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 Post subject: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:00 pm 
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Over the past 2 weeks I've been re-recording Janacek's cycle On an Overgrown Path. The previous recording dated from 2008 and was not really bad, but this version is better. Janacek's intensely personal music is hard to bring off, and more fun to listen to than to practice. I hope I'm doing it right now... but soft trills and tremolos are not my forte, nor that of my Gaveau.

Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 1: Our evenings (3:56)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 2: A blown-away leaf (2:23)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 3: Come along with us ! (1:25)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 4: The virgin of Frydek (3:46)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 5: They chattered like swallows (2:09)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 6: Words failed me... (1:50)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 7: Good night ! (3:29)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 8: So unutterably anxious (3:38)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 9: In tears (2:55)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 10: The little owl continues screeching (4:04)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 11: Andante (3:38)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 12: Allegretto (3:28)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 13: Piu mosso(2:46)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 14: Vivo (2:39)
Janacek - On an Overgrown Path - 15: Allegro (5:57)

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:34 am 
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I've listened to the first five so far. To my shame I don't know this set at all despite it being fairly well known, so going purely on initial impressions I think the most successful ones are the brighter, more forward ones (e.g. no.5) - I think where there is a more melancholy tinge you're less successful in communicating it. Not sure how much of that is you, how much is my personal predilection in terms of presenting such emotion and how much is the piano sound. In the fourth one I think I understand what you mean re soft tremolos, but in consolation I must observe that I think that is one of the hardest "standard" things to do well on a piano. The playing sounds clean and I can't hear anything obviously out of place - the only queries I would have are regarding atmosphere.


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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:32 am 
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Hi Chris,

I've not played much Janacek--only the Andante from "In the Mist" (which I didn't record). I don't know if the Moravian style was a bit too exotic for me or what, but I just couldn't seem to sense a musical affinity with Janacek. That aside, the idea for "On an Overgrown Path" was probably inspired by Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood". There is certainly much variety in these pieces given their situational or incidental origins and characterizations. The ones I liked best were "Good Night", "Andante", and "Piu Mosso", although I believe that you played all of the pieces quite well. I expected that "In tears" would be in minor mode, but for the most part it is in major, part B being the exception in minor. One thing I noticed was that Janacek was very clever in changing modalities as well as tonal centers. Faure was the master, but nonetheless Janacek knew how to use the devices to good effect. Thanks for your hard work in assembling this replacement complete set. It's a wonderful contribution.

The Gaveau might not be best suited for this music; however, that's a more general issue. I'm not sure that any piano can always best represent all composers. For example, I've often thought that in an ideal world I would have a music room with a Baldwin SF10 on which I would play Debussy, Ravel, Liszt, Scriabin, etc., but also a Steinway B reserved for Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, etc. But only the wealthy can have such a luxury.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:32 pm 
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andrew wrote:
I've listened to the first five so far. To my shame I don't know this set at all despite it being fairly well known, so going purely on initial impressions I think the most successful ones are the brighter, more forward ones (e.g. no.5) - I think where there is a more melancholy tinge you're less successful in communicating it. Not sure how much of that is you, how much is my personal predilection in terms of presenting such emotion and how much is the piano sound. In the fourth one I think I understand what you mean re soft tremolos, but in consolation I must observe that I think that is one of the hardest "standard" things to do well on a piano. The playing sounds clean and I can't hear anything obviously out of place - the only queries I would have are regarding atmosphere.

Thanks Andrew. Hmm, a bit worrying this... I always like to think I handle slow melancholy pieces well. Maybe yet more work in terms of expression and dynamics is needed.

It could be that your predilection for glittering pieces with many notes plays part here :P

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:37 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
I've not played much Janacek--only the Andante from "In the Mist" (which I didn't record). I don't know if the Moravian style was a bit too exotic for me or what, but I just couldn't seem to sense a musical affinity with Janacek. That aside, the idea for "On an Overgrown Path" was probably inspired by Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood". There is certainly much variety in these pieces given their situational or incidental origins and characterizations. The ones I liked best were "Good Night", "Andante", and "Piu Mosso", although I believe that you played all of the pieces quite well. I expected that "In tears" would be in minor mode, but for the most part it is in major, part B being the exception in minor. One thing I noticed was that Janacek was very clever in changing modalities as well as tonal centers. Faure was the master, but nonetheless Janacek knew how to use the devices to good effect. Thanks for your hard work in assembling this replacement complete set. It's a wonderful contribution.
I would hope so :) Thanks for the thumbs up !

Rachfan wrote:
The Gaveau might not be best suited for this music; however, that's a more general issue. I'm not sure that any piano can always best represent all composers. For example, I've often thought that in an ideal world I would have a music room with a Baldwin SF10 on which I would play Debussy, Ravel, Liszt, Scriabin, etc., but also a Steinway B reserved for Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, etc. But only the wealthy can have such a luxury.
Maybe not ! The way to go would be a very good digital with a PianoTeq library or something akin, so that you could sounds like a Fazioli one day, and like a Pleyel the next. The possibilities seem endless. I'm not sure it is where I want to go though.

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:45 am 
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techneut wrote:
andrew wrote:
I've listened to the first five so far. To my shame I don't know this set at all despite it being fairly well known, so going purely on initial impressions I think the most successful ones are the brighter, more forward ones (e.g. no.5) - I think where there is a more melancholy tinge you're less successful in communicating it. Not sure how much of that is you, how much is my personal predilection in terms of presenting such emotion and how much is the piano sound. In the fourth one I think I understand what you mean re soft tremolos, but in consolation I must observe that I think that is one of the hardest "standard" things to do well on a piano. The playing sounds clean and I can't hear anything obviously out of place - the only queries I would have are regarding atmosphere.

Thanks Andrew. Hmm, a bit worrying this... I always like to think I handle slow melancholy pieces well. Maybe yet more work in terms of expression and dynamics is needed.

It could be that your predilection for glittering pieces with many notes plays part here :P


This may well be true - however I do think that a predilection for melancholy is the flipside of a predilection for glittering notiness! A personal observation directed at least as much at myself as it might be at you is "you never put as much emotion across when you're playing as you think you do". A difficult question to address as one person's nicely judged emotional communication is another's histrionics, etc. I firmly believe in using "subtle" (use of quotes intentional :) ) rubati and agogic delays, but on the other hand I definitely like emotionally manipulative playing, within reason. Complex topic.


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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:11 am 
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Hi Chris,

Quote:
Maybe not ! The way to go would be a very good digital with a PianoTeq library or something akin, so that you could sounds like a Fazioli one day, and like a Pleyel the next. The possibilities seem endless. I'm not sure it is where I want to go though.


Yeah, that possibility struck me too. But there's an interesting video in the Piano Street Blog showing Simone Dinnerstein sitting down at each digital piano in a large display of them, where she plays a bit on each, and then comments on their shortcomings. Her final pronouncement was that she could not see how any of the digitals could be helpful for practicing, given her particular approach to playing the piano, and how the digitals fail to perform well. And it was quite convincing. My concern is that if I were to play one of my repertoire pieces like Scriabin's "Poeme" Op. 32 No. 2, the digital piano might be dead. My son gave me his Casio Privia which I set up in the basement so that I can go there if I can't practice on the Baldwin grand. The Casio hasn't been there for long, yet I notice some noises in the keyboard already. There's nothing like a fine acoustic piano.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:48 pm 
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andrew wrote:
This may well be true - however I do think that a predilection for melancholy is the flipside of a predilection for glittering notiness! A personal observation directed at least as much at myself as it might be at you is "you never put as much emotion across when you're playing as you think you do". A difficult question to address as one person's nicely judged emotional communication is another's histrionics, etc. I firmly believe in using "subtle" (use of quotes intentional :) ) rubati and agogic delays, but on the other hand I definitely like emotionally manipulative playing, within reason. Complex topic.
It sure is. I dislike overly emotive playing but it could be that as with dynamics, you need to exaggerate emotion a bit to make it reach the listener. I'll need to keep that in mind, thanks for the tip.

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:54 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
Yeah, that possibility struck me too. But there's an interesting video in the Piano Street Blog showing Simone Dinnerstein sitting down at each digital piano in a large display of them, where she plays a bit on each, and then comments on their shortcomings. Her final pronouncement was that she could not see how any of the digitals could be helpful for practicing, given her particular approach to playing the piano, and how the digitals fail to perform well. And it was quite convincing. My concern is that if I were to play one of my repertoire pieces like Scriabin's "Poeme" Op. 32 No. 2, the digital piano might be dead. My son gave me his Casio Privia which I set up in the basement so that I can go there if I can't practice on the Baldwin grand. The Casio hasn't been there for long, yet I notice some noises in the keyboard already. There's nothing like a fine acoustic piano.
I tend to agree but I also think probably is a matter of time before digitals catch up - if they haven't already. You'd have to shell out a bit more than for a Casio cheap job I suppose. I believe there are already digitals that mimic most or all of the mechanical actions of a conventional grand. I love my Gaveau but I would not be sad to get rid of its idiosyncrasies, each and every key seeming to have a will of its own.

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 9:58 pm 
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I listened to the first five so far and intend to continue - I find it a bit much to listen to all in one go (but what do I know, perhaps that would be needed to appreciate this better, are these intended to be played as a set or are they also performed in isolation?) I am new to this music and no big Janacek fan. The pieces are eerily disconnected and meandering, not holding or building ideas for long. In this way it is a bit like the Hough sonata I posted here - those pieces are even more fragmented, but instead they are connected in a powerful overreaching structure. I did not find this in overgrown path yet - of course I only listened to a few yet, perhaps a larger structure will emerge?

Playing this kind of fragmented pieces require a special kind of concentration to bring out the emotion and I think you do this absolutely beautifully. I get a clear sense that this music is important to you. My favourite (so far) is no4 where I think you bring out the elements superbly (I don't mind occasional articulation lapses, here they mean nothing), and holding this together musically must be quite hard and only possible if you really feel deeply for the music.

I'll come back to listen to more though I have to say the music is probably less imperative to me than to you - but I do recognize your fine effort, thanks for posting this!

Joachim


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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:20 pm 
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Thanks Joachim, for your insightful comments which as usual reach beyond the ubiquitous "sounded nice" or "well played".

I'm not sure if these are meant to be performed together. Probably not as they are really two different sets, 1-10 and 11-15, the second set more abstract and elaborate, and I think from a later date.
If I have conveyed my love for this music, and maybe can persuade someone that this music is "important", then what more could be wished for. I like no.4 the best also, and got quite carried away when recording it :)

This is also one of my first set of recordings where I started really using the u.c. pedal (mostly because the composer demands it). I dislike the u.c. sound while playing, but on a recording it sounds much better and not as muffled. Isn't that strange ? I wonder if anyone else has observed this about using una corda ?

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:16 am 
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Hi Chris,

One thing I've noticed over the years about the soft pedal is that there is u.c. and there is u.c., but there is also u.c. Once the soft pedal is fully engaged and the hammers shift all the way to the right, that is naturally the most common positioning of the soft pedal. As a result the top felts of the hammers naturally tend to initially groove there first for u.c. The result over time is that the u.c. seems to make little difference in timbre. A quick fix is to brush the tops of the the hammers with a narrow brass brush to get metalic particles from the strings out of the grooves. It enables a nice mellow tone. But that treatment is fairly short lived. A longer lasting solution of course would be voicing the hammers. But doing so might be premature, especially if the musical tone sounds very good when the soft pedal is not in use. There's another way to get the soft pedal to be more responsive in providing the timbre you want--that is to experiment carefully by depressing the soft pedal through different gradients of depth, one gradient at a time. That often enables the pianist to discover and play on fresh felt between the grooves. Or to put it concisely, one can find the "sweet spot".

David

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 Post subject: Re: Janacek - On an Overgrown Path
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:45 am 
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Rachfan wrote:
One thing I've noticed over the years about the soft pedal is that there is u.c. and there is u.c., but there is also u.c.

Not to mention u.c. :D

Rachfan wrote:
There's another way to get the soft pedal to be more responsive in providing the timbre you want--that is to experiment carefully by depressing the soft pedal through different gradients of depth, one gradient at a time. That often enables the pianist to discover and play on fresh felt between the grooves.

Yes I know. One of Smetana's polkas actually prescribes due corde , the only time I've ever seen that directive. Alas this requires a far more subtle instrument (and foot) than I have. A gradual release from u.c. to tre corde is feasible though, I recently experimented with that in a recording (not sure which one it was).

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