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Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
#2847906 05/13/19 08:49 PM
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Anyone here played them? I'm looking for thoughts on what the trickiest passages were that you encountered (and any general tips/tricks/thoughts on the work!)

I'm working on it now, and have gotten through the first five and really enjoyed it - but I know serious challenge awaits as it progresses. I'm thinking through a strategy for tackling the rest, and thinking I need to ID the nastiest passages so I can start getting them under my fingers as I work through chronologically.
Given that Rachmaninoff gives an ossia for 19, I'm going to assume that it is particularly tricky. Any other spots to watch out for?

Re: Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
Amy C #2848002 05/14/19 07:48 AM
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I find variation 10 to be one of the trickiest ones, because I find it very awkward to play. With that said it would be pretty difficult for me to say which variations will be the most difficult for you. Try the variations out yourself and see which variations you find to be the most difficult.

Re: Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
Vilhelm Moqvist #2848138 05/14/19 04:50 PM
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Thanks! Yes 10 looks to be a bit gnarly, haha. I've read through the whole thing a few times and I can get a sense for some trouble spots, but so much of Rachmaninoff reads well but gets nasty once brought up to speed (looking at you, prelude no 4 in e minor grin ). It's definitely helpful to hear from those who have walked that path before me, so much appreciated!

Re: Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
Amy C #2849248 05/17/19 12:29 PM
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I love the Corelli variations. It's a fantastic set, although it definitely has its brutal moments for the performer... Here's what I found to be the most challenging:

- Var. XX - Staying relaxed through all the leaping octaves! I practiced these a lot... slow practice really helped, as did playing only what falls on the main beats, then adding in the inner notes.
Var. XVII - Maintaining a connected, singing line in the right hand. Those long notes die away so quickly... it's important to listen to the end of each note and how it connects to the beginning of the next note.
Var XIII - Memorizing all the chord changes in this variation. Brutal. All the subtle differences in chord quality give this variation its dark, prickly atmosphere... some careful voicing of the inner lines in strategic spots can really highlight the harmonic language here.
Var. XI - Bringing out the accents in this variation. If you emphasize the accents where Rachmaninoff has written them, it really helps with staying relaxed in unaccented spots.
Var. X. Everything.... it's just hard. Lots of slow practice, lots of practicing in groups...
Var. VII. Stamina. I always found this variation to be tricky. I was never quite happy with the fingering I was using.
Var. II - Memory! This one is confusing. I copied it out on manuscript paper to help me remember it better.

All the best! This is such a masterpiece. Have you seen Ashkenazy's video about them? Super interesting...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEHh84Ptvaw

Last edited by FourEyes; 05/17/19 12:30 PM.
Re: Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
FourEyes #2849292 05/17/19 01:56 PM
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Oh my goodness, that is SUPER helpful! I am right smack in the middle of trying to memorize var. II and am having issues with it is well. The second half of it is so beautiful harmonically, but also has some really unexpected turns and it's hard to remember who is where and when.

There seems to be some consensus on var X being a huge pain, I am going to start getting that in my fingers asap. I'm excited about var. XX as I did a few works of Rachmaninoff a few years ago that were all leaping octaves and I'm hoping all that prep work will help me!

This whole work is SO gorgeous, though, right? The angular, stripped down, quasi-mystical nature of it has really made me love it very deeply. As much as I love earlier Rachmaninoff, his late works are just absolutely delightful.

Re: Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations
Amy C #2849591 05/18/19 11:42 AM
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I'm glad to hear my comments were helpful. I should add - with variation II I found it helpful to practice each line individually, and memorize each line individually. Since the four-voiced texture remains consistent throughout the variation, it can be helpful to know each line. Perhaps that's being too fussy, but I found it useful.

Also, in Var. IX (the "haunted" variation, according to one of my teachers), be sure to follow the hairpin swells exactly. Sometimes they occur in counterintuitive spots, but it's incredibly effective when they are done as written.

This work is amazing, isn't it? I love how Rachmaninoff creates a sense of otherworldly mystery in Var. IV, for instance. One can hear the distant bells tolling... marvellous. Throughout the work, actually, the idea of bells is quite present... bells of all shapes and sizes and sounds. Fantastic, I love it. Talking about this piece is making me want to re-learn it for some reason!


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