Thanks so much for your detailed listening/comments! You raise many good points. I hope you don't mind if I respond to a few of your observations in turn (also because it's a fairly lazy Saturday here
(a). Promenade needs to have this super-steady walking tempo, of course, but I wonder what else might be available to create some variation in the sound? Dynamics, phrasing? It sounds a bit dull as is.
Good point. I would probably stand by my chosen tempo here, give or take a few ticks, but I agree I could have done more with the contrast between solo and tutti. I suppose one problem for the performer in this promenade is that Mussorgsky leaves hardly any dynamic indication except for the forte indication at the outset. This differs from the second promenade, which is relatively well marked despite its shorter duration.
I personally prefer less of the pushing-ahead kind of rubato here -- I'd rather let the castle be strong and calm -- but that's a personal preference and I do think your choices work well.
Again, a perceptive observation. I think part of it is that my tempo might be slightly too fast. For what it's worth, one interesting thing I learned recently when reading an analysis of the pictures (Cambridge companion series) is that Mussorgsky actually didn't have the castle itself in mind so much but rather a troubadour-like singer outside the castle.
I really like the effect of the sustained and unrelenting heaviness. It's perfect for the piece and it offers a shade of despair to the ever-turning wheels of the oxcart... (Bydlo is an oxcart right?)
Yes, Bydlo is about an ox-cart. I think "sustained and unrelenting" is a good way of describing the toil associated with the titular vehicle
A steadier tempo would have helped, not harmed, the humor you're bringing to this interpretation. It's just a little bit hard to tell what is going on. That's not to say a pause here or there would be bad, but maybe choose them more carefully.
Agreed. In particular, at a fast tempo, it's difficult to skip up to the high treble. Plus I wanted to do an accelerando toward the end of each half (when the chicks break out of their shells), but it didn't come exactly how I wanted.
7 (a). Now this is a good Promenade with very similar notes to 1 if I remember correctly. This kind of sound would have been great in the first Promenade as well. Maybe you just weren't quite warmed up then
That's probably true, and the promenades aren't difficult technically. Since I generally do around three takes of each piece, sometimes the opposite can be true, and I get more tired later in the game.
7 (b). The Market is a bit overwhelming, which is probably your point, but I wonder if maybe you could have done more with the various sounds seeming to come from different directions or from different characters or at different distances? Anyway, it's quite well-done as is.
Yes, probably. Overall, this is the most difficult for me technically in the set by far, and I worked hard on it and was fairly satisfied with the result but agree that I could have done more with the sforzati, for example.
7 (d). The line is good and the reinterpreted Promenade theme comes off nicely. The RH tremolo is a bit annoying. The sound is percussive and thin and it doesn't vary. I wonder if you'd get a better sound with more weight in the hand but less volume, if that makes any sense, and if you planned times for it to come out more over the LH and times for it to be subdued.
These are good ideas; I agree that the balance could have been better.
8 (a). I'm used to hearing a steadier tempo here, but I rather like your unpredictable Baba Yaga, and I don't think the unsteadiness gets in the way this time, if anything it helps accomplish what you want
Yes. IMHO this piece is often played in too prissy and metronomic a manner. After all, it's inherently an unbalanced thing, a hut on fowl's legs. I wish I could see one of those -- at least when the witch isn't at home -- but I guess I'd have to travel to the forests of Russia for that
8 (b). Really great job sustaining the energy across the whole piece, which I know is the major challenge. The quieter hymnlike section could have done with a calmer and richer sound.
Thanks. Regarding the hymnlike section, I just listened back and this is perhaps the one point I'm not sure I agree on, since it's marked senza expressione
and IMO needs to be soft in relation to the outer fortissimos but still firm and clearly singing and audible. (Not sure I captured that, but that's what I was after anyway.)
I notice from your bio that you studied with some remarkable people at university, which is when you learned this piece -- would you like to share any of the things you remember your teachers saying, or things you worked on a lot as you studied Pictures?
I actually learned the piece in high school and performed it as part of a recital to get my required art credit, but then also performed it several times in college (which is why I called it a war horse from my college days above). This was long before I was really ready to play -- or record -- it. There are of course many valuable details my teachers have contributed, both the one in high school and Madeleine Forte, but I'm sorry to say I don't really remember the specifics offhand (it's been so long and much of that type of influence becomes subliminal). Over the long term, I think what really helps with readiness to play music like this is, as the pianist John Browning said, "practicing double notes and more double notes" (thirds and sixths). And I wish I still had time to practice double notes more. Not that there is that much actual double-note technique in Pictures, but once one has achieved some mastery of scales, there's nothing better IMO for increasing, extension, flexibility, ability to orchestrate, etc. Sixths are IMO especially useful for Pictures.
Anyway, thanks again for your detailed listening!