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Posted By: btb Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 09:50 AM
I’m in trouble ... normally a pretty decisive sort of chappie ...
but can’t put my finger on which of the Chopin Scherzi is “best” (ghastly word) ...
no sooner a decision taken than the afterthought
“but what about Scherzo ....... ”

1. Opus 20 in B minor
2. Opus 31 in Bb minor
3. Opus 39 in C# minor
4. Opus 54 in E Major

Any thoughts ... and why?
Posted By: TheHappyMoron Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 09:58 AM
no. 2!! Just for the middle section!! And it's fun to play.
Posted By: btb Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:12 AM
Thanks for that Fish and Chips from the UK (forgive the banter), will give the middle part of no. 2 Scherzo a closer play and try to pick up your adulation ... thanks.

PS Must just ask you to explain your “i feel sorry for Schumann” ... as a huge fan of the German chappie ... I feel RS can stand alone ... even if it was just for his famous Kinderscenen Opus 15.

In all my four years of eating fish and chips in London (post-grad) I don’t think I ever tasted Haddock ... but I expect that you just chuck your line out and land one for supper.
Posted By: TheHappyMoron Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:20 AM
hahaha!! i don't eat fish n chips, and i don't eat haddock either. Also i'm not a fisherman.

I like Schumann but not particularly the kinderscenen.

Good luck with your Scherzo whichever you decide laugh
Posted By: btb Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:38 AM
How very strange to find an Englishman who doesn’t eat fish and chips ... and wittily calls himself CanniballHaddock ... but I’ve found the mid-section of the Scherzo 2 at the change of key from 5 flats to 2 sharps (sostenuto ... sotto voce) ... haunting ... I’ll be at my piano after Sunday lunch to share your finding ... thanks again for your interest.

But in passing ... anybody who hasn’t as yet been totally captivated by the majesty of Schumann’s Opus 15 Kinderscenen ... has a bonanza in store.

PS I play all the Scherzi but am still dithering as to
which is "best" ... thus the open invitation for others to comment.
Posted By: TheHappyMoron Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:54 AM
Ahh i see, personally i prefer the 2nd scherzo to them all, but that's my opinion. I couldn't decide which one's best on compositional structure or creativity.

I'm well aware of Schumann's Kinderszenen but i prefer his other works.

And as to eating fish and chips, stereotypes are seldom correct! But English drinking alcohol alot, now that would be more accurate.
And "TheCannibalHaddock" has nothing to do with my diet. smile
Posted By: TheHappyMoron Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:58 AM
Oh and whilst on the subject of Chopin's scherzi i have always thought of the 3rd as sounding like an orchestra!
Posted By: cast12 Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 11:54 AM
The third is my favorite, and I just finished working on it.

I also love the second and the fourth. The appeal of the second is obvious. However, the fourth is more mature and abstract than the other scherzi, and it seems to be one of Chopin's most rarely preformed large-scale works. Yet, if I had to say which scherzo is the greatest -- not necessarily my favorite -- I'd go with fourth.

Finally, the first scherzo just doesn't appeal to me as much as the others. While I love its coda and intensity, the piece is far too repetitive and overdone for my taste.
Posted By: argerichfan Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 01:31 PM
Originally Posted by btb
How very strange to find an Englishman who doesn’t eat fish and chips ...

I don't miss English cuisine, marmite, HP sauce, all that stuff. Fresh poached salmon anyone?
Posted By: btb Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 02:29 PM
Now there was I in my student years sitting on a bench overlooking the Thames ... and thinking it was the in exemplary thing to munch fish and chips, neatly wrapped in a newspaper (just after WWII) ... when London still had those impenetrable fogs ... and unwary humans found themselves gushing plumes of yellow fumes.

The Gershwin brothers probably had the same experience in 1937 ... putting together "A Foggy Day"

"A foggy day ... in London town ...
Had me low ... and had me down.
I viewed the morning with alarm, ...
The British Museum had lost it's charm ...
How long I wandered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't passed,

For suddenly, ... I saw you there ...
And through foggy London town

[b]THE SUN WAS SHINING EVR'Y WHERE.
"

Thanks cast for your input on the Scherzi ... I'm still dithering ... even Scherzo no.1 can't be relegated.


Posted By: JGonzalezGUS Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 03:35 PM
Originally Posted by btb
PS I play all the Scherzi but am still dithering as to
which is "best" ... thus the open invitation for others to comment.

My favorite is the 2nd, followed by the 1st and then the 3rd.

The 4th is the only one I've resisted learning. As a matter of fact, although I have 12+ recordings of the Scherzi, the 4th one is the one I've never felt like listening all the way thru - no matter who plays.

I'm sure I read somewhere that out of the 4 Scherzi, the 4th one is the only one that is a 'true' Scherzo. Has anyone else read that somewhere? Who said it?
Posted By: Kuanpiano Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 07:25 PM
My favourites are the 3rd and 4th, which are the ones I've played (I'm working through the 4rth). The third is amazing due to its extreme contrasts and intensity, and the chorale theme is incredibly beautiful. The coda if played well (like Horowitz, IMO the best recording ever) is possibly the most ferocious thing he wrote (as well as some of the most awkward writing too).

I think that the 4rth is the more perfect of the two here. The elegance and grace of the subjects are just produce so much joy. The trio in its tragic nature is really touching, intimate and sad. I love the ending where the piece flies off to infinite (similar to scriabin's 5th sonata, but that one does it differently); in fact, the 4rth scherzo really flies when played well.
Posted By: dolce sfogato Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:34 PM
I think it's a question impossible to answer by any music/piano/Chopin lover. Sorry He wrote only 4, and only 4 Ballades, and only 3 Sonatas, and so on.
Posted By: Orange Soda King Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/05/10 10:45 PM
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
I think it's a question impossible to answer by any music/piano/Chopin lover. Sorry He wrote only 4, and only 4 Ballades, and only 3 Sonatas, and so on.


I agree wholeheartedly... They all have amazing qualities in their own manner. And I'm afraid that although I used to like the 2nd sonata the most, I like all three sonatas the same (as well as all 4 scherzi the same and all 4 ballades the same). I think I prefer the Polonaise Fantasie over the ballades (at least sometimes!)
Posted By: Steve Chandler Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 12:44 AM
Originally Posted by JGonzalezGUS

I'm sure I read somewhere that out of the 4 Scherzi, the 4th one is the only one that is a 'true' Scherzo. Has anyone else read that somewhere? Who said it?

Well scherzo means joke and that implies a light hearted nature. All the others are fairly serious and/or tragic, but the 4th has a nature that is closer to that of a traditional scherzo.
Posted By: Gyro Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 01:02 AM
These are conservatory-level pieces that would be beyond the reach of most amateurs. I put in yrs. of effort on one of them, but eventually had to shelve it, because it would have taken too long to perfect. You'd have to be willing to put in yrs. of work to perfect one of them, which is questionable, given the nature of them: they lack the seriousness and prestige of the ballades, etudes, and concertos. If you're going to put in yrs. of work on something, it should be a more substantial work, like these.
Posted By: argerichfan Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 01:10 AM
Originally Posted by Steve Chandler

Well scherzo means joke and that implies a light hearted nature. All the others are fairly serious and/or tragic, but the 4th has a nature that is closer to that of a traditional scherzo.

Very nice Steve, I completely agree. The B minor and Bb minor Scherzos make for rather uncomfortable listening, particularly when Argerich hits the Bb minor head-on, bulls-eye. Not very funny and very depressing.
Posted By: Orange Soda King Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 01:30 AM
Originally Posted by Gyro
These are conservatory-level pieces that would be beyond the reach of most amateurs. I put in yrs. of effort on one of them, but eventually had to shelve it, because it would have taken too long to perfect. You'd have to be willing to put in yrs. of work to perfect one of them, which is questionable, given the nature of them: they lack the seriousness and prestige of the ballades, etudes, and concertos. If you're going to put in yrs. of work on something, it should be a more substantial work, like these.


Hey, all you gotta do is be able to play it THIS well and the audience will love it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUiHBjQku0o

But seriously... Most people I've heard respect the Scherzi as some Chopin's more substantial music along with the ballades, etudes, and concerti (by the way, you forgot all about the sonatas).
Posted By: BruceD Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 04:56 AM
Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by Steve Chandler

Well scherzo means joke and that implies a light hearted nature. All the others are fairly serious and/or tragic, but the 4th has a nature that is closer to that of a traditional scherzo.

Very nice Steve, I completely agree. The B minor and Bb minor Scherzos make for rather uncomfortable listening, particularly when Argerich hits the Bb minor head-on, bulls-eye. Not very funny and very depressing.


I am not so sure - expressing only an opinion, not fact - that Chopin did write these works in the "traditional" sense of "joke" or of something light-hearted, althought the fourth may come closer to that than the other three.

Alan Rawsthorne in Walker's Frederic Chopin, Profiles of the Man and the Musician (pp.62-63) says the following :

"With his scherzos Chopin again presented us with a family group of four, but this time the resemblances are much more clearly marked [than in the Ballades]. Possibly this removes an element of fascination which is to be found in the ballades, since one source of resemblance lies in the simplicity of their construction. But the simplicity is always forthright rather than naïve, and the method of building, as usual, arises directly out of the nature of the material. And what arrestingly original material it is! Its nature shows immediately that Chopin was not interested here in what the word 'scherzo' might suggest to most people--namely the movements so called by Beethoven in his sonatas and symphonies. About the only characteristic the two types share is the time-signature, and even this has a slightly different connotation. Beethoven's tiny bars are frequently resilient bricks which build themselves into powerful structural patterns. Each gives a small thrust to produce sommething which becomes, cumulateively, a gigantic momentum. These pieces together form so distinct a species that the wide range they cover individually is quite amazing. but in Chopin's scherzos the music flows over the bar-lines with a quite different sort of impetus. The nearest approach to Beethoven's procedure is possibly to be found in the develolpment passages of the Scherzo in C sharp minor. Again, in Beethoven's scherzos there is sometimes a quality which is usually, for want of a better word, called 'humour'. This will vary from the sardonic to the rumbustious; it can include ländler-like capers or occasionally it can be purposely amusing--as in the F major violin Sonata (the 'Spring'), for instance. On the whole Chopin's pieces encompass none of these things. A flavour of bitterness may now and again seem to be present which might, I suppose, be thought an equivalent of this quality. But these are rather hazy areas of thought. We can only note that Chopin's idea of a scherzo seemed (for reasons which today we may find hard to grasp) to confuse his contemporaries. Nowadays, when we prefer such nomenclature as 'Aleatoric Agglomeration' or 'Megacycle 23' for our compositions, such a word as 'scherzo' seems quite indecently loose. But then, it still had playful connotations, even if it did not mean a 'Scherz'. "'How is "gravity" to clothe itself", wrote Schumann, 'if "jest" goes about in dark veils?'

Regards,
Posted By: jeffreyjones Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 07:20 AM
I play all four and have for years and years.

The first Scherzo's character is the hardest to interpret. After the opening cracks, you're suddenly running for your life, and there's a distinct "groaning" figure (the descending thirds), and a passionate lament which is essentially the only melodic material before the slow trio. Said trio is based on a Polish Christmas song, "Sleep, Little Jesus, Sleep," which may give a hint as to what manner of expression Chopin was going for here. The coda is much easier than it sounds.

The second, unlike the first, is very loose with the Scherzo feel, almost barless really. An uninformed listener would be hard pressed to say that it was in any kind of a triple meter before quite some time had passed. It is usually described as being in B-flat minor, but there is much material in D-flat major including at the end of each section. The trio maintains the tempo of the scherzo, but daringly sidesteps into A major and undergoes a series of episodes before fading back into the scherzo. The coda is one of the most thrilling minutes in piano music.

The third requires strong octaves and light fingerwork. Of the four Scherzi, I think this one has the best integration of scherzo and trio(s). The bare octaves are decorated and transform into a heavenly chorale, though the solemn bell effects and the lento E minor section in the second trio keep it from being overly sweet. The coda is comparable to the B minor scherzo's in character, but far more difficult.

The fourth is the only one in a major key, the most difficult, and the most complex. The light staccato chords are particularly annoying. The themes gradually transform with each repetition, like he was channeling Beethoven. It's an absolute masterpiece - imaginative, memorable, unpredictable and totally individual. No other piece of music is anything like this.
Posted By: btb Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 02:47 PM
Thanks for that Jeffreyjones ... not hard to detect a bit of Welsh blood.

You made my day with your hands on description of each of the scherzi ... special thanks for

"The fourth is the only one in a major key, the most difficult, and the most complex. It's an absolute masterpiece - imaginative, memorable, unpredictable and totally individual. No other piece of music is anything like this."

regards
Posted By: jeffreyjones Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 03:34 PM
Good call. There is Welsh all over my dad's side. smile
Posted By: BruceD Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 06:26 PM
I have always found the initial iterations of the "chorale" theme in the third Scherzo noble and uplifting. There is such majesty in that simply-conceived theme, while the descending passages are examples of the exploitation of the potential of the piano at its best.

Regards,
Posted By: dolce sfogato Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 10:14 PM
well spoken, I think the last one is the most overtly scherzo-ish in character, and the most difficult to play, musically and technically, Saint-Saëns: eat your hat, but on the whole, I think the term Scherzo is quite well chosen: humour, not comedy...Sometimes I even think He did it just to shock the dear ladies....
Posted By: Kuanpiano Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 10:40 PM
I love how it feels like you're flying when you play the fourth....simply marvelous.
Posted By: dolce sfogato Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/06/10 10:42 PM
always be prepared for an uncomfortable landing though, one of the most dangerous pieces I know..
Posted By: Ferdinand Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/07/10 04:14 AM
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
well spoken, I think the last one is the most overtly scherzo-ish in character, and the most difficult to play, musically and technically, Saint-Saëns: eat your hat, but on the whole, I think the term Scherzo is quite well chosen: humour, not comedy...Sometimes I even think He did it just to shock the dear ladies....

I'm not sure what you mean with the Saint-Saëns reference...at any rate, Saint-Saëns called the 4th scherzo his favorite Chopin work.
Posted By: argerichfan Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/07/10 04:18 AM
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
...at any rate, Saint-Saëns called the 4th scherzo his favorite Chopin work.

And I believe Rubinstein reported in his autobio that Saint-Saëns played it too fast. But at least we know where S-S got the idea for the scherzo in his second concerto.
Posted By: dolce sfogato Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/07/10 10:25 PM
2nd concerto, 2nd mov., quasi plagiarism
Posted By: jeffreyjones Re: Chopin Scherzi - 12/08/10 03:10 AM
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
2nd concerto, 2nd mov., quasi plagiarism


I never thought of it that way. There are similar figurations, it's true, but they're not similar in effect or feeling. The SS movement always struck me as a bit simple-minded, like a young fledgeling that just learned to fly. The Chopin Scherzo is a wise old owl by comparison, tripping about under cover of night.
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