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Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link

Posted By: Louis Podesta

Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/06/13 04:24 PM

I have never been taught to play rolled chords, and had never heard of anyone else doing it either. One was told to pay meticulous attention to the score, and that was it.

Then, over the last twelve years, I have found/stumbled upon numerous analog recordings of composers whose music had this very method of playing. Therefore, the news story is as follows:

The issue briefly stated is twofold: When a person is taught to play a chord, an octave, or double notes at the piano, they are taught to strike all of the keys at the same time. It is assumed that, because the notes on the printed score are all lined up vertically on the note stem, those keys are to be struck simultaneously.

My research, consisting of multiple written and recorded sources, has shown me that all of the composers of the Classical, Romantic, and Impressionist Periods regularly rolled their chords, octaves, and double notes. This was done commonly in the left hand, and also very often in the right hand.

Further, they also employed a performance technique known as asynchronization. This is where the bass note is played slightly ahead of the soprano note in order to enhance the melodic line.

It is most important to note that this is in no way a question of musical style. It is instead a reality of substance. It has nothing to do with tempo, dynamics or phrasing. One either plays all of the notes at the same time, or they do not.

Carl Friedberg, who was a student of both Brahms and Clara Schumann, proves this unequivocally in his live Julliard recital recordings, where he taught until 1946 (Marston Records). In Europe, Adelina de Lara was also doing the same, as is evidenced in the "Pupils of Clara Schumann" recordings (Pearl Records). She was also a student of Brahms.

Then, there are the digtal stereo recordings, "Debussy, The Composer As Pianist, and "Ravel, The Composer As Pianist" which are the piano roll recordings of the composers playing their own music. In both instances, there is arpeggiation/rolled chords and asynchronization throughout.

One of my written sources is Kenneth Hamilton, who is the author of "After the Golden Age," (OUP) and who has also recently confirmed my premise in the following e-mail excerpt:

"As for the issue of Debussy and Ravel recordings: I think your basic point about the performance-style of these composers and their musical associates is correct, but I'm afraid it isn't really "news". There is, for example, discussion of these topics and others in Roy Howat's book "The Art of French Piano Music" (Yale University Press, 2009)-- in particular pp.309-324 ("The Composer as Pianist") and pp.335-40 ("Composers' Surviving Instruments and Recordings"). "

Unfortunately, what professor Hamilton fails to recognize is that 99% of the world's piano students have never heard of Roy Howat. They sit down for a lesson, and then do what they are told. And, none of them are taught that the original composer rolled their chords.

Another more recent source is the new book by Dr. Neal Peres Da Costa of the Sydney Conservatorium, which is entitled “Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing” (OUP). He has a whole chapter on Unnotated Arpeggiation. His research, completely independent of mine, confirms my thesis in the following email:

"Thanks so much for sending this through. We are obviously on the same wave length here and its great that you are spreading the news. In will certainly pass your You Tube presentation on to everyone I know. Arpeggiation is one of the great expressive devices, though there is also the question of rhythmic alteration in all its forms and tempo modification, devices that I consider to be just as important in emulating the performers on early recordings and for historically accurate interpretations of pre-twentieth-century repertoire. I have dealt with these areas in my book and readers can hear some of the rich recorded examples on the Companion website."

Then, there is the email from Dr. Clive Brown of the University of Leeds who is considered the worlds leading authority on historical performance practice. He was Dr. Peres Ca Costa's professor for his PhD dissertation, which eventually became his book.

"I am sure your conclusions about 19th-century piano playing are correct and hope that your video will help persuade musicologists and performers of its value in performing this repertoire effectively. It has been a great frustration to me over the years that even pianists working in academia have been so resistant to the overwhelming evidence, despite my drawing attention to it in my 1999 book Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900. I hope your video will nevertheless contribute towards making people think again about the idiomatic performance of pre-20th-century keyboard music. I will certainly mention it to people who may find it helpful.

Finally, I enclose for your perusal a link to my You Tube video of this story. It is a somewhat radical approach, but my goal is to see to it that every person on this planet who has ever played the piano is given the opportunity to hear the classical piano repertoire as it was originally composed, played, and taught.

Please feel free to share this news story with anyone you think might find it interesting so that together we can eventually bring the true joy, color, warmth, and beauty of this great music to the public, as it once commonly existed throughout the world.

Louis Podesta



Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/06/13 06:10 PM

This is not a popular subject, Louis, so please expect some emphatic arguments against this kind of playing. I like to think of it as a different aesthetic: some like it, some don't. I, however, love it.

This is something that was taught to me at a musical communication seminar done by Marianne Ploger and Keith Hill. Marianne now teaches at Vanderbilt University and does this seminar every year there. I highly recommend that people look into this with an open mind. You can look her up on Vanderbilt's music department website:

She teaches other things as well in these courses, and the one I took was strictly on musical communication techniques that are addressed on hers and Keith's personal website:

Under "Learn Techniques" you can request more info about what they teach.

A side effect of playing with these techniques and others associated with rubato in playing Baroque and Classical era music is that performance anxiety goes out the window.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/06/13 07:00 PM

I would also add that it is not necessarily "wrong" to play all the notes simultaneously, for that is a choice the performer can make in addition to playing them rolled in any number of ways. But to use that exclusively is limiting the expressive capabilities, IMO. So perhaps saying it is "wrong" is a bit strong wording for it and sets you up as juxtaposed against every piano teacher (or most except yourself) out there. If that's your goal, you probably will succeed, however, if you truly wish to educate teachers then perhaps a more diplomatic/respectful approach would be better received.
Posted By: Louis Podesta

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/06/13 09:21 PM


Thank you so much for your kind words. In regards your first comment, Mark_C in the Pianist Corner section practically lost it in not one, but both of his replies.

As you well know, his contention that everybody already knows about this stuff is in no way factual when it comes to the average private piano student, especially the young ones.

And, as far as my taking myself to seriously on this, when the two top historic performance scholars in the world enthusiastically endorse my video, that is way more good enough for me.

Please feel free to download the extra examples that I listed in my reply to Mark_C, especially the last one of Paderewski playing the Reflet dans Leau. Debussy referred to it in a letter as a pearly and refined rendering. (What does that tell you about Debussy's playing?)

In regards the title of the video, this story is under consideration for the CBS Evening News, and if the piece does not have some kind of "hook," then they are not interested. Nevertheless, if I could go the straight scholarly route, I would much rather do that.

Thanks again and please get a copy of Neal's book that came out in January of last year. It is a thoroughly comprehensive study. The recorded examples on the acompanying OUP webiste are stunning.

Posted By: Louis Podesta

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/08/13 05:50 PM


Additionally, I would like to clarify one thing that is causing some confusion.

For starters, I write and have have been published as a social activist philosopher. In doing so, I have worked on and also provided source material for dozens of news reporters.

Therefore, when I use the word "news," it means information that has not been disseminated to the general public. And, the fact that Chopin and Brahms rolled most of their chords and asynchronized their melody lines is not known, not only to the general public, but also to a whole lot of classical musicians.

I studied under Jack Roberts in 1971 at North Texas. Two studios down was Richard Cass, and the Assistant Dean was Bob Rogers. Jack was a student of Gyorgy Sandor, Cass studied under Cortot, and Rogers got his degree at Julliard under Carl Friedberg.

I finished up at UT Austin in 1981, and between the 1,300 music majors at NTSU and the folks in Austin, there was not one word said about this type of playing.

Finally, I enclose for your listening pleasure the You Tube links of Neal Peres Da Costa's Chamber Music Quintet, which he sent to me in one of his many supportive e-mails.

When you hear chamber music played with a non-percussive block chord piano part, the result is true joy and beauty.


Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 02/08/13 07:31 PM

Oh, I truly agree with you on the beauty of this playing. Once I discovered it and was taught how to do it, I never looked back! Here's a recording for your enjoyment...great singing, but also great piano playing and no controversy over piano rolls. I can attest to the fact that this sheet music is in fact not notated with the hands-not-together:


And here is a piece written and performed by Marianne Ploger who introduced this to me, played on a piano made by her husband Keith Hill (who also worked with me on playing this way):


There are other clips of her playing in this tradition on her site: http://marianneploger.com/ (scroll down to the bottom). So there are people out there teaching this and playing like this, for those that enjoy this aesthetic. smile

Posted By: Louis Podesta

Re: Classical Piano News Story With You Tube Video Link - 03/13/13 07:42 PM

I have listed this link/example in other forums. It is a live performance by Mieczyslaw Horszowski who was the oldest living pianist until his death at the age of 100 (1993).

He was a student of Theodore Leschetizky whose teacher was Karl Czerny, whose teachers were Beethoven, Hummel, and Clementi.

Horszowski made his debut at the age of eight in 1905, and played in this 19th century style of arpeggiation and asynchronization for the next 90 years. In addition, he was on the faculty at the Curtis Institue of Music for several decades.

Enjoy. It is stunningly beautiful music.


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