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I’m 65 yrs old, have been playing a year since NOT playing for 40 yrs (not a misprint) and am taking lessons. My teacher wants me to play Chopin’s Op. 9 No. 2 in a recital next month, and I probably will if I’m in town. I like my teacher and he has helped me ALOT as I only took lessons for about 18 months....in the late ‘60’s, but.....I played Chopin’s KK IVb Nr. 8 and after I finished, he sat there for several seconds and then said, ‘you’re playing it with a lot of rubato.....and you really shouldn’t be’. I told him that’s the way my heart and soul ‘felt’ it should be played, because it’s a very emotional and full of passion, but he didn’t really agree. And that’s the problem.

I played him the first page of Op 9 No 1 and really nailed the two poly rhythm sections, but again....a little to much rubato...

I’m 65 and playing the piano for the pure enjoyment of it, the pure ‘passion’ of the music....not for playing it
Correctly.

Any thoughts?

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You should play the piece the way that YOU like it.

That said, you have to make sure that it's really how you LIKE it, and not that eg the rubato is because you can't keep proper timing or because of technical issues. Or, and this is tricky, that you like it that way just because it's how you played it many times already.

Also, you are taking lessons to learn about music. rubato is a way to give a shape to the piece, just like dynamics, slurring, etc. It does not work to put rubato just everywhere, it needs to be used judiciously for the proper effects. Maybe your teacher is trying to teach how and where to use it?


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You might want to ask this over in the Adult Beginners Forum - you will get a lot of opinions!

First off, you are paying the teacher, so you are the boss. But you are paying the teacher because he has more experience than you. The teacher should be helping you to develop your musical taste, which includes telling you when you are straying away from the appropriate "style" for a particular historical period. On the other hand, there is a fairly wide range of interpretation that might be acceptable for a particular style.

Let me ask you this - can you play it "straight"? Or are you using the rubato to mask underlying problems with playing the piece? Your first goal should be to play it straight with correct rhythm and counting, and then add rubato later. Can you do that? If not, you need to back up and correct your problems first.

Can you find a recording by a pro (not another amateur) that takes the same amount of liberties that you want to take? If not, that might be a good indication that you have strayed too far.

Too much rubato causes listeners to lose the sense of the beat and the timing. Can they still follow the melody? Can they still hear the start of measures? and so forth...

Just some thoughts.

Sam

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I’m just a student. If you’re not already doing it, my suggestion is you record and listen to yourself. Sometimes the way my heart feels it should be played doesn’t translate how I think it will sound to those that hear it— and needs a little refinement so that my intent is actually translated into what I, and my audience, hear.

I would also discuss with your teacher other ways of conveying the passion you feel: it might be a crescendo in a phrase, a subito piano, different emphasis.

Lastly, listen to a few great recordings: not to copy what they have done, as your interpretation will have differences, but a little analysis. ‘I used rubato here, what did they do? Is it still passionate? ‘


Having a lot of inner emotion is wonderful. but the tricky part is for your audience to hear what you are trying to convey.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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I need to clarify and expound on this: Nocturnes seem to have more ‘leeway’ for rubato then Mozart. I’ve started a Mozart, per my teachers instructions, and I ‘feel’ zero need to stretch/condense any bar(s), or ‘rubato’ anywhere. Yes, I can play it ‘straight’ and it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. I’ve listened to numerous concert pianists play these pieces, along with several Beethoven pieces I play, and there is a wide range of.......some of them seem to be playing just the ‘notes’, technically perfect, but..... my go to pianist, for anything, is Claudio Arrau. I haven’t heard him play anything that I don’t love.

Now, some of our differences are very minor, e.g. how much crescendo, or poco rallent to use.

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Since Arrau is your ‘go to’ pianist, have you compared a recording of yourself to his recording?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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OP - taste in rubato has changed and continues to change. May I suggest having a peek at a book called "Stolen Time"? If you don't have time or inclination for the whole book, there's a review of it here that does a good job of encapsulating what was written about Chopin's rubato on p. 197. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1181&context=ppr

If you find what's written compelling, share it with your teacher.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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Originally Posted by Sam S
. . . Let me ask you this - can you play it "straight"? Or are you using the rubato to mask underlying problems with playing the piece? Your first goal should be to play it straight with correct rhythm and counting, and then add rubato later. Can you do that? If not, you need to back up and correct your problems first.
. . .

+1.

And -- to judge how much rubato you're actually using, _listen to yourself on a recording_!

Often, we are too busy playing, to really hear how we sound --
. . . but your teacher's ears aren't deceived.<g>

Of course, you may decide that your taste is better than his. But you should only do that _after_ you can play it as he thinks it should be played.

And to be fair, you should judge "which sounds better" by listening to your own recordings of each style.


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My student, 73, after a huge break of tens of years has a similar story. I gave him Schumann's Träumerei ; and after a couple of lessons he began to play a piece with a pretentious, exaggeratedly mannered rubato. And his explanation was the same phrase: "This is how I feel!".I realized that this problem needs at least two lessons, which should include, first of all, understanding the concept of rubato as a kind of flowing time, but not driving during rush hours: gas, brake, gas, brake.The next stage: detailed analysis of the structures of the musical text with subsequent integration into larger architectural forms; and in the end - into a whole work. This type of work is called "from particulars to the whole".
The style of execution mentioned in the OP refers only to the first stage of work: stratification into small structures, without taking into account the wider picture.

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Seymour Bernstein said about Rubato: "Rob Paul but don't pay Peter" meaning that one shouldn't necessarily make up for the "lost" time

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Where do I start....I can play it ‘straight’ and have done so for my teacher and he has said ‘YES, that exactly the way it’s done’, but I do NOT like the sound, the tone, the expression, etc, etc. Last night, while my wife was making dinner, I played Op 9 No 2, in the manner my teacher said ‘YES’ too. Half way through it, she said, ‘What are you doing? Go back to the way you use to play it.’ Hmmmm....... This morning I listened to Arrau and my wife walked by and said ‘Sounds like you.’ THANK YOU Lover!!!!

Point is, I’ve listened to ALOT of pianists play classical music and some don’t sound good. They may sound great to others, but to my ear, heart and sound....the music is lacking. Again, I’m 65 and playing for me.

Thank you for your responses. I appreciate them.

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As a member of the audience I'd prefer a performance that half love and half hate to a soon forgotten routine rendition. No doubt it will be far from routine and, who knows, everyone will love it.


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Originally Posted by 3B43
Point is, I’ve listened to ALOT of pianists play classical music and some don’t sound good. They may sound great to others, but to my ear, heart and sound....the music is lacking. Again, I’m 65 and playing for me.
As a teacher, I'd just say: play what you like, in any way you like.


"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 brennbaer
Seymour Bernstein said about Rubato: "Rob Paul but don't pay Peter" meaning that one shouldn't necessarily make up for the "lost" time

Heinrich Neuhaus says the opposite. He also recommended that first play the piece in a head or sing it out loud while conducting with hands.

One of the requirements of a "healthy" rhythm is that the sum of accelerations and decelerations, in general, rhythmic changes in the work, be equal to some constant, so that the arithmetic mean of the rhythm (that is, the time required to perform the work, divided by a unit of reference, for example, a quarter) is also
permanent.

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I think others have touched on this but I want to expand further:

First off, set aside your ego for just a second. It *could* be that the way you like it is actually not very good and your ear hasn't quite developed yet. This *may not* be the case, but always bare in mind it could be.

So then your next course of action should always be when your teacher (who is far more experienced and knowledgeable than you) makes a suggestion, to instead just do it. To test whether or not you really like it, you should record it the way your teacher likes, record it the way you like, and critically listen to both playthroughs. But don't half-ass your teacher's suggestion. Really take it to heart and perfect it and play it like they ask. If you find you still like your interpretation more then, as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it. But you may find in months or years that actually your teacher was right and you should have listened to him/her all along.

I would consider myself an intermediate pianist and in a couple years I will probably approach advanced/collegiate level, and every single suggestion my piano instructor (whom I've only studied with for about a year, after about 10 years of no instruction whatsoever) makes I just nod my head and do what she says. I don't even question her. Nine times out of ten she is correct, and that other one time I go home and think about it and decide that I won't actually take up her suggestion. In the moment, during our instruction, when she suggests a change, I do it as she asks.


My youtube channel where I discuss theory, performance, cover some tunes, etc.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCruDLJseRHB_04Zwz0NXVGg
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Can you post a recording here? It might make your situation easier to analyze. Sit in silence, close your eyes and listen to RECORDINGS of you're playing and that which your teacher prefers, side by side, critically. Do you still think that you're version is better? That's the question you really need to ask here. I wouldn't play my pieces different from how I hear them unless my teacher can convince me. I'm usually polite about it, of course -- but I just keep prodding until it makes sense to me.

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As far as I'm concerned, blind conformity does not have a place in art. However, you need to try to observe what you create critically. Sometimes a nice emotional idea will morph into cloying sentimentality when taken too far, as is often the case with excessive rubato. When you want to pay attention to whether you think the rubato is excessive, make sure to listen to longer segments, say around 16 measures, at a time. For example, if you have a kind of "pulling" gesture in the first 4 bars, and then another pull in the next 4, and then another pull after that, it probably doesn't make sense because there is no balance. See if you can listen to the recording and hear an overarching narrative, a natural rise and fall which makes sense to you.

I have not always implemented the suggestions which my teachers have given me, and have disagreed quite often. It seems a pity that so many people are just taught to execute the motions. In that case, I might as well listen to a recording and hear someone who actually has something to say about the music! Stick to your guns, OP, and make sure you understand why your teacher wants you to do things a certain way.

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Well.....I did record my playing on my iPhone (how good is that?) and the time I played it in is w/in 10 secs of Arrau and that extra time is coming from the way I play the last few bars. The main area of concern is the way I play bar #12/#20....this is Op 9 No 2. KK IVb Nr 8 I will continue to play the way I am.

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BTW.....the recordings, played my way/his way sounded.....not the way I’m hearing them when I play them. I played the recordings for my wife and she said the recording sounded ‘tinnie’...not the way it sounds ‘live’.

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Originally Posted by 3B43
BTW.....the recordings, played my way/his way sounded.....not the way I’m hearing them when I play them. I played the recordings for my wife and she said the recording sounded ‘tinnie’...not the way it sounds ‘live’.
Yes...If you're recording on an iPhone, that is the tradeoff you will have to make. When doing quick recordings like that it's best to look past the quality and instead listen only to your performance. Dynamics, articulation, tempo, phrasing, etc. A lot of that stuff should still come through well enough that you can critique yourself.


My youtube channel where I discuss theory, performance, cover some tunes, etc.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCruDLJseRHB_04Zwz0NXVGg
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