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The long awaited (and feared...)
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PianistSk8er
On Horowitz-style hiatus ;)



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Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:14 am    Post subject: The long awaited (and feared...)

Well, James and a few others have been persistent now for quite a while.. it appears my improvement on the first Chopin Ballade is sparking some intriguing curiosities amongst my pianistic friends! I've been playing the piece for almost one year now and I'd like to hope that I've made some progress since my last recording. =S Well anyways, the piece is not very easy at all and my technique has indeed improved a lot since I first printed this out.

The second reason I am submitting this is because I just bought a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170 and I want to see what you music connoisseurs think of the sound quality. That is, if you can hear it at all despite my poor playing!

And finally, please do bear in mind that this is the first "advanced" piece that I've ever really tackled, and I'm not that much of and "advanced" pianist... so I AM looking for constructive criticism, but don't be too hard on me please!

@Pianosociety administrators: I don't know if you guys will judge this high enough quality for the site or not, but if you want to use it, I'd be more than glad to have it placed on the site! I plan on re-recording it in a while, ulteriorly to many fix-ups!

Well, without further ado, here it is. (14.1 MB, sorry!)

Thanks!
PianistSk8er

P.S. ... and I very much dislike pages 6 & 7, okay!?!?
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Goldberg
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Goldberg

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Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 5:25 pm    Post subject:

Wow! I really liked the ending, don't change that at all! Now a few comments, keeping in mind that I'm not an expert in any respects about this piece (I can't even remember the last time I heard it played by *anyone*, heh); these brief criticisms are derived purely from my own reading of the score along with your recording, and also my attempts to play the music differently to get a first-hand experience of what's going on.

This is going to sound a little mean, but I thought your opening was a little weird, phrasing- rubato- and tempo-wise. Did you get those ideas from one of the great pianists? I'm not going to argue with Cortot or Arrau or someone (whose recordings I haven't heard, if they even have them), but it *seems* to me that Horowitz took the opening measures a little quicker than you did (mind you I haven't heard the recording in forever, and I won't bother making a huge point out of it), and to a better effect. It's just my opinion, however. Perhaps yours would sound better on a real piano rather than a Clavinova with a sustain of who-knows-how-short (btw, sound quality wasn't *so* bad, as in, it was listenable..let's leave it at that. As long as the action is decent, I'm all for digitals). However, once you hit the Moderato section I still have some "beef" about the rubato and wavering tempo. It seemed to me like you were a little cautious, perhaps, maybe "nervous" about making the recording and wanting it to come out right. I think that even though the section is a little more subdued and piano, you must play it with confidence, and do not let the tempo vacillate. Although this is one of the more expressive parts of the piece, taking too much freedom with the tempo early on can turn off listeners. So, instead, make sure you drive it forward, and save the rubato for later on in the truly melodic section. If it is not too arrogantly condenscending of me (believe me, I do not think I am above you in any way, and trust that your knowledge of the piece is FAR superior than mine, given that I have really only just looked at the score...), I should like to give a try at recording the opening measures just to see if I can illustrate my points. I'm sure the playing overall will not appeal to you, but perhaps if we bounce some ideas off of each other, we can both come out with a better understanding. I'll send you an email on gmail if I get around to recording it (or maybe I'll give up in the process because I can't play it any better, which is highly probable).

I don't know which edition you are using, but if it is the Henle version, I know what you mean about "pages 6 and 7"--and in my opinion you would do well to work out the unevenness in the runs. No offense--mind you, they are much better than my runs in Liszt but then I would consider you a better pianist than I am (if one can even make such a comparison), and without trying to sound rude, I'd "expect" you to play it cleaner. It isn't really BAD, but it could be made better, for the good of the entire piece, with careful practice (although, if you read in Busoni's advice, he actually says that trying to fix passages which have had bad habits in them for a long time is actually useless; I agree somewhat, but I think if you *really* put your mind to it and focus on what you're doing "wrong" you might come across better--besides, it's only two pages).

If it sounds negative so far, don't worry. I loved the "meno mosso" section--measures 66-193 or so. As a musical whole, I found this particular part of the piece to be VERY well put together and balanced, and there were only a few uncertainties with the runs, or at least, sections with tricky configuartions. Your chords sounded very good, considering you were playing on a digital piano, and I was impressed with the sound you obtained. The left hand also seemed very stable and solid overall, providing just the right accompaniment for the right hand. I can tell you spent a lot of time here (and for good reason), and I can honestly say that the few parts you *did* mess up (a little), run-wise, well...it sounds like a typical flaw in the digital piano more than anything (believe me, I know how troubling it can be to nail a run smoothly on a digital, I practice on one quite a lot even today). The first 4-5 (actually, I'd recommend 3-5, if you don't already use that) trill, that is, in measure 119, sounded a little unsound, but you pulled through nicely in the end, and the next one (123) sounded great.

One thing I'm not so sure about (this is just my own idea) is in measures 185 and 186--those beginning Bb's--is the second one supposed to serve as a grace note to the last one, or *should* they be more even? At first, I thought the grace note quality of the 2nd Bb was a little strange, but when I re-considered it, I guess it sounds ok. It's hard for me to tell whether or not they would sound better with more equal durations. Did you mean to do that? Really, it sounds fine the way it is, but perhaps you could consider trying it the other way just to see. *I* don't know what it should be like, heh.

I know you've worked on it for ages, and I have to say the Presto con fuoco section was well played (and well-pedalled from the sounds of it); you seemed a *wee* uncertain with those 6ths on the way to the con fuoco, though. Perhaps just a minor evaluation of your technique there is necessary, or maybe it was just a slight fluke this time 'round. That comment is more of a stretch than anything, to come up with something helpful, heh...

Like I said, I loved the ending. At first I didn't know what to expect, but when I heard measures 250-254 I knew you'd nailed it (I particularly like the chords in 252 and 256, they were put in at exactly the right moment, and well-balanced). The octaves at the end were excellent!

Overall, it's a great job. My largest "problems" are in the beginning, and the piece seems to get better with each added minute (don't mean to flatter you, that's really what I feel).

In a closing comment--don't take this too hard--it also sounds like you've spent a little too much time working on the piece; not in the sense that it is calculated for effect, but in the sense that you have it at a level where it's hard to imagine it getting any better. My advice is take a week or two off without playing through it all (just take the trouble spots and work through them as best you can), and when you return it will be fresh and even more exciting; chances are, you'll even be able to play the problem areas better without hardly practicing them (remember the thing about Busoni).

I know ratings are kinda dumb, but I'll give this a 90.
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Goldberg
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Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 7:25 pm    Post subject:

Oh, btw congrats on your purchase (sorry, I didn't really read your first post too carefully last time, I just wanted the music! heh). Yamahas make excellent digital pianos, and you can expect it to hold up for a long time, depending on how much you play it. I've got a Roland digital, my first piano for 2 years, that I have played the hell out of but has lasted this long, about 6 years now, if not in tip-top shape. I imagine the Yamaha will last even longer, because they at least *seem* to be of higher quality.
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Max
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Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 9:27 pm    Post subject:

I havent listened to it yet, 56k so it will take a while, I will edit this post with comments

And nice choice, is that the model with wooden keys?
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agitato2219
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 12:53 am    Post subject:

Glodberg had some really good comments.

The last page is so close to being perfect. I know it sounds wierd but the last octave passage is awesome.

I going to try and give you some constructive criticism.
1. the begining is to slow man. You should speed it up. Practice the main them with your metronome, a lot. Rubato is a great thing but only when used within the context of the rhythm of the piece. A lot of places i think you are trying to be expressive so you slow down way to much.
2. Everywhere you have a cadenze or a long chain of ornaments could be cleaner. YOu seem unsure of the notes and of pedaling. Its hard to go back and practice slow this far into a piece but it is the key to clarity and for confidence in yourself.
3. The a tempo on page 2 sould be an a tempo. Back to a steady speed until the agitato
4.listen to a good recoding of this piece, don't mimic but it will help you see what the parts are supposed to sound like more.
5. Page 6 and 7 could use a lot of slow practice, i know you nkow this.
6.at the bottom of page 8 it is supposed to be very very inmpassioned. Play like its the last tiem you will ever play. ( you can tdo thisuntil the notes are right though in this section and the confuoco.
7. In general you should go back and check the notes I heard a couple of g major chords when they were minor and various other thinhgs.
8. Good energy in the con fuoco. This is a hard and tiring part and you kept stamina well.
9. the las page is awesome.
10. Keep up the hard work.
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Goldberg
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 1:04 am    Post subject:

I ended up recording the opening section myself (up until it gets a little hard to sight-read haha) to *try* and illustrate my points--and I sent it to ya, Nico, if you haven't already checked--but I'm not really sure I improved much of anything. I'll let him decide if he likes it (and he may post it here to, to see if anyone can explain it better than I can).

Nico: about the same thing, try and think of the beginning as a solemn recognition of inevitability; that is, the horrific moment that is the Presto Con Fuoco (and the rest of the piece). Each moment in the piece, but especially at the beginning, should be a build-up or presage of this dramatic culmination--the lyrical part in the middle is of course a tranquil contrast, more or less, but still has a relatively dark undertone.

I know you know all that, but just keep it in mind at the beginning. You should not be apprehensive about the "downfall" at the end, but move towards it and let the *audience* be apprehensive about it. You are using the piece as a vehicle for "their" demise, that is, again, the ultimate climatic moment. But in order to keep the audience involved, you have to *go for it* straightaway.

Make sense? I gotta go now, my battery life is dying QUICK! haha..
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PianistSk8er
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:35 am    Post subject:

Wowowow! Thanks so much to all of you, and Joffrey and James whom gave me suggestions on MSN... and you Goldberg! - I know you have better things to do with your time than help me out with my trivial interpretations of large-scale masterpieces! I truly appreciate it! I also agree with pretty much all of the suggestions that I've received.

First off, the beginning has sparked quite a controversy and I agree that it could be considerably faster, and with emotion put in other ways. Like I've said to James, an audio recording may not be the propitious situation to display such emotion, especially since the audience cannot visually see it and so the message is less effectively conveyed. Anyhow, if you only SAW how I play it, I think a lot of you would understand why it is sounding the way it is.

Technique-wise, I must concur once more. Slow practice and lots of patience (something I seem to lack ) are key for this and this summer I think I will try to work on it. At the moment I have too many other pieces to polish for festival and exam, so I will use this to my advantage by, like Goldberg and Joffrey offered, giving it some rest for now. By "pages 6-7" I was speaking about the part beginning with sempre piu animato and finishing with leggieramente after the sfp Bb chord. Argg so many runs.. some pianists make them sound so well too. Scherzando is, obviously, a lot of fun, though.

Goldberg did send me his interpretation and ideas for the first page of the piece and I would like to (with his permission) share this with you all to gather your opinions. My inspiration, for the most part, was from Zimerman, yet I also admire Kissin and Artur Rubinstein's interpretations. I will have to disagree with you about Horowitz's recording of the piece ; I find his playing far too showy and "BANG-BING-BANG" for my likings.. which I also find quite rare for I usually adore his interpretations. So here's Goldberg's recording.

As for the ending I am quite flattered with the general reaction that I have received. It has been the part that I've spent the most "slow-practice" on.

Well, please keep the comments coming!

Oh and I almost forgot - the "piano" I bought is the Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170M... for more information click here. So far, I have REALLY liked it, it has the real action and sounds so real. It features the GH3 (graded hammer effect):
Yamaha wrote:
This innovative keyboard offers a new level of grand piano realism. Like the previous GH (Graded Hammer effect) keyboard, the GH3 uses a weighted mechanism and grade-weighted keys (gradually heavier, top to bottom) to provide a natural feel. But to go even further, each key features a damper mechanism with two velocity sensors that enables rapid playing of a single key without the break in the sound that occurs with conventional electronic pianos. Each key also has reduced spring load to absorb the shock when you play, taking the strain off your fingers in the same way as a back check mechanism. You'll particularly notice the difference it makes when playing energetic passages.

But no, there aren't wooden keys, though I'm not sure what they're made of. I've really been enjoying it!
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Goldberg
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:52 am    Post subject:



....

"BANG-BING-BANG", then? Is THAT how you describe Horowitz's playing???

That's rather amusing, haha (I'm not "angry" though, I just found the description rather humorous). Rubinstein's is also very good, and aside from those two and MT's, I can't recall hearing another version all the way through...

This is going to sound offensive, but try and keep the best mind about it, because you know me and my honest-but-nicely-put criticisms. But the way you worded it just then, it seems like you have a great deal of reliance on your ability to captivate your audience through visual means rather than merely musical. Is this true? It seems a little Lang-ish to me.

In my opinion, emotions and expressiveness are fundamentally innate traits in certain musicians which are joined and thus displayed through a talent; all of these directly cause musicality, which is a tasteful way of conveying--or communicating--specific pieces to the audience. That should be enough (keep in mind that musicality can, and should, be refined through practice (though not a whole lot), because if it is unattended to, it can be reckless and erratic. But it can also be attended to too much).

But, of course, it is ALL in my own opinion, as all things musical should pertain to "your" singular opinion above all others. Even though I do not always agree with his approach to music (or even technique, oddly enough), I usually make an "effort" (though in the end it seems rather effortless, heh) to appear like Marc-Andre Hamelin, set like stone in concentration and focus, relaxing always but hardly evincing an external indication of emotion to the audience. Shallow audiences feed off of these expressions like starved nomads, but well-learned musicians, the people whose admiration is most rewarding in the long-term, shun them--or, more specific, the dependency on them for effectiveness.

Hmm, ok, perhaps that sounds a little more serious than I'd have hoped. But it's the same message nevertheless.
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Max
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:37 am    Post subject:

I listened, it was WAY better than last time I heard it (a good year ago) so well done! You're at the stage I was with Ballades 2 and 3 last year, where you need to sit down, set the metronome to as slow as you can bear, and play it over and over...hehe. Slow practise makes such a stupid amount of difference (those runs won't know what hit them). And I think you'd enjoy Houghs interpretion of this piece, its good.

P.s the CLP-175 is a BEAST! It's scarily realistic.
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Scriabinist
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:06 pm    Post subject:

Heh, I can't really say much else but that it has improved a lot. I won't say anything else, since I don't even like this piece very much. If you followed my advice, you'd probably just make things worse.

But next time, you should use a mellower tone for recording (One of the few good things about digital pianos is that you can change it)...especially the loud parts were a bit too bright for me. (Or then it was just me, I'm listening through cheap soapbox comp speakers)
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Helling
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:08 pm    Post subject:

You should take it easy with tempo in some sections - maybe it's just your interpretative choice to play it that way. However at times it seems a shame that some sections don't quite hold together just because of your really fast tempo choices in some parts (e.g. around 6:10-6:30). In a way, it's not so much just a question of tempo but a general stressful agitated approach which is a bit too fiery to be accurate, if you know how i mean. Check up the errors in harmonics at 5:50-6:00 as well (I use silly minute notations because I don't have the score handy to check bar numbers).

I don't include the ending in these comments, as that is clearly marked as needing a tempo boost and "fire" and I think you that rather well and with decent accuracy.

You are certainly on a good way, but I would be very interested in hearing a new recording after polishing it up a bit since I think just with a bit of work on a few problem parts you could improve the performance considerably.


Last edited by Helling on Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jeliness2
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:28 pm    Post subject:

W00t, W00t! Sorry for no criticism, but I'm definitely not the master of this piece. So I'm just gonna say "CONGRATS!" hehe
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Goldberg
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Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 10:16 pm    Post subject:

PianistSk8er wrote:
Wowowow! Thanks so much to all of you, and Joffrey and James whom gave me suggestions on MSN... and you Goldberg! - I know you have better things to do with your time than help me out with my trivial interpretations of large-scale masterpieces! I truly appreciate it! I also agree with pretty much all of the suggestions that I've received.


Also, your interpretation is far from trivial, mate! It might not convey the ultimate profundity of the piece as well as the legends do (or did), but it certainly has a surprising amount of maturity for a--eh--15 year old? Is that right? In any event, I like your other recordings as well, and you definitely have a certain "it" which makes itself manifest in your external displays of your love for music.

I'm not kidding! Rework your technique, make some fine adjustments, and try to find an even better balance between audience communication and artistic interpretation without depending on much besides the music; even better, I say, because you're well on your way to getting "there" as it is. But remember, there is *always* room for improvement, no matter how good ya are!
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citrine_peridot
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Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 12:56 am    Post subject:

awesome playing!(and sound quality, of course)even the twangy tone of the piano bothers me a bit.(my speakers ~~~~~~~ but at least they are bigger than *soapboxs*) i think this gotta my favourite in this forum both piece-wise and playing-wise.

btw, is the mic built-in?
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Max
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Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:08 am    Post subject:

I would suggest recording straight from the line-out, if you are using a digital piano - the tone is much nicer. Just get a cable with two 1/4 jacks on the end and plug it straight into the computers line-in.
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