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Thread: Learning Beethoven's 5th: Tension with repeated octaves

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    Default Learning Beethoven's 5th: Tension with repeated octaves



    So yeah, I'm learning this piece. 1 thing I notice right away is that the octave is integral to the piece. Without it, it doesn't sound nearly as deep and emotional. Another thing I notice is a lot of 9ths and even some 10ths. I have the choice of using the pedal and arpeggiating those areas or getting rid of the 9ths and 10ths entirely. I have tried both ways and even though getting rid of the 9ths and 10ths is more comfortable, it just doesn't sound right. Sometimes I'm lucky and I can use my thumb to play both the 9th and the octave. But most of the 9ths and 10ths I see, I can't do that with. If my left hand is in close enough proximity, I could take some of the notes and play them in the left hand. But again, most of the time, I can't.

    But this is not where the majority of my tension comes from when I play this. The majority of my tension comes from the octaves occurring so often that I basically lock my hands into octave position until the octaves disappear for a little bit(even if that is just a measure or 2 without octaves). But with the fast tempo and so many octaves, I feel like if I tried to release for every octave, there would be so much hesitation that it just sounds like it is half tempo. Obviously not what I want if I am going for Allegro. So my instinct then is to lock my hands in octave position so that I can do the octaves at full speed.

    I don't bother even trying to do the legato octave technique and stick to the normal "staccato" octave technique in this piece. But I wonder, why is the locking into octave position causing tension? Surely, since more weight is coming from my arms this way, there would be less tension, but nope. In fact, with the Pathetique sonata which also involves a lot of octaves, I still do this locking instinct but no tension comes from it because I rotate my wrist for the alternating octaves. I can't do that if the octaves are static.

    Since nothing comes from my wrist with static octaves except for the locking in octave position, it is left to my arms and fingers to actually play the octaves and is mostly my arms for the first few octaves where I am playing fortissimo. At piano though, it is about equal between my fingers and arms. I seem to be doing the octaves right and yet there is a lot of tension. But why? It isn't like I am playing faster than usual, even for octaves(the usual tempo I play at is Allegro). So why am I getting so tense before the repeat?

    Here is a recording of somebody playing the Liszt transcription(which also happens to be the transcription I am learning and the most orchestral sounding out of the piano transcriptions I have heard):



    But yeah, why so much tension with the octaves if it isn't me being nervous, playing faster than usual, or playing my octaves wrong.
    Last edited by caters; Sep-16-2018 at 04:48.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Maybe you’re feeling the tension because it’s also an in(tense) piece. Some say it’s Fate knocking on Beethoven’s door and maybe he didn’t want to let him in... There have been some pianists with small hands, such as Alicia de Larrocha. I’d look her up because she talked about how she navigated some of the larger reaches on the instrument. If you’re young, your hands may continue to grow in strength and flexibility.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Sep-16-2018 at 05:40.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Maybe you’re feeling the tension because it’s also an in(tense) piece. Some say it’s Fate knocking on Beethoven’s door and maybe he didn’t want to let him in... There have been some pianists with small hands, such as Alicia de Larrocha. I’d look her up because she talked about how she navigated some of the larger reaches on the instrument. If you’re young, your hands may continue to grow in strength and flexibility.
    Well I am 19 and while I might have a growth spurt in my 20s, I don't know how that is going to affect my hand. But I probably will never get Liszt size hands(reaching a 10th comfortably and able to play octaves with a raised wrist). I do occasionally stretch my hand to try to increase flexibility within the hand size I have.

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