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 Post subject: Medtner: Skazka in F minor, Op. 14 No. 2 "Ophelia's Son
PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:32 pm 
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The room with the big Steinway was open today. Happy birthday to me! I'm still getting to know the piano (which seems as weak in the upper registers as it's strong in the low ones) and the acoustics, but I think this one came out fairly well.

Skazka in F minor, Op. 14 No. 2 "Ophelia's Son


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 10:55 am 
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Yes it's a bit boomy isn't it ! Want me to apply a bass cut before putting it up the site ?

Marvellous performance of this wonderful, deceptivly simple piece. Nothing to wish for really. Only thing I noticed is that you seem to play the dotted 16ths as 32ths, 3 bars before the Tempo Primo which does not sound very Medtnerian to me. The molto crescendo and the ensueing fortissimo could IMO be a bit more pronounced.

Fond memories of this piece.... Long time ago, in the age of reel tape recorders and electret mikes I had a try at recording myself. This skazka was my current craze at the moment and I thought I could just slap that on tape without any preparation at all. The result was terrible of course, both musically and soundwise, and I have never tried recording again until I got involved with PS.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 12:15 pm 
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I am starting to like this 'Medner guy' more and more. :) Those were some sad fairies. I guess this Skazka would fit the 'folk song' description better?
Nice job playing, Schmonz, and Happy Birthday!

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 7:35 pm 
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I guess I'm something of a purist about editing, in that I prefer not to. Perhaps after the piano's been fixed up a bit, I can make a better recording "naturally." Speaking of which, thanks for catching my reading error. I'm away from my score, but I'll see what you mean when I get back.

It sounds like you feel strongly about this piece. I'd love to hear what you do with it!

Pianolady, jump on the Medtner revival bandwagon! There's plenty of room. :-)


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 7:39 pm 
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schmonz wrote:
It sounds like you feel strongly about this piece. I'd love to hear what you do with it!

I don't think it would sound very different from your take, with respect to interpretation. This is just the way it should go, I do not see much leeway here.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:36 am 
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techneut wrote:
Only thing I noticed is that you seem to play the dotted 16ths as 32ths, 3 bars before the Tempo Primo which does not sound very Medtnerian to me. The molto crescendo and the ensueing fortissimo could IMO be a bit more pronounced.


Back at the score, and you're exactly right. I also agree fully about that underclimactic climax, and blame the piano's scrawny "upper body". I'll have to fix both in an eventual Second Edition Recording.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:21 pm 
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I have always thought Medtner was about strange rhythm experiments but seem to be seriously wrong. This is another nice, dark and mysterious work from Medtner you upload and it has opened by eyes. I'll put this one in loop at work.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:44 pm 
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robert wrote:
I have always thought Medtner was about strange rhythm experiments but seem to be seriously wrong.

Medtner did not experiment, he was an arch-conservative if ever there was one. But intricate rhythmic patterns and unusual polyrhythms indeed occur frequently in his works, more so than in Rachmaninov but not to the extent you find in Scriabin. Not sure what he thought of Scriabin but it is known that he vehemently denounced Prokofiev's early work.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 9:18 am 
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This one is up.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 5:14 pm 
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Good work schmonz! You make this very dense piece clear and transparent, although I must say that I still don't get it, or understand it. I presume it's about Hamlet's lover (?) Ophelia, who drowns herself after losing her sanity. He captures the "blank" feeling of mental/emotional disconnection quite well, if that's what he was aiming at.

Is there a source or guide to the extra-musical programs of the Skazki? I would like that very much.


techneut wrote:
robert wrote:
I have always thought Medtner was about strange rhythm experiments but seem to be seriously wrong.

Medtner did not experiment, he was an arch-conservative if ever there was one. But intricate rhythmic patterns and unusual polyrhythms indeed occur frequently in his works, more so than in Rachmaninov but not to the extent you find in Scriabin. Not sure what he thought of Scriabin but it is known that he vehemently denounced Prokofiev's early work.


Indeed he did not experiment, he continued down the tonal road, contributing to his unpopularity in the 20th century. I enjoy his music very much but I sometimes find that melodically he is either vague or weak. Perhaps this has to do with his interest in modes and the natural minor scale; often conventionally trained ears find modality hard to grasp. I often hear his music as being "grey" or colorless ( yes, I'm a Scriabinist synesthese :D ), or blank, in a way that's hard to describe. Then it will suddenly explode into many bright colors ( I experience this in the 3rd Concerto particularly). But the music is always grounded in tonality (I-IV-V-I), he never followed the tritone into extended tonality like Scriabin. Medtner is a composer that is not yet fully understood (at least by me). But except for the occasional abstruse melody I think his music is extraordinary. Glad it's back. Maybe in Europe and Russia it was never gone; in the USA he was unknown outside of highbrow circles until recently, myself being an exception.

I can't imagine that Medtner would have enjoyed Scriabin's later work. But as for Prokofiev on Medtner, I read somewhere that Prokofiev told a group of musicians that "Medtner divides his Sonatas into those for the concert hall and those for home use" (I'm paraphrasing from memory), referring to the Sonata Triad Op.11, which Medtner evidently viewed as intimate music not suited for the concert hall. Prokofiev also had some slighting things to say about Rachmaninov,too. Those are some catfights I sure wouldn't want to get caught in!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 5:43 pm 
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arensky wrote:
But as for Prokofiev on Medtner, I read somewhere that Prokofiev told a group of musicians that "Medtner divides his Sonatas into those for the concert hall and those for home use" (I'm paraphrasing from memory), referring to the Sonata Triad Op.11, which Medtner evidently viewed as intimate music not suited for the concert hall.

Apparently Medtner was rather pissed that P. said something like that about one of his sonatas (not sure if it was about the Op.11 or some other, perhaps the Reminiscenza). Evidently, there was no love lost between the two. Certainly not after M. publicly and demonstratively turned his back on P.'s early music (I think that was at a performance of the 1st concerto and the Toccata which he attended with his friend Rachmaninov, who was bowled over).

arensky wrote:
Prokofiev also had some slighting things to say about Rachmaninov,too. Those are some catfights I sure wouldn't want to get caught in!

Prokofiev was a bit of an arrogant sod, who had acerbic things to say abot lots of collegues. Then again, many composers were like that at times, and we don't love their music any less for it. Rachmaninov I think was a real Mr. Nice Guy who never said a bad word about anyone.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:02 am 
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I think I remember reading specifically that this is not about Hamlet's Ophelia. But I have no idea where I think I remember having read that, nor about Medtner's programs in general. As long as I'm grasping at vague memories, I'm pretty sure Rachmaninov is on record as having said he often had programmatic inspirations and he would never reveal them. Can't find the quote just now.

All of which is (at best) vaguely interesting, but I think this piece can be understood without much background. Not to say that it doesn't (as so often with Medtner) take a few listens to get under the hood, or to let it get under yours. When I sit down to the piano, it feels like a better idea to play the Op. 26 #3... but when I finish Ophelia's Song, it feels far more satisfying. Wish I could elaborate on that!

On the subject of modes, this one of course features the Dorian.

On the subject of Medtner and the tritone, he uses it very cleverly in the climax of Op. 26 #3 to modulate almost imperceptibly. In my music theory course this semester, I'll be analyzing that skazka and giving a half-hour presentation for the class. Harmonically a fascinating little piece. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it here later. :-)

arensky wrote:
I can't imagine that Medtner would have enjoyed Scriabin's later work. But as for Prokofiev on Medtner, I read somewhere that Prokofiev told a group of musicians that "Medtner divides his Sonatas into those for the concert hall and those for home use" (I'm paraphrasing from memory), referring to the Sonata Triad Op.11, which Medtner evidently viewed as intimate music not suited for the concert hall. Prokofiev also had some slighting things to say about Rachmaninov,too. Those are some catfights I sure wouldn't want to get caught in!


I recognize the quote (I remember laughing aloud in a public area when I first ran across it) and I think the attribution goes to Rachmaninov, commiserating with someone over Prokofiev's categorizations of other people's music. Suspect I saw it in Rimm's "The Composer-Pianists". Which reminds me, if you really have time to kill, or fellow pianists to persuade, here's a paper I wrote about Medtner last year:

http://www.schmonz.com/2006/04/18/unive ... arch-paper


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