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Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 #2737316
05/17/18 01:53 AM
05/17/18 01:53 AM
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SiFi Offline OP
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Hey favorite people. I am planning to play the last movement of Brahms's first concerto at PianoTexas in a month or so. I am behind, as usual, on learning this not un-difficult piece, which I have had to do from scratch over the past couple of months, so I am cynically wondering what's the slowest tempo (equals least work) I can get away with. Before anyone replies something to the effect that I need to listen to my heart or let my soul set the tempo, let me spare you the effort of putting fingers to the qwerty or whatever. I'm not interested in that kind of advice. The absolutely best advice would be a recommendation from someone who has played this movement about the tempo they chose and whether it worked or not. Better still, a video of them performing it at said tempo would be spectacular.

I am currently doing regimented (for me) practice at MM quarter = 88. Here are the performance speeds I've clocked for some of our favorite artists:

Fleischer (1998) - 104
Zimmerman (1983) - 90
Kissin (2008) - 102
Sokolov (?) - 104/108/112
Katchen (1961) - 104
Grimaud (2014) 100/102 (awful performance IMO)
Rubinstein (1954) - 100/102
Ashkenazy (?) - 96/102
Brendel (1974) - 98
Wang (that would by Yuja!!!) (2017) - 100 (lovely performance IMO)
Curzon (?) - 98

The "/" means that there were tempo fluctuations within the exposition, which was as far as I listened to most of them.

So most of them appear to orbit a quarter note = 100 norm, though a few vary from their base tempi almost without constraint (Sokolov and Ashkenazy for example). I'd be interested to read what members think of the Zimmerman/Bernstein performance, for obvious reasons. My own favorite, by the way, is Curzon's. So, remembering that I don't care about what feels right for the person performing, anyone have any useful feedback?


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Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737318
05/17/18 02:09 AM
05/17/18 02:09 AM
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Simon -- I'm puzzled that you're asking!
Because, it looks like you're saying you can play it pretty comfortably at 88 (do you not mean that?), and we can see from those listed speeds that 88 is close enough that we can't much doubt that it's "in the ballpark." So, why are you worried?

Anyway......I found it an interesting question, interesting enough to go and try it, and I have my confident answer:

76

You can "get away" with 76, at least to my ears you can. 80 is better -- it feels like a big difference, actually -- but you can make 76 work.

I don't think you can get away with any slower.

---------

On second look: Is it that you really were worrying that 88 is too slow?

I don't think it is at all.
It's a very fine tempo.
(Heck, I'm even saying you could get away OK with 76!!)

Last edited by Mark_C; 05/17/18 02:12 AM.
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737322
05/17/18 02:26 AM
05/17/18 02:26 AM
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P.S. I remember so well the first time I heard the piece. It was in your current hometown. I was in Washington for a meeting, had a free evening and was delighted to see that the National Symphony was in town and that the program included a Brahms Concerto. I wasn't familiar with either one at the time.
It was a great, great performance, Bruno Leonardo Gelber the pianist. I was completely bowled over, especially by this movement.

Funnily, when I got back home, my first evening back, it happened to be the evening of a monthly master class that I was allowed to crash. Near the end of the class, an old friend of the teacher came in to say hi, a guy who happened to be playing with our local symphony the next night. This was Jerome Rose, who I'd never heard of before either, and, lo and behold, he was going to be playing (you guessed it) the Brahms D minor. Someone yelled out, why don't you sit down and play it for us. Rose and our teacher both said they have to leave in about 5 minutes. I said, well, I just heard it a couple of nights ago and I think the last movement doesn't take much more than about 5 minutes. grin
So, Rose did sit down and play it, with our teacher playing the orchestra part on this little upright piano that was in the corner of the room. I never heard the piece before, and now I got to hear it up-close twice in three days.....



BTW, FWIW: Gould: 80

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737323
05/17/18 02:44 AM
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.....and maybe more of interest: Gilels 90

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Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737366
05/17/18 08:21 AM
05/17/18 08:21 AM
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I'm pretty sure Barenboim/Barbirolli is 88, and it's one of my favorite performances.

https://open.spotify.com/track/5cB5NwCanNggkOqaIzUeOe?si=jeWLn1BJQ-e8V8DupjxGmA

I'm also a great fan of Kapell/Mitropoulos, which is much faster.

https://open.spotify.com/track/60uLjpg7nyeGbowGgXJWul?si=Vw_AbuUeSguMxsAMRuloPw

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2737475
05/17/18 03:02 PM
05/17/18 03:02 PM
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SiFi Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
. . . it looks like you're saying you can play it pretty comfortably at 88 (do you not mean that?) . . .

Anyway......I found it an interesting question, interesting enough to go and try it, and I have my confident answer:

76

You can "get away" with 76, at least to my ears you can. 80 is better -- it feels like a big difference, actually -- but you can make 76 work.

I don't think you can get away with any slower.

Oops, it turns out I did not mean it! Not at all. I'm practicing at with the metronome set for 8th notes at 136. I must have had a senior moment when I did some quick mental arithmetic as I typed the OP because 136 / 2 does not equal 88. As everyone except me would probably be able to say without much hesitation, it equals 68. Sorry to have misled you all.

Actually, that makes the responses even more helpful, because I can set a realistic goal for myself. I think I probably can get to 80 (and if that's good enough for both Mr. Gould and Dr. Mark, it's good enough for me. I want to listen to the other performances that were cited and try a run-through at 76 and 80 to confirm what I already suspect is good advice.

Thanks!


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737496
05/17/18 04:01 PM
05/17/18 04:01 PM
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I was very impressed with the Zimerman/Berstein performance, seeing it as a film on TV. But, that way you have Bernstein jumping around and KZ's technique to watch. For audio only, it is probably a little slow.

Lenny was always better on TV. laugh


WhoDwaldi
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737504
05/17/18 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by SiFi

Actually, that makes the responses even more helpful, because I can set a realistic goal for myself. I think I probably can get to 80 (and if that's good enough for both Mr. Gould and Dr. Mark, it's good enough for me. I want to listen to the other performances that were cited and try a run-through at 76 and 80 to confirm what I already suspect is good advice.

Thanks!


Live, you have people hanging attention on every note. For recordings, you have listeners who have drunk too much coffee yelling "too slow!" at the speakers. So, you can probably pull it off as a performance.


WhoDwaldi
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737518
05/17/18 05:59 PM
05/17/18 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by SiFi
....I think I probably can get to 80

Sounds good, and I have a confident prediction: If you'll be drilling it at 80 and planning to play it at that tempo, when you get up there you'll play 84. smile

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2737559
05/18/18 12:09 AM
05/18/18 12:09 AM
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SiFi Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by SiFi
....I think I probably can get to 80

Sounds good, and I have a confident prediction: If you'll be drilling it at 80 and planning to play it at that tempo, when you get up there you'll play 84. smile

I know, right? Concerto movements where the soloist sets the tempo are undoubtedly a conductor's and orchestra's nightmare. I played Mozart K.459 with my school's orchestra when I was 13. The last movement is marked molto allegro or something similar, but we'd rehearsed it at a speed that the orchestra, who were almost all students, could cope with. This was my first big performance. No problems with the first two movements, but I went at the opening of the last movement like a bat out of heck because of, you know, adrenaline, youthful exuberance, etc. Evidently the bassoons and oboists had panic attacks, or whatever we called such things in those days. I know this because they all told me afterwards.

So drill baby drill at 80 it is. Perform at 84. Nice plan.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: WhoDwaldi] #2737560
05/18/18 12:17 AM
05/18/18 12:17 AM
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SiFi Offline OP
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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
I was very impressed with the Zimerman/Berstein performance, seeing it as a film on TV. But, that way you have Bernstein jumping around and KZ's technique to watch. For audio only, it is probably a little slow.

Lenny was always better on TV. laugh

I totally agree about Leonard. His stage presence was electric. But I actually think the tempo works. Of course, I have to say that because I am contemplating an even slower tempo. However, there's so much detail and intricacy built in to the orchestra and piano scoring, that if it even has the appearance of being rushed I think it will fail. I do believe it can work at a slower than standard tempo.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: WhoDwaldi] #2737562
05/18/18 12:24 AM
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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
Live, you have people hanging attention on every note. For recordings, you have listeners who have drunk too much coffee yelling "too slow!" at the speakers. So, you can probably pull it off as a performance.

On yelling at the speakers, I am guilty as charged. Actually, I had to stop listening to classical music when I worked out on a treadmill because everything on my playlist seemed glacially slow. I remember listening to one of my own performances while running one time. Depressing. I eventually started just listening to rock.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737563
05/18/18 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by SiFi
.....So drill baby drill at 80 it is. Perform at 84. Nice plan.

No no!!
If you'll be looking at it that way, when you sit down to play it you'll do 88! ha

BTW, here's a thing I would have asked you right up top, if not that I was so interested to find my own answer:

What was your idea of what the minimum OK speed would be?
I figure you must have thought something, even if not confidently.

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2737646
05/18/18 10:23 AM
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I always loved the Fleischer. Nelson Freire (@100) also is quite good.

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: kbrod1] #2738124
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SiFi Offline OP
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Originally Posted by kbrod1
I always loved the Fleischer. Nelson Freire (@100) also is quite good.

I agree about Fleischer. It's aggressive in a good way, fiery yet completely controlled. I wish he would have slowed down a bit in some places, but the performance as a whole is just awesome.

I haven't heard Nelson Freire, but I will endeavor to do so.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2738130
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My personal opinion: 88 is fine, but I personally wouldn't play it slower than that.

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2738132
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
BTW, here's a thing I would have asked you right up top, if not that I was so interested to find my own answer:

What was your idea of what the minimum OK speed would be?
I figure you must have thought something, even if not confidently.

I did have thoughts. I was expecting responses like "no slower than 100" or "this movement needs to rock along at high speed." I thought everyone would be saying, you know, don't go under 100 or the judges will kill you. Also, I love most aspects of the Curzon performance, so I had hoped to emulate him right down to his metronome settings. The other thing is that I hate when my YouTube postings are always longer than the pros -- witness my last upload to Members Recordings, a performance, which I thought would be around 5:50 and was in fact more than 6 minutes.

I guess what I'm saying is that expected all those things, but was hoping for what you said. And now I think I have a good solution. I tried the Brahms today at 88 and coped without too many wrong notes. The really interesting thing was that, having started at that tempo, I tended to slow down in the easier bits. So now my question has evolved to "how much tempo variation is permissible or justifiable in Brahms concerto I / 3? In particular, should that second subject with the staccato LH part be lyrical or dynamic? (How much pedal??). I guess it can be both, but tempo-wise I don't know of any performance other than Fleischers's that moves with the same kinetic energy as the opening section.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Orange Soda King] #2738134
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
My personal opinion: 88 is fine, but I personally wouldn't play it slower than that.

I agree. Sorry, +1


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2738145
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Originally Posted by SiFi
....having started at that tempo, I tended to slow down in the easier bits. So now my question has evolved to "how much tempo variation is permissible or justifiable....

As much as your taste asks for (which I wouldn't say unless I knew that you have good taste) smile ......and as long as it doesn't seem like you're slowing down in the HARDER bits!!

Quote
....In particular, should that second subject with the staccato LH part be lyrical or dynamic?

Yes. ha

Quote
(How much pedal??).

Whichever. grin

Quote
I guess it can be both....

Yeah, as long as you don't play it too much one way the first time and the other way the second time. ha

Quote
....I don't know of any performance other than Fleischers's that moves with the same kinetic energy as the opening section.

.....and maybe you won't want to!

He sounds to me like he might have had too much coffee. grin

(Maybe I'm just mad at him because the one time I got a review in the NY Times, it was the same day that Fleisher decided to make his "2-handed return," which got put on the front page and stole whatever thunder I mighta had!
Or actually maybe it helped because maybe it sold more copies of that paper to piano people....)


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