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#3164323 10/15/21 03:43 PM
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In this video, Richter places his finger on the piano for a brief moment and then begins to play. It happens at about 00:20, I was wondering if anyone knows why or why you think he does it.


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Don't overthink it.

Classical pianists do all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff prior to touching the keyboard. (I don't, but I'm a notable exception smirk .)

Some look heavenwards to the composer for inspiration (or maybe a fly on the ceiling for the same), others take 3 deep breaths with eyes closed, while others just launch themselves at the keyboard like a tiger (or tigress) on its prey. Others even try to break their fingers by cracking them loudly.

Richter is most certainly not stretching his finger: his hand span is bigger than Rach's.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Don't overthink it.

Classical pianists do all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff prior to touching the keyboard. (I don't, but I'm a notable exception smirk .)

Some look heavenwards to the composer for inspiration (or maybe a fly on the ceiling for the same), others take 3 deep breaths with eyes closed, while others just launch themselves at the keyboard like a tiger (or tigress) on its prey. Others even try to break their fingers by cracking them loudly.

Richter is most certainly not stretching his finger: his hand span is bigger than Rach's.

Hmm, well for the most part you're not wrong. But what he's doing is very very specific. I was more thinking along the lines of him doing it in regard to his posture (somehow) or his technique, he does it right after shifting forward briefly, when he places his finger there its as if he's using it as some sort of tool for alignment because he looks at where his finger is and then looks straight ahead as if to make sure he is 'central' or something. And considering that preceeding this, he sets up his feet at the pedals, I'd gather that he's positioning him self, but perhaps I am overthinking it.

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Originally Posted by Tatum125s
But what he's doing is very very specific.

If it wasn't specific, it wouldn't do him any good. All rituals are specific.

Quote
I was more thinking along the lines of him doing it in regard to his posture (somehow) or his technique, he does it right after shifting forward briefly, when he places his finger there its as if he's using it as some sort of tool for alignment because he looks at where his finger is and then looks straight ahead as if to make sure he is 'central' or something. And considering that preceeding this, he sets up his feet at the pedals, I'd gather that he's positioning him self, but perhaps I am overthinking it.
Have a look at any of his numerous videos on YT, where he walks on to the platform, sits down, and starts playing, and see whether he does any alignment the way you described....


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He doesn't do it in live performances, I didn't think he would either, its not a ritual then because he doesn't do it...ritualistically, and I never described it as a ritual, just specific, and richter isn't just any pianist. So are you saying you don't understand why he's doing it or that it's a weird and wonderful thing that he's doing before touching the keyboard ?

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Originally Posted by Tatum125s
He doesn't do it in live performances, I didn't think he would either, its not a ritual then because he doesn't do it...ritualistically, and I never described it as a ritual, just specific, and richter isn't just any pianist. So are you saying you don't understand why he's doing it or that it's a weird and wonderful thing that he's doing before touching the keyboard ?

I have no idea why he is doing it. But to me it seems like he is just testing or stretching his finger. Maybe an earlier pain or something like that. I doubt anybody can tell you for sure why exactly.

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Whose music is Richter first playing in this video?

Is it Mozart?

If it is not Mozart, I have a thought as to why he may have put his finger on the piano the way he did.

Jeanne W


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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
Whose music is Richter first playing in this video?

Is it Mozart?

If it is not Mozart, I have a thought as to why he may have put his finger on the piano the way he did.

Jeanne W

Schubert (they announce it as soon as he starts playing)


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Originally Posted by Carey
Schubert (they announce it as soon as he starts playing)

Yes opus 147, D575, the Andante.

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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
If it is not Mozart, I have a thought as to why he may have put his finger on the piano the way he did.

That is so interesting (really!).
Would love to know what you're thinking, including how it depends on this being other than Mozart.

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Originally Posted by Tatum125s
He doesn't do it in live performances, I didn't think he would either, its not a ritual then because he doesn't do it...ritualistically, and I never described it as a ritual, just specific, and richter isn't just any pianist. So are you saying you don't understand why he's doing it or that it's a weird and wonderful thing that he's doing before touching the keyboard ?
That's right. People do all sorts of unfathomable things. Just in the past few days, two different (unrelated) mothers brought their toddlers in, who were blinking hard every now and then, like owls (though I don't know how owls blink, not being an ornithologist). They wanted to know why. Who knows? Maybe they saw some other kid (or horror! - adult) doing it, and thought it was cool? Or they just wanted to annoy their parents? Or they just wanted to see me? cool

Whatever turns them on.......

So - maybe Richter, seeing that he was being filmed, did the very British thing called "touch wood": he did spend a lot of time in Britain, playing concerts at his friend Benjamin Britten's new concert hall in a converted barn in Snape Maltings, so he knew all about weird & wonderful British idiosyncrasies wink - entreating Schubert's ghost for help so that he didn't mess him up........


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Thanks for identifying the music Richter is playing. I did not think it sounded like Mozart and, of course, it isn't. And, yes, I did notice and thought I was hearing "Schubert" being announced at the beginning of the video, but was not confident, did not want to assume. A YouTube comment states Richter is playing:

Schubert op. 147
Chopin op. 12
Listz S.178

The first piece being practiced, more specifically, per Sidokar, is Schubert's opus 147, D575, the Andante. Thank you, Sidokar.

My contribution to this discussion, the "hunch" I had about why Richter was putting his finger on the piano and how it involves Mozart is, I'm afraid, going to be a disappointment, as those patient enough to read on will no doubt discover. But for those who may be curious enough to continue, here goes…

I studied the video and noticed:

• A stack of sheet music and music books is visible sitting on the piano, to the right and left of the piano music desk.

I studied Richter's actions in the video in which Richter:

1: Puts sheet music on the music desk of the piano.

2: Takes sheet music and places it on the stack of sheet music sitting on the left side of the piano.

3. Places his finger momentarily on the piano and appears to glance straight ahead for a split second.

4. Glances down at the keyboard for a moment,

5. Gazes to the left with head raised up a tad.

6. Begins to practice a Schubert composition.

Why my hunch had to do with Mozart:

• Freezing the video reveals "Mozart" is printed on the cover of the sheet music Richter takes and places on the stack of sheet music sitting on the left side of the piano.

I assumed:

• The sheet music Richter had initially placed on the piano music desk was of the Schubert's composition he intended to practice.

• The "Mozart" sheet music Richter moved and placed on a stack of sheet music sitting on the left side of the piano was taken from the stack of sheet music sitting on the right side of the piano (not from the piano's music desk).

Based on those assumptions, I guessed that Schubert sheet music was still sitting on the piano's music desk while Richter was practicing and…

Richter may have put his finger on the piano in order to initially glance at a particular point in the Schubert sheet music still sitting on the music desk; perhaps to reacquaint himself with a particular passage he wished to concentrate on for one reason or another. (It does appear when he continues on that he mostly is practicing this from memory.)

Unfortunately, my idea as to why Richter touched the piano with his finger prior to practicing was blown out of the water when I studied the video more closely. That's when I discovered at 1:30 min into the video, while Richter is practicing the Schubert piece, that the piano music desk is empty - there is no sheet music sitting on the piano music desk.

Sorry for the convoluted story. I struggled trying to make it easy to follow, not sure I succeeded.

So… Is this what most here think is happening in the video? That Richter places Mozart sheet music on the piano music desk, but then immediately removes it, and practices Schubert from memory with nothing at all - no sheet music - sitting on the piano music desk?

Further speculation…

Maybe…

… much ado about nothing; "it is what it is" and no reason for it.

.. the film clip was spliced and pieced together, Schubert sheet music really was sitting on the piano desk when he placed his finger on the piano and shoots a piercing glance forward, but this was somehow cut out of the clip.

...Maybe something had just occurred to him that was a bit of a revelation about how to play the piece that resulted in a somewhat auto-induced bodily motor response - the snapping of his finger against the piano, a "Eureeka!" moment.

…Who knows?

I, too, find this interesting and perplexing.

Jeanne W


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Yes, you're on the right track, Richter was very conscious of when cameras were recording in my opinion, I haven't delved too much into it as of yet but you should watch this video, it's amazing from start to finish - the camera work, shots and atmosphere created in this recording is phenomenal, some clever minds must have been behind this recording, if you enjoy film, you can appreciate some of the shots in this video. I've never seen a piano performance like this in my life, I'd expect at least one person to say that some of the shots take away from the performance but everyone's going to have a different opinion. Anyway, I've got a hunch that Richter himself was involved in the way this was recorded and produced, even if he was involved in the most minor way - and his eyes peirce forward in this video also.



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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
....Unfortunately, my idea as to why Richter touched the piano with his finger prior to practicing was blown out of the water when I studied the video more closely. That's when I discovered at 1:30 min into the video, while Richter is practicing the Schubert piece, that the piano music desk is empty - there is no sheet music sitting on the piano music desk....

No matter -- your theory was pretty good!
And I think it's still possible you were onto something. Maybe he was indeed fixing on something that was over there, for whatever reason.

It does look like something's there -- I can't tell what, maybe a metronome and maybe some other stuff. It's possible he was doing something about something that was over there.

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Or he could have just been thinking about what to play.

I notice that in the Scherzo, the Estonia has a key which is much lower than it should be, C above middle C.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Or he could have just been thinking about what to play.

I notice that in the Scherzo, the Estonia has a key which is much lower than it should be, C above middle C.

I noticed that too! :-)


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He's checking the pulse

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I think everyone is over thinking this. He's just finished laying out the sheet music. He turns to briefly say something to the man behind him. Then he turns back to the piano, and while he's looking at the sheet music to find his place, he lays his finger on the piano. It's just a simple hand gesture as he does that.


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Originally Posted by toyboy
I think everyone is over thinking this. He's just finished laying out the sheet music. He turns to briefly say something to the man behind him. Then he turns back to the piano, and while he's looking at the sheet music to find his place, he lays his finger on the piano. It's just a simple hand gesture as he does that.

Just can't be, it's too specific and Richter is a very meticulous person, if you watch certain videos you'll notice how premeditated he is, I've seen him pull an exact face in a recording (just before playing) to a face he pulls on a bach album cover that I'm assuming is years apart. All im saying is, his placing of the finger, and the demeanor he does it in, what he's looking at, is very specific, and since I haven't seen him do it (the finger) in other recordings, its specifc to that recording (should be noted he is 'practising' in this recording') although, in many other performances he likes to sit down, get comfy, set up his feet on the pedals, and coress his hands together (not always EXACTLY in this order but there abouts). Take a look at the practise video again, he can't possibly be stretching his finger, its too quick, his finger is on the piano for a fraction of a second, and he basically 'hits' the piano, this brief thing wouldn't really stretch a finger properly, when stretching in this way, that is - placing the finger on the piano, you'd be targeting the connective tissue between the 2nd and 3rd finger and you'd do it for about 5 - 10 seconds with a little bit of movement accompanying it (in my opinion, try it if you want, you'll feel a stretch or tear of some sort). I'm still not completely sure what he's doing, but what I'm certain of is - he was an unusual pianist, a great pianist, very meticulous and there's a consistency to him that I've noticed in videos and studio recordings that are years apart.

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Originally Posted by BDB
Or he could have just been thinking about what to play.

I notice that in the Scherzo, the Estonia has a key which is much lower than it should be, C above middle C.

Very unusual that the key is lower, Richter must've known this before doing the performance, surely he tried the piano out before doing the staged performance on stage. Why wasn't it fixed ? You can really feel the slightly sophisticated soviet - patriotic - ish feel of this televised performance, so considering that - why would they have a piano in which one key is lower and not uniform and flush with the rest of the keys? It was soviet Russia after all, where the soldiers March in unity as one body. You catch my drift. Another unusual thing. Here's a fun thing to look at as well regarding the shots, not really piano related, but, the shot of the small screens in the studio at 2:51 reminded me of similar shots in Stanley Kubricks - 2001: A Space Odyssey. And this was made well before that film. Stanley Kubrick is known for very meticulous - thought out shots.

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