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 Post subject: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:56 pm 
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I really love this set of character pieces by Josek Suk, son-in-law of Antonin Dvorak and grandfather of the famous violinst Josek Suk who passed away last year. These pieces are not about Suk's mother, but written for his children about their mother, his wife Otilie ("Otilka") Dvorak. Judging by these pieces she must have been a fiery and tender mother, and I guess he must loved her very much. In recent years Suk's music has begun to be appreciated in its own right.

The subtitle of this set is like "Simple pieces for his children" but there is nothing simple about them. As with many composers who were not good pianists, the piano writing can be surprisingly tough and awkward. But that can't be heard in the lovely music, or so I hope. I was hooked on this set immediately after hearing no. 3 which IMO is a masterpiece in its simplicity. Please excuse a couple of moments of clipping in no.4, I don't know why I had to fiddle with my input gain all of a sudden :roll:

Suk - About Mother, Op.28 - 1: When Mother was a young girl (3:01)
Suk - About Mother, Op.28 - 2: Once in the garden (4:13)
Suk - About Mother, Op.28 - 3: What Mother sang, at night, to her sick child (3:20)
Suk - About Mother, Op.28 - 4: From Mother's heart (4:39)
Suk - About Mother, Op.28 - 5: Souvenirs (4:45)

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:23 am 
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I had a listen to this interesting set of pieces. I think you play them well. I have not heard of Suk before, but he has some folk-like harmonies that are appealing to the ear. They have a somewhat introspective way about them, with some having a lamenting character such as “souvenirs.” The repeating pedal tone in numbers three and four are unconventional, but have an allure in their baroque simplicity. In number four at 4:14 I sensed that this chord should be played softly, though I can say because I don’t have the score! If I was writing this, personally I would have liked it to have ended at 4:13 (But never mind what I would have done :lol: ,It still has a convincing close as it is ) . I also liked the sound of your piano the acoustic is nice, like that of your last recording

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 4:38 am 
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I listened to no. 3 because I wanted to hear if the melody is anything like the songs I used to sing to my sons when they were little. It's not. One thing I caught was a missed opportunity to bring out more of the secondary melody line in the LH at ...and the other times when it repeats ( I can't pin down the time because my computer is playing the links in Quicktime and I can't see the timing). It's brief, but would be neat if brought out more.

Then I listened to no. 4 also because of the title. It's okay, but didn't really grab me. You know...there is a reason why some music never becomes popular... :wink: I do like the contrasting tones and mood, though, and it sounded like you gave it the best chance and played nicely.


edit: tonight I had some time and so I listened to the other three. I think I like no. 2 the most. But no. 5 is nice too. And the very opening bars remind me of a piece we all know, but I can't think of it right now....it's going to drive me nuts now.... Anyway, I can't say much because one side of my good ear phones is not working and so I can't hear the music as well as usual. What I could hear sounded well-payed though.

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:48 pm 
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I have downloaded these and will listen to them when there is peace and quiet in the house (in ten years, maybe! :roll: ), but I would like to say one little thing. Czech, like Slovak, Russian and Polish, has both masculine and Feminine forms of surnames, so, Dvorak's daughter's was not Otile Dvorak, but Otile Dvorakova. Of course, once married, she would have adopted Josef Suk's surname, becoming Otile Sukova. Note, Examples of femenine names are, Wanda Landowska, Tatyana Nikolaeva, Bronislava Nijinska (or Nizhinskaya) (sister of Vatslav Nizhinskij - both of which, being of Polish ancestry, are known by their Polish surnames). Pedantic, yes, but would you not wince if I spoke of Wanda Landowski?

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:38 pm 
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Hi Chris,

This is the first time I've heard these pieces by Suk. They sound very thoughtfully played too. This composer seems to have had the talent for creating those ingratiating Bohemian melodies. Very beautiful.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:58 am 
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Thanks all for the comments. I find these pieces not only affecting, but also quirky, sumptuous and highly original and personal. Once on your head, they're hard to get out.

One thing I need to react to:

pianolady wrote:
You know...there is a reason why some music never becomes popular...

If so, it says more about Joe listener than about the music. Nine out of ten people want to hear something familiar, or something that reminds them of something familiar. Your own reasons for listening to two specific items are a point in case. Concert programming is another point in case. Give them their Chop, Rach, and Liszt, and don't do something unfamiliar unless you are one of the really really big shots in which case you can afford to include a little something just outside the beaten path. Even Hamelin, a champion of the obscure, is guilty of that in his concert recitals (which is why I did not go to
see him in Arnhem last month).

Popularity is overrated anyway, IMO. I would not equate popularity with quality (though admitted in many cases they do coincide).

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:18 pm 
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I listened to these as a set: they do grow on you after a while. I probably like nos. 3 and 4 the best. Talking of connections with the familiar, in no.4 I thought for a moment I'd jumped into a syncopated version of the middle section of the Rainbow Prelude! Very little to quibble about, a good sound and convincing playing; the only thing that bothered me was that some of the descending arpeggio figures sounded like they were in uneven rhythmic groups - maybe they are!

If you're troubled by the clipping in no.4 (I didn't catch it, but wasn't listening specifically for it), recent versions of Audacity have (under the Effects menu) a Clip Fix tool which attempts to recreate the clipped part of the waveform. It's pretty successful for marginal clipping, though it's advisable to apply a negative db gain to the whole track (they suggest -10db, but -5db worked fine on the cases I had to deal with earlier this year).


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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:28 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Thanks all for the comments. I find these pieces not only affecting, but also quirky, sumptuous and highly original and personal. Once on your head, they're hard to get out.

One thing I need to react to:

pianolady wrote:
You know...there is a reason why some music never becomes popular...

If so, it says more about Joe listener than about the music. Nine out of ten people want to hear something familiar, or something that reminds them of something familiar. Your own reasons for listening to two specific items are a point in case. Concert programming is another point in case. Give them their Chop, Rach, and Liszt, and don't do something unfamiliar unless you are one of the really really big shots in which case you can afford to include a little something just outside the beaten path. Even Hamelin, a champion of the obscure, is guilty of that in his concert recitals (which is why I did not go to
see him in Arnhem last month).

Popularity is overrated anyway, IMO. I would not equate popularity with quality (though admitted in many cases they do coincide).

Are you suggesting that it is good music because you like it? I think we are talking about two different things: I meant that the piece I listened to did not seem to be a very good composition, and therefore that’s why it has never become popular. I am aware there are multitudes of good compositions that fall into the category of being great music but rarely played/performed - I’ve played many of them, but this piece seems awkwardly constructed….the repeating notes played at seemingly random rhythm get annoying after awhile, and the B section – although pretty, doesn’t make sense. Most of the harmony shifts sound artificial, like he wasn’t sure where he was going with the tune. There is one very beautiful moment in there, though.

As far as concert programming goes…having attended many concerts over the years, I certainly do appreciate hearing more obscure music. Several times, I have rushed home from a concert after hearing something new and went right to my computer to locate the music.

You should have attended the Hamelin concert! He never fails to amaze and delight!

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:16 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Are you suggesting that it is good music because you like it?

Nope. I like lots of crap so that does not count. Your suggestion was

not good -> not popular

and my suggestion was

not popular -> not necessarily not good

but that is logically equivalent to yours, as Raymond would agree. So I'd like to restate that as

not popular -> so what ?

pianolady wrote:
I meant that the piece I listened to did not seem to be a very good composition, and therefore that’s why it has never become popular.
It's probably a matter of taste whether this is good or not. The irregular rhythms are consciously evoking an anxious, irregular heartbeat. A very original idea and I never found it annoying, even though it is quite hard to bring off - the Raindrop prelude is easier (and more popular so probably better :P )

pianolady wrote:
and the B section – although pretty, doesn’t make sense. Most of the harmony shifts sound artificial, like he wasn’t sure where he was going with the tune. There is one very beautiful moment in there, though.
Some harmonic shifts are a bit unexpected, naive maybe, but I don't feel like this section does not make sense, I find it very balmy in the midst of all the anguish.

pianolady wrote:
You should have attended the Hamelin concert! He never fails to amaze and delight!
Maybe so. The most adventurous things he programmed were a Bach-Szanto transcription and a Busoni Sonatine. Not quite the beaten path but not what I'd want to go see him for.

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:24 pm 
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andrew wrote:
I listened to these as a set: they do grow on you after a while. I probably like nos. 3 and 4 the best. Talking of connections with the familiar, in no.4 I thought for a moment I'd jumped into a syncopated version of the middle section of the Rainbow Prelude! Very little to quibble about, a good sound and convincing playing; the only thing that bothered me was that some of the descending arpeggio figures sounded like they were in uneven rhythmic groups - maybe they are!

They certainly do grow on you, if you give them a fair chance. In fact all four of these descending arpeggios seem to have the same or a similar annoying slip which is maybe why they sound strange. I should really redo this one.

andrew wrote:
If you're troubled by the clipping in no.4 (I didn't catch it, but wasn't listening specifically for it), recent versions of Audacity have (under the Effects menu) a Clip Fix tool which attempts to recreate the clipped part of the waveform. It's pretty successful for marginal clipping, though it's advisable to apply a negative db gain to the whole track (they suggest -10db, but -5db worked fine on the cases I had to deal with earlier this year).

I use an old copy of CoolEdit that served me well over the years. Rather than trying to restore the clipping I should set my input level to what it was before, and redo the piece.

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:07 pm 
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Quote:
not popular -> so what ?


My motto! (As you might guess I am not very popular...)

Charming pieces and well played, I can imagine there are complicated parts but you maintain an effortless flow. I actually liked #1 best. Some of them are a bit repetitive, and I had trouble concentrating on them. When were they written?


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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:13 pm 
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I had to look that up ! 1907. Not exactly ahead of their time are they !

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:21 pm 
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techneut" and "Joachim wrote:
not popular -> so what ?

That's okay...you are misunderstanding me, so never mind....

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:32 am 
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Since this is a new composer, I downloaded the score and followed it.

First, congratulations for adding a composer to the site, as well as a new suite of pieces.
Second, you're right - some of this looks a lot harder than it should have been.
Third, you negotiated the hard parts pretty good.
Fourth - I especially liked two things: in the third piece the ideas in the bass (descending pedal followed by ascending pedal) (in fact, I liked the third the best), and your handling of the end of the fifth piece. Whereever Suk is right now, he should be grateful for the work you put in on that movement. The third movement is my favorite.
Fifth - I thought the dotted rhythms in the first mvt could have been a little crisper.

Lastly, sorry, but I really don't like the 4th movement either. Not just as a piece of music, but as a piano piece. It was the movement in which the composer's lack of acquaintance with the instrument was most obvious. And I'm not suggesting that it's anything but taste!

This guy's really Suk's grandfather, huh? That's something to have on your resume.

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 Post subject: Re: Suk - About Mother, Op.28
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:01 am 
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Thanks Stu. Suk's writing is not especially "difficult" but often treacherous and a bit illogical/irregular, and does not fit easily under the fingers. I've noticed the same with many composers who were not native to the piano. Suk definitely was no piano virtuoso - if he played at all, in his bio I see no mention of any piano training. Even so he did remarkably well, writing a fair number of attractive piano pieces. If they're sometime unpianistic, well so be it. The piano is only a medium really.
I think I may want to redo this entire set, mostly because of the flaws in no.4 (though nobody likes it :P ). With more recording time the results should be a lot smoother still. And I'll certainly take everybody's valuable feedback in account !

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