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#574332 - 11/20/07 06:36 AM Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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To my surprise I heard that pianists occasionally make difficult parts of music easier for their play. Is that a common thing?

I do understand that amateurs would do such things or with non-classical music, but this was a piano college graduate talking about classic piano literature.

Could it actually happen that I go to a concert, let's say to hear the Beethoven Pathetique and the pianist had "changed" bits thereof as s/he didn't manage in the original? Or is that (hopefully!?) reserved for the "non-performing mediocre"?

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#574333 - 11/20/07 07:06 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Very interesting topic.

First of all, I think there is a big difference between, on the one hand, skipping a few notes aiming at technical ease, audible to experts only. And on the other hand skipping sections, measures or simply changing (improving) the composition.

I have heard:
1) a professional concert pianist who changed the keys of repeat sections in Schubert SOnata Rondo's to make them identical. Say the form is ABACA and the second and third A section are simply in a different key, but the same otherwise. He just tranposed (and cleverly bridged harmonically speaking) the second and third a section back to exactely the first version.

2) a college professor who moved some notes and chords up or down in the coda of Chopin's first Ballade to make it easier.

3) Supposedly Strawinsky didn't play all the notes in his own Petroushka for solo piano.

4) What about Horowitz who played the chromatic run at the end of Chopin's first scherzo in 'zig zag'octaves (LH octave: c#; RH octave+1 higher: D; LH octave minus 1 lower:D#; RH octave+1 higher: E) is this liberty allowed?

5) What about some Chopin pieces which end in octaves in you can guess he would have added another octave, had he had as 88 keys on his piano (end of G minor Ballade; Winter wind study). Do you add the octave?

6) Especially in the 20th century, composers became less prescriptive. E.g. Bartók wrote at a number of places 'due o tre ad libitum' for two or three repeats. He also told a student of his who had gone through the pain of exactely memorising the opening section of his 'The Night's music' (which imitates nature sounds in a random fashion and is therefore extremely hard to memorize), that she can play as many of the night's sounds in whatever order she liked. Nowadays, no one would dare this in a concert. But a bit more spontaneity from the pianist would harm!


Robert Kenessy

.. it seems to me that the inherent nature [of the piano tone] becomes really expressive only by means of the present tendency to use the piano as a percussion instrument - Béla Bartók, early 1927.
#574334 - 11/20/07 07:19 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Accompanists do this all the time, solo performers more rarely, though I'm sure it happens a lot. Of course, in this case "making easier" doesn't necessarily mean only to change notes, you can also make it easier by ignoring some articulations or dynamics, taking some extra time where it isn't musically motivated, choosing a slower tempo than indicated etc. But don't expect people to admit that they do this...

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this. Of course, at the practise stage, one should always try to learn everything exactly as written. Hopefully, one should also know how to choose pieces that one can play exactly as written. However, when the date of the concert arrives, if there is a few bars that still cause problems (a situation I believe most pianists are familiar with), the performer faces a decision. Either play each note as written, potentially at the cost of the musical fluency, or for example leave out an occassional note in the accompaniment to be able to play the melody as perfectly as possible and keep the music flowing without staggering. The choice is between notes or music. Composers usually write music, not notes, so I'd choose the second option. But as I said, one should not choose a repertoire that forces decisions like this. Of course, this is also probably more rare among the world class pianists, as they are technically capable of handling just about anything in the classical piano litterature.

As a composer I've had lots of performances by both professionals and amateurs. I respect very highly those performers that have the courage to admit that something is to hard to play as written and offer an option that better delivers the musical message by making it a bit less technically demanding. If I hear a performer rehearse a few days before the concert and something is obviously not working, I usually offer an alternative way to play it that the performer can play without staggering. In some cases the performers have said "no thanks" and assured me that they'll learn it in time and then totally screwed up in the performance. I don't ask these people to perform my music again.

#574335 - 11/20/07 08:39 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Thanks for your detailed replies, it's very informative for me!

I admit my view was restricted to the solo performer who can choose his/her repertoire and my ideal that the aim should be to have a piece well mastered before it is included in the performance repertoire.

I understand there are many situations which are different and where time is a factor; if to choose between notes and music, I'd go for the music, too!

Witold, what exactly do you mean by "world class pianists", in particular their skill and knowledge in comparison to other pianists? I guess that you would consider Lang Lang, Martha Argerich to be world class pianists.

But what about the skill of a pianist who has a degree in "piano performance" from one of the top music schools or from a regular university, or who has completed masterclass of several years with one of the outstanding piano professors/teachers? What skill level is to be expected of them?

I've always thought that many of these are great pianists who can be expected to play almost everything technically, although their names are not known simply because the number of famous pianists who can be "absorbed by the market" to be at the top, with regards to famous concert halls, record contracts is very low.

Are these good pianists, as a rule, or should I expect the majority of them to be on a level where they'd say (if they admit of course) that such and such pieces are too difficult - if only because they concentrated on a completely different type of music - or that they may have to change the notes at times?

Another question that just comes to thought: even the most renouned piano professors and teachers cannot know everything. If such a teacher never really looked into contemporary music for example, could s/he teach a student such, maybe after some preparation time, or would a student be better advised to seek a specialist for that particular area, even if that professor would not be considered to be so good overall?

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#574336 - 11/20/07 09:30 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I don't know about changing actual passages in solo literature. I have seen redistributions and been guilty of same to make certain sections more idiomatic, but I wouldn't be inclined to actually alter the score. In accompaniments on the other hand, I don't have the same compulsions especially in orchestra reductions. I have been working on the Strauss Four Last Songs and Barber's Knoxville Summer of 1915 with my wife, and be assured I make modifications as I go. I am not convinced that either are playable as they are written. Strauss wrote wonderfully for the piano and his lied is testament to that fact. This orchestra reduction was not written by him. It was produced posthumously. The Barber was written by the composer, but I feel that some sections do not benefit from the complexity at times and the practice time it would take to play it thusly would not be rewarded in performance. For most accompanists this is the norm. My teacher was inclined to say "It was no easier for Chopin!!!" The solo score was gospel.I agree with that, and it would likely be an embarrassment to leave out key sections or notes. I have a video of Gilels playing the Tchaikowsky and he leaves out some interlocking octaves in the 2nd movement. IT HAPPENS!

#574337 - 11/20/07 10:22 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Witold:
The choice is between notes or music. Composers usually write music, not notes, so I'd choose the second option. But as I said, one should not choose a repertoire that forces decisions like this.
Very well said! I don't advocate drastically changing the notes or sections, but the music should dictate over the notes.

#574338 - 11/20/07 10:56 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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One should keep in mind that basic piano repertoire is so well-known by most listeners interested in the genre, that one fools practically nobody by changing the score to make it easier to play.

I, like some others, consider the score sacrosanct and that any gesture to simplify or omit any portion of it shows poor judgment on the part of the pianist; it the work is for performance, s/he should not have chosen to play the work in the first place if it can't be performed as written. This does not mean that I would hesitate to re-distribute some notes from one hand to the other if such were to ease the execution of the passage, but the notes of the passage will still be those that the composer wrote and the musical integrity of the piece thus remains intact.

To the original question : Is it common? I would not think so.

Regards,


BruceD
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#574339 - 11/20/07 11:20 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Robert Kenessey:


4) What about Horowitz who played the chromatic run at the end of Chopin's first scherzo in 'zig zag'octaves (LH octave: c#; RH octave+1 higher: D; LH octave minus 1 lower:D#; RH octave+1 higher: E) is this liberty allowed?

5) What about some Chopin pieces which end in octaves in you can guess he would have added another octave, had he had as 88 keys on his piano (end of G minor Ballade; Winter wind study). Do you add the octave?

Are these points pertinent to the discussion of making music easier to play?

Common terms for that technique are staggered, blind, or Liszt octaves.

Regards,

Daniel


Amateur Pianist, Scriabin Enthusiast, and Octave Demon
#574340 - 11/20/07 11:36 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Witold:
Accompanists do this all the time, solo performers more rarely
Exactly.

In the case of playing concerto and orchestral reductions, it's a given that the collaborative pianist (the politically-correct term laugh ) will drop notes to make the part more accessible. I've never understood why editors who do concerto reductions try to accommodate every voice of the orchestra. I've seen some reductions that occupy as many as four staves - there is no way that anyone will play every note of that, so why not make it accessible in the first place instead of making the pianist do the dirty work?

As far as instrumental sonatas and duo-pieces are concerned, I think it goes on a case-by-case basis. In the Franck violin sonata, there are multiple stretches of 9ths, 10ths, and 11ths. While I can get most of these, it's sometimes way out of reach (for almost anyone) and I redistribute the notes so that I don't have to break the chord, avoiding disruption of the phrase. If you voice it well, it's absolutely imperceptible. Ditto for the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata.

Now - do I do the same in Franck's Prelude, Chorale, et Fugue or in Rachmaninoff Etudes? No, so clearly there is a double-standard. On the other hand, there are passages in the solo literature that are simply poorly-written for the piano (certain spots in the last movement of Petrushka come to mind) where the composer should have known better.

#574341 - 11/20/07 11:45 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Essentially isn't the whole point of learning music and practising to make it easier to play? I'd say there are a few possibilities that make the pianists job easier that don't involve changing the notes - things like redistributing/alternating notes between the hands (I think this is actually quite common when you have repeated note passages..), crossing over your hands rather than playing it as a leap with one hand, using rubato (I've seen many examples where the musical directions a composer has offered actually work to make the music easier to play as well as the musical intentions), using two fingers on a single note so it's easier to play it louder...I feel a bit like I'm clutching at straws for examples, but I'm sure there could be more.

#574342 - 11/20/07 11:52 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I'll ditto Brendan's exactly!

It's fair game to rewrite an orchestral reduction. Hand limitations also make reworking some chords (or rolling them) necessary. Rewriting passages simply to simplify them is something to avoid. If you have to do that you are into the wrong repertoire.

My son is currently finishing up the Rach G-minor prelude. He has a tendency to 'simplify' some measures of wicked rapid chord stuff by leaving out a few notes in the left hand. Ol' Piano*Dad comes down like the proverbial ton of bricks. laugh

You can't presume no one will notice. Avoiding inconveniently tough hand movements does not build technique or self-confidence, and if that is not enough of a deterrent a competent judge might indeed notice.

Brendan makes an interesting point about some pieces in the solo repertoire having poorly written passages. I wonder if this will become an increasingly common problem as programs like Finale and Sibelius replace writing on a page while sitting at a piano. Composing on a computer can allow so much freedom that a composer can easily forget the ergonomics of the human body. I realize that good training is supposed to overcome things like this, but at the margin the technology may make for a greater frequency of poorly written passages in otherwise important and 'good' writing.

#574343 - 11/20/07 11:54 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I've heard cases of pianists playing Hungarian Rhaspsody #2 by Liszt in a easier way at the end of it.

Actually if you go on youtube and listen to Hamelin play it, then Lang Lang, the end sounds a lot different. Hamelin's interpretation sounds a lot fuller


well I'm 20 years old, and I'm teaching myself piano.
#574344 - 11/20/07 02:01 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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my teacher as accompanist does this often (as he told me), especially when he's not paid much for the job or given short notice. but i wouldn't want some pianists perform a solo piece and change notes to make it easier to play, unless it's just hitting wrong notes or recover from a memory slip or something not intentional. for a professional pianist, it just shouldn't be done intentionally, i would think.

#574345 - 11/20/07 02:06 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I quite simply dislike the idea of scores being changed by the interpreter, much.


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#574346 - 11/20/07 02:45 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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A friend of mine, a pianist with an excellent ear, told me that in concert Murray Perahia left out many of the lower notes in the 3rds of the Chopin G# minor etude.

My reaction was "well then why play it?" He replied "because it's beautiful music".

Yes, but...


Jason
#574347 - 11/20/07 02:50 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Brendan:
I've never understood why editors who do concerto reductions try to accommodate every voice of the orchestra. I've seen some reductions that occupy as many as four staves...
Egon Petri's reduction of the Busoni Concerto has the solo pianist helping out the "collaborative pianist" when otherwise not engaged.

As if the solo pianist doesn't have enough to play... eek


Jason
#574348 - 11/20/07 02:53 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by dnephi:
Quote
Originally posted by Robert Kenessey:
[b]

4) What about Horowitz who played the chromatic run at the end of Chopin's first scherzo in 'zig zag'octaves (LH octave: c#; RH octave+1 higher: D; LH octave minus 1 lower:D#; RH octave+1 higher: E) is this liberty allowed?

5) What about some Chopin pieces which end in octaves in you can guess he would have added another octave, had he had as 88 keys on his piano (end of G minor Ballade; Winter wind study). Do you add the octave?

Are these points pertinent to the discussion of making music easier to play?

Common terms for that technique are staggered, blind, or Liszt octaves.

Regards,

Daniel [/b]
Well, I thought those examples were interesting.

#574349 - 11/20/07 02:55 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by argerichfan:
Quote
Originally posted by Brendan:
I've never understood why editors who do concerto reductions try to accommodate every voice of the orchestra. I've seen some reductions that occupy as many as four staves...
Egon Petri's reduction of the Busoni Concerto has the solo pianist helping out the "collaborative pianist" when otherwise not engaged.

As if the solo pianist doesn't have enough to play... eek
I remember accompanying - sorry, collaborating with - someone doing Beethoven 4. The accompaniment was so awkward, I remember thinking I'd rather do the solo part - at least it was written for piano.

#574350 - 11/20/07 03:21 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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sometimes i disagree with the composer and will play what i thing sounds better.

it's not like anyone's watching.

- i of course get quite a thrill... learning a piece properly.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#574351 - 11/20/07 04:59 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I've cheated once (I don't count rolling chords because my hands just aren't big enough sometimes).

In the opening of Beethoven's opus 2 no 3, you can split some of the rapid thirds between the RH and the LH. I defy anyone to hear the difference.


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#574352 - 11/20/07 08:34 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Brooklyn Pianist:
In the opening of Beethoven's opus 2 no 3, you can split some of the rapid thirds between the RH and the LH. I defy anyone to hear the difference.
Unlikely anyone would. And I have seen it done in concert... I was sitting in the third row.

Well so much for adhering to the written note. But I won't do that... after all, then why not sneak in the left hand for the difficult right hand 16th notes in the development beginning at measure 97?

Actually that's not a bad idea, come to think of it... wink


Jason
#574353 - 11/20/07 08:49 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Phlebas:
I remember accompanying - sorry, collaborating with - someone doing Beethoven 4. The accompaniment was so awkward, I remember thinking I'd rather do the solo part - at least it was written for piano.
Oh, I totally understand. I've been there. With due respect, the pianist I "collaborated" with made rather a mess of the solo piano part.

I kept thinking: (a) I could probably play it better (though I have never studied Beethoven 4), and (b) why am I devoting so much time to playing Kullak's awkward -and difficult- orchestral transcription?... then (c) I hope she doesn't ask me out for tea afterwards.

Crikey, why not spend the time on one of Liszt's brilliant Beethoven symphony transcriptions?

At there's some glory in the latter... laugh


Jason
#574354 - 11/20/07 09:36 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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This reminds me of a concert I did a few weeks ago. It was several hours long, and I had to play for all of it. One piece on the program was Schubert's "Der Erlkönig" - that's the piece that has quickly repeated R.H. triplets in octaves, and they go on for pages and pages!

I had to have a little talk with myself about it. I thought 'no use killing myself over this thing, and putting my arm out of commission'!

I do many hours of rehearsing each week, and am constantly performing. Tendonitis (or at best, a sore arm) would shoot a big hole in my livelihood, so I made the decision to 'fake' the repeated notes.

Even if the piano's action could have kept up the pace, I am certain I would have drowned out the singing had I played every note! There have been discussions here about how pianos were much lighter in touch & tone in Schubert's day.

I was also betting the audience would be focused on the singer, not the accompanist.

I'm glad to say, no tomatoes were hurled in my direction. smile

#574355 - 11/20/07 09:42 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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What do you mean by faking the repeated notes? Do you mean omitting some every now and then, or playing every other note, etc? Sorry I'm not sure from your post.


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#574356 - 11/20/07 09:56 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I alternated the high and low notes in the octaves like so:
515 151 515 151

or like this:
515 515 515 515

(this represents the four triplets in each bar).

When the piano part was exposed, I would attempt to play as written:

555 555 555 555
111 111 111 111

It is a truly exhausting piece! Unless you are accustomed to practicing repeated octaves (which I simply don't have time to do)...

[Linked Image]

#574357 - 11/20/07 10:14 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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re Erlkönig:
There's the Gerald Moore fake, where he plays the octave triplets one note in each hand wherever it's possible, just to give the arm a rest. It works pretty well, but I like yours even more laugh

And I too rearrange the piano reduction of the Strauss 4 Last Songs - to make it [i]actually sound like[i/] the orchestral version, instead of a whole lot of awkward notes.


Du holde Kunst...
#574358 - 11/20/07 10:46 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
It is a truly exhausting piece! Unless you are accustomed to practicing repeated octaves (which I simply don't have time to do)...

[Linked Image]
A basic tremolo in triplets will work also... and do I care to admit that I've done that? eek Gerald Moore, in one of his excellent books, demonstrates how he divided those octaves between two hands... fair enough.

whippen boy, so you played it in F minor per your score? I suffered through it with a tenor in G minor, also the key in which Liszt transcribed it.

And whilst we're at it, I once had to fill in at a moment's notice for an informal recital. The soprano sang Rachmaninov's song How fair this spot (Op. 21 #7), and due to time constraints I grew weary of Rachmaninov's incessant 2 against 3 within the right hand.

Oh puh-leeze, I left out many inner notes and no one noticed. And my paycheck was the same. (Don't kill me, tomasino.)

Alas, on the same program was the Op. 34 #4 (Day to night comparing went the wind), and what with all the cruel 4 against 3, not to mention other difficulties, I lost almost a whole night's sleep working on it. :t:

And yet, that is one of Rachmaninov's most atmospheric songs. Utterly delectable. The piano postlude of 4 measures is pure magic. Those right hand chords... WOW! It doesn't get any better.


Jason
#574359 - 11/20/07 11:00 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by argerichfan:
whippen boy, so you played it in F minor per your score?
I yanked that image off of the 'net, and really don't recall the key that I played it in. Nor do I want to remember. laugh

Hmm, I do recall some other tough slogs on that concert: the practially atonal O soft embalmer of the still midnight by Britten, and and the wild orchestral reduction leading up to O Black Swan from Menotti's "The Medium". I should have charged by the note (or for each accidental)!

Yes, it was a Halloween concert. smile

#574360 - 11/20/07 11:58 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
...and the wild orchestral reduction leading up to O Black Swan from Menotti's "The Medium". I should have charged by the note (or for each accidental)!
Well I understand. However, Menotti arranged The Medium for two pianos, and I played it once (secondo) for an amateur production back in my late teens.

What a fabulous opera. At least until I discovered The Saint of Bleecker Street which played almost too perfectly to my (then) high Anglican beliefs.

But as an accompanist, nothing matches "To this we've come" from The Consul. One of the great soprano scenas, the piano reduction by Thomas Schippers is not easy (particularly the "papers!" moment), but it never fails to make an impact if the soprano has enough voice. It requires a Turandot.


Jason
#574361 - 11/21/07 08:53 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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A friend of mine went to an Ashkenazy recital in the 90-ies. He completely omitted the 19th of the 24 preludes by Chopin (of course not stated in the program). Nr 19 is (coincidentally?)technically at least in the top quarter of the 24 preludes.

Naughty!


Robert Kenessy

.. it seems to me that the inherent nature [of the piano tone] becomes really expressive only by means of the present tendency to use the piano as a percussion instrument - Béla Bartók, early 1927.
#574362 - 11/21/07 01:06 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
I alternated the high and low notes in the octaves like so:
515 151 515 151

or like this:
515 515 515 515

(this represents the four triplets in each bar).

When the piano part was exposed, I would attempt to play as written:

555 555 555 555
111 111 111 111

It is a truly exhausting piece! Unless you are accustomed to practicing repeated octaves (which I simply don't have time to do)...

[Linked Image]
AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Simplifying it like that destroys it! I agree that it can be exhausting to play if the wrists have ANY tension. Try "Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist" Part Two Lesson 58. It's called "Sustained Octaves with Detached Notes". Play it to speed and then transpose it. Erlkonig will become much easier and crisper AND it doesn't take much time to do this exercise once daily. thumb


Technical skills should never come before artistry. I think of technical ability as a necessary tool for extracting a truly moving performance from a sensitive interpretation. -Aviator1010110
#574363 - 11/21/07 01:52 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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vanityx3 Offline
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[/QUOTE]AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Simplifying it like that destroys it! I agree that it can be exhausting to play if the wrists have ANY tension. [/QB][/QUOTE]

---
But it might have drowned out the singer if he played it as written anyways; and that wouldn't be a good thing either. The piano's in Schubert's day probably didn't have the same fullness in sound as modern pianos. I think he was just stuck between a rock and a hard place and had to make a difficult decision, which he did, and it was the right one for him.


well I'm 20 years old, and I'm teaching myself piano.
#574364 - 11/21/07 02:05 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Witold Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
When the piano part was exposed, I would attempt to play as written:

555 555 555 555
111 111 111 111
It is a lot easier if you use Liszt's fingering for repeated octaves:

545 454 545 454
111 111 111 111

At least I find this fingering a lot better for long octave passages, allows my hand to stay much more relaxed. I was never able to play the last pages of Liszt's Hungarian no.6 until I discovered this fingering.

#574365 - 11/21/07 02:13 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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John Citron Offline
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I'll ditto Brendan also on this. I've reduced orchestral transcriptions to a more playable score. Why do the editors try to cram every voice in the music then expect the pianist to play the multitude of repeated chords at an amazingly fast tempo? I've turned many a repeated notes and chords into either long chords, or tremolo with little if anything lost in the music just to make the music playable.

However as Brendan says, when it's solo music I play true to the written page.

In regards to the Erlkönig. The music is dastardly difficult on a modern piano, but quite easy on an early Viennese fortepiano. I heard this performed on a Conrad Graf 1828 grand, and the performer flew through the repeated notes like butter. The action is very light and shallow so there's less effort for the hands and wrists to contend with. The overall lightness of the piano made keeping the tone soft as well so there's no added tension of trying to play the repeated notes quietly.

I also heard some of the Czerny studies played on an early Bösendorfer (1820's) at the metronome markings he indicated. They are a far cry from what we labor at, and are far more musical than we could ever make them on our pianos today.

Our modern pianos have actions that have become heavier over the past century to a point where it can become difficult to play many things at the tempos indictated in the score.

John


Nothing.
#574366 - 11/21/07 02:16 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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People consider not to play them as octaves?!?!?!


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#574367 - 11/21/07 02:20 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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John Citron Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by hopinmad:
People consider not to play them as octaves?!?!?!
I tried once and it didn't sound right. This is one of those places where the octaves have to be played.

John


Nothing.
#574368 - 11/21/07 04:53 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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whippen boy Offline
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It all depends!

I based my choice on the following:

1. The tempo. The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues. No, it wasn't an option to ask the singer to NOT do this piece! In a different situation I might have refused.

2. The acoustic, which was very reverberant. It was hard to hear exactly what I was playing.

3. The piano: a century old and seriously out of regulation - it played like a truck! Also very loud. It is extremely poor musicianship to drown out a singer just because you are being a stickler!

By the way, arrogant accompanists do not get jobs. wink

4. The audience, who for this event were most likely there to enjoy a "show". At least, I didn't see any concert-goers arrive with a Schubert score tucked under their arm. smile

I got the music about a week before the concert - not much time to rehearse it. Besides, when I'm rehearsing/accompanying eight hours a day the LAST thing I want to do is come home and practice octave repetitions!

As I mentioned, I make all of my income from playing and performing, so it is just not worth stressing my arm or risking injury for one piece!

All pianists have limitations. Few professional accompanists are in a situation to choose their repertoire. A good accompanist does the best they can with the time and technique they have: the show must go on!

In the end, it has everything to do with making music and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'.

#574369 - 11/21/07 05:11 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
It all depends!

I based my choice on the following:

1. The tempo. The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues. No, it wasn't an option to ask the singer to NOT do this piece! In a different situation I might have refused.

2. The acoustic, which was very reverberant. It was hard to hear exactly what I was playing.

3. The piano: a century old and seriously out of regulation - it played like a truck! Also very loud. It is extremely poor musicianship to drown out a singer just because you are being a stickler!

By the way, arrogant accompanists do not get jobs. wink

4. The audience, who for this event were most likely there to enjoy a "show". At least, I didn't see any concert-goers arrive with a Schubert score tucked under their arm. smile

I got the music about a week before the concert - not much time to rehearse it. Besides, when I'm rehearsing/accompanying eight hours a day the LAST thing I want to do is come home and practice octave repetitions!

As I mentioned, I make all of my income from playing and performing, so it is just not worth stressing my arm or risking injury for one piece!

All pianists have limitations. Few professional accompanists are in a situation to choose their repertoire. A good accompanist does the best they can with the time and technique they have: the show must go on!

In the end, it has everything to do with [b]making music
and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'. [/b]
Sounds like you did a good job of getting on with it.
Thanks for the dose of reality.

#574370 - 11/21/07 05:59 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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currawong Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
The singer wanted it around MM160 for breath control issues.
In the end, it has everything to do with [b]making music
and nothing to do with playing 'every bloody note'. [/b]
Couldn't agree more. thumb
And I wish that any singer who has to sing Erlkönig at MM160 for breath control issues would leave it alone!


Du holde Kunst...
#574371 - 11/22/07 09:56 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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How would "changes" be treated at competitions, entry tests to universities, exams?

#574372 - 11/22/07 11:30 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Piano&Violin:
How would "changes" be treated at competitions, entry tests to universities, exams?
Some competitions and exams specify which editions must be used for performance. However, I don't think that would necessarily exclude changing the distribution of notes between the hands as long as the notes played are those that are printed in the score.

I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
#574373 - 11/23/07 09:54 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:
I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however.
Depends how you define textual changes. Most people seem to only consider the actual notes as sacred, while the rest of the text is important, though not unforgivable if you make slight alterations. In fact, ignoring an accent, ignoring dynamics, changing phrasing, changing the tempo, ignoring staccatos, adding pedaling, etc. are much bigger changes to the music than omitting one occassional note from an ostinato accompaniment figure. However, all of the above are done frequently even by the best pianists, and it is considered allowed as part of their personal interpretation. I sometimes find it amusing how the actual notes have become such holy cows compared to the rest of the text. If a piano viruoso giving a lecture on a Beethoven sonata says "I like to add a little ritenuto here and add an accent to this chord", that's perfectly valid. However, if the same virtuoso said "I would leave out this G flat", or even worse "I would add a G flat here", the reactions would be very different.

#574374 - 11/23/07 11:36 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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BruceD Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Witold:
Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:
[b] I don't think that any textual "changes" would be acceptable to any examination jury, however.
Depends how you define textual changes. Most people seem to only consider the actual notes as sacred, while the rest of the text is important, though not unforgivable if you make slight alterations. In fact, ignoring an accent, ignoring dynamics, changing phrasing, changing the tempo, ignoring staccatos, adding pedaling, etc. are much bigger changes to the music than omitting one occassional note from an ostinato accompaniment figure. However, all of the above are done frequently even by the best pianists, and it is considered allowed as part of their personal interpretation. I sometimes find it amusing how the actual notes have become such holy cows compared to the rest of the text. If a piano viruoso giving a lecture on a Beethoven sonata says "I like to add a little ritenuto here and add an accent to this chord", that's perfectly valid. However, if the same virtuoso said "I would leave out this G flat", or even worse "I would add a G flat here", the reactions would be very different. [/b]
You make very valid point in yours post; thank you for bringing them up.

Yes, of course, some of us focus only on the notes, forgetting to take into account that the dynamic markings in the score are every bit as important as the notes themselves. Of course, we do have to consider which are original dynamics and which might be editorial additions. However, with many modern editions one can pretty well determine which dynamics are original and which are added.

I was recently playing a Grieg piece at my lesson and intentionally avoided some of the pedal markings in the score. I was aiming for a "dryer" sound than what the indicated pedal would give, until my teacher midly disapproved of my choice. She reminded me that, since I was using an Urtext edition, the pedal markings were probably Grieg's and that the more impressionistic effect using the pedal was probably what Grieg was aiming for. I had to admit that she was right.

Regards,


BruceD
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#574375 - 11/23/07 01:00 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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apple* Offline
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i think it is silly to follow pedal markings particularly..

the pianos of yesterday were so much less sustainable..

some of the romantic pedal markings are absurd on today's pianos. perhaps i don't care for the blurry quality..

i don't know... just my opinion of cours, i am not very learned.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#574376 - 11/23/07 02:24 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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BruceD Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by apple*:
i think it is silly to follow pedal markings particularly..

the pianos of yesterday were so much less sustainable..

some of the romantic pedal markings are absurd on today's pianos. perhaps i don't care for the blurry quality..

i don't know... just my opinion of cours, i am not very learned.
You are certainly right about following pedal markings in scores that have been edited with 19th century pianos in mind. As you say, the sustain power of 19th century pianos was so different from that in modern pianos. Indeed, one has to adjust pedaling from piano to piano dependent upon the sustain qualities of each individual instrument.

In the instance I cited, however, the question was whether to use some pedal or no pedal at all, and I was wrong not to use light touches of pedal where indicated.

Regards,


BruceD
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#574377 - 11/23/07 04:08 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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All of this discussion about playing every note reminds me of something (slightly off-topic, but I hope you will indulge me):

César Franck's works are revered and played by many organists, who mistakenly think they are not too difficult (other than the large hand stretches and lots of accidentals).

However, if you really study the pieces you begin to discern some fascinating things happening: interesting movements and dissonances among the inner voices, 'hidden' hemiolas - a very long list of things that are too numerous to mention here. There are many options for an earnest performer to consider - none of them are the only correct way.

Now when I hear someone playing Franck literally 'off the page' I find it quite uninteresting.

I've coached with a well-known French organist on the works of Franck. She told me something which I will always remember:

In Franck ... if you play every note on the page, observe every mark... you have achieved nothing! Without fail you must interpret it, and play it in the correct style for the era, and in the correct style for Franck.

I am just as likely to get fixated with 'note perfection' as the next performer (I suppose). When I start feeling overwhelmed I recall my teacher's words and I am comforted to know that the notes are only part of making music.

#574378 - 11/25/07 07:12 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I'm coming to this topic a little late, sorry. Getting back to the original interesting question, I'd say it depends on the music, for one thing. Albeniz's Iberia is fairly well-known as requiring some adjustments to the score in order to be playable - for someone with small hands like de Larrocha, there were quite a few. And there's a story that when Rubinstein played some of it (I think Triana) for members of Albeniz' family (this was some time after Albeniz was dead), one of the kids commented, "He leaves out the same notes that Papa did."

Besides the Erlkonig, a couple of other things that are rarely played as written are the glisses in Beethoven's op. 53 sonata, and the double note runs in Brahms 2nd concerto. And Bernstein once said that nobody plays the repeated notes in Ravel's Alborada del grazioso as written, but instead slip in notes an octave higher, to facilitate things (he was wrong, though, because some pianists do play them as written). In the same piece, I think many pianists don't do the double note glisses.

I'm fairly used to the idea of adjusting scores to make them more playable (or playable at all), but I was a little shocked when I once heard a world-famous pianist complain during an interview that Ravel had written his left hand concerto in such a way that it was not really feasible to fake anything without getting totally derailed, unlike, say, the Rachmaninoff concertos, where things like busy passagework could be fudged. The way he made it sound, faking it was a regular and ordinary activity for pianists.

wr

#574379 - 11/26/07 09:31 AM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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I'm not so sure that we are not talking about the exceptions rather than the rule. Part of the classical piano music allure, is the fact that a lot of it is darned difficult and rising to the challenge is half the fun. I played Erlkonig for a few vocalists in undergrad in its original form. I never thought of leaving anything out.That being said, I have seen a video of Moore and Dieskau performing Erkonig and it is absolutely wonderful musically.

Leaving stuff out because of worrying about damaging one's musculature is an interesting consideration. It sort of makes me wonder about the ages of some of my esteemed colleagues on this list. Every now and then while playing some percussive piece like Ginastera, I have bruised some fingers, but being actually preoccupied with thinking about long-term physical damage? I can't imagine how much exertion that would take to actually do oneself physical harm.

As to the "textual changes" issue, I'm 1000% with Bruce.I would never have dreamed changing anything at jury time. I think that there is a big difference between altering dynamics and accents and changing notes. Sometimes though....I do change some registrations. I have THAT weakness. But there again, if the masters had the instruments to work with that we do they might have done the same thing. Certainly Rachmaninoff exploits the full range of the modern instrument, unlike many of his predecessors. How's that for a rationalization?

#574380 - 11/26/07 04:50 PM Re: Is it common for pianists to make difficult parts easier?  
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whippen boy Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by John Pels:
Leaving stuff out because of worrying about damaging one's musculature is an interesting consideration. It sort of makes me wonder about the ages of some of my esteemed colleagues on this list.
I beg your pardon? shocked

I assure you I'm several decades away from the convalescent home!

My point was that if the piano itself is old and out of regulation, why risk hurting myself? I derive all of my income from constant rehearsals and performances (yes, there is some risk of overtaxing myself anyway). If I injure myself trying to attain someone's ideal of "perfection" for a single piece of music then I risk going without income, or playing under par for all of my other commitments. Not a good idea.

People don't hire me to play absolutely perfectly, but to play musically. That is a pretty important criteria for an accompanist, and it seems to keep me quite busy!

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