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"Russian style" ?
#1733562 08/15/11 02:44 PM
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I tend to play a lot of obscure Russian pieces. Particularly of Medtner, Balakirev, or Lyapunov. And I also prefer listening to Russian pianists' interpretations of these composers, rather than pianists who aren't Russian (for example, I'd rather listen to Medtner being played by Evgeny Svetlanov than by Geoffrey Tozer). Is there something about Russian culture that is essential to being able to master these pieces, or are Russian pianists simply a better breed of pianist (lol) ?

In any case, I'm just seeking out advice on how to develop the appropriate style for playing Russian music.


"A person of any mental quality has ideas of his own. This is common sense."
- Franz Liszt
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1733674 08/15/11 05:25 PM
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Maybe it takes a Russian to play a Russian's work. I too like Russian style of classical music a lot - they really know how to write in minor. smile It depends on the composer for interpreting. It's definitely a different style from other Romantics, especially music from the Five. Their music definitely has a seriousness to it other Romantics lack. . . but learn about the composers/ pieces and listen to recordings you like. That might get you somewhere.


Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1733833 08/15/11 09:11 PM
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To play Russian music, you need to feel and "be" like a Russian. It's those kind of things that you need to feel to be able to play. It's an extremely thought-requiring music. You need to understand what that music means, how the russians think and how they feel. Ofcourse that's not easy task, but you can learn by reading how Rachmaninov's ( example ) life was. By listening to russian pianists playing russian music too.

Re: "Russian style" ?
Rafael_K #1734057 08/16/11 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Rafael_K
To play Russian music, you need to feel and "be" like a Russian. It's those kind of things that you need to feel to be able to play.


Really? Hmmm. I'm going to keep this in mind and pass it on to my students. Do you feel the same about say, Debussy, Ravel, Copland, Barber, Beethoven, Bach, etc.? Just curious.



"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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Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734072 08/16/11 05:04 AM
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If your own ear isn't telling you what to do, don't bother.

Last edited by wr; 08/16/11 05:06 AM.
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734077 08/16/11 05:34 AM
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I do find that it's often easy to know when a non-Russian pianist is playing Russian music, but not always obvious when a Russian is playing Russian music these days (maybe because so many don't live there and had emigrated when young): there's something about a born-and-bred Russian playing Russian music - a kind of deep melancholy, a way of phrasing and rubato and voicing of melody and counter-melody etc, that tugs at the heart strings. Ashkenazy referred to this as 'Russian soul', and one can hear what he means in his Rachmaninoff and Scriabin recordings. Compare his Rachmaninoff concertos with Wild's or Hough's, or his Scriabin with Hamelin's.

In a more cosmopolitan age as now, this is not so evident from younger Russians - everything seems more homogenized.

There was a time when French pianists were easily identifiable by their light touch and avoidance of anything resembling histrionics - I remember a performance of Beethoven's Emperor by a French pianist from some time back that made it sound almost like Saint-Saëns...


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: "Russian style" ?
stores #1734078 08/16/11 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by stores

Really? Hmmm. I'm going to keep this in mind and pass it on to my students. Do you feel the same about say, Debussy, Ravel, Copland, Barber, Beethoven, Bach, etc.? Just curious.


Yep. Russian music is very unique in its own sense. It expresses a lot of things. For example, the 2nd Rachmaninov Concerto expresses how Rach overpassed his depression.

Russian music, many times, is all about greatness, majesty, but also can be as small as a small butterfly on a flowe. But always keeps that "I'm majestic" factor. It cannot be ever over romanticized. Russian music is pretty hard to find the perfect spot ( I'm Ukrainian/Russian and I also find it hard! ) of the
whole piece.

Ravel, is different. It's french. It's impressionism. The difference is pretty big between Rachmaninov and Ravel. Ravel is needs to be played soft, sensitive, and "from the side", I mean, to not have your feelings in the way, with all the melodies to have equal importance, but always remember to play it as if your performance was describing what you SEE, without having what you FEEL in the way. Ravel is the art of observation wink

So can be said about Debussy. It's pretty much the same since they were friends and shared many ideas.

Beethoven. Oh the great Beethoven. Pretty much what I have to say is : play what's written and not to over romantize. It always needs to remain clear and classical ( ofcourse some Romantical effects can be added in his later
compositions ).

Bach... The source of pianism ( so to speak :P ). It always needs to be Bach. Nothing else. It's extremely hard to, in a 5-way melody, listen, know, feel and show each one of those perfectly. As my teacher says, and probably other too, if you can play Bach perfect, you can play everything perfect. wink

Re: "Russian style" ?
bennevis #1734079 08/16/11 05:39 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I do find that it's often easy to know when a non-Russian pianist is playing Russian music, but not always obvious when a Russian is playing Russian music these days (maybe because so many don't live there and had emigrated when young): there's something about a born-and-bred Russian playing Russian music - a kind of deep melancholy, a way of phrasing and rubato and voicing of melody and counter-melody etc, that tugs at the heart strings. Ashkenazy referred to this as 'Russian soul', and one can hear what he means in his Rachmaninoff and Scriabin recordings. Compare his Rachmaninoff concertos with Wild's or Hough's, or his Scriabin with Hamelin's.

In a more cosmopolitan age as now, this is not so evident from younger Russians - everything seems more homogenized.

There was a time when French pianists were easily identifiable by their light touch and avoidance of anything resembling histrionics - I remember a performance of Beethoven's Emperor by a French pianist from some time back that made it sound almost like Saint-Saëns...


This. This a million times.

Very well said, sir.

But also having russian parents raised in a russian environment helps A LOT ( like me, and am currently living in Madeira ).

Re: "Russian style" ?
bennevis #1734087 08/16/11 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Ashkenazy referred to this as 'Russian soul', and one can hear what he means in his Rachmaninoff and Scriabin recordings.

Yep smile. As a Russian-born and grown-up there, I concur. We do have this enigmatic thing that nobody can explain well. We name it "Russian soul". One might, indeed, be a Russian to understand and play this music well.


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Re: "Russian style" ?
stores #1734116 08/16/11 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by Rafael_K
To play Russian music, you need to feel and "be" like a Russian. It's those kind of things that you need to feel to be able to play.


Really? Hmmm. I'm going to keep this in mind and pass it on to my students. Do you feel the same about say, Debussy, Ravel, Copland, Barber, Beethoven, Bach, etc.? Just curious.


I would not be so quick to dismiss such a thoughtful question..

I play very intuitively and try to immerse myself in a composer's background.. consider the differences between Mozart, Rach, Bach, Copelant and Debussey..

Don't you feel or see their culture expressed in the way they write?

I really like the way Lisitsa plays music.. perhaps not Russian, but close.

If you like Medtner, check out some of Rachfan's recordings in the member recording forum


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734118 08/16/11 07:49 AM
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It's great to hear that somebody loves playing Russian music, especiall such not very popular composers as Balakirev and Lyapunov.

I enjoy listening to Phillip Sear channel - he choses so many rare not very well known pieces, including some very enchanting by Russian composers. Some sound very romantic and nostalgic.
I would never say that he is not Russian just hearing him playing...








Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734136 08/16/11 08:29 AM
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It's really saddening that Borodin didn't write the Polovetsian dances also for piano... They are so... Magical... frown

Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734143 08/16/11 08:50 AM
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I was very lucky, I guess, in that my first really good teacher was Russian...who grew up in the Soviet Union...when things were, um, not so good. One of the things that she taught me was to approach the piece in a similar fashion to the way an actor approaches a scene. One of the acting methods that many actors use employs "sense memories" where the actor conjurs in his/her memory a feeling or memory from his/her past and to try to experience those emotions. My teacher would have me remember a scene from my past or remember feelings and try to actually experience those feelings while playing the piece. (Obviously, a feeling or memory that would be appropriate to the character of the piece). I do not know if this is part of the traditional Russian teaching, but this is how she taught me. I am not sure if this is in any way helpful, but it worked for me.

Re: "Russian style" ?
Williamus #1734269 08/16/11 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Williamus
I was very lucky, I guess, in that my first really good teacher was Russian...who grew up in the Soviet Union...when things were, um, not so good. One of the things that she taught me was to approach the piece in a similar fashion to the way an actor approaches a scene. One of the acting methods that many actors use employs "sense memories" where the actor conjurs in his/her memory a feeling or memory from his/her past and to try to experience those emotions. My teacher would have me remember a scene from my past or remember feelings and try to actually experience those feelings while playing the piece. (Obviously, a feeling or memory that would be appropriate to the character of the piece). I do not know if this is part of the traditional Russian teaching, but this is how she taught me. I am not sure if this is in any way helpful, but it worked for me.


That's also true. My teacher, which is also my mother, which is Ukrainian, also told me that when I played the 5th op 23 Prelude by Rachmaninov. Russian music is also about memory revival/reliving.

Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1734955 08/17/11 09:27 AM
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They say that in the 19-th century Russian pianistic school had some kind of "singing" manner of playing and taking sound out of instrument. Just listen:



Siloti knew how to make such sound as if the piano is singing. I've heard that Rozina Lhevinne (who comes also from Russia and from that epoch) taught her students in Julliard school even actually to sing while playing...



To make the piano sound as a very lyrical instrument...

And of course one more example once again:



It also seems that they play some other instruments than the pianos that we play - may be the pianos in those days were more "singing", more musical... who knows...

Anybody ever met the similar record made on the modern piano - where the sound would be as "singing" as here?

Last edited by MarianneAlkonost; 08/17/11 09:28 AM.
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1735022 08/17/11 11:47 AM
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Does this mean I automatically have the ability to understand Russian music because 3 of my grandparents were Russian? Oh, no wait, they were from Czarist Russian but the countries are now Poland and Ukraine so maybe that disqualifies me. Does this mean I can't fully understand French, German or Austrian music? Does this mean I can't appreciate Russian food as much as a Russian?

I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but I think you either "get" the music or you don't and I don't think nationality has much to do with it.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1735035 08/17/11 12:06 PM
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Quote
I think you either "get" the music or you don't and I don't think nationality has much to do with it.


I think it does mean a lot. If you live in a country with endless territories the spirit is different than if you live in a country that is as small like England. It takes one 6 days by train to get from one part of the country to the other.

Half of the population in Ukraine speak Russian and are Russian. Poland is different.

Besides the influence of Orthodox Church is quite big. For example one can't totally understand Rachmaninoff's music without understanding and feeling this religious part - his Vespers, or his bells motive - he spent much time in Russian churches in his childhood - his grandmother was very religious woman, so this is quite a complicated question.

One has to be born in Africa to understand completely African music, because music is not simply about making sounds - it is about culture and world view all together. The history of country, its culture and its nature matter a lot.

Re: "Russian style" ?
MarianneAlkonost #1735223 08/17/11 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by MarianneAlkonost
Quote
I think you either "get" the music or you don't and I don't think nationality has much to do with it.


I think it does mean a lot. If you live in a country with endless territories the spirit is different than if you live in a country that is as small like England. It takes one 6 days by train to get from one part of the country to the other.

Half of the population in Ukraine speak Russian and are Russian. Poland is different.

Besides the influence of Orthodox Church is quite big. For example one can't totally understand Rachmaninoff's music without understanding and feeling this religious part - his Vespers, or his bells motive - he spent much time in Russian churches in his childhood - his grandmother was very religious woman, so this is quite a complicated question.

One has to be born in Africa to understand completely African music, because music is not simply about making sounds - it is about culture and world view all together. The history of country, its culture and its nature matter a lot.
Are you saying if someone has not see the Appalachian Mountains, they cannot fully understand Copland's Appalachian Spring? Or if someone is not Christian they cannot appreciate and fully express the wonderful music written for the church? I just don't agree. Music is the universal language. Some composers' music resonates with the listener and some does not.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1735235 08/17/11 04:40 PM
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Do you really honestly think that You can completely feel, understand and love national Japanese or Chinese music? Or African?

Do you think one can understand what the composer wrote this piece about:



without knowing what is the name of this piece and about what it is written about? Do You think that somebody who has never seen snow and never rode in a winter morning through snowy nature can completely understand?

The man that has never seen the SEA for example can say as many times that he understands this music completely:



but that wouldn't be true. He can imagine his SEA, but without seeing the real sea he can only pretend he understands this music. He can get used to it, he can put on this music his associations, but he cann't understand it completely.

The lover of RAP music just can't understand and feel Rimskiy-Korsakoff's operas completely... neither can he feel and understand Rachmaninoff's Vespers... unless he changes his whole mind, his whole heart, his whole worldview...

Last edited by MarianneAlkonost; 08/17/11 04:41 PM.
Re: "Russian style" ?
mrferguson12 #1735238 08/17/11 04:42 PM
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Yes, I do. Absolute music, music without a theme, has been around for a long time and it is not necessary to have a mental picture of it or personal experience with it to understand it. On the other hand, in program music, such as Beethoven's Symphony #3,(the Eroica,) I don't need to know that the second movement is a funeral march to fully appreciate and understand the solemnity of it. I also don't need to be German to play and understand Beethoven's music. I don't need to be Afro-Cuban to play a rumba well.

Example: Martha Argerich, born in Argentina, is considered to be one of the finest interpreters of Prokofieff, born in Moscow. Ruth Laredo, an American, was famous for her interpretations of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. The Hungarian Andras Schiff plays German Bach beautifully. Arthur Rubinstein was one of the finest interpreters of Spanish and South American music. He was Polish. Alicia de Larrocha, a Spaniard, was known for her Mozart. Itzak Perlman, an Israeli, is unsurpassed in just about everything composed for the violin. There are many outstanding pianists emerging from Asia who play European classical music beautifully. It is not national/cultural background that determines one's ability to interpret music. It is talent, empathy and maturity. It is best not to confuse national pride with ownership.


Best regards,

Deborah
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