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 Post subject: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 7:07 pm 
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So now I'm practicing Chopin's etude from the "three nouvelles etudes" - the one in D-flat major where the RH plays both legato and staccato. I'm getting my piano tuned next week and may be ready to record this piece but I'm uncertain about pedaling. The edition I'm using is The Fryderyk Chopin Institute Polish Music Publications, edited by Paderewski. Inside, it says that it follows mostly the exact markings from Chopin's original manuscripts and made only some very slight adjustments when the difference in the modern piano's resonance is taken into consideration. So basically, what you see in my score (shown below) are pedal markings indicated by Chopin.

My question is, if you follow the markings exactly, then the lower notes in the RH don't sound staccato at all, which defeats the purpose of the etude in the first place, doesn't it? I just don't want to be accused of sounding too 'notey' or too much pedal and not enough 'notey-sounding' (detached) etc...


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chopin etude.jpg
chopin etude.jpg [ 224.95 KiB | Viewed 4991 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:01 pm 
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Hi Monica,

Good question about pedaling in this piece; it's a deceptively tricky etude to be sure. I think one thing to keep in mind about Chopin's pedal markings is that he was writing for an earlier instrument, namely the Erard or Pleyel, which had a much crisper and drier sound than the modern piano, so more pedaling was necessary in those days to avoid it sounding too dry. The rule of thumb with pedaling of course, is that it changes with the harmony, so you'll see that it's marked fairly religiously in that way throughout. I would certainly say that, depending on your instrument, you could certainly release it a little earlier right on the second beat rather than after it (and then possibly do that even for the ones that are marked through the measure because of the harmony). But that's only one thought; it really depends on the kind of sound you want of course. I might even be tempted to view this more as "portato" than "staccato," and I think you'd get that kind of effect by maybe following the pedal markings exactly, but then playing staccato in the right hand. Sorry for the vacillation :P I'm not sure there is a single right answer to this question, but these are just some ideas so I hope you find them useful.

Great choice of repertoire BTW. That's an etude that definitely deserves to be heard more, as probably do all the nouvelles etudes.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:24 pm 
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Hi Joe, and thank you for helping me. Yes, this piece is such a sweet little gem! And although the notes aren't technically that hard (expect for the wide stretches near the end), how much of a detached style to play is as you say, the tricky part. Portato is a good idea. Funny, whenever I see that word, I think of potato. "you say potato, I say potato...."

Too bad we can't hear Chopin himself play. I have heard recordings made on one of his pianos before though. The tone sounds different but I can't tell how much sustaining power it has. I literally stood next to his piano when I was in Paris, France last month and was dieing to play it. I'm still going through photos on my camera and found this one that I'm attaching here. Although, I'm not crazy about this one because the lighting and angle and weird, and it looks like there's a trombone coming out of my head. :lol: It's a pretty piano, though, isn't it? And long! I should have taken more side-view shots, but I didn't.

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:46 pm 
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I see from the picture that the bottom key is a "C"! Looks like it's missing a couple of keys at the top, too.
Is it the angle, or is the shape a little different from modern pianos?

On the pedaling, Joe's answer is really good. Some pianists try to get half-pedalings on modern pianos; on slower pieces, that's ok, but when there's a lot else going on I find it's just one dimension too many. (I've always been a terrible organist.)

Besides, the pedaling does not mandate a change in the way you hit the keys, so the etude still stretches your technique. (It would stretch mine, for sure.)

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:30 pm 
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StuKautsch wrote:
Besides, the pedaling does not mandate a change in the way you hit the keys, so the etude still stretches your technique. (It would stretch mine, for sure.)

But the pedaling does change the sound no matter how detached you play the keys. I think only a discerning ear can clearly hear if a pianist is playing staccato while the pedal is down. We here could probably tell, but a 'regular' person probably can't.

StuKautsch wrote:
I see from the picture that the bottom key is a "C"! Looks like it's missing a couple of keys at the top, too.
Is it the angle, or is the shape a little different from modern pianos?

Yes, it's longer and more narrow at the end - a little more boxy too. I'm attaching another photo because I just noticed something that I did not see when I was actually looking at the real piano. See the sides of the music rack? They have a design in them similar to the rack itself. But it looks to me like maybe those sides (where we normally just place books of music) might actually flip up so that they extend the length of the music rack. Could that be? I don't see any hinges there. Still, it sort of looks like they could be raised up to meet with the rack...which means we could put much more music on the rack. Wow - what a great idea if it's true. If not, then aha.. I just invented something. Maybe I'll finally get rich! :D :P


Attachments:
's piano 2.jpg
's piano 2.jpg [ 332.51 KiB | Viewed 4969 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:48 am 
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pianolady wrote:
if you follow the markings exactly, then the lower notes in the RH don't sound staccato at all, which defeats the purpose of the etude in the first place, doesn't it?

You see this sort of thing in Debussy too. To our modern "scientific" minds it doesn't make sense to combine pedal and staccato: of course it's going to sound legato. But the point is that if you think of it as staccato, then you'll instinctively change other aspects of the tone quality too.

In this case, in my opinion, the point is that the right hand is clearly split into melody and accompaniment, and you want the accompaniment to be a lot softer than the melody. It's different from the other Chopin double-note etudes, opus 25/6 and opus 25/8, where although the top notes should still be louder, the two voices can be more equal because they're basically doing the same as each other. In this one, the staccato markings should encourage you to use a much lighter touch on the lower notes, making the difference between the two voices clearer.

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:59 pm 
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Quote:
pianolady wrote:
Still, it sort of looks like they could be raised up to meet with the rack...which means we could put much more music on the rack. Wow - what a great idea if it's true. If not, then aha.. I just invented something. Maybe I'll finally get rich!


You'd probably get several customers from this organization. So far, when choosing something to record, I usually choose between something 4 pages or less, or memorizing. (There was one longer than 4 that I read, but I can't remember how I did it.)

Xeroxing helps, but you're still at the mercy of the presence of convenient page turns, and trying to do it silently so the mike doesn't pick it up is murder. If the ends flipped up, I could get 6 pages across, which would help.

Even better would be a way of turning, or rotating, whatever was on the stand (like an escalator lying on its side), controlled by a pedal or button. Then you could get 12 pages! (But it would have to be very quiet!!)

Or perhaps something like a player piano, in which you'd have the printed music on the roll (but it would not control the piano action!)

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:34 pm 
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hanysz wrote:
You see this sort of thing in Debussy too. To our modern "scientific" minds it doesn't make sense to combine pedal and staccato: of course it's going to sound legato. But the point is that if you think of it as staccato, then you'll instinctively change other aspects of the tone quality too.

In this case, in my opinion, the point is that the right hand is clearly split into melody and accompaniment, and you want the accompaniment to be a lot softer than the melody. It's different from the other Chopin double-note etudes, opus 25/6 and opus 25/8, where although the top notes should still be louder, the two voices can be more equal because they're basically doing the same as each other. In this one, the staccato markings should encourage you to use a much lighter touch on the lower notes, making the difference between the two voices clearer.

Thank you, Alexander. That's very helpful! I've been practicing this etude without any pedal, which is not easy for me because my LH wants to copy my RH and play staccato too. So I was working on holding down the LH for a complete beat, but getting off on the rest, and then of course making my RH play the upper notes legato and the lowers ones staccato. I still have to work on the pedaling though.

Regarding pedaling with staccato - I'm also working another Chopin cutie - the no. 18 Prelude :wink: . I'm totally at a loss as to why there are pedal markings toward the end of the piece. I’m attaching a part of the document – it’s the middle line, last bar. I don’t understand why Chopin marked pedal down on the first notes of each pair of eighth notes. These are also marked with a staccato, which you totally lose when you use pedal. I think you’d get a much sharper and grittier sound without pedal, and then really attacking the accented eighth notes. I dunno…I just have so many questions lately….


@Stu – Yes, it sure would be nice to be able to put up more than four pages without having first to rig up some kind of board or something. The only problem I see with having an extended music rack is that I might not be able to see the far end pages. My dumb eye sight seems to be getting worse and worse and I would have to keep a pair of binoculars on the piano. But I really like your idea of a horizontal escalator! That would be very cool!! :)


Attachments:
preludejpg.JPG
preludejpg.JPG [ 85.43 KiB | Viewed 4948 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:36 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Regarding pedaling with staccato ... I don’t understand why Chopin marked pedal down on the first notes of each pair of eighth notes. These are also marked with a staccato, which you totally lose when you use pedal. I think you’d get a much sharper and grittier sound without pedal, and then really attacking the accented eighth notes.
Let me suggest that a possible reason then could be that he did not want the "sharper grittier sound". Perhaps his staccatoes are really "potatoes" indicating that the notes should be shortened only slightly (one style of staccato involves a staccato 8th note being equivalent to a 16th note plus a 16th rest, another style would involve a shorter note and a longer rest, he might want a slightly longer note and a slightly shorter rest) . Now it takes time to leap from the first of each pair to the second (particularly when the leap is of the order of an octave), perhaps more time than he wants for the "rest" part of the staccato, hence his suggestion to sustain the first part of the chord by pedal for part of the duration of the hands' flight time. The pedal markings (both on and off) are so squashed together, that they may well not mean what at first sight they appear to mean, namely that the "off" should come after the 2nd note of each pair, but that the pedal could be meant to come off just before the 2nd note.
Quote:
The only problem I see with having an extended music rack is that I might not be able to see the far end pages.
Yeah, the notes are so far away they're not only too small, but also out of focus if your glasses are optimized for your usual music reading distance. How about a more or less U-shaped or semicircular rack with a radius equal to your reading distance? You should be able to surround yourself easily with up to 8 pages.


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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:41 pm 
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rainer wrote:
Let me suggest that a possible reason then could be that he did not want the "sharper grittier sound". Perhaps his staccatoes are really "potatoes" indicating that the notes should be shortened only slightly (one style of staccato involves a staccato 8th note being equivalent to a 16th note plus a 16th rest, another style would involve a shorter note and a longer rest, he might want a slightly longer note and a slightly shorter rest)

hehehe.....
I do think that Chopin was in a bad mood when he wrote this piece. It's sounds so angry! That's why I think sharper and grittier is appropriate. Plus, it sounds cool if you can pull it off (hit the right keys). But your idea of simply coming off the pedal before you play/leap up to the octaves is good. Thank you, Rainer! That's why I like discussing these technical questions! :D


rainer wrote:
How about a more or less U-shaped or semicircular rack with a radius equal to your reading distance? You should be able to surround yourself easily with up to 8 pages.

Another great idea!!

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:02 pm 
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I wish I was artistically talented so I could draw one of those "Artist's Conceptions". For instance, a music stand which surrounds one's head a revolves via cues from eye blinks or something.

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 2:21 pm 
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StuKautsch wrote:
I wish I was artistically talented so I could draw one of those "Artist's Conceptions". For instance, a music stand which surrounds one's head a revolves via cues from eye blinks or something.


Oh yes, I can visualize that.... :wink: (get it?)...

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:22 pm 
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I tried making a couple recordings today but it's a no-go. Just one of those days, I guess. Sort of like having a bad-hair day....
Anyway, I'm going to give it another week and try again. In the meantime, I'm looking for opinions about the ending so I can then put the best ending in place when I try to record again. It's the last two chords. I can just barely reach the first of the two. I can reach it, but I can't bring out the top RH A-flat loud enough to be heard that much. So I'd like to know if it's okay if I roll that chord instead. Since I had my recorder out, I recorded just the two ways of playing the ending. It's only 20 seconds long - the first way is the rolled chord followed by the second way which is set straight down block-style. Can you hear the top note in the RH? Or should I play it rolled so that I can definitely bring out that note?

Here is the attached file. Thank you for any opinions. :)


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which ending.mp3 [548.6 KiB]
Downloaded 229 times

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:42 pm 
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The second ending isn't too bad. I'd like to hear still more of the top A flat, but it's already audible. Probably you can make this work.

There's a third way that's worth considering too: roll both of the last two chords. Tell the audience that it's an artistic statement--you like rolled chords--it's nothing to do with the size of your hands ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: pedaling in Chopin etude questions
PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:53 pm 
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The second way would be better because it's what's written. At the moment the top Ab is certainly audible, but noticeably weaker than the Eb, with the result that the overall effect of the cadence is somewhat altered, almost giving the impression that you are ascending to the F of the final chord instead of descending to it.

I agree with Alexander in that it's probably worth persevering with this way if you believe there to be a good chance that you can improve the balance to at least your own satisfaction. If there's a danger you might do yourself an injury by overstretching, give up now and go for the first way. But if persevering, think carefully about how you want to finger it to best effect. If you are favouring setting the thumb squarely onto the Gb while just managing to catch the edge of the Ab with the very tip of your pinky (thereby weakening that note), it may be worth changing the bias; set as much as you dare of the ball of the pinky onto the Ab and rather risk the Gb coming out weak. Settle the edge or corner of the Gb key into the groove between the tip of your thumb and its nail. Choose between the alternatives 1-2-3-5 and 1-2-4-5 on the basis of which way the stretching hurts less. If your hands were big enough for stretch not to be a problem, you could probably slam this chord (i.e. accelerate your fingers downwards while airborne, and land on the keys with a crash), but as it is it's probably better to place your fingers carefully (land on the keys with zero velocity - use every millisecond of those rests in the previous bar to ensure the fingers are sitting comfortably) and then accelerate the actual keys downwards from that in-contact position (you may be doing it like this already, I don't know).

If you do go for rolling, I again agree with Alexander that it makes sense to roll both chords because it allows you to pretend to be doing it for musical reasons. In that case the thing to do would be to pretend Chopin had written wiggly lines alongside them, i.e. you should arpeggiate all six notes of the first chord (and all 5 or the 2nd). At the moment I'm not sure what you're doing, it kind of sounds like you're rolling only the RH and playing the two LH Abs at the same time as the RH's Gb (I hear only 4 distinct bangs, not 6).

To give greatest smoothness to this 6-note arpeggio, I would play all three Abs with the LH, that is to say I would finger the RH using 1-3-5 for Gb-C-Eb, and while the RH is working its way along those 3 notes, the LH (using its second Ab as a kind of spring board) flies over the top of the RH, landing on the top Ab (probably with its 2nd or 3rd finger or both), at just the right moment after the RH has played its Eb.


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