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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:27 pm 
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Hi Richard,

I believe that every pianist has an obligation to conscientiously read and learn the correct notes. That's a prerequisite. Having said that, it dismays me that note accuracy has seemingly become the "end all" of performance these days. (Like your Coombs example.) It's why we hear so much colorless piano playing devoid of expression and character. I call that sterile brand of playing "plain vanilla". The fingers are there to play the notes, but performance has to come from the score, the intent of the composer, the characterization, and the pianist's mind, heart and soul. It what separates mechanical playing from artistry.

I would agree with you that there is a difference from an accidental clinker and a repeated error due to a misread. We all dread the latter.

You have a point there that too many finger exercises for a young student might make the transition to playing pieces difficult in terms of expression. Thinking back to my first teacher, I recall that she'd assign a Hanon exercise from Parts I and II. So it was one at a time, while I was concurrently learning pieces too. Obversely, to consign a young student only to finger exercises is the wrong approach IMO. I would think it would kill the spirit or at least cause the student to dislike the piano. One thing I believe is essential though is that all serious students over years learn ALL scales in parallel motion for four octaves ascending and descending, major and relative minor. Same with arpeggios. The teacher should be able at that point to call out any key signature whereby the pianist immediately plays the proper scale. The reason is a very practical one--there are so many pieces that have scalar passages in them; therefore, if the student already knows the scale fingerings, it can often be a real advantage and time saver.

Up until Arthur Rubinstein was in his 40s, he was a sloppy pianist. He would be the first to admit that, and actually did so in his autobiography. His wake-up call was the advent of Horowitz on the concert stage. Prudently, Rubinstein left the lime lights for a period of time where he worked feverishly on technique and getting his recital and concerto readings up to a higher standard of performance. The rest was history. So in his much later years he was a better artist than in middle age, making appearance into his late 80s and a bit beyond. Even at that he could still make mistakes, as he was human, of course. But he had a worldwide loyal audience. He was a phenomenon, always in high demand.

David

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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:20 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
Hi Richard,

(...)

Up until Arthur Rubinstein was in his 40s, he was a sloppy pianist. He would be the first to admit that, and actually did so in his autobiography. His wake-up call was the advent of Horowitz on the concert stage. Prudently, Rubinstein left the lime lights for a period of time where he worked feverishly on technique and getting his recital and concerto readings up to a higher standard of performance. The rest was history. So in his much later years he was a better artist than in middle age, making appearance into his late 80s and a bit beyond. Even at that he could still make mistakes, as he was human, of course. But he had a worldwide loyal audience. He was a phenomenon, always in high demand.

David

This incidentally provws one point: that an adult can make the transition from a passable to a great pianist. So many people say that unless one starts one's career while still in nappies there is no hope.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:47 pm 
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Hi Richard,

Yes, there have been cases where one has arrived at the piano as a late teenager instead of being a 7-year old, and have succeeded in making a performance career. The problem is that the older the person is, it gets markedly and progressively more difficult to train the hands. I've seen a few people in their mid-30s taking up piano seriously, but as high as the motivation may be and as much as they try to play artistically, there is a certain stiffness or lack of suppleness and dexterity that causes stilted playing that is readily obvious to the listener. So I agree with your premise, but recognizing those parameters too.

Rubinstein's case was different. He started piano young enough and had excellent training from Dr. Barth in Berlin, but he lacked self-discipline in his earlier touring days. He would neglect practicing and be indifferent about the errors he made on stage. Once he got down to brass tacks, he became a renowned artist.

The other very common condition that has existed over the generations is what is sometimes called "low advanced block". That is to say, there are many pianists who reach lower advanced repertoire and play it very well. But they cannot, even with the best teachers, transition into upper advanced (virtuoso) playing. The syndrome has never been well understood. There might be several different causes--a psychological block, inability to cope with the demands of denser scores, lack of desire to invest the necessary time, or whatever else may be involved. But it is a cold reality.

David

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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:48 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
Hi Richard,

Yes, there have been cases where one has arrived at the piano as a late teenager instead of being a 7-year old, and have succeeded in making a performance career. The problem is that the older the person is, it gets markedly and progressively more difficult to train the hands. I've seen a few people in their mid-30s taking up piano seriously, but as high as the motivation may be and as much as they try to play artistically, there is a certain stiffness or lack of suppleness and dexterity that causes stilted playing that is readily obvious to the listener. So I agree with your premise, but recognizing those parameters too.

Rubinstein's case was different. He started piano young enough and had excellent training from Dr. Barth in Berlin, but he lacked self-discipline in his earlier touring days. He would neglect practicing and be indifferent about the errors he made on stage. Once he got down to brass tacks, he became a renowned artist.

The other very common condition that has existed over the generations is what is sometimes called "low advanced block". That is to say, there are many pianists who reach lower advanced repertoire and play it very well. But they cannot, even with the best teachers, transition into upper advanced (virtuoso) playing. The syndrome has never been well understood. There might be several different causes--a psychological block, inability to cope with the demands of denser scores, lack of desire to invest the necessary time, or whatever else may be involved. But it is a cold reality.

David

I would say it is self-confidence and mental stamina rather than suppleness. a child can walk on a tightrope because it does not realise it can fall, while an adult will be kept from trying just by the mere thought he might.

What I mean by mental stamina is the power to concentrate long enough on a piece so that no self-doubt creeps up. This is the case with me, at least: my hands never get tired and the arms hardly ever become tense, but it is the mind that falters and then I stumble. If this goes for others, I do not know.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:33 pm 
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Hi Richard,

I would agree that total concentration while practicing, including listening to every note, goes a long way in maximizing the benefits of practicing. Once spurious thoughts start interrupting the thought process, concentration is broken. It's time to stop practicing, as little more can be accomplished. In fact, persisting in practicing will only lead to more errors and frustration. It's far more productive to wait for the next practice session when total concentration can be reestablished anew.

Self confidence is also important as you point out. That seems to be the case, for example, in watching a 10 year old prodigy play the concert etudes of Liszt--nobody told him the music was difficult!

David

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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:30 pm 
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Just to chip in that I loved your performance of this. Pacing it with concentration and bringing out the voices is no mean feat here, and filling it with deep emotion as it deserves. Simply wonderful.

On the discussion on perfection in modern pianists I agree to a large extent. The now living pianist that I enjoy most is Sokolov. He does miss a note sometimes but it never matters.


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 Post subject: Re: Scriabin Prelude, Op. 16, No. 1 in B
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:05 pm 
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Hi troglodyte,

Thanks for listening to my recording (as usual, a single take without edits). Emotional content is often a huge component of interpretation, especially if it can match the emotion that the composer felt or had in mind. Scriabin wrote a great number of preludes as you know. Whenever I've selected some of them to bring to Piano Society, I've always looked for ravishing beauty in the music. If I can empathize with the composer, then the sweep, climaxes and nuances will bring the score to life. Thanks for your nice compliments on my playing! I greatly appreciate them.

Sokolov studied at the then Lenningrad Conservatory, so undoubtedly received the heritage of the Russian Old School, I'm sure. When he plays in the grand manner, a wrong or dropped note is insignificant.

I think too of the late Claudio Arrau. When he was elderly, he did not have quite the dexterity that he possessed as a younger man. But who else could create a world of color like his? In the scheme of things, a missed note was nothing.

David

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