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#481622 - 12/28/07 06:37 PM Chopin's Rhythms  
Joined: Dec 2007
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wdot Offline
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wdot  Offline
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South Carolina, USA
I have noticed that Chopin frequently places 3 against 4 or 2 against 3 in situations where it is really awkward to play the rhythms as written. For instance, in the coda to the 4th Ballade, you have the two F minor passages where the left hand plays sixteenth note triplets and the right hand is notated with dotted sixteenths and 32s (I think!). Given the speed that this section should be played, it makes sense to just play the right hand as triplets also, so that the last note of each group falls together. For another example, look at the middle section of the Polonaise-Fantasie. Everything is 2 against 3 in 8th notes there, but trying to play it as written will tie your right hand into knots.

I'm way past having a teacher, and I certainly don't play for a living. But I play a lot, and like to do things "right." Any suggestions?

By the way, I'm new, and I really like this forum. I promise most of my posts won't be this technical.

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#481623 - 12/28/07 07:57 PM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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BruceD Offline
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wdot :

Welcome to PW forums.

In the Peters Edition of the Polonaises, in many instances where the right hand has both an accompanying figure in triplets and a dotted eighth plus a sixteenth, the editor groups the sixteenth note together with the last note of the triplet as a chord.

In a similar instance in the Chopin F major Nocturne, Op. 15, No 1, the con fuoco section, particularly measures 45 46, 47 where the right hand has an accompanying figure of 6 sixteenth notes and a melody line of a dotted eighth plus a sixteenth, Peters, Cranz, and Novello editions all line up the last sixteenth of the sextuplet with the sixteenth melody note. Henle, on the other hand, carefully lines up the sixteenth melody note between the 5th and 6th sextuplets of the accompanying figures. When I asked my teacher about this, she said that Henle is - obviously - the correct (strict) rendering of these rhythms. While she also suggested that if she were practicing this section at reduced tempo she would aim for reproducing what Henle writes, all the while admitting that, up to tempo, it would be pretty hard to execute other than playing the last sixteenth melody note with the last sextuplet note. On the other hand - as it were - her technique is such that she could play it as written; whether or not she would, we didn't discuss. Not having my teacher's technique, I could do it no other way than what Peters et al. write.

By the way, when is one "way past having a teacher"?

Please don't apologize for the technical question; some of us "nerds" virtually thrive on such things!

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
#481624 - 12/28/07 08:45 PM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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hopinmad Offline
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I think that those who will spot you're playing them with simplified rhythms, are the ones who can play them correctly.


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#481625 - 12/28/07 11:39 PM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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Alexander Hanysz Offline
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Alexander Hanysz  Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by hopinmad:
I think that those who will spot you're playing them with simplified rhythms, are the ones who can play them correctly.
But you're jumping the gun here: which way is "correct"? I'm capable of playing most of these things in what I call the "pedantic" way (the dotted notes sounding after the triplets), but often I choose to play the "simplified" version (lining up the notes) because anything else sounds ridiculously fussy. The coda of the fourth ballade is already complicated enough and exciting enough, however you play it.

It's important to remember that before the 20th century, people had much less "strict" ideas about musical interpretation. In the baroque period, triplet quarter notes simply didn't exist, and very few composers used double dotted notes, so the dotted eighth-sixteenth pair just meant "long-short": the proportions weren't supposed to be measured exactly. In the nineteenth century, different composers might use the same notation to mean different things.

The concept that a dot after a note always means to add exactly 50% to the duration is a relatively new thing.

If possible, it's always nice to look at the composer's original manuscript and see whether or not they lined up the notes vertically. When that's not possible, it becomes a matter of taste and judgement--there's no clear "correct" answer.

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#481626 - 12/28/07 11:48 PM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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wdot Offline
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Hi, Bruce:

Thanks for the detailed input. You obviously know your stuff. I'll dig out my copies of the Nocturnes out and look at the example you cited. I'm pretty sure that I know the passage. I noticed that the Paderewski edition of the Polonaise-Fantasie lines the second eighth note in the right hand up with the second eighth note in the left hand, even though the beats technically shouldn't be the same. So perhaps the editor was trying to tell us something.

To answer your direct question, I'm certainly not saying that I wouldn't benefit from having a teacher. But I really don't have 1-2 hours a day to practice anything but law, so I have to do a cost-benefit analysis. I play pretty well (at least for a lawyer), and I had great teachers through my first couple of years of college. Plus, I can sight-read like a Banshee (assuming, of course, that a Banshee can sight-read).

My biggest challenge at this point is to make myself perfect anything. Of course, that was my biggest challenge when I competed as a teen; I either won going away or crashed and burned. Perhaps it was a lack of practice?

I look forward to participating actively on this board. I'm a serious piano nerd, and it's fun to converse others who share my affliction.

Regards,

waldot

Steinway L, circa 1962, satin ebony (I periodically remind my wife that the piano predates her, but I'm not sure she appreciates the humor).

#481627 - 12/29/07 12:14 AM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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Alexander Hanysz Offline
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Alexander Hanysz  Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:

In a similar instance in the Chopin F major Nocturne, Op. 15, No 1, the con fuoco section, particularly measures 45 46, 47 where the right hand has an accompanying figure of 6 sixteenth notes and a melody line of a dotted eighth plus a sixteenth...
I've just pulled out my Alfred edition of this piece, and it's rather interesting: In measures 29 through 35, the 16th note is aligned with the last note of the accompanying figure, while in measures 41 through 47 it's in the "pedantic" alignment, in between the last two notes of the accompaniment! Personally I'd have no hesitation in playing this one the "easy" way (that is, with the notes lined up every time)--and my slow practice would reflect what I intend to do in performance.

Compare Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata, first movement. Does anyone play the 16th notes precisely 1/12th of a beat after the triplet (the "mathematically correct" version)? I think most people place the 16th note exactly half way through the last note of the triplet.

#481628 - 12/29/07 12:26 AM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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Alexander Hanysz Offline
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Sorry to flood this thread with so many posts... I just found my Paderewski edition of the Chopin nocturnes. The "commentary" at the end of the volume has a long paragraph about this passage. It seems that the two original editions of this piece don't agree. The French edition is inconsistent, sometimes aligning the 16th note with the 5th note of the accompaniment, sometimes with the 6th (but never in between), while the German edition aligns it with the 6th note every time. The editors' suggestion is to play it in between the 5th and 6th notes, and they explicity caution against playing it with the 5th note (something that wouldn't have occurred to me)--but they don't mention the possibility of playing it with the 6th note.

#481629 - 12/29/07 08:59 AM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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hopinmad Offline
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Pedantic way I meant then.


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#481630 - 12/29/07 11:35 AM Re: Chopin's Rhythms  
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BruceD Offline
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There are times when the tempo of a composition - or a section - will pretty well dictate what it is possible to play: the ending of the Chopin Fourth Ballade being a good case in point. Even the afore-mentioned section of the Chopin F major Nocturne might also be considered "impractical" to play as written, given the con fuoco tempo designation.

There are other times, however, when the discussion really boils down to one of taste and even argument about performance practice, and whether one need be faithful to the period. Take, for instance, the first Schubert Impromptu of Op 90 (D899). The opening unaccompanied theme features dotted eighths followed by sixteenths, a figure which give a slightly martial style to the theme. Later, however (starting at measure 41), the same figure in the RH is accompanied by eighth-note triplets in the LH. Does one : 1) continue to observe the strict dotted eighth plus sixteenth in the RH, or 2) does one "blend" the two by making the RH figures triplets, essentially, to match them with the accompaniment?

There are those who adhere strictly to the score, saying that one should preserve the initial character of the theme, that it is contrary to Schubert's "intentions" to change the rhythm of the theme; there are those who say that the performance practice of Schubert's time made it quite acceptable to treat dotted eighths plus sixteenths as triplets in circumstances such as these. The two camps rarely agree, however, and on this forum in the not-too-distant-past, individuals on either side remained unconvinced of the argument from the other side. As I work through this Impromptu, more and more I am inclined to abandon my original interpretation of the sixteenth-note matching with the triplet and I tend more and more to distinguish between the triplet in the one hand and the dotted eighth plus sixteenth in the other.

This question is addressed by no less an "authority" than Walter Gieseking in his Preface to the Henle edition of the Schubert Impromptus : "The 3rd Variation of No. 3 (Op. 142) raises the familiar Schubert question how the figure (dotted eighth plus sixteenth against triplet) is to be printed and how it is to be played. In this respect Schubert's autographs cannot be regarded as authoritative for the printed text because they are often inconsistent. On the other hand the printed text, which accords with the exact metrical value of the notes, is in turn not binding for the performance. The player must decide, according to tempo and expression, whether the sixteehnth-note (semiquaver) is to be played with, or after, the third eighth-note (quaver). See also Op 90, No. 1."

Howard Ferguson, editor of the ABRSM edition of the Schubert Impromptus Op. 90, says the same : "Another early practice followed by Schubert was the convention of adjusting dotted rhythms in duple time to coincide with triplets when the two occurred simultaneously, as in No 1, b.41f. It could be aruged that here the true duple dotted rhythm should persist, since it is a development of an already established theme; so players should feel free to interpret it in whichever way they prefer."

The question may never be fully resolved.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190

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