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 Post subject: Ravel - Le Tombeau de Couperin, Menuet
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:38 pm 
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I recorded the Menuet from Le Tombeau de Coupering today. I am pretty sure I will re-record it but thought it was decent enough to put up a first version of.

Ravel - Le Tombeau de Couperin, Menuet


A little story about the set below:

Le Tombeau de Couperin is a suite for solo piano by Maurice Ravel, composed between 1914 and 1917.

It is in six movements. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of friends of the composer who had died fighting in World War I. Ravel himself served in the war as an ambulance driver and was wounded in the process. The movements are:

I. Prélude. "To the memory of Lieutenant Jacques Charlot" (who transcribed Ravel's four-hand piece Ma Mère l'Oye for solo piano).

II. Fugue. "To the memory of Jean Cruppi" (to whose mother Ravel dedicated his opera L'heure espagnole).

III. Forlane. "To the memory of Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc" (a Basque painter from Saint-Jean-de-Luz).

IV. Rigaudon. "To the memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin" (brothers killed by the same shell).

V. Menuet. "To the memory of Jean Dreyfus" (at whose home Ravel recuperated after he was demobilized).

VI. Toccata. "To the memory of Captain Joseph de Marliave".

In 1919 Ravel orchestrated four movements of the work (Prélude, Forlane, Menuet and Rigaudon); this version was first performed in 1920, and has remained one of his more popular works. Ravel transcribed many of his piano pieces for orchestra, but here he reaches the height of his orchestration skills, turning a very pianistic piece into a superb orchestral suite with very few hints of its origins. The orchestral version clarifies the harmonic language of the suite and brings sharpness to its classical dance rhythms; among the demands it places on the orchestra is the requirement for an oboe soloist of virtuosic skill.

While the word-for-word meaning of the title invites the assumption that the suite is a programmatic work, describing what is seen and felt in a visit to the tomb of Couperin, tombeau is actually a musical term popular in an earlier century and meaning a piece written as a memorial. The specific Couperin (among a family noted as musicians for about two centuries) that Ravel intended to be evoked, along with the friends, would presumably be François Couperin "the Great" (1668-1733). However, Ravel stated that his intention was never to imitate or tribute Couperin himself, but rather was to pay homage to the sensibilities of the Baroque French keyboard suite. This is reflected in the structure which imitates a Baroque dance suite. As a preparatory exercise, Ravel had transcibed a Forlane from the fourth suite of Couperin's Concerts Royaux, and this piece informs Ravel's Forlane structurally. However, Ravel's neoclassicism shines through with his pointedly twentieth-century chromatic melody and piquant harmonies.

When criticised for composing a light-hearted, and sometimes reflective work rather than a sombre one, for such a sombre topic, Ravel replied: "The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 3:12 pm 
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An atmospheric performance, and technically pretty spotless though there are some small slips or perhaps misreadings. Strange to hear the ornaments on the beat, and so slowly executed at that. Is that how it's supposed to be played ? I've always played them before the beat, rapidly as far as my pile of wood allows it, but I could be all wrong here. Your teacher should know.

But you take this very slow ! About mm=70 as opposed to the indicated mm=92. In the chordal passages the attack is not always even. The climax of the musette seemed a bit stressed, but the soft ending is well done. Should the trill not last a little longer ?

Recording sounds a bit swimmy and distant, not as good as we are used to from you. But a good start to a complete Tombeau :P

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:12 pm 
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techneut wrote:
An atmospheric performance, and technically pretty spotless though there are some small slips or perhaps misreadings. Strange to hear the ornaments on the beat, and so slowly executed at that. Is that how it's supposed to be played ? I've always played them before the beat, rapidly as far as my pile of wood allows it, but I could be all wrong here. Your teacher should know.

I hit a couple of keys wrong so what you hear is right. But the ornaments should be on the beat, he is very exact on this but I just changed this as I too hit them before the beat and it is more difficult to hit them on beat as you very often play chords at the same time with the other fingers and have to execute it with finger 4-5.
techneut wrote:
But you take this very slow ! About mm=70 as opposed to the indicated mm=92. In the chordal passages the attack is not always even. The climax of the musette seemed a bit stressed, but the soft ending is well done. Should the trill not last a little longer ?

It is too slow, I know and a uneven too but at the same timing as Angela Hewitt (6:10). But I should speed it up to next time.

Regarding the end, the two hand trill should only last 1 bar and you should catch the last chord before the trill with the middle pedal and then let go of the sustain pedal to return to the chord before the trill. I do this but it is almost unaudible.
techneut wrote:
Recording sounds a bit swimmy and distant, not as good as we are used to from you. But a good start to a complete Tombeau :P
Yes it is and the sound is not as good as I want it. Should experiment more and Audacity hanged when I added the reverb, causing reverb only on the half of the piece so I had to add reverb for the remaining part afterwards. You can hear a small glitch there. Actually, it might be better without any reverb at all.

Hehe, completing. That means play the extremely difficult fugue and the very fast Toccata. Even though the fugue does not sound that difficult, my teacher says it is harder to perform than the Toccata. The prelude is not easy either so...but I will give it a try if you give me 1 year.

The wide hands crossing I meantioned is in bar 41-48 (in page two, line two in the score I put up on the site). You should play all chords with right hand and in bar 47, you almost have 2 octaves between them. Widest hand crossing I have ever seen.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:52 pm 
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robert wrote:
Hehe, completing. That means play the extremely difficult fugue and the very fast Toccata. Even though the fugue does not sound that difficult, my teacher says it is harder to perform than the Toccata. The prelude is not easy either so...but I will give it a try if you give me 1 year.

Ok, a year. Better get going !
Can't really compare the fugue with the toccata. They call for different parts of the brain and muscles. Tell you what, I'll take the fugue if you do the Toccata :lol:

robert wrote:
The wide hands crossing I meantioned is in bar 41-48 (in page two, line two in the score I put up on the site). You should play all chords with right hand and in bar 47, you almost have 2 octaves between them. Widest hand crossing I have ever seen.

I know that part is what you meant. It's just not obvious to me that it needs crossing hands. The notation suggests that the hands alternate the chords, and that is perfectly doable and probably a lot easier. Though it will need more pedal to make it smooth. Your way will look nicer on video :wink:

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 Post subject: Le Tambeau
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:50 pm 
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I enjoyed the tranquil misty quality of your performance. However, I do agree with Chris that it sounds a little "distant and swimmy." Good jog!


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 Post subject: Proof read!!!
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:52 pm 
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I meant "job."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:41 pm 
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I kind of like the 'distant and swimmy' sound for this piece. And your piano sounds nice. Is it your new one? A lot of variations in your dynamics. Good playing, Robert - (but I can't open up the other pieces)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:19 pm 
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Thanks. It is the new one and I have not learnt the other pieces yet. At least two of them are extremely difficult but I have decided to have a go but count on that it could take a year. But that is the good thing about not being young anymore. You have all the time in the world ;).

About the sound, I have two rather good microphones and a mixer from which I can "line-in" to the Edirol. So, I will experiment a bit with them to see if I can get a better sound.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:40 pm 
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I enjoyed it! (haven't listened to much Ravel so far, unfortunately, except Gaspard). True, for a menuet it might be a bit slow, but speeding up too much might lose the melancholic character of the piece. Like the others, I look forward to hearing the rest of the suite :)
Update: Thanks also for posting some background on the piece, that was interesting reading.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:44 am 
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Created a new version where I use two microphones connected to a mixer which a line in connection to the Edirol. The microphones where originally bought to mic up drums (from my past pop/rock career) so they are perhaps not perfectly suited for the task. But drums usually cover the entire range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and have very good dynamic capabilities. I think the result is a lot better even though I cannot get rid of some noise (which you probably only hear in headphones).

Also, this re-recording is 1 minute faster and in the suggested tempo. A couple of flubes, bad trills and wrong notes but I think it is overall better than the previous version.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:11 am 
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I don't have the previous version at hand to compare, but I think this one is much much better.
The sound is great, seems like there is a point in using external mics with the Edirol. I must certainly try that out one day. Your touch and dynamics are very good here, particularly in the musette (lovely played) and the pianissimo coda - though the ending trill was not as good as in the previous version. There was a botched trill in the beginning (damn trills are always freaking me out too :x )

You could be a bit less generous with the pedal, there are some places where harmonies are blurring. Also I would have liked a little more tempo flexibility - not a romantic rubato of course, that is not Ravel, but just a little more subtle ebb and flow between the phrases.

I thought I spotted some reading mistakes but they could as well be mine. I will need to check with the score.

Very sensitive and refined Ravel playing, good work ! You should be doing the Sonatine as well.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:08 am 
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Thanks, I was close to restart the recording when I missed the trill in the beginning but I was rather late into a 2-3 hours process of the recording so I hesitated in 1/10 second and continued. I also made some mistakes along the way but they are not terrible wrong in harmony so if one do not know this piece, it is not easy to spot them. But of course, you with the score in your hand will find them. The other remarks you have fits well with the view of my teacher and I agree too. The pedal works a little different on this Yamaha and "takes" rather high up. I am used to rest my feet on the pedal and sometimes do not lift it all the way up. Got a little stiff near the end when I realized that I was about to produce a good recording and half miss a simple bass key and missed the last trill a bit (I think one should begin on the upper tone and accent it a bit so that it rings through the trill and end with the lower, decreasing the tempo).

I have begun with the inital prelude of the set and it seems really difficult. Very awkward technique.

The mics works alright though I think the sound gets a bit harsh and with very little bass but there is not much noise. A piano is a percussion instrument as well as drums but the mics are probably not extremely well suited for a piano. See if you can find a music store who lends you a microphone but I would recommend two to spread the sound from bass to treble between them and then you need a mixer as well (think mine costed me about 80 Euro).

The Sonatine might be a good path to continue with Ravel (who I am getting rather fond of at the moment) rather than the other tricky pieces of Tombeau.

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