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 Post subject: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 2:01 pm 
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I am Richard Willmer I have been participating for some time in the Piano Society forum. I have always wanted to submit recordings for the evaluation of this board.

I feel that to offer criticism I also ought to receive it and up to now this has not been possible for several reasons. At long last I have managed to do some recordings and these I would like to submit to your attention.

Though my resources are very limited and I wish I could do better technically, I do hope I have something to say. I certainly have learnt a lot since joining the forum many months ago and I hope to continue on this path.

The pieces are the following:

Camilleri, Charles – Due Canti
No. 1 - Cantilena

Grieg, Edvard – Lyric Pieces op 12
No. 1 – Arietta

Bortkiewicz, Sergei – From Andersen’s Tales op 30
No. 9 - The Butterfly
No. 4 - The Angel

Technical details

The piano:
Geyer (Eisenberg, German Democratic Republic, also known as East Gearmany)

The Recorder:
Sony portable Mp3 IC-Recorder

Editing programme:
Audacity

Editing has been kept at a minumum.

I had prepared a biography and a photograph, but maybe I am counting the proverbial chicken while all I have is an egg, so I better wait.



Grieg - Lyric Pieces, Op. 12, no. 1 "Arietta" (1:41)
Camilleri - Due Canti no. 1 "Cantilena" (2:34)
Bortkiewicz - Andersen's Tales Op. 30, no. 4 "The Angel" (2:10)

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:21 pm 
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Good to see you are taking the plunge after hanging around for a while here. One gotta start somewhere.

You are not doing too badly here. Some tiny flubs and hesitations, a little stiffness here and there, some balance issues (e.g. the RH in the Arietta should soar more above the LH accompaniment), and a bit too much pedal (notably in the Arietta). But nothing that cannot be remedied with a bit of TLC, and nothing really disturbing.

My main reservation is the sound of the piano. I've played a Geyer on occasion and I thought it was rather awful. Yours is a bit better but still has a very flat and muffled tone. I'd wish for you to have something better, it would be more motivating too. I wonder if you could somehow produce a fuller and more direct sound ? Maybe experiment with your mic placement, maybe taking off the piano front panel ? Right now I find the sound a bit substandard to be honest. More so than the playing (though that can be improved, soo).

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:19 pm 
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Welcome to the lions den, Richard! :lol:

I actually don't think your piano sounds that bad. Really to me it sounds like most of the other upright piano recordings we have on the site. What bothers me more is the amount of background hiss you have in the file.

Regarding your playing, I think you have a solid foundation and most of the time play confidentially. I agree with Chris that the Grieg needs a bit more attention. I heard a little 'smudge' which there really should be none since it's a relatively easy and short piece. I can't say anything about the Bortkiewicz pieces because I don't know them at all. The pieces in general are slight and a little boring and seem to be not among Bortkiewicz's better pieces. Maybe David will come around and help critique you here. Also, I don't know that Camilleri piece (nor have I heard of the composer), but I think you played this piece the best out of the bunch. There was some nice feeling and sensitivity throughout.

One more thing - you should let the file play out a little more at the end, like add another couple seconds before you cut the file off.

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:59 pm 
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Hello Richard,

You play each of these very sensitively, and I enjoyed listening. The piano reminds me a lot of my old upright (since sold to a student -- I kind of miss it!). My tinnitus is so bad, that if there is hiss, I don't notice it (this makes it really hard for me to critique the sound in my own recordings), but it does seem a little muffled, as Chris mentioned. I am forever trying to find a good mic placement and settings, so I can relate as far as tech issues go.

I don't know this piece, but in the Camilleri, I would try to make the LH a bit softer on beat three of each measure, and let the right hand play with a little more freedom. It is such a bittersweet, almost melancholy little waltz, isn't it? I was going to suggest a slightly faster tempo, or maybe just more of a feeling of moving forward within each phrase? It sounds like it is mainly a limitation of the piano, but if you could shape the phrases more in the right hand, while keeping beat three a little more under-the-radar in the left hand, I think the piece will be more effective.

I don't claim to know the Bortkiewicz either, but I think they are very sweet little pieces. In The Butterfly, I would try to phrase the left hand more, with a softer right hand accompaniment to make it sound like tiny, fluttering wings. In the left hand, that step down that happens at the end of each upward-moving arpeggio should probably be softer, to round out the phrase. I'm sorry I don't have the score, so I hope you know what I am referring to. It sounds like the note is accented, instead of delicately resolving the phrase. I was picturing a butterfly flying up and then briefly landing on a flower on that single note. I always struggled with this "short note after a long note" phrasing issue, so it tends to leap out at me in recordings. It sounds like there is one little passage where the RH gets a bit tangled up or is not aligned with the LH part.

The Angel could be a little faster and needs more voicing -- the melody gets buried a with all the moving accompaniment notes. Otherwise, it is also a nice little piece.

I always try to get my students to play the Arietta with more melodic phrasing. Those repeated notes in the right hand need to sound like they are going somewhere . . . so you could sneak in more at the beginning of the phrase, and play each repeated note a little louder. Let the right hand sing more. I agree with Monica about letting the recoding play out further, so the sound isn't cut off.

Thank you for sharing your recordings! I hope my comments aren't superfluous, and that we get to hear more of your playing. :)

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:59 pm 
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Posts: 844
Location: Germany
Hi richard, good to see your first thread on AR :D
I mostly agree to what the other members already said and wish you much enjoyment with your piano and with PS!

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"The love for music. The respect for the composer. The desire to express something that reaches and moves the listener." (Montserrat Caballé about her main motivation for becoming a singer)


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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:22 am 
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Hi Richard,
nice to see you here with your first thread and welcome to PS!
I could listen to some pieces with score and to some not with score.
To the Camilleri: I couldn´t find the score unfortunately, but this is a very beautiful and meditative piece. I think you have caught the atmosphere very lovely. Your piano has a nice soft tone respective colour of tone! It´s just a little bit distuned, but this is not too disturbing.
To the famous Grieg-Arietta: Nicely and sensitively played, you could emphasize the melody a bit more here and there respective play the accompaniment a bit more silent.
To "Butterfly": nicely and musically played, in the bar before "L´istesso tempo" you come out of the right rhythm in the right hand. That´s the only mistake I could discover here.That piece seems to have a programatic content. I regret the poor butterfly, which is pierced to a pin at the end.
To the "Angel": The A-part is nicely played, the choral part (B) could be more silent and soft from my view.The way you play it, it sounds more like a hymne, but tha´t also an idea, isn´t it?
And the return of the A-part should be pp and ppp, so you play too loudly here.

In summary these are very nice and beautiful renditions. For a sorcerer like me it would be like a "walk-over" to delete the background hiss, which seems to be a bit old-fashioned, but does not really bother me, I have to admit.

Here is the Arietta without hiss, after I have swung my magic wand for you, Richard :wink: :

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:59 am 
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Location: Edinburgh, UK
Hello, Richard, welcome to the audition room! I was rather in the mood for some Bortkiewicz, so have gone straight to that. I must commend your musical curiosity in trying out some of his pieces.

AdrienneM wrote:
In The Butterfly, I would try to phrase the left hand more, with a softer right hand accompaniment to make it sound like tiny, fluttering wings. In the left hand, that step down that happens at the end of each upward-moving arpeggio should probably be softer, to round out the phrase.


Yes, good suggestions, in particular re the rh. It needs to be a little more butterfly-like. I don't think the piano and its sound are helping much with this. It sounds like the sort of serviceable but not very inspiring upright that I've encountered on occasion in university practice rooms, and I suspect that a better piano would help you develop. It's also slightly in need of tuning, but not gratingly so.

In The Angel, more delineation between melody notes and accompanimental/background material would help with communicating the musical core. Your playing is, for the most part, clear and accurate with some nice touches of pp; the one thing which would really improve it is to not have everything in the foreground and to move the secondary parts of the music to the background so that they are more suggested than stated.


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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:20 am 
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Hi Richard,

Welcome to the PS Audition Room! I enjoyed listening to all your pieces. They are very nicely played indeed. Some of them are less-known repertoire, which I greatly appreciate. And many here, I'm sure, would agree on that point. It looks as though there is already a good amount of feedback on your playing. One thing I've always noticed here is that the members try their best to be as helpful as possible in their critiques and suggestions. It enables all of us as participants to improve in the art of piano.

I look forward to hearing more of your musical offerings in future!

David

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:09 pm 
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Posts: 1040
The reviews seem to have finished, so I will say a thing or two, trying to address all the points you so helpfully have raised.

As Chris and Andrew say, the piano is bad and one reason I held back so long was considering its quality. Mind you I have found recordings here where the piano seems out if tune, for example. I believe them to be old ones, however: all recent recordings I have listened to seem to use good quality concert pianos. I agree I need something better and, yes, it is a bit frustrating working on this one. I remember my only teacher, many years ago, told me a bad piano can actually harm one's technique. The smudges that Monica mentions seem to be part of the piano. I tried hundreds of times and in all of them I heard the same noise. At times I seem to hear a vibrato, which I am sure is not right. Can this be remedied? Not really and at present I cannot invest in a new instrument for one reason or another. At least it is rented, so getting rid of it will be no problem. The problem is that good quality pianos are not for rent where I live.

I am not sure how I can improve microphone placing if I have a portable Mp3 recorder. Is it possible to attach stereo microphones to it?

I could also take the piano to pieces, but then, where do I put the score?

Andreas seems to like the tone, however. Is this liking something German? What reputation do those pianos have in Germany?

I cannot fathom how a digital recorder can have tape hiss, but there you are, it has. It bothers Monica and she is right. Having once edited the noise with Audacity (and submitted), I was in no mood to repeat the experiment. Andreas, however, seems to be able to split hiss from piano with no damage. Thank you for that work!

Several of you mention the right hand in The Butterfly and this is a good point, though I am afraid with an upright the risk is depressing the keys and no sound coming. The same applies for The Angel.

Adrienne Says the Camilleri could be faster. Indeed, on the score the indication is "about 2 minutes" and I have a take where it lasts 2'10". I have only heard it once (it is on YouTube as an illustration for the Trinity Examination) and there it lasts, I believe, 2 seconds less than my version.

In The Angel Andreas says it sounds like a Hymn. But that was my intention! The score indicates at that passage "Chor der Engel" (Choir of the Angels). Or perhaps Russian Orthodox angels do not sign hymns... I will, however, experiment with your suggestion.

I would say I tried my best to be perfect: I recorded virtually hundreds of takes of each piece over the last two weeks and I believe this shows. The fear of hitting once more a wrong key is the sure way to hesitate before a passage that I know by heart. After all, this is my introduction to you and you have no idea how I play and you must judge from what I submit this first time.

One thing I omitted to say (on purpose) is that all these recordings were made after I suffered an accident in the street and broke my right ankle, which is now in a cast, so all pedalling had to be done with my left foot and the arm position, of course, had to shift ever so little. In The Angel whenever I wanted to use the soft pedal I had to give up the sustaining one. Happily this was not an issue. I surely wanted you to listen to my recordings for what they are worth and not to sympathise with me. My next recording will hopefully be made under normal conditions.

Here is a link to some of these pieces, which will allow some comparison:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en-GB&v=5IF2poGK68Y (Camilleri)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep8el1N2mNE (Butterfly)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBnSZu_n6Zk (Angel)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ubh88dU2Kus (Angel)

Again thank you for your helpful suggestions. I shall keep trying!

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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: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:34 pm 
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Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
richard66 wrote:
... At times I seem to hear a vibrato, which I am sure is not right. Can this be remedied? ...

Absolutely! Stop shaking the piano. :lol:

Thanks for signing your post, Richard Willmer.

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:09 am 
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Hi Richard,

Tonight (despite a blizzard here which has kept me quite busy), I had a chance to listen to the two Bortkiewicz pieces. In looking at a new composer, we all have to start somewhere to get an introduction to the composer's style and idiom. I believe your two choices were good ones. Both of these character pieces have a lot of charm as well as some challenges. I enjoyed hearing the Butterfly! While it is true that the RH, being accompaniment, could be a bit softer, I also understand that sensitive playing on an upright with a balky action can be a very difficult indeed. For that reason, we probably should cut you some slack on that account. Even at that, you make the piece sparkle. Whatever the impediments of the instrument and recording equipment, you played a very engaging rendition. The Angel is well articulated, fluent, very expressive, and played with fine clarity of line throughout in my opinion. It was a pleasure listening to you play it.

As everyone here knows, I've played a fair amount of Bortkiewicz's music. I've always believed that Bortkiewicz's piano works, despite some unevenness in the quality of some compositions, are generally of high merit. I strongly believe that his music should have more exposure than it currently receives. So I commend you, Richard, for helping to give this very worthy composer a needed boost by sharing your renditions here. :) Keep up the good work!

David

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:48 am 
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Yes, Eddy, I was thinking of you when I added a signature.

Thank you for listening, David! I shall continue trying to improve playing.

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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: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:58 am 
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Reading back my initial assessment I see I rather concentrated on the deficiencies, failing to mentioning that these are affectionately and musically played, showing an obvious love for the music. So let me say that belatedly :D

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:16 pm 
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Thank you, Chris!

I know from experience that what is good is good but problems can and ought to be corrected, hence you mention the latter and I think you did right and I certainly did not have a sleepless night over it. This is what I do too, to many people's chagrin. The standards of the Piano Society are high, I think this is very positive and this is why I have decided to post here and not on some of the other forums out there or on YouTube, where anything can be put up (and there is a third version of The Angel there which is appalling!! I would have been ashamed of myself had I been the pianist.)

By the way, do you know if these little Mp3 portable recorders can use stereo microphones, if such exist? There is a microphone jack, but there is no mention of what type of microphone to use. It does, of course, have a jack for stereo earphones.

For myself today I shall try opening the piano and see what sound comes out. Hopefully it will be better.

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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: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:34 pm 
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Yeah, Youtube is a mixed bag. There's great stuff as well as tons of worthless crud. Anything goes there., it's hoot sometimes.

I would not know about your mp3 recorder's mic connectivity. You will have to consult the manual or online documentation.
Yes there are stereo microphones, which I think you'd typically wear on your chest. Not sure if they are any good for PS recording. Maybe they're geared towards interviewers and reporters. Some of the experts here could probably elaborate.

I suggested taking off the front panel. No place for your music then, minor detail hehe... I don't really know how to solve that one.
But I believe it could be good for opening up the sound of an upright, rather like fully opening the lid of a grand.

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:03 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
Several of you mention the right hand in The Butterfly and this is a good point, though I am afraid with an upright the risk is depressing the keys and no sound coming. The same applies for The Angel.


I completely understand your problem (from direct personal experience), but I do suggest that you won't have that problem on a better upright. The upright I practice on (apart from that it needs tuning) is a good instrument and I have no problem producing a consistent and even pp (in fact, I often find it easier than on some grands), but there are some uprights where it's really hard to go below mf without the risk you mention above, of no sound. They simply aren't very good pianos, or have been badly maintained.


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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:19 pm 
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Maybe Richard can take off the front of his piano and then strap on a harness that can hold his music. A little like this. Just raise it up and put the music on top.

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:06 pm 
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Or print the sheets out small and dangle them from his silly hat.

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:28 pm 
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the solution is to memorise, not a bad thing either.

I will need to look on the net for microphones. Thank you.

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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: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:32 pm 
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But I don't wear hats indoors! :shock: My mother taught me gentlemen do't do it. :)

Actually, at present the stand on the piano is too low and I place the scores on a lectern which is then placed on top of the open lid., rather at the same level where they would be on a grand piano.

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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: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:54 pm 
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Is the piano placed with its back against a wall? You'll get a very different sound if you can move the piano away from the wall and put the microphones/recorder behind the piano.

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 Post subject: Re: New submission for the evaluation of the board
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:09 pm 
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Yes, Alexander, it is against the wall. I was thinking of moving it, but I cannot at present. Besider quality of sound, it is, logically, the only place I can place the recorder so that it is not with one of the microphones closer to the sound source than the other.

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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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