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I have a really old piano with ivory covered keys and because of this you have to be really careful when doing glissandos or you will tear your thumb up.
My technique for doing them is to keep the thumbnail at about a 45 degree angle with the keys and do it quickly so that when the nail collides with each key there is enough force to sound each key. Glissandos should never be played slowly anyways.
I have tried glissando on other pianos that aren't ancient history and they are usually a lot easier to perform.
As far as a glissando from low to high where you need the fingers rather than the thumb; I have never needed to do those so you are on your own.
Finally, doing a decresendo with a glissando; I would rely heavily on the damping pedal for this. Still would be tricky though. Or just do the glissando at FF and then play p afterwards. It doesn't have to be played exactly as it's written.
I've recently started playing pieces with glissandi. I haven't found them too uncomfortable. I do tend to use the nail but sometimes it overlaps to skin too. Occasionally I have a mishap and it hurts. Ravel has a lot of glissandi as his pieces are so 'watery'. The ones that really have me stumped are his glissandi in 3rds and 4ths in Alborado del Gracioso. They ARE painful, not least because the hand seems to have to distort in a strange way to encompass them. I decided against working on this piece for that reason, which is a pity because it leaves me one short of playing all of Miroirs. My piano teacher, who is a professional performer has the same misgivings and also won't learn this piece. I'm not sure I have any useful advice except perhaps that hesitation and tentativeness risk increasing the pain. I try to just go for it and close my mind to the discomfort. Of course you can't do that if you are losing skin though.
One pianist (Leonid Hambro?) used to take his wallet out of his pocket and put it on the piano, and use it for the gliss, but I can't remember the piece (some energetic person might do a search of the PianoWorld archives for this).
Nicholas Slonimsky used to play that etude with an orange long before Lang Lang did.
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
Glissandi on black keys are kind of tricky.. There's one in Ondine that is almost impossible especially with a crappy piano.
I never quite mastered Ondine to my satisfaction but I was OK with the glissandi at least. As you say, a reasonable piano can make a big difference. Trouble with such pieces is that they decline quickly if you stop practicing them. I sacrificed Ondine for Une Barque eventually, which I found more manageable (and plan to present for my licentiate next year). That has a couple of very hasty back and forth glissandi in too, though some people prefer to play scales instead. I found scales too hard there.
First af all, make sure the piano is serviced. Particularly the key guide pins. There is often friction at these points on the keyboard which can hamper glissando playing if not make it well nigh impossible. It is a common problem that develops on most pianos sooner or later. If glissandos are repeatedly played, especially on a piano left in this condition, it will severely wear the key bushings.
Amanda Reckonwith Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England. "in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.
The piano does make a lot of difference. Assuming it is in reasonable condition there are a few suggestions I can offer. The ideal way to do it involves more surface area and a smaller angle to the keyboard. So the first video posted "Kurtag-Jatekok" shows this pretty well. That said there are endless possibilities for doing glissandi. You have to experiment. Depending on where the gliss lays on the keyboard and what hand is available I have done glissandi many ways: the nails of my long fingers like the video, my thumbnails, my palms, the side of a closed fist (for an ascending black key gliss in the RH), all these have worked just fine for me with no pain (unless I practice some of them about 20 times in a row, which isn't really necessary anyway) and no callusing. Remember to experiment with it as there is not really a right or wrong answer just a more or less comfortable answer. And finally, remember that it is just an effect (which is why you shouldn't play it as a fast scale, because then you will not have effectively communicated the composer's intent).
Yeah I discovered today that it completely depends on the piano. I tried the song today on my teachers piano and it was much easier, with no pain. I just hope the eisteddfod I'm playing at has a good piano for glissandos!