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 Post subject: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:47 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Hello again,

Here is my performance of the second ballade, my favorite Chopin big piece along with the Fantasy, though I think I have slightly more of an affinity for the ballade. This one seems woefully neglected compared with the other three, not often played except when they all are. The most remarkable feature of this ballade IMO is the polar, almost schizophrenic, contrasts between sections as well as its quite shocking experimentation with counterpoint and major/minor shifts -- pretty much always listed as F major but of course A minor could be cited just as easily. IMHO its extroversion, sonority, and orchestration make this one of the most Liztian pieces of Chopin (will be interested to see if Andrew comments and/or agrees given our recent discussion on the Fantasy thread).

Also included are the three ecossaises, a delightful early salon-style dance work of Chopin's that IMO should be played much more often. For me, these pieces are like drinking schnapps :)

Chopin - Three Ecossaises, Op. 72, No. 3 (2:55)
Chopin - Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38 (6:52)

I hope you will find these worthy additions to the site. Comments welcome. Thanks for listening.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:03 pm 
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Location: Uppsala, Sweden
I listened to the ballade, which I know reasonably well though I have never attempted it. Your performance is very moving and successfully brings out the bipolarity and the interplay between the parts. Especially I liked the middle part where the soft theme tries to rise up but is eventually swept away. Overall a very good conception.

For nitpicking: In the soft part you lean into the quarter notes so much that the rhythm becomes slightly different, more dancelike and less calm. I'm not sure I like it but it is an interesting perspective. The fierce RH runs are sometimes a bit muddled, but this is truly virtuoso stuff and I don't mind so much. Sometimes you pause before a new phrase beginning a run, presumably to bring the hands into position. Some amount of time for this is inevitable, but it would be good if it could be reduced a bit since it disturbs the flow. This is most noticeably towards the end where the jumps are largest. In the final "agitato" you take down the speed, understandably considering the technical difficulties, this is a bit surprising but still you manage to convey the agitation forcefully.

These are details, in all I liked it very much.

Joachim


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:27 am 
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Joined: Wed May 26, 2010 12:11 am
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Location: Edinburgh, UK
Agreed, in the ferocious parts this is quite Lisztian (though I think Liszt would have written, or rather expressed, certain of them differently).

As in the Fantasy, a committed and exciting performance. I agree with Joachim about the runs; at first I thought perhaps you were deploying agogic accents for effect, but I think it is probably more of a safety mechanism. Really it is the only fault I can find. I think the pedalling probably isn't consistent over the various cases in that sometimes there is more sound drop-out during the delay than in others - tbh I actually felt more discomfited by the decay in volume than the rhythmic disruption. Getting from A to B reliably and quickly is of course a pain and I'm quite sure many studio recordings of this have undergone a little editorial tweaking at these points. Fine playing and certainly a worthy addition to the site.


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:56 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Thanks, Joachim. All very valid points.

Quote:
For nitpicking: In the soft part you lean into the quarter notes so much that the rhythm becomes slightly different, more dancelike and less calm. I'm not sure I like it but it is an interesting perspective.


As with the dots at the outset of the fantasy, I've been wavering back and forth about this when relistening. I want it to be calm, but I also want it to create a slight feeling of retention or anticipation, a bit more foreboding for the following storms. But it's quite possible it's a bit too much -- I guess I tend to like it more after I'be been drinking :P At any rate, I'll definitely take your comments on this into account in the future.

Good points about the runs too. While I think some pause not only positions the hands but helps with the accenting and fire, I agree that some of the leaps could have been smoother.

Thanks again for listening and for your detailed comments.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:14 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Hi Andrew,

Quote:
Agreed, in the ferocious parts this is quite Lisztian (though I think Liszt would have written, or rather expressed, certain of them differently).


Yes. Thinking about it more, I'm wondering whether an even better comparison might be with Scriabin because of the keyboard expression and writing. Also because of the particular type of frenzied passion of the fierce parts and the rather jarring-sounding dissonances. Liszt's passagework seems more brilliant and steely but less orchestrally lush. I suppose the reason I raised this issue is that to me, the second ballade seems much less typically Chopinesque than nos. 3 and 4, for example, and even 1. Come to think of it, the coda in 1 might be a bit more Lisztian than anything in 2.

Quote:
at first I thought perhaps you were deploying agogic accents for effect, but I think it is probably more of a SAFETY mechanism.


A bit of both :) One of the things I have found murderously difficult about this passage, in addition to the leaps, is getting the crescendo effects Chopin was going for. The accents at the tops can help, but I can never quite coordinate the rising crescendo in the left hand against the descrescendo in the right hand to get just the effect I want, despite quite a bit of hands separate practice.

Quote:
tbh I actually felt more discomfited by the decay in volume than the rhythmic disruption.


Interesting. Do you mean volume decay at the bottom of the phrase?

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:44 am 
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Joined: Wed May 26, 2010 12:11 am
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Location: Edinburgh, UK
I've listened to the first presto con fuoco about twenty times now - all I can say with certainty is that the discontinuity at the end of the fourth bar bugs me significantly more than the one at the end of the second bar, and perhaps I was wrong in my initial comment and it is just a matter of a greater rhythmic distortion. Incidentally it's a long time since I looked at the score of this piece in any detail, and so I must congratulate you on how you've handled the ascending rh sections (I'm referring to the possibilities for confusion with the implicit groups of 2 in rh v groups of 3 in lh).


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:56 am 
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Location: Netherlands
I will put these on the site over the weekend.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2014 9:05 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:45 am
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Location: Netherlands
These are now on the site. Surprisingly we did not have a recording of the charming Ecossaises yet.
They are well played with only few tiny slips.

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:04 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Thanks very much, Chris, for putting these on the site. And good to hear from you. TBH, I was wondering where you were...

Also, thanks Andrew for relistening to that part of the Presto con fuoco -- I can hear what you're talking about. I definitely pause more at the end of the fourth bar, and I agree it may have been too much.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:06 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 11:14 pm
Posts: 533
Location: Illinois
Hi Joe,

I know that it has been a while since you posted these, but I am just getting back on PS and working on fulfilling my "duties".

I loved both performances. This Ballade is one of my favorites, and I agree that it is too overlooked. I think that the key should be given as "in F maj and everything but F". :wink: It is so totally manic/depressive, schizophrenic, bipolar. I had worked on this years ago, even had it memorized, but I had to give it up because it was playing to some "demons" inside me at the time.

Anyway, I think that you pulled it off admirably. It is a monster and you did tame it. Oh yeah, I could probably follow along with the score and find some points, but others have probably already made the suggestions that I would make. I appreciated the performance and all the hard work that you have had to do to perform it.

For some reason I am not familiar with his Ecossaises. I enjoyed your performance of these also. It reminded me a bit of a 4/4 version of some of his waltzes (the "Minute Waltz" comes to mind) -- sort of a stylized two-step to be played between the waltzes. Your performance was very convincing. If there are any issues between your performance and the score, they didn't mar the performance. Interestingly, Chopin actually gave a tacit approval for tastefully deviating from his written intentions. Not only do we know that there are variants in his own hand all over the place, I am reminded of the remark that he made to one of his better students: (I probably am paraphrasing more than quoting) "That is not the way that I was thinking when I wrote it, but your interpretation is good. Continue playing it that way."

All in all, good job.

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:57 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Thanks very much for listening, Scott. Interesting quote from Chopin -- one of many one might use as a point of departure for combating the logical errors inherent in the currently fashionable notions of "faithfulness to the score" and "the composer's intentions." Ultimately, if even the composer himself completely knew what he was driving at, his work would no longer be art and would no longer be worth performing. That said, interpreting the score should be one of care to observe the markings first before putting forth one's own interpretive argument. Anyway, I'd like to think that there may have been one or two things that might have pleased Chopin about my performance :D

Thanks again for listening and for your comments (on the Fantasy and Etudes as well).

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Chopin - Second Ballade and Three Ecossaises
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:32 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 6:29 pm
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Location: Brazil
Hi, Joe!
At first I found the siciliano of the Ballade too rushed and aggressive, but you convinced me in the overall impression of the whole piece! well played!

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