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Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3

Posted By: wolfgangmeister

Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/08/19 02:56 AM

Last week, I finally had the chance to make a recording of Franz Schubert’s Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3, D.899. I have had this piece in my fingers and played it in recital for some time, but was never quite satisfied to make a recording of the work until now.

Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3, D.899 - Jason Solomonides, pianist - live recording on April 27, 2019 on Mason & Hamlin BB via ProRecord MIDI and PianoTeq 6.4.1; Audio created by VSL Synchron Concert D-274.

Jason Solomonides plays Schubert Impromptu in Gb, Op.90, No.3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl4fJENqjGA

The recording is a tribute to three people who have recently inspired me in my study and performance of Schubert: My late teacher Prof. Raymond Hanson, my good friend Pianist Jeffrey Biegel and new acquaintance Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili.

I had the great privilege of studying with Prof. Raymond Hanson, Chairman of Piano - Hartt School of Music for over 40 years - from the age of 11 to 21, and then again over the past few years when he passed away at the age of 98 in the fall of 2017. Prof. Hanson was a protege of legendary pianist Harold Bauer; he taught me that playing the piano should reflect what we see in life and nature. For example, pianissimo is like the first falling snowflake delicately landing in a distant forest, or legato is like spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread, etc. One of my last lessons with him, inevitably led him to demonstrate how to make the piano sing while playing Schubert… which has helped me immensely in recently relearning the lyrical works of Schubert, Chopin, Liszt and Grieg.

Mr. Hanson also developed my great passion for attending memorable concerts in the great halls and outdoor venues of incomparable pianists like Jorge Bolet, Vladimir Horowitz, Murray Perahia, Maria Joao Pires and Leif Ove Andsnes, as well as enjoying chamber music recitals locally - many times featuring he and his extraordinary pianist wife Anne Koscielny and famous instrumentalists such as Charles Treger, Mischa Mischakoff, Raya Garbousova and David Wells. It was at one of these more intimate local concerts that I first met and heard young pianist and William Kapell competition winner Jeffrey Biegel. Mr. Biegel's love and joy of playing was infectious then as it is today. From the immense classical repertoire he has mastered to his continual advocacy and support of the debut of new works by modern day composers, I realize that the older we get, the more we have to learn!

Finally, I would like to thank pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. If you have not had a chance to hear her most recent Schubert CD, you are in for a treat! Her lyrical playing as a result of her immersion in the study of Schubert has taken a giant leap forward. I had the special opportunity of traveling up to Worcester, MA a couple of weeks ago and hearing and meeting Ms. Buniatishvili at Tuckerman Hall. Simply brilliant performance of Schubert's Piano Sonata in Bb, D.960, and Schubert-Liszt Song Transcriptions by Ms. Buniatishvili! And I found her to be a very kind, humble, intelligent and thoughtful person as well. The audience loved her and she was an inspiration to all ages.
Posted By: Pianist685

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/10/19 02:39 PM

Dear Mr Solomonides,

congratulations on this wonderful interpretation of yours. I particularly like the way you are bringing out the melody, playing the broken chord accompaniment very soft. Personally, I would prefer to hear the trills in the left hand in a more dramatic manner, but that is just a matter of taste. So you know Khatia Buniatishvili and Jeffrey Biegel... I hope they bought their instruments at your store.

I find it most interesting that you are playing a wonderful acoustic Mason & Hamlin grand piano but made the recording from the MIDI output to Pianoteq of the built-in Pianodisc ProRecord silent system. Did you do that just because you are a ProRecord artist or because you like the sound better than the acoustic instrument? I am asking because I have a retrofit Quiet Time GT2 mini in my acoustic upright and exclusively record the MIDI output to Galaxy Vintage D, the sound of which is far superior to any Zoom recording of the acoustic part. There is only one embarrassing issue: even after a lengthy and ongoing optimisation of the velocity curve of the software and adjustment of the output of each single piano key, there is a lack of precision in comparison to the acoustic part I think I can hear as well in your recording: some melody notes are randomly too soft. A piano technician who installs Pianodisc silent systems for Steinway into their Steinway/Boston/Essex instruments told me that none of the retrofit sensor strips would give a better result and it would not be worth changing to the ProRecord MIDI-only or an AdSilent. What do you think?

Greetings from Germany.
Constantin Stephan
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/10/19 10:02 PM

I'm trying to learn this as well at the moment. Your version sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing !
Posted By: wolfgangmeister

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/11/19 05:17 AM

Originally Posted by Moo :)
I'm trying to learn this as well at the moment. Your version sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing !

Thank you for listening Moo : ) ... and keep at it! I find this particularly Schubert Impromptu to be particularly challenging; establishing a quiet, yet lyrical melody, keeping a rhythmic, arpeggiating accompaniment ever reminded that the whole is also quite a a beautiful hymn, and keeping the hands supple and legato throughout. It is a piece that I have worked on, set aside, applied what I learned to other lyrical works that I've worked on, only to come back to it again and again.

Originally Posted by Pianist685
Dear Mr Solomonides,
congratulations on this wonderful interpretation of yours. I particularly like the way you are bringing out the melody, playing the broken chord accompaniment very soft. Personally, I would prefer to hear the trills in the left hand in a more dramatic manner, but that is just a matter of taste. So you know Khatia Buniatishvili and Jeffrey Biegel... I hope they bought their instruments at your store.

I find it most interesting that you are playing a wonderful acoustic Mason & Hamlin grand piano but made the recording from the MIDI output to Pianoteq of the built-in Pianodisc ProRecord silent system. Did you do that just because you are a ProRecord artist or because you like the sound better than the acoustic instrument? I am asking because I have a retrofit Quiet Time GT2 mini in my acoustic upright and exclusively record the MIDI output to Galaxy Vintage D, the sound of which is far superior to any Zoom recording of the acoustic part. There is only one embarrassing issue: even after a lengthy and ongoing optimisation of the velocity curve of the software and adjustment of the output of each single piano key, there is a lack of precision in comparison to the acoustic part I think I can hear as well in your recording: some melody notes are randomly too soft. A piano technician who installs Pianodisc silent systems for Steinway into their Steinway/Boston/Essex instruments told me that none of the retrofit sensor strips would give a better result and it would not be worth changing to the ProRecord MIDI-only or an AdSilent. What do you think?

Greetings from Germany.
Constantin Stephan

Thank you so much Constantin Stephan! Yes I met Jeffrey Biegel quite a few years ago in the mid '80's, right after he won the William Kapell Piano Competition, and he was invited to play at a Hartford Piano Society recital. He was such a down to earth guy, who just loved to play - with such joy, with an unbelievable repertoire. Although he studied for many years with Pianist Adele Marcus at Julliard, he also loved spending time with my piano coach & mentor, Pianist Raymond Hanson and his equally talented wife Pianist Anne Koscielny, when they both had relocated to Washington DC, as well as up at their summer home in Heath, MA. Jeffrey and I have remained friends over these many years. I was fortunate to hear and catch up with him at the debut of Kenneth Fuchs' (now Grammy winning) Spiritualist Piano Concerto in Springfield, MA about three year ago. Ms. Buniatishvili is also an amazing talent. Although she has been labelled by some to be the 'Beyonce of Classical Piano', I found her to be quite down to earth, intelligent and charming after her concert outside of Boston, MA, and we had a nice time talking about one's growth in musicianship when playing Schubert, and appreciating our family and the special teachers that have influenced us over the years. By the way, although she is a Steinway Artist, she performed on a beautiful Bosendorfer Concert Grand 280VC at her Music Worcester recital, that was just perfect for her primarily Schubert program.

Although I am a Mason & Hamlin and PD-ProRecord Artist, by vocation I am a Director of Engineering in the aerospace industry, so I am not compensated by the firm and don't sell the instruments. The pictures from the video were taken from a concert I was invited to perform at the Mason & Hamlin factory in late 2016 - which included the Schubert Impromptu on Gb, Op.90, No.3. As for using ProRecord vs. Acoustic... I have a funny story. After Ms. Buniatishvili's concert - in which she performed an excerpt of the Impromptu as an encore - I felt inspired to record the piece myself, as I had recently been working on it. Many times my ProRecord MIDI recordings are a result of silent night time practicing. But on Saturday afternoon April 27, 2019, our twin seven year old daughters were laughing, singing and giggling and having a great time to themselves, so knowing that it would be impossible to get a good acoustic recording in that environment, I just put on my headphones with PianoTeq 6.4.1 running - and played their Steingraeber E-272 modeled piano in tandem while playing my Mason & Hamlin BB acoustic unmuted. So I was actually hearing both instruments as I played, and what was produced was a single MIDI take from that live recording. When I finished, I felt it was a pretty good take and was interested to hear what it might sound like through various modeled and sampled pianos. On playback, I felt the produced VSL Concert D-274 audio was most similar to the combined "digital Steingraeber/acoustic Mason & Hamlin" piano I heard during the recording process.

It's hard for me to say how much better the ProRecord optical MIDI system is vs. the QuietTime GT2 MIDI sensor strip. I know there has been a lot of criticism by some that one cannot get accurate MIDI recordings from retrofit systems; that only a three sensor system where one measures key position, as well as hammer/shank position will do. And perhaps that is true. I believe that since my Mason & Hamlin BB uses a WNG action, that there is a lot less variation from key to key, due to consistency of it's composite repetition and less variation in bending of the carbon-fiber hammer shanks (consistent stiffness / same deflection) vs. wooden shanks... that this may be why my ProRecord outputs tend to be pretty aligned to my acoustic intent. So I am very satisfied with ProRecord. I do take time to recalibrate the system after each tuning & tone regulation, and I also have a pretty representative WNG velocity curve mapping in recording with either PianoTeq or when using MIDICurve with the VSL Synchron instrument (i.e. not linear at soft MIDI levels - "initially fast" response at ppp, "slower" response at fff). (x,y) response curve: (0,0),(1,0),(10,5),(25,15),(35,25),(46,38),(60,60),(70,80),(85,105),(107,127),(127,127). In any case, although I love my Mason & Hamlin BB "signature sound", it also needs to be tuned (it has been six months.. and will be tuned in two weeks) and with the amount of exuberance in our household that day, a digital MIDI recording was the only one that I was going to get on that day!

Take care!

Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/12/19 09:56 PM

Originally Posted by wolfgangmeister
I find this particularly Schubert Impromptu to be particularly challenging; establishing a quiet, yet lyrical melody, keeping a rhythmic, arpeggiating accompaniment ever reminded that the whole is also quite a a beautiful hymn, and keeping the hands supple and legato throughout. It is a piece that I have worked on, set aside, applied what I learned to other lyrical works that I've worked on, only to come back to it again and again.


Thank you for the advice. I thought it looked to be a simple piece and picked it as I injured my left hand and wanted a piece that I could practice whilst waiting for my left hand to recover. I think I've made slow progress but my teacher seems to think I'm making a lot of progress so it is has reinforced me to continue. It is good to know you found it had cross over with other lyrical pieces. I noticed this only once when I played Moonlight Sonata 1st movement and found it very easy to keep the accompaniment quieter and to project the melody.
Posted By: SiFi

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/16/19 06:54 PM

Gorgeous performance! I felt a huge sense of peace as I listened. Congratulations on a wonderful accomplishment.

Two tiny comments: I occasionally felt that the top note of the figuration (when it's not part of the melody) was a tad over-voiced. And there was one subito P that was a bit too subito for my taste -- it seemed like we lost the melody note for a moment. But these are insignificant nit-picks in the context of your overall vision of the piece, which I thought was inspired and inspiring.
Posted By: PianoYos

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/16/19 10:15 PM

Wow...

You bring out the melody so well in your recording, even when the 8th note accompaniment doubles with the melody in the right hand...

And your phrasing is so beautiful...the little rubatos and the dynamics, the little pauses between the phrases...

Thank you for sharing this, it'll be a recording I look up to.
Posted By: wolfgangmeister

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/17/19 07:36 PM

Originally Posted by SiFi
Gorgeous performance! I felt a huge sense of peace as I listened. Congratulations on a wonderful accomplishment.

Originally Posted by PianoYos
Wow...
You bring out the melody so well in your recording...
And your phrasing is so beautiful... Thank you for sharing this, it'll be a recording I look up to.

Thank you very much SiFi and PianoYos! I appreciate your very kind words and inciteful comments. It means a lot to me!
Posted By: MichaelJK

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/21/19 03:12 AM

Really nice!

The audio is good, too. I guess we don't need real pianos anymore!
Posted By: wolfgangmeister

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/26/19 11:51 AM

Thank you MichaelJK!

Yes the performance was recorded via the ProRecord MIDI optical strip under my acoustic M&H BB keyboard; the audio was then generated using Vienna Symphonic Labs’ (VSL) Synchron Concert D VST with just three virtual mics; two at the bass and treble ends of the keyboard and one binaural at the tail end of the instrument. Not sure about not needing acoustics anymore though... I think having a high quality acoustic WNG action in my case (or perhaps for others’ a hybrid acoustic grand type action) is key to capturing the dynamics of a pianist’s playing!

Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Really nice!

The audio is good, too. I guess we don't need real pianos anymore!
Posted By: Vilhelm Moqvist

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 05/26/19 06:53 PM

That was wonderful! Great phrasing and you have a calmness about your playing that really suits this piece. A couple of things though. Sometimes I think you need to bring out the left hand more, for at example at 2:25 where the melody in the left hand is way more interesting than the right hand. Also, I'm not sure if it's because of the recording but I think you could have used more different dynamics. Right now, almost the entire piece was played in pp. Apart for these small things your performance was really wonderful, I really liked it!
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Franz Schubert - Impromptu in Gb Major, Op.90, No.3 - 06/03/19 10:49 PM

Very nicely played.
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