Pieces in progress
Bach, Well Tempered Clavier Book I-2  C minor
Bach, Well Tempered Clavier Book I-2  B minor
Satie Gnossiènne Nr. 1
Chopin Mazurka Op.59 Nr.2
Mozart K.397, Fantasia in D minor
Chopin, Polonaise 26-1
WTC 847 (Dover Edition) played for Jury
Chopin Three Mazurkas 59----59-2 first
Schubert, Impromptu 1 Op. 90 [D899]
Several pieces from Bach 2 & 3 parts Invention, and WTC 855, 881, 887
Several Chopin Nocturnes
A couple of Mozart Sonatas
A few Spanish pieces: Miguel Manzano and Manuel de Falla
Exercising the pedal. Beginning stages
Erika, I just recorded for you a video teaching you the basic steps too learn and exercise the pedal, including the proper position, points of support, and how to exercise the basic steps for coordination on the most intuitive pedal action: the continuous linking pedal that leaves no gap between harmonic changes.
BACH. Prelude and Fugue in B Minor WTC vol 1 (893)
3/30 RECORDING ANALYSIS
Here below is a marked score with comments on the recording. Mainly we need to work on making the piece become more expressive and less mechanical, by assigning purpose to each different section. Who is leading, are the phrases well shaped, are the phrases clearly presented, are you providing confusing accents on weak beats, but mainly you need to have more attentive listening while you practice. Otherwise you are always learning notes but not paying attention to the final result.
That's why recording and listening is such a good exercise for you to develop your attentive listening.
Notes feel very ready and smooth.
Articulations in the motivation not always clear
More emphasis on differences of shades depending on direction, sequences, make it more clear.
Excellent playing by the way.
COMMENTS TO RECORDING
Motiv: Nice and clear articulations on RH.
Also very nicely played on the LH
m7 RH melody is very well presented, but more emphasis on the sequences with crescendo.
same at m 21. Needs more shape. The RH design is moving up and up, Your direction needs to help that design by starting very "p" and gradually play each of the groups louder.
m 28 That syncopation is a great opportunity to be expressive and emphasize the displacement of the beat. Usually Bach in his symphonic works gives those lines to the oboe because the syncopation allows the oboe sound to soar over the rest of the orchestra. Try to reproduce such an effect here.
m 29 Here we have two principal themes singing at the same time. options:
- emphasize RH theme ...or
- emphasize LH theme ...or
- (what I would do is:) trick the listener into hearing both themes singing at the same time by being selective on what to bring forward. (click on the image below to enlarge)
m 33 needs shape. Right now it sounds as if played completely plain, with no articulations, phrasing and direction. If both voices are too much and confusing to shape, choose one (upper voice is the most logical to choose) and shape that one, letting the LH just accompany discretely. When phrasing the RH look at the shape of the melody, play it by itself, sing along as you play it. Imagine an oboe playing it and realize that the oboist needs space to breath. You need to build the space for breathing so your phrases sound human. "Humanize" your melody line in this entire section. Example below:
m 37 very well defined articulation. Very nice
m 45 Very nice articulations and contrast between the upper (45) and lower (46) registers.
m 49 Good direction to the ascending sequences
After the cadence, since the cadence ends with a fermata, start on a softer tone that is born from the magic the cadence created. If you start right into the same intense tone you had before, it wakes us up too suddenly from that magic improvisatory cadenza.
m 59. Start softer and build up more. Then at 62 avoid slamming the chord. Approach it as a continuation of the previous "A" on m61.
Same for 63. the B is part of the phrase that comes form the previous measure. No need to separate it or play it with a sudden accent.
Ending was fine but didn't sound "convincing". It sounded too much like you were thinking "Phew!, I'm glad this finally ended".
RECORDING NUMBER 6
LH alone. Excellent articulation. More emphasis on phrasing, your crescendo and decrescendo need to be still more emphasized, the opening and closings of phrases need not to be "guessed' by the listener, you need to provide them very clearly so there is no doubt if your intentions.
If the RH theme has very defined phrases, then LH can be played as legato.
If the RH theme is legato and the phrase is not very defined, then by contrast the LH could be played detached.
I personally prefer the LH legato, so later it can be used as a melodic motive.
The piece needs observation of the peak points ni the phrases, then observe where the sequences are and emphasize their crescendo or decrescendo. Notice syncopations. In order to emphasize them, avoid striking hard the 8th note staccato that precedes the syncopation.
In general search for an interpretation that sparks interest, emphasize direction so it is very clear to the listener.
Not seen at the lesson today, but I recorded a short video that may give you some input on phrasing.
Comments on the cadenza:
Thanks for sending the recording of yourself playing the cadenza, because it is more illustrative than looking at the note-by-note transcription.
Your cadenza is actually very well done and here us why:
- It uses material previously featured in the piece
- It links very well from the last note you played in the piece, right into the cadenza (C#).
- It has a harmonic direction. It uses a progression based on the notes from the C# diminished chord.
- You kept it simple and didn't fall in the temptation of overcomplicating things.
- Yet if you decided to make it more complicated, you could simply add a LH formed by notes from the C# diminished chord, and it would work great without making it difficult to play.
Fingering reflects the phrasing and articulation that in my personal opinion can be a nice option for the motive of this prelude.
One of the challenges is to translate this articulation to all the instances where the motive appears in the prelude.
The articulation also needs certain hand motion to help with the phrasing. Here is an example of what we talked about: --->
The score below will be updated regularly with Gabriel's annotations.
Practicing Bach with slow and controlled motions.
Angela Hewitt. Very melodic interpretation, singing quality and good balance between hands
Fugue: Consider the melodic line and voice the octaves to see the direction, create arch for phrasing
Small sequential episodes to use for energy build-up and direction
Andras Schiff. Not enough contrast between layers, already too dense from the start, especially not giving room to the second motive. Lack of shades, everything in one plane.
Fugue: Same. Too much unchanneled energy. Good contrast when reaching the upper register section
Sviatoslav Richter. Also same problem. Lack of distinction between ideas, planes and layers, lack of starting phrases from a pp to obtain contrast.
Today's comments were focused on shaping your phrases.
Remember the common rule that whenever two 8th notes are played , if the second falls on the weak part of the beat, it will be a release, rather than leaning on the note.
Click on the picture to see it enlarged:
Last page, second line:
The dialogue in the right hand needs to have the personality of two separate voices. Each must have its own phrasing.
Practice this by playing each line with a separate hand (top with right, bottom line with left). Then listen carefully to the resulting sound and try to reproduce it playing everything with the right hand.
Left hand, keep it purely as an accompanist, not too much emphasis, especially not rhythmic character, more like providing the harmonic environment for the RH to play the beautiful climatic phrases.
Link to recordings (Spotify)
CHOPIN. Mazurka Op 59 Nr.2
m49 to 60. Careful not to play the double 8th notes like 16th notes "all the time". Ok to do it as passionate emphasis, but if you play them like that every time during this section, it loses its purpose.
m69. Excellent singing of the LH and excellent accompanying of the RH.
m76 to 80. It feels too slow and losing direction. Because it si marked "ff" you may be employing too much weight and your fingers may feel overloaded. Sometimes you can balance this by applying more weight to the structural points of the passage, and release the weight where the notes are not structural (weak beats, release of phrasings, etc) therefore your fingers are not playing at full power all the time.
m82+ (chromatic passage). It is doing much better but there are still things you can do to make it feel mor comfortable:
1- Keep the listening focus to the leading line, if you emphasize all the inner notes and also the passing notes between groups, the passage becomes too dense and feels like it is too difficult.
2- Think about the phrasing. Notice how the phrasing in this section is related to the main theme:
m89-90. Coda. Treat this section as a dialogue. One phrase a tempo, the next can have rubato, the next a tempo, the next rubato.
Or all the opposite: First rubato, following a tempo, etc.
m108 Final arpeggio. It should feel like it disappears in a cloud. Quick, light and ethereal, just like pure air.
Then the final four chords are we on the ground looking up at the cloud or the arpeggio that just disappeared in front of our eyes.
Your playing today had far more flow than the recording. There are still sections marked in the score on the margin (03-15-2021) that need more emphasis on phrasing.
Make sure that when you have 8th notes, especially the ones played as 6ths, you don't emphasize every one of them, it feels too heavy.
See the score "MAZURKA GRB PHRASINGS 03-15-2021" for detailed indications.
Listened to the recording. Excellent playing and now you are ready to "take-off" with this piece.
Gradually you will be transitioning from thinking about the notes to thinking about the full phrases and larger sections, so your playing flows rather than dwell on smaller sections giving the impression of walking through high snow rather than gracefully gliding on ice.
Today's lesson focused on the concept to performing not just for you, but to communicate and transcend the barriers between you and your audience.
When performing for Zoom, you need to keep in mind that the direct presence in the same room is removed, and therefore the distance between performer and audience is far greater. You need to perform so that all details you want to communicate are clearly heard not just by you, but also by them.
All dynamics need to show greater margins. Softer "piano" and louder "forte". Rubato, phrasing, start and end of phrases, climatic points, and general direction.
3/1 COMENTS ON RECORDINGS:
Recording number 7: Last section of the Mazurka.
Excellent use of the pedal. Linking is seamless and very well executed.
Also, the tone of your LH chords is superb. Very delicate, mellow and with a velvet tone that accompanies the melody exquisitely.
The melody shows very good phrasing.
Even though it was played slowly, it shows good understanding and good control of the elements.
Recording number 5: LH melody
The LH is still struggling to sing over the tone of the RH. RH needs to have the same tone you had on the Lh at recording #7. Not easy since you (and all of us) are used to give the RH more weight and LH less weight. It need to be inverted here.
The pedal is well performed, it even caught the bass clearly.
m81 and ahead: Good progress. I can now start to hear the melody over the harmonic progressions.
Notice that at m81, 2nd beat is "f", then immediately you can go "pp".
m1 Good progress. I hear phrasings and light rubato.
Next is to practice by exaggerating the rubato and study what is too much and how to scale it down.
Needs more contrast in phrasing.
m23 Very good. Here you will need to "let it go" more, as if letting the horses gallop on a open field. First section is more like a dialogue. m23 is as if you were telling the world about your most beautiful projects.
m45 Good pedal
The melody is not singing here. It feels like you are still thinking very much about the notes. May need to be played even more slowly to anticipate what you want to say before you say it, rather than letting the notes catch you by surprise.
RECORDING NUMBER 12
Here I will give you more general impressions rather than detail like in the previous:
VOICING. Melody needs to sing almost separate from the accompaniment. More volume and brightness for melody and more mellow softer tone for accompaniment.
Phrasings and rubato. You are "almost" there. I think you have the idea now in your head, just pending for the notes to feel secure enough to "liberate" you from the overthinking and be able to sing without stopping to check notes.
Discussing the comments from the group class with José Ramos-Santana.
As long as you don't cut the bass or bleed from one measure to the next, you have artistic license to apply a pedal that allows you to sing your melodies.
Option of a shorter pedal is more academically correct, but numerous famous pianists use a continuous pedal as well.
Phrase the melodies as if you were singing them. Hum while practicing the RH alone, and pay attention to where the natural rubato may take place. You can picture mountains and valleys to design the stretching points
Measure 20-21-22. Think of inertia and slow down gradually to enter the mini-cadenza, which needs not to be hurried.
M 23 This section is marked as 'F' but it needs balance:
Melody: voice top note and use finger legato. Think horizontally so the phrase moves forward.
Chords: light so they don't anchor the melody down too much.
Bass: Nice tone, not necessarily a loud tone.
Phrasing: It needs the same phrasing we worked on the first section, applied to this one. Otherwise it feels flat and lacks feeling.
M 45. If not using pedal, be sure to have a well connected "finger-legato", otherwise a discrete pedal will still work well.
Apply the same phrasing concepts we worked earlier.
M 69. RH must disappear almost completely. LH needs to sing without any obstacle.
M 82: the notes are still very new here. Once you can play the chords fluently, take the top note only and treat it as a melody. Look at the shape of the melody, it goes up first. When it reaches the "A", it starts descending. That needs to be emphasized with the crescendo and decrescendo.
PREPARATION FOR LESSON ON 2/2
Important factor: The fact that you are going to participate in a group class with an outstanding teacher (José) should not intimidate you and you still should feel free to bring problems you are having with the piece, because he may give you a unique and effective approach.
Pedal: continuous linking all 3 beats to the next measure without interruption. Strange short pedal on m-9 that cuts off the LH bass note.
Melody: needs phrasing and direction. Finger work sounds very articulated, needs a more gentle movement of the hand, make sure you are not playing it all by "finger articulation" only.
Pulse: very straight and needs flexibility, "rubato". Sing the melody first and then try to reproduce it by playing. Singing will bring a more human and natural approach to it. Record your voice singing and imitate it with your RH.
Pedal: continuous link pedal.
Melody: RH 6ths need voicing so the melody is clearly on the top. Phrasing still need to be added to the mix.
Pulse: also very straight and could use flexibility.
Pedal: no pedal detected in this portion of the recording except m-53.
Melody: same as the previous recordings, the notes are learned but driving the melody still need to be incorporated.
Pulse: same as previous recordings
Because this section is very difficult to learn and to play, it has the risk of "sounding" difficult. It still could be played with top note voicing for melody direction, and exaggerating the crescendo by starting actually "piano", go all the way to "forte" and decrease back to "piano".
You already do some of that in here, except that the notes still feel in initial stages of learning.
Felix Mendelssohn's wife was in love with Chopin's music. Mendelssohn asked Chopin if he would do the favor of writing a few measures of music and sign them at the bottom so he (Felix) could give them to his wife as a gift for a special occasion.
Mainly focused on the motion of the LH, avoiding sudden parallel motions and favoring arch and circle motion instead. See video on the right --->
Check the comments I included in the score. They are directly related to the recording you just sent, which I dated 3/15/2021 for reference.
We will discuss more details at the lesson.
Group Class. Ramos-Santana
-Different types of Mazurkas
-Rhythm of the Mazurka is:
-After learning the rules, you break them by being flexible.
-Structural measures: apply.
-Passing measures: Don't apply.
-Memorize to free yourself and be more interpretative.
When practicing, eliminate elements that get on the way in order to practice the motion 1-2.....3-->1.
Sing/Hum it to internalize and understand it before translating it to fingers.
Mazurka with pedal markings
Remember to practice slowly but already applying all the controlled slow motion, phrasing, top note voicing on RH, dynamics, rubato, etc, all in a controlled environment where you have time to think about them. Later, when playing fast, all these elements will be escalated up. Imagine being filmed and then watched in slow motion.
Practicing slow motion
Theme and sections "p": pedal on 1st and released on 2nd beat
Theme and sections "f": full pedal linking without gaps.
Theme: More generous use of the pedal.
Section "f": Full pedal
Theme: The shortest pedal of all three.
Also her version feels more like a Waltz than a Mazurka.
Other pianists use full pedal (one pedal per measure) with no gaps.
Kate Liu for example alternates full pedal with pedal lifted on the 2nd beat, and kept upon pressed again on the 3rd beat.
Her application of dynamics is all able weight. Notice how her pianissimo is weightless and her hands float. When she applies forte and fortissimo, her fingers apply the weight of her arms all the way to the bottom of the key bed.
Below is the score with my own markings dated 12/21/2020.
Completely detached, no elongation of the top note yet still bringing up the leading tone by sharper attack.
Observe carefully the phrasings and the voicing of this pianist.
Some of his voicings are different than the traditional approach for this fugue
As much as I like Andras Schiff playing Bach with luminosity, this is an example of how I would not play this prelude. Mostly inner notes, the leading notes are not brought forward.
His fugue is more interesting, traditional approach.
Listen to this one and tell me what do you think. If you were the judge in a competition, what would you write about it?
My opinion is written below.
I will be using a copy of my own score which is the Henle Urtext for annotations.
At today's lesson we will talk about practicing to understand the harmonic progressions and finding harmonic direction, tensions, climatic points, etc.
CHOPIN: Prelude in C minor
SAM POST: Prelude and Fugue
Granada and hand size: We will find which chords are the ones presenting the difficulty, but please remember that the chords in the RH are “arpeggiato” chords, in which the hand does’t have to hold down all the notes at the same time.
Small hands playing large repertory. Alicia de Larrocha is the best example. Watch her (if videos are at all available) play the Suite Iberia, especially Navarra, Goyescas, El Pelele. Pieces impossible to play by small hands but her ability to move swiftly and play certain chords as very quick arpeggio gives us the impression of a full size chord.
DEBUSSY: Rêverie (Dream)
This piece is often played too fast. Here Lang Lang plays it at a slow pace that allows the tons and the sound to evaporate from the piano. More difficult to play than "Granada", totally worth the effort in my opinion.
SATIE: Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes
Very easy to learn and play. it is all about the sound, because if it is played plain, it can be a very boring piece.