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Originally Posted by jnod
regarding the too tough/go for it divide - it seems to me that one can enjoy something without mastering it and that there's nothing wrong with that. If you get started and it's so far beyond you that continuing is pointless then you can always stop. The fact is that you only live once and if trying a particular piece is a priority, and if you're just doing it for yourself then there seems to be very little reason not to give it a try.


Personally, I would not enjoy studyong a piece that I could not play without a reasonable level of mastery.

Several posters have already given reasonable ideas about why it may be a bad idea to study pieces in this category. Like possibly a colossal waste of time, not realizing how far it is beyond one's present repertoire level, the pedagogical value of learning at appropriate steps.

When I was very young I heard Rubinstein at Carnegie Hall with my then piano teacher. I liked very much hearing Chopin's Ballade No.4 for the first time and asked my teacher if I could play it. Don't remember what he said but he certainly didn't give it to me.

I did something similar in college when I asked my teacher if I could play the Goldberg Variations(not having the slightest idea how difficult it was). He said I could study it myself if I wanted to.

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I just listened to the first movement for the first time in my life. Literally took my breath away. I can't imagine how one gets from here (somewhere...anywhere...south of expert) to there.

I'm not qualified to talk about the piece itself, but I'm missing something about the relationship between teacher and advanced adult student. What I mean to say is, she's working for you, no?

Why couldn't you just tell her, "I want to learn this. Let's take it up and see where it leads. If it's too much, we'll both know soon enough."

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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Why listen to others at this point? Why not form your own opinion and only later go back to see how others interpreted the piece. Then you can make adjustments after you have thought the piece through on your own first.


Excellent point. I always try to avoid recordings when beginning a new work and try my hardest to keep my students away from them too. As PianoDad, says...form your own opinion on things and refuse to be influenced by other interpretations. Originality is everything.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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As some other have pointed out, Goode (I heard him last year and he didn't exactly bowl me over, but that's beside the point) has recorded a phenomenal set of Beethoven sonatas, and, in my opinion, you can't go wrong with Alfred Brendel (for anything Beethoven).



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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I think the hardest part is the dynamics. If you have a score handy try playing bar 294 and 295. 294 is marked P, which is entirely doable. 295 is PP yet is full of kinetic energy following a slow, pausy bit. Very hard to pull that off convincingly.


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Originally Posted by gooddog

As far as recordings go, I'm embarrassed to say I haven't heard most of the Beethoven sonatas and only heard the Waldstein for the first time just 2 months ago. That's why I'd like to buy a collection of the sonatas and I'm wondering which pianist would be a good one (or two) to purchase.

Deborah, there is no reason to be embarrassed -- consider how fortunate you are, living in a world where there are unknown Beethoven sonatas waiting to be discovered!
As for recordings, please be sure to hear Gilels even if you don't purchase his.
Gilels plays op. 53 1st movement

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I just came from my lesson and, ow, this is painful. My previous teachers always made it clear that I was their top student, I played beautifully, wonderful, hardworking, etc., etc. When I switched teachers I wanted one who was working with students more advanced than I. Well, I got what I wanted and now I'm trying to get used to being told "it's not good enough. You need to finish it and make it perfect."

Because I have another masterclass in about 6 weeks, my teacher wants me to strip down the Brahms and Bach and build them up again until I get the tempo and expression perfect. She won't agree to move onto new music until these pieces are, by her definition, done. I've never worked on a piece of music for 4.5 months unless it was a long one and I've never perfected anything to this degree.

This teacher has her strengths and weaknesses but she is doing what I asked: moving me out of my comfort zone and challenging me to bring my playing to a higher level. I'm not patient when it comes to my music so I'm miserable, discouraged and I feel like a spoiled brat going through growing pains.

So, for my teacher, I'm finishing the Brahms 119 #2 and Bach Ab major P&F. But I will work on the Brahms 119 #3 and Waldstein first movement on my own. I'm going to change my approach to this new music. In the past, I've gobbled up new music with zest but ended up with a less than perfect product. This time I'm going to take it slowly, in small bites to see if it makes a difference in the end. The Waldstein will be a surprise for her.


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Hi Deborah,

I probably can't speak for most amateurs because my mother is a piano teacher and taught me to an advanced level as I grew up before I started to learn more on my own. I know the Waldstein and can play it fairly well for an advanced amateur, but I would be hesitant to play it for an educated audience. But nonetheless, here's my two cents:

If you've never worked on a piece for longer than 4.5 months, the Waldstein may be a bit of a shock. From your past repertoire, I don't think it's that far off technically if you were able to play all of that repertoire well, but as many people have stated here, polishing the piece is a gargantuan task. The level of commitment required to truly perfect this piece may indeed be beyond most amateurs who have other occupations in their lives. I'd say be prepared to spend at least a year on it, if not even longer.

I think the best thing for you to do at this point with the Waldstein is to pick out a few "measuring stick" passages to practice. If done well, you can assess your own readiness for the piece yourself without consuming too much of your time and effort from the pieces your teacher assigned. I picked out many of the key passages from the exposition of the first movement because they recur in different keys/variations throughout the whole movement. I also tried the infamous melody with trill passage from the Rondo. I only proceeded to attempt the piece when I was confident enough with all of these "measuring stick" passages.

I also wanted to mention that the commentary by Donald Francis Tovey quoted by stores earlier in this thread is an excellent read. It addresses and analyzes many of the challenges of playing this piece. It should be included in the ABRSM's edition of the Beethoven Sonatas if you don't have it available to you elsewhere.

Best of luck to you on your pursuit.

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eric, those commentary excerpts in the Tovey edition come from an actual book that Tovey wrote titled, "A Companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas". It's quite excellent and rather detailed. Definitely worth owning.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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I seem to recall borrowing it from my university's library once a few years ago. I should probably look for my own copy one of these days. It definitely was an invaluable resource on the sonatas.

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Ah, ok then. I wasn't sure if you were talking about the commentary provided with each sonata in the edition itself or the book. You're right...it IS an invaluable source. Great stuff.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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Good dog - don't get discouraged. Trust your teacher and let her teach you. You are lucky to have such enthusiasm. Soon enough she will be giving you more difficult compositions and you will have enough confidence to tackle any piece of music on your own.

I'm glad that you've decided to work on other things on your own, anyway.

I think you have a good plan for now. I have a feeling you will surprise your teacher with your hard work one day!

best wishes,
Valerie

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Per Stores - "As PianoDad, says...form your own opinion on things and refuse to be influenced by other interpretations. Originality is everything."
________________________________________________

Do you really mean this? If originality is everything, why even bother having a teacher? Perhaps I'm missing something here......


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Originally Posted by stores
Ah, ok then. I wasn't sure if you were talking about the commentary provided with each sonata in the edition itself or the book. You're right...it IS an invaluable source. Great stuff.


I was confused about the same thing. I was pretty sure that the quote in your post was from the commentary in the edition itself unless I remembered incorrectly or the commentary was an excerpt of the book. confused

Either way, I would recommend Tovey to Deborah if she's interested in finding out more about the Waldstein.

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It was from the edition. I've read through most of them so many times over the years that I've memorized quite a few of them lol. I agree, completely, with your recommendation. The Tovey, is, by far, my favorite for LVB.

Last edited by stores; 01/19/10 03:30 AM.


"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by jnod
regarding the too tough/go for it divide - it seems to me that one can enjoy something without mastering it and that there's nothing wrong with that. If you get started and it's so far beyond you that continuing is pointless then you can always stop. The fact is that you only live once and if trying a particular piece is a priority, and if you're just doing it for yourself then there seems to be very little reason not to give it a try.


Personally, I would not enjoy studyong a piece that I could not play without a reasonable level of mastery.

Several posters have already given reasonable ideas about why it may be a bad idea to study pieces in this category. Like possibly a colossal waste of time, not realizing how far it is beyond one's present repertoire level, the pedagogical value of learning at appropriate steps.

When I was very young I heard Rubinstein at Carnegie Hall with my then piano teacher. I liked very much hearing Chopin's Ballade No.4 for the first time and asked my teacher if I could play it. Don't remember what he said but he certainly didn't give it to me.

I did something similar in college when I asked my teacher if I could play the Goldberg Variations(not having the slightest idea how difficult it was). He said I could study it myself if I wanted to.


Didn't mean to dismiss this viewpoint PL et al - I get it that ambition can be one's undoing sometimes. I guess my take is simply that if there isn't too much riding on whether you succeed or not, why not take a swat at something that's probably above your level but that is of great interest to you? Agreed that if it's just going to be an exercise in frustration then that's no use but this is not the impression I have from Ms. Gooddog......


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There is a lesson within your post which I think you are missing. Your teacher asks you to strip down the Brahms and Bach and whilst you say you will now have a new approach to learning, you also say you will surprise her with your Waldstein 1st movement. Just how far will you go before you surprise her? If beyond a demonstration that it is feasible for you to start work on it you may find her wanting you to "strip it down". It seems you want to prove something to your teacher. What is that something?
Tovey again may help you:
"There is not a page in this sonata that could not be read at sight by a good sight reader. But if you are a good sight reader you should all the more deeply realise that there is an enormous hill to climb from the good sight reading of such music to the adequate playing of it. Those who have such command of tone and rhythm that they can play this music adequately at sight are very unusual people, encountered few times in a century and not very ready to suppose that their sight reading is good enough for Beethoven"
The Waldstein may indeed be the work that enables you to learn a new way of learning, to turn yourself from a sprinter to a long distance runner. For that it is well nigh perfect, but with, not against, your teacher.
I wish you well: talent combined with enthusiasm and hard work is a winning formula.

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My intention is to work on the Waldstein on my own until my teacher says it's time to start something new. At that time, I will show her my progress. I want to demonstrate that I'm ready for this and I want her to understand how important it is to me that I have more voice in choosing what I learn.

Incidentally, I started focusing on the first page last night and it made me enormously happy. That's what it's all about for me.


Best regards,

Deborah
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Originally Posted by jnod

Didn't mean to dismiss this viewpoint PL et al - I get it that ambition can be one's undoing sometimes. I guess my take is simply that if there isn't too much riding on whether you succeed or not, why not take a swat at something that's probably above your level but that is of great interest to you? Agreed that if it's just going to be an exercise in frustration then that's no use but this is not the impression I have from Ms. Gooddog......


I think there's a difference between above your level and light years above your level. I don't think the OP or you realize how far above the level of the OP's current pieces the Waldstein is. If a professional pianist(with technical and musical ability presumably greater than Gooddog's present level)indicated it took him something like 4 months of practicing 7-9 hours a day to learn, I think that's a clear indication the difficulty of this piece.

Gooddog said she is unfamiliar with most of the Beethoven Sonatas in terms of hearing them. I think she heard this Sonata and loved it and wants to play it. IMO it would make far more sense to listen to some other Beethoven Sonatas and choose one closer to her level if she wants to do more than "fool around" with it. There might well be one that she likes more than the Waldstein but is more realistically doable.


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I tend to agree with PL. But this is of course a highly subjective matter and ultimately a personal choice.
However the discussion brings to mind something I read not too long ago. It is not necessary to agree with a teacher you respect. But it is important to formulate and support one's disagreement with a good rationale rather than simply resort to one's instinct or emotion of the moment. If nothing else, there is a lot to be gained from the exercise, by listening to the rationale offered by the teacher, and constructing one's own reasoning against it..

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