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Chopin for a Hawk #2692200
11/26/17 09:41 PM
11/26/17 09:41 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
V
Valencia Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
Valencia  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
V

Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
Hi Everyone,

(Normally, I post in the ABF, so am a little nervous to post here!)

I've been working on Chopin's Largo from his Op. 58 Sonata and could use some help. I was inspired to learn this piece in honour of a Red-Tailed Hawk named Ezra who died earlier this year.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/sad-news-from-the-bird-cams-ezra-beloved-red-tail-at-cornell-is-dead/

Ezra was a beautiful hawk, and I've been practicing the piece with him in mind. The Largo especially makes me think of him soaring high in the skies.

My playing of this piece is not performance ready but still in the work-in-progress stage. I've put about 60 hours of practice into it so far. Eventually I'd like to share it with some other people who also care about Ezra. But right now I'm stuck as to how to get the piece sounding better.

One difficulty I have is getting those very first bars ff. i don't know if its because it is the start of the piece? or because it is octaves that i have to move off of quickly? I tend to need several restarts before I get "sort of ff", and then i often hurt my fingers in the process.

The first page makes me think of a heartbeat in the LH,. I worked long and hard to try to keep my LH quiet and the RH cantabile but I'm not sure I'm there yet. My timing/rhythm might be out on the first page as well.

Around bar 9 from about 1 min to 1:10, how do people like Argerich and Zimerman make that sound so beautiful?

The three sostenuto sections -starting bar 27 (around 2:34), bar 43 (around 3:36) and bar 77 (around 5:40)....any suggestions on how to practice those to make them sound better? or how to vary them from each other?

There were two notes in the copy of my score (IMSLP..the one that said Mikuli edition) that were different from what I was hearing in other peoples youtube recordings, so I changed those notes to match what I heard in the videos. Bar 73 (5:29) where my score indicated a C and I changed it to a C sharp, and bar 88 (6:26) where my score indicated E and I changed it to an F natural.

Sorry the last page is a bit rough.My memory still fires slow in places. One question I have is what to do with the pedal at the end from around bar 110 on (around 8:12)...I played with too much pedal I think but not sure what to do there.

Thanks for listening and for any help or suggestions! Even if you can only bear to listen to part of my recording and have some thoughts I would really appreciate them!

Here is my recording:

https://app.box.com/s/3eu9r45vuoa67xwfy31gsvp1u0m6ciuj

and here is a copy of the score. The Largo starts on page 20:

https://app.box.com/s/y55pwxtz8v8gd0kx4b8ofwogsv719c15

Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693275
11/30/17 07:59 PM
11/30/17 07:59 PM
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 42
M
mp15 Offline
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mp15  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 42
Welcome! I like what you've done with this so far. It seems like you have a good musical sense and really "feel" what you're playing. I don't know the piece super well, but I'll do my best with suggestions.

I think the cantabile in the opening section can be even more effective if you create greater dynamic contrast with the RH, while keeping the LH quiet. Make sure each note leads to the next. My teacher taught me a trick where you listen for a crescendo or decrescendo while holding a note, like you're playing a wind instrument. The pedal can also help with this - particularly during the rising motif that first appears at the bottom of the first page. Those are good pedal markings in the score you linked.

Make sure the dotted rhythm is a solid heartbeat, and doesn't lapse into a triplet rhythm. I think you're aware of that; it's just a matter of remembering to stay rhythmic, even when you're playing slow. This last point can apply to the later, sostenuto sections as well.

Regarding the opening - from the way you describe it, it sounds like you might be tense (physically or mentally, or both), which could contribute to your fingers hurting. It's definitely not easy to open a piece that way! I would just practice the first two octaves, over and over, until you feel confident about letting your weight fall into the notes, rather than feeling like you have to force yourself to play loud and not miss. Then I would add the rest of the opening statement.

That's all for now. Keep up the good work!

Last edited by mp15; 11/30/17 08:02 PM.

Beethoven - Piano Sonata, op. 101
Bartok - Piano Sonata
Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693305
11/30/17 11:08 PM
11/30/17 11:08 PM
Joined: Apr 2013
Posts: 3,390
western MA, USA
hreichgott Offline
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hreichgott  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2013
Posts: 3,390
western MA, USA
It's sounding lovely already. As one of my teachers would have said: It's fine. She meant by that: you can be comfortable sharing it with others at this point, and feel that it's fully learned. But there's a lot more that can be done with a piece of music, if it's truly good music.

A couple of ideas, briefly:
- The heartbeat idea is a good one. See if you can make the note on the beat just a bit louder than the note before the beat. That will emphasize the heartbeat rhythm and give that section more movement. Some sort of gentle up-down motion in the wrist will help (up on the lighter note, down on the heavier note).
- Not everyone would go here, but that section sounds to me so much like baroque pieces where there is a cantabile line with simple pizzicato string accompaniment, which benefit from being played with simplicity and restraint. Like the Largo of this Bach concerto, played exquisitely here at 3:48 by Pires
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEEtwq-04Is
I think there is a beautiful aria in maybe the St. John Passion that's like this too?
Also the slow movement of Winter from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
To refer to this style, one thing I would try would be to avoid arriving early on the beat at all -- let the notes happen because they need to, don't push forward into them. (That's not something that comes easily to me btw.)
- Just in general, try to imagine more space between the notes, more like dreaming and less like announcing. (That doesn't come easily to me either!) You do have a few places where you take a big and pronounced ritard. But there are so many more places that would benefit from taking time in a very slight way. Maybe let it wander a little more. Since it is in fact Chopin and not baroque, you can be very flexible!
And +1 on making sure the dotted rhythms don't turn into triplets.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693563
12/01/17 09:05 PM
12/01/17 09:05 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
V
Valencia Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
Valencia  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
V

Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
Thank you mp15 and Heather! I so appreciate you taking the time to listen to and comment on my recording! I’m excited to work on the things you’ve suggested. Seems the cantabile section on page one is the place to start. smile

mp15 when practicing today I tried to listen for the rise and fall of each note. Do you mean that I should follow,the crescendo or decrescendo of the notes depending on what I want the musical line to do? Like if I am trying to build up a musical line, don’t let the notes in that line decrescendo before I move to the next note?

Heather the Largo of that piece you linked to is gorgeous! I love it and can hear the simplicity and restraint you describe. but how to get that sound? I tried that today too, but when I listen back to the recording my playing is too slow and uneven. But on many notes I tried to wait even until a millisecond after my left hand played.

The heart beat turning into a triplet or the triplets turning into a heartbeat seems to be plaguing me throughout the whole first page. Will have to take each occurrence and get the rhythm right as it seems to get worse, not better!

If I can, I’ll try to implement these suggestions and record just the cantabile section again to see if I’m on the right track. Thanks again for your help!

Last edited by Valencia; 12/01/17 10:09 PM. Reason: Spelling
Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693667
12/02/17 11:21 AM
12/02/17 11:21 AM
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 42
M
mp15 Offline
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mp15  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 42
I wouldn't say there's one specific rule governing whether each note should be louder or softer than the next. I think what my teacher meant with the "wind instrument" analogy is that you're always listening to the space in between the notes. If you have a clear idea of how a phrase should sound, there are different ways to achieve that sound, even if it's physically impossible on the piano.

Maybe this might better illustrate what I mean:
There's the illusion that the long notes in the R.H. are swelling or falling based on what the L.H. is doing, and every repetition of those two notes creates a slightly different effect.


Beethoven - Piano Sonata, op. 101
Bartok - Piano Sonata
Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693693
12/02/17 01:47 PM
12/02/17 01:47 PM
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 2,122
T
Tim Adrianson Offline
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Tim Adrianson  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 2,122
Hi, Valencia! After a couple of listens, I agree with the other comments, but would like to add a few --

For me, the clear heart of this movement is the extended "song in the middle", with a slow processional march as introduction and reprise, with a short coda that alludes back to the "song". Considering how some others use the term "song" to describe an entire piece, I'm rather loath to use it -- but here I think it's entirely appropriate. I would treat the entire middle section as if it were a Classical Art song with accompaniment, meaning that I would shape and phrase the melody with tasteful rubato and extensive range just as, say, a Bel Canto soprano would. For me, this section is achingly expressive and painful, and I'm not hearing the full implications of that in your present rendition. Also, I would take more time to enjoy the exquisite harmonic changes Chopin provides both at the entry and exit transitions.

The conclusion to this movement, meaning all the material following "the song" (OK, let's call it "Aria", or "Arioso") is for me just golden, because of its subtle transformations of both the processional march and then the aria to provide such a gorgeous culmination at the very end. I would attempt to make more of those transformations, so that I can feel the allusions to the previous sections.

Briefly put, your performance underlined for me how much of a "stand-alone" piece this is -- for me, it's among Chopin's very finest efforts, which of course is saying a LOT. Thanks for sharing this!

Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693750
12/02/17 06:37 PM
12/02/17 06:37 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 22,452
New York
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Mark_C  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 22,452
New York
Originally Posted by Valencia
....One difficulty I have is getting those very first bars ff. i don't know if its because it is the start of the piece? or because it is octaves that i have to move off of quickly? I tend to need several restarts before I get "sort of ff", and then i often hurt my fingers in the process.

I thought the opening was totally fine -- and for me, the highlight of your performance was the first chord after those octaves. The contrast in dynamic between those octaves and that first chord -- the sudden hush -- is heavenly!!

Quote
The first page makes me think of a heartbeat in the LH,. I worked long and hard to try to keep my LH quiet and the RH cantabile but I'm not sure I'm there yet. My timing/rhythm might be out on the first page as well.

Yes, and what mp15 said is very important:

Originally Posted by mp15
Make sure the dotted rhythm is a solid heartbeat, and doesn't lapse into a triplet rhythm.

To me, it more than "lapses into" a triplet rhythm. It sounded to me like it began in a triplet rhythm and mostly stayed in it.

And actually (BTW feel free to ignore this, because it's a thing I'd say about most people's performances and I think most people disagree with it after I say it) grin ....actually I'd criticize it a little even if it were a perfect dotted rhythm throughout, because I think pieces like this are best played with the 'long' notes held even a little longer than dotted (as opposed to shorter, which is what happens with triplet-rhythm), and then the short notes even shorter than the literal value. Sort of "double-dotted" but not quite.

But anyway, even if one doesn't buy that, which I think most don't, it's crucial to be very consistent with those dotted figures, and I think it's equally important to make sure to at least play them truly dotted, with no hint of 'triplet.'

Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693780
12/02/17 08:43 PM
12/02/17 08:43 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
V
Valencia Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
Valencia  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
V

Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 595
Wow thanks again everyone! This is very helpful. And also a little daunting. I'm not sure I have the skills to accomplish all this with this piece but I will give it a try and learn a lot in the process.

mp15 Thanks for that link to the Prelude in Eminor. I can hear now what you were describing! smile I think I will need a lot better control of my LH to be able to achieve that kind of thing with this piece. Rhythmically and dynamically.

Tim, thanks for listening to my piece and for the feedback! I never considered the first page to sound like a processional march but now that you've said it i can hear it clearly. I too think the middle aria is the heart of the piece. Bel canto...would that be like the way Horowitz plays Schuberts 90/3? Is there a youtube vid of someone playing this Chopin Largo that would be good for me to refer to for the bel canto? maybe I can practice along with a particular youtube video to get a feel for what it is like. Am thinking to do that with the Bach concerto that Heather linked to...to practice the keyboard part along with Pires so that I get a good feel for playing with simplicity and restraint. I could do the same with the Chopin Prelude. Since I don't have a piano teacher, it can be hard to figure out what to do physically to get a particular sound from the piano.

Mark C, I'm glad you liked the opening! smile As for the rhythm, I think i should take the triplets in the RH right out for now and focus on the dotted rhythm until it is solid. When you say hold it longer, you mean more of a sound like in the opening bars, where there is a double dotted note with a 32nd?

Re: Chopin for a Hawk [Re: Valencia] #2693805
12/02/17 11:41 PM
12/02/17 11:41 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 22,452
New York
Mark_C Offline
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Mark_C  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 22,452
New York
Originally Posted by Valencia
....As for the rhythm, I think i should take the triplets in the RH right out for now and focus on the dotted rhythm until it is solid. When you say hold it longer, you mean more of a sound like in the opening bars, where there is a double dotted note with a 32nd?

Sort of, but I wouldn't say the 'sound' is similar because the loudness is so different, but I guess yes, in terms of the rhythm.
But at least for starters, I think it's fine to do just what you said: Focus on having it be an 'honest' dotted rhythm -- i.e. make sure that the short note is really one-fourth of the beat -- and have it be consistently like that.


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