Wednesday, 10 December 2014

CEP #5 - Bach on Acid

Chopin Op.10 No.3 Update

Whoops! Sorry for the recent lack of posts. Here's what's been going on: I signed up for a local concert to perform Chopin's Etude Op.10 No.3, so for the last few weeks I've been putting most of my focus into trying to get the best out of the piece for the concert. The concert wasn't recorded, however I will upload a separate recording of me playing the piece some time this week.

Without further ado, let's move on to the next etude in the set:

Chopin Op.10 No.4


Etude Op.10 No.4 in C# minor is one of Chopin's angriest and most dramatic pieces for piano. It's pure rage, from the beginning right to the very end. There are many factors which contribute towards this:

  • Fast tempo (the tempo marking above corresponds to just under 12 16th notes a second)
  • Loud. Yes, most of the time this piece is very loud!
  • Sharp contrasts in dynamics. There's a lot of fortepianos and sforzandos in this piece!
  • The "perpetuum mobile" feel to the piece. There are almost no breaks between the 16th notes, and if there are, the rest only has a value of a 16th. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the piece earned the nickname "Torrent"
What is especially special about this piece is the fact that Chopin places plenty of focus on the left hand. Up till this point, the right hand has been in the spotlight, doing the tricky moves, while the left hand was more or less accompanying. In this etude, however, the hands seem equally split in their difficulty (which in this case are different aspects of fast runs)

Perhaps this was intentional by Chopin. To me, however, this piece greatly resembles the kind of 'hand-to-hand' passing patterns you see often in Baroque and Classical music. I have a feeling that Chopin was trying to compose a more romantic rendering of the likes of Bach and Mozart (hence the title of this post). Therefore, the fact that the focus is on both hands seems like an aftermath of this.

Probably one of the main criticisms of Chopin's etudes is the imbalance of focus between the hands. It is clear that Chopin places most of the focus on the right hand throughout the entire etude set. Of course, this is not a result of Chopin's inadequacy as a composer - in the Romantic period, the right hand simply was considered to be more important than the left hand, and it is only in the 20th century when composers decided that the right and left hand were, actually, equally as important. The composer-pianist Leopold Godowsky even published his own "Studies on Chopin's Etudes" which aimed to rectify the imbalance of hand focus in Chopin's etudes, by rewriting many of Chopin's etudes for the left hand, sometimes even with no right hand accompaniment. 

How I studied the etude
This piece is all about improving the finger dexterity in both hands. This is especially useful for me since my left hand is severely lacking compared to my right hand...the result of focusing too much on playing early-Romantic pieces (!). I quickly realised that there is no point in rushing when learning this piece. One must learn by practising slowly until you can play all of the quick, tricky passages perfectly with your eyes closed. Then speed up the tempo...until you reached the desired tempo (which may or may not be 88 half notes a second - that's crazy fast!).

There are no 'alien' bits in this piece, at least not as alien as some parts in the previous three etudes! 
The trickiest bit is probably:

simply because of the fact you have to play complex 16th note patterns in both hands simultaneously! 
Another sequence which deserves a special mention, which appears just before the final exit section:

Probably the most dramatic moment in the piece! The contrary motion of the hands in the first two bars, coupled with the dynamic markings, amounts to one of the biggest crescendos one can get at the piano! Especially since what follows is one of the most rageful expressive markings you can get in music: "With as much fire as possible". 

Here's one of my favourite recordings of this piece, played slightly above the marked tempo (but only slightly):

I'm still in the early stages of studying this piece. I've come to the realization that, probably the best way to study the complete etudes for performance level is to first take a 'tour' through the entire two sets, getting each etude under my fingers, then to study each etude separately, but not necessarily in order. Therefore, by the time I finish reviewing each etude on this blog, expect the blog to continue for much longer!

As for now...

'Till next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment