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#2430845 06/11/15 09:47 PM
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Over the past year or so I've been working through the Chopin etudes and I'm currently at the half-way mark. This collection of pieces represent an important event and milestone in my piano-playing career in that for the first time I was given direction: I felt like I would be able to consider myself a `decent' pianist if I am able to play (not perfectly but at least to a reasonable level), all of them.

Looking forward a bit, I'm wondering where to next? What is the next cycle/collection of pieces that could be considered a milestone? I feel like the Chopin etudes get talked about so much that it drowns out practically everything else. I'm considering looking at the Transcendental Etudes or Debussy's etudes next, but I'm looking for suggestions and recommendations.

So I'm basically asking: which collections of pieces (more advanced than Chopin's etudes) have you completed and thought of as a major (or perhaps minor) milestone in technical development?

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Getting the Chopin etudes clean, even and to the marked tempo wink
(seriously, 90% of my work on these has been during the last 10 bpm, and that's where most of the technical growth is imho)


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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp
I felt like I would be able to consider myself a `decent' pianist if I am able to play (not perfectly but at least to a reasonable level), all of them.

I'm considering looking at the Transcendental Etudes or Debussy's etudes next.

You should consider yourself an outstanding pianist if you can play all of Chopin's etudes to a reasonable level.

If you want to go with Liszt, you might want to consider the Paganini Etudes rather than the Transcendentals. I find them more accessible technically, though of course they're not easy, and they're very rewarding musically IMO (that's not to say the Transcendentals aren't). Debussy's are fabulous - can't go wrong there. Scriabin if you're feeling adventurous. Ligeti if you're feeling even more adventurous!

There's a vast repertory out there (I wrote a PhD on piano etudes and only got as far as 1851). I'm sure others will have lots of suggestions.


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I pick and choose and graze too much to play complete this or that (some of it out of technical necessity). I've gone most deeply into the Mozart Sonatas.

The "big three" seem to be . . .

Bach WTC
Beethoven Sonatas
Chopin Etudes

Does anybody master Clementi's Gradus ad Parnassum anymore? (Whole thing, not the Tausig selection.)

(Obviously, I do not accept that this has to be limited to post-Chopin.)


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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Getting the Chopin etudes clean, even and to the marked tempo wink
(seriously, 90% of my work on these has been during the last 10 bpm, and that's where most of the technical growth is imho)

I agree that being able to play the Chopin etudes well versus just reasonably well is an entirely different achievement in and of itself. I see this as perhaps more of a longer-term thing as it feels more productive to get everything under your fingers first and then refine versus perfecting each piece before moving onto the next.

Originally Posted by SiFi
There's a vast repertory out there (I wrote a PhD on piano etudes and only got as far as 1851). I'm sure others will have lots of suggestions.


Thank you for your suggestions! Will go have a listen to/research Scriabin and Ligeti's stuff. Is your Ph.D. available online anywhere? Be an interesting read I think.

Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi

(Obviously, I do not accept that this has to be limited to post-Chopin.)

Certainly not, though I think the further back we go, the further away from the instrument that is the modern piano we have today and the less relevant the technical aspect explored consequently become.

I think my lack of interest in Bach and Beethoven's works stem from my familiarity with those two stylistically, having always played their compositions back when I did graded exams. I would also say that these are less technical milestones and more so just general milestones, though I can't say I have much interest in pursuing them as of right now. I'll probably always keep some Beethoven in my repertoire (having studied Appassionata recently) and work my way up to Hammerklavier. Bach... I bought the second volume of WTC a year ago and still haven't touched it. I really should play it more but other things keep getting in the way.

The problem I personally have with grazing as you called it is that I don't get a sense of accomplishment from `finishing' something from it. There's something about definitively having played *all* of a collection of pieces that just appeals to me more so than playing a selection of stuff, and it is entirely possible that this appeal is only as a result of the fact that I've never done this before and that once I finish the Chopin etudes I won't care about it as much.

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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp
There's something about definitively having played *all* of a collection of pieces that just appeals to me more so than playing a selection of stuff, and it is entirely possible that this appeal is only as a result of the fact that I've never done this before and that once I finish the Chopin etudes I won't care about it as much.
Hm. What's motivating you? I am totally on board with trying to reach one's technical zenith. To do this by learning quality etudes, that is to say pieces where the musical concepts are a "pure" embodiment of the techniques encoded in them, is a classy way to accomplish that goal - Chopin and Debussy come closest to the perfect etude paradigm I think. But the complete collection thing? Not getting that. I don't know anyone who wants to learn the entire Gradus Ad Parnassum, as valuable as some of those pieces are in both a musical and a technical sense. On the other hand, I could understand someone wanting to learn all of Bach's Clavierubung, though getting pleasure from that fact alone would pale in comparison to the joy of being able to perform any single one of those master works perfectly.

So, again, are you motivated by something more than technical objectives? If so, the "free" music alternatives are numerous. I am learning Prokofiev right now, and it's given me a technical edge that I never had before - there's stuff in his piano music that requires a whole new way of looking at one's technical apparatus. Also, if you can play Chopin's etudes, that gives you a huge opportunity to grapple with his last works, things like the Fantasie and Polonaise Fantasie and Barcarolle; the musical and technical rewards of learning that music are just mind-blowing. (I actually want to start a thread about the sensual, quasi-erotic aspects of piano playing, with particular reference to the physical experience of practicing and performing the F minor Fantasie.)

Anyway, good luck with your efforts. Just don't waste time. There are some very cool etudes by Adolf Henselt (known in his time as the German Chopin) and Theodor Dohler, and, of course, Alkan, but you'd be bonkers to try and learn their complete sets. "Grazing" - not such a bad idea with those guys!


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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp
Is your Ph.D. available online anywhere? Be an interesting read I think.
Sorry, I meant to answer this in the last post. I think you can only get my dissertation via Inter-Library Loan, or whatever that's called now, from the British Library. Here's the specs if you want to follow up:
http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.356680

I reproduced some of my research in a chapter I wrote on Chopin's etudes for The Cambridge Companion To Chopin, edited by Jim Samson. If you want to waste $50 you can get that from CUP: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academi...century-music/cambridge-companion-chopin (actually there's some good stuff in the book, though as with etudes, grazing is a good idea).
Or you can read some of it on Google Books for free: https://books.google.com/books?id=s..._r&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false


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Originally Posted by SiFi

So, again, are you motivated by something more than technical objectives?


I forewent going into too much detail about my motivations to avoid a tl;dr kind of a post, but the problem I'm currently facing is that I dabble in arranging/transcribing music, and am running into technical issues with my own writing. This is preventing me from presenting my pieces to others and has been particularly frustrating to me. I would like to achieve a level of technical ability where I can practically write whatever I want and be able to play it instead of having to invest a ton of time practising my own pieces before I can record them.

While I'm probably more technique-obsessed than I would admit or ought to be, I do see technique as a means to an end, the end being the ability to play whatever music you want without being limited or constrained by technical challenges. I see technique as kind of a pre-requisite to everything else, so I'm trying to develop myself in that direction first. My bias for studying etudes over other stuff also comes from my ears being stupid and there being relatively few pieces I want to learn because I like their sound so I just stick to stuff that would develop my technique.

Originally Posted by SiFi

But the complete collection thing? Not getting that.


I put the Chopin etudes on this pedestal because there is this general consensus that, as you say, if you are able to solve its difficulties then you are amongst the few rather than the majority. When viewed in isolation, I think these etudes aren't that impressive as they only drill one particular technical problem and are in simple Ternary form; but viewed as a whole, I consider it to be the greatest work I've studied yet, hence my desire to finish it.

Also, a big part of the reason why I hold these etudes in such high esteem is the fact that IMHO, there are only a select few that are uninspiring while a majority of them are worth playing. The economical value of this set of pieces is thus far in my journey unmatched, and so I ask not because I'm short on money (since I pretty much only ever buy Henle's editions or as my teacher calls them, ``the expensive blue-covered German editions that everyone likes nowadays'') but for the sake of interest, is there a bigger cousin to the Chopin etudes in terms of being just as economical and rewarding but harder, better and greater in every way? Because certainly if this thing existed, one'd think it'd be the next milestone along in this journey to acquiring an all-encompassing technique.

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We've all forgotten the Debussy Etudes (or haven't singled them out enough).

Brahms 51 Exercises, too.

On the musical end, Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis.


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Personally, I'd go for Lyapunov's Transcendental Études.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp
Originally Posted by SiFi

So, again, are you motivated by something more than technical objectives?


I forewent going into too much detail about my motivations to avoid a tl;dr kind of a post, but the problem I'm currently facing is that I dabble in arranging/transcribing music, and am running into technical issues with my own writing. This is preventing me from presenting my pieces to others and has been particularly frustrating to me. I would like to achieve a level of technical ability where I can practically write whatever I want and be able to play it instead of having to invest a ton of time practising my own pieces before I can record them.

While I'm probably more technique-obsessed than I would admit or ought to be, I do see technique as a means to an end, the end being the ability to play whatever music you want without being limited or constrained by technical challenges. I see technique as kind of a pre-requisite to everything else, so I'm trying to develop myself in that direction first. My bias for studying etudes over other stuff also comes from my ears being stupid and there being relatively few pieces I want to learn because I like their sound so I just stick to stuff that would develop my technique.

Originally Posted by SiFi

But the complete collection thing? Not getting that.


I put the Chopin etudes on this pedestal because there is this general consensus that, as you say, if you are able to solve its difficulties then you are amongst the few rather than the majority. When viewed in isolation, I think these etudes aren't that impressive as they only drill one particular technical problem and are in simple Ternary form; but viewed as a whole, I consider it to be the greatest work I've studied yet, hence my desire to finish it.

Also, a big part of the reason why I hold these etudes in such high esteem is the fact that IMHO, there are only a select few that are uninspiring while a majority of them are worth playing. The economical value of this set of pieces is thus far in my journey unmatched, and so I ask not because I'm short on money (since I pretty much only ever buy Henle's editions or as my teacher calls them, ``the expensive blue-covered German editions that everyone likes nowadays'') but for the sake of interest, is there a bigger cousin to the Chopin etudes in terms of being just as economical and rewarding but harder, better and greater in every way? Because certainly if this thing existed, one'd think it'd be the next milestone along in this journey to acquiring an all-encompassing technique.


The true cousin to the Chopin etudes, are the Godowsky transcriptions of them. Not only do they balance out the challenges of the originals to the other hand; they also enhance your understanding of the technical and musical concerns of the originals.

To get Godowsky, you have to really like his polyphonic, layered approach, chromatic voice leading, penchant for the variation form, and his willingness to transform other composer's (and his own) ideas into something different.

He's really about the elaboration of simpler or more familiar ideas, requiring you to be truly familiar with the original work from all points of view (performance, composition, and as a listener), to appreciate and get the most of the transcriptions.

Even the more "strict" transcriptions for the left hand are interesting (if less so imo) because they are studies on the effect of register from both a physical-technical performance point of view, and how register manipulations effects the musical output compared to the original.

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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
We've all forgotten the Debussy Etudes (or haven't singled them out enough).
Actually, they're mentioned by the OP once and twice by me, singling them out as "fabulous" and "close to perfect" (or something like that).


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If you master Opp. 10 and 25, you're pretty darn good!! So many different kinds of technical difficulties.

After that? Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Scriabin, Prokofiev, and most Alkan etudes will be quite accessible to you. You could even try some Godowsky studies on Chopin's etudes.

You might shoot for more Preludes and Fugues or more Mozart or Beethoven sonatas as well, those are all very good technical study, as well as great music!

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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp


.....While I'm probably more technique-obsessed than I would admit or ought to be......


Though I admit that I've only played a handful of them at performance tempo during the last 25 years, I've been revisiting the whole lot over the last couple of weeks - probably because I am more poetry-obsessed than I would admit or ought to be smile

Enjoy the rite of passage........


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Originally Posted by ttttcrngyblflpp
Originally Posted by SiFi

So, again, are you motivated by something more than technical objectives?


I forewent going into too much detail about my motivations to avoid a tl;dr kind of a post, but the problem I'm currently facing is that I dabble in arranging/transcribing music, and am running into technical issues with my own writing.


What type of music are you arranging/transcribing? The techniques vary greatly from period to period (e.g. Baroque vs Romantic). If you are doing Baroque music then Chopin etudes (Romantic era etudes in general) are not that useful...

If you are doing Classical music (Mozart/Beethoven etc) you can try Liszt's transcription for Beethoven quartet/symphonies and play those as etudes...

For more modern music (post 1950s), Ligeti etudes are more relevant in terms of technique than Chopin etudes...


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