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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:09 am 
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richard66 wrote:
Another consideration is technical: some pieces simply cannot be played on an upright: has anyone tried Albéniz's Leyenda on an upright? It is mechanically impossible! The same goes for Liszt's Consolations (about the only Liszt I have attempted), which seems impossible without the sustaining pedal.
You're quite right that some pieces do require the selective sustain pedal, and what the middle pedal on most uprights does instead (simply lifting the dampers on the bottom few octaves) is a very poor substitute for that, and if such pieces are going to form a major part of your intended repertoire, then of course that will have a bearing on your decision whether you really must spend the extra money on a grand or whether you can get by with a decent upright. I could have done with a sost ped in some Barber songs I accompanied recently, but frankly I come across this requirement so rarely that it doesn't much bother me not having one at home.

I don't understand why you particularly mention Leyenda, though. As far as I can see it is perfectly well playable on an upright. The huge jumps are a horror no matter what type of instrument you play it on, but I can't see where in it a sost ped would be especially desirable, let alone necessary. Could you be more specific about exactly which sections you consider mechanically impossible?


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:44 am 
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No, Monica, only grands have the sostenuto pedal. Others have a middle pedal, but it only places a stip of felt between the hammers and the strings. Its only use is when you feel like reading something at 3am, because otherwise it alters the feel of the keys. You mention the very same Consolation I was thinking of and I am now practising pieces that obvioulsy ask for it too. I am trying to do with finger legato, but it makes it all that more difficult, as in one, for example, there on the RH is a suspension (4-3) within a chord being played with 1,2 and 5, which is the main melody), with the LF playing a counter melody whereas with the sustenuto pedal I would play with the RH the mailn melody and the suspension, leaving the rest for the LH - which is the way it is written out.

You misunderstand me, Rainer: in the Leyenda the pedal is not an issue, the issue are the repeated middle-register d's, which alternate between the hands. The hammers on an upright to not return to position fast enough, resulting in many of the d's being dropped out. That was already a problem with my old Baldwin, but on the one I have now it is impossible. The leaps never bothered me too much, except that landing ff on a black key with a finger 3/4 of the way off and skidding might cause injury.

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:16 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
No, Monica, only grands have the sostenuto pedal.
Despite their common linguistic root, sostenuto and sustain pedals are not the same thing. Not all pianos have a sostenuto pedal (and apparently not all which do are grands) but all pianos do have a sustain pedal, that's the one on the right, also called the damper pedal.
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You misunderstand me, Rainer: in the Leyenda the pedal is not an issue, the issue are the repeated middle-register d's, which alternate between the hands. The hammers on an upright to not return to position fast enough, resulting in many of the d's being dropped out.
I see what you mean. Luckily it's not really a problem on my piano; the keys are able to repeat as fast as I can play them. Maybe I'm not (trying to) play them fast enough. :?
Quote:
The leaps never bothered me too much.
Really? Wow! I reckon the piece is pretty well impossible to play as written if you also want it fast. All the way through the fast sections, the left hand simply plods along playing on semiquaver beats 1,3,5,7,9,11, and its occasional octave jumps are basically going to govern what your maximum speed is going to be. Meanwhile the right hand mostly plays on 2,4,6,8,10,12. But where the leaps come, the right hand plays its loud chords on beat 1, but still has to play on the neighbouring beats 12 and 2. It therefore has to play on three consecutive semiquaver beats, with a jump of up to two octaves both between the first and second and between the second and third.

How do you play it? I think there are basically four ways:
1) By playing the whole piece slowly enough that your right hand can play its three consecutive semiquaver beats in time. Like this there is no way it will be so fast that the piano's mechanical repeatability will be anywhere near challenged (not even on your old groaner). But this will probably be rather too pedestrian for most people's taste.
2) By not playing 3 consecutive semiquavers at all. The right hand doesn't play 10,12,1,2,4 but only 10,12,2,4 as elsewhere, playing the loud chord on 2. The consequence of this is that you get a "ricochet" effect because the LH and RH chords are consecutive instead of simultaneous, they are a semiquaver apart. The recording on site does it this way. While it's not what's written, it's reasonably effective.
3) By judiciously omitting, or subtly shifting the timing of, the right hand's beats 12 or 2 or both.
4) By pragmatically abandoning all attempts to play in time, and inserting gaps between 12 and 1 and/or between 1 and 2 to give yourself time for the leaps. Unfortunately this rather disturbs the overall perpetuum mobile effect.


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:07 pm 
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You forgot one more idea on how to land those leaps correctly, which is to have a friend standing nearby and ready to push down the notes at the right time. :idea: :P

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:55 pm 
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rainer wrote:
richard66 wrote:
No, Monica, only grands have the sostenuto pedal.
Despite their common linguistic root, sostenuto and sustain pedals are not the same thing. Not all pianos have a sostenuto pedal (and apparently not all which do are grands) but all pianos do have a sustain pedal, that's the one on the right, also called the damper pedal.
Quote:
You misunderstand me, Rainer: in the Leyenda the pedal is not an issue, the issue are the repeated middle-register d's, which alternate between the hands. The hammers on an upright to not return to position fast enough, resulting in many of the d's being dropped out.
I see what you mean. Luckily it's not really a problem on my piano; the keys are able to repeat as fast as I can play them. Maybe I'm not (trying to) play them fast enough. :?
Quote:
The leaps never bothered me too much.
Really? Wow! I reckon the piece is pretty well impossible to play as written if you also want it fast. All the way through the fast sections, the left hand simply plods along playing on semiquaver beats 1,3,5,7,9,11, and its occasional octave jumps are basically going to govern what your maximum speed is going to be. Meanwhile the right hand mostly plays on 2,4,6,8,10,12. But where the leaps come, the right hand plays its loud chords on beat 1, but still has to play on the neighbouring beats 12 and 2. It therefore has to play on three consecutive semiquaver beats, with a jump of up to two octaves both between the first and second and between the second and third.

How do you play it? I think there are basically four ways:
1) By playing the whole piece slowly enough that your right hand can play its three consecutive semiquaver beats in time. Like this there is no way it will be so fast that the piano's mechanical repeatability will be anywhere near challenged (not even on your old groaner). But this will probably be rather too pedestrian for most people's taste.
2) By not playing 3 consecutive semiquavers at all. The right hand doesn't play 10,12,1,2,4 but only 10,12,2,4 as elsewhere, playing the loud chord on 2. The consequence of this is that you get a "ricochet" effect because the LH and RH chords are consecutive instead of simultaneous, they are a semiquaver apart. The recording on site does it this way. While it's not what's written, it's reasonably effective.
3) By judiciously omitting, or subtly shifting the timing of, the right hand's beats 12 or 2 or both.
4) By pragmatically abandoning all attempts to play in time, and inserting gaps between 12 and 1 and/or between 1 and 2 to give yourself time for the leaps. Unfortunately this rather disturbs the overall perpetuum mobile effect.


You know, it has been so long that I have played it (I try now and then, but all those missing d's get me and I stop immediately). that I cannot remember what I do. Considering the mechanical problem stated above, it must be option 1.

Of course I call the left pedal the damper (or loud) pedal and the middle one therefore becomes sustain (which in Italian becomes sostenuto), a silly name really, as it means nothing, while the left pedal is the soft one, or una corda, if one has a grand. On an upright of course "una corda is a non-existent effect and no more that can be achieved by the fingers alone. Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.

The sotenuto pedal is (if I am not mistaken) a creation of Steinway's. The pianos that have it are those built from the lated 19th centurry onwards.

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:11 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
... have a friend standing nearby and ready to push down the notes at the right time.
Brilliant. One could think of it as making the page turner's job less boring. In a live performance it might work quite well as a comic double-act, if the friend can pretend to be interjecting the high chords just to spice things up.

For recording purposes, of course, where editing is allowed, you could always be your own "friend". First record the piece without the chords, then (while listening to the first recording with headphones) record only the chords. Then combine the tracks.


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:36 pm 
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rainer wrote:
For recording purposes, of course, where editing is allowed, you could always be your own "friend". First record the piece without the chords, then (while listening to the first recording with headphones) record only the chords. Then combine the tracks.

Oh wow!!! Why didn't I think of that! I could really have used that 'friend' in one of my Granados recordings. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:06 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.
It works fine on mine. It seems to me you are allowing your bad experiences with the groaner cloud your judgement of uprights in general. So far you have mentioned three things which are "impossible" on uprights which in fact aren't. :twisted:
Quote:
The sotenuto pedal is (if I am not mistaken) a creation of Steinway's.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals it was invented by someone else but perfected by Steinway, and subsequently included on all their grands and some of their uprights.

I was also astonished to read there that the una corda pedal nowadays usually no longer gives you the choice between playing on 3, 2, or 1 strings, but only between 3 and 2, and has therefore become a misnomer (it should be called a due corde pedal). I'm not in a position to quickly check, but I hope that's not true, and that that part of the article was written by some poor soul whose own piano is defective in that respect, and who has simply assumed that all grands were like that (much like you with uprights).


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:40 pm 
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rainer wrote:
richard66 wrote:
Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.
It works fine on mine. It seems to me you are allowing your bad experiences with the groaner cloud your judgement of uprights in general. So far you have mentioned three things which are "impossible" on uprights which in fact aren't. :twisted:
Quote:
The sotenuto pedal is (if I am not mistaken) a creation of Steinway's.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals it was invented by someone else but perfected by Steinway, and subsequently included on all their grands and some of their uprights.

I was also astonished to read there that the una corda pedal nowadays usually no longer gives you the choice between playing on 3, 2, or 1 strings, but only between 3 and 2, and has therefore become a misnomer (it should be called a due corde pedal). I'm not in a position to quickly check, but I hope that's not true, and that that part of the article was written by some poor soul whose own piano is defective in that respect, and who has simply assumed that all grands were like that (much like you with uprights).


I did not say you cannot use half-keys: I said it makes no effect, because the keys return to position in the very same manner, half or all way. You can check the article and will see that. You can also look at the upright when playing.

I remember about the "some uprights", the ones that cost more than some grands, if I remember well.

On the pianos I have seem it is as you say: three or two strings. Come to think of it, I have never seen the indication "due corde" anywhere. On uprights, in any case, the hammers are not shifted sideways but forward.

Another consideration is how sound is projected. I have noticed that standing at a higher level than the strings, that is, being able to look into the case of an upright, sound quality improves (for the listener). If you think that a grand projects sound not forward or backward, but up and down, you will see that in an upright sound is thrown at the pianist's (and audience's) face or is reflected from the walls, while from a grand the sound reaching the pianist (and the audience) is not direct, but reflected from the floor and ceiling (hence the hight ceilings, that have, for example, imporved Chris's recording setup). Why are grands sometimes placed on rugs in smaller settings? Here is the answer. I am not alone in noticing this, as I have read about it somewhere, possibly in that controversial book on piano practice.

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:24 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
rainer wrote:
richard66 wrote:
Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.
It works fine on mine.
I did not say you cannot use half-keys: I said it makes no effect, because the keys return to position in the very same manner, half or all way.
I'm confused now and don't know whether I've misunderstood you. What effect do you want, that works on a grand but not on an upright? What happens on my upright is this: In their rest position, the hammers are about 45mm from the strings (or a little more than half that when the soft pedal is fully pressed). When I press a key and keep it pressed, then the hammer, having struck the strings, drops back to a position about 5mm from the string. Then when I let go the key, the hammer drops back to the rest position. But this drop-back is not all-or-nothing: The hammer comes back gradually as the key moves back up. So if I were to press the key again, having only let it go back up a little bit, then the effect of the next press is similar to using the soft pedal with it, because the hammer then only has a shorter distance in which to build up momentum. Are you saying this is what a grand does, but an upright does not? Mine does.
Quote:
You can check the article and will see that.
Where? The piano pedal wiki article doesn't seem to say anything about your half-key effect. It mentions a half-blow pedal, but that is just the name it uses for the soft pedal which uprights generally have instead of una corda. Interestingly, it mentions that some grands are now are being fitted with a "proper" soft pedal (half-blow) in addition to una corda (so there are 4 pedals altogether).
Quote:
On the pianos I have seem it is as you say: three or two strings.
That's a great pity, it seems to make having the una corda pedal almost pointless.
Quote:
Another consideration is how sound is projected. I have noticed that standing at a higher level than the strings, that is, being able to look into the case of an upright, sound quality improves (for the listener).
Even with the lid shut (so that you can't actually "look into" the case)? On mine it's not practicable to open the lid, not just because music tends to get piled up there, but also because that's where the lamp goes. However, the design on mine does have slots cut into the front of the case (just behind the music stand), presumably to help let the sound out. There is also a substantial gap above the lower front cover (the vertical surface which goes from above the pedals to below the keyboard).

My piano isn't very tall either, by the way, with the top of the case only about 29cm above the level of the white keys, so that when seated my ears are about 20cm higher than the top of the case, which means I'm already at a higher level than the strings.


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:08 am 
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richard66 wrote:
On the pianos I have seem it is as you say: three or two strings. Come to think of it, I have never seen the indication "due corde" anywhere.

I recently came across due corde it in a piece I am working on, see image. It's the only instance that I know of. I have not given real thought about how to interpret if yet, as I tend to leave the u.c. pedal alone.


Attachments:
File comment: Only example of due corde that I know about
duecorde.jpg
duecorde.jpg [ 64.75 KiB | Viewed 2084 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:29 am 
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techneut wrote:
I recently came across due corde in a piece I am working on. It's the only instance that I know of.
The wikipedia article about piano pedals mentions two examples of Beethoven using this marking, and it's true.

One is the short middle movement of his fourth piano concerto. There is an instruction at the beginning that the entire movement is to be played "una corda", except for the short cadenza-like passage with a continuous trill, which begins with a bar of cresc from pp to ff, marked "due e poi tre corde". This is followed by 4 bars of ff, marked "a 3 cordes" (in French), then a bar of dim to pp, marked "due, poi una corda".

The other is the Hammerklavier sonata op 106, 3rd movement (Adagio sostenuto). This is liberally sprinkled throughout with "una corda" and "tutte le corde" instructions (abbreviated UC and TC in some editions), and in two places there is a marking "poco a poco due ed allora tutte le corde". Although later editions abbreviate this to "poco a poco tutte le corde", the implication is clear that one should gradually shift from one to three strings, necessarily via an intermediate stage of two strings.


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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:54 pm 
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Yes, where would we be without Wikipedia...

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:06 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Yes, where would we be without Wikipedia...


There would be far less Internet wisemen (or wisecrackers, cream crackers, cream puffs full of hot air or whatever :shock: ) who know everything after consulting it.

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Last edited by richard66 on Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Grieg - Solveig's Cradle Song
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:25 pm 
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rainer wrote:
richard66 wrote:
rainer wrote:
richard66 wrote:
Another effect impossible on an upright is the half-key, where a pressed key is released only part-way before being pressed again. I was taught that for Schubert's Improptu in c. I do it, but am aware that it does not work.
It works fine on mine.
I did not say you cannot use half-keys: I said it makes no effect, because the keys return to position in the very same manner, half or all way.
I'm confused now and don't know whether I've misunderstood you. What effect do you want, that works on a grand but not on an upright? What happens on my upright is this: In their rest position, the hammers are about 45mm from the strings (or a little more than half that when the soft pedal is fully pressed). When I press a key and keep it pressed, then the hammer, having struck the strings, drops back to a position about 5mm from the string. Then when I let go the key, the hammer drops back to the rest position. But this drop-back is not all-or-nothing: The hammer comes back gradually as the key moves back up. So if I were to press the key again, having only let it go back up a little bit, then the effect of the next press is similar to using the soft pedal with it, because the hammer then only has a shorter distance in which to build up momentum. Are you saying this is what a grand does, but an upright does not? Mine does.
Quote:
You can check the article and will see that.
Where? The piano pedal wiki article doesn't seem to say anything about your half-key effect. It mentions a half-blow pedal, but that is just the name it uses for the soft pedal which uprights generally have instead of una corda. Interestingly, it mentions that some grands are now are being fitted with a "proper" soft pedal (half-blow) in addition to una corda (so there are 4 pedals altogether).
Quote:
On the pianos I have seem it is as you say: three or two strings.
That's a great pity, it seems to make having the una corda pedal almost pointless.
Quote:
Another consideration is how sound is projected. I have noticed that standing at a higher level than the strings, that is, being able to look into the case of an upright, sound quality improves (for the listener).
Even with the lid shut (so that you can't actually "look into" the case)? On mine it's not practicable to open the lid, not just because music tends to get piled up there, but also because that's where the lamp goes. However, the design on mine does have slots cut into the front of the case (just behind the music stand), presumably to help let the sound out. There is also a substantial gap above the lower front cover (the vertical surface which goes from above the pedals to below the keyboard).

My piano isn't very tall either, by the way, with the top of the case only about 29cm above the level of the white keys, so that when seated my ears are about 20cm higher than the top of the case, which means I'm already at a higher level than the strings.



I made a mess of it. What I should have said is that a grand has a special mechanism for the half-key. On an upright you can, of course, keep the key half-pressed and then strike it - at your peril: very often the hammer, instead of stiking the key again, simply slips back into place and when you press the key it goes down but the hammer of course strikes nothing.

If you had tre, due and una corda how could this possibly be used when the bass of the piano usually consists of one string?

I have been off and on working on a Bortkiewicz piece that cannot technically be played on an upright, as he calls for una and tre corde. In the una corda section there is a crescendo that arrives at a forte. Then the tre corde sction begins at p. Now try that on an upright!

I have nothing on my piano and I keep the lid open. I do not even use the standard upright stand, but keep it closed (and stuffed with cotton, to keep it from vibrating), placing a book-stand on top of the lid, more or less where the rack would be on a grand. I did this because the score often interfered with my hands and even now, when I slide my fingers to the back of the keyboard, I hit my nuckles on the lid when I lift my hand.

You are not high enough to escape the effect I mention and, with all these gaps, the sound does hit you directly.

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