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Joined: Feb 2021
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Jun-Dai Offline OP
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Thank you all for the kind comments. And for the suggestions — I'm not likely to try recording it again any time soon, but I'm sure I'll continue to play this piece for the rest of my life, so the suggestions have been great food for thought, and thank you for that.

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Originally Posted by zonzi
I suppose the general rule is that you can do every thing that is not marked against.

I don't quite agree with this statement. It's too simplistic, for starters, but to me it sort of misses what one is generally trying to achieve as a pianist. There are both things that are marked that you can definitely choose to violate if you feel it brings you closer to a "correct" interpretation, and there are unmarked interpretations that would violate norms or lead to really questionable interpretations despite there being no prohibition in the score (from the extreme: holding the pedal down for this whole piece, for example, would sound awful and violate pretty much every normal of piano pedalling for this sort of piece). For the former, there are plenty of examples in the Rondo — this was written for a fortepiano and since it's generally played on a modern piano a lot of the explicit instructions need to be reinterpreted, and I think you'll find this is universal: I don't think any concert pianist playing this piece on a modern piano will obey every mark in the score, because doing so does not make sense for the instrument.

One example: the score only uses p and f — IIRC, there is no mp, mf, or ff to be found in the score. And the p and f are often placed in very odd places in the score. On the fortepiano, there's not a lot of subtlety to be had in the dynamics (it's sort of halfway between a harpsichord and a piano this way), so the subtlety is woven into the piece in other ways. But if you play the dynamics in this binary manner, you will sound like you don't really know how to play dynamics at all, so any sensible pianist will work out for themselves what the dynamics should be, using the notation purely as a guideline to give some sense of what is intended. I have found no recording that obeys all the marked dynamics.

I think in general, when you are trying to interpret a piece, you are trying to navigate a few trains of thought simultaneously:

* respecting what you think the composer intended
* understanding the instrument you are playing on (and how this differs from the one it was composed for), and making adjustments in your interpretation
* understanding the norms for performing music from this period
* figuring out what sounds best
* working out an interpretation of the piece that makes sense as a cohesive whole (this does not mean playing everything consistently, it just means that it has to make sense)

Obviously one has constraints on time and energy, etc., and the composer is dead in many cases, so you can't really pepper them with questions (and that may not be relevant anyways, since the composer you're trying to respect is your idealised version of the composer, not the actual human person, who may not even be the best interpreter of their own work — think of George Lucas and his Star Wars revisions :-P)

If you are playing for a competition, you'll want to lean heavily on the "norms" side of things, but to really stand out you still have to figure out how to make it beautiful as well, within a load of constraints. If you are just playing for yourself (as I am), you have no such constraints, but I think all of the above still apply.

I think the key in classical music is that you have to create your idea of what "correct" is, and then strive for it — and that includes both what is notated and what is not notated. Your idea of correct is never fully achievable, and it will never perfectly match anyone else's idea of correct, and it will change over time as you rethink your interpretation, but I think the process itself is still very important. And sometimes there will be choices and your choice of "correct" will be somewhat arbitrary — maybe you'll have a few ideas of correct that you're switching between, but in any given performance you're working with one idea of what it is you are trying to do. While many versions of "correct" are solid interpretations that will be appreciated by most people that know the piece, there are a lot of interpretations that will fall outside that, in which case you'll either want to revisit your interpretation, or just decide that you're okay with this.

The two things that triggered the biggest shift in my thinking of this piece:

Watching Malcolm Bilson's talk about interpr...rtepiano and Mozart (highly recommended).

Listening repeatedly to the Argerich's 1965 sublime recording of the Chopin Sonata No. 3 that was rediscovered in 1999 and trying to understand why this particular recording really stands out — this made me realise that there's a way of cherishing the individual notes in a piece that I had sort of lost in my interpretation. I've been thinking about it this way: I think an okay pianist can get the details right but can't grasp the bigger picture. A good pianist can really get the bigger picture to work. But a great pianist brings out great beauty in the details in a way that works with the whole. The difference between an okay pianist and a good pianist is in the bigger picture, but the difference between a good pianist and a great pianist is more in the details.

I'm no Argerich, but after that mini-epiphany I rethought my whole interpretation. I'd done okay with the bigger picture and had sort of thought I'd reached the "good enough" point to move onto other pieces, but somehow I wasn't quite satisfied. So I thought through all the details of the piece again in light of this, and after several months decided that, although I was not done, it was time to make a recording and move onto something else if I wanted to have any time to work on other pieces.



Also: Mozart is a pain in the ass. For some reason I sweat over Mozart in a way that I never do over Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, or Chopin.

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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
Originally Posted by zonzi
I suppose the general rule is that you can do every thing that is not marked against.

I don't quite agree with this statement. It's too simplistic, for starters, but to me it sort of misses what one is generally trying to achieve as a pianist. There are both things that are marked that you can definitely choose to violate if you feel it brings you closer to a "correct" interpretation, and there are unmarked interpretations that would violate norms or lead to really questionable interpretations despite there being no prohibition in the score (from the extreme: holding the pedal down for this whole piece, for example, would sound awful and violate pretty much every normal of piano pedalling for this sort of piece). For the former, there are plenty of examples in the Rondo — this was written for a fortepiano and since it's generally played on a modern piano a lot of the explicit instructions need to be reinterpreted, and I think you'll find this is universal: I don't think any concert pianist playing this piece on a modern piano will obey every mark in the score, because doing so does not make sense for the instrument.

One example: the score only uses p and f — IIRC, there is no mp, mf, or ff to be found in the score. And the p and f are often placed in very odd places in the score. On the fortepiano, there's not a lot of subtlety to be had in the dynamics (it's sort of halfway between a harpsichord and a piano this way), so the subtlety is woven into the piece in other ways. But if you play the dynamics in this binary manner, you will sound like you don't really know how to play dynamics at all, so any sensible pianist will work out for themselves what the dynamics should be, using the notation purely as a guideline to give some sense of what is intended. I have found no recording that obeys all the marked dynamics.

I think in general, when you are trying to interpret a piece, you are trying to navigate a few trains of thought simultaneously:

* respecting what you think the composer intended
* understanding the instrument you are playing on (and how this differs from the one it was composed for), and making adjustments in your interpretation
* understanding the norms for performing music from this period
* figuring out what sounds best
* working out an interpretation of the piece that makes sense as a cohesive whole (this does not mean playing everything consistently, it just means that it has to make sense)

Obviously one has constraints on time and energy, etc., and the composer is dead in many cases, so you can't really pepper them with questions (and that may not be relevant anyways, since the composer you're trying to respect is your idealised version of the composer, not the actual human person, who may not even be the best interpreter of their own work — think of George Lucas and his Star Wars revisions :-P)

If you are playing for a competition, you'll want to lean heavily on the "norms" side of things, but to really stand out you still have to figure out how to make it beautiful as well, within a load of constraints. If you are just playing for yourself (as I am), you have no such constraints, but I think all of the above still apply.

I think the key in classical music is that you have to create your idea of what "correct" is, and then strive for it — and that includes both what is notated and what is not notated. Your idea of correct is never fully achievable, and it will never perfectly match anyone else's idea of correct, and it will change over time as you rethink your interpretation, but I think the process itself is still very important. And sometimes there will be choices and your choice of "correct" will be somewhat arbitrary — maybe you'll have a few ideas of correct that you're switching between, but in any given performance you're working with one idea of what it is you are trying to do. While many versions of "correct" are solid interpretations that will be appreciated by most people that know the piece, there are a lot of interpretations that will fall outside that, in which case you'll either want to revisit your interpretation, or just decide that you're okay with this.

The two things that triggered the biggest shift in my thinking of this piece:

Watching Malcolm Bilson's talk about interpr...rtepiano and Mozart (highly recommended).

Listening repeatedly to the Argerich's 1965 sublime recording of the Chopin Sonata No. 3 that was rediscovered in 1999 and trying to understand why this particular recording really stands out — this made me realise that there's a way of cherishing the individual notes in a piece that I had sort of lost in my interpretation. I've been thinking about it this way: I think an okay pianist can get the details right but can't grasp the bigger picture. A good pianist can really get the bigger picture to work. But a great pianist brings out great beauty in the details in a way that works with the whole. The difference between an okay pianist and a good pianist is in the bigger picture, but the difference between a good pianist and a great pianist is more in the details.

I'm no Argerich, but after that mini-epiphany I rethought my whole interpretation. I'd done okay with the bigger picture and had sort of thought I'd reached the "good enough" point to move onto other pieces, but somehow I wasn't quite satisfied. So I thought through all the details of the piece again in light of this, and after several months decided that, although I was not done, it was time to make a recording and move onto something else if I wanted to have any time to work on other pieces.

Also: Mozart is a pain in the ass. For some reason I sweat over Mozart in a way that I never do over Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, or Chopin.
Very thoughtful and interesting.

Joined: Feb 2019
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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
The two things that triggered the biggest shift in my thinking of this piece:

Watching Malcolm Bilson's talk about interpr...rtepiano and Mozart (highly recommended).

The Malcom Bilson videos (he made a couple) are all very interesting and certainly the outcome of a great musician.

Joined: Jul 2020
Posts: 322
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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
Originally Posted by zonzi
I suppose the general rule is that you can do every thing that is not marked against.

I don't quite agree with this statement. It's too simplistic, for starters, but to me it sort of misses what one is generally trying to achieve as a pianist. There are both things that are marked that you can definitely choose to violate if you feel it brings you closer to a "correct" interpretation, and there are unmarked interpretations that would violate norms or lead to really questionable interpretations despite there being no prohibition in the score (from the extreme: holding the pedal down for this whole piece, for example, would sound awful and violate pretty much every normal of piano pedalling for this sort of piece). For the former, there are plenty of examples in the Rondo — this was written for a fortepiano and since it's generally played on a modern piano a lot of the explicit instructions need to be reinterpreted, and I think you'll find this is universal: I don't think any concert pianist playing this piece on a modern piano will obey every mark in the score, because doing so does not make sense for the instrument.
....
very interesting post.
I agree I was too simplistic.
My personal point is that the music sheet is comparable to a tourism guide. The pianist decides how to use it and how to adapt it to his situation and his sentiment. The pianist can impersonalization the feeling of composer, or can express his own feeling, or eventually make big changes and incorporate them into some other music styles like rock'n roll, hard metal, or another classic like music etc.
The idea of building "a "correct" interpretation" is troubling me a lot. As I understand the pianist should first build a hypothetical "perfect model" and the practice should be focused on reshape the sound to match this "perfect model". The pianist knows almost the ideal stable outcome. I agree absolutely with this approach. Here I just want to remember that the music I have learned is to express an instant emotion, which is not stable and it is difficult to know it before.
Quote
....
I think in general, when you are trying to interpret a piece, you are trying to navigate a few trains of thought simultaneously:

....
I just want to remember that the art means very particular....

Anyway I also find Mozart very interesting, it could be worked on for a very long period of time with always interesting discovers.
Another big compliment for this interpretation.


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Originally Posted by zonzi
The idea of building "a "correct" interpretation" is troubling me a lot. As I understand the pianist should first build a hypothetical "perfect model" and the practice should be focused on reshape the sound to match this "perfect model". The pianist knows almost the ideal stable outcome. I agree absolutely with this approach. Here I just want to remember that the music I have learned is to express an instant emotion, which is not stable and it is difficult to know it before.

There are defined "standard" ways of playing a certain music, in this case Mozart. At least that is how we collectively define what we understand how the music is supposed to be played to be historically justified. Of course it does not have to be historically justified and Bach for example has been played during the 19th century and early 20th century in a way that is now considered too romantic. I think interpretative patterns follow certain trends which are reinforced by the standardized teaching in conservatories and also the competition norms.

Within this set of norms, there is still some amount of latitude to shape a given interpretation. Also the idea that the score contains everything we need to know makes little sense. For Mozart in particular we know that some indications are not from Mozart himself but from the editors, in other cases Mozart did not write any or very few indications. In the case of Bach, there are not even any tempo nor dynamics indication and finally it is in fact very complicated to actually indicate in writing the particular effect that one has in mind.

So at the end, choosing an interpretation is a matter of "good taste", which is a rather undefined idea and that is subject to time stamped conventions and some personal musical choices. The issue is that to make choices implies knowledge (a lot) and musical sensitivity. To create a consistent interpretation takes an awfull amount of skills, technically (to be able to play it) and musically.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
BTW, it is one of my favorite Mozart piece, and in fact one of my favorite piano piece in the whole litterature.

Same here. It is an extraordinary work, possibly the most expressive thing he ever wrote.


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