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What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin #1312290
11/25/09 04:46 PM
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I'm just curious about what those of you who have played these think.

I think the toccata would be a neat audition piece for grad schools next year. My only experience with Ravel so far is his sonatine and his LH concerto, and both have been major challenges for me. Gaspard de la Nuit still scares me, but I'm wondering how Tombeau compares to Ravel's other piano works. The set sounds very musically challenging.

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Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: soupinmyhair] #1312344
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Gaspard is more difficult. However, part of my assessment comes from the fact that if you play the Toccata at the speed indicated in the score, it loses all of its musicality, and I am at the age where I would rather hear a musical performance than a fast performance. However, many people have more of a problem with musicality than with speed.

What you should think about is what you would like to say about yourself with your audition.


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Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: soupinmyhair] #1312371
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I agree with the above post but mainly I'd say that we're splitting hairs when we compare the difficulty of such pieces.

I think they're both at essentially the same level: the very highest category of difficulty. Sure, we can make distinctions within that category, but I think anybody who can handle one can handle the other.

Gaspard has far more interpretive issues but I don't think that's what you were asking about.
And of course Gaspard (especially as a whole) is a much larger and longer work, so it would take much much more time.....

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Mark_C] #1312440
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Both are easy once you can perform them. Sadly few are able to perform either. I have the score of Gaspard De Nuit, but haven't yet worked up the courage to "print it off" and play it.


You play it & I'll hum it, but currently rehearsing:

Bach WTC book 2 no 15 G major, no 20 A minor, no 22 Bb Minor
Mozart A minor Sonata K310
Mendelssohn Op 35 preludes and fuges
Busoni Carmen Fantasy
Rachmaninov Bb prelude OP 23 no 2
Lyapunov Humoreske Op 34
and others
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: PartyPianist] #1312464
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(I can play Ravel Toccata but I haven't tried Gaspard de la Nuit yet)

I think Gaspard is MUCH more difficult both technically and musically. If you have good jump and octave technique and durable wrists, the Toccata actually isn't that hard at all. Also, compare the amount of pianists that play the piece at the indicated tempo to those that play it slower than the indicated tempo. The intro is the hardest part for me because of the meticulous fingerwork, but with lots of practice I can handle it. The coda of Chopin Ballade 2 is harder for me than the coda of the Ravel Toccata.

I'm just a student though, so don't take my say as much truth.

Last edited by Orange Soda King; 11/25/09 09:33 PM.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: PartyPianist] #1312543
11/26/09 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by PartyPianist
Both are easy once you can perform them. Sadly few are able to perform either.....

LOLOL!!
Was that intentionally or accidentally ironic?

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1312544
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
.....If you have good jump and octave technique and durable wrists, the Toccata actually isn't that hard at all.....

Same question to you as in the above post. ha

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1312545
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P.S. I think the difficulties of the Toccata go way beyond the specific things you mentioned. I'm able to play many very difficult pieces and I think I'm pretty good at those specific things, but have had great trouble with the Toccata.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Mark_C] #1312655
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Originally Posted by MarkCannon
P.S. I think the difficulties of the Toccata go way beyond the specific things you mentioned. I'm able to play many very difficult pieces and I think I'm pretty good at those specific things, but have had great trouble with the Toccata.


Ah Yes Cannon. but you are no party pianist..

PP does not say how well and fast he can play the Toccata but I am hoping he will earmark it for his upcoming recordings.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1312672
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Mark Cannon, I believe it depends on your technical aptitudes. I have good octaves and accurate jumps, and a durable wrist. I didn't have that much technical difficulty with the Ravel Toccata at all.

Last edited by Orange Soda King; 11/26/09 08:35 AM.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1312682
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Orange, that was pretty good. Never mind the few flubbed notes. I am sure you will fix them in no time. But as your audience here, may I say that you ought to recall that Tombeau de Couperin is actually a memorial to the dead (WWI). Despite the virtuosic nature of a Baroque Toccata, one has to mind the musicality of the piece and deliver the composer's thoughts. This is a programatic piece after all. On a quick listen, I had the impression that you tend to forge through the pp, Sempre pp and Sourdine (which means mute) passages.
very good job overall.. smile

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1312690
11/26/09 09:23 AM
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Orange Soda:

You are very talented.

Are you auditioning for a music school/conservatory soon?

Where was the Bosie Imperial you played for your Beethoven Op.22 video?

Just listened to your lesson on the end of the Toccata. Excellent ideas very clearly explained!

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/26/09 10:45 AM.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: pianoloverus] #1312703
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Andromaque, you are correct. I still have much to learn on this piece to change it from "pretty good" to "stellar". I just wanted to speak of the technical difficulties of this piece.

Pianoloverus, this is my year for auditioning. I am not going to any major conservatory first... I will go to a small school with a piano teacher just as good as those at conservatories, then for graduate studies will pursue a big-name music school.

The Imperial Bösendorfer is at Berea College in Kentucky.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1312705
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Orange, I trust you will smile
Make sure you let us know when you post it again.

PLUS, thanks for poiting those out. I did not notice the other videos.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: soupinmyhair] #1312707
11/26/09 10:16 AM
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Also, I'm so stupid: this should have been the first thing I posted in this thread! blush

"The Toccata is particularly dear to me, because it is dedicated to the memory of my husband. It has the reputation of being difficult; one has even compared its pitfalls, which are very exaggerated, to those of 'Scarbo.' I find to the contrary that it is maybe in all the suite, the piece that 'comes' the fastest." -Marguerite Long

I found this in one of my editions of Le Tombeau de Couperin. Also, I have recorded a later take of this piece on a concert Steinway at a winner's recital of a competition, but I don't know if it's significantly better than this take or not... Better tone and a little better playing, but it was in a concert hall so there is a lot of echo. (I haven't uploaded it yet.)

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1312708
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Easy for Marguerite Long to say.. She gave the premiere of Tombeau didn't she! In addition to being a star pianist, teacher etc..

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: PartyPianist] #1312782
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Originally Posted by PartyPianist
Both are easy once you can perform them.


Good one. smile

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1313096
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
But as your audience here, may I say that you ought to recall that Tombeau de Couperin is actually a memorial to the dead (WWI). Despite the virtuosic nature of a Baroque Toccata, one has to mind the musicality of the piece and deliver the composer's thoughts. This is a programatic piece after all.


Andromaque, from what I've read, Ravel actually composed or at least sketched out most of Le Tombeau before WWI. He completed it aftwards, and then dedicated it to friends of his who had died in the war. For this reason I wouldn't go very far on the programmatic aspect, but I won't argue that the musicality is still important.

As for my attempt at learning the Toccata, I've been working the first 4-5 pages on and off for the last few months. My goal is 120, and I'm at 100 now. Today I spent a few hours getting down the notes on the rest of the piece. Aside from the coda, I don't think it will take nearly as much time to get the speed up on the second half since the technique is basically the same as the beginning.


Professional pianist and piano teacher.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1313100
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
....it depends on your technical aptitudes. I have good octaves and accurate jumps, and a durable wrist. I didn't have that much technical difficulty with the Ravel Toccata at all.

Wow!!!
And I'm already saying that even only after about the first 15 seconds. I can tell this is TERRIFIC.
You are quite a pianist!

P.S. Now we're up to.......(let's see).......the 1:30 mark. And I've remained just as awed.
OK, let's hear the rest of it......

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1313102
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
Orange, that was pretty good. Never mind the few flubbed notes..... But as your audience here, may I say that you ought to recall that Tombeau de Couperin is actually a memorial to the dead (WWI)....

GREAT POINT.
And really, I don't know if I've ever heard a performance of the Toccata that really heeds that.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1313104
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
.....I still have much to learn on this piece to change it from "pretty good" to "stellar"....

Even if it's not "stellar," I'd say it's a heckuva lot better already than "pretty good"!!

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Mark_C] #1313178
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You all are very kind.

And Arghhh is correct, Le Tombeau was started in the spring of 1914 (Germany declared war on France August 2, 1914), but it wasn't published until 1917 after Ravel was discharged from the military (he had worked in the medical field in WWI).

All of the movements of Le Tombeau are rather optomistic to be an actual "memorial" piece, too. The primary function of the piece is to be a tribute to 18th century Couperin, but each movement is dedicated to Ravel's friends in WWI (MANY composers dedicated many of their works to other people).

That's not to mean this piece can't improve. I already stated once it could. And if you are studying this piece, I recommend the Alfred edition edited by Nancy Bricard to use for reference. I don't think it's that expensive; the back of mine says $12.50.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Orange Soda King] #1313204
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My sources(*), which are not necessarily definitive or comprehensive, indicate that the 6 pieces were composed between 1914-1917, premiered by Marguerite Long in 1919.
It is said that the concept for this composition was mature in 1914 but that he composed it almost entirely in 1917 while convalescing at a house in the Normandie (there is a plaque on the house that says so too. You can see it on the french Wiki website). He had just been discharged from the military. Ravel worked as an ambulance driver in Verdun despite the fact that he was disqualified for military service due to his small frame (2 kg below the required weight). He felt that an artist had an obligation to serve his nation and thus volunteered as a driver. The experience shook him badly. Each piece of Tombeau is dedicated to an individual soldier. The Toccata in particular is dedicated to Capt de Marliave (Long's husband; he was killed in combat early in the war in 1914).
The confusing part is the fact that the entire piece is an hommage to Francois Couperin and French Baroque music. But that is interpreted by some as being a reference to the musical forms of the pieces. It should be mentioned that Ravel lost his mother that year nad he was despondent, isolated and 'silent" until 1919 when Diaghilev commissioned La Valse and a french mecene, Rouche, L'Enfant et les sortileges.
Where I would have to agree is on the nomenclature of programmatic music. Some do not consider it so. But I think the context of the composition and the composer's life circumstances are not in dispute.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Mark_C] #1313212
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Originally Posted by MarkCannon
Originally Posted by Andromaque
Orange, that was pretty good. Never mind the few flubbed notes..... But as your audience here, may I say that you ought to recall that Tombeau de Couperin is actually a memorial to the dead (WWI)....

GREAT POINT.
And really, I don't know if I've ever heard a performance of the Toccata that really heeds that.


How would one play a piece heeding that? What do you think's missing from performance you've heard?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/27/09 12:59 PM.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: pianoloverus] #1313256
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Short answer: Dynamics, Majesty, Melancholy

Long Answer:
Well answering your question would be kind of unfair to Orange. He is clearly very talented and is still polishing the piece. I prefaced my comments by saying that I made them as a listener, which implied that I am comparing to other versions.. I am not likely to ever reach this level of technical ability. But, I know this piece very well.. Have you listened to Samson Francois or Gieseking or even a good version by Vlado Perlmuter. The answer to your question is right there.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1313322
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I don't think a performance of the Toccata or any part of Le Tombeau has to be melancholic because the suite was to dedicated people who had died in the war.

The point of my earlier post was that even if Ravel had said to play the work as if it was a memorial to those who had died, I didn' there think was a specific way to do that.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/27/09 02:14 PM.
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: pianoloverus] #1313337
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Some memorials may be intended to remind us of the deceased as they were in life, rather than to mourn for them. Extreme example: a memorial to Groucho Marx might be very sad or very funny, or all sorts of other things. Not all people are majestic, and not all memorial music is majestic either.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: Andromaque] #1313352
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Originally Posted by Andromaque

I am not likely to ever reach this level of technical ability. Have you listened to Samson Francois or Gieseking or even a good version by Vlado Perlmuter.


Sure you will. The piece just takes a LOT of slow practice, as well as practicing jumps and octaves (for the coda). I am better at that sort of stuff than fingerwork, so the intro is the hardest part for me (I wouldn't attempt Alborada del Gracioso for a couple more years). My favorite recording is Gilels', because he plays plays with a confidence and ease that doesn't seem to be in any other I've heard. Plus, he attacks the coda (not slows down into it) which I try to do (but not nearly as well as Gilels, of course!). Samson Francois is my favorite Le Tombeau player overall.

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: pianoloverus] #1313427
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think a performance of the Toccata or any part of Le Tombeau has to be melancholic because the suite was to dedicated people who had died in the war.

The point of my earlier post was that even if Ravel had said to play the work as if it was a memorial to those who had died, I didn' there think was a specific way to do that.


And I don't think I said you HAVE to find melancholy BECAUSE the piece is related to the war somewhat. I just happen to hear passages of melancholic beauty / nostalgia because of how I perceive this music. Granted, knowing the circumstances probably colors my view of it consciously or not.

The interpretation below by S Francois highlights this aspect of the piece (as a small example, the passage at 1:30 - 1:55 or so but the overall flavor of the piece is not one of sparkling virtuosity as is often the case). Not everybody plays it like this but to me,it works. Your ears will hear the same thing and interpret differently, which brings us to the definition of art..

Re: What's Harder? Gaspard or Toccata from Tombeau de Couperin [Re: david_a] #1313428
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Originally Posted by david_a
Some memorials may be intended to remind us of the deceased as they were in life, rather than to mourn for them. Extreme example: a memorial to Groucho Marx might be very sad or very funny, or all sorts of other things. Not all people are majestic, and not all memorial music is majestic either.


Sure. But this music is smile

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