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#1265991 - 09/10/09 05:14 PM Interpretation  
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How far can interpretation go? I was asking myself this question playing Chopin's Mazurka in A min Op.7 No.2. I just feel it more if I play it slower than the tempo indicated, but I don't think I should go against the wishes/instructions of my favourite composer...

Any ideas?

CA



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#1265998 - 09/10/09 05:25 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.

#1266000 - 09/10/09 05:27 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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There's a very recent thread in ABF concerning the appropriate tempo of this very piece:

A Sad Chopin's Mazurka

I wouldn't consider the M.M. marking to be set in stone; I let the range of plausible tempi suggested by the verbal designation guide me instead. Vivo ma non troppo conveys to me that there should be some Mazurka-like liveliness here, but not too much. I can't fathom playing it at 160 bpm, but a solemn and dirge-like performance would be contrary to the spirit of the piece.

It's often been remarked here that the M.M. indications given by Chopin in many pieces seem excessively and inappropriately fast.

Steven

#1266009 - 09/10/09 05:45 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: sotto voce]  
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If the tempo marking is in your score is Chopin's, I would ask you the same question that I have heard Irina Morozova ask in master classes:

"If your score had been personally marked by Chopin, would you ignore his markings?"

This is her way of saying that any marking(fingering, tempo, pedal)that we know is authentic Chopin should be at least considered strongly.

In the case of a tempo marking I don't think it's as important to follow Chopin's marking as precisely as it would be for something like phrasing. As long as you're reasonably close it seems OK. From my listening to Mazurka performances it seems there is quite a bit of variance in tempo among great pianists.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/10/09 05:48 PM.
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#1266019 - 09/10/09 05:54 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: sotto voce]  
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Thanks for the advice and the link. You are right, the verbal designation is more important as it allows more space for interpretation. After all, if all pianists played at exactly the same tempo it would be less interesting...

CA



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#1266353 - 09/11/09 09:43 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Follow the score but do not be restricted to that. Nobody will play a piece the same way as you, therefore there can't be ONE perfect interpretation that everybody should follow.

I played the opening of the 2nd ballade so slow and insisted on it, and drove my teacher nuts because he couldn't change my mind. I think I changed his though..

If you have a really good reason for it, maybe..



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#1266460 - 09/11/09 01:22 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Pogorelich.]  
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I don't know how to link another thread but following (delightful) quote is from thread #1240439 from John Citron and comments he made about a rare piano sitting job:

Quote
Before I forget and get side-tracked again with something else, let me tell you about my piano sitting job I had last Saturday...Anyway I arrived at 9:30 and left around 7:30...Later on, I played a Pleyel from 1845. This is a rather small piano in comparision to the others in the collection and is more of a parlor grand than a concert grand. The action is quite different too in comparison to the Streichers, Erard, and the Bösendorfer from the same period. There's something about it that's hard to describe. The action feels as though there is little repetition to it, which is probably true because Erard was the one that developed the escapement that is used today on our pianos. The other pianos being compared to it are also Viennese, and these have a totally different action than either the Erard or the Pleyel. So when I played this piano, after I got used to it, I found that I had to be extremely precise with my fingering and hand movements otherwise the tone would either not sound nice, or there wouldn't be any at all.

After I got used to the piano, I started to enjoy its clarity and distinct registers. Chopin loved Pleyels and I can see why. His music sounded a lot different on this than on a modern piano, and on some works, which I find very difficult to play such as his 3rd Scherzo, executed easily on this piano. I was able to bring out voices I heard in my head, but unable to execute on a modern piano. On this piano I destroyed his 3rd Ballade, Scherzo in B-flat minor, and a bunch of Nocturnes, which I haven't played in awhile...

There's one thing I forgot to mention about the pianos. The earlier instruments, before the 1862 Chickering, have very a shallow key depth. This really helps in playing quickly when combined with a light action. This really helped my Chopin Scherzo, bugs and all. The lightness, once gotten used to also makes the playing easier because there's a lot less work needed to achieve a complete dynamic range. The keys were not any different in width than a modern piano except for on the fortepiano. This made them comfortable to play one.


Until this post, I wouldn't have considered that the pianos of Chopin would be so different than the modern piano. Tempo and dynamic interpretation would vary for the modern piano. And perhaps, if Chopin played on a modern piano, his markings might have been different.

#1266561 - 09/11/09 04:31 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Slightly off the main subject, but Liszt had this to say about Chopin and Pleyels in his Life of Chopin:"...Pleyel's pianos, which he particularly liked for their slightly veiled, yet silvery sonorousness, and easy touch, permitting him to elicit tones which one might think proceeded from one of those harmonicas of which romantic Germany has preserved the monopoly, and which were so ingeniously constructed by its ancient masters, by the union of crystal and water."

#1266568 - 09/11/09 04:43 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Susan K.]  
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Originally Posted by Susan K.
Until this post, I wouldn't have considered that the pianos of Chopin would be so different than the modern piano. Tempo and dynamic interpretation would vary for the modern piano. And perhaps, if Chopin played on a modern piano, his markings might have been different.


I don't think tempo and interpretation would have to vary just because the modern piano is different. I do think that some passages might be harder/easier to play on a modern piano.

#1266573 - 09/11/09 04:51 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: debrucey]  
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Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.

#1266584 - 09/11/09 05:12 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: lisztonian]  
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Originally Posted by lisztonian
Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.


I got a good chuckle out of that (bruce-san) post myself. A little sarcasim poked at the purists.


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#1266608 - 09/11/09 06:02 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Studio Joe]  
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@ lisztonian

Of course it can laugh. You can play a piece however it pleases you. Of course if you are playing for somebody else who knows their stuff, even more so if they're an examiner or something, a wildly original and excessively heterodox performance of something isn't going to come across well unless you can justify your alterations (other than just 'i like it that way' :P). I do think its important to know what the 'correct' way of playing something is, and to be able to play it that way as well as you can. But if the situation permits it I think people should be able to do whatever they like, as long as they except that a lot of people will probably give them a hard time about it.

@jw7480

It may have been a little tongue in cheek but it wasn't really sarcastic :P. I do actually believe what I said.

#1266736 - 09/11/09 10:43 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: lisztonian]  
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Originally Posted by lisztonian
Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.


If it sounds good, sure! Personally, I particularly enjoy Anton Rubinstein's idea of fortissimo where the the funeral march returns with pianissimo. If you need a score in front of you to decide whether you dislike something, it's just pedantry. If something sounds crap, the problem is the fact that it sounds crap- not the fact that the composer didn't ask you to do it.

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 09/11/09 10:48 PM.
#1266862 - 09/12/09 03:44 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: lisztonian]  
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Originally Posted by lisztonian
Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.


The point of this thread is that no one knows the 'correct' way of playing something except the composer. A piece may sound better if it is played against Chopin's own wishes, but can you really say that you are playing Chopin? You are effectively playing your own arrangement of Chopin. But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin. If a cadenza sounds better in lento than the marked presto, why not play it that way?

For example, let's consider a student composer with far worse abilities than Chopin, who composes a piece as an assignment for his teacher. The piece is marked presto, but sounds much better under lento, the teacher would surely tell the student to change the tempo marking. Unfortunately the student dies before he could change the marking. What would future pianists do when they play the piece?

#1266867 - 09/12/09 04:09 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: ConcertEtudes]  
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Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes
Originally Posted by lisztonian
Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.


What would future pianists do when they play the piece?


This was one of my initial thoughts before I posted anything. The effect it will have on pianists in the coming years and generations.

#1266894 - 09/12/09 06:12 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: ConcertEtudes]  
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Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes


But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.


??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.

#1266913 - 09/12/09 07:54 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes


But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.


??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.


Which is of course, exactly the same thing in every single edition he published. He never changed his mind about a thing...

#1266914 - 09/12/09 08:00 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes


But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.


??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.


Which is of course, exactly the same thing in every single edition he published. He never changed his mind about a thing...


If he changed his mind and conflicting editions, then it just means that both are possible interpretations.

#1266929 - 09/12/09 08:50 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes


But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.


??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.


Which is of course, exactly the same thing in every single edition he published. He never changed his mind about a thing...


If he changed his mind and conflicting editions, then it just means that both are possible interpretations.


Yes. But what if only one of those editions had been published? And someone did something that was not in that particular edition? It serves to illustrate that just because something is not in a particular edition, that does not necessarily mean it should be banned. The composer may have been fine with the idea.

#1266933 - 09/12/09 08:53 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes


But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.


??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.


Which is of course, exactly the same thing in every single edition he published. He never changed his mind about a thing...


If he changed his mind and conflicting editions, then it just means that both are possible interpretations.


It's not just editions, Chopin changed things ALL the time while performing. He almost never played the same thing twice. So really, sometimes we actually don't know what he wanted..



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#1266935 - 09/12/09 09:01 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ConcertEtudes
But since Chopin is dead, no one knows what Chopin really wanted, so we are all playing our own arrangements of Chopin.

??? What Chopin wanted is what he indicated in the score.

Which is of course, exactly the same thing in every single edition he published. He never changed his mind about a thing...

Actually, the music is substantially the same in every single edition he published. To the extent there are differences, they're pretty much attributable to copyists. In subsequent editions, the discrepancies are equally minor and attributable to different editors. I can't think of a single instance where anything is attributable to Chopin "chang[ing] his mind."

Other composers certainly changed their minds, with the result that earlier works were revisited, completely revised and published anew. Chopin isn't one of them. He was precise and deliberate about the content of a manuscript by the time it was ready for publication, and he didn't look back. (And if he he "never played anything the same way twice" or wrote variants on his students' scores, that's completely irrelevant to what was published.)

Steven

#1266955 - 09/12/09 09:36 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Yes.] But what if only one of those editions had been published? And someone did something that was not in that particular edition? It serves to illustrate that just because something is not in a particular edition, that does not necessarily mean it should be banned. The composer may have been fine with the idea.


He may have been fine with anything, but I think the reasonable thing to do is to choose from whatever edtitions are avialable. Otherwise, following your logic it seems to me one could change anything. Maybe play the Minute Waltz in 4/4 time in D flat minor and Largo?


Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/12/09 10:04 AM.
#1266958 - 09/12/09 09:48 AM Re: Interpretation [Re: Pogorelich.]  
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Originally Posted by AngelinaPogorelich
It's not just editions, Chopin changed things ALL the time while performing. He almost never played the same thing twice. So really, sometimes we actually don't know what he wanted..


I think it's a very different thing to say Chopin changed things when he performed his own composition and we don't know what he wanted so we can do what we like. If he wanted to leave it up to us, why would he or any composer mark the score with phrasing, dynamics, pedalling, tempo indications?

If you could take a lesson from Chopin and he penciled in something in your score, would you ignore it because he might play it differently the next time?


Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/12/09 09:49 AM.
#1267056 - 09/12/09 12:47 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: sotto voce]  
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Originally Posted by sotto voce

Other composers certainly changed their minds, with the result that earlier works were revisited, completely revised and published anew. Chopin isn't one of them. He was precise and deliberate about the content of a manuscript by the time it was ready for publication, and he didn't look back. (And if he he "never played anything the same way twice" or wrote variants on his students' scores, that's completely irrelevant to what was published.)

Steven


What kind of an argument is that? Are we talking about what was published? Or about playing it? Chopin was notorious for changing his mind about things. Apparently he hated writing stuff down and having to put it in a concrete form. Does a published score count as the most important word on a piece of music- taking all priority over any rethinking the composer made? Is it about faith to the composer, or faith to a piece of paper?

Chopin certainly DID change things. As for "looking back" however- maybe he simply didn't care exactly what he wrote the last time he wrote the piece down? Maybe it wasn't even in his mind and he just wrote what he felt at the time? There are countless instances of differences between various editions. Not generally in terms of major variants (although there are cases of this), like those he wrote for students, but in terms of dynamics and phrasing etc. Some, but far from all of these can be put down to copyists mistakes. There are too many to assume that Chopin didn't either want to make the changes (or that he simply wasn't all that bothered whether certain things went one way or another) It shows the inherent danger in being overly pedantic about every single detail in the score- and assuming that anything that contradicts the odd mark is necessarily "wrong".

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 09/12/09 12:51 PM.
#1267127 - 09/12/09 03:44 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Puh-leeze. Just how many of Chopin's compositions exist in different versions because he re-wrote and re-published them in the way that Liszt did? There are NONE.

This whole discussion is a little ridiculous. I am certain that everyone understands that there are no piano police and no laws to proscribe anyone from playing anything however they please. Neither are there any piano gods or a piano council to grant permission for doing so.

The familiar pattern is that someone asks if it's "okay" to do this or that. Answers are given, and the stage is set for yet another tedious debate between purists (who are somehow enslaved by their lack of creativity and their faithfulness to the notes on the page) and the free-thinking, avant garde iconoclasts who wish to do it their way.

Play whatever you want in whatever way you wish! It's pointless to seek justification—especially defended with bogus reasons and reasoning—when no justification is needed.

Steven

#1267132 - 09/12/09 03:56 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: sotto voce]  
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WHAT AN AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!!


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1267163 - 09/12/09 05:21 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Well, some pianists do play things "in whatever way they wish," and sometimes they do it publicly. I remember listening to Lang Lang play the Rachmaninoff G minor prelude at the proms and thinking to myself something like, "oh lord, how can he do this .... ouch .... eeeeech ..... NOOOO! ..... now that little bit is OK .... huh, you're kidding .... " smile

#1267177 - 09/12/09 05:47 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: sotto voce]  
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Originally Posted by sotto voce
Puh-leeze. Just how many of Chopin's compositions exist in different versions because he re-wrote and re-published them in the way that Liszt did? There are NONE.


Indeed. But then nobody argued for making substantial rearrangement of textures or form- so what is your point? I referred to the fact that there are substantial differences within finer details- illustrating that Chopin was not as concerned with minutiae as pedants are. Don't you see that these arguments are not to 'prove' that it's okay to do what you want? They are to demonstrate how short sighted most of the continually repeated arguments that come from pedants are. If it weren't for them, we could just do what we wish without needing to defend against small-minded criticisms.

PS. although having said that- there are considerable differences in a version of the E flat waltz that Byron Janis recorded from a manuscript. There is also a whole additional section in his recording of the final mazurka.

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 09/12/09 05:53 PM.
#1267179 - 09/12/09 05:51 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Well, some pianists do play things "in whatever way they wish," and sometimes they do it publicly. I remember listening to Lang Lang play the Rachmaninoff G minor prelude at the proms and thinking to myself something like, "oh lord, how can he do this .... ouch .... eeeeech ..... NOOOO! ..... now that little bit is OK .... huh, you're kidding .... " smile


But was it the fact that he disobeyed the score that was the problem- or the fact that it sounded crap?

Rachmaninoff, too, disobeys his score. He adds an additional fortissimo at the very end. Is that also bad- based on what his score says?

#1267654 - 09/13/09 05:53 PM Re: Interpretation [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 128
Clayton Offline
Full Member
Clayton  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 128
Oregon, USA
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by lisztonian
Originally Posted by bruce-san
Do whatever you like. Chopin is dead, its your sheet music, your piano, your interpretation. Its always good to know about what the composer intended, but don't feel you should be restricted by that.
This can drastically change the mood and "story" of a piece and and change the desired effect is was intended to have. Under your logic, a cadenza marked presto can be played lento and a passage marked pianissimo can be played fortissimo.


If it sounds good, sure! Personally, I particularly enjoy Anton Rubinstein's idea of fortissimo where the the funeral march returns with pianissimo. If you need a score in front of you to decide whether you dislike something, it's just pedantry. If something sounds crap, the problem is the fact that it sounds crap- not the fact that the composer didn't ask you to do it.


Bravo! The score is useful for learning the piece but for performance, you may as well burn it. The performance either sounds good or it doesn't, on its own merits. I would cite transcriptions of pieces that sound better than the original composition. I think the difference is whether you think of a composition as existing in some kind of Platonic heaven which if altered, even in the slightest, loses its Platonic perfection or if you think of a composition as a cut-and-paste of many existing musical ideas seasoned with the composer's own original insights and ideas. I view musical composition more like the latter.

Clayton -

Last edited by Clayton; 09/13/09 06:01 PM.

My listening obsessions:
Kurt Atterberg - Piano Concerto in Bb
Claude Debussy - Cello Sonata
Johannes Brahms - Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2
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