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Pedal in Scarlatti?
#3050967 11/29/20 05:22 PM
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I’m learning the Scarlatti K.9 D- Sonata, and I have a question about the use of the damper pedal.

I’ve listened to a number of recordings (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BmhGa-_GasQ, https://youtu.be/Pzg-lM1sfsk?t=258) by superb pianists and it sounds to me like some are definitely using the damper pedal very sparingly in certain parts of this piece. Personally, I think there are a few places where the damper pedal does add value.

I know that the use of the damper pedal in music originally written for harpsichord is controversial ... but since I’m not playing on a harpsichord, is there anything wrong with taking advantage of the capabilities of the piano to enhance the sonorities in this piece?

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3050986 11/29/20 06:42 PM
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You are the artist, you play it how you like it best.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3050994 11/29/20 06:55 PM
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Are you being judged or graded? Then you probably need to stick to the accepted historical practice, which is no or limited pedal, steady tempo, crisp and energetic.

But if you are playing just for yourself, then you get to make up your own mind how it sounds best to you. Personally I think Scarlatti sounds best when I stay true to baroque style.

Sam

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
Learux #3050999 11/29/20 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Learux
You are the artist, you play it how you like it best.
In this case, there is very little difference between no pedal and small touches of pedal so I think most would say either would be appropriate. OTOH I think the basic idea of doing what one "likes" is not appropriate for classical music. It implies a freedom inappropriate for classical music, and in many cases what one "likes" would be a seriously bad approach.

There are good/appropriate interpretations and bad/inappropriate musical ideas. If one is playing just for oneself one can choose to turn the score upside down and play it that way, but I think the OP was looking for guidance about what experienced and highly knowledgeable pianists recommend. That's one of the main reasons people take piano lessons.

The overwhelming percent of pianists, including myself, are far from what I would call "artists".

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051018 11/29/20 07:40 PM
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When we don't use any pedal, I think it seems to most listeners (who know about such things) that we're just rigidly following a theoretical thing because we think we're supposed to.

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051024 11/29/20 07:54 PM
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No, there is nothing wrong and you should take advantage of the piano capability as long as you remain faithfull to the style of this music (if you are not interested to play it as a baroque piece then, of course the choices are much wider).

The point is to avoid having a dry sound on one hand and the other extreme to blur the sound as if it was a romantic piece. In between there a fair amount of possibilities to achieve a good balance with something that sounds both clear and articulate but not dry.

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051060 11/29/20 10:26 PM
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For scarlatti, Bach, Handel, Rameau and other Baroque composers I use very minimal pedal.

It's perfectly acceptable to use it as a coloring device, but it should never, EVER, blur the clarity of the lines.

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051150 11/30/20 09:08 AM
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Thanks for all your thoughts! I'm leaning this for my Level 9 at the RCM. I think Sam S has a good point about "conforming" for the purposes of the exam ... but I just wasn't sure what the standard was, or how rigorously people held to it. (I'm between lessons, and so I haven't had the chance to ask my teacher about this).

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051156 11/30/20 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ASR
Thanks for all your thoughts! I'm leaning this for my Level 9 at the RCM. I think Sam S has a good point about "conforming" for the purposes of the exam ... but I just wasn't sure what the standard was, or how rigorously people held to it. (I'm between lessons, and so I haven't had the chance to ask my teacher about this).

Well that music was not composed for piano, so it is a sort of transcription. As such you can not strictly speaking play it as if playing on harpsichord and use the instrument capabilities. It goes well beyond simply using or 'ot the pedal, there is the question of phrasing and articulation. What would be expected during an exam is to respect the style of the music and not play it as if it is composed by Chopin.

Re: Pedal in Scarlatti?
ASR #3051161 11/30/20 09:52 AM
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I find that Scarlatti works surprisingly well with some occasional pedaling - BUT it seems that, in the same places of the piece, using the technique of holding down keys when the score says they should be let go achieves a similar but less blurry effect. Think of it as "ultra-legato" where you don't just bind but instead let the notes overlap. Similar to pedalling but without the sometimes overwhelming resonances. Also harder to play and not even possible at all time.

My approach to Scarlatti is to not use pedal at first and then add some in where it makes sense to me and my teacher. But my teacher has a harpsichord only, so she tends to be a bit pedal-skeptical smile


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