Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chopin Op. 55 No. 1 -- take two!

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I recorded this piece three years ago. I decided to record it again for the Chopin E-cital organized by Chopin enthusiasts from the Adult Beginner's forum on Piano World. The idea behind this series of recitals is to collect one recording of each piece made by a Piano World amateur volunteer -- so no duplicates, and of course, no professional recordings.

Here is what one of the organizers has said about this project. He has a take on it that I've not seen elsewhere:

The focus with e-cital is on offering a tasteful showcase platform of for the amateur performer. There is love in these performances that most pros would be hard-pressed to match - the fruit of many hours of dedications and often frustration. They are humanized, and serve, I believe, to humanize the composers while honoring them.

The inspiration found its genesis in my childhood in the 1980s: no one except professionals would play Chopin for me because they felt it was "too hard", or they were embarrassed, or... I wanted to hear what was tough about his work, since anyone with formal training and able to devote their entire career to musical study would effectively hide it and make it all sound easy. Thus, all I ever heard were professional performances, which say little about a work's difficulty and even become, no matter how sublime the interpretation, rather vanilla like some mass-produced shrinkwrapped product - if that's all one ever hears! I wanted to offer a platform for amateur performers to showcase their work since - let's face it! - performance opportunities are rare. Most of all, I wanted people to believe in themselves and accomplish the impossible!

This particular recital is in honor of Chopin's 200th birthday, celebrated on March 1, and it includes the pieces that don't fall into particular categories as well as any pieces that were missed on any of the previous recitals. Most of the nocturnes were represented last year, but the person who had intended to record Op. 55 No. 1 had some health problems and wasn't able to do it. I noticed the hole and offered to fill it.

The recital will go live tomorrow here:

Chopin E-cital site

I was interested in trying to play this piece better than I did three years ago. One thing that surprised me was how much easier it felt. Everything that was stretching my technique when I learned it the first time felt well within its capabilities this time. Memory was much more secure, and little details were much more polished. It still isn't Horowitz, but it's a more advanced me.

Chopin Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1, new and improved

I'm most dissatisfied with the fact that it sounds a bit too sturdy and straightforward. A quick survey of YouTube piece reveals that most pianists play it much slower and more dreamily than I just did. My recording clocks in at around 4 minutes; theirs are more than 5 minutes. Ah well. I guess I just don't feel it that way. I keep imagining this nocturne as more of a stately dance than as a dream sequence. FWIW, my husband thought my recording was very good.

Here's Horowitz:

Horowitz playing 55/1 at Carnegie Hall

This one by Tzvi Erez is a bit more robust. There are also some interesting background tidbits about the piece in footnotes below the video.

Erez playing 55/1 on a vintage Boesendorfer

Anyway, I have to remember that I'm an amateur. There's always something new to learn. Onward and upward . . .

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