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#1237974 - 07/27/09 03:29 AM famous pianists' hand size  
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Libraboy Offline
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I just noticed from videos that Volodos could barely take the tenths in the beginning of Rach 2, Cziffra had to roll the tenths in Schumann's toccata and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody 6, Argerich couldn only take ninths, and Lazar Berman had to roll the tenths in Chopin's polonaises. I've always avoided playing Rach and Brahms because I could only take a ninth, maybe now there's no excuse?

But Horowitz could take an eleventh, and Earl Wild and Richter twelfths...

Last edited by Libraboy; 07/27/09 03:33 AM.
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#1237990 - 07/27/09 04:59 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Have you read Piano Notes by Charles Rosen? He addresses this issue on page 2. He describes various famous composers and the difficulties they had. He states it depends on the shape of the hand and that there is no type of hand that is more suitable for piano than another. This is a poor paraphrase and I don't know if it's permissible to quote him here, but I think you'd like the book. It's full of amazing facts, a serious but fascinating read.


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#1238083 - 07/27/09 10:07 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Even Rachmaninoff didn't strike the tenths in the opening chords. He plays the bass first, (in order to get more depth behind the upper notes, I suspect). Even with a comfortable tenth, few hands could get a suitably big sound behind those chords, without swinging from the bass note. Volodos is among few who can do that. He must have an extremely comfortable tenth and at least an 11th, I suspect. Sadly, a lot of people like Ashkenazy destroy the effect by rolling the whole chord. Any hand that can stretch an octave can play the bass before the chord as Rachmaninoff did.

#1238096 - 07/27/09 10:21 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Horowitzian Offline
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Originally Posted by Libraboy
[...]
But Horowitz could take an eleventh [...]


Strange. I seem to remember seeing a quote from the Maestro himself stating that he could take tenths comfortably, or something to that effect. crazy



Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
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#1238113 - 07/27/09 10:52 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Siloti had huge hands, possibly bigger than Rachmaninov's but I don't remember exactly what chords he could reach.

#1238143 - 07/27/09 11:36 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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This was posted by Digitus in my thread about Horowitz's technique:

Someone wondered about Horowitz's span. I just finished reading David Dubal's book "Evenings with Horowitz" (the 2004 printing that includes a CD of the interviews that Dubal made with H for WNCN). There is a picture of H's hands on the keyboard, showing his span in both hands.

LH: C-E-F-G-E
RH: C-F-A#-C-E

That's a 10th in each hand, with the pinkies on the outside of the keys. H had relatively long pinkies and thumbs.

#1238152 - 07/27/09 11:50 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Originally Posted by Horowitzian
Originally Posted by Libraboy
[...]
But Horowitz could take an eleventh [...]


Strange. I seem to remember seeing a quote from the Maestro himself stating that he could take tenths comfortably, or something to that effect. crazy



You are correct, Horowitzian. VH could take a tenth, by his own admission. I also met him and shook his hand in 1986. Not particularly large paws, but very strong. OUCH!

Last edited by Hank Drake; 07/27/09 11:50 AM.

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#1238159 - 07/27/09 11:57 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Hank Drake]  
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Thank you for the information, Hank. I thought that was the case, but couldn't quite recall! blush

You are so lucky to have met him. smile I believe what you say about his strength. There's a video of him somewhere (London early 80's?) shifting the position of his piano onstage while sitting down. And those small casters on NY Steinways do not roll well at all.

[edit] I just saw ruprakt's post. Thank you! smile

Last edited by Horowitzian; 07/27/09 11:58 AM.

Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1238168 - 07/27/09 12:04 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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I heard Chopin had big hands too, but I don't know if that's true.


Bach French Suites No. 6, Allemande and Gigue, Beethoven's Pathetique, Chopin Nocturne 72/1, Fantaisie-Impromptu, Debussy's First Arabesque, Takacs Toccata Op 54, Rachmaninoff Etude-Tableau 33/8.
#1238174 - 07/27/09 12:10 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: pianogal37]  
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Horowitzian Offline
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I don't think his hands were particularly large. But he was reputed to be able to roll chords so well you wouldn't know the difference.


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1238229 - 07/27/09 01:15 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Chopin's hands were tiny for a guy's but very stretchy - "opening up like the jaws of a snake" according to an eyewitness. He was probably a comfortable nine but may have just managed a ten. He envied Thalberg his hand size "he takes a ten the way I do an eight" but added in disapproval "mades piano and forte with the pedal instead of the hand." Liszt, according to himself, was a ten.


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#1238318 - 07/27/09 03:54 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: -Frycek]  
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But most of Horowitz's transcriptions include unbroken chord intervals of an eleventh....

#1238339 - 07/27/09 04:31 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Examples? The Carmen Variations doesn't have any AFAIK.

I would imagine that such chords would be rolled anyway.


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1238519 - 07/27/09 08:47 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Horowitzian]  
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There are some chords in Horowitz's transcription of Rakozcy March that include elevenths. But you're probably right that he rolled those chords.

Siloti's hands were big enough to play the left-hand octaves in Chopin's Heroic Polonaise with thumb on one note and 2, 3, 4, 5 playing the E, D#, C#, and B.

#1238540 - 07/27/09 09:37 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Originally Posted by Libraboy
There are some chords in Horowitz's transcription of Rakozcy March that include elevenths. But you're probably right that he rolled those chords.


Which part is that in? I can't immediately remember any intervals beyond a tenth.

#1238546 - 07/27/09 09:49 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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I heard you can tell the length of a pianist by the size of their hands.

#1238574 - 07/27/09 11:06 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Damon]  
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Depending on your edition of Rakozcy March the left hand A-Major chord in bars 85 and 95 may be rolled or not....

#1238581 - 07/27/09 11:25 PM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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The Liszt/Horowitz Rakoczy March available at Horowitz Scores Online indicates rolls.


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1238646 - 07/28/09 02:07 AM Re: famous pianists' hand size [Re: Libraboy]  
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Originally Posted by Libraboy

Siloti's hands were big enough to play the left-hand octaves in Chopin's Heroic Polonaise with thumb on one note and 2, 3, 4, 5 playing the E, D#, C#, and B.


That's not unusually big. I know, because that was the way I used to do them, and my hands aren't especially large.


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