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Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
#2933153 01/13/20 03:41 AM
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This is a recording, done with a small handheld Tascam digital recorder of an 1844 Pleyel I restored years ago, which belonged to me for a while.

The reason I am posting this is because of the sound, which most of you will think is quite odd, and not quite pianistic, but more like a Piano Shaped Object.

The sound is the way it is because the hammers are covered with the 1840's grey felt which was applied on the piano when it was new, and the felt wore out after a couple of years use, so it is extremely rare. I have plenty of documentation that proves that this veiled, dark sound is actually the sound that Chopin heard, so if anyone is interested, I can send you a PDF with all the information.

The tempo is 50 BPM for each dotted quarter note, which is the tempo indicated by Chopin. This makes it so that the left hand plays groups of 6 notes every BPM!

I am quite sure most of you out there would not like to play on this kind of piano, because of the muffled sound, but I have collected proof that this dark sound was what was in fashion from at least 1830 to 1850! Strange indeed!

The softer sound does have an effect on the overall interpretation, in my opinion.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWKl6e5BU8s&list=RDWWKl6e5BU8s


Max di Mario
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933154 01/13/20 03:56 AM
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The sound has much more in common with a modern piano than pianos from a couple of decades before, which sound like a different instrument to me. I suppose the iron frame marked the biggest change in the sound of the piano.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933155 01/13/20 04:05 AM
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I studied in the Hague, which is really big on early music. I played on historical pianos several times, and even wrote a research that was partly about fortepianos. While I don't think one should base their modern instrument interpretation on how it sounded then - since that is unfair both to the modern and historical instrument - it is definitely worthwhile to play on them.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
johnstaf #2933209 01/13/20 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
The sound has much more in common with a modern piano than pianos from a couple of decades before, which sound like a different instrument to me. I suppose the iron frame marked the biggest change in the sound of the piano.


Yes, the addition of iron was a big change, necessary to support the increase in string tension, however, the steel frame, and the cast iron frame, had all been invented before, but nobody wanted to use them because of the metallic sound. In those days, the taste was to get a sweet and mellow, organic tone, and with the low tensions, there wasn't a great need to go fully cast iron yet. I imagine that low tension also sounds bad with a full metal frame.

I think that this piano does have a lot in common with modern pianos, although it tends to have a darker pp-mf. If anything, we should be able to have a dark pp-mf on modern pianos, with the option of getting a bright sound when playing into the f-fff range. Today's pianos seem to be bright at any volume, which makes playing Chopin less natural IMO

Last edited by acortot; 01/13/20 08:08 AM.

Max di Mario
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933211 01/13/20 08:11 AM
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Sigh ... this is exquisite😽 I do agree that the Pleyel changes the effect to be more suited to Chopin. How I wish I owned one!
Thanks so very much for posting this


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933467 01/13/20 07:31 PM
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Most of the YT performances by great pianists that I checked are around 6:00, almost 50% longer. I thought it sounded pretty terrible at the faster speed so maybe Chopin erred with his tempo marking or maybe the editor made a mistake that Chopin didn't catch. It can't be some secret that Chopin marked it much faster, so the fact that the faster tempo seems to be almost universally ignored seems to say that no great pianist thinks it makes sense. There are other examples where I think pianists generally adopt a tempo much different from what Chopin indicated, one being Op.10 Nos. 6.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
pianoloverus #2933506 01/13/20 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I thought it sounded pretty terrible at the faster speed so maybe Chopin erred with his tempo marking or maybe the editor made a mistake that Chopin didn't catch. It can't be some secret that Chopin marked it much faster, so the fact that the faster tempo seems to be almost universally ignored seems to say that no great pianist thinks it makes sense. There are other examples where I think pianists generally adopt a tempo much different from what Chopin indicated, one being Op.10 Nos. 6.

In the late 80's, when the HIP movement was taking off, conductor Roger Norrington recorded a series of performances of Beethoven's symphonies using Beethoven's original tempo markings. None was more controversial than his performance of the 9th, which clocked in at 62 minutes, when the average performance is 69:30. Needless to say, I don't think many conductors pay much attention to Beethoven's tempo markings on symphonies. Other HIP performances of his symphonies have restored instruments, performance practices, temperaments, and everything except Beethoven's tempos, which generally have not been used as gospel.

EDIT: BTW, this is the entirety of Norrington's performance of Beethoven's 9th at Beethoven's own tempo markings. If you try it, put on your seatbelts first!



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Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933514 01/13/20 10:11 PM
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An interesting and unique interpretation of this Nocturne, although not to my taste. What I find objectionable isn't so much the faster tempo, but rather the "drunken" effect where the hands are almost never played in sync. Although almost everyone does this to some degree for this kind of music, I rarely find it used in such a heavy fashion like this. It almost sounds like the melody is syncopated through the entire piece.

Last edited by rach3master; 01/13/20 10:11 PM.

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Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
rach3master #2933607 01/14/20 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by rach3master
An interesting and unique interpretation of this Nocturne, although not to my taste. What I find objectionable isn't so much the faster tempo, but rather the "drunken" effect where the hands are almost never played in sync. Although almost everyone does this to some degree for this kind of music, I rarely find it used in such a heavy fashion like this. It almost sounds like the melody is syncopated through the entire piece.
I thought the pianist was trying to play in the LH before RH style popular in the 19th century because of the piano he was playing on. No serious plays that way any more, and I did find it annoying and ineffective.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
Tyrone Slothrop #2933610 01/14/20 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

In the late 80's, when the HIP movement was taking off, conductor Roger Norrington recorded a series of performances of Beethoven's symphonies using Beethoven's original tempo markings. None was more controversial than his performance of the 9th, which clocked in at 62 minutes, when the average performance is 69:30.
If he did it as comparatively fast vs. standard speed as the pianist in the video the Beethoven would be about 46 minutes.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
pianoloverus #2933619 01/14/20 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Most of the YT performances by great pianists that I checked are around 6:00, almost 50% longer. I thought it sounded pretty terrible at the faster speed so maybe Chopin erred with his tempo marking or maybe the editor made a mistake that Chopin didn't catch. It can't be some secret that Chopin marked it much faster, so the fact that the faster tempo seems to be almost universally ignored seems to say that no great pianist thinks it makes sense. There are other examples where I think pianists generally adopt a tempo much different from what Chopin indicated, one being Op.10 Nos. 6.


Well, on the manuscript it's a dotted quarter for 50 BPM, so there is no mistake.

Chopin always placed phrase legatos on his manuscript, as to say that it was essential to the composition.

The left hand is organized in groups of six notes that should be played as a phrase. People who heard him play, say that he played in 'waves', so perhaps the left hand pulse of 50 BPM was represented by the entire 6 note arpeggio, as if it was one beat. If you treat the notes individually, and not as a whole, that's perhaps where the confusion sets in.

Old music was simply played in a fashion that most people today don't like so much, but don't forget we are talking about the most famous piano composer of all time, perhaps.

Last edited by acortot; 01/14/20 09:13 AM.

Max di Mario
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
rach3master #2933623 01/14/20 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by rach3master
An interesting and unique interpretation of this Nocturne, although not to my taste. What I find objectionable isn't so much the faster tempo, but rather the "drunken" effect where the hands are almost never played in sync. Although almost everyone does this to some degree for this kind of music, I rarely find it used in such a heavy fashion like this. It almost sounds like the melody is syncopated through the entire piece.


Chopin, it was written by an observer, 'could not' play in time, although Mikuli says he always kept a Metronome on his piano.

On Chopin's earliest works, he often wrote 'tempo rubato' on his manuscripts. He later stopped doing that because people did not understand what he meant.

In his teaching he said that the left hand was the conductor and the right hand should be free to wonder rhythmically 'as much as possible'

This is nothing new IF you listen to great singers. Most of the world famous singers (including more recent ones such as Sinatra or even George Michael) sing behind the beat (in pianistic terms, after the left hand) and occasionally in front of it.. this is the essence of Rubato: you steal time from some notes and give them to others.

Let's just say the old way of playing does not fit today's aesthetic, much like the pianos' sound of old is too soft and mellow.


Max di Mario
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2933632 01/14/20 09:26 AM
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Max di Mario
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2936439 01/20/20 07:27 PM
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Very nice. I once owned a Chickering 8’3” grand with a straight string plate and action. It was from the early 1870’s and had a similar tone, more delicate than a modern piano. I think the advent of the overstrung plate and action, moving the bass and high treble strings more over the middle, more resonant part of the soundboard is a significant change that provides the depth and power of the sound of a modern grand. Once this was done, higher tension with thicker strings was a natural way to leverage that even more.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2936553 01/21/20 03:10 AM
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I'll be the minority and say that I love the nocturne played this way. I prefer the faster tempo, and the disjuct of right and left hand is incredibly expressive to me.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2936648 01/21/20 10:21 AM
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Hi, acortot! Count me in as another minority vote -- I wasn't taken so much by the "darkness" of sound as by the very light action of the piano and the quick decay of sound, relative to most modern grands. Those aspects allowed the pianist to provide convincing soundscapes at speeds that IMO would simply be unattainable on a modern grand. And I also agree that the slight disjunction between the hands is aesthetically appropriate here, because the character of this piece is that of a singer with piano accompaniment. Also, I loved the silvery quality of the right hand throughout, beautifully in tune and focused. IMO, a thorough success -- I think Chopin would have been most impressed.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
Tim Adrianson #2936802 01/21/20 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
Hi, acortot! Count me in as another minority vote -- I wasn't taken so much by the "darkness" of sound as by the very light action of the piano and the quick decay of sound, relative to most modern grands. Those aspects allowed the pianist to provide convincing soundscapes at speeds that IMO would simply be unattainable on a modern grand. And I also agree that the slight disjunction between the hands is aesthetically appropriate here, because the character of this piece is that of a singer with piano accompaniment. Also, I loved the silvery quality of the right hand throughout, beautifully in tune and focused. IMO, a thorough success -- I think Chopin would have been most impressed.

I agree. I think it sounds exquisitely beautiful.

Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2936832 01/21/20 05:55 PM
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I have never heard any professional pianist play this piece nearly as fast as the video even though the Chopin tempo marking is cannot be a secret. IOW they apparently reject Chopin's tempo marking and play it much slower. Are there any YT recordings by any great pianist playing it as fast as this video? I also think the extreme use of asynchronization of the hands ruins the piece,

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/21/20 06:02 PM.
Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
acortot #2936883 01/21/20 07:58 PM
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Those of use who have lived through the better (?) half of the last century may have difficulty with this tempo, having been brought up as we were with the more "traditional" tempo from the likes of ... well, just about every concert pianist I can mention.

So many significant details, harmonic and decorative, seem to be tossed off as inconsequential. I have difficulty appreciating this Nocturne at this tempo. I find the sound of the piano very interesting and even quite appealing, however.

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Re: Chopin Nocturne Op.27 as it sounded to Chopin
Tim Adrianson #2937026 01/22/20 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
Hi, acortot! Count me in as another minority vote -- I wasn't taken so much by the "darkness" of sound as by the very light action of the piano and the quick decay of sound, relative to most modern grands. Those aspects allowed the pianist to provide convincing soundscapes at speeds that IMO would simply be unattainable on a modern grand. And I also agree that the slight disjunction between the hands is aesthetically appropriate here, because the character of this piece is that of a singer with piano accompaniment. Also, I loved the silvery quality of the right hand throughout, beautifully in tune and focused. IMO, a thorough success -- I think Chopin would have been most impressed.



Hi, thanks!

Indeed it's close to impossible to play the pieces at the original tempo with modern pianos, especially the ones that are voiced brightly, because all you hear is the clashing of the different notes.

Perhaps one of the principal reasons why Chopin and a lot of other composers are played at a fraction of the speed that they were conceived at.


Max di Mario
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