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#965730 - 07/28/07 11:41 AM MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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My son told me to get out the equipment a couple of days ago to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. He's polishing the Polonaise from MacDowell's Virtuoso Etudes (Op. 46 no. 12). This could be one of his competition pieces later in the year, so all constructive comments and nitpicks are more than welcome. Past commentary on his playing, by the way, has led to real improvments in technical accuracy and interpretation!

Polonaise, Op. 46 no. 12

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#965731 - 07/28/07 12:33 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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I'm a Chopin devotee, and I'm always interested in an alla polacca by somebody else. I wasn't familiar with this one by MacDowell, so I read along with the score while watching and listening to this effective and entertaining piece.

I really enjoyed it, and I have only one little thing to offer: I do realize that this is a polonaise of the bombastic sort, but I'd still suggest that there might be a somewhat greater contrast in dynamics. Otherwise, I found the performance commendable.

By the way, I also watched your son's performance of the g minor Rhapsody by Brahms. Wow, it's great—and the dynamics are quite sensitively nuanced, too. Bravo.

Steven

#965732 - 07/28/07 03:06 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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As I think I may have said before, the recording medium doesn't do the young man any favours. As Sotto Voce says, there is little dynamic range evident in this performance, and how much of that is due to the recording is certainly open to question. There are moments in the score marked not only p, and pp leggiero, and even ppp, but I don't here those distinctions. I think that a successful effort at making those distinctions will certainly bring out more of the drama, and will help emphasize, more the con passione the appassionato markings when they do occur.

What's that final G octave dropping to the E minor chord? In my score it's a straight E minor chord.

Certainly all the notes are there; this needs some refinement, now, I think, in spite of, as Sotto Voce says, the bombastic nature of the piece.

Regards,


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#965733 - 07/28/07 06:38 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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The camcorder tends to compress the dynamic range a bit. The compression for YouTube does it even more. Nonetheless, even Anthony noted that he thought he needed to expand the range after he finished. Point taken.

As to the bombastic nature of the piece ....to most fourteen year old boys that's a plus. laugh

He's working on Rachmaninoff's G minor prelude now, speaking of bomba.... I shouldn't have said that .....

Our edition has a grace note octave on E before the final E minor chord. I don't know about a G. I listened again and he seems to be doing it correctly.

#965734 - 07/30/07 10:05 AM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Seeing as I won't ever play even HALF as well as that in my lifetime, I can't offer any critique. But please do extend my bravos to Anthony. I thought he did a tremendous job with what looked like endless octaves and some very fast bass runs. smile


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#965735 - 07/30/07 10:59 AM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Iowa City, IA
Okay, here goes:

Opening - sneak into those chromatic ascending scales. There's a crescendo marked, so start softer and remember: drama is created by shape, not volume!

When he gets into the octaves around m. 5, the octaves need to be voiced and shaped. If I was his teacher, I'd be tempted to spend an entire lesson on shape and voicing.

One interpretive comment:

At 2:19, KEEP the energy up. This is the climax, not the beginning of the poco a poco dim, which comes three bars later. And when he gets to the poco a poco dim, that's just the beginning of a diminuendo that goes all the way down to ppp. Then, keep the chromatic scales after that a little softer - really ride the roller coaster up and down (shape! shape!) and then arrive solidly at the return of the theme. This was the only part of the performance that I felt wasn't musically as well thought-out as it could've been. His instincts everywhere else are right on.

By comparison, have him listen to some recordings of the f# minor Chopin polonaise. It's very similar in many respects, and like BruceD mentioned, refinement is the issue now. Think Chopin. I'm not so sure bombastic is the right word. Polonaises are proud and heroic. Save the bombast for Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#965736 - 07/30/07 01:00 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Thanks Kreisler. I'll get out the music and go over this again. I agree with the shaping comments. I remember working with him to shape those chromatic roller coasters. I think he actually did it, and the recording medium's compression made it less apparent. Yet he clearly needs to pay more attention to it. Listening to some Chopin Polonaises is also a good idea. Perhaps we'll put off the Hungarian Rhapsodies for a while. Enough bombast for one year. wink

#965737 - 07/30/07 04:40 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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It's not the recording quality. Well, it is, sorta.

The expressiveness that is lost due to recording quality is roughly the same amount of expressiveness that is lost by being on stage 25 feet away from your audience. That doesn't mean every shape has to cover the entire pp-ff range, though.

What we're really talking about is making sure that every note contributes to the shape. If you have 10 notes and you want to stay within mf, then you're going to need 10 different levels of mf.

Also make sure those chromatic runs are voiced as well. If you play both hands at the same dynamic level, the shape won't cut through. Keep the LH down and put the fun in the RH. Or experiment a bit - how about voicing to the LH at the bottom and the RH at the top of the runs? Hmmm...


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#965738 - 07/30/07 04:45 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Quote
Or experiment a bit - how about voicing to the LH at the bottom and the RH at the top of the runs? Hmmm...
Yowza, that would be hard for ME. laugh

I know what you mean though.

#965739 - 07/30/07 05:56 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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It is hard, but your son is very good. I like his playing very much!


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#965740 - 08/21/07 12:02 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Kreisler,

Sorry for reopening the thread, but I just listened to the Chopin F-sharp minor Polonaise that you mentioned earlier. The similarities are very striking. I'm going to download several versions, probably including a Horowitz take on the piece.

Anthony has never played any of the big Chopin pieces, but his new teacher seems disposed to move in that direction. What do you think? Is a Polonaise like that a good challenge for him, or too much at present?

#965741 - 08/21/07 08:18 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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The f# might be a bit beyond him (but you never know...ask his teacher.)

The c# minor polonaise is definitely within his grasp, though, and might be a very good choice.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#965742 - 08/21/07 09:02 PM Re: MacDowell Polonaise Op 46 no. 12  
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Thanks, I'll ask his teacher. I don't want to ask him to do something that will only frustrate him at this point, and that one is a real bear. I have always felt that mastery of a piece that stretches you a bit is far better than struggling through a piece that is outside your reasonable range.

On the other hand, at one point in each of the last three years he has been captivated by a piece that at first listen I thought was beyond him, only to have him rise to the challenge.

I'll check out the C-sharp minor and others, and listen to what his new teacher suggests.


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