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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?


SRF
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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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
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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
05/20/18 02:04 AM
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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
05/20/18 02:32 AM
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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
05/20/18 02:37 AM
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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
05/20/18 02:38 AM
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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
05/20/18 04:10 AM
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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....)

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2738173
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Originally Posted by SiFi

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



I found a Grimaud video published in 2014 but performed in 2005 and wondered if it's the one you meant.



John
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2738280
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Originally Posted by SiFi
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:

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.


How interesting to hear your thoughts about the Balakirev as I’m listening...

When you started, I did think, “Well this is a bit on the slower side than I’m use to.” Then, I heard you shape the main theme and I thought, “Well, that doesn’t matter. There’s a large enough tonal pallet here that this will be plenty enjoyable.” grin

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2738793
05/23/18 12:07 AM
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I did some work on this concerto a few years ago and came to the conclusion that the slowest tempo you could get away with for the third movement was around about 85. Actually I'd be struggling at half that speed in places, but if the gods suddenly blessed me with a virtuoso technique this is the concerto that I'd be taking to the royal albert hall. Coincidently I have been working on the adagio for the last few weeks which I can now more or less play.

I've got a soft spot for the Zimmerman recording, it was the first one I owned and fell in love with the concerto listening to it. I agree that the Curson/Szell recording is outstanding.
Some artists do drop down into the 80s including the famous Gilels/Jochum recording I think. If I had the required technique I would choose to play it a bit faster, probably about 100 although the Gilels certainly sounds beautifully clean and magestic at the slower tempo.

Last edited by timmyab; 05/23/18 12:08 AM.
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2738811
05/23/18 02:05 AM
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Just thought I'd add a P.S. to this earlier post:

Originally Posted by Mark_C
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.....

A year later -- it was exactly a year -- I was in Washington again, for a similar meeting -- and, miracle of miracles, there was a Symphony concert again, and they were doing Brahms' second Concerto, again with Gelber as the pianist. While I had never heard either Brahms concerto a year ago, by now I had listened to both of them dozens of times on LP's, was in love with both, and was beyond thrilled at my great fortune that I happened to be back there to hear them do the second one.

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: MikeN] #2739250
05/25/18 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by MikeN

How interesting to hear your thoughts about the Balakirev as I’m listening...

When you started, I did think, “Well this is a bit on the slower side than I’m use to.” Then, I heard you shape the main theme and I thought, “Well, that doesn’t matter. There’s a large enough tonal pallet here that this will be plenty enjoyable.” grin

You are awfully kind. Thank you! It is a lovely piece.

Last edited by SiFi; 05/25/18 01:25 AM.

SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2739254
05/25/18 02:20 AM
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To everyone who has commented on this thread: thank you. I have learnt a lot about how best to deal with the tempo issue. Looks like I'll be going at between 88 and 94 and keeping it consistent through the movement until the tempo changes as required by the composer towards the end.

I have a couple of other insights and issues I'd like to raise, given that we're already talking as it were.

1. The typically Brahmsian (typically nasty, technically) variant on the transitional passage starting at bar 311 has a Leichiere Ausfuehrueng alternative in the Peters piano score. I devised a completely different "cheat" way of playing this passage in its original form that was quite complicated but worked up until the point where the figure starts to ascend. My teacher thought I was playing the Peters ossia, which of course meant that my workaround wasn't working properly. ha I've since figured out a solution that works. It's even more complicated than my original "cheat", but whatever. Anyone interested, PM me. But if anyone has a failsafe way to play this passage, respond to this post, per favore.

2. The broken octaves with the big leaps beginning on the upbeat to bar 360 present the most difficult technical challenges of the movement. There are no cheats for this. It's especially important to nail it because everyone (viz. jury) knows it's, like, a decision point. If the person can play this bit, we can all relax. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to perfect this passage? I've tried using the left hand as the anchor but that just results in inappropriate accents on the bass A. Using the phrasing and pedal indications definitely helps. But I still have too many misses in this section. You can't slow down because the orchestra is playing. So, yeah.

3. The "second subject" that first appears in bar 66: What do you all think about LH articulation, pedaling, accentuation (bass notes!), and volume throughout this passage and the recap? The recap (b. 348) is marked "con passione" forte, but how big should one play this? The lead in is so powerful that I just want to let it rip, but that's not what's codified in the score. (What a glorious Brahms moment though!)

4. In bar 354, should one use the 4th or third finger on the 3rd 16th note at the bottom of the 6th chord in the left hand? ha I say haha, but it's actually not a funny question.

Thanks everyone. I love you all.





SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2739260
05/25/18 03:22 AM
05/25/18 03:22 AM
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(It would probably help some of us if you also gave the timings of those places on some selected video of the movement. Even for people who have the scores, not all scores give measure numbers.)

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2739269
05/25/18 03:53 AM
05/25/18 03:53 AM
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Anyway, since my score does give them... grin

About that fingering in m.354: I don't get why this one is any more dilemma-ic than the rest of them. Why do you wonder about using anything but '3'?

Actually I can see a reason, but only 1, and I don't think it's a good reason.
Using 4 rather than 3 puts the hand into a 'healthier' position, but only slightly and only very momentarily, and anyway I don't see the problem about using 3, which doesn't give a particularly unhealthy position anyway.


About those broken octaves (beginning at end of m.359): I'm surprised you're singling this out too. While it's impossible for me to really know how it would be for me without working seriously on the movement, just from a play-through this seems like one of the less problematic parts. The only aspects that seem challenging are the upward leaps, which I guess is exactly what you're talking about, and maybe I'm terribly mistaken but those don't seem like they'd be any problem at all. Maybe it's because long ago I learned sort of a 'trick' for both-hands-leaping-at-the-same-time passages from Seymour Bernstein, although I don't know how much of a trick it is and never regarded it as one, because I figured it was a common approach; maybe it isn't.

In fact maybe it's much the same as what you mean when you talk about using one hand as the "anchor."

Here it is:
Two things are involved, the second of them being perhaps the "anchor" thing.

(1) Put your eyes (and head) to where you'll be leaping while you're still playing the previous note; in fact actually, a split second before playing the previous note, since you're solidly down there well before playing the note; no need to keep looking there the whole time.

And then:

(2) Don't try to look at both hands' destinations at the same time; pick one to look at first, and in fact start moving that hand first; don't be leaping both hands at exactly the same time. The difference between them is just a tiny fraction of a second but it's important. And, in shifting the gaze from each spot to the next, keep using that thing I said before about not waiting fully till your hand gets to the destination before looking to the next spot; the "looking" to each next spot is always slightly before getting to the previous spot.

I wonder if maybe when you say "anchor" you're talking about which hand leaps up first, and therefore which next spot you look at first. Not that the 'linguistics' of the word suggests that -- it more suggests something about the low notes before the upward leap -- but still I'm wondering if you mean what I'm talking about.

As to which hand to look/leap first, I think it could be either. I found myself doing left-hand-first because that way, the right hand, which is the one I want to emphasize more (presumably everyone does), is more in motion at the time of attack, which makes a stronger attack sort of automatic.

Another thing: If you use this approach, it means that one hand arrives at the upward leap a little before it plays the note. Seymour has a funny thing that he says about such arrivals: It's like how it was all the time in the army, "Hurry up and wait." grin
I find it a useful (and tension easing) internal message for places like that. Now and then while practicing it, I'd be smiling and telling my left hand to hurry up (to get up there) and wait (before hitting the note).
It makes the accuracy of the arrival very secure, and lets you concentrate fully on the arrival of the hand that's leaping later.


About that second subject, I'm standing pat with what I said before: Whatever. smile
To taste.
And you have good taste!!

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2739271
05/25/18 04:03 AM
05/25/18 04:03 AM
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SiFi Offline OP
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That is really, really interesting advice on the octaves/broken octaves section. As it happens, I am doing the "hurry up and wait" thing with the left hand, though oddly enough, that usually results in me hitting the right hand stuff accurately and flubbing the left hand. For some reason the LH loses its orientation as the right hand tries to find those high notes and usually finds them.

Anyway, good stuff. This is why I love PianistCorner.


SRF
Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: SiFi] #2739272
05/25/18 04:05 AM
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Originally Posted by SiFi
...the LH loses its orientation as the right hand tries to find those high notes and usually finds them.

Well, that means either the hand isn't really arriving there, or isn't really waiting!

BTW, what indeed is the issue about the fingering in 354?

Re: Tempo For Brahms Piano Concerto I / 3 [Re: Mark_C] #2739274
05/25/18 04:38 AM
05/25/18 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
About that second subject...

As I said, do it your way!

And y'know, "our way" can differ at different times, or change.




It can vary by the season of our life.
Or of our day.

I think I'd do that Brahms theme more like the younger Sinatra when I was young, and more like the older Sinatra when I'm older.
Although I had some older seasons when I was younger, and I imagine I'll have some younger seasons when I'm older. smile

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