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 Post subject: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:39 pm 
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I moved the recorder away from the piano, stopped the cuckoo, expelled wife and child, sealed the windows and walked on tiptoe while doing this first of Schumann's Scenes of Childhood and I even managed to get a full take without messing it all up. :D Or maybe I did, but in a subtle way. :P

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:07 pm 
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It is amazing that you can record a piece whilst walking around on tiptoe :P

This is thoughtfully and noteperfectly played, but rather wooden and metronomic, conceived more as a sequence of notes than
as an ebb and flow of music. Your pedal usage is very judicious, never causing an ugly blur. Some of the pauses between sections seem
just a little too long. The one thing that irritates me in this recording is your habit of coming in slightly early with the next bar (prime examples at 0:17, 0:44 and the very last bar). This is something that IMO you really need to watch out for. When in doubt, rather come too late than too early.
I'd liked to have heard more of the two-bar phrasing (just a little air between vars 2 and 3 and similar places), and of the diminuendi at the end of the sections, which are the only dynamics in this piece and therefore should be made the most of. I do not hear much of the ritardando in bars 12-15, and although no ritardando is specified for the ending, I think one would have been appropriate. As a last observation, this is overall much too slow. It says 108 to the quarter in my Peters score, which surely must be a mistake. The editor (Emil Sauer) suggests 80 which sounds plausible. I think you are below 50.

Sorry to be rather critical here. You do have a good basis here but this will need a bit more attention to detail. Easy pieces are so deceptive ! There's nowhere to hide, and no excuses can be made. But they offer great opportunity for refining your playing.

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:44 pm 
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I forgot to mention: I also had to shoot two or three workmen!

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:14 pm 
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Hi Richard,

I just listened to "Of Foreign Lands and People". I believe that your playing demonstrates general accuracy, clean articulation, good tonal quality, adherence to rhythms, and well-timed, blur free pedaling. Despite all of that, I think that Chris's comment on it sounding metronomic and stiff is correct.

Here are the qualities that need to be added in my opinion: vitality, that is making the piece come off the page and to take on life; more varied tone quality and nuances; replacing the strict metronomic pulse with a sense of fluency; more attention to the rise and fall of phrasing based on the contours of the melodic line; more dynamic contrasts for variety; and definitely more FEELING based on your own imagination. This last point about feeling is hugely important in my opinion. I think of an interview featuring the great Russian baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. That he's a singer and not a pianist is highly relevant, as our job is to make the piano sing. Hvorostovsky remarked that his teachers didn't teach him how to sing, as he already knew that. Rather, they taught him how to feel. Musicality arises from interpretation, intent, and expressiveness in playing. So my thought here is that you need focus more on the musicality aspect at this point and the inner origins of that musicality.

This may be helpful. Everyone here takes a certain approach to practicing a new piece. I best know how I do it, so briefly comment here. While learning the notes, accents, fingering, dynamics, phrasing, fixing technical problems, etc., I practice in a mechanical way focused on accurate articulation--that is, with no particular regard for musicality. At the next phase, I start to bring some elements of musicality into my playing while not relinquishing the mechanical approach. In the final stage, I take all the analysis and mechanical preparation for granted and put it aside. I then transition into full musicality mode striving for artistic piano playing. Therein, it's the feelings, that Hvorostovsky discussed, that transform the charcoal drawing into a more colorful tone painting. The earlier mechanical phase cannot transform anything except to correct error-prone playing into accurate playing. Beyond that, it has no usefulness that I know of. In the end, it's the feelings that govern performance.

I hope this is helpful.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:31 pm 
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Hi Richard,
The best I can do today is ride on the coat-tails of Chris and David. It think I could not say it better than they have.

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:49 pm 
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In some ways I am happy this has been the reaction, as it seems that at least I have managed to reaquire precision, which is something I had quite lost since I stopped taking lessons and playing the gypsy around the world. It only seems musicality is still eluding me. I will not blame this is on the piano or on the workmen, rather it is lack of concentration and the fear of losing precision.

Maybe some day I will manage to record something precise and at the same time musical.

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:09 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
In some ways I am happy this has been the reaction, as it seems that at least I have managed to reaquire precision,

Yes you have. But I hope you acknowledge my point on being slightly too early with the next bar. Never under-estimate the last note of the previous bar ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:29 pm 
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Hi Richard,

Fear not! Once you achieve the desired precision, which you largely have now, it will be there in place for you. Or, if it should slip a bit, it's easily restored. As you concentrate on musicality, you will consciously be bending that precision that you so carefully achieved. The question on bending becomes: To what extent? The answer is a fine balance between metronomic and stiff playing versus expressive playing which at the other extreme trashes structure and can become idiosyncratic. You're actually seeking the path in the middle between those two ways of playing. Being on that path allows some tasteful liberties, expressive nuances not clearly indicated by the composer yet somehow implied, and allowing yourself to be present in the music without distorting the composer's intentions. I think in your recording today, you revealed with full clarity Schumann's map and I laud that. But now, through your imagination, instinct, inner feelings and expressiveness, you need not reproduce the map, but rather display the actual territory through your playing. It's difficult in varying degrees for every pianist, but I have no doubt at all that you can do it. Your biggest asset will always be your own judicious ears.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:53 am 
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techneut wrote:
richard66 wrote:
In some ways I am happy this has been the reaction, as it seems that at least I have managed to reaquire precision,

Yes you have. But I hope you acknowledge my point on being slightly too early with the next bar. Never under-estimate the last note of the previous bar ;)


Indeed, this is the one point where there precision is not perfect.

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:46 pm 
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Hello Richard,
Nothing to add to all those deep comments, except maybe an advice to listen some great renditions of this piece, as e.g. Clara Haskil's one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPFOrE8xtsY

How soft and poetical, isn't it ?
Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Schumann
PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 3:20 pm 
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Thank you for that link. I can but hope to emulate her playing, but not the sound of the piano. Though this link I arrived at Haskil's performance of Bach's e minor toccata, which was an interesting thing, as it is the first time in my life I have heard it complete and I have been playing it for 20 years now!

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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