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 Post subject: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 11:54 pm 
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One more piece of my current project. The Fantasy is my favorite large-scale Chopin work...I guess it's something about the variegated moods, the blend of passion, militance, defiance yet also lyricism and mystery in the slower parts. Also interesting to me is how well structured the piece is for a Fantasy, one of Chopin's most standard classical organizations. Part of the freedom for the performer seems to lie in doing the recurrences of the motifs a big differently each time.


Chopin - Fantasy Op. 49

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:45 pm 
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Thanks for this, the fantasy is also my favourite chopin and I played it many years ago. You go for an extremely personal interpretation with an enormous ferocity that is usually not heard in this work, and that makes it very interesting to listen to. But I do mind some of the excessive rubatos which can break the piece apart if you slow down too much when beginning a new phrase. Consider toning that down or using it more sparingly. The rubatos show the whole inner slow section in a completely different light, and while I'm not sure I would do it that way it certainly is a very interesting interpretation. But I was thrown off by the rhythm in the very beginning, the long notes sound too long.

Some of the RH runs have holes but these are fiendishly difficult to articulate at speed. They do not necessarily need to go that fast, though I understand what you are trying to convey here. You might experiment with playing them just a little bit slower and with a little bit more control, as you do in the infamous cascading octaves - that place really stumped me, no matter how much I practised I would miss too much when going full speed. Your choice there is a good one.

In all very valuable, thanks again!

Joachim


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:38 pm 
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Thanks, Joachim. Glad you enjoyed. I agree with all your criticisms except the one about the rubatos breaking apart the structure; I would actually argue the reverse: that this being a fantasy, they help connect the sections and bring the whole into greater focus. I agree, though, about the long notes at the beginning: I was trying to avoid what many seem to do, which is to rush or fail to give definition to the dotted rhythms; but on second listening I went too far in the other direction.

For me, the octaves aren't particularly difficult, but those rising triplets in the right hand are another matter -- for me, this is among the most difficult passages in all of Chopin. I was going for a feeling of anxiety and desperation but, as you noted, got a bit out of control.

Anyway, thanks again for the careful listening and the comments, which I will certainly take into account in revisiting this piece in the future.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:47 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
rubatos breaking apart the structure; I would actually argue the reverse: that this being a fantasy, they help connect the sections and bring the whole into greater focus.

OK - I agree this can be a matter of taste.

jlr43 wrote:
For me, the octaves aren't particularly difficult,

Got any practice tips for this? I tried hands separate extensively and that did not do me much good. For the final jump I still need to look at both hands!

jlr43 wrote:
those rising triplets in the right hand are another matter -- for me, this is among the most difficult passages in all of Chopin.

Amen. There is a danger of overstretching making fingers tense. I think the key is quick hand movements so that the fingers don't get too tired, really thinking about hand position, and trying to find points within the runs to relax. Practising with dotted rhythm works for me. Though I have to admit I never really succeeded as well as I would have wanted.

Joachim


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:18 am 
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Quote:
Got any practice tips for this? I tried hands separate extensively and that did not do me much good. For the final jump I still need to look at both hands!


Interesting...slow practice hands separately is definitely one of the things that helped me on these. I did that when I was first coming back to them -- especially for the left hand, which for some reason is a bit more difficult for me here (normally I actually find righthand octaves more difficult because of the lesser flexibility of the hand for a righthanded person). Another way I often practice difficult octave passages (and did a bit on these) is to practice the passage literally in steps, where I start by leaping first in groups of two a number of times, then three, etc., until I reach the total number of notes in the passage. I find that's a good way of reinforcing the strength and solidity of each wrist movement. Hopefully that makes sense -- it would, of course, be much easier to demonstrate at an actual piano :P

Quote:
Amen. There is a danger of overstretching making fingers tense. I think the key is quick hand movements so that the fingers don't get too tired, really thinking about hand position, and trying to find points within the runs to relax. Practising with dotted rhythm works for me. Though I have to admit I never really succeeded as well as I would have wanted.


For me, the difficulty is less about stretching and more about dexterity, so probably more in line with the point you make about hand position. I don't find the piece physically taxing per se (not like, say, Op. 10, No. 1, or the coda of the G minor ballade). But there's one main pattern in particular that I find devilishly difficult to consistently attain accuracy and solidity in and that occurs three times (the one that always occurs after the lyrical theme in double notes). Especially the second one right before the middle section. (In among the black keys, the pattern seems that much harder to me.) I agree that practicing with dotted and all kinds of rhythms can be very helpful -- I did a bit on some of these figurations and probably should have done more.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:52 am 
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Very interesting performance. There's a few things that troubled me, but some probably fall into the category of challenging my preconceptions rather than active problems. I agree with Joachim about the rubato: occasionally it is a bit disruptive to the flow of the argument. The ascending triplets are uneven in places; other than that it was pretty secure technically. There seemed to be some rather indulgent breaking of chords in the opening that I don't recall being in the score, but of course it may well have been played like that in the 19th century!

I think your performance ended up in a similar vein to mine when I played it in a concert several years ago (fwiw, your performance is better): namely it becomes quite easy, with a high-octane approach, for the piece to morph into quasi-Lisztian bravura. I don't know if this approach works; I certainly came to the retrospective conclusion that it hadn't in my performance. The B maj section was an effective counterpart. Basically - exciting, but is it Chopin? (and what is? - on the other hand, who wants to hear effete, mannered Chopin?)

In any case, I enjoyed listening, but came away not knowing "if I should"!


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:54 pm 
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Thanks, Andrew. Interesting comments. I hope you don't mind if I focus in detail on one of them.

Quote:
but is it Chopin? (and what is? - on the other hand, who wants to hear effete, mannered Chopin?)


The answer, of course, is that nobody knows, so I'll confess to being puzzled when so many modern critics keep illogically using phrases like "Chopin's [or insert composer] intentions," a locution that I think is simply erroneous. All we know is what he wrote in the score, which doesn't equate to an intention -- the latter of which constitutes little more than a thought in his head that he took to the grave. In fact, if a composer really possessed the omniscience to intend anything definitively himself (and Chopin was known to edit and change things constantly), I daresay his composition would constitute more the pedanticism of Kantian pure reason than true art. I'm not saying that a performer is free to disregard the score -- far from it. But I do believe that, after carefully considering all markings, an interpreter is free in the end to do otherwise given a thought-through justification. Not to mention that sometimes ideas just come to you in the moment, which is part of the excitement about music as the only art that exists in time. This is what interpretation and performance are all about. The performance is a sort of partnership, in time, between composer and performer.

An interesting side note about the Fantasy specifically is how sparsely notated the score is by comparison with some of his other works (even dynamic-wise) -- a sign, I believe, that in this case he was leaving many more individual liberties to the performer than usual (which would accord with the definition of "fantasy"). Of course, there are rarely indications regarding rubato one way or the other in Chopin or elsewhere (the mazurkas and some of Scriabin's preludes being two notable exceptions I can think of offhand).

There are two quotes (roughly paraphrased) from Josef Hofmann that IMO sum up the nature of interpretation: (1) "spontaneity is the soul of art" and (2) "a performance without risks taken is not a performance." I think this latter point is key because it stresses the need for inspiration and experimentation. Of course, in taking risks, sometimes one succeeds and sometimes one fails, but that is the nature of the beast (and sometimes even failures can be compelling). In playing it safe, one by definition is accomplishing nothing artistic. As for Hofmann, I believe he remains one of the greatest artists on record. As for the likes of Rubinstein, Pollini, and Kissin, whom many have called "ideal Chopinists" (as if such a hyperbolic category even existed), I've never understood what people see in their bland and faceless performances and I probably never will.

But anyway, I believe the decision of whether you enjoyed my performance or not is yours and yours alone. As Yoda might say, "there is no should."

Joe

P.S. I'd be interested in hearing your own take on the Fantasy if you set it to disc. Judging from some of your transcription recordings, the wrist stuff must be cake for you :)

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:52 am 
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Hi Joe,

I want to congratulate you on this accomplishment. I practiced this piece for awhile, but found that I was so limited by my narrow windows of practice time, that I gave up and put the piece away. The Fantasy has it's moments of difficulties, but you overcame them quite well. Your playing is exciting and expressive. There are a few minor places needing a bit more polish, but they didn't detract from the overall recording in my opinion.

Regarding Rubinstein, I can attest that when I saw him perform at Symphony Hall in Boston in the 1960s, he took risks that thrilled audiences in the sold out hall. His recordings are another story. It seemed as though in his Chopin Waltzes that he played with magic those that he loved, but it sounded as if he was sight-reading the ones that were not high on his list. Nonetheless, Rubinstein in recital played "in the grand manner" from the Golden Age. He could ennoble a piece such as this Fantasy. This is not unlike, for example, Bolet. In recitals he had everyone sitting on the edges of their seats, but in his recordings he seemed more cautious. Many great pianists have been criticized in the same way.

I believe that at this point, having had wonderful teachers, that you now study music directly with the great masters. In doing so, you can form your own sense of aesthetics based on your life experiences, including appreciating the fine and performing arts. It need not be Hegel, Kant or others. Nor does it come from "prevailing practice performances". Rather it's your own sense of aesthetics, meaning beauty. Part of this, related to piano, is listening to every note you play--which you obviously do. When you record yourself, audition the outtakes and find the one that best reflects your sense of aesthetics. That then becomes your standard for outstanding performance and/or recording. That will evolve a bit over time. In the end we all play for ourselves.

Thanks for sharing your recording here.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:23 am 
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Hi David,

Many thanks for your kind words and for your insightful contribution to the discussion. I've never heard Rubinstein play live (I'm a bit too young probably :) ), and I agree that there's often that extra bit of excitement and pizzazz that comes across in a live venue. However, I'm not sure that a live performance can add what's not already there; I think it can only enhance it if it is. I've listened to both live and studio recordings of Rubinstein's Chopin, and I haven't seen an appreciable difference in inspiration. I guess I'm just not seeing the spark alongside such other old-school greats as Cortot, Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Hofmann, Friedman, Gieseking, Long, Darre, Sofronitsky, Backhaus, or even Moiseiwitsch, Kapell, or Lipatti. I might disagree with much of what they do, but it's always individual. Since it's been a while, I listened to Rubinstein's Fantasy and a live performance of his F-sharp minor polonaise tonight, which IMO ranged from flabby in the first to pounded and opaque in the second. Bolet's another one, at least on recording, whose rep I just don't get -- self-consciously pretty and rounded off. But anyway, I also full well admit that maybe its just a blind spot of mine or that if I had heard either of them in a hall, as you did, I would have been bowled over. And perhaps you can further explain what I may be missing in Rubinstein. Are there any particular performances of his that come to mind that you can recommend?

Anyway, thanks again for listening to my performance.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:39 am 
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jlr43 wrote:
Quote:
but is it Chopin? (and what is? - on the other hand, who wants to hear effete, mannered Chopin?)


The answer, of course, is that nobody knows, so I'll confess to being puzzled when so many modern critics keep illogically using phrases like "Chopin's [or insert composer] intentions," a locution that I think is simply erroneous. All we know is what he wrote in the score, which doesn't equate to an intention -- the latter of which constitutes little more than a thought in his head that he took to the grave. In fact, if a composer really possessed the omniscience to intend anything definitively himself (and Chopin was known to edit and change things constantly), I daresay his composition would constitute more the pedanticism of Kantian pure reason than true art. I'm not saying that a performer is free to disregard the score -- far from it. But I do believe that, after carefully considering all markings, an interpreter is free in the end to do otherwise given a thought-through justification. Not to mention that sometimes ideas just come to you in the moment, which is part of the excitement about music as the only art that exists in time. This is what interpretation and performance are all about. The performance is a sort of partnership, in time, between composer and performer.


I thoroughly agree. There is a school of thought which dictates that "the performer is a conduit for the composer's intentions" and "the performance should be about the composer and not the performer". I completely disagree with this. With (for example) Chopin and Liszt we do have accounts of how they played, but the accounts are as seen through 19th-century eyes, not through 21st-century eyes, and thus are coloured accordingly. In the case of Liszt, we even have the absurd situation where people who attended his Weimar masterclasses have testified that he said (approximately) "if you have the technique to play (e.g. the Hungarian Rhapsodies) you have earned the right to tinker with the score" but yet such people believe in the absolute sanctity of what is on the printed page. With Chopin, I'm not convinced you should be doing such things (he is known to have been upset by Liszt altering his pieces on a whim, and such Liszt pieces are imo more inherently improvisational in genesis), but nonetheless there are limits as to what we can know of his true "intentions". We, as musicians, should be aware that the printed score is often an imperfect and inexact replication of the composer's thought processes. For example, it is impractical to notate the exact nature of a rubato indication, or the precise shaping of crescendi and decrescendi, and what might work well for one performer with their specific individual sound production may not work well for another. As you allude to, I feel a performance rendered from faithful attention to such exact markings would ultimately be an exercise in pedantry rather than music-making.

Also -

jlr43 wrote:
An interesting side note about the Fantasy specifically is how sparsely notated the score is by comparison with some of his other works (even dynamic-wise) -- a sign, I believe, that in this case he was leaving many more individual liberties to the performer than usual (which would accord with the definition of "fantasy").


- that is a pretty good argument in favour of your position.

jlr43 wrote:
As for the likes of Rubinstein, Pollini, and Kissin, whom many have called "ideal Chopinists" (as if such a hyperbolic category even existed), I've never understood what people see in their bland and faceless performances and I probably never will.


I retain a certain childhood affection for Rubinstein, Pollini I wouldn't choose to listen to in Chopin, and I absolutely cannot stand Kissin's sound. If I have one pianist I would listen to in Chopin before any other, it would probably be Samson Francois.

jlr43 wrote:
P.S. I'd be interested in hearing your own take on the Fantasy if you set it to disc. Judging from some of your transcription recordings, the wrist stuff must be cake for you :)


I can't see me returning to it in a hurry. When I was working on it, I found myself beginning to dislike the piece in rather a peculiar way (I'm actually very fond of it as music). It was for a recital programme which, objectively, was too heavy and too much for me at that point in time - add Alkan and some transcriptions - and I was completely overworked with the preparation, but I didn't like the uncomfortable feeling that I resented the music I was working on. I'm just more compatible with other pieces.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:22 pm 
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Quote:
With (for example) Chopin and Liszt we do have accounts of how they played, but the accounts are as seen through 19th-century eyes, not through 21st-century eyes, and thus are coloured accordingly.


Excellent point. This is what tends to happen as a natural result of history: a piece of information may have kernels of truith in it, but has become so hazy or been so misinterpreted over the years by being sifted through multiple layers of critics and commentators -- Mikuli, for example, in Chopin's case. For instance, I know Chopin had this idea of the melody being the free "chanteuse" and the bass being the "chef d'orchestre" that keeps strict time like a conductor. But then attached to this idea is the notion that the melody can just capriciously wander and do whatever it wants while the left hand keeps metronomically exact time (Mikuli is one who implies this). I just don't see how this is logically possible (I remember this was once discussed in a thread on this forum), since the bass and melody have to basically line up pretty well, with the left hand following -- else one would be at some junctures producing cacophanous sounds. Others have suggested that what this meant is that Chopin actually did do a lot of hand breaking by often slightly delaying the melodic note until after the bass note had sounded. To me, this whole issue seems like one of those things where we shouldn't really worry about such things, since the truth is so buried under reams of fictions and it's possible that Chopin himself may have been surprisingly convinced by certain things he wouldn't do if they were done in a convincing or compelling way.

Quote:
With Chopin, I'm not convinced you should be doing such things (he is known to have been upset by Liszt altering his pieces on a whim, and such Liszt pieces are imo more inherently improvisational in genesis)


I would agree in the sense that Liszt's music is more "performer's music" where some hyperbole and improvisatory experimentation are almost inherent elements of the composition. But I wonder whether it may depend on what is meant by "alterations" since I would take this to mean that he was actually changing notes or playing different music altogether in places, in which case I would agree with Chopin. I believe that Liszt, like Mozart, was known to do this with his own music (but of course shouldn't really have liberty to do it with others', especially when they were still alive!), given that such composers hate the labor of actually writing down notes and sometimes would play slightly different versions of their scores in public from concert to concert. However, if it's a case of playing different dynamics and touches here and there, I'd probably argue that Chopin was bit too uptight.

I'd further argue that once a composer releases his music to the world, he by definition forgos some of the control he'd have over it if he just kept it to himself and locked it up in his mind or the drawer. Rachmaninoff, for example, was known to be excited by Horowitz's ideas even if they differed from the score. Horowitz of course even sometimes altered hallowed scores like Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, arguing that Mussorgsky was not a good pianist (which is most likely untrue since by all accounts Mussorgsky was a very facile and able pianist -- I think it's more that Mussorgsky was no-holds-barred about the effects he wanted to create and didn't worry about pianistic comfortability a la Liszt). Many critics have scoffed at it, but I think it's very effective.

Of course I assume Chopin's pianistic style must have been the polar opposite of Liszt's, given their vastly different keyboard writing and type of musical content, so maybe sometimes he thought Liszt just had a totally wrong, too-bombastic conception of his music. But I would still wonder whether Chopin could sometimes tolerate certain deviations or even like them, provided he believed the performer was inspired and captured the overall spirit of his work.

Quote:
If I have one pianist I would listen to in Chopin before any other, it would probably be Samson Francois.


Interesting you mention him! I think Francois is a very idiosyncratic, unique pianist of the sort we've been talking about. There are many instances in which he may go overboard, but when he gets it right, wow! Love his Chopin waltzes in particular -- such puckish charm and elegance -- though I found his preludes strangely drab. But like Richter, even at his most drab, he's interesting -- has an original sound. Two performances of Francois's that really come to mind are the Winter Wind Etude and the Prokofiev Toccata. His French music (i.e., Debussy, Ravel) seems rather disappointing to me, though, too loud and notey. There, I've been preferring Thibaudet of late.

Out of curiosity, do you even prefer Francois's Chopin to Cortot's? Friedman's? Saperton's (for the etudes)?

Quote:
add Alkan and some transcriptions


On the subject of Alkan, are there any pieces you can particularly recommend? I admittedly haven't listened to much and confess I'm not thus far seeing why many now are considering his music to contain forgotten gems. I did like some of Michael Ponti's playing of some of the etudes in 12 major/minor keys, which look fabulously difficult on the page to the extent that I was terrified to even attempt reading through them. Do you play any of those?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:41 am 
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jlr43 wrote:

Quote:
With Chopin, I'm not convinced you should be doing such things (he is known to have been upset by Liszt altering his pieces on a whim, and such Liszt pieces are imo more inherently improvisational in genesis)


I would agree in the sense that Liszt's music is more "performer's music" where some hyperbole and improvisatory experimentation are almost inherent elements of the composition. But I wonder whether it may depend on what is meant by "alterations" since I would take this to mean that he was actually changing notes or playing different music altogether in places, in which case I would agree with Chopin. I believe that Liszt, like Mozart, was known to do this with his own music (but of course shouldn't really have liberty to do it with others', especially when they were still alive!), given that such composers hate the labor of actually writing down notes and sometimes would play slightly different versions of their scores in public from concert to concert. However, if it's a case of playing different dynamics and touches here and there, I'd probably argue that Chopin was bit too uptight.



There is evidence of Liszt having actually performed his own music, heavily amended, in the form of Henselt's written-out alterations for one of the operatic fantasies. There is also an anecdote, not dissimilar in spirit to your Horowitz/Mussorgsky comment, regarding an informal piano contest between Liszt and Mendelssohn, where they each played one of the other's pieces. In his letters, Liszt considered that Mendelssohn played the Liszt piece "abominably", whilst Mendelssohn wasn't impressed by the fact that his piece was spontaneously rearranged by Liszt played into a "concert version" (subtext being "this is how you would have written it, were you a better pianist").

jlr43 wrote:

Quote:
If I have one pianist I would listen to in Chopin before any other, it would probably be Samson Francois.


Interesting you mention him! I think Francois is a very idiosyncratic, unique pianist of the sort we've been talking about. There are many instances in which he may go overboard, but when he gets it right, wow! Love his Chopin waltzes in particular -- such puckish charm and elegance -- though I found his preludes strangely drab. But like Richter, even at his most drab, he's interesting -- has an original sound. Two performances of Francois's that really come to mind are the Winter Wind Etude and the Prokofiev Toccata. His French music (i.e., Debussy, Ravel) seems rather disappointing to me, though, too loud and notey. There, I've been preferring Thibaudet of late.

Out of curiosity, do you even prefer Francois's Chopin to Cortot's? Friedman's? Saperton's (for the etudes)?



I think I would listen to Friedman in the Mazurkas. Some pieces perhaps Cortot. Ultimately I'm not, I think, really a Chopinist, but I do think the fourth Ballade is probably the greatest piece of piano music ever written, and for that I would choose Francois. I'm not aware of Saperton's etudes recordings, merely peripherally aware of him having done the Chopin-Godowskys. I do have a guilty fondness for Cziffra's etudes, though in this case it just can't "be Chopin"; it's imo a fascinating and sometimes absurd look through Lisztian eyes. Of course there is Chopin's famous comment on how Liszt played his etudes; it always comes to mind in that context.

jlr43 wrote:

Quote:
add Alkan and some transcriptions


On the subject of Alkan, are there any pieces you can particularly recommend? I admittedly haven't listened to much and confess I'm not thus far seeing why many now are considering his music to contain forgotten gems. I did like some of Michael Ponti's playing of some of the etudes in 12 major/minor keys, which look fabulously difficult on the page to the extent that I was terrified to even attempt reading through them. Do you play any of those?


There are some miniatures which might go attractively onto a recital programme - various of the Esquisses, the Song of the Madwoman, the Andante transcription from Haydn's Surprise Symphony. Overall I much prefer the minor key etudes to the earlier major key ones and feel that some sort of blossoming took place between them. If I remember, the period between them was a point where Alkan went into seclusion. The masterpiece is imo the Symphonie (etudes 4-7 from the op 39, minor keys, set). I had a go at that a few years back and don't think I was quite ready for it; the last movement is an absolute killer. I've played op 39 no 12 (Le Festin d'Esope): at the time I thought I'd done quite well (it is insanely difficult) but in retrospect I was really rather approximate. It's a fantastic piece, but requires an enormous amount of work. Both the Symphonie and Festin I would very much like to return to, but my initial intention to rework them in his bicentenary year (ie 2013) became rather overtaken by events. I can't overstate just how challenging they are - maybe for a really top-notch conservatoire graduate/competition entrant they are eminently reasonable - but I put them in the same bracket as the Liszt Don Juan, and tbh harder than Islamey.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:58 pm 
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Quote:
think I would listen to Friedman in the Mazurkas.


Yes, I don't think it gets any better than that, though he gets some competition IMO from Sofronitsky and Rosenthal.

Quote:
but I do think the fourth Ballade is probably the greatest piece of piano music ever written, and for that I would choose Francois.


Interesting. I'll have to listen to Francois's Ballades again since it's been a while. I recall not particularly liking him on the First, but I don't really remember it that well. I agree that a strong case could be made for the 4th Ballade being the greatest piece of piano music ever written, although that probably wouldn't be my personal pick (probably would be Chopin's Preludes or Schumann's Carnaval when either is considered as a set).

Quote:
I'm not aware of Saperton's etudes recordings, merely peripherally aware of him having done the Chopin-Godowskys.


IMO these are some of the great recordings ever made, with Saperton being possibly the greatest piano technique on record. The lightness and clarity of his double thirds and winter wind may never have been matched by anyone, even Lhevinne. His performances of the Chopin-Godowskys are also marvelous performances that are uncanny in their voicing, although I'm less convinced by the pieces, which seem rather gauche and contrived to me (especially that "Badinage" combination of the black key and butterfly etudes). I do like the one based on nouvelle etude no. 2, though, and Saperton's playing of it is heavenly.

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I do have a guilty fondness for Cziffra's etudes, though in this case it just can't "be Chopin"; it's imo a fascinating and sometimes absurd look through Lisztian eyes.


Yes! I love Cziffra and also am fascinated by his fiery Chopin etudes, even if they are rather too high-octane, to use your word :P Cziffra can admittedly sometimes sound a bit silly, but I always find him entertaining, particularly on the Hungarian Rhapsodies.

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Of course there is Chopin's famous comment on how Liszt played his etudes; it always comes to mind in that context.


Which is? I confess I don't know that comment and am intrigued.

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but I put them in the same bracket as the Liszt Don Juan, and tbh harder than Islamey.


Ouch...yes, they must be damn difficult in that case :) I guess I've gotten a bit sick of the Don Juan, primarily because IMO nobody can even come close to Barere on it (nor on Islamey). So many Liszt transcriptions I'd rather play than that, namely the Wagner ones like the Tannhauser and the Liebestod (which I'd already learned and was going to do at some point). Thanks for the Alkan recommendations. I remember liking Ponti on the Festin d'Aesop -- I'll have to check it out again.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:32 am 
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Hi Joe,

Sorry to be so late in responding. Your list of great pianists encompasses many of my own favorites. As for an outstanding recording of Chopin's music played by Rubinstein, one that comes immediately to mind is his recording of the Nocturnes. I think most would agree that he weaves a lot of magic there.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:48 pm 
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The Chopin quote, from his letters, is "at this moment Liszt is playing my etudes, and transporting me outside of my respectable thoughts. I should like to steal from him the way to play my own etudes.”

Ponti's Festin d'Esope contains what I presume to be a most peculiar misreading of Alkan's admittedly idiosyncratic notation in variation 2. Variation 19 is also particularly curious, or at least different from the norm. If you want my opinion of the hardest variations, they are 17 and 18 which I had a lot of trouble with.

re Alkan in general, I meant to mention earlier that you might want to listen to Raymond Lewenthal's epic WBAI radio talk on him. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 160279C609

I would be interested in hearing your Liszt Isolde's Liebestod - it's probably the piece I've spent most time with and I consider it and his Norma Fantasy to be his best transcription and best paraphrase respectively.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:55 am 
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Hi Joe,

First let me say, your technique is astounding. I played this piece and
understand how extremely flexible you are when you play. Congratulations.

I think some of the phrasing could have had a more fluent and complete line
of thought. However, this was still a totally amazing performance.

Thank you for sharing,
Kaila

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 6:16 pm 
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Kaila,

Thanks very much for listening and your kind words (also on the polonaises). The more I play and come back to Chopin, the more I realize that every piece of his, even the smallest prelude, is "music for life" -- to be continually revisited but for which full mastery, both musically and technically, remains elusive. One problem I found in a piece as long as the Fantasy is that, given my limited practice time, I would work on the hardest passages for me over and over but then neglected some of the "easier" ones, which then had gotten rusty by the time I recorded it. But at least think I can say that my overall control over the Fantasy has transformed significantly since when I first performed it in my college days, so I'm glad you were convinced.

Thanks again,

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin Fantasy, Op. 49
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:38 am 
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Joe, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance of the Chopin Fantasy. I've also enjoyed the discussion going on here.

Scott


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