rather than tempo, e.g., accents on normally weak beats, such as the second and forth in a 4/4 measure. It is possible that Chopin meant this manner of performance when he prescribed 'rubato' in his compositions, since he used the term almost exclusively in mazurkas or melodies in mazurka style (e.g.. F-Minor Concerto, last movement). The strict rhythm of the mazurka would seem to exclude modifications of tempo yet readily admits unexpected accents on the second or third beat."

Then I took a peek at Thurston Dart's The Interpretation of Music, 1954. Melody rubato is mentioned again in reference to Chopin. Beyond that, it is evident that the concept of flexible time has been around for some time as both Caccini, in his preface (1602) to his monodies Dart writes "explains in great detail the exact ways in which rubato, dynamics and phrasing should be used in his music in order to enhance its effects;" and Frescobaldi in the Preface to his first book of Toccatas (1614) writes "Do not keep strict time throughout but, as in modern madrigals, use here a slow tempo, here a fast one, and here one that, as it were, hangs in the air, always in accordance with the expression and meaning of the words," -- plainly demonstrates that the idea has been formaly around for quite some time.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:49 am 
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musical-md wrote:
Definition No.2: "About 1800 the term "rubato" was used to indicate modifications of dynamics rather than tempo, e.g., accents on normally weak beats, such as the second and forth in a 4/4 measure. It is possible that Chopin meant this manner of performance when he prescribed 'rubato' in his compositions, since he used the term almost exclusively in mazurkas or melodies in mazurka style (e.g.. F-Minor Concerto, last movement). The strict rhythm of the mazurka would seem to exclude modifications of tempo yet readily admits unexpected accents on the second or third beat."
Now, that is probably the most interesting thing I've heard in a long time and makes total sense to me regarding Chopin. Great information, Eddy!! :)


@Richard - turning pages is not easy, either! Just look at this article I posted awhile back:

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1262

:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:24 am 
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techneut wrote:
richard66 wrote:
After all, if one sets off alone to go to the station it makes no difference how fast or slow you go;

Unless it makes you miss your train :mrgreen:


Yes, but at least both miss the train! Ifd one goes faster and reaches the station on time and the other does not... :) I have seen it happen!

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:28 am 
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pianolady wrote:
musical-md wrote:
@Richard - turning pages is not easy, either! Just look at this article I posted awhile back:

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1262

:lol:

Come to think of it, we shall need to call the concert off: I am left-handed. :)

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:36 am 
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musical-md wrote:
I thought I might see (finally) what the Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd Ed) has to say on the subject:
Definition: "An elastic, flexible tempo involving slight accelerandos and ritardandos that alternate according to the requirements of musical expression."

Then it identifies "two types of rubato, one that affects the melody only and another that affects the whole musical texture. The first type has become well known through its use in jazz. However it was also used during the second half of the 18th century. Tosi (1723), Quantz (1752), K.P.E. Bach (1753), Leopold Mozart (1756), and D.G. Turk (1789) maintain that rubato applies only to the melody and should not affect the accompaniment. Chopin is reported to have taught this type of rubato, which may extend over several measures, after which the melodic and harmonic accents should again coincide."
<Material on the 2nd type skipped.>

Definition No.2: "About 1800 the term "rubato" was used to indicate modifications of dynamics rather than tempo, e.g., accents on normally weak beats, such as the second and forth in a 4/4 measure. It is possible that Chopin meant this manner of performance when he prescribed 'rubato' in his compositions, since he used the term almost exclusively in mazurkas or melodies in mazurka style (e.g.. F-Minor Concerto, last movement). The strict rhythm of the mazurka would seem to exclude modifications of tempo yet readily admits unexpected accents on the second or third beat."

Then I took a peek at Thurston Dart's The Interpretation of Music, 1954. Melody rubato is mentioned again in reference to Chopin. Beyond that, it is evident that the concept of flexible time has been around for some time as both Caccini, in his preface (1602) to his monodies Dart writes "explains in great detail the exact ways in which rubato, dynamics and phrasing should be used in his music in order to enhance its effects;" and Frescobaldi in the Preface to his first book of Toccatas (1614) writes "Do not keep strict time throughout but, as in modern madrigals, use here a slow tempo, here a fast one, and here one that, as it were, hangs in the air, always in accordance with the expression and meaning of the words," -- plainly demonstrates that the idea has been formaly around for quite some time.


It just goes to show that all that the wisecracks who affirm Chopin wanted his works to be played as if meter were nonexistent is twaddle. The more I see of "authentic performance" the more I realise this means no more than "performance taking into account all modern prejudices" and that "authentic performances of the 2010s are more authentic than authentic performances of the 1950s."

Thank you Eddy for looking this up!

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:29 pm 
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hanysz wrote:
Terez wrote:
A lot of people forget that Chopin was an amateur. He never had a piano teacher.

I've never heard of this. I was sure he spent a few years having lessons with Zywny.

Indeed, but Żynwy was not a pianist, and neither was Elsner. Żynwy had some facility with piano, but he was a violinist, and he mostly guided Chopin by giving him music to play. All accounts agree that little Chopin came up with his own fingerings, and Żynwy didn't object.

For the curious, there's a section in Eigeldinger's 'Chopin: Pianist and Teacher' on what Chopin's students had to say about Chopin's rubato - how he played, and how he taught.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:48 pm 
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It is a battle that cannot be won.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:58 pm 
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Battle?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:54 pm 
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Well, I think this has been a fine discussion [thus far]! It was certainly stimulating to me. I think that we can all agree on certain principles:
1. Rubato is intrinsic to human-performed music, and will always be a desired characteristic in music.
2. As per No.1, this is one characteristic that results in unique interpretations of works, which is also a desired result in music.
3. As with any other component of aesthetics, there shall always be differing opinions as to what is beautiful and what is not.
4. The pursuit of beauty is fun :D

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:44 pm 
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And a civil discussion at that, which is always a good thing.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:03 pm 
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Terez wrote:
Battle?

A losing battle

Yes: when one is dealing not with facts which can be proved but with opinions, each of us will in the end remain steadfast.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:20 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
It is a battle that cannot be won.
and
richard66 wrote:
And a civil discussion at that, which is always a good thing.


Hmm, Richard, a little dissocciated are we? :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:09 pm 
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My thoughts exactly. :wink: As for facts, most of Chopin's students are in agreement on his feelings about rubato, which is why I referenced Eigeldinger. I could type some of them out if anyone is interested.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:03 pm 
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It might be interesting, yes, to know what his thoughts were on rubato. Just do not make too much trouble for yourself if they are too long.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:06 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
richard66 wrote:
It is a battle that cannot be won.
and
richard66 wrote:
And a civil discussion at that, which is always a good thing.


Hmm, Richard, a little dissocciated are we? :lol:


Not really, because I was thinking of the expression, losing battle, not of any fight, verbal of physical. If you could kindly cite me an equivalent expression I will surely rephrase what I said.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:55 pm 
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I came across this discussion, which might be interesting. I happen to belong to that forum, though I only posted once a couple of years ago and no one ever bothered to reply.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:27 am 
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richard66 wrote:
It might be interesting, yes, to know what his thoughts were on rubato. Just do not make too much trouble for yourself if they are too long.

Some are a little long, but I type quickly so it's no big deal. I get to practice tonight, though, so I will have to type them later (maybe when I get home).

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:32 pm 
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I am on the train and listening to Carlos Antonio Jobim sung by Gilberto (love this) in order to clear my head and calm my nerves after a busy day
at the office, and I just thought of our rubato discussion. Very often Gilberto sings something like two or three beats ahead of the accompaniment.. Is that rubato too?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:36 am 
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pianolady wrote:
Very often Gilberto sings something like two or three beats ahead of the accompaniment.. Is that rubato too?
Na. That's just a singer that can't read music. :P

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:49 am 
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musical-md wrote:
pianolady wrote:
Very often Gilberto sings something like two or three beats ahead of the accompaniment.. Is that rubato too?
Na. That's just a singer that can't read music. :P

Maybe it's a singer who can read music but chooses not to. Some of them are gentlemen ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 3:33 am 
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Well, whatever you call it, I'm glad I don't have to lip-sync those songs. It would probably come off like the old King Kong vs. Godzilla movies where the mouth moves and then a second later you hear the voice. :lol:

p.s. Alexander, I don't get the gentlemen thing...

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:57 am 
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pianolady wrote:
Well, whatever you call it, I'm glad I don't have to lip-sync those songs. It would probably come off like the old King Kong vs. Godzilla movies where the mouth moves and then a second later you hear the voice. :lol:

p.s. Alexander, I don't get the gentlemen thing...

I didn't either :oops:

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:32 am 
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From Eigeldinger, Chopin: Pianist and Teacher (an indispensable book for the Chopin-lover; keep in mind this is only a small tidbit from the book). I will also give the footnotes since they are so instructive.

Streicher via Niecks wrote:
[Chopin] required adherence to the strictest rhythm, hated all lingering and dragging, misplaced rubatos, as well as exaggerated ritardandos. 'Je vous prie de vous asseoir' [Pray do take a seat] he said on such an occasion with gentle mockery.

Mikuli wrote:
In keeping time Chopin was inexorable, and some readers will be surprised to learn that the metronome never left his piano. Even in his much maligned tempo rubato,[92] the hand responsible for the accompaniment would keep strict time, while the other hand, singing the melody, would free the essence of the musical thought from all rhythmic fetters, either by lingering hesitantly or by eagerly anticipating the movement with a certain impatient vehemence akin to passionate speech.
Note 92, Eigeldinger wrote:
Of those who heard Chopin play, rarely did any criticize his rubato. Those who did were non-Poles: Berlioz (see p. 272) (below) who was little of a pianist and whose symphonic aesthetic was quite contrary to Chopin's, and Mendelssohn (see p. 267) (below) who expressly declared allegiance to a more metrical conception. Moscheles's sudden change of mind (see note 97) is significant; he recognized, though, that Chopin's music in the hands of other players could well degenerate into mere lack of rhythm [Taktlosigkeit]. We know how much any such accusation irritated Chopin if directed against himself (see Peruzzi/Niecks, p 339). The quotations reproduced here concerning Chopin's rubato all reject this accusation and come from the most reliable pupils.

In fact, Mikuli is referring here to generations of pianists subsequent to Chopin's; victims of a pseudo-tradition, they submitted his music to agogic distortions in the name of the vague and convenient term 'rubato'. This practice was in vogue from before the second half of the nineteenth century up to the 1930s. The statements where Chopin's pupils denounce such abuses - which Chopin was accused at the time of having fathered - all date from that period: Streicher (around 1879), Mikuli (1879), Mathias (1897), Viardot/Saint-Saëns (1910). Kleczyński - a pupil of some of Chopin's pupils - reacted similarly in 1880. It was only with the gradual return to respecting the letter of scores (which carries its own dangers), from the years 1930–1940 or so, that this type of pseudo-rubato disappeared from most playing.
Berlioz via Eigeldinger p272 wrote:
Chopin was impatient with the constraints of meter; in my opinion he pushed rhythmic independence much too far [...] Chopin could not play in time.
Mendelssohn via Eigeldinger p267 wrote:
...as a pianist Chopin is now one of the greatest of all - doing things as original as Paganini does on the violin, and bringing about miracles that one would never have believed possible. Hiller too is a remarkable player, vigorous with a touch of coquetry. Both, however, labor somewhat under the Parisian tendency of overdoing passion and despair, and too often lose sigh of calm, discretion and the purely musical; I on the other hand perhaps do this too little - and so we all three supplemented and, I believe, learned from each other... (Letter to his mother, Düsseldorf, 23 May 1834)

Viardot via Saint-Saëns wrote:
Through Mme Viardot [...] I learned the true secret of tempo rubato [... where] the accompaniment holds its rhythm undisturbed while the melody wavers capriciously, rushes or lingers, sooner or later to fall back upon its axis. This way of playing is very difficult since it requires complete independence of the two hands;[93] and those lacking this give both themselves and others the illusion of it by playing the melody in time and dislocating the accompaniment so that it falls beside the beat; or else - worst of all - content themselves with simply playing one hand after the other.[94] It would be a hundred times better just to play in time, with both hands together.

Pauline Viardot was a famous singer, Chopin's favorite, and also a pianist and sometimes student of his. As for this playing one hand after the other thing - I listened to Lang Lang playing Chopin 27/2 recently (a different performance than the one I was looking for), and he does this sometimes. Very annoying. Also, for those who think this type of rubato is specific to only one composer (Chopin), it appears as though Saint-Saëns at least related to it quite well from the above quote. See note 95 for a quote from Mozart also supporting it, and Chopin recommended playing Weber's music in this way in the next quote (after the footnotes).

Note 93, Eigeldinger wrote:
This independence of the two hands, aiming at a complex complementarity, is one of Chopin's characteristic traits. It cannot be fortuitous that he chose to be represented in the Fétis-Moscheles Méthode des méthodes [1840] by three Etudes of which two are based on polymetric principles: the first (F minor) with threes against fours and the third (A-flat) with threes against twos. The [Fantasie-]Impromptu Op. 66 offers a juxtaposition of these two systems through its constituent sections; similarly the Etude Op. 25/2 is based entirely on 'rhythmic exchanges'. Similar ideas occur at bars 249-72 and 849-75 of the Scherzo op. 54, as also in the Waltz op. 42, which Lenz called 'the most typical embodiment of Chopin's rubato style'.

I hadn't previously read this footnote. ^^ It's nice to see an echo of my own thoughts here.

Note 94, Eigeldinger wrote:
This practice, criticized by Saint-Saëns, is clearly recognizable in the recordings of 'renowned' Chopin players of the time, notably Leschetizky, Pugno, Pachmann, Friedman and, to a lesser extent, Paderewski and Maurycy [Moritz] Rosenthal.

Hey, that's our great-great grandteacher there! (Many of us, if I recall.)

Mathias wrote:
Everyone knows that rubato is an indication often encountered in old music;[95] its essence is fluctuation of movement, one of the two principal means of expression in music, namely the modification of tone and of tempo, as in the art or oration, whereby the speaker, moved by this or that emotion, raises or lowers his voice, and accelerates or draws out his diction. Thus rubato is a nuance of movement, involving anticipation and delay, anxiety and indolence, agitation and calm; but what moderation is needed in its use, and how all too often it is abused! [...] There was another aspect: Chopin, as Mme Camille Dubois explains so well, often required simultaneously that the left hand, playing the accompaniment,[96] should maintain strict time, while the melodic line should enjoy freedom of expression with fluctuations of speed. This is quite feasible: you can be early, you can be late, the two hands are not in phase; then you make a compensation which reestablishes the ensemble. In Weber's music, for example, Chopin recommended this way of playing. He often told me to use it, it's as though I still hear him: in the Sonata in A flat [op. 39], in the A flat passage of the agitato in the Concertstück [Op. 79, first movement bars 57ff]...
Note 95, Eigeldinger wrote:
Tempo rubato: stolen time. Although this expression first appears in 1723 in the treatise by Tosi (Bolognese theoreticial of bel canto), the musical reality which it reflects can be traced back at least to the beginnings of accompanied monody in Italian humanist circles. The following postulates emerge from Tosi's seminal writings for the intelligent use of the singer in particularly expressive passages [mostly in slow tempi] in various pieces [recitatives, arias, ariosi], rubato is a system of compensation whereby the value of a note may be prolonged or shortened to the detriment or gain of the succeeding note. This metric 'larceny' is best applied to improvised ornaments [taking the sense of the words into account as much as the music] over the imperturbable movement of the bass (underlined by Tosi). It results from counterpoint between the solo line and the bass line and is characterized, vertically speaking, by moments of metric displacement between the two parts; it is left to the singer's discretion to use it with moderation, according to the rules of good taste. Here we have the pure tradition of Italian Baroque bel canto, linked with the art of improvising suitable ornaments, and deriving from theory of affetti.

Bel canto, dominant in Europe at the end of the seventeenth and above all the eighteenth century, was transposed together with the art of rubato into the domain of instrumental music in its chamber, concertante and solo genres. Thus it came to be codified fairly accurately in the important instrumental treatises of the period: C.P.E. Bach for the keyboard, Leopold Mozart for the violin, and Quantz for the transverse flute. Wolfgang Mozart, who had been well schooled, proudly related to his father (Augsburg, 24 October 1777): 'They all are amazed that I play accurately in time. They can't grasp that in tempo rubato in an Adagio the left hand goes on unperturbed; with them the left hand follows suit'. If this independence of the hands is applied to some places in the B minor Adagio (K540), the adagio sections of the Fantasies in D minor (K397) and C minor (K 475), the various reprises in the A minor Rondo (K 511) or even to some slow movements in the sonatas and concertos, one can feel how closely Mozart anticipated Chopin!

This tradition was maintained in the instrumental field well into the Classical era, and codified once again by Türk in 1789. Tempo rubato, still very much alive in Romantic bel canto (and, exceptionally, in Paganini's Concertos - Chopin heard him in 1829 when the latter gave ten concerts in Warsaw) was, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, gradually supplanted in instrumental music by larger-scale tempo fluctuations. The Frenchman Louis Adam, educated in the old tradition, observed: 'Some people have tried to start a trend of playing out of time, playing all genres of music like a fantasy, prelude or capriccio. It is thought to enhance the expression of a piece, while serving in effect to distort it beyond recognition. Naturally, expressivity requires certain notes of the melody to be slowed or quickened; however, these fluctuations must not be used continually throughout the piece, but only in places where the expression of a languorous melody or the passion of an agitated one demands a slower or a more animated pace. In this case it is the melody that should be altered, while the bass should strictly maintain the beat.' The notion of rubato is then confused with that of tempo ad libitum in pieces written in the free style. According to Schindler, Beethoven finally adopted the term rubato in this new and incorrect sense designating fluctuations of tempo. In 1828 Hummel denounced this latest practice: 'Lately several artists have been trying to replace natural feeling with manufactured feeling; as for instance [...] by slowing down the beat (tempo rubato) at every possible opportunity to the point of satiation.' Hummel, who was a pupil of Mozart, continues to recommend the use of traditional rubato in Adagios, but no longer designates it by this name.

Thus Chopin practiced and taught rubato in its traditional and original meaning, at a time when that practice was on the decline, if not already abolished, in other piano music. His attachment to the Baroque aesthetic may be explained by two factors: first, his training from Żynwy and Elsner, both products of the pre-Classical era and raised within Italianized circles (Prague and Vienna respectively); second, Chopin's own taste for bel canto, evident from in his adolescence on - we have seen how assiduously he frequented the Warsaw National Theater, where Italianism dominated as much through Rossini as through the operas of Kamieński and Kurpiński. One might add that the singing class at the Warsaw Conservatory was then directed by the Piedmontese teacher Carlo Soliva. Faithful to the aesthetic of his education, Chopin was to transmit it through his own teaching (whence the continual appearance of indications along these lines in the annotated scores of Mme Dubois).

For more information on Chopin's connections with Baroque and Classical rubato, see (a bunch of references).
Note 96, Eigeldinger wrote:
This assertion of course applies equally to the inverse case, when the melody is in the left hand and the accompaniment in the right. Amongst many examples can be mentioned the Etude op. 25/7, Prelude op. 28/6, Mazurka op. 7/3 (bars 56-73), Polonaise op. 26/1 (bars 66-82), Waltz op. 34/2 (principal motif and bars 169-88), etc.

Lenz wrote:
What characterized Chopin's playing was his rubato, in which the totality of the rhythm was constantly respected. 'The left hand,' I often heard him say, 'is the choir master [Kapellmeister]: it mustn't relent or bend. It's a clock. Do with the right hand what you want and can.'[97] He would say, 'A piece lasts for, say, five minutes, only in that it occupies this time for its overall performance; internal details [of pace within the piece] are another matter. And there you have rubato.'[98]
Note 97, Eigeldinger wrote:
Chopin was fond of this metaphor and used it often. It appears with small variants or commentaries in the following texts:

—Lenz
—Peruzzi/Niecks
—Kleczyński
—Dubois/Kleczyński
—Franchomme, Potocka, Czartoryska/Planté
—Franchomme/Picquet/Anonymous
—Mikuli/Koczalski
—Alkan/Bertha
—Karasowski

Mme Peruzzi recalls Chopin 'calling his left hand his maître de chapelle and allowing his right to wander about ad libitum.' This corresponds precisely to the impression received by Moscheles (who had a more fundamentally metric conception) on first hearing Chopin: 'His ad libitum playing, which with other interpreters of his music tends to degenerate into a mere lack of rhythm [Taktlosigkeit], in his hands is the most graceful and original feature of the discourse [...] one feels drawn as by a singer who, unpreoccupied with the accompaniment, completely follows his or her feelings'.
Note 98, Eigeldinger wrote:
This text and the preceding one (Mathias) are of prime importance. Originating from Chopin's students, they are the only ones that let us assume that his rubato took two different forms, by no means mutually exclusive. Kleczyński was of this opinion (see above), followed recently by Higgins. I share this view, with the added nuance that a third component of Chopinian rubato is derived from the mobile rhythm of the Mazur. The first type of rubato, descended from the Italian Baroque tradition, has been discussed in note 95; it occurs principally in works with broad cantilenas. The second, more common type consists of fleeting changes of pace relative to the basic tempo; these agogic modifications may affect a whole section, period or phrase, slowing down or accelerating the flow depending on the direction of the music. This rubato is to be applied not arbitrarily but as a function of the musical texture and the basic laws of declamation. These agogic fluctuations are called rubato by extension only, since they affect the musical structure from top to bottom, not merely the melodic line. It is not unusual for these nuances of tempo to be specified in Chopin's music. Thus the section sof the Waltz op 64/2 are differentiated by the indications tempo giusto - più mosso - più lento - più mosso - tempo I - più mosso. Within a section the tempo is also to be progressively accelerated, then slowed down, by the indications agitato - sempre più mosso - calando - smorz. - riten. (Ballade op. 23, bars 40-67) - similarly within a musical period by the complementary copuled indications stretto - riten. (Etude op. 10.3 bars 7-8, 15-16) or poco riten. - accel. (Polonaise op. 26/2 bars 1-6 and similar). The coda of the Mazurka op. 24/4 is a remarkable example of progressive rallentando specified by riten. - calando - mancando - sempre rallent. - smorzando (bar 129 to end). (On the subject of his musical editing, we may note the growing scarcity of agogic and other expressive markings from op. 25 onwards, as discussed in note 99 below.)

The above considerations merely distinguish the two basic types of rubato employed by Chopin; they cannot by any means convey all the subtle flexibility of movement in his playing, of which we know only that it was conditioned by an acute awareness of the length of the piece and by an internal logic commanding the tempo nuances in relation to the basic pulse.

Koczalski's explanation of rubato - although he himself mastered it to perfection - is unconvincing, which is why it is not quoted here.

Mikuli via Michałowski wrote:
How did Chopin understand rubato? Was it synonymous with complete freedom and arbitrariness of rhythm, or was it just the expression of a living undulation of tempo which avoided exact coincidence with the strict metric framework [...] Mikuli, on the basis of his personal reminiscences, answered as follows:

Chopin was far from being a partisan to metric rigor and frequently used rubato in his playing, accelerating or slowing down this or that theme. But Chopin's rubato possessed an unshakeable emotional logic. It always justified itself by a strengthening or weakening of the melodic line, by harmonic details, by the figurative structure. It was fluid, natural; it never degenerated into exaggeration or affectation.

Kleczyński wrote:
[...] rubato is never a defect in the time; the idea of rhythm, and consequently of the relative value of the notes, must never be lost, apparent changes and momentary incongruities notwithstanding. I shall now give the result of my own reflections on the rubato of Chopin:

1. Precise rules for it cannot be given, because a good execution of the rubato requires a certain musical intuition, that is to say, a certain particular talent.

2. Every rubato has for its foundation the following idea: each musical thought contains moments in which the voice should be raised or lowered, moments in which the tendency is to retardation or acceleration. The rubato is only the exaggeration or bringing into prominence [of] these different parts of the thought: the shadings of the voice make themselves more marked, the differences in the value of notes more apparent. Hence there arises in the mind an image of the musical thought more full of vitality and of poetry, but always in accordance with law and order [...] We in all cases borrow the time from notes of smaller importance for the purpose of giving it to the principal notes.

Liszt wrote:
In his playing the great artist [Chopin] rendered most exquisitely that kind of agitated trepidation, timid or breathless [...] He always made the melody undulate like a skiff borne on the breast of a powerful wave; or sometimes he made it hover like an airy apparition suddenly sprung up in this tangible and palpable world. In his writings, he at first indicated this way of playing - which gave such an individual stamp to his virtuosity - by the term 'tempo rubato': stolen, broken time - a rhythm simultaneously supple, abrupt and languid, vacillating like the flame under the breath that agitates it, like the corn in the field waving under the soft pressures of the warm air, like the tops of trees bent hither and thither by a strong breeze.

But as the term taught nothing to whoever already knew, and said nothing to those who did not know, understand, and feel, Chopin later ceased to add this explanation to his music,[99] persuaded that if one had the sense of the music, it would be impossible not also to divine this rule of irregularity. Also, all his compositions must be played with that kind of speech-like, accented lilt, that softness [morbidezza], the secret of which it was difficult to grasp if one had not often heard him play in person. He seemed to wish to teach this style of playing to his numerous pupils, especially his compatriots to whom, more than to any others, he wanted to communicate the breath of his inspiration.[100]
Liszt via Niecks wrote:
'Look at these trees!' [Liszt] said, 'the wind plays in the leaves, stirs up life among them, the tree remains the same, that is Chopinesque rubato.'
Note 99, Eigeldinger wrote:
Chopin ceases in effect to mark the word 'rubato' from op. 24 onwards. (This goes with a parallel progressive decrease in indications of mood or character and metronome markings, very frequent and diversified in his early works, but thereafter tending towards an increasing sobriety visible at all levels of Chopin's musical editing.) Liszt's explanation is convincing: doubtless Chopin realized that the word was insufficient to convey his intentions and could be misleading to his contemporaries - who did indeed criticize his attempts to notate 'to a certain extent' some aspects of 'his rubato' (see Le Pianiste, 1834-1835, pp. 78-9, on the subject of his op. 15).

But what meaning (or meanings) does this word have in the thirteen compositions in which it occurs? Does it refer to the Italian vocal tradition, as Kamieński maintains? - or, as Kreutz believes, to both the types described in note 98 above, according to the context? Or rather, as Jadwiga and Marian Sobiescy believe, does it emphasize the mobile agogic rhythm derived from Polish folk melodies? To attempt an answer to this thorny question we have to examine the musical contexts and genres in which this notation is used.

With the exception of the G# minor Polonaise [without op. no., c. 1823], where the term is used improperly in the final cadences of bars 12 and 27 to indicate an approaching senza rigore, the term 'rubato' occurs in two broad types of context:

1a - At the beginning of a piece (opp. 15/3; 24/1; 67/3 - in the last case according to the Fontana edition, the manuscript being lost).
1b - At the beginning of a new motif which is to direct the piece towards the final cadence (op. 9/2 bar 26).
2a - At the repetition of a phrase or half-phrase (op. 6/1 bar 9; op 6/2 bar 65; op. 7/1 bar 49; op. 7/3 bars 17 and 93; op. 21, finale, bar 173; op. 24/2 bar 29).
2b - In the second half - last four bars - of a phrase (op. 8, first movement, bars 22-4 and 159-61; op. 16 bar 132; op 21, finale, bar 157).

As for the genre of compositions featuring this notation, a good three-quarters of these works are genres connected with Polish folk music. Concerning tempo, all the above-mentioned pieces are in a quick tempo with the exception of the Nocturnes op. 9/2 and 15/3 and Mazurkas op. 24/1 and 67/3. These last three pieces are marked rubato at the first bar; thus placed, the indication applies to the entire piece or at least to its first section. It therefore concerns agogic fluctuations, the second type of rubato described in note 98. As for op. 9/2, a perfect example of bel canto adapted to the piano, it arises out of the Italian tradition: even if the rubato here is applicable to various other points in the same piece, it belongs essentially to one particular phrase of a more pathétique character - to use Tosi's own words. This definition also applies logically to the above-mentioned passages of the Trio op. 8, the Rondo op. 16 and the Concerto op. 21, even though all of these are in a quick tempo: underneath the piano melody, the violin and 'cello parts, or the orchestral parts, bear no mention of rubato but keep the beat. At the same time, the passages marked rubato in op. 21 derive directly from the Mazur and so relate also to categories 2a and 2b, of pieces inspired by the mobile rhythm of Polish folk music. In each case Chopin took the trouble to notate a 'rhythmic rubato' in the melodic line; thus the term 'rubato' serves there merely to underline the precise flexibility required for these subtle nuances. This type of 'national' rubato, the third component of Chopinian rubato, is by no means incompatible with that derived from the Italian Baroque: the best Polish folk musicians, in monodic chants, employ the compensatory system (lengthening or shortening one note value to the detriment or gain of the next), while stamping a strict triple meter with the foot. This brings one final point: of the twelve compositions examined, nine are in triple time (op. 8 is in 4/4, op. 9/2 in 12/8 and op. 16 in 2/4); moreover, the nocturne op. 15/3 features many folkloric characteristics (see p. 153, note 187). This supports an argument in favor of this 'national' rubato having been instinctively applied by Chopin, harmoniously combined in his music with the other two types, each in its context.

If, then, Chopin's rubato may be seen to take diverse meanings, when he marks it explicitly it seems to be the 'national' element that takes precedence. As for the Italian tradition, it evidently applies to works with a broad cantilena, as much in slow tempi as in more restless fiery passages. It is easy to conclude from this that Chopin, after op. 24, renounced the use of a term which he would have had to employ constantly without the slightest assurance of his intentions being correctly understood.
Note 100, Eigeldinger wrote:
Altogether Liszt's poetic evocation alludes to the Italian vocal tradition adapted to the piano by Chopin. This is confirmed in an excerpt from Lachmund's diary (p. 62, on the subject of the sixth of Liszt's Consolations): 'On this occasion [Liszt gave us] an important insight into the Lisztian rubato, consisting of subtle variations of tempo and expression within a free declamation, entirely different from Chopin's give-and-take [Eilen und Zögern]. Liszt's rubato is more a sudden, light suspension of the rhythm on this or that significant note, so that the phrasing will above all be clearly and convincingly brought out. While playing, Liszt seemed barely preoccupied with keeping in time, and yet neither the aesthetic symmetry nor the rhythm was affected.'

Towards the end of his description Liszt singles out the Polish students to whom Chopin devoted the greatest care; this might also suggest that Liszt was equally aware of the mobile rhythm of Polish folk music as a component of Chopin's rubato. In fact Chopin readily affirmed that the purely national aspects of his playing and his music tended to escape foreigners: 'When one of his French pupils played his works to the approval of the listeners, Chopin would often remark that the performance had indeed been good but that the Polish element and the Polish inspiration were lacking' (Karasowski). This is corroborated by Marie Roubaud: 'He often said that French did not understand his Mazurkas, and that one had to be Polish to feel the subtleties of the national rhythm, and to render the proper local color' (Ganche). This is vividly illustrated, too, by Chopin's dispute with Meyerbeer, and by Hallé's and Moscheles's astonishment at the rhythm Chopin imparted to the Mazurkas.

Some references are omitted or truncated.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:25 am 
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Herculean (mouse wheels sigh at your posts :lol: )! And thank you for those snatches. So, since words cannot really give us back what Chopin really did at the piano, what are the closest aural documents to Chopin's pianism? Saint-Saens's?

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:32 am 
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alf wrote:
Herculean (mouse wheels sigh at your posts :lol: )! And thank you for those snatches. So, since words cannot really give us back what Chopin really did at the piano, what are the closest aural documents to Chopin's pianism? Saint-Saens's?

Again, I'm not so sure that there is such a thing. We can only read what his students and contemporaries said about his playing, take the historical meaning of the term into consideration (which Eigeldinger has done quite well for us, I think), and make our own decisions. The same goes for any aspect of HIP where there is no audio documentation of the original source...and even when there is, such as in the cases of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich (whom we have discussed before, if I recall), we might choose another path. IMO, it's good to be informed regardless, which is what all that typing was for.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:20 am 
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This is a good quantity of reading matter; thank you for your trouble! I shall digest it, but I already have seen things I had arrived at already.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:28 am 
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Terez wrote:
alf wrote:
Herculean (mouse wheels sigh at your posts :lol: )! And thank you for those snatches. So, since words cannot really give us back what Chopin really did at the piano, what are the closest aural documents to Chopin's pianism? Saint-Saens's?

Again, I'm not so sure that there is such a thing. We can only read what his students and contemporaries said about his playing, take the historical meaning of the term into consideration (which Eigeldinger has done quite well for us, I think), and make our own decisions. The same goes for any aspect of HIP where there is no audio documentation of the original source...and even when there is, such as in the cases of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich (whom we have discussed before, if I recall), we might choose another path. IMO, it's good to be informed regardless, which is what all that typing was for.


Ha, that's always been my point. You're echoing some observations I've made myself in the past! Nevertheless, I believe that Saint-Saens's playing cannot be far from Chopin's. Too bad he didn't record anything by our Freddie.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:47 am 
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alf wrote:
Terez wrote:
alf wrote:
Herculean (mouse wheels sigh at your posts :lol: )! And thank you for those snatches. So, since words cannot really give us back what Chopin really did at the piano, what are the closest aural documents to Chopin's pianism? Saint-Saens's?

Again, I'm not so sure that there is such a thing. We can only read what his students and contemporaries said about his playing, take the historical meaning of the term into consideration (which Eigeldinger has done quite well for us, I think), and make our own decisions. The same goes for any aspect of HIP where there is no audio documentation of the original source...and even when there is, such as in the cases of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich (whom we have discussed before, if I recall), we might choose another path. IMO, it's good to be informed regardless, which is what all that typing was for.

Ha, that's always been my point. You're echoing some observations I've made myself in the past!

Am I? It's possible. I dug out the emails I had in mind, and what you said there (if you'll forgive me for quoting such a small innocuous bit) is 'I don't know if one should play Chopin in strict or loose tempo (ie: in an agogically more or less free way), and I believe nobody really knows.' I think we know, or at least that we know enough - we just don't necessarily have an accurate model for that type of performance in Mikuli's students (nor would we necessarily have an accurate model in Mikuli himself). To say that we don't know is IMO to take it one step too far; we do know something about it.

Alfie wrote:
Nevertheless, I believe that Saint-Saens's playing cannot be far from Chopin's. Too bad he didn't record anything by our Freddie.

You might be right. I don't believe I've ever heard him play; I'll have to find some recordings.

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 Post subject: Re: That 2-layered rubato thingy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:40 pm 
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I listened to some Saint-Saëns recordings. He seems to favor toccata-like tempo fluctuations in his own music, sometimes at a schizophrenic pace, which is definitely not the type of rubato he described IMO (for example, Rhapsodie d'Auvergne). It's not that he can't keep a strict tempo - he does so for the most part in the Marche Francais, with the exception of a couple of sectional tempo changes and a few affective fluctuations. His hands always seem to move together.

It may be that Viardot imparted the 'secret' to him by having him accompany her. He kept the time, and she demonstrated the rubato. I think it's a little easier to pull off in this context because the singer doesn't have to execute the accompaniment - only keep up with it. It's worth mentioning that Viardot arranged some of Chopin's mazurkas for voice, and that he approved of them by all appearances.

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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