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 Post subject: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:15 pm 
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Hello all,

Here are my performances of two pieces from different collections in the Liszt Annees de Pelerinage. The first is the Gondoliera from the Venezia e Napoli, a separate set of three pieces published as a supplement to the Italie. For classification purposes though (since there are no recordings yet on the site), I think the Venezia e Napoli is usually listed under its own heading.

The second is the final piece, Les cloches de Geneve: Nocturne, from the first year, the Suisse. I was surprised and pleased to see that this was the only piece from the first year that wasn't yet on the site. I guess it is one of the less frequently played of the set, but with its particularly expansive primary melodic theme, it is probably my personal favorite.

I am also attaching the Bach-Busoni Ich ruf zu dir chorale prelude, which I may play as an encore.

I think the miking is improved over the Beethoven recording (I opted for a closer setup).

Anyway, hope you enjoy these. Comments welcome as always.

Joe

Liszt - Venezia e Napoli, No. 1 "Gondoliera"
Liszt - Les cloches de Genève: Nocturne
Bach-Busoni - Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesus Christ

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:31 am 
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Gondoliera : A fine performance, especially the ending. My only nag is that you slow down too much in the reprise to accommodate for the RH passagework. Quite understandable, it's hard work up there, but it should not be too obvious. A bit more work on these RH figurations would fix this, as well as make it sound more flowing. Will you be tackling the Tarentelle eventually ?

Cloches : This is one if the pieces in the Annees I was never able to warm to. You give a very commanding and convincing performance although the climax (between 3:18 and ca. 4:20) seems too bullish to me. IMHO this needs more grandeur and less aggression (if that is the right word, maybe not).

Bach-Busoni : A wonderfully sonorous performance in which I can't really find anything to nitpick. Maybe your slowing down after these long trills is a bit too much, but that is very personal.

All in all, great work. The sound is still a little bass-heavy but not to an extent that it drowns out the treble like before. It actually suits the music and your style. Personally I'd not change too much to the recording setup now.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:04 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for your (as usual) perceptive comments.

Quote:
My only nag is that you slow down too much in the reprise to accommodate for the RH passagework. Quite understandable, it's hard work up there, but it should not be too obvious. A bit more work on these RH figurations would fix this, as well as make it sound more flowing.


I agree. A slight slow-down was deliberate there, although I think it probably was too much. Actually, this was a re-do of an earlier take in response to a comment from a listener that the balance with the lefthand needed to be better. I think I improved this aspect but then was focusing on it too much in the performance.

Quote:
Will you be tackling the Tarentelle eventually ?


Yes, in fact I plan to do the entire Annees in a long-term project coming up. It being my very favorite set of romantic character pieces, I've put it off too long already :D . The tarentella of course is probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the cycle (matched for me in difficulty only by Orage and the Dante sonata).

Quote:
This is one if the pieces in the Annees I was never able to warm to. You give a very commanding and convincing performance although the climax (between 3:18 and ca. 4:20) seems too bullish to me. IMHO this needs more grandeur and less aggression (if that is the right word, maybe not).


I'm glad my performance convinced you though it is not among your favorites in the cycle. I agree that the climactic portions here were a bit rushed, maybe even aggressive. Probably just nerves. I think the climaxes were better in two of the other takes (I normally do around five), but then there other things I didn't like. Recently I've especially been trying not to edit takes (i.e., the David April approach :lol: ), and here it may not have been possible anyway. Btw, I like your adjective "bullish." :P :wink:

Quote:
All in all, great work. The sound is still a little bass-heavy but not to an extent that it drowns out the treble like before. It actually suits the music and your style. Personally I'd not change too much to the recording setup now.


Thanks again for the compliments and feedback. Good that you too seem to find the setup significantly better. I don't plan to change it much except maybe to make minor refinements.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:30 am 
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Hi Joe,

I listened to your three pieces and thoroughly enjoyed them all. Your playing shows a high level of musicianship and is very expressive too. You play some beautiful nuances along the way in the Liszt.

Yea! You're aiming for complete takes now! I tell you there's no better feeling than achieving a complete take that meets one's artistic standards without a need for editing. It takes determination, patience and perseverance, and sometimes a recording session can be grueling, but it's well worth it! :wink:

I've always considered the Annees de Pelerinage to be among Liszt's finest music. I've played a number of pieces from all three volumes. The "Troisieme Annee" chronologically is more of a distant cousin of the earlier volumes and sometimes Liszt is a bit experimental there, but there are some gorgeous works in that collection as well. Someday, like you, I need to return to Annees to do a few more. Good luck on your recording project!

You're actually getting a good sound from your setup now. Certainly initial placement of microphones requires much experimentation to find the "sweet spot" as they say. The variables, of course, are the piano, capabilities of recording equipment, room acoustics, type and period of music, and the pianist. "Close in" generally works best for jazz and pops as it emphasizes music in the making, whereas classical demands a fully blended and finished sound. Normally the closest the mics should be to the grand piano is around 5 feet out to "hear" finished sound. In my case, my Baldwin is very powerful in a modest sized living room, and Late Romantic music can often create a robust sound, so I position my mics 8 feet away. If you use a stereo pair of external mics, you also need to pay attention to height of mic stands, separation between the two mics, and upward or downward "pointing" angle (declination) of the mic tubes. Also, I find that depending on a piece of music, sometimes I prefer a fully open piano lid, and at other times for quiet works I like to use the shorter singer prop.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:46 am 
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Hi David,

Thanks very much for listening and for your kind words.

Quote:
Yea! You're aiming for complete takes now! I tell you there's no better feeling than achieving a complete take that meets one's artistic standards without a need for editing. It takes determination, patience and perseverance, and sometimes a recording session can be grueling, but it's well worth it!


Indeed. It always does feel a bit like cheating to splice one's recordings, especially when it's a piece under, say, 10 minutes :D Even though I sometimes give in and do some editing, like you I am of the school of thought that a recording loses something of the spontaneity and natural sound when it isn't done in one go. Even if it is one of many takes, from a recording perspective of course that one take still represents one mood and approach that one had for the duration of the take. It's the reason so many modern recordings sound wooden and artificial to my ears. Recently, I listened to Cortot's 24 Chopin preludes (1920s recording) again, and what an experience! Cortot of course was known for recording the preludes or even the 24 etudes in one sitting without break :shock: He may have become a bit lazier and less polished in his later years, but what extraordinary panache and technique!

Quote:
I've always considered the Annees de Pelerinage to be among Liszt's finest music. I've played a number of pieces from all three volumes. The "Troisieme Annee" chronologically is more of a distant cousin of the earlier volumes and sometimes Liszt is a bit experimental there, but there are some gorgeous works in that collection as well. Someday, like you, I need to return to Annees to do a few more. Good luck on your recording project!


Me too. IMO it is his best work, when considered as a whole. The sonata, while obviously very important structurally, I've always found a bit overrated. Somehow the Annees represents what Liszt did best as a composer: create moods through sound experimentation, also evident in his peerless transcriptions.

Quote:
You're actually getting a good sound from your setup now. Certainly initial placement of microphones requires much experimentation to find the "sweet spot" as they say. The variables, of course, are the piano, capabilities of recording equipment, room acoustics, type and period of music, and the pianist. "Close in" generally works best for jazz and pops as it emphasizes music in the making, whereas classical demands a fully blended and finished sound. Normally the closest the mics should be to the grand piano is around 5 feet out to "hear" finished sound. In my case, my Baldwin is very powerful in a modest sized living room, and Late Romantic music can often create a robust sound, so I position my mics 8 feet away. If you use a stereo pair of external mics, you also need to pay attention to height of mic stands, separation between the two mics, and upward or downward "pointing" angle (declination) of the mic tubes. Also, I find that depending on a piece of music, sometimes I prefer a fully open piano lid, and at other times for quiet works I like to use the shorter singer prop.


Thanks for your thoughts on sound. I'm fairly happy with my setup now, but this is good food for thought since I may make some minor refinements to help bring out the treble and voicing even better.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:43 pm 
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Hi Joe,

Regarding bringing out the treble more: If you're using two parallel stereo mics (A-B configuration), what you need to do is move them more toward the left while carefully maintaining the same distance from the piano (five or more feet away), such that the left mic is still pointing perpendicularly across the strings yet the sight line is becomes nearer to the hammer line. In doing so, you must still maintain the exact separation between the mics. So the easiest way to visualize the maneuver is that you're not moving one mic, but actually the two in precise tandem, which will lessen emphasis on the bass. If you lose too much bass, then, of course, simply move them in tandem a bit more toward the tail of the piano again until you get the balance you like. If you're using XY configuration two to three feet from the piano, you'll do roughly the same actually, but making a much smaller shift such the mic angling left is looking more at the hammer line, but not so far a shift that that mic is then overshooting the keyboard! It's a more finicky adjustment. Sight with your eye along the mic tube to be sure. If you're using on-board mics with the unit on a table, stand, etc. then that is a very simple left shift. It's often very surprising how a seemingly small adjustment can make a noticeable change.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:39 am 
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Hi, I had a listen to the Liszt pieces. Very nice!

Your use of rubato in the Gondoliera is convincing and there were many nice nuances. A few small details I would play differently, but that's more in the nature of artistic licence than an actual criticism.

Like Chris, I'm not completely convinced by the Cloches as a piece, and agree that the climax needs more grandeur, probably a slightly slower tempo and a bigger sonority would help. I must say the bell effect at the start was very good. All in all, fine playing throughout both these pieces. Good luck to you (and your piano's action!) with the repeated notes in the Tarantella. I used to love playing it and look forward to hearing your version.


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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:47 am 
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andrew wrote:
Good luck to you (and your piano's action!) with the repeated notes in the Tarantella. I used to love playing it and look forward to hearing your version.

Say that again :roll: I used to love playing it too but gave up on it because the repeated triplets are just impossible on my instrument (same problem with Goldenberg & Schmuyle and the Ravel Alborada.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:45 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:32 pm
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Hello Andrew,

Thanks for the compliments and comments.


Quote:
Say that again I used to love playing it too but gave up on it because the repeated triplets are just impossible on my instrument (same problem with Goldenberg & Schmuyle and the Ravel Alborada.


Well, not trying to be a dissenter, but I wouldn't blame it on the action (unless for some reason, your notes don't work). I've heard several professional pianists play it on Steinway pianos with presumably perfect actions, Edward Kilenyi, Boris Beresovsky, and Jerome Rose, and Jerome Rose blows the other two out of the water. The first two slow down after the intro and their repeated notes are not clear. It's just damn difficult and takes both considerable repeated-note technique and work.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:13 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
It's just damn difficult and takes both considerable repeated-note technique and work.

Yes obviously. It can only be blamed on the instrument to a certain degree. But definitely, if the escape mechanism is imperfect, it's not going to work.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Liszt pieces from the Annees (and encore)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:19 pm 
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Just thought I'd pop in and say that I would don't plan to re-record these for now, so I would like them to go on the site. No rush at all on this, and I know how busy you guys are, but since it's six days later and nothing was said, I just wanted to make sure you knew. Thanks.

Joe

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