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 Post subject: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:28 pm 
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One of my dreams is to perform that sonata for clarinet and piano by Brahms properly. Finally I found a clarinet player (but he is sick now and I have to wait until he gets healthy again :evil: ). Anyway, I went to practicing it again (after years), and even though I play a bit better than at the first learning, it's still not easy to play. Even though my dream would be not realised on this opportunity, I want to learn it well for the next chance in the future.
The sonata has many challenging passages scattered through all the three movements and the passage on the attachment below is the first one from the first movement (bar 15-17). I have small hands and esp. short pinkies, so even the not that special stuffed chords like the marked C-Eb-C chords plague me. My problem: On that passage I can press the first C-Eb-C chord to some degree of clarity (I have the time to prepare it after pressing the previous Eb-C-Eb chord), but not the following chord (the same chord, just an octave lower) properly. That passage is a very important one, since it's the first passage where the piano appears alone and the first climax is prepared. It's very disheartning that I cannot do it justice.
Could someone give an advice how I should practice it?


Attachments:
brahms score snipped.PNG
brahms score snipped.PNG [ 49.12 KiB | Viewed 4230 times ]

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Hye-Jin Lee
"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: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:07 am 
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Hi Hye-Jin,
You might try practicing those chords without the thumb, and alternating the voicing both of the 5th and 2nd fingers. One other thing is to try to practice with "false" octaves, by positioning the thumb for the chords but not playing it (only playing the 5th and 2nd fingers). Let me know if it helps. Good luck. Brahms' chamber music can be very challenging.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:27 am 
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This is a very challenging part indeed. It must found full and robust and yet lyrical and fluent, with no hint of strain. Brahms in a nutshell !

I'm not sure why this bar is harder for you than the preceding (it's the other way for me). Maybe it would help if you leave out the middle note of the first chord ? I know that even pro pianists sometimes leave out a note if they can get away with it.
Depending on how much pedal you use, you could also try taking the low C of the second chord with the LH.

I'll be interested how you get on with the last page of the sonata. Apart from being very hard, this is a nightmare of coordination.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:56 pm 
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Thank both of you, Eddy and Chris. And I apologize this too much delayed response... I read your very quick replies, but my baby didn't give me the time for writing my response and after that I've been on the first family trip by railway with my baby (I've been one day in Amsterdam, Chris :)).
@Eddy:
Yes, your practicing method seems to work well! Even though I still cannot press the chord very cleanly, I can press it much more comfortably. But you know.... after twenty-minutes practicing I got pain on my underarm (a bit above my wrist) and it continued a couple of days. During the practice I had no pain.
Applying your method I got a question concerning the position of fingers/hand on the keys. I found I tended to make my hand very low (at pressing such stuffed-octave-chords) and to locate my pinky on the bottom of the key (I made two pics and this is reffering to pic A). In this way I produce a clean sound but I guess this is wrong, isn't it? I cannot play real forte.
In another hand-position (pic B) I cannot press the chord not so clean, but I can put energy into my fingers.
Which position do you think is better?


Attachments:
A.JPG
A.JPG [ 34.48 KiB | Viewed 4211 times ]
B.JPG
B.JPG [ 36.01 KiB | Viewed 4211 times ]

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Hye-Jin Lee
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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:44 pm 
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@Chris:
techneut wrote:
Maybe it would help if you leave out the middle note of the first chord ? I know that even pro pianists sometimes leave out a note if they can get away with it.
Depending on how much pedal you use, you could also try taking the low C of the second chord with the LH.

Thank you Chris for these suggestions. I thought of the second one, too, and it is reserved for the case, that there was no other way. But the first one never occurred to me before! (I just thought of leaving out the middle note if the second chord which sounds not that good.) But I'm not sure if it helps much.

Quote:
I'll be interested how you get on with the last page of the sonata. Apart from being very hard, this is a nightmare of coordination.

I'm interested, too :lol: Actually the whole third movement demands a high level of coordination. We played it just one time so far (at a very slow tempo), so I don't know yet. But as a very unexperienced chambermusic player I always wondered why a serious discoordination is possible (which I experienced with my former clarinetist), if both players perfectly know the score of their own and their partner. Am I mistaken?

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 5:40 pm 
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Hye-Jin,
Oh dear, it appears that you have very small hands, i.e., narrow across the "nuckles." I take it you can't play 9ths? Since you are full grown, it may be futile to try to "change" your anatomy now, but ... if you really wanted to try to tackle this, IMO the way to do it would be to begin a lengthy regimen of large stretch-demanding work, that hopefully over a years time would have given you a bit of increased reach and flexibility. In your case, I would prescribe (Rx) a lot of work (scales) with 9ths and full (5-note) fully-diminshed 7th chords (I. Phillip's Exercises for the Independence of the Fingers). Both of these will "open" your hand to what ever extent is maxibally possible. I feel for you. :(

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:32 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
Thank you Chris for these suggestions. I thought of the second one, too, and it is reserved for the case, that there was no other way. But the first one never occurred to me before! (I just thought of leaving out the middle note if the second chord which sounds not that good.) But I'm not sure if it helps much.
Now I see why block chords give you trouble, you can only just reach a bare octave, and anything in between multiples the difficulty. You'll probably have to leave some notes out to get it manageable.

hyenal wrote:
I'm interested, too :lol: Actually the whole third movement demands a high level of coordination. We played it just one time so far (at a very slow tempo), so I don't know yet. But as a very unexperienced chambermusic player I always wondered why a serious discoordination is possible (which I experienced with my former clarinetist), if both players perfectly know the score of their own and their partner. Am I mistaken?
Not sure, you have a point of sorts. Of course it will help when you know your part perfectly. To expect that it will then all slot together without any special effort is optimistic though. That will go a long way in Mozart and Beethoven, but not with all the rhythmic challenges Brahms throws at you. At least that is my experience. Not that I could play my part perfectly - I still can't.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:31 am 
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hyenal wrote:
Applying your method I got a question concerning the position of fingers/hand on the keys. I found I tended to make my hand very low (at pressing such stuffed-octave-chords) and to locate my pinky on the bottom of the key (I made two pics and this is referring to pic A). In this way I produce a clean sound but I guess this is wrong, isn't it? I cannot play real forte.
In another hand-position (pic B) I cannot press the chord not so clean, but I can put energy into my fingers.
Which position do you think is better?

Both positions look very uncomfortable! I think position B is the lesser evil--you want to be able to lean on the top note of the chord, and it isn't a disaster if you miss the lower note entirely. But better still would be to leave out a note, or take the bottom note or two notes with the left hand as suggested above.

Another option that hasn't been mentioned is to roll the chords. Nowadays it's unusual to play rolled chords where it isn't indicated by the composer, and people might accuse you of "romanticising" the piece--but a century ago it would have been common. And after all, it is a romantic piece! So if you break the chord, using the E flat as a "pivot point", it means that you can let go of the bottom note completely before you play the top note.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:43 am 
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I agree with those saying that you should sacrifice a note or two ... or three.
Looking at the circled chords,
for the first, drop the c played with the thumb
for the second, you may do the same or play the thumb note with the LH thumb
then the next octave in LH play only the top note with LH 5th.
See if that helps.

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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: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:17 pm 
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I see this thread now, Hye-Jin. :wink:

I don't know the music at all or how fast you are playing this part, but is it possible to play the bottom note of those RH chords with the LH? Maybe the pedal is down, and so you could do it without breaking anything. You just jump the LH hand up there for a second and then bring it back down where it belongs. I do things like that sometimes.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:53 pm 
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I would almost be tempted to drop the lower "C" and just play the 6ths, which would have more character than bare octaves. And, as Monica suggests, if you can get the lower "C" with the L.H. that would add the weight to the longer of the two chords.

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:27 pm 
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Thank you guys for your creative suggestions and compassion :) I think the best short-termed solution would be pressing the lower C with LH, which Chris for the first time suggested and Monica and Scott assented but I wanted to reserve as the last resort. (Eddy's and Alexander's suggestion find I also well-functioning.) Frankly speaking, I thought it would be a sort of cheating, but as the small size of my RH (btw my LH reaches 9ths, it is a bit larger than my RH) is officially approved now :lol: , I may throw that feeling away. Besides, it didn't work well before I opened this thread, because my digital piano is so sensitively responsive that my "cheating" was hearable. But my facility was much improved in the meantime and I can perform that well also on my digital piano (but I won't use my digital piano for a possible recording, of course).

Eddy wrote:
In your case, I would prescribe (Rx) a lot of work (scales) with 9ths and full (5-note) fully-diminshed 7th chords (I. Phillip's Exercises for the Independence of the Fingers). Both of these will "open" your hand to what ever extent is maxibally possible. I feel for you. :(

I would try your prescription willingly, Eddy. But where can I get the score? At least not on IMSLP. Or could you suggest a good printed edition? I know you mentioned these etudes several times and would like to give a look at it.
Chris wrote:
Now I see why block chords give you trouble, you can only just reach a bare octave, and anything in between multiples the difficulty. You'll probably have to leave some notes out to get it manageable.

I can press other chords on the snipped score. C-E flat-C is difficult to press, but for example C-E-C is easy. Maybe the short pinky is the reason.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:11 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
I would try your prescription willingly, Eddy. But where can I get the score? At least not on IMSLP. Or could you suggest a good printed edition? I know you mentioned these etudes several times and would like to give a look at it.

Well in the US it is published by G. Schirmer (but not in the gold cover, rather a gray with blue ink cover). However I must believe that it would be available in the usual French editions too. BTW, let me be clear that these are not studies, rather just exercises (sure to drive anyone listening to you absolutely crazy). If I had to pick one thing that did the most to advance the abilities of my hands, I think I would have to pick this. It's sort of "boot camp" for the hands. You'll only ever need book 1. If you every wanted to see what "Systematic and Exhaustive" mean, take a look at this.
hyenal wrote:
C-E flat-C is difficult to press, but for example C-E-C is easy. Maybe the short pinky is the reason.

I don't think so. The reason is the distance across your big (MCP joint) nuckles; that is, the width of your hand at that point.

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


Last edited by musical-md on Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:31 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
Frankly speaking, I thought it would be a sort of cheating, but as the small size of my RH (btw my LH reaches 9ths, it is a bit larger than my RH) is officially approved now :lol: , I may throw that feeling away.


The requirement of classical music is to get the music out preferably with an eye towards the composer's intentions. The sound is the objective. Which hand or finger plays which note is not a part of the equation. A particular amount of force applied to a key will result in the same sound whether by the R.H., the L.H., the eraser end of a pencil, or a sledge hammer (thought the sledge hammer is more difficult to control).

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:17 am 
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Eddy wrote:
Well in the US it is published by G. Schirmer (but not in the gold cover, rather a gray with blue ink cover). However I must believe that it would be available in the usual French editions too. BTW, let me be clear that these are not studies, rather just exercises (sure to drive anyone listening to you absolutely crazy). If I had to pick one thing that did the most to advance the abilities of my hands, I think I would have to pick this. It's sort of "boot camp" for the hands. You'll only ever need book 1. If you every wanted to see what "Sytematic and Exhaustive" mean, take a look at this.

I don't speak French, so I cannot google about a french edition. Anyway I found the Schirmer edition on the web. Thank you for infos!
Quote:
I don't think so. The reason is the distance across your big (MCP joint) nuckles; that is, the width of your hand at that point.

Now I see what you meant by your post above. Man, I had a false thought about my hand size so far! I always blamed my short pinkies, which don't reach even the top nuckles of the 4th fingers.

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