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Thread: Question on note durations for piano music

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Default Question on note durations for piano music

    Sometimes I see some notes that are to be held while the same hand plays other notes out of reach from the first. Obviously they can only be done with sustain pedal. No problem.

    Sometimes, a different voice would play the same note after it is struck and supposed to be held with one voice. It seems the original longer note is 'implied' to overlap with the 2nd voice. Ok, I get that.

    Now sometimes, different voices play and are sustained at different times with the same hand (like Ravel's Fairy Garden), which can usually be managed. But I've encountered some rare cases when it's impossible (at least for me) to sustain a voice and reach a note with the same hand as written, while a sustain pedal isn't marked nor seems appropriate to use, can't recall a hard example. Is the longer note duration only implied as in the paragraph above? Or must it be played as written without pedal which would be hard or seems impossible in some cases?

    I guess the question is if there is a certain freedom with how to approach difficult passages in a piano score? In all practicality I don't think subtle deviations from what is written as exactly can be detected readily by ear, but am wondering if it's against some sort of professsional code.
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Jun-30-2021 at 14:13.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Sometimes I see some notes that are to be held while the same hand plays other notes out of reach from the first. Obviously they can only be done with sustain pedal. No problem.

    Sometimes, a different voice would play the same note after it is struck and supposed to be held with one voice. It seems the original longer note is 'implied' to overlap with the 2nd voice. Ok, I get that.

    Now sometimes, different voices play and are sustained at different times with the same hand (like Ravel's Fairy Garden), which can usually be managed. But I've encountered some rare cases when it's impossible (at least for me) to sustain a voice and reach a note with the same hand as written, while a sustain pedal isn't marked nor seems appropriate to use, can't recall a hard example. Is the longer note duration only implied as in the paragraph above? Or must it be played as written without pedal which would be hard or seems impossible in some cases?

    I guess the question is if there is a certain freedom with how to approach difficult passages in a piano score? In all practicality I don't think subtle deviations from what is written as exactly can be detected readily by ear, but am wondering if it's against some sort of professsional code.
    There are rules (it can depend on the style and period). But some composers break rules and some performers work around them. For the example you cited, unless the other hand can hold the note down temporarily, the other option is to use the middle (sostenuto) pedal if you have a grand piano. Need to know the composer and date of composition to answer more fully.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-30-2021 at 14:47.

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    The rules are - or should be - a means to an end. The point of the exercise is to convey what's in the score as faithfully as possible and if, for example, that means using the sustaining pedal in Bach, then (pace Andras Schiff and one or two others) IMHO that's exactly what one should do.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    There are rules (it can depend on the style and period). But some composers break rules and some performers work around them. For the example you cited, unless the other hand can hold the note down temporarily, the other option is to use the middle (sostenuto) pedal if you have a grand piano. Need to know the composer and date of composition to answer more fully.
    Ah yes. I heard a bit about that pedal (not available on my piano). That makes a lot more sense now. Maybe some music was written with that pedal in mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Ah yes. I heard a bit about that pedal (not available on my piano). That makes a lot more sense now. Maybe some music was written with that pedal in mind.
    The sostenuto (3rd) pedal is only marked in some 20th century scores, because it did not exist earlier.

    Generally one will "roll" 2 or more notes from the bottom one up if the stretch is too big for the hand. Of course if you're already holding one note down that's not possible.

    For anything impossible, faking is acceptable ... (But for concert artists with smaller hands playing the notorious Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto, if such a thing shows up on YouTube with hand closeups some smart boo-bird will rudely call it out, and for "bonus points" name the exact missing notes!)
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-30-2021 at 23:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Now sometimes, different voices play and are sustained at different times with the same hand (like Ravel's Fairy Garden), which can usually be managed. But I've encountered some rare cases when it's impossible (at least for me) to sustain a voice and reach a note with the same hand as written, while a sustain pedal isn't marked nor seems appropriate to use, can't recall a hard example. Is the longer note duration only implied as in the paragraph above? Or must it be played as written without pedal which would be hard or seems impossible in some cases?
    Might be helpful if you post screenshots of the specific examples. I am self-taught and only an intermediate pianist, but I did mess around with that (beautiful) piece recently and my recollection is that it isn't always intuitive or obvious which hand is used, and there may be instances of crossing hands or otherwise non-obvious fingering.

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