Author Topic: Virtuoso piano technique  (Read 4846 times)

Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2020, 11:03:24 am »
I have just been listening to tonight's Prom: Martha Argerich playing Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. Wonderful performance - and it's great to think that these two septuagenarians grew up together in Buenos Aires.
And here they are playing Mozart, with a piano each.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iePyP2HOr8&list=PL_SsI94tBifYXKMFLOpkI_qkZ9tLMsrpB&index=7
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2020, 12:38:53 pm »
A different kind of virtuoso: Gerald Moore on accompanying.
Well worth an hour of your time (if your taste in music runs to Leider and the like).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia7iOdRe9nk
I'm not sure why it starts in the middle...

Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #27 on: June 23, 2020, 01:32:58 pm »


We have a new CD of this chap playing his virtuoso piano technique.

Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2020, 01:12:00 pm »
https://theartsdesk.com/classical-music/pavel-kolesnikov-wigmore-hall-review-stuff-dreams


There's a link at the bottom to a livestream of the concert.      R3 had him playing some of the Goldbergs this morning.  Lovely stuff.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2020, 05:58:31 pm »
Fredrik Ullen is finally releasing his last episode of Sorabji's Transcendental Etudes on BIS records in January 2021 apparently.  A recording project that probably matches the span of Leslie Howards recording of all of Liszt's piano music although in substantially less CDs
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hellymedic

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #30 on: November 03, 2020, 07:04:53 pm »
St Mary's Perivale today did not disappoint too much, given YouTube failed and Vimeo succeeded.

Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #31 on: December 09, 2020, 11:21:49 am »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY6jEH1tMAA&ab_channel=GlennGould

Andras Schiff and Bösendorfer again. I Want That Piano!

Meanwhile, at next week's piano auction in London, someone is flogging a Fazioli.

https://pianoauctions.co.uk/15th-december-2020-catalogue/lot-50-fazioli-c2003
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Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #32 on: December 29, 2020, 10:08:23 pm »
I've been learning what I think it possibly the hardest piece of Bach I have tackled to date. I'm not trying to be pretentious by putting my rather poor efforts in here, but highlight a few of the differences between the genuine virtuoso and the run-of-the-mill grade 8 or so pianist who will never get any better.

The piece in question is the prelude number 3 from Book One of the Well Tempered Clavier. Bach placed these pieces in order of key: C major, C minor, C# major, C# minor, D major, D minor etc. up to number 24, in B minor. He wrote the first 24 (Book 1) in the early 1720s when he was at Anhalt-Cothen, and Book 2 in about 1737 when he was in Leipzig. Neither work was published until 1801, 51 years after Bach's death. No-one knows for sure exactly why he wrote them, and it certainly wasn't for a big powerful instrument like a modern piano. None of them has a range greater than 4 octaves, which implies a clavichord, and therefore domestic music with only a few, if any, listeners apart from the performer and, possibly, a teacher.

The first question has to be, in the piece in question, why did he choose C# as the key? The notes are exactly the same as for D flat major, but C# has 7 sharps in its key signature, whereas D flat has 5 flats. The result of all these sharps is that every note in the home key, white or black, is a sharp, so if he wants to change key at any point, and of course he does, you end up playing a whole sequence of double sharps. This, for the performer, means that you are playing a note written on the stave as, for example, an F of some description, but you are pressing the key you normally associate with being a G. As you can imagine, this really "does yer 'ed in" when you are first learning the notes.

My weaknesses as a pianist are several: I think my worst is inconsistency. In any piece, some passages are harder than others, and to master them you have to practice repeatedly and slowly. Gradually, as you ingrain the right notes into your hands and brain, you can speed up . This I can do, but I have a dreadfully annoying habit of not paying sufficient attention and I'm always liable to make a silly mistake through inattention. I don't know how to tackle this. It's the reason I'll never perform in public: I can't ever guarantee that I'll be able to get through a piece without some sort of serious error. Curiously, I've been far less nervous when playing for exams than I have on the few occasions I have played in public.

I've recorded myself twice, warts and all, once rather slower than the piece is meant to be played, and even in that I've made a couple of slips, and the second time, up to speed. I'll also link to Angela Hewitt, who has recorded this piece on her own beautiful Fazioli during lockdown. Angela is a top-notch international pianist and a Bach specialist.

My first take (sedate): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GXsn8Zf6wA&ab_channel=PeterWalker

Second take: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGO5cBvK4uU&ab_channel=PeterWalker

Angela Hewitt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_o3gMO5iqw&ab_channel=NatalieSchwamova

I would be very interested to find out how much time a great pianist like Ms. Hewitt has to spend on a piece like this to get it up to that standard. My guess is "Not a lot". I've not logged how long I've spent on it but I shouldn't think that it has been less than 2 hours on any day in about the past 10 days to a fortnight, and I've played pretty well nothing else. I'm going to tackle the fugue next, and that has precisely the same difficulty regarding the number of sharps, and is also about twice as long. It puts into perspective the enormity of the performance of Andras Schiff when he played the whole of Book 1 (about 2 hours' music) at a single sitting in the Proms in 2017. Having that much music memorised and concert-ready at once is, to me, absolutely mind-blowing.
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #33 on: December 30, 2020, 12:24:41 am »
Thank you for sharing that Wowbagger, I really enjoyed the slow version.

I am heartened that there is someone else who has to put in a lot of work to make any of the 48 sound even half decent. In my case I have only learnt to play 12 of the preludes and 2 fugues, and I doubt I will be adding much to that. What I have found through playing them and listening to recordings is how different they sound at different speeds (and who knows what is 'correct'?).

I had the privilege of listening to Adreas Schiff at the Sheldonian in Oxford in 2016 when he came and played book 1, all the way through in one go. He came back the following year and did book 2. All from memory of course, but then my piano teacher always called these the 'old testament' (with Beethoven's sonatas being the 'new testament').

I do like that Bach composed the 8th prelude and fugue to be enharmonic (E flat and D sharp).

Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #34 on: December 30, 2020, 12:29:24 am »
Thanks!

I sent links to these with my dear pal Enid, who was another decent pianist in our college year’s music group. She commented about my use of the sustaining pedal - it is noticeable that Angela Hewitt is very much the purist and clearly doesn’t use it in her performance. About 30 years ago I discussed this issue with concert pianist Francis Rayner. He is also a very strong chess player and at the British Championships, one evening he gave a piano recital and the B flat prelude and fugue from book 1 were amongst the pieces he played. I played that for my diploma and I asked him afterwards about his use of the pedal. His answer was very sensible, I thought. “Bach never intended for these pieces to be played on a modern piano. I’ve got a sustaining pedal and I’ll use it if I think it’s appropriate.”

As you can tell, I’m using it but I have noticed one thing: the keys of my piano are definitely perceptible heavier when the pedal isn’t depressed. This has implications for each of the “joining bars” which intercede between the main phrase, which are all broken chords. I think this prelude really benefits from the use of the pedal. I would never use it, though, for (for example) the gigue from French Suite no 5.
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #35 on: December 30, 2020, 12:31:33 am »
It's interesting whether you need to play it fast(er) for it to sound good. It maybe "should" be at a higher tempo but you can still make things sound good slower. I think the tempo at which you can make it sound good is a lot slower than the tempo a concert pianist would play it at. The way to do it is to add detail, varying tone, emphasizing certain bits, etc. The hard bit is keeping it all at that tempo rather than speeding up on the bars you're confident at.
I think your playing of it is pretty good. The faster version sounds fairly mistake free to me and you have definitely capture the point of the tune. Interesting as to whether Bach did compose for piano as while it was apparently invented in his lifetime it probably was only just becoming popular.
If you think Db major is hard try Gb major! I'm trying to learn 'graceful ghost' by William Bolcom. A and B section are in Db but C section in Gb. (It's probably too hard for me really but I enjoy trying, cos when I first started it I thought only the A section was catchy, but now I think it all is. Funny how it grows on you. Nowhere near good enough for a demo as you though sorry!) I can just about play the A and B sections which are in Db but the 3rd section in Gb is just ridiculous. So hard to read. It's got  basically all the flats but C flat as well, so all Cs are in fact Bs! with tons of accidentals, double flats, and broken chords of well over an octave (eg Db to F) thrown in for good measure. I've watched Cory Halls videos on it and I agree with him that most people play it too fast not least Bolcom's own stated tempo.

For what it's worth I find moonlight sonata by Beethoven which is in C# much easier to read (and play), the hard thing with that one is not just playing it but making it sound good.

One of the things about the piano I do enjoy is purely the fact of the mental thing of muscle memory, how once you've learnt to play a certain but you can do it without thinking about it.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #36 on: December 30, 2020, 12:59:44 am »
It’s not so much that D flat major is hard: it is that Bach wrote this in C sharp rather that D flat. The same keys would be depressed for either - it’s just a different way of encoding it on the page which makes it harder (in my view) to learn, because of all the double sharps that would, had he written it in D flat, become naturals, and therefore heading into more familiar territory. When Schubert wrote his G flat impromptu (6 flats), an unscrupulous publisher transposed it into G major (one sharp) so that he could sell more copies to less advanced pianists!

I seem to remember reading that Bach did meet a piano, such as it was, a d dismissed it as “only fit for rondos”. His son CPE was, reputedly, the leading keyboard player of his day, and Mozart said of him “We are the children, he is the father!” Mozart composed for a very lightweight instrument.

Apparently Beethoven wrote the Appassionata (1806) after he had been given a new piano and that very low F in the opening bars was the lowest note it could play, but he had worn it out by 1810. I think that was something like 6 octaves or a little more. He also had a Broadwood and there are lots of them still about. I don’t think anything akin to our modern piano was in use until after 1850 when Carl Bechstein, who I think had served an apprenticeship with Pleyel, in Paris, started building pianos.  Liszt was taking the world by storm then and his music and playing style demanded a very resilient instrument.

Edit: I just noticed your comment about the Moonlight sonata. That’s in G sharp minor - 4 sharps.  The prelude and fugue I am playing is in C sharp major - 7 sharps.
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #37 on: December 30, 2020, 09:04:14 am »
oh c# major, sorry yes that would be hard.
The thing about pieces composed for different instruments is the key they are in may often be influenced by what was physically easier on that instrument, but even that doesn't explain the difference between C# and Db major as you say.
Yes I don't really know why anyone would use double sharps instead of naturals. Maybe it fits with transcriptions - so for example if you have the major chord of D major it's D, F#, A. But then if you transpose it up to D# major, you just sharpen them all - so it's D#, F##, A#. But why not write it as G natural, I don't know.
Doesn't explain accidentals either.
I guess if you could be bothered you could rewrite it and replace all the double sharps with naturals - it wouldn't sound any different. Tippex them out and rewrite over them - either literally or digitally (in photoshop or similar).

Talking of C#, should be doing some work  :D
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #38 on: December 30, 2020, 09:21:08 am »
Talking of C#, should be doing some work

I think at work you are meant to B#, although if you are a marksman, sure, you need to C#.

Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #39 on: December 30, 2020, 09:28:24 am »
Talking of C#, should be doing some work

I think at work you are meant to B#, although if you are a marksman, sure, you need to C#.

sorry it was a slightly tenuous reference to writing computer code in the C# language which is my job ...
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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #40 on: December 30, 2020, 09:48:10 am »
I do like that Bach composed the 8th prelude and fugue to be enharmonic (E flat and D sharp).

Sorry, just spotted my error; that should be E flat minor and D sharp minor; 6 flats and 6 sharps - the point at which one normally switches key signatures from one to the other...

Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #41 on: December 30, 2020, 10:28:40 am »
@Wow, have you taken ABRSM (or similar) exams?

Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #42 on: December 30, 2020, 10:54:21 am »
@Wow, have you taken ABRSM (or similar) exams?

My last ABRSM was Grade 7 in 1971. I passed an LGSM piano teaching diploma* in 1981. In this, I was one of the inaugural performers at the Barbican before it officially opened - although my performance was in a practice room and the audience consisted of two people, both examiners!

I reckon I had a spell of about 20 years in which I hardly touched the piano, until I retired in 2017. That was when I decided to start playing again, and bought my lovely piece of nazi memorabilia 1936 Blüthner.

*The three pieces I played for this were Bach, prelude & fugue in B flat major, Beethoven Pathetique sonata (I played this from memory) and a Brahms intermezzo, which I ballsed up badly. I scraped through by 2 marks, but was the only pass from teh 4 students who took the exam from the same course as me, an evening class at Southend College. When I was in my 20s I hadn't yet developed the annoying loss-of-concentration habit which dogs my playing these days.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Virtuoso piano technique
« Reply #43 on: December 30, 2020, 11:02:43 am »
I do like that Bach composed the 8th prelude and fugue to be enharmonic (E flat and D sharp).

Sorry, just spotted my error; that should be E flat minor and D sharp minor; 6 flats and 6 sharps - the point at which one normally switches key signatures from one to the other...

Yes - I wonder why he chose to do this? I wonder whether he had a specific pupil in mind.
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