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 Post subject: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:37 pm 
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Someone has asked me to accompany Samuel Barber's Mélodies passagères, Op 27, a set of five songs based on French poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. One of these is called "Le clocher chante" ("The Bell Tower Sings"), wherein the accompaniment imitates the ringing of a carillon or set of bells, and is based on an overlapping pair of second inversion triads, G minor and Bb major, as a set of 8 notes which just keep repeating.

The way the music is printed clearly implies that the manner in which it should be played is that alternate notes are to be played by alternate hands,
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carry1.jpg
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in other words that the Bb major notes should be taken by the right hand, and the G minor ones by the left, with the fingering probably being (R3 L2 R5 L1 R1 L4 R3 L2) even though it is actually easier (or at least I find it so) just to play all the notes with the right hand as (4 2 5 4 2 1 4 2), where 2 is the only finger that plays different notes. It didn't take too much perseverance to get accustomed to the initially akward alternating hand fingering.

But later on it gets a bit more complicated, and we have to play a pair of fifths for each single note we had before:
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carry2.jpg
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The implication of which hand should play what is still there, but I'm struggling with the awkwardness of it. I can play it with ease using a fingering in which the hands do not strictly alternate. Starting with the EbBb, I don't go R L R L R L R L, but R L R R L L R L, using fingerings R13 L14 R25 R13 L14 L25 R13 L14.

I know it would be better for my soul for me to persevere with attempting an alternating hand fingering, but neither am I convinced the effort is worth while, nor is it obvious what fingerings to use, and which hand should go over/under which when.

What do you think?


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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:39 am 
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I'm by no means a purist when it comes to such matters, so IMO if you can get away with playing two of the fifths in the same hand and achieve the same sound and fluency, I would say go for it.

My only concern, though, is whether it might be more awkward to do so for the long term. Though I don't know the piece, this would seem like it would be at least a relatively brisk tempo ("Allegro" though "non troppo"), and I would think it might be a bit physically straining to play one figure in the same hand, presumably from the wrist. I've sometimes had the same thought for alternating passages (i.e., that it would be easier to give one hand, usually the left, the extra notes), but then when I worked it out discovered that it was a bit awkward, then gone back to practice the way it is written. The latter seems more difficult to learn originally, but then in the end results in greater fluidity.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:21 am 
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Hi Rainer,
I agree with you on the first; play all with RH and the fingers you identified. In the more difficult part, for me I find it easy by using only 52 of the LH for all the LH part, thereby not getting the LH sucked deep into the keys. The pattern is simple; you'll have it in no time flat!

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:27 pm 
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Thanks to both of you for your feedback.
jlr43 wrote:
My only concern, though, is whether it might be more awkward to do so for the long term. Though I don't know the piece, this would seem like it would be at least a relatively brisk tempo ("Allegro" though "non troppo"), and I would think it might be a bit physically straining to play one figure in the same hand, presumably from the wrist.
Strain isn't too much of an issue since the piece is quite short, and each hand only has to play two consecutive note pairs once in each cycle of 8. The hand action is similar to that which one would use in a legato context, with the right hand changing shape as it goes from 25 to 13 (or the left as it goes from 14 to 25), except that to avoid playing it too legato, I make this shape change happen while the hand is slightly off the keys, there is very little wrist action.

Whenever I do something like this I always think of that clip I saw in a nature program once. There was this greenish lizard-like creature standing on desert sand too hot to have all four feet in contact with it the whole time, so it just stood on its left forefoot and right hindfoot for a few seconds, then switched over to right forefoot and left hindfoot for a few seconds, then switched back, and so on. I just think of my hand imitating that lizard, putting all its weight alternately on 14 (or 13) and 25.
Quote:
I've sometimes had the same thought for alternating passages (i.e., that it would be easier to give one hand, usually the left, the extra notes), but then when I worked it out discovered that it was a bit awkward, then gone back to practice the way it is written. The latter seems more difficult to learn originally, but then in the end results in greater fluidity.
I know exactly what you mean. Even when there are no printed fingerings, an obvious one often presents itself, then I discover an "easier" one, which helps me get further for a while, and then later I discover that the "more difficult" one is actually easier or more effective.
musical-md wrote:
I agree with you on the first; play all with RH and the fingers you identified.
Thanks, but I disagree with me on this one. Playing all with RH was easier to begin with, but in virtually "no time flat" I've come round to the view that alternating is not that difficult here, sits quite well, and is more effective in avoiding playing too legato. There was a typo in my first message, by the way, the L4 should read L5: I play it (R3 L2 R5 L1 R1 L5 R3 L2), and in part what makes this easy is the 5115 symmetry, and of course the fact that every finger only ever plays the same note so need not move around except to give way to the other, since the Bb is shared by fingers R3 and L1).
Quote:
In the more difficult part, for me I find it easy by using only 52 of the LH for all the LH part, thereby not getting the LH sucked deep into the keys. The pattern is simple; you'll have it in no time flat!
I hope your confidence in me is well-deserved. I may well get there in the end (it's already starting to feel possible), but I can always revert to my cheat fingering if needed.

I had this notion that alternating might have to involve some under and over, but if I understand you correctly, the LH stays underneath the RH all the time, its low profile with 52 making it easy to slide under while the RH plays its Eb Bb and G D (not sure yet whether RH should do 25 all the time as well, or whether it should do 13 for the Eb Bb).

There exists, of course, yet another cheat fingering. Noting that the upper note of each fifth interval is the same note as what was being played when it was just one note at a time, and noting that playing all of those with just the RH is sort of OK, then one could simply play all the lower notes with the LH. But then this method has the same drawbacks as which make the alternating-hands fingering preferable even for the simple case.


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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:37 pm 
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Quote:
I had this notion that alternating might have to involve some under and over, but if I understand you correctly, the LH stays underneath the RH all the time, its low profile with 52 making it easy to slide under while the RH plays its Eb Bb and G D (not sure yet whether RH should do 25 all the time as well, or whether it should do 13 for the Eb Bb).
Precisely! {emphasis underlined}

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:43 pm 
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There is no such thing as 'cheat fingering', unless you have a friend help by using a third hand. I could use that kind of help right now in a piece I'm practicing. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:25 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
There is no such thing as 'cheat fingering', unless you have a friend help by using a third hand. I could use that kind of help right now in a piece I'm practicing. :lol:
Pray tell. Which is it? :) Thinking of 3-staff music, Debussy's 2nd book of preludes comes immediately to mind. (I'm not your competitor after all)

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:34 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
pianolady wrote:
There is no such thing as 'cheat fingering', unless you have a friend help by using a third hand. I could use that kind of help right now in a piece I'm practicing. :lol:
Pray tell. Which is it? :) Thinking of 3-staff music, Debussy's 2nd book of preludes comes immediately to mind. (I'm not your competitor after all)


Actually, no it's only 2-staff music - Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov's "Scherzo". The way the hands have to leap around and fingers have to slip in and out between and under/over each different hand is driving me nearly insane. And it is for 'that' occasion, Eddy. :wink: Can't you please just come anyway and lend me a hand? :idea: :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:56 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
musical-md wrote:
pianolady wrote:
There is no such thing as 'cheat fingering', unless you have a friend help by using a third hand. I could use that kind of help right now in a piece I'm practicing. :lol:
Pray tell. Which is it? :) Thinking of 3-staff music, Debussy's 2nd book of preludes comes immediately to mind. (I'm not your competitor after all)
Actually, no it's only 2-staff music - Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov's "Scherzo". The way the hands have to leap around and fingers have to slip in and out between and under/over each different hand is driving me nearly insane. And it is for 'that' occasion, Eddy. :wink: Can't you please just come anyway and lend me a hand? :idea: :lol:

Not having the score to this version, I'm afraid I cannot offer an opinion. ( :evil: Rats! I love offering opinions.) BTW, Have you asked Cousin It? His/her presence might even go unnoticed. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:17 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
BTW, Have you asked Cousin It? His/her presence might even go unnoticed. :wink:

Good idea! :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:27 am 
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pianolady wrote:
Actually, no it's only 2-staff music - Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov's "Scherzo". The way the hands have to leap around and fingers have to slip in and out between and under/over each different hand is driving me nearly insane. And it is for 'that' occasion, Eddy. :wink: Can't you please just come anyway and lend me a hand? :idea: :lol:
That's a dreadfully hard piece, an immense challenge to get up to tempo and still sounding accurate, effortless and mercurial. I believe it falls flat if you don't get it exactly right, as it's not a virtuoso piece, just damn hard one. Personally I'd never have picked this one - far too risky. But if you can pull it off, guaranteed to be a success. Good luck with it !

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:50 pm 
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techneut wrote:
pianolady wrote:
Actually, no it's only 2-staff music - Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov's "Scherzo". The way the hands have to leap around and fingers have to slip in and out between and under/over each different hand is driving me nearly insane. And it is for 'that' occasion, Eddy. :wink: Can't you please just come anyway and lend me a hand? :idea: :lol:
That's a dreadfully hard piece, an immense challenge to get up to tempo and still sounding accurate, effortless and mercurial. I believe it falls flat if you don't get it exactly right, as it's not a virtuoso piece, just damn hard one. Personally I'd never have picked this one - far too risky. But if you can pull it off, guaranteed to be a success. Good luck with it !


You are scaring me....

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 10:33 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
You are scaring me....

Be very afraid.... It was no less than Charles Rosen who said this piece is exceedingly difficult because you need to make all 10 fingers sing independently, or something along those lines. And personally I think, if you can't get it up tempo and sounding completely effortless and elfin, it will just not work. It's a terribly ambitious choice, but IMHO not a wise one, unless you have a ironclad technique and nerves of steel.

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:18 pm 
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Quote:
pianolady wrote:
You are scaring me....

Be very afraid.... It was no less than Charles Rosen who said this piece is exceedingly difficult because you need to make all 10 fingers sing independently, or something along those lines. And personally I think, if you can't get it up tempo and sounding completely effortless and elfin, it will just not work. It's a terribly ambitious choice, but IMHO not a wise one, unless you have a ironclad technique and nerves of steel.


Yeah, I'd have to agree with Chris here. It truly is a fiendishly difficult piece, unless you're Rachmaninoff :P Even Moiseivitsch struggles with it a bit in places and he IMO has one of the great techniques in history. I think mercurial is the perfect word to describe it. I think it's just one of those pieces that Rachmaninoff wrote/transcribed for himself to totally suit his hand and musical vision. But not to scare you, Monica, just give you an idea of what you may be getting yourself into :P I would highly recommend listening to Rachmaninoff's performance if you haven't already. IMHO it truly is a miracle of pianism.

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 Post subject: Re: Barber songs, awkward fingering for bell effects
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 2:54 am 
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Awww, you guys. :( Guess I won't get any encouragement here. :(
I do have the whole piece memorized now. That should help...

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