Bela Bartok, Bela Bartok, bela bartok, Edvard Grieg, Edvard Grieg plays "Butterfly" from his Lyric Pieces, George Gershwin, Grieg Lyric Pieces, Irina Morozova pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Interpreting piano music: Should we truly realize the composer’s intent?

Matters of interpretation came up at the “Y” Gym yesterday when I bumped into the pianist from a North Berkeley house of worship. Aline is a fine musician who intersperses the service with great masterworks. Recently she played Grieg’s “Wedding March” during the basket-passing which lifted spirits as it amassed $$$$.

At that very instant, I thought about how Edvard Grieg might have rendered his own music. (To hear his personal reading would certainly provide authentic tempo references and suggested phrasing) After all, how many times had piano students been told to worship the composer at his altar –channeling his music as he would have intended.

When I studied Grieg’s “Butterfly” from the Lyric Pieces I managed to dig up a scratchy rendering of Grieg’s that was compelling in its departure from my so-called original edition.

But was His the Holy Bible of interpretation compared to others I sampled on You Tube.

Had the Creator set the piece in stone?

How about this reading?

It seemed warmer with judiciously used sustain pedal.

And my personal favorite played by Sviatoslav Richter–he escapes the tendency to race through.

In summary, I didn’t necessarily embrace the composer’s approach to his own music.

***

BELA BARTOK

Here Bartok plays his hauntingly beautiful “Evening in the Country” with a wide brush of rubato that makes measuring the piece in notational form nearly impossible.

Compare to another rendering that’s compelling.

And now a more “measured out” performance that doesn’t seem to capture the improvised nature of the folkloric idiom, though one may argue that the reading is a personal expression of the artist that doesn’t have to match up with the composer’s so-called ideal.

***

Gershwin plays Gershwin

“I Got Rhythm”

Updated and transcribed in a virtuoso framing:

***

Traveling back over centuries where masterworks have no recorded expressions by their creators, we have treatises by C.P.E. Bach, for example, that inform about ornament execution, tempo, affect, etc.

Yet beyond what’s written by historians, the music itself, including melodic and harmonic flow give the player an interpretive map that is individually followed within the historical period of composition. This seems to be a better overall paradigm for interpretation than trying to be a carbon copy of the composer in any era.

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.

adult piano students, authorsden, blog, blogger, blogging, California, classissima, classissima.com, Edvard Grieg, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano studio, MTAC, music and heart, music and the breath, music teachers association of california, New York City High School of Performing Arts, New York University, Oberlin Conservatory, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano society, Piano Street, piano studio, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Steinway piano, talkclassical.com, Teach Street, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, teaching piano to teenagers, technique, uk-piano-forums, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Piano Instruction: Avoiding Injuries, using “Butterfly” by Edvard Grieg as a slow practicing example (Videos)

About twenty years ago, before I was enlightened about the risk of injuries when I practiced and how to avoid them, I sustained a ligament tear of my ring finger, right hand. It was while playing the Schumann Carnaval, and just before it happened, I had held my hand in a rigid arched position anticipating a stretch of notes well beyond the octave. It was definitely a suicide gesture to attempt to accommodate the large spread of keys with a traditionally, boxed in, ultra round-shaped hand.

After my ordeal I no longer advocated a “fixed,” unaltered hand position, and I made sure to teach my students ways to protect themselves from practice-related injuries. (I recommended “Warming” up gradually– playing scales and arpeggios in slow motion, breathing through groups of notes, and enlisting a rolling, curving motion)

To prevent finger tears, carpal tunnel and the rest, I advised that students should have very pliant, flexible wrists and hands. If there’s a big keyboard span to tackle, it’s best to use ROTATION without tightening muscles. Gently ROLLING between notes over an octave is the best approach as I demonstrated in the embedded video.

Using longer or broader fingers when attempting to play large intervals, is a hand protector.

Having natural follow-through motions while navigating the expanded intervals is another way to lower the injury risk.

As for over-practicing day in and day out, such excess might lead to nerve damage, carpal tunnel, etc.

I’d once practiced the same trills for hours at time, having to seriously consider a red flag warning: achy hands.

Once the body is telling the player to give it a rest, he/she should heed what’s in his best physical interests.

RELATED:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/butterfly-by-edvard-grieg/