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Rod
10-02-2000, 12:28 PM
And so, for those in the UK, another prestigeous Leeds piano competition has come and gone. Did anyone see the 'highlights' on BBC2 last night? And whose music were we enlightened with? Brahms, Chopin, more Brahms, Tchaikovsky, yet more Brahms and Prokofiev. All typical fodder if you want to win a prize such as this. To relieve the increasing tedium (which was becoming almost unbearable by the time T's first Concerto began), I periodically resorted to listening to some real keyboard music. In the past contestants I've witnessed selecting Haydn or Mozart have stood no chance. Even with Beethoven you have to pull something really unusual out of the bag.

Yet the choice of music made sence, if I had to play the Steinway grand they used I would have chosen something similar. These pianists aren't idiots - they may say (I suggest) in public how such instruments are the peak of perfection for all piano music, but in competition they throw such fanciful notions out of the window. Placed side by side, you become quickly aware of which music suits these instruments the best. Then there is the added bonus of achieving greatest superficial effect from the weakest intellectual material!

Roll-on next years competition.

Rod

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
10-02-2000, 02:17 PM
I saw last nights highlights as well, but as you may expect, I totally disagree with you !
You're missing some fundamental points - first of all the competition is not judged just on the concerto finale - there are many rounds before where the pianists have to display a wide range of material. This was a Piano competition, not A Beethoven competition ! I don't regard Brahms, Chopin or Prokofiev as being the weakest intellectual material or 'Fodder' either ! Also, the Steinway that was used was specially adapted for the occasion. The competition provides a platform for young artists to launch their careers - and many great names have come out of the Leeds, including one of the greatest pianists of his generation - Murray Periah. I think Murray Periah may actually have played a Mozart Concerto in the final (I'm not sure - but I'm certain someone has won previously playing Mozart) Alas you shall have to wait 3 years for the next competition, not one !!

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'Man know thyself'

Rod
10-03-2000, 01:34 PM
I am aware of the numerous rounds that are undertaken. It would be interesting to analyse what was played at each. But it is also interesting that all of what was played in the finale was post-Classical, as is most of the music I have heard in competitions involving the piano on the BBC (including the Young Musician of the Year, which was also in my mind when writing the above comments, but which I failed to allude to).

I believe the chap who won the Leeds on this occasion was something of a pro, he has already made a few recordings somewhat unfair to real youngsters like the 15 year-old girl who played the Tchaikovsky concerto!

Prepared as it was, I doubt if the condition of the Steinway played any part in the choice of music!

Regarding 'Fodder' I meant works chosen to appeal to judges. By 'weakest intellectual' I can honestly say that, for me, this was a night of very easy listening, and it should not have been allowed for the same piece to be played twice!

One of the less drunken members of the audience made an astute comment he always chose the last performer as the winner, as he never could remember what the earlier performers sounded like. No doubt the judges do the same.

I have no doubt that at some time a Mozart piece may have been a winning piece, but I bet this is the exception rather than the rule. You cannot deny that Romantic composers are usually the most popular choices at such occasions. If I had been a judge no Mozart piece would win ever, the music sounds pretty lame to me on a Steinway.

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
10-03-2000, 04:53 PM
Perhaps most of the competitors agree with you about performing Mozart or Beethoven on Steinways - I think however the real reason is that obviously in a piano concerto final, most of the competitors want to show off their technical ability to its best advantage - and the Romantic and modern concertos do at least offer that !
It is unfortunate having to sit through 2 or in this case 3 performances of the same work, but on the other hand you could argue that they should all play the same work in order to give a true comparison !
I still don't regard the Brahms or the Prokofiev as 'easy listening' - I'm not sure what you mean exactly - I would have thought all 5 Beethoven piano concertos made for easier listening than those 2 !
I love your observation on the drunken audience ! I think the jury must have been drunk also, because I certainly would not have picked the pianist they chose.

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'Man know thyself'

Rod
10-03-2000, 07:30 PM
Originally posted by Peter:

Perhaps most of the competitors agree with you about performing Mozart or Beethoven on Steinways - I think however the real reason is that obviously in a piano concerto final, most of the competitors want to show off their technical ability to its best advantage - and the Romantic and modern concertos do at least offer that !


Then we are in total agreement as this was the main point I was making. The music is better suited to the instrument, as it was written for it (Chopin is relatively early but the music clearly suits the English/French action). Conversly the likes of Beethoven is not so well suited to the instrument, despite being superior keyboard music than the efforts of the men above. Thus is my point for favoring the Viennese classical piano, as assisted by the Leeds competitors.

You remark about the pieces allowing the competitors to display their technical abilities also concurs with my earlier remarks, for this seems to be the only criteria of assessment. B's compositions are far more difficult from an interpretive point of view.

Originally posted by Peter:

It is unfortunate having to sit through 2 or in this case 3 performances of the same work, but on the other hand you could argue that they should all play the same work in order to give a true comparison !
I still don't regard the Brahms or the Prokofiev as 'easy listening' - I'm not sure what you mean exactly - I would have thought all 5 Beethoven piano concertos made for easier listening than those 2 !


When the same works is played more than one the judges are unavoidably inclined to compare the duplications with each other at the expense of the other pieces, not an ideal situation.

By 'easy listening' I mean 'unengaging' - easy on the brain, if not always on my poor ears. Beethoven concertos played under the same conditions are no more appealing, for they were not designed for it.

Originally posted by Peter:

I love your observation on the drunken audience ! I think the jury must have been drunk also, because I certainly would not have picked the pianist they chose.



I'm familiar with drunks at concerts. I would have put the names in a hat and picked the winner out at random.

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

BP
10-04-2000, 01:29 AM
I went to a competition several months ago. It was not like the one you describe, but in this one, there was plenty of Mozart and Beethoven in the piano competitions (that was almost all I heard, though I have no doubt that there was plenty of Chopin to go around, probably just didn't hear it) and in another part of the competition, I even heard some Handel! It was all very wonderful.

BP

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Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
War is peace

Rod
10-04-2000, 12:28 PM
Originally posted by BP:
I went to a competition several months ago. It was not like the one you describe, but in this one, there was plenty of Mozart and Beethoven in the piano competitions (that was almost all I heard, though I have no doubt that there was plenty of Chopin to go around, probably just didn't hear it) and in another part of the competition, I even heard some Handel! It was all very wonderful.

BP



Can you remember who won? I've heard Haydn played at such events as well, but my point was that I suspect music of this nature would be inherently at a disadvantage compared to later compositions, for it is less suited to the instrument (unless they were playing on fortepianos, then the situation would be different). As for Handel, I'm not aware that he wrote music for piano, but rather the harpsicord. Call me Mr. Crazy, but I believe harp music, if it's any good, should sound best played on the harp! I just don't accept the idea that all keyboard music somehow is equally well suited to the modern piano. Do you not think Mozart sounds a little odd played on a Steinway? Or is the instrument itself of secondary importance at such events?

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

BP
10-04-2000, 01:25 PM
First of all, there were no winners. People simply got scored somewhere between 1-5 (1 being the best). Second, it wasn't exclusively piano either, and really, the music I heard was played by a horn and piano (probably an arrangement of something that really had nothing to do with those instruments, but Handel nonetheless)

BP

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Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
War is peace

Peter
10-04-2000, 03:39 PM
Originally posted by Rod:
As for Handel, I'm not aware that he wrote music for piano, but rather the harpsicord. Call me Mr. Crazy, but I believe harp music, if it's any good, should sound best played on the harp! I just don't accept the idea that all keyboard music somehow is equally well suited to the modern piano. Do you not think Mozart sounds a little odd played on a Steinway?
Rod




Well how many people these days possess a Harpsichord or a Fortepiano? Are you suggesting that the wonderful Scarlatti Sonatas or Bach Preludes and Fugues should be denied to Piano students today ? Beethoven was himself guilty of the 'crime' of playing Bach's keyboard music on the Fortepiano. As far as I am aware he did not possess a harpsichord in order that he could perform Bach or Handel authentically.Nor anywhere is there any evidence that he felt his early works or those of Mozart should be performed on 18th century Fortepianos.


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'Man know thyself'

Rod
10-04-2000, 07:58 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
Well how many people these days possess a Harpsichord or a Fortepiano? Are you suggesting that the wonderful Scarlatti Sonatas or Bach Preludes and Fugues should be denied to Piano students today ?


If everyone thought like me there would be a market big enough to allow for the large scale (thus cheaper) production of fp's and harps!

On BBC2 they are playing Bach's '48' on modern grands at the moment. I've listened to a lot of this and I can't say the sound is particularly engaging.

Originally posted by Peter:
Beethoven was himself guilty of the 'crime' of playing Bach's keyboard music on the Fortepiano. As far as I am aware he did not possess a harpsichord in order that he could perform Bach or Handel authentically. Nor anywhere is there any evidence that he felt his early works or those of Mozart should be performed on 18th century Fortepianos.
[/B]

I don't know what instrument he was playing, or whose it was but if it was an fp, as long as he didn't charge people to hear it, it's OK! I don't think there is any record of B making a regular habit of this behaviour. The company he kept may have influenced these occasions. I doubt he played Bach during his celebrated piano duels with his contemporaries (the nearest to a competition I suppose he got to).

I have not read anything regarding B opinion of what piano was suitable for Mozart. The essential element is the Viennese action with small leather covered hammers, which was still predominant after Beethoven was dead. Obviously a five octave instrument would suffice for M asked for nothing more.

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
10-05-2000, 10:55 AM
Originally posted by Rod:
I don't know what instrument he was playing, or whose it was but if it was an fp, as long as he didn't charge people to hear it, it's OK! I don't think there is any record of B making a regular habit of this behaviour. The company he kept may have influenced these occasions.
Rod




Well it is well known that there is a dreadful Czerny edition of the Bach prelude and Fugues, that is supposed to be influenced by Beethoven's interpretation of them - whilst Beethoven may not have approved of such an edition, it is highly likely that he played them in this manner on his own pianos, though as you sat not in public. At that time I doubt that anybody played them in public !

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'Man know thyself'

Rod
10-05-2000, 12:17 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
Well it is well known that there is a dreadful Czerny edition of the Bach prelude and Fugues, that is supposed to be influenced by Beethoven's interpretation of them - whilst Beethoven may not have approved of such an edition, it is highly likely that he played them in this manner on his own pianos, though as you sat not in public. At that time I doubt that anybody played them in public !


I wouldn't connect Beethoven with Czerny's mature style, of which B was very critical. Check out B's own prelude compositions for (I suspect) a more accurate idea of what B would have done with the Bach music. You must also bear in mind that some of the earlier pianos sounded very like harpsicords anyway. But when considering the playing of harp music on the piano I wasn't really thinking of preludes and fugues, but rather 'real' compositions such as suites. I have a good cd of Handel harp music that wouldn't translate well to the piano - the sound would just be a blur due to the number and rapidity of notes!

Regardless, people can do what they like in the privacy of their own home, it's just when an audience has to pay that some self-discipline must be imposed!

Rod

Peter
10-05-2000, 01:42 PM
What do you mean by Czerny's 'mature' style? - after all B was quite happy for Czerny to give the first Vienna performance of the Emperor concerto in 1812 and for him to give piano lessons to Karl (1817).
I agree with you about Harp music not transferring well to the keyboard - but I don't know of many examples of music written for the harp being played on a keyboard, and any way that is quite a different point to playing music written for the fortepiano on a pianoforte.


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'Man know thyself'

Rod
10-05-2000, 02:00 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
What do you mean by Czerny's 'mature' style? - after all B was quite happy for Czerny to give the first Vienna performance of the Emperor concerto in 1812 and for him to give piano lessons to Karl (1817).
I agree with you about Harp music not transferring well to the keyboard - but I don't know of many examples of music written for the harp being played on a keyboard, and any way that is quite a different point to playing music written for the fortepiano on a pianoforte.




By mature I mean quite simply after his student days when he became a composer in his own right. B critisised his overuse of the higher notes of the keyboard, saying he played too much 'piccolo'. His performance of Beethoven is another matter, but for a good example of Czerny 'composing Beethoven' (as you suggest with the Bach music) one need only look at C's completion of B's concerto movement WoO6 to realise Beethoven's critisism was valid, and that it was clearly not done in the way B would have done it.

Regarding harp music being played on the piano, there are dozens of such recordings today, some by the best known pianists - one of which (at least) has won awards!!

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Rod
10-06-2000, 12:22 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
...I agree with you about Harp music not transferring well to the keyboard - but I don't know of many examples of music written for the harp being played on a keyboard, and any way that is quite a different point to playing music written for the fortepiano on a pianoforte.




I've done a little research into B's playing of Bach (via Thayer), and it seems it was just the '48' (ie The Well-tempered Klavier) that he seems to have played (he had mastered them at by 1783 at least). Bearing in mind 'Klavier' means simply keyboard, one could say the 48 could justifiably be played on the harpsichord, piano or clavichord, for the purpose of these works was to demonstrate the possibilities of equal-temprement. Thus one could say B was not playing true harp music in this instance. B was often described as a klavier player in his youth, I don't know which, if any, paricular instrument this term would have referred to in those days. Regardless I'm sure he must have played a few harpsichords, in his early days at least.

I was right about the connection with B's own preludes and Bach's, apparently B's prelude and fugue in f minor has its origins in No.12 of the 1st book. Since their is nothing remotely awfull in this work of B's I would say Czerny's poor efforts are due to Czerny himself and not the influence of Beethoven, as I have already suggested.

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
10-06-2000, 02:06 PM
Infuriatingly I've lost my Czerny edition of the 48, so I can't check the facts on this, but I seem to recall Czerny claiming that his edition gave an indication of B's performance of the preludes and fugues.I agree Beethoven cannot be held responsible for Czerny's efforts.Interesting about B's prelude and fugue in Fmin, but not surprising as Neefe had introduced B to Bach's 48 at an early age. Quite how much of Bach's music Beethoven was familiar with, I'm not sure - the Bmin Mass for sure, but how many of the Cantatas or Concertos were known to him ?

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'Man know thyself'

Tim
11-20-2000, 02:54 PM
I thought you guys mught be interested to know that my current teacher won the Leeds Piano competition. His name is Artur Pizarro. He's SO amazing.

Tim.

Tim
11-20-2000, 02:59 PM
Also, Ashley Wass -one of this years finalists- went to Chetham's school of music in Manchester... as I did.

Artur said that he thought the level of competition this year was bad compared to the year he won. The problem with Leeds -he says- is that they always have a winner. In the Chopin and Tchaikovsky pc's, they only have a winner if the best player is good enough. This is a better system in my opinion because with Leeds, pianists such as this years winner are unfairly compared with greats such as Murray Perahia, Radu Lupu, and Artur Pizarro.

Tim.

Tim
11-20-2000, 03:14 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
Well how many people these days possess a Harpsichord or a Fortepiano? Are you suggesting that the wonderful Scarlatti Sonatas or Bach Preludes and Fugues should be denied to Piano students today ? Beethoven was himself guilty of the 'crime' of playing Bach's keyboard music on the Fortepiano. As far as I am aware he did not possess a harpsichord in order that he could perform Bach or Handel authentically.Nor anywhere is there any evidence that he felt his early works or those of Mozart should be performed on 18th century Fortepianos.




OK. Once and for all, I can conclusively say (with evidence) that Beethoven would have prefered his music played on a modern piano instead of the old fortepianos. The evidence for this can be found in one of the symphonies (I know not which one yet, but I will find out exact bar numbers and movements from my teacher soon...).

There is a solo in one movement which is played on the horn. When it comes back later on in the piece, the bassoon plays this tune in a different key. In Beethoven's day, it was impossible for this to be played on the horn because it didn't have the valves. Beethoven wrote over the music though, that when valves were invented in the future, he wanted this solo to be put back onto the horn.

On this evidence, I don't think it is possible to say that:

A.) Beethoven would have prefered instruments in the state they are in today

and

B.) Beethoven would have prefered the fortepiano to the modern piano for his own pieces.

Do you really think that he felt it was ideal that he had to have people to pick the hammers out of the strings while he was playing?! It is ridiculous to say that this was part of the music.

This point proves that Beethoven WAS a forward looking compoer in terms of instruments and if alive today, would not have his music played on the old fashioned instruments.

Tim.

PS. I am not saying that period recordings are of no use as it is still interesting to listen to them to hear what B's music would have originally sounded like.

[This message has been edited by Tim (edited 11-20-2000).]

Rod
11-20-2000, 03:40 PM
Originally posted by Tim:
OK. Once and for all, I can conclusively say (with evidence) that Beethoven would have prefered his music played on a modern piano instead of the old fortepianos. The evidence for this can be found in one of the symphonies (I know not which one yet, but I will find out exact bar numbers and movements from my teacher soon...).

There is a solo in one movement which is played on the horn. When it comes back later on in the piece, the bassoon plays this tune in a different key. In Beethoven's day, it was impossible for this to be played on the horn because it didn't have the valves. Beethoven wrote over the music though, that when valves were invented in the future, he wanted this solo to be put back onto the horn.

On this evidence, I don't think it is possible to say that:

A.) Beethoven would have prefered instruments in the state they are in today

and

B.) Beethoven would have prefered the fortepiano to the modern piano for his own pieces.

Do you really think that he felt it was ideal that he had to have people to pick the hammers out of the strings while he was playing?! It is ridiculous to say that this was part of the music.

This point proves that Beethoven WAS a forward looking compoer in terms of instruments and if alive today, would not have his music played on the old fashioned instruments.

Tim.

PS. I am not saying that period recordings are of no use as it is still interesting to listen to them to hear what B's music would have originally sounded like.

[This message has been edited by Tim (edited 11-20-2000).]

It has been commented before about a passage(s?) for the horn in the 9th Symphony that imply the use of a valve horn. Well I can say that there were some primitive designs of such a nature in existance in B's time, of which B may have become aware. Perhaps B may have known the horn player in the premiere may have had such an instrument. On the other hand, I'm no expert in horn manufacture, but someone may know if they ever produced different Natural horns for different keys? Either way I suggest B composed such notes because he knew it was possible for them to be played at that time. If it were impossible I suggest he dodn't compose them!

Regarding the fortepiano, my point was never what he would have thought of the modern instrument, but rather which instrument did he compose for. Broken stings and mechanics is a problem of manufacture, not sound . I'm sure B would have liked a piano that never broke in his tim, but later Viennese-actioned pianos were much stronger than the early models. I could point out 1000 cases where B's keyboard writing was clearly done bearing the nuances of the Viennese pianos in mind, and not some fantasy instrument with a totally different tone, level of decay, pitch, volume, tuning, keyboard span etc etc. Some of his effects are impossible to replicate on the modern instrument. How do you account for that?

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Rod
11-20-2000, 03:48 PM
Originally posted by Tim:
Also, Ashley Wass -one of this years finalists- went to Chetham's school of music in Manchester... as I did.

Artur said that he thought the level of competition this year was bad compared to the year he won. The problem with Leeds -he says- is that they always have a winner. In the Chopin and Tchaikovsky pc's, they only have a winner if the best player is good enough. This is a better system in my opinion because with Leeds, pianists such as this years winner are unfairly compared with greats such as Murray Perahia, Radu Lupu, and Artur Pizarro.

Tim.

My point was that the Leeds isn't really a universal pianist competition in the first place, but rather a competition for pianists who will need to play in the late-C19th/C20th manner if they want to win, which effectively rules out a lot of piano music (that is, if you want it heard in the correct manner, worthy of a 'great'!).

Rod

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Tim
11-20-2000, 09:20 PM
Originally posted by Rod:

Regarding the fortepiano, my point was never what he would have thought of the modern instrument, but rather which instrument did he compose for. Broken stings and mechanics is a problem of manufacture, not sound . I'm sure B would have liked a piano that never broke in his tim, but later Viennese-actioned pianos were much stronger than the early models. I could point out 1000 cases where B's keyboard writing was clearly done bearing the nuances of the Viennese pianos in mind, and not some fantasy instrument with a totally different tone, level of decay, pitch, volume, tuning, keyboard span etc etc. Some of his effects are impossible to replicate on the modern instrument. How do you account for that?

Rod




I am not aware of any effects that can not be reproduced on the modern grand. I admit that the sound is different -less intimate- but I think this enhances much of his keyboard repertoire.

Show me a few of these thousand examples that you have! I am genuinly interested to know as it can help me in interpretation.

Tim.

Rod
11-21-2000, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by Tim:
I am not aware of any effects that can not be reproduced on the modern grand. I admit that the sound is different -less intimate- but I think this enhances much of his keyboard repertoire.

Show me a few of these thousand examples that you have! I am genuinly interested to know as it can help me in interpretation.

Tim.

The trouble is, a lot of B's piano music IS intimate and delicate, and on the modern intstrument it sounds like you're using a bulldozer to fill a plant pot! Regarding your interpretation, unless you are an fp player what would be the point of me discussing it, you already seem to be aware of the somewhat insensitive nature of the pf. If you have a video (preferably a stereo one) I could send you (and anyone else who is interested) a demo of fp recordings to illustrate my point better than I can describe it. Why video? Because its the only recording media I have, and not a bad one at that!

Rod


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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin