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.
These clearly are not the best examples you could find (I understand they are probably the only ones available to you, though). There are slower pieces and more 'chopinesque' (I'm using that word very loosely), like an inner section of Mazurka Op.21 and IMO spectacularly the Valse nonchalante
, where you can really assess this kind of features. What I hear is a blend of agogical devices among which you can also tell a very subtle rubato technique that might resemble Chopin's rubato (e.g. bars 10-12 and in the second exposition, end of page 2 on, just to point you to something concrete)http://www.mediafire.com/?fvkc14ebaic4x0t http://22.214.171.124/files/imglnks/usi ... piano_.pdf
In a way I can see why you used that example. I think he still mostly uses hands-together rubato, though I can see some element of the 'steady accompaniment' rubato in the bars you indicated. His LH still gets a little off-kilter, though, don't you think? However...I found what appears to be a piano roll of Saint-Saëns doing some Chopin - the 15/2 nocturne
(they even include the quote
). Is that real? I'm guessing it is, since the style seems much the same. I don't understand the technology, so I'm not sure what the differences are between a roll and a recording. I've heard some rolls that were really horrible, but this one sounds like a good recording. He does keep tempo through most of it, though there are some exceptions. Overall I think he does well with not abusing rubato - particularly in the flourishes that accompany the return of A, which are often slowed down shamelessly - though IMO he doesn't display much independence of the hands.
To find an example for Joe, I started with the nocturne that began this whole conversation - the 48/2 nocturne in F# minor. I wanted to see if I could find anyone who kept time with the LH when the ornamental flourish shows up in m. 41.
This type of situation is where this type of rubato is most useful in my opinion. Perhaps especially for this piece (which is, perhaps not surprisingly, a bit of a polyrhythm exercise in itself). It's one of the most basic rules of composing that you should have rhythmic motion toward the end of the measure to keep the line from lulling, and Chopin took a (probably very deliberate) risk in writing the LH of this nocturne with no action on every second beat of the bass. Because of that, IMO the piece calls for a driving direction at times to keep it interesting, and the typical performance of m. 41 just adds an extra lull right as the passion is supposed to be building.Rubenstein
- He seems to try, but doesn't quite manage it.Gülsin Onay
- Nope, though she does achieve the independence of the hands sometimes. She overuses the hands-together rubato IMO, which makes her performance seem a bit drunken, but she at least shows herself quite capable of the 'two-layered' thing. The hands-together rubato just distorts the effect so much that it's not quite an example of what I had in mind.Pollini
- Nope. (Anyone surprised?)Lívia Rév
- Not bad! I think she almost manages it mostly because she played the ornament so fast, though (both times), not because she used rubato, so it's not a very good example of what I had in mind. It also doesn't come off as being very fluid - not the sort of relaxed indifference to the accompaniment that I imagine.Arrau
- Nope. Didn't even try.Biret
- Nope. She also seems to have some independence of the hands, but also abuses (IMO) hands-together rubato a little bit, and also abuses the concept of independence of the hands (I noticed this in her Chopin nocturnes before - IIRC it was worse in the E minor posthumous).Ekier
- Tries, like a good Pole, and almost succeeds. But not quite. Iddo Bar Shai
- Nope. What's funny, in the rest of his performance, you can see him trying to do the independence of the hands thing, and failing badly. I think this is probably a good example of how not to do it. He gets a little closer to keeping time through the ornament the second time...in general he does better in the return of A than in the first A-A.
I didn't dig too far into amateurland, but I might do that later. You never know; there might be an amateur with a knack for this, though even then there will probably be other difficulties.
Anyway, despite all these failures, I can still hear it in my head clear as day. The LH keeps trucking on, maybe even pushing a little, and the RH just goes with the flow, being essentially caught up by the beginning of the next measure, but still broad against the LH until the beginning of the next. I don't think it's impossible - I tried it with the metronome today, and while I didn't succeed on the first tr(ies), that won't stop me from trying again. (I bet Alfie could do it; it's just a matter of whether or not he would be inclined to try.) I've never really worked on this nocturne because I think that while it's easy on the surface - hence why I played through it occasionally when I was younger - the difficulties of it are subtle. Some think it's one of the weaker nocturnes from a compositional standpoint. I believe Chopin knew that when he published it; the weaknesses in it are the difficulties of it, and if one overcomes those difficulties it can be quite a beautiful piece.
[opinion=highly speculative]Aside from that, I think the nocturnes were always reflective of his romantic thoughts at the time of composition, whether they are actual romantic situations or just fantasies. This one seems to be George's nocturne - perhaps not her only one, but the one most reflective of their relationship from Chopin's perspective.[/opinion]