Love the piece but I'm having trouble with the "L'istesso tempo" section. It's difficult for me to play the (partial) sextuplets in the RH while maintaining tempo and precision. Haven't even started on the LH yet. For example, it feels awkward to alternate quickly between fingers 1+3, 2+4 and 1+3 again.
Maybe I've listened too much to Richter's recording, who even accelerates quite a lot at "leggiero" and makes it seem easy.
How do I practice this effectively?
I'd appreciate any advice, thanks!
This is one my favorite pieces. If you think Richter’s version is fast in the L’istesso Tempo section, check out Benno Moiseiwitsch’s interpretations if you haven’t already. He takes it even faster from the beginning of the L’istesso section, not even waiting until the “leggiere” section to speed things up. I’ve also had issues with this section when learning it. I find it to be the most difficult part of the piece, solely because of the alternating double notes.
That said, here are my suggestions:
1. Just practice it over and over. There’s no quick-fix to this. Alternating double-notes like this are among the most difficult of technical challenges, especially when played at faster tempi. The only way I got them up to a tempo I liked was to play it over and over, slowly & fully. Even when I had the rest of the piece up to speed, I still intentionally slowed this section down and developed an alternate “slow” interpretation until I had the speed to play it the way I really wanted to, with ease & clarity (most days, lol).
2. Like the poster above, I use 1+4, 2+5 for all of them until the alternating A-E/D-F# tuplets at the end of Measure 41, and then the rest of them I play with 1+4, 2+5 again. I have larger hands (can comfortably span an 11th), so while it might seem 1+3, 2+4 might be more sensible for hand size, it doesn’t feel right except in that one area I talk about.
And, of course, find the speed that fits for you. I loved Moiseiwitsch’s version and the way he played that section, but I play it much more slowly than he did once I developed my own interpretation, and now I prefer the section to be slower. I do like Richter’s though, also. I’ve heard various interpretations of the piece that takes that section at different paces, so, again, find what works for you.
And also keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be blazingly fast. Some pianists take it very quickly, perhaps for technical show, and play them at the same speed they play the alternating double notes of Liszt’s Feux Follet. However, the piece itself is Lento throughout. The central section at Measure 22 calls for Tempo I, or a return to Lento, although many people take this too fast as well. And this section we’re discussing, “L’istesso tempo” is a reminder to stick to the same tempo as before, so again a return to Lento despite the huge build of the previous section and the dramatic ritardando & diminuendo of Measure 36. And while leggiere means gracefully, lightly, and even swiftly, it doesn’t mean presto or even allegro. So, contrary to the way some pianists blitz through this section, neither the 16th-note tuplets or 32-note tuplets should be blindingly fast. Rachmaninoff’s goal, to me, was not mania or showmanship, but a sustained drama & emotion.
Good luck with your practice. This is one of my absolute favorite pieces of music.