adult piano instruction, Chopin, Chopin Waltz in A minor, Chopin Waltzes, Frederic Chopin, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano teaching, Romantic era, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, tempo rubato, word press, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, youtube.com

Tempo Rubato and Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous

Tempo Rubato as defined in Wikipedia:

“Tempo rubato (free in the presentation, Italian for: stolen time) is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor.”

I think of it in ebb and flow terms with phrases breathed in and out of cadences in a musically extemporaneous way but not overly exaggerated. From my perspective, tempo rubato should be tastefully applied in the Romantic genre. (Though freely rendered phrases can characterize music from other historical eras as well.)

As it played out, one of my adult students, who had conscientiously layered her learning process over months, was now ready to polish and nuance the Waltz in tempo rubato framing.

Our mutual explorations were recorded:

Chopin, Chopin Waltz, Chopin Waltz in C sharp minor, Frederic Chopin, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano technique, tempo rubato

An adult student excels: Chopin Waltz in C# minor, Op. 64, No. 2

Frederic Chopin

I’m beaming from ear to ear, as I showcase Julie’s progress by way of a recent lesson collaboration. I say collaboration, because students and teachers learn together and gain insights as they take a common musical journey.

Julie happens to be indirectly related to me. That is, her mother studied with concert pianist, Ena Bronstein in Fresno, as I did the same when I lived there. (after my relocation from NYC in the late 1970s)

**

So how often is a student the child of a mom who shares pianistic lineage?

I’ve yet to meet Julie’s mom, but I can readily discern that mother and daughter are musically bound and have much to express at the piano.

As proof, here’s what played out last night as the nearby space heater, kept student and pupil warm enough to imbue the Waltz with the beauty it deserved.

Thank you, Julie, for lighting up the room, amidst a rare Berkeley CA blitz of wind and chill…

Chopin Prelude in E Minor Op. 28 no. 4, chromaticism, classissima, classissima.com, Ffrederic Chopin, Frederic Chopin, Romantic era piano music, Romantic music, tempo rubato

Where harmonies shape phrases: Chopin’s Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4

Chopin’s doleful Prelude in E minor is all about harmonic rhythm and how it influences a relatively simple melodic line. Without a cushion of chords, the melody would be redundant, bare, and without support.

To express a pervasive sadness that permeates this music, the composer ingeniously devised a stream of sonorities in the bass that move in half steps, or “chromatics” in one or more voices. These progressions flesh out a melodic passion that would otherwise be absent.

The challenge is to “feel” and understand how the harmonic flow impacts the melody, and in reverse, how the melodic line intertwines and influences the bass chord underpinning. (Tempo rubato or flexible time is also a pervasive ingredient of interpretation along with the molto cantabile–singing tone)

Relaxed arms and supple wrists are needed to realize the total fabric in the Romantic genre. And thinking of chords in groups, with blurred boundaries created by meandering chromatic movement, helps to express the profound emotions embedded in this composition.

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Playing through Chopin’s B minor Waltz with its sighing motif (Video commentary)

Last night I sat myself down at my imperfectly regulated Steinway M grand and managed to sigh several times through torrents of phrases crafted by design and inspiration to tug at the heartstrings.

And in the video below, I journeyed in baby steps through this intensely emotional landscape pinpointing how I could flesh out the SIGHs that spill from recurrent tied notes in Chopin’s somber Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69, No.2. (The singing tone–molto cantabile-is intrinsic to this music)

It seemed natural to draw a comparison to the violin in the execution of such repetitive figures. If I had a bow in my hand I would delay entry into the string and follow through with a deliberate broadening of the tone. (I spent six years of my life studying violin noting its carryover to the keyboard)

No doubt it’s easier to draw a slow bow than to translate this effect to the piano, but a pianist can accomplish the same by entering a note from below using a dipping wrist.

The permeating tied notes that seek relief in a curve down, dissipating motion flow into a contrasting middle section in D Major, marked con anime, with animation. Here the notes are lifted and configured in groups of three leading to a longer note.

To realize the vibrancy and unique character of the dotted-quarters springing from the shorter eighths, still another delayed entry into these longer ones is suggested. But just as conspicuous is the circular motion of the phrases that move the composition along. To best flesh out these shapes, I enlist the right elbow to swing in and out in counter-clockwise movement.

In measures where there is a sudden note-wise build-up in passion and intensity (forte outpourings, along with a staccato, or PORTATO) I find that broadening these streams of notes thwarts a tendency to crowd them. And allied to this more relaxed, freedom of expression is a tasteful application of rubato.

A second interlude in the B minor Nocturne utilizes the Parallel B Major key, giving the composition a lift. But no sooner than our emotions are plied, we are pulled back to the somber opening theme with its elaboration that closes the composition in sighing despair.

I consider this Waltz a favorite of mine and dote upon Artur Rubenstein’s reading on You Tube. His performance has a disarming simplicity, framed in a relaxed tempo. In all, the master takes about 4 minutes to weave his poetry with the grace and beauty he’s known for.

LINK:

What Pianists can Learn from String Players

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/what-pianists-can-learn-from-string-players/

Alfred Cortot, Arthur Rubenstein, Artur Rubenstein, Artur Rubstein and Chopin, Artur Schnabel, Butterfly by Edvard Grieg, Chopin, Chopin Waltz, Chopin Waltz in Ab Major Op. 69 no. 1, Chopin Waltz in Ab Op. 69 no. 1, Edvard Grieg, Frederic Chopin, iMac, Leonard Pennario, Mary Kunz Goldman, Mary Kunz Goldman authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario, pianist, piano, piano repertoire, piano technique, Piano World, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, Romantic era music, Romantic music, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Stephen Hough, tempo rubato, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano playing, Uncategorized, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, Yeti mic, Yeti microphone, you tube, you tube video

Chopin Waltz in Ab Major, Op. 69 No. 1–considerations of mics, recording conditions, and tempo, with performance comparisons

First, I have to admit that my prized Yeti mic suffered yet another break-down. “Break” is to be emphasized. I tripped over the wire on the way to Haddy Haddorff, and the sensitive connector from iMac’s USB port to the mic itself was altered. Yeti wouldn’t register on “Preferences” as an external no matter how I tweaked that little metal doo-dad that plugs into its host. The more I twisted, turned, cajoled, and said any number of prayers, the less anything registered with the powers that be.

So I didn’t want to abandon my recording session in any case, and decided to wing it with iMac’s own built-in job. Ugh! I had awful experiences that preceded this one, so I wasn’t expecting an overnight miracle or transformation.

Just the same, I figured, I’d swoon over the Waltz and hope some Romantic flavor seeped through one way or another. And then I reminded myself of those old, scratchy recordings where Arthur Schnabel played divine Beethoven, or Cortot lectured about Chopin with those hard-to-decipher playing samples. Still, people listened.

What about Grieg performing his “Butterfly” piece under less than perfect conditions, or any number of keyboard legends leaving bare traces of themselves on audio?

So what. While I was far from legendary, I could leave behind a less than perfect mic-ing of the Chopin Ab Waltz.

***

Well, since composing the previous apologia, I remedied the mic, and subbed in this video:

Next consideration: Tempo. So did I care what so and so pianist did with the Waltz in the way of pacing it? I certainly wanted a good example of tasteful rubato, and hunted down a few readings with that in mind. Stephen Hough was the first that popped up on my screen. (radar screen, perhaps) He was flashing back to the past, I think, coming toward the piano with a 40’s era hat. Everything was in black and white evoking an earlier time, but nowhere near the period that Chopin lived.

It was a creative mood painting.

I liked most of what he did in the way of interpretation, dynamics, give and take, but I couldn’t envision myself playing the Ab Waltz quite that fast all the way through, though his reading was very well styled. Would it fit me in the same way? There were sections that seemed a bit too casual, but still valid. He plied the phrases nicely. In all, I like parts of the whole, but the whole had parts I wished were more lingering.

My next stop was Leonard Pennario and his reading which I instantly doted upon. The only question I had related to the tempo change on page two. Suddenly everything took off, though I didn’t notice directions in the score to that effect. Perhaps I had been under the wrong impression all along about that specific section?

Pennario’s interpretation, overall, was my preference as compared to Hough’s. (I did note, however, that both pianists had apparently used different editions because there were some note changes between scores)

Regardless, I felt that Pennario registered a contemplative Chopin with a nice, fluid rubato. His tone was gorgeous, and he well paced the composition playing it significantly slower than Hough.

Finally came Artur Rubenstein, and as expected, I knew that I would embrace his performance. It seemed plaintively beautiful, effortlessly delivered, as if the music were allowed to play itself.

Similarly, I didn’t find any abrupt tempo shifts between sections, though, like Pennario and Hough he quickened the pace on page two, but less conspicuously.

Regardless of whether I favored one of these performances over another, a salient feature of all was the personality and conviction that came through. If nothing else, an individual and creative expression among pianists would be something to emulate.

To summarize, this You Tube outing proved to be a thoroughly valuable learning experience

For certain, tomorrow I’ll try to round up a decent mic and do my best to realize what the composer intended. Best case scenario, it should be without the handicap of a built-in sound system that could compromise a pianist’s playing in an any time or era.

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Comparison of five performances: Liszt Consolation No. 3 (Piano-videos)

After listening intently to Horowitz’s reading, I was curious to find others to compare.

No doubt a diversity of opinion surrounds any performance, but I had some ideas about why I liked one reading over another.

Daniel Barenboim: I always find that his playing is not only inspiring but thoughtful. He delivers an intimate performance here in beautiful simplicity not trying to overdo any Romantic effect by applying extreme rubato. He respects the natural flow of phrases and lets them almost play themselves. What I’ve noticed in general about his artistry, is that he is likely to take a slower tempo than most, and yet, he can rivet the listener to his every phrase, because he communicates the music on more than one level. I gain insights by each of his readings.

Lang Lang:

This pianist always impresses with his color palette, glowing phrasing and nuance, as well as energy abundance. In this reading, the flourishes in the upper range are played a tad too quickly compared to Horowitz and Barenboim. And more liberties are taken, in the rubato arena, perhaps a bit exaggerated at some moments–although in the main, I find Lang Lang to be so wonderfully connected to whatever music he plays, that fussing over this or that detail of interpretation may be superfluous.


George Li
at 16, renders an age-defying, riveting performance. It has all the desired elements of great playing. A nice, wide palette of dynamics and nuance; a sustained singing tone approach; rubato that is not overdone; a going with the flow, sinuous phrasing that is well-spun. Li holds listeners in his hands from beginning to end.

I applaud George for this reading! Bravo!! May more people visit this site and enjoy your artistry! And Congratulations on the Oberlin Conservatory scholarship. (My alma mater!)

A bit about George lifted from his website:

2010 was a Milestone Year for pianist George Li. In July, George performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Orchestra and won first prize in the Cooper International Piano Competition 2010; the prize package includes a full, four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and concerto performances in Beijing and Shanghai, China. In November, George won first prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, awarding him debut recital opportunities in New York, Washington D.C., and Boston.

Born in August 1995, George Li (黎卓宇) is a 10th grade student at the Walnut Hill School and the New England Conservatory (NEC) Preparatory School, where he studies piano with Ms. Wha Kyung Byun (卞和暻). George’s previous piano teachers include Mrs. Dorothy Shi (杨镜钏) and Mr. Yin Chengzong (殷承宗).

Seymour Bernstein:

A heartfelt, Old World, nuanced interpretation, with especially poignant, affective transitions from minor to major. The final sonority has Bernstein’s emblematic, to-die-for delay, that leaves the listener spellbound. I personally like the slower, lingering performance which does not over indulge rubato.

Back to Vladimir Horowitz and what I said about his performance in my last blog posting.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/horowitz-plays-liszts-consolation-no-3-and-why-its-so-beautiful-to-our-ears/

Chopin, Chopin Barcarolle, Chopin Mazurka, Chopin Mazurka in G minor Op. 63 no. 3, classissima, classissima.com, Frederic Chopin, International Piano Institute at Mannes College, Irena Orlov, Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin piano studio, Irina Morozova, Levine School of Music, Levine School of Music in Washington, Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., Mannes College of Music, mind body connection, music, music and heart, music and the breath, phrasing at the piano, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, producing a singing tone legato at the piano, publishersmarketplace, publishersmarketplace.com, Romantic era music, Romantic music, self-analysis, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, singing tone legato, studying piano, talkclassical.com, tempo rubato, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano playing, video performances, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Ethereal piano playing: Another Irina, with an i in the middle, brings heaven to earth

This is the special month of Irina, Irena, and still another Irina. The latest messenger of beauty via You Tube is Irina Morozova. And as fate would have it, one of my readers, owner of a Knight piano treasure, e-mailed me a sample of her Bach-Siloti, which sent me feverishly finger-tapping the search window for more.

Out popped the Chopin Barcarolle performed with gorgeously spun out lines, to die for singing tone and phrasing. Not to be territorial about playing, but the Russian School of teaching piano is glaring for its focus on producing a molto cantabile.

The wrists are not flat. The hand position is not rigid. There’s a flow from the heart into the fingers via relaxed arms and supple wrists. The motions are curvaceous as one note breathes into another at the right moment. Morozova renders a warm, Romantic era interpretation that has a relaxed roundness.

We learn from artists like her who make piano playing so fluid, that the mystery of how it’s done can be unraveled by listening attentively and carefully observing.

Chopin Mazurka in G minor, Op. 63, no.3

I love this interpretation.

And on to a divinely played Chopin Barcarolle:

Irina Morozova, Bio:

Piano; B.M. with Honors, Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music; M.M., Manhattan School of Music; piano studies with Vladimir Shakin, Galina Orlovskaya, Arkady Aronov; performances include Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, New American Chamber orchestra; participated in Film America’s “Music in the 20th Century” series; awards include Frinna Awerbuch, San Antonio International Piano Competitions; teaches, performs at International Keyboard Institute and Festival in NY; faculty, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan school of Music, Special Music School.

“If music be the food of love, play on….”

Other Links:

Irena Orlov


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/reaching-beyond-a-documentary-about-an-inspiring-piano-teacher/

Irina Gorin


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/when-great-piano-teaching-must-be-recognized/