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Thread: Sustain pedal through rests and staccato

  1. #1
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    Default Sustain pedal through rests and staccato

    I don't see the logic of notating or playing with the sustain down through rests and staccato. For example https://youtu.be/mACc5Z4Jquo Alice Sara Ott is a world class player, but those opening notes to Chopin's opus 18 are not staccato, just accented. And here: https://youtu.be/mACc5Z4Jquo?t=131 it's supposed to be quarter, rest, quarter but ends up being played half, quarter because the sustain is down.

    And I'm not picking on this particular player. You hear it all the time.
    Last edited by KThreeSixFour; Nov-21-2018 at 02:47.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Okay. Good question. But it sounds like she's creating the sustain on the opening few bars by holding down her finger on each note rather than using the sustain pedal. Try it. Then she starts using the sustain pedal where it's marked in the score. If those notes were played in a dry, military, clipped staccato without it, it would probably sound harsh.

    In the second example, the articulation of the note can still sound staccato even with a sustained effect. The staccato is in the attack of the note and that's what's considered most important. I've heard similar effects with other pianists and I really care for Ms. Ott.

    Rubinstein is a little more clearly staccato but is similar in sound. The staccato is a little more clipped but there's still very much of a legato flowing feel to the overall waltz:



    I have to love the melodic genius of Chopin in virtually everything he wrote.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Nov-21-2018 at 03:30.
    "That's all Folks!"

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    On a fine instrument, the main strings damper pedal potentially offers much more than a binary choice. Master pianists could certainly half-pedal and/or modulate the damping level in most subtle ways all through the rests.

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    In some original editions of Chopin it's indicated to keep the dampers off, in other words, sustain, for ages in some compositions. The art is for the next note not to interrupt the preceding note and a matter of balance between bass and the treble line. A significant sensitivity is developed in such playing. It's a different idea of tonality from much of the modern playing, one that paints soundscapes.

    A personal favourite is to play the Raindrop prelude faster, and very gently with sustain pedal nearly entirely so that it's not raindrops at all but a grey mist from which drizzle materialises. One can imagine looking north to sea at Valdemosa or Deia with this mist merging sea imperceptibly into sky and the drizzle making all moist, green and fertile. Black clouds appear and the sun breaks through. No note must interrupt the previous one.

    In the 18th century there were pianos without dampers at all.

    But tuning in the 18th and 19th centuries might not be as it was now. When notes of the scale are specifically derived from harmonics of the bass strings, then pedal down all the way through is more possible as there isn't the reign (forgive the pun) of confusion of all the harmonics of the strings and the notes fighting each other. Rather the reverse, the lower strings give resonance and substance to what's above. The numbers of modes of vibration are reduced to what is harmonious. What is harmonious endures whilst the notes that aren't in resonance with the bass die away quickly.

    Best wishes

    David Pinnegar

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