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#2031709 - 02/12/13 08:35 AM Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck  
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I'm a middling pianist and have learned a few of Chopin's waltzes in the last year. I've played through the Eb Nocturne (#2) and while the right hand is pretty approachable the Left Hand seems Really Hard. Every measure seems different from every other measure in the piece.

The melody repeats every 20 measures or so. Is there similar order in the left hand I and I just haven't noticed it yet?

If any if you have played this piece how did you learn it?

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#2031784 - 02/12/13 11:43 AM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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From what you have written, I don't understand how "every measure seems different from every other measure" makes the "Left Hand seem(s) Really Hard."

Whether the left hand measures repeat a pattern or not, what makes them so hard, in your estimation? The pattern is simply a bass note followed by two two-note or two three-note chords. This pattern continues throughout, and, at a leisurely tempo, should not be a technical challenge.

The left hand of measures 5-8 plays the same notes as the left hand of measures 1-4, except that in 1-2 the bass notes are an octave lower.

The left hand is the same in measures 9-12 as in measures 17-20. The left hand is the same, again, in measures 21-24 as it is in measures 13-16, etc., etc.

There is a lot of repetition of left-hand figures throughout this Nocturne. However, as always happens in Chopin, every once in a while he will repeat a left hand figure with one note in the chord different from what it was in the previous iteration. You just have to keep a close eye on the text as you learn/play this work.

Regards,


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#2031797 - 02/12/13 12:02 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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I think the hard part for me is two part. A) the chords in e.g. the second line are not ones I can sight-read (dense clusters, unusual flats like Cb and way about the bar in the LH) and B) The harmony is not moving in a way that is easy for me to quickly grasp.

Once I have a mental model of what I'm playing both in the small ("oh, this is an Eb second inversion, this is an F major etc. etc") and in the large ("The harmonies go I-III-II" or whatever) then it should be reasonably straightforward to learn but puzzling that out is the hard part. I am happy to hear that the harmonies repeat at least some, and I know Chopin likes to do things like voice 1-3-7 in one spot and 1-5-7 in another so the chord is the same just a minor difference in voicing - that's not always completely obvious just glancing through the score.

I think I just need to go through and write jazz-style chord notations in the measures (Eb, Eb/D, C7, etc) and then I'll be able to play it. I wish classical pieces notated the chords in the score the way rock/pop/jazz charts do; it would make sight-reading a lot easier smile

#2031829 - 02/12/13 12:54 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti

I wish classical pieces notated the chords in the score the way rock/pop/jazz charts do; it would make sight-reading a lot easier smile

The nature of classical music is to "notate notes", not chords. smile Every note is important. Play the notes, and the harmony will take care of itself.

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#2031839 - 02/12/13 01:08 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
I think I just need to go through and write jazz-style chord notations in the measures (Eb, Eb/D, C7, etc) and then I'll be able to play it. I wish classical pieces notated the chords in the score the way rock/pop/jazz charts do; it would make sight-reading a lot easier smile

I think it's great that you can play jazz-style chord notations. Not everyone can do that well. But if you really want to learn classical pieces you'll need to work on your reading skills. Start with easier pieces and gradually work up. It will all begin to make more sense over time - and will be well worth the effort.


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#2031843 - 02/12/13 01:13 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
[...]
I think I just need to go through and write jazz-style chord notations in the measures (Eb, Eb/D, C7, etc) and then I'll be able to play it. I wish classical pieces notated the chords in the score the way rock/pop/jazz charts do; it would make sight-reading a lot easier smile


That may help towards understanding the harmonic structure, but it is, I think, a crutch that is not going to help you learn the notes as they are written. You may even find that you end up reading the chord symbols and begin to learn the "wrong" notes, even though you may have the basic harmony somewhat "correct." Thus, I would recommend against this approach.

As has been said above by OM, every note in classical notation is important and has its distinctive function; the sometimes minor differences from one chord to its apparent repetition, enable the performer to voice the chords in such a way that those subtleties appear and make the music as interesting as it is.

Don't take short-cuts. Learn to read and play the music as it is written, as that will greatly enhance your sight-reading abilities in the long run.

Have you practiced the left hand separately?

Regards,


BruceD
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#2031848 - 02/12/13 01:17 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Old Man]  
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Originally Posted by Old Man

The nature of classical music is to "notate notes", not chords. smile Every note is important. Play the notes, and the harmony will take care of itself.


Well I mean, sure, but it sure helps me get to the notes faster if the harmony is called out. Much easier to grasp what the piece is doing if I can scan over something like "Eb Ab F Ab" first. Then I have some idea of what to expect. My sight reading isn't awful but classical pieces can be pretty dense even when the harmonic ideas aren't necessarily that complicated. I usually wind up penciling in the chords to help me remember where the piece is going and to understand how the piece is put together. I can learn it a lot faster that way.

Last edited by jawhitti; 02/12/13 01:17 PM.
#2031887 - 02/12/13 02:33 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
I usually wind up penciling in the chords to help me remember where the piece is going and to understand how the piece is put together. I can learn it a lot faster that way.


You should do always do that. It's much easier to learn what you're playing if you understand it. You should also learn/know which intervals of each chord that you're playing....in group 1, the bass note root, then 3rd & 8va, then 5th root & 3rd (if I remember correctly). Understanding the music on this level will make it much easier, and will make learning future pieces easier as well!

Also, getting over the chords as much as possible will help. Play the bass note, then get over as much of the next two chords as possible (some are easy, some are not).

Also look for the voice leading. Chopin always has great voice leading. For example, the bottom note of the second 8th note in each group is nicely voiced...G Ab G G G G F F... The top notes of the chords... Eb G, D Ab, Eb G, Eb G etc. It's a beautiful intricate puzzle that deserved to be studied and admired.

#2031897 - 02/12/13 02:44 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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While I consider the piece on the easier side, I know where you are coming from with the left hand. Chopin's left hand in general always troubled me. Too many chords that are slightly different, making it a little tough to memorize. My only advice (I get how you want to approach it in the jazz way too) is to memorize the harmonic structure. For example, the first measure has 4 basic chords, 3 of which are Eb major. The second measure starts with two C7 chords, etc. The constantly changing voicings is what makes it tough, but part of playing this music is mastering every note and chord, and usually memorizing the entire piece.

#2031910 - 02/12/13 03:05 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: didyougethathing]  
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Originally Posted by didyougethathing
The constantly changing voicings is what makes it tough, but part of playing this music is mastering every note and chord, and usually memorizing the entire piece.

And if the OP's reading skills were stronger, memorization wouldn't necessarily be a requirement.


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#2031920 - 02/12/13 03:18 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Where is exactly is 'heck'?

#2031944 - 02/12/13 03:56 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: JoelW]  
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"Heck" is not what I typed. Apparently the word I used is way too dirty for the folks that run this site.

#2031946 - 02/12/13 03:59 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Where is exactly is 'heck'?


Where you go if you don't believe in Gosh.

F


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#2031976 - 02/12/13 04:34 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Carey]  
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Originally Posted by carey
And if the OP's reading skills were stronger, memorization wouldn't necessarily be a requirement.


No kidding. OP should go away until he has world-class technical / reading chops or at least a performance degree. Boo! Hey OP, you suck!

#2032053 - 02/12/13 06:49 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
Originally Posted by carey
And if the OP's reading skills were stronger, memorization wouldn't necessarily be a requirement.


No kidding. OP should go away until he has world-class technical / reading chops or at least a performance degree. Boo! Hey OP, you suck!


ha Not at all, OP - not at all !!! Just suggesting that you continue to work at it. You'll be surprised how much easier it will become...and with stronger reading skills you'll be able to learn music faster and won't be forced to memorize everything - unless, of course, you prefer to play by memory. grin



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#2032164 - 02/12/13 10:28 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Thanks, carey. I took this to my instructor tonight and we worked through the first two lines, which should be enough to get me going through it. That second line is a total nightmare to sightread - too much going on and in my very weakest sight-reading area - above the bass clef.

And yes, we went through it and wrote down the chords, jazz style.

So, for the record if anyone else is trying to learn Chopin Op9 #2 here are the chords for the first four measures. There's a lot going on smile

| Eb Bb7 Eb Eb |
| C7 Bbdim Fm Fm |
| Bb7 G7/B Cm Adim7 |
| Bbsus Bb Eb Eb |

Last edited by jawhitti; 02/12/13 10:38 PM.
#2032169 - 02/12/13 10:39 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
....Adim7.... |

*you could argue for Cdim7 too, I think. Tomay-to, tomah-to.

Aren't they the same? The only difference (maybe, depending on exactly what you follow on naming the chords, which I'm not sure about) is which note is in the bass, but it doesn't seem you're worrying about that in general from what you call the other chords....


edit: I see that you edited it out. Never mind. smile

Last edited by Mark_C; 02/12/13 10:41 PM.
#2032171 - 02/12/13 10:44 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Yeah they are the same but I convinced myself that it's really functioning off A there, not C.

#2032182 - 02/12/13 11:27 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Forrest Halford]  
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Originally Posted by woodog
Originally Posted by JoelW
Where is exactly is 'heck'?


Where you go if you don't believe in Gosh.

F

Don't fudge with my Gosh!


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
#2032355 - 02/13/13 09:07 AM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
I think the hard part for me is two part. A) the chords in e.g. the second line are not ones I can sight-read (dense clusters, unusual flats like Cb and way about the bar in the LH) and B) The harmony is not moving in a way that is easy for me to quickly grasp.

Once I have a mental model of what I'm playing both in the small ("oh, this is an Eb second inversion, this is an F major etc. etc") and in the large ("The harmonies go I-III-II" or whatever) then it should be reasonably straightforward to learn but puzzling that out is the hard part. I am happy to hear that the harmonies repeat at least some, and I know Chopin likes to do things like voice 1-3-7 in one spot and 1-5-7 in another so the chord is the same just a minor difference in voicing - that's not always completely obvious just glancing through the score.

I think I just need to go through and write jazz-style chord notations in the measures (Eb, Eb/D, C7, etc) and then I'll be able to play it. I wish classical pieces notated the chords in the score the way rock/pop/jazz charts do; it would make sight-reading a lot easier smile


If classical composers ever started notating like that, I would stop playing classical music.

#2032366 - 02/13/13 09:37 AM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Forrest Halford]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Where is exactly is 'heck'?

Originally Posted by jawhitti
"Heck" is not what I typed. Apparently the word I used is way too dirty for the folks that run this site.

Pretty hilarious, huh? We actually had a little fun with this on another thread.

But even more hilarious is this.

bullshit
damn
heck

So the word "heck" must hold a place of singular offensiveness, up there with the f word. But "damn" and "bullshit"? No problem. Knock yourself out. laugh

#2032423 - 02/13/13 11:27 AM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jeffreyjones]  
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
If classical composers ever started notating like that, I would stop playing classical music.


I'm curious why? I'm not advocating for getting rid of the staves and the notes, just addiing additional notation above the staves the same way pop music puts guitar chord symbols. Classical harmony can move very quickly (several chords per bar) so maybe it would be unwieldy in practice but I don't why it would be so very dreadful. What about it rubs you the wrong way?

#2032451 - 02/13/13 12:28 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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The difference between classical music and jazz/pop is that the former is precisely notated by the composer, and with good reason: you can't play around with chord 'voicings' like you do with jazz/pop, because that would completely change the harmonic progression and the balance between the melody and harmony. The composer knows exactly what he wants, and expects you to play what he writes.

BTW, 'voicings' mean different things in classical and jazz - in classical, 'voicing' refers to the balance between the different notes in the chord (i.e. which notes are stressed more than others - usually the top note will be stressed if it's the melody, and slight stress is also placed on the bass note). Not the actual notes themselves, nor the arrangements of those notes. How you voice the chords changes the sound - whether it's transparent or opaque, or thin-sounding or full-sounding. But unlike in a lot of jazz, no classical pianist worth his salt plays all the notes of any chord with equal weighting.


"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."
#2032452 - 02/13/13 12:29 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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If that notation would help you with the piece, go ahead and write it in. Writing it is a good way to set the piece into your mind.

That notation, modified according to the standards of the time, was common in the baroque era. We call it figured bass.


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#2032473 - 02/13/13 01:26 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
If classical composers ever started notating like that, I would stop playing classical music.


I'm curious why? I'm not advocating for getting rid of the staves and the notes, just addiing additional notation above the staves the same way pop music puts guitar chord symbols. Classical harmony can move very quickly (several chords per bar) so maybe it would be unwieldy in practice but I don't why it would be so very dreadful. What about it rubs you the wrong way?

Maybe what rubs people the wrong way (and this is only a guess) is the idea of approaching a piece of classical music as you would a piece of pop music. In jazz, for example, the performer and composer are one. Give a talented jazz pianist a fake book, and he's good to go. It's like giving a painter a canvas with only the broad outlines of scene, and then saying, "OK, make it your own." That is why jazz musicians are so admired, and even envied by classical musicians. Improvisation is truly an amazing talent, and few in the classical word can pull it off, without sounding - well, too "classical". smile

But in classical music, there is no broad outline on a relatively empty canvas. The picture is already complete. Every stroke, every color is already there, and it's the artist's job not to add or subtract, but to restore it and make it live again. So I think the whole idea of notating chord progressions suggests that you may still be thinking in terms of a framework, within which you can "play" (as opposed to play). But as I said earlier, in classical music, every single note counts, and every note must be played. There is no note that is simply extraneous, unless you are bold enough to second-guess Chopin. grin

Maybe you should ditch Chopin for a while and try some Bach. Bach's music, (especially his fugues, which are very linear in nature), might move you away from your more "vertical", chordal way of thinking. I think you'd find your chord notations meaningless. You would begin to focus on the melodic and thematic aspects of music, rather than the harmonic. I came to love Bach at a young age by listening to one of his greatest organ works, the "Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor". Beginning with the Passacaglia's foreboding introduction of the theme (on the pedal board), Bach takes you on an amazing journey of endless variations, with "the theme" exiting and re-emerging, but omnipresent. I doubt you'll be thinking much about chord progressions. But more like, "So where's Waldo now?"

#2032474 - 02/13/13 01:30 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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Originally Posted by jawhitti
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
If classical composers ever started notating like that, I would stop playing classical music.


I'm curious why? I'm not advocating for getting rid of the staves and the notes, just addiing additional notation above the staves the same way pop music puts guitar chord symbols. Classical harmony can move very quickly (several chords per bar) so maybe it would be unwieldy in practice but I don't why it would be so very dreadful. What about it rubs you the wrong way?


The obvious problem with notating music with chord symbols - and then playing the music from those symbols - is that the symbols don't tell you which inversion of the chord to play which notes of the chord to play, and which notes not to play. Eb7/D could have a myriad of realizations and still be Eb7/D without being what the composer wrote.

While such pencilled-in notations will certainly help you in learning the harmonic structure and harmonic progression of a passage - quite a valuable step, by the way - if you wish to play classical music as it is to be played you still have to learn to read the notes and play them as written.

Regards,


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#2032493 - 02/13/13 02:05 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Old Man]  
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Originally Posted by Old Man
That is why jazz musicians are so admired, and even envied by classical musicians. Improvisation is truly an amazing talent, and few in the classical word can pull it off, without sounding - well, too "classical". smile



Actually, I don't think many top-rank classical pianists envy jazz pianists' improvisatory skills at all. Most can improvise quite well - some even improvise cadenzas on the spot at concerts (like Robert Levin playing Mozart concertos).

It's just that improvisation doesn't come up to written music's standards in musical value (can anybody improvise a Chopin Ballade on the hoof?), which is why few classical musicians will play their own improvisations at concerts (Gabriela Montero is one exception). And many classical musicians have a good idea of jazz style too - I heard Tchaikovsky competition winner Denis Matsuev do an improvisation live on radio - he threw in all sorts of jazz styles, including boogie-woogie, plus 'added-note' harmonies into it, but also some brilliant octaves, chords and passage-work which is far beyond the reach of any jazz pianist (not even Art Tatum), and all within the space of a three-minute improvisation at the request of his host.

Incidentally, I'd far rather hear Mozart (think his Fantasia K475) or Beethoven (think his Bagatelles) or Liszt improvise than any jazz pianist......


"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."
#2032523 - 02/13/13 03:11 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Old Man]  
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Victoria, BC
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by jawhitti
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
If classical composers ever started notating like that, I would stop playing classical music.


I'm curious why? I'm not advocating for getting rid of the staves and the notes, just addiing additional notation above the staves the same way pop music puts guitar chord symbols. Classical harmony can move very quickly (several chords per bar) so maybe it would be unwieldy in practice but I don't why it would be so very dreadful. What about it rubs you the wrong way?

Maybe what rubs people the wrong way (and this is only a guess) is the idea of approaching a piece of classical music as you would a piece of pop music. In jazz, for example, the performer and composer are one. Give a talented jazz pianist a fake book, and he's good to go. It's like giving a painter a canvas with only the broad outlines of scene, and then saying, "OK, make it your own." That is why jazz musicians are so admired, and even envied by classical musicians. Improvisation is truly an amazing talent, and few in the classical word can pull it off, without sounding - well, too "classical". smile

But in classical music, there is no broad outline on a relatively empty canvas. The picture is already complete. Every stroke, every color is already there, and it's the artist's job not to add or subtract, but to restore it and make it live again. So I think the whole idea of notating chord progressions suggests that you may still be thinking in terms of a framework, within which you can "play" (as opposed to play). But as I said earlier, in classical music, every single note counts, and every note must be played. There is no note that is simply extraneous, unless you are bold enough to second-guess Chopin. grin

Maybe you should ditch Chopin for a while and try some Bach. Bach's music, (especially his fugues, which are very linear in nature), might move you away from your more "vertical", chordal way of thinking. I think you'd find your chord notations meaningless. You would begin to focus on the melodic and thematic aspects of music, rather than the harmonic. I came to love Bach at a young age by listening to one of his greatest organ works, the "Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor". Beginning with the Passacaglia's foreboding introduction of the theme (on the pedal board), Bach takes you on an amazing journey of endless variations, with "the theme" exiting and re-emerging, but omnipresent. I doubt you'll be thinking much about chord progressions. But more like, "So where's Waldo now?"


Excellent post; great observations! Thank you!

Regards,


BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190
#2032534 - 02/13/13 03:22 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: Old Man]  
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 235
jawhitti Offline
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jawhitti  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 235
Originally Posted by Old Man

But in classical music, there is no broad outline on a relatively empty canvas. The picture is already complete. Every stroke, every color is already there, and it's the artist's job not to add or subtract, but to restore it and make it live again.


I don't disagree that every note is important. but at the same time classical music most definitely *is* constructed in a framework, and comes from a tradition where improvisation *was* important. This particular piece is obviously done that way, with the RH theme mutating throughought the piece in a very improvisatory manner. Chopin developed practically everything that way, he didn't sit down and compose at a desk like Beethoven in his later years.

I would be the first to admit I'm not worthy to presume to "improve" Chopin's efforts but let's not pretend that his pieces aren't composed in a very improvisatory manner.

I think I said earlier that notating chords would be less useful for contrapuntal works like Bach. You're absolute spot on there. I tried and it just doesn't work. Somewhat ironically though his work is renowned for its use of sequences and motifs -- elements that are considered in the jazz world to be important elements to a good solo. Bach and his son Carl Philip Emmanuel were legendary improvisers in their day, as were Chopin, Liszt and Beethoven.

As I said I personally am not worthy of "riffing on" the Nocturnes but I don't think it is stylistically inappropriate to do so. They all did. The idea that the sheet is holy writ from which one must not deviate is a fairly modern idea.


Last edited by jawhitti; 02/13/13 03:24 PM.
#2032544 - 02/13/13 03:39 PM Re: Chopin's Nocturne in Eb - left hand from heck [Re: jawhitti]  
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bennevis Online content
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bennevis  Online Content
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Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 9,726
Originally Posted by jawhitti


As I said I personally am not worthy of "riffing on" the Nocturnes but I don't think it is stylistically inappropriate to do so. They all did. The idea that the sheet is holy writ from which one must not deviate is a fairly modern idea.



I think you're confusing what Chopin did or did not do. He certainly played all sorts of elaborations on his own music, but they are elaborations on the RH melody, not changes of harmonic structure or accompaniment - or chord 'voicings'.

Hear Valentina Lisitsa play two versions of the Nocturne, one that's well-known, the second with Chopin's own elaborations/ornamentation:
http://youtu.be/gUN5ioqlh5U
http://youtu.be/KV5bBmhSOEc


"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."
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