Can you give me an example?
(i.e. examples of the tempo stuff)
It'll be part of this larger comment which I had said I'd be doing.
Kuan: As I said in the 1st post and again thereafter, I like a great deal of what you're doing. As per Poly's 1st post I don't really get why you'd want to post a recording at such a stage; you clearly hadn't really finished even what we might call the basic learning of the movement. But there it is, and we can already see that there's a lot of excellent stuff to work with here. But some simply isn't (sorry for the flat-outness; I'm actually putting it that way mainly for the those who got indigestion from what I've said before, maybe to desensitize them about it a little and help them realize that sometimes such flat-out statements are valid)
....some simply isn't. It's totally just the tempo stuff, and indeed I'll be very specific.
To put sort of a frame around the tempo stuff, and to make it clear right off the bat (or at least I think it ought to be) that there's some great inconsistency
going on, which is a much bigger issue than how slow it might be: Your total timing for the movement is about 10 minutes, which is much longer than most people but forget that -- I'm hardly counting that. You begin the movement at a tempo of just about exactly 104 to the quarter note, which is close to how most people play it -- a little slower but close. If you maintained that tempo through the piece, the total timing would have been about 7:40, not 10 minutes. That's how much you slow down: enough to make it average out to a third longer. I don't mean that there can't be ebbs and flows of tempo, or that the 2nd theme (especially) can't be slower than the opening theme. And there are sonata movements where it's fine to have greatly differing tempos within the movement, and some that just about call for it. But I think we can safely say that this absolutely isn't a movement like that, and that it's not a movement where you can have some parts that are only about half as fast as the main theme. OK -- so much for math. I'll go through the piece, including a lot about good stuff, as well as some 'for the heck of it' stuff.
The opening is extremely strong, and with very nice changes of tone and color in the different phrases on the first page. You move toward the surprise B-flat harmony of m. 17 and set it up very beautifully and movingly -- great job! I think it could be even better if you played those converging 16th-note figures of mm. 14-16 quicker and with more space between them, i.e. the notes a bit quicker and the rests a bit longer, and I think this is where you start losing the feel of the tempo a little (it's subtle), but still the overall set-up is great.
Backing up to the opening: Here's something that's not really a criticism, because just about everybody does what you're doing
.....so 'it's not you, it's me.' It's about those chords in the second half of m. 2 (and again in m. 4 and elsewhere). You play them staccato. So does just about everyone. And many editions show
I never felt those chords that way, and never played them like that. I interpreted the staccato markings as meaning 'very well articulated,' and that's all. I saw the motif as more of a 'pleading, tugging' thing than a pointedly screaming proclamation.
And guess what: The manuscripts
might not have those staccato marks at all. When I recently got the Polish National edition of the sonatas, one of the first things I looked at was this. For what it's worth, what the edition shows on those chords is nothing
. No staccatos. (Also no slurs or anything else.) The edition has a separate booklet with discussion of what the various manuscripts show, with emphasis on places where the thing that they decided to put in the edition might differ from what any manuscript shows. And there's no commentary at all on this. I take that to mean that none of the manuscripts have those staccatos which most printed editions have and which most people play, and which never fit with any way that I could bring myself to see the piece.
Probably nobody will ever complain if you keep playing those chords as you do, and maybe they would complain if you change to how I'm saying
....but it looks like the way almost everybody has been playing it, at least in recent decades, is based on an editorial decision that was wrongly taken to be an authentic marking. OK, enough of that, back to the regularly scheduled show.
The second page is lovely, and interesting. You do the parallel 4ths beautifully, and seemingly with no struggle, which is never to be taken for granted. (Those are hard!
-- especially if we're talking about making music with them.) You do the counterpoint in the right hand extremely well, with no 'hiccups' due to the leaps, and the chromatic scales in the left hand are nicely clear, well-shaped, and nicely balanced to the right hand. Really an extraordinary job with this difficult page. You continue likewise in the rest of the material leading up to the 2nd theme, with a lot of 'soul' in these pages that can easily sound like just an exercise or a jumble of notes.
The lovely 2nd theme is absolutely lovely. This is truly excellent Chopin playing, beautiful playing of what some might say is the most beautiful melody ever written. (I do.)
However, I think you take the tempo down to where it starts not fitting with the whole piece, and feeling too discontinuous from the opening. It sounds to me as though you've switched to a different piece.
BTW, it's a beautiful little touch, the way you give such life to the little left hand motif at 3:00. Rarely done!!
However, right after that is where I think the tempo stuff moves from "Is that OK? maybe maybe it is...." to "No it's not." It's not just a matter of the pure speed itself but of the nature of the phrase, and with it seeming like the tempo isn't a musical choice but a sacrifice to the difficulty of the passage.
The passage at m. 66 is marked leggiero
. We could debate what leggiero means, and we might have all kinds of different ideas about it, but the one thing it certainly doesn't mean is that you start dragging the tempo even more. The problem with it isn't that you're not slavishly following an indication; it's that the way you're playing it, especially with the dragging tempo, negates what the passage is. I'm trying to be careful about this next thing I'm going to say because I can already hear the accusations of arrogance etc. etc., but all I can say is that I can imagine that people who don't know the piece very well might find it fine what you're doing -- and it is
beautiful if we just take it on its own terms -- but those who do know it very well might tend to be getting a message that you're just slowing down extra because it's kind of hard, and to become a little skeptical about your main motivations about the tempo in general. (I'll be interested to know whether others who do know the piece well have any similar feeling about this part.)
The beautiful closing part of the exposition, which you indeed play beautifully
....well however, it's marked "in tempo" and you're playing it about 25% slower than the opening.
The development section is very good, except....
you do pick up the tempo for it, but it's still considerably slower than the opening (I mean even the first part of the dev. section, before getting to the lyrical stuff). I think you'd have a hard time justifying that.
The passage from mm. 133-137 drags in a way that makes it sound (at least to me, and again I'd guess to most people who know the piece well) ....that makes it sound like you just haven't learned this part or that you just don't have a feel for what's going on there. I don't mean that it has to 'fly,' but it seems clearly to be a passage that calls for some drive and momentum. I wouldn't make such an issue of it, nor of any of the tempo stuff, and really would probably hardly think of it -- I'd write it all off to your just being at a mid-stage with the piece -- except that you make such a point of saying that the tempos reflect what you think you really want to do. I'm betting that to a large extent -- not totally but to a large extent -- they are
technical concessions, and that as you get the piece more into you, you won't be wanting to be slowing down so much compared to the opening. (I think you'll probably play the opening a little bit faster too, which is pretty par-for-the-course with stuff like this.)
Then the recap -- again, what's beautiful is very beautiful. I don't want to lose it in the shuffle that you have a very nice feel for Chopin. BTW it sounds like you didn't really learn the last page yet, like you had gone through the rest of the piece and thought you knew the end well enough to give this a run through for the microphone.
I hope some of this may be helpful. Anyway, it's what I think.