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Having a difficult time with Chopin:

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
To me, many of the Nocturnes sound cold and lacking melody.
Am I crazy...I dont hear "songs" in these nocturnes, I cant seem to follow any melody. It just seems like nice Piano play to me but nothing I could hum along to or eventually recognize.
I KNOW its probably my untrained ear not being able to make sense of what its hearing, so I will keep listening. However, this wasnt the type of piano I was looking for.

I love the piano in a lot of the Movie Soundtracks like "The Piano" and "The Hours", by Nyman and Glass respectively. To me, its dramatic, emotional and extremely melodic piano play...but then again, I have NOTHING to compare it to. I dont even know the different styles of piano; ive only recently gotten in to classical.

Where to go from here?
I hear so much about the classics like Rachmaninov, Liszt and Schubert and I have no idea if any of them would be my type of style.
I guess I like the more modern, darker sounding material?

Please help!
post #2 of 41
Try the Chopin Preludes.
If you want "darker" more emotional, try the Ravel complete piano music (2 disks is all), the Debussy Preludes, and misc. piano music (Suite Bergamasques). The Rachmaninoff Preludes are fine, too.
There are vast amounts of music for piano from the composers of the 19th century. It's a huge repertoire that you could spend the rest of your life listening too.
There are also wonderful pieces by piano virtuosi. Ok, so the music isn't Beethoven, it's fun, exciting, and harder than heck to play: Rubinstein, Godowsky, Liszt, Moszkowski, and many more.
Get a guide book, like Harold Schoenberg's "The Great Pianists".
Good luck.
post #3 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbhaub
Try the Chopin Preludes.
If you want "darker" more emotional, try the Ravel complete piano music (2 disks is all), the Debussy Preludes, and misc. piano music (Suite Bergamasques). The Rachmaninoff Preludes are fine, too.
There are vast amounts of music for piano from the composers of the 19th century. It's a huge repertoire that you could spend the rest of your life listening too.
There are also wonderful pieces by piano virtuosi. Ok, so the music isn't Beethoven, it's fun, exciting, and harder than heck to play: Rubinstein, Godowsky, Liszt, Moszkowski, and many more.
Get a guide book, like Harold Schoenberg's "The Great Pianists".
Good luck.
Thanc for the suggestions...
Do any of the above that you mentioned play anything similar to the Glass and Nyman I mentioned above?
Is it just me that I dont hear a "song" when I listen to Chopin?
The nocturnes just seem dull and lifeless.
post #4 of 41
Forget the Nocturnes. Go out and get a good recording of Chopin's Polonaises. Maurizio Pollini made a very good recording of them. Better yet get or rent the dvd of A Song to Remember. Cornel Wilde played Chopin, Merle Oberon played George Sand and José Iturbi played all of the piano music.

After that, rent or buy Improptu. Hugh Grant plays Chopin, Judy Davis plays George Sand.

Finally just listen to the music.
post #5 of 41
I have mixed feelings about the Nocturnes, although I'm tempted to try Pollini's new recording of them.

If you take mbhaub's suggestion to try the Preludes, you might try the Argerich version on DG. It is remastered and packaged with the second sonata (whose third movement Marche funebre is perhaps the most hummed and recognized of all Chopin):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000060O5B

Pollini's Polonaises are deservedly legendary. They are also remastered on DG:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000006NXQ

I think I would actually recommend the Ballades and the Scherzi. Pollini, again for the Ballades:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00001X58L

And for the Scherzi, Pogorelich is pretty astounding:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00000IIXP
post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears
Forget the Nocturnes. Go out and get a good recording of Chopin's Polonaises. Maurizio Pollini made a very good recording of them. Better yet get or rent the dvd of A Song to Remember. Cornel Wilde played Chopin, Merle Oberon played George Sand and José Iturbi played all of the piano music.

After that, rent or buy Improptu. Hugh Grant plays Chopin, Judy Davis plays George Sand.

Finally just listen to the music.
Why would I like the Polonaises and not the Nocturnes?
I ask b/c I want to learn their musical/style differences.
post #7 of 41
For Schubert, try the three Klavierstücke. Uchida's impressive recording of the monumental final sonata includes those, as well:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000009OU3

Or for a more mystical performance that includes the same pieces (with the Improptus rather than any sonatas):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000001GZY


And for Liszt's great B Minor sonata plus some other interesting material, you might try this amusingly splashy but musically serious recording by DG "star" Yundi Li:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00008GQTQ
post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by kwitel
Why would I like the Polonaises and not the Nocturnes?
I ask b/c I want to learn their musical/style differences.
You wouldn't necessarily. But they are "grander," more hummable and recognizable, and Pollini's performance is fantastic.
post #9 of 41
What about the following tracks:

"Clair de Lune", Debussy
"Moonlight Sonata", Beethoven
"Pictures at an Exhibition", Mussorgsky (there is both a piano version of this, and an orchestral version of this -- start with the piano, since it is piano you want to hear).

Perhaps you just like the most melodic, lyrical music. The melodies in the Nocturnes are more subtle -- once you get used to listening to classical music, you'll go back and wonder what you were missing.

And check out that Saint-Saens that I mentioned (Concerto No. 2).
post #10 of 41
A polonaise is a dance, that may give you a hint why it may be more accessible. Nocturnes are "dream/night music," whatever you want to make of that.

Beethoven's piano sonatas aren't a bad place to start.
post #11 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by kwitel
Where to go from here?
I don't think you should give up on Chopin. I'd recommend getting a disc that features a wide variety of his pieces (waltzes, preludes, nocturnes, etc.) and see which ones stand out to you. Personally, I prefer the waltzes and nocturnes, but I really enjoy all of it.

Have you listened to Eric Satie? You'll probably recognize the three Gymnopodies, as they are used on a lot of soundtracks. He wasn't a particularly prolific composer, so you can usually get most of his pieces on a CD or two.

By the way, I'm also a big fan of "The Hours" soundtrack. I've been a Glass fan for a long time, but I think he did a phenomenal job with that score.

Bryan
post #12 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan T
I don't think you should give up on Chopin. I'd recommend getting a disc that features a wide variety of his pieces (waltzes, preludes, nocturnes, etc.) and see which ones stand out to you. Personally, I prefer the waltzes and nocturnes, but I really enjoy all of it.

Have you listened to Eric Satie? You'll probably recognize the three Gymnopodies, as they are used on a lot of soundtracks. He wasn't a particularly prolific composer, so you can usually get most of his pieces on a CD or two.

By the way, I'm also a big fan of "The Hours" soundtrack. I've been a Glass fan for a long time, but I think he did a phenomenal job with that score.

Bryan
Finally someone who likes "the Hours" soundtrack.
Recently picked up Michael Nymans soundtrack to "Gattaca" and Cilff Martinez's "Solaris"-I highly recommend both.
This Eric Satie guy, is his music more like the piano id find on any of the above soundtracks?

Can you recommend anything else along the lines of the Hours.
post #13 of 41
Satie can be like that in some ways. Debussy's preludes, as has been mentioned is also worth a shot. I think Chopin may be too tonal in the german sense for you, at this point. You might try Skryabin (scriabine/scriabin) as well, but be careful, he goes kinda crazy (thinks his music can literally cause armageddon - and then tries to do so) so use amazon.com's preview liberally.
post #14 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by kwitel
I love the piano in a lot of the Movie Soundtracks like "The Piano" and "The Hours", by Nyman and Glass respectively. To me, its dramatic, emotional and extremely melodic piano play...
I suspect it can be hard to find exactly the music you have in mind. Nyman's Piano soundtrack borrows heavily from Scottish folk music, and there is hardly any Scottish-inspired piano music coming from the pens of classical composers -- when a classical composer encounters a folk tune, his first instinct is to expand it for the orchestra, instead of paring it down for the piano.

This said, you may see if the followings are to your liking. Try before you buy.
  • Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn -- very short, sweet and melodic. The version by Barenboim is often recommended.
  • Goldberg Variations by JS Bach -- This is a set of variations of a lovely theme. As you mentioned Philip Glass, I suspect you may like this theme-variation approach. Get a version performed on a piano (e.g. by Alexis Weissenberg).
  • Lyrics Pieces by Grieg -- I suspect you'll find them rather similar to Chopin's Noctures, but perhaps you'll find something you like there.
  • You may like some Ravel (e.g. the Pavane, the Mother Goose suite for piano four-hands), but you can leave Debussy until later. Satie is a wild card; get only hus famous pieces (any one-disc selection that includes 3 Gymnopedies and 6 Gnossiennes will do) unless you like what you hear.

As for the names you mentioned: the orchestral music of Rachmaninov tends to more melodic than his works for solo piano (e.g. Preludes, Etudes-tableux). The music of Listz is virtuosic and complex, and is perhaps best left to those who are comfortable with classical pianism. You can always start with his three sets of Annees de Pelerimage. Schubert can write lovely melodies, but you need patience to appreciate him.
post #15 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by kwitel
Why would I like the Polonaises and not the Nocturnes?
I ask b/c I want to learn their musical/style differences.
Because the Polonaises are very melody driven. No one could fail to start humming at those stirring tunes. Btw, Polonaise just means Polish in French and although it was the name of a popular dance at the time, for Chopin the music was more an evocation of his feelings for the country of his birth that he had left behind.
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