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Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: CyberGene] #2960824 03/26/20 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
I’m wondering if Chopin probably had relatively small hands since I also have small hands (I can play tenths but not very comfortably so) and haven’t found any intervals in his music that I can’t play.

Freddy had smallish hands but long, lean fingers with little webbing between them, which meant that he had a good stretch. There is a cast of his hand in the Chopin museum in Warsaw, if you get the chance to visit (after the borders open again.....).

https://www.alamy.com/chopins-hand-...pin-1810-1849-polish-image155404928.html

He has written quite a lot of 10ths which he didn't envisage being rolled, e.g. in his Funeral March (D flat - F').


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: pianoloverus] #2960854 03/26/20 10:14 PM
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My opinions are probably of the plebian variety here, but I'm okay with that smile

In reality there is no way to determine greatness. We can try to come up with criteria but at the end of the day WE are the ones putting constraints around these composers.

I want to put a lot of caveats here: for the purpose of this discussion, I pretty much only care about piano-centric music (solo piano and concertos) since that is what I play. While I have been exposed to a tremendous amount of symphonic, vocal, etc, music throughout my life, nothing has ever moved me like piano centric music has. So, unfairly or not I will give piano centric music tremendous weight when considering this. I am also an unabashed concerto lover - I generally prefer both playing and listening to concertos more than I do solo piano music, with the exception of several very special pieces (Hammerklavier, a good Waldstein recording, Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Liszt Sonata in B Minor, the WTC, etc).

That being said, I think Rachmaninoff is undoubtedly one of the greatest composers - if uneven. To me, personally, he is a composer that in his finest moments shines brighter than most, but with narrower scope. That's okay with me - I can find more emotional meaning and intellectual challenge in several of Rachmaninoff's works than I can in many more of Schumann's or Schubert's (go ahead, stone me). On the flip side, a lot of his shorter piano works leave me cold.

For the last decade I've been trying to convince myself to learn his third concerto. I've learned chunks of the various movements (1st movement cadenza, some of the 2nd movement themes which I think are extraordinary) but every time I convince myself to learn the whole thing I am utterly overwhelmed by the understanding of the emotional and intellectual work it would take to plan a cohesive performance. Sure, the notes are one thing, but to me it's this understanding that I would need to emotionally focus on it and nothing else for a year plus to do it justice that scares me. I didn't have that feeling when learning his second concerto or Mvmts 1 and 2 of Brahms 2. I understood how to approach those. His third concerto is one of the only works that I am genuinely afraid to attempt and wonder if I ever will, and it's not because of technical difficulty.

I don't love everything Rachmaninoff wrote. And I think there are several composers who wrote a greater volume of high quality music than he did. But I could pick three or four works of his that I think touch the pinnacle of the human existence, and ten or fifteen moments throughout his repertoire that I think stand with anything ever written and make me feel like nothing from other classicaly "great" composers ever has. To me, that counts for something.




Last edited by computerpro3; 03/26/20 10:17 PM.
Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: pianoloverus] #2960861 03/26/20 10:35 PM
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Yeah the term "great" is a strange one when referring to quality.

For example, people refer to Mohammed Ali as great, possibly the greatest of all time. But he certainly wasn't the best boxer, technically speaking. I think the term "great" was for the most part used to refer to his achievements. There's a difference between "greatest" and "best", it seems.

I would say Rachmaninov was undoubtedly great in terms of achievement as a composer. Great enough to be considered important, certainly.

Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: bennevis] #2960942 Yesterday at 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by CyberGene
I’m wondering if Chopin probably had relatively small hands since I also have small hands (I can play tenths but not very comfortably so) and haven’t found any intervals in his music that I can’t play.

Freddy had smallish hands but long, lean fingers with little webbing between them, which meant that he had a good stretch. There is a cast of his hand in the Chopin museum in Warsaw, if you get the chance to visit (after the borders open again.....).

https://www.alamy.com/chopins-hand-...pin-1810-1849-polish-image155404928.html

He has written quite a lot of 10ths which he didn't envisage being rolled, e.g. in his Funeral March (D flat - F').

Thanks, yes, I've seen these casts on many pictures but I need to see them in front of me in real size to be able to judge. I think I may have a comparable stretch since I can play 10ths without rolling, although as I said it's already approaching my limits and I need to be very careful not to play the 9th together since my arm becomes too flat. As a side note, because of my small hands and trying to stretch for larger intervals (and because I'm self taught and didn't have teachers to stop it), I've developed a very bad habit of twisting my pinky in the opposite way - arced down frown Some people noticed it on my first YouTube videos many years ago. But according to my mother in law who's a piano teacher, it's too late to try to re-learn that and since I play for pleasure only, no need to try to do... Anyway, I'm comfortable with Chopin's music in terms of interval stretches. Unlike Rachmaninoff's music wink As another side note, I have a modern Yamaha grand piano action (N1X) and a 100-year old Langer piano action and it seem the Langer has very slightly narrower keys where a 10th stretch is easier for me. I'm wondering if for example a custom keyboard with even narrower keys would be even better, for instance one that would allow me to play 11-ths.


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Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: BeeZee4] #2960957 Yesterday at 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by BeeZee4
Well known artists who don't program Rachmaninoff on their solo programs: Andras Schiff, Angela Hewitt, Daniel Baremboim, Maurizio Pollini, Emmanuel Ax.
Any others?

Josef Hoffman programmed very little Rachmaninoff on his solo programs, despite Rachmaninoff himself claiming Hoffman was his favorite pianist. (I believe Hoffman only recorded two preludes.)

Hoffman was the dedicatee to Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto, but Hoffman preferred that piece's predecessor, Anton Rubinstein's Fourth Concerto. (Which sounds thematically similar to Rachmaninoff's Third, but it was written 40 years earlier!)

Last edited by iaintagreatpianist; Yesterday at 11:23 AM.

Pianist-in-training. Also an 18 year old who hasn't grown up at heart.

Some of my favorite composers: Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Edvard Grieg, Edward MacDowell.
Re: How great is Rachmaninov as a composer? [Re: pianoloverus] #2961142 23 hours ago
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Hoffman had small hands. I’m not surprised that a couple of preludes are the only Rachmaninov he played publicly. I also find those pieces the most accessible of his music, such as the famous C# minor one. They also are among the more technically accessible, though that would not have been Hoffman’s limitation.


Login name is a tribute to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, arguably the historically first great keyboard virtuoso.
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