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Joined: Nov 2005
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Mati Offline OP
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Hello all!

I've dusted off Chopin's Polonaise 26/2 I learned years ago when I was much less attentive to the musical text and this time around it struck me I've been playing some things mimicking the performances I enjoyed instead of giving them proper thought.

I've compared several editions hoping I might find a clue there, but I didn't. In the second section of the polonaise, there is a chordal section with all chords marked with staccato.

[Linked Image]

However, when I listen to different performances, the chords written as crochets (marked in green) are often played non-staccato, or at least they are held for considerably longer, giving a sense of landing on them as a foundation.

Why is that, according to how it's written? Is it because, even though all chords are marked staccato, the length of how they are articulated is proportional to the note value?

My intuition tells me to articulate them slightly differently, granted their place in a musical phrase, but keep them short and lifted. That's also how my teacher expects me to approach them. That's not what I hear in the recordings though. Let ma take Ashkenazy's rendition as an example:



(starts around 1:25)

I would appreciate any insight in how to interpret the markings here properly.

Thanks!


Mateusz Papiernik
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(Hello!) smile

Great that you're noticing this. I don't think I ever did.

I see other aspects of the staccatos that are even more striking: The main surprise to me is that in the 16th note figures, the first 2 notes are not slurred; they're staccatos. I've always played them as though they're slurred, which I'd say is the usual/natural way to play such a figure.


To me that's the bigger clue about the notation of the passage, including that it informs us about the chords you're talking about. Assuming that these things aren't found differently in different editions, I'd have to assume that Chopin is telling us that this section has a light touch everywhere and that it's not to be played 'lyrically' -- which would include that those chords should be just short.

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Musical notation is something that is imprecise in the sense that there are a limited number of sign and the actual possibilities to play them are numerous. So a staccato sign can mean a number of different things depending on the context and the actual duration can also vary from a sharp attack to a mild shortening.

For example at the beginning of the piece, Chopin put a staccato mark on all the repeated chords and yet he also indicated a pedal over them; obviously then the duration is not the objective. So what do you think it means ?

My suggestion is to interpret the sign in relation to the way it makes sense in terms of phrasing. For example the first quarter (crotchet) in bar 21 and 23 are anyway followed by an 8th rest, so obviously Chopin meant something else than duration here. It is to be interpreted within the musical phrase. With the pp notation, the sign is IMO meant for a lightness of touch, with the duration to be adjusted as needed. I would definitely play the quarter with a certain insistence and with full duration. The first one in bar 21 is opening the section and I wouldnt play it too short. The second one in bar 23 is ending the phrase, so similarly I would give it near or full duration.

On the other hand in bar 22 and 24, I could slightly shorten the first 8th to separate it out from the rest. I think you need to test the result and adopt what makes sense to you.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
I think you need to test the result and adopt what makes sense to you.
Excellent suggestion. I listened to several recordings of this work last night on YouTube by artists including Rubenstein, Pollini, Kissin, etc. and that's apparently the conclusion they all arrived at. smile


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Mati Offline OP
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Thanks! It seems I put too much attention into treating those articulation markings very literally. What you say is what I did when learning the piece some time ago, and also what feels intuitively right. Listening to many pianists who are considered very knowledgeable Chopin interpreters also gives a good idea about a degree of freedom here which is still within musical taste in accordance to the text.

I feel quite reassured with your comments ☺


Mateusz Papiernik
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