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Thread: Late Romantic HIP: What Are We Waiting For?

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    I've sampled some of Gardiner's Brahms recordings. As far as I can tell his approach to Brahms is quite similar to his approach to Baroque music - brisk, relatively steady tempi, emphasis on clarity of lines, minimal vibrato, etc. So it's not historically informed at all - it's just Gardiner's personal style, which is far more anachronistic in this music than the modern style. My (admittedly even more limited) sampling of other Baroque-specialist conductors doing HIP recordings of Romantic repertoire are similar. Am I missing something?

    I agree that a true HIP approach to the late Romantic repertoire, drawing on the oldest recordings and piano rolls and contemporary writings, would be fascinating, but is much of it happening right now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post

    I agree that a true HIP approach to the late Romantic repertoire, drawing on the oldest recordings and piano rolls and contemporary writings, would be fascinating, but is much of it happening right now?

    Well I've given you a bunch of examples of Brahms recordings if you look up the thread, what more do you want?

    I was trying to avoid keyboard, just to make it more interesting, but nevertheless, here are some Chopin examples.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 22:07.

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    A ground breaking recording of the 3rd sonata and other things here by Edoardo Torbianelli, who is the sort of scholar/performer which is common in early music, but rarer in 19th century music. He has taken inspiration not only from the physical sound quality of Chopin's piano, but also by contemporary bel canto singing practice. The booklet essay by Jeanne Roudet is stimulating.

    inally, nothing is as vivid in Chopin’s pianistic
    art as the similarity of his technique and performative style to the bel canto school of singing, inherited
    from the art of the eighteenth-century castrati and
    perpetuated in the 1800s by the great Italian singers
    admired by the pianist from the moment he arrived
    in Paris. This comparison has long remained theoretical, an observation made trite by the absence of concrete elements that could help to apply it in performance. The study of this lost vocal school is at the
    heart of recent researches into performance practice;
    its application to the piano progressively reveals the
    previously unsuspected degree to which both disciplines are related. Edoardo Torbianelli’s research and
    his pianistic art focus on the questions surrounding
    the piano’s vocality, thus shedding new light on the
    aesthetic quarrels and differences between nineteenth-century schools of performance and teaching.
    If Chopin and Liszt’s artistic personalities differ so
    starkly, it is because the two pianists did not sing on
    the instrument in the same way. Liszt endorsed a style
    of declamation aimed at progressively breaking off
    from the bel canto tradition to which he was born. By
    making the voices heavier in order to give them more
    strength in all registers, he foreshadows twentiethcentury vocal technique and a conception of good
    singing which is drastically different from Chopin’s
    ideal. The accounts of Chopin’s pupils and their own
    students, largely made available today thanks to the
    pioneering work of Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, outline
    the technical parametres typical of the Chopinian
    school. First, the quality of sound-production and
    the perfect control of a rich palette of dynamic
    inflections are essential tools for singing on the
    piano, just as they are for the singer: “The fingers
    must sink, must somehow be engulfed in the depths
    of the piano, both when playing forte and piano; one
    must pull an extended, melancholy sonority out of the instrument; despite it not being a singing instrument (for this one must not let the keys lift too
    quickly) one must release from it a song that aims to
    imitate the Italian singers, in Chopin’s own terms”
    (Cecylia Dzialynska, 1892). The comparison of these
    descriptions with singing methods and the vast pedagogical corpus dedicated to the instruments allows
    one to patiently reconstruct forgotten technical gestures; historical recordings have also provided inestimable help, as have the collaborations with modern-day singers and restorers of historical pianos.
    Chopin’s notation is tirelessly scrutinised in a novel
    way that departs from the philological method
    aimed at producing an ideal score with numerous
    variants, often somewhat unpalatable for the pianist.
    Rather than serving to determine the most authentic indication, or that which is most relevant to us in
    the twenty-first century, Chopin’s variants—as well
    as those of his contemporary editors—are examined
    in order to reconstruct a palette of sounds and meanings corresponding to a variety of signs which have
    since evolved or been forgotten. For example, the use
    of accents on the piano suggests different types of
    vocalisation and effects which one can bring back to
    sonorous life. This indefatigable research on sound
    and meaning clarifies parameters which musical
    notation is incapable of describing with any sort of
    precision: punctuation, phrasing, a type of rubato that frees the melody from the notated rhythm,
    tempo inflections that accompany the varied writing
    like narrative vagaries, the use of the pedal. If all of
    Chopin’s music is examined within this aural aesthetic, the definition of pianistic genres and of the soundscapes they transmit is crucial in order to play his
    music. The emergence of the nocturne and barcarolle
    as pianistic genres highlights the mechanisms of
    musical exoticism and the creation of an italianité
    that has its roots in the eighteenth century. Its relevant aspects here are the link between the learned
    and the popular, between bel canto and folklore, the
    latter never having shunned the expressive tools of
    classically trained voices in Italy. Thus, it is no surprise that within the pantheon of great musicians
    Chopin is the uncontested master of the nocturne and
    the author of one of the most beautiful barcarolles in
    the piano’s repertoire. The genre of the barcarolle resonates with the great Romantic themes embodied by
    the composer in exile: the blurring of borders
    between time and space, nature and civilisation, the
    scholarly and popular; all the while preserving
    improvisation, the role of recollection and memory
    as well as the vast spectrum of emotions belonging to
    the field of melancholy at the heart of his work.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 20:20.

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    Hubert Rutkowski's Chopin is the closest I've heard to the Chopin of Mauriz Rosenthal. The instrument is characterful because the sounds it makes are so rich in partials. He says he has explored Chopin's comments about fingering, especially the effect of fingering on colour. Rutkowski's rubato is organic and his touch and phrasing is dramatic and song like. Well recorded.



    After this performance Chopin would favour Pleyel pianos. His preference
    was certainly justified due to the warm, melodious and velvet singsong
    tone, as well as the possibility for highly subtle sound differentiation. Chopin
    himself would praise this “light way of playing” and “songful singsong
    tone” of the Pleyel piano. Once he referred to it as “non plus ultra”. He
    would always teach his students that the piano should “sing”. As we know,
    according to Chopin the singing tone on the piano should be similar to the
    Italian tradition of “bel canto”. He also owned an Érard piano and would play
    it on the days when he wasn’t strong enough to play the Pleyel. He stated
    that the Érard pianos had the brilliance, dynamics and clarity of sound,
    whereas the Pleyel required work to achieve all this.
    I can agree with Chopin’s thesis entirely. Indeed, to achieve the singsong
    tone and legato cantabile on the Pleyel piano is quite a challenge for the
    pianist. This instrument is highly sensitive to the smallest detail, as far as the
    so-called “touché” (the way of touching the piano) is concerned. Playing
    the Pleyel one might get the impression of a direct contact with the strings.
    However, the mechanism of this instrument is not so perfect and does not
    help the pianist to bring out the sound, in the same way a contemporary
    piano does. In his notes on the piano playing method Chopin writes as
    follows: “considering that each finger has been shaped differently, it is
    better not to destroy the charm of particular touches of each finger, but, on
    contrary – develop them. Each finger has its own strength according to its shape”. Following this remark, especially on the Pleyel we should look for the
    special sound quality and touch of each finger. As such, the fourth finger will
    sound different to the second, or to the stronger thumb. This is possible to
    be achieved on the Pleyel to a much greater extent than on a contemporary
    piano whose perfect and complicated mechanics, in my opinion, eliminates
    and levels out this more immediate “touch” of the Pleyel . . . In my search for the genuine Chopin sound on the Pleyel and the Chopin
    performing style, the historical recordings of the students of Karol Mikuli
    who was in turn the student of Chopin himself, played a crucial role. The
    recordings of Raul Koczalski and Moritz Rosenthal from the first half of 20th
    century are, in my opinion, unquestionable examples of interpretations closest
    to Chopin’s style. The recordings of Koczalski and Rosenthal are distinguished
    for their refined artistic ease, fanciful rubato and improvisational, spontaneous
    character. This way of playing might be criticised by contemporary pianists as
    too mannerist. But, the art of legato represented by both students of Mikuli
    tops it all! Apparently Rosenthal took two lessens a week from Mikuli who
    passed on to him the “secrets of perfect legato”.The selection of pieces on this album is by no means random. I would like
    to present the whole spectrum of sound possibilities available to the Pleyel.
    Each of the recorded pieces on this album unveils a different nature of the
    instrument.
    In this recording I apply the performing practice from 19th century, such as
    arpeggiating accords, or the agogic independence of both hands or voices.
    There is a curiosity hidden in the last bars of the Etude in G-flat major, Op.10,
    No.5, which constitutes an octave run on black keys. Well, I perform this
    run as a glissando! I was inspired to do so by two different recordings of
    this piece by Moritz Rosenthal who performs it like this each time. Was this
    Chopin’s intention? Did he suggest that to Mikuli? Did Mikuli repeat that to
    Rosenthal?
    The Pleyel instrument enables a very transparent communication of all the
    sounds and sound levels, something that is not possible to achieve to such an
    extent on a contemporary piano. It is a popular belief that in Chopin’s music
    even the so-called accompaniment of, for example, the left hand, creates an
    autonomous melody, instead of being just a secondary accompaniment. This
    effect can be heard, for example, in the recorded Nocturnes Op.48 No.2 and
    Op.27 No.2.
    Numerous “sotto voce” fragments sound amazing, for example, the second
    theme in the Ballad Op.23 in G minor, additionally notated “meno mosso”
    by Chopin. There is a powerful sound in the forte fortissimo dynamics in the
    coda of the Ballad, but also in the final Scherzo in B minor Op.20 where we
    can hear the full resonance of the Pleyel – also when particular pedalling is
    applied. The Pleyel instrument allows longer pedalling than the contemporary
    piano, which enables the ductile permeation of harmonic and melodic planes.
    The glamour and pearl like quality of the Pleyel can be heard in fast virtuoso sections, for example in the Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp
    minor, Op.66, or in Polonaise in B Flat major, Op.71, as well as in Waltz in
    D flat major, Op.64 No.1. Leggiero, “sotto voce“ and the dancing quality of
    mazurkas are achievable thanks to the Pleyel’s tone whose sound is free from
    density and weight. A considerable technical difficulty lay in all kinds of trills,
    especially those in the quiet dynamics. This is connected with the mechanics
    without the double repetition, for example in the Coda of the Nocturne in
    F sharp minor, Op.48, No.2, or the entire Mazurka in A minor Op.68 No.2.
    Finding the correct way to perform those trills on the Pleyel delivers a
    sonorous effect reminding us of a trembling, vibrating voice.
    Finally, we have Chopin’s legato cantabile, be it in the central part of
    the Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66, or in the lullaby of the
    Scherzo in B minor, Op.20 (also “sotto voce”). Legato is also present in both
    nocturnes in the quiet dynamics, developing to a full singing in the fortissimo
    dynamics, reaching occasionally the limits of the Pleyel’s singing possibilities,
    resulting in a sound that may become too percussive.
    In my opinion some of Chopin’s pieces, considering the dynamic and
    expressive requirements of the texture, sound better on a piano built at the
    end of 19th century or on a contemporary piano, than on an instrument from
    Chopin’s epoch. This can be especially noticed in the Polonaise in A flat
    major, Op.53, Sonate in B minor, Op.35, or the Barcarolle in F sharp major,
    Op.60.
    “…Chopin is a pianist out of conviction. He composes for himself… It can
    be clearly heard how he is dreaming, crying, how he sings subtly full of
    sensitivity and melancholy; how perfectly he expresses the most charming
    and lofty feelings. – Chopin is the pianist of feelings par excellence”.
    Those were the reviews after Chopin’s concert on April 26th, 1841 in “Salle Pleyel”. The concert was perceived and reviewed by many as a great social
    event in the world of culture and music. It also became Chopin’s personal
    triumph.
    One and a half year before he died, Chopin played – almost out of his
    strength – his last concert in Paris on February 16th, 1848. It of course took
    place in the Pleyel hall and naturally was performed on the Pleyel piano. It
    was another of his triumphs.
    The synergy between the pianist and the place – and, above all, the
    instrument – is confirmed by the announcement from the music magazine
    “La France Musicale”:
    “…this concert currently preoccupies the whole Parisian art world: it
    is common knowledge what charming effects Chopin can create on the
    subtle Pleyel piano; tomorrow it will be possible to experience again the
    extraordinariness emerging from the connection of this great intelligence
    reverberating in the instrument”.
    Could this symbiosis of the pianist, composing genius of Chopin and his
    favourite instrument ever have been better described?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 20:22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    I've sampled some of Gardiner's Brahms recordings. As far as I can tell his approach to Brahms is quite similar to his approach to Baroque music - brisk, relatively steady tempi, emphasis on clarity of lines, minimal vibrato, etc. So it's not historically informed at all - it's just Gardiner's personal style, which is far more anachronistic in this music than the modern style. My (admittedly even more limited) sampling of other Baroque-specialist conductors doing HIP recordings of Romantic repertoire are similar. Am I missing something?

    I agree that a true HIP approach to the late Romantic repertoire, drawing on the oldest recordings and piano rolls and contemporary writings, would be fascinating, but is much of it happening right now?
    Gardiner belongs to the generation for whom the pursuit of an authentic sound image, by way of period instruments, was the major consideration. I agree that his performances of Romantic repertoire, even when they're good, show no special insight into performing styles, and don't really bring us closer to the composers and their era. I don't think you're missing anything.

    From some of the contributions here, it appears that some performers are looking beyond old instruments and trying to immerse themselves in older ways of feeling the music. I think this is to a great extent a matter of losing inhibitions and letting go of 20th-century obsessions with "correctness" and clinical perfection, which has resulted in so much anonymous music making in the manner that Ben Zander called "international bland."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdZ4FhK7wMk
    Hubert Rutkowski's Chopin is the closest I've heard to the Chopin of Mauriz Rosenthal. The instrument is characterful because the sounds it makes are so rich in partials. He says he has explored Chopin's comments about fingering, especially the effect of fingering on colour. Rutkowski's rubato is organic and his touch and phrasing is dramatic and song like. Well recorded.
    sounds much better than the modern grand. These days, my dislike for the the fuzzy bass and homogeneously dull tone quality of the modern grand has gotten stronger.
    Although Chopin doesn't classify as a late Romantic, it can't be stressed enough his pianos were not like the modern grand of today.

    The message of a Pianist: Chopin's Pedal Markings in Barcarolle F# Major Op.60 Alisha Walker:
    https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/...icle/view/1400
    "Due to structural differences, the pianos of 1846 were less resonant and the player could hold down the pedal for an entire phrase to give a “floating feeling” to the music. Today, if a performer holds down the pedal for an entire phrase the music would sound like a blur and the harmonic progression could be lost."
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Oct-08-2019 at 23:08.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    People have to get so absolute on this. In the 19th century instruments were different, not as different as in Bach's time, but different. Narrower bore wind instruments, gut strings. Brahms was said to prefer the sound of a natural horn to the newfangled valved horns. He liked his music performed by a smaller ensemble, not so string heavy. When you use those instruments you get a different sound, which tends to lend itself to a different style of performance. HIP is just another source of inspiration for performers.

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  13. #53
    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Well I've given you a bunch of examples of Brahms recordings if you look up the thread, what more do you want?

    I was trying to avoid keyboard, just to make it more interesting, but nevertheless, here are some Chopin examples.
    Apologies, I missed your Brahms post.

    I will certainly be exploring some of these performers further.

    In general I think with this repertoire the original instruments are not that important because they're close enough to modern, but the approach is eye-opening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    People have to get so absolute on this. In the 19th century instruments were different, not as different as in Bach's time, but different. Narrower bore wind instruments, gut strings. Brahms was said to prefer the sound of a natural horn to the newfangled valved horns. He liked his music performed by a smaller ensemble, not so string heavy. When you use those instruments you get a different sound, which tends to lend itself to a different style of performance. HIP is just another source of inspiration for performers.
    Baron Scarpia , while it's true Brahms preferred the natural horn , valved horns were the norm through most of his life . He wrote his horn parts as though they were for natural horn, but by the time he wrote his symphonies and other orchestral works, valved horns were fully established in orchestras, and the art of playing the natural horn was going the way of the dinosaur ,
    It's been revived in our time . but the natural horn was no longer the norm by around the mid 19th century . Schumann wrote his wonderful but horrendously difficult Konzertstuck for 4 horns and orchestra in 1849 as a showpiece for valved horns, and it's unplayable on the natural instrument . Schumann was the first major composer to champion the valved horn as a solo instrument ; unlike Brahms, he strongly believed the valved horn was they way to go in orchestral music and as a solo instrument .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ^^^ People have been using period-style instruments for quite a while. I have, and enjoy, John Eliot Gardiner's recording of the Symphonie Fantastique, which not only uses period instruments but was recorded in the very hall where the work was premiered. To me, though, the instruments are generally the least interesting and the least important part of performance practice. Whether your strings are metal or gut is much less critical than the way you play the music. Of course this isn't even a consideration with singing; as far as we can tell, the human voice hasn't changed.
    isn't the way you play the music heavily dependent of what kind of instrument you play/what kind of strings/bow? If I'm not mistaken Beethoven even wrote some ornamentation in function of what kind of bow the 1st violin used (I think it was Schuppanzigh in case of the Kreutzer sonata).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Razumovskymas View Post
    isn't the way you play the music heavily dependent of what kind of instrument you play/what kind of strings/bow? If I'm not mistaken Beethoven even wrote some ornamentation in function of what kind of bow the 1st violin used (I think it was Schuppanzigh in case of the Kreutzer sonata).
    That depends. The violin bow was straight or slightly "bow shaped" in the baroque period, which made certain ways of articulating notes easier than with the modern bow, which makes it easier to maintain equal pressure on the string throughout the length of the stroke. The violinist can still achieve baroquey articulations with a modern bow if he chooses to. Gut versus metal for strings is a matter of timbre and volume and need have no effect on how you play. A violinist told me that Jascha Heifetz insisted on gut strings no matter what he was playing. Using a baroque bow on gut strings automatically gives a more authentic baroque sound, but skilled players can achieve a very good period effect on modern instruments.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Oct-10-2019 at 23:58.

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