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What The Composer Never Intended?


MusingMuso
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I've been a bit naughty, by re-working the end of the Mushel Toccata, adding a bar, and making the ending at least muscially viable.

 

I know that there are various endings to this piece, and frankly, I can't be bothered to troll around looking for them.

 

Am I indulging in mortal-sin, or just being very naughty, naughty or every so slightly naughty?

 

I have a great final jazz-chord which I add to that awful Lefebure-Wely (can't be bothered to check the spelling), "Bolero"......a huge improvment on the original, I think.

 

I put it down to "artistic licence"......is this allowed these days?

 

It gave me a thought, which could work wonders for at least some of the repertoire.

 

Pounding away at the Reubke, I recalled the fact that some people do 5-minute operas and 5-minute Shakespeare, so why not a 22 minute Sonata compressed into a more digestible 5 minutes or so?

 

I have a recording of the first part of the Reubke, which just ends on an unresolved dominant....no fugue, just a mystery to contemplate.

 

I think we could be onto a winner here. We could have compressed Howells, by just laying across every note of the keyboard, a short BWV565, with only the opening flourishes followed by a dominant-tonic cadence.

 

There must be lots of pieces which could be improved/transformed by this creative approach, surely?

 

 

 

:)

 

MM

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What do you do to Mushel. I have my own ending, where i finish on the open C chord.... then play an octive run g-c and play the original theme an octave higher before playing C/B flat with g and e below it, whilst L/H does a scalic run down three octives to end on bottom C.

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I adapt the end of Flor Peeters' 'Concert Piece' cos I don't particularly like either of the two specified endings - having gone through all that torment I find it much more satisfying to end on a straightforward major chord (root pos) and replace the E# in the previous bar with a natural.

 

Music like that seems clearly to be far more about creating an effect or mood than anything mathematically precise, like a trio sonata. Early musicians embellish liberally (within stylistic boundaries, obviously). Many of us have to do a certain amount of rewriting of old and new music to fit in with compass restrictions.

 

Then there are questions of registration; when doing Franck II recently, I was chastised for including a 4' Flute in the opening registration, and drawing the 4' Clarion well before the 8' Tromba (which I saved for the loudest page at the end), both of which I did on the basis that I was playing a big fat woolly Harrison of the 1920's and it sounded a bit more like a French organ to me with some 4' harmonic present from the Flute and without the awful opaque Tromba turning the excitement to mud. In a sense, that's just as big a liberty as changing the notes, because it directly contradicts what was printed on the page, but it just sounds better in that circumstance. Well, I think so anyway, and I never feel dreadfully bad about taking some liberties with the right sort of music if it's making it more effective in some way.

 

Talking of LJA L-W, I love Ewaald Kooiman's introduction in his edition of the Sortie in Bb and Bolero - "These works now made available do not belong to the catergory of forgotten masterpieces. Indeed, this is a quality which they share with the entire output of this composer." :)

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Guest Lee Blick
I've been a bit naughty, by re-working the end of the Mushel Toccata, adding a bar, and making the ending at least muscially viable.

 

I know that there are various endings to this piece, and frankly, I can't be bothered to troll around looking for them.

 

Am I indulging in mortal-sin, or just being very naughty, naughty or every so slightly naughty?

 

I have a great final jazz-chord which I add to that awful Lefebure-Wely (can't be bothered to check the spelling), "Bolero"......a huge improvment on the original, I think.

 

I put it down to "artistic licence"......is this allowed these days?

 

It gave me a thought, which could work wonders for at least some of the repertoire.

 

Pounding away at the Reubke, I recalled the fact that some people do 5-minute operas and 5-minute Shakespeare, so why not a 22 minute Sonata compressed into a more digestible 5 minutes or so?

 

I have a recording of the first part of the Reubke, which just ends on an unresolved dominant....no fugue, just a mystery to contemplate.

 

I think we could be onto a winner here. We could have compressed Howells, by just laying across every note of the keyboard, a short BWV565, with only the opening flourishes followed by a dominant-tonic cadence.

 

There must be lots of pieces which could be improved/transformed by this creative approach, surely?

:)

 

MM

 

May I refer you to the blessed Arthur T. Nobile for his artistic "as interpreted by" creations... I wonder if recital pianists & instrumentalists change bits of their music?

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In a sense, that's just as big a liberty as changing the notes, because it directly contradicts what was printed on the page

I think you're being too hard on yourself here. After all, whatever the label on the stop knob, Franck never had the H'n'H sound in mind when he wrote it, but he did think of those notes.

 

Mendelssohn was quite explicit about this in his preface to his Sonatas, saying that he had given only dynamic markings because stops of the same name sound different on different organs. (And, he might have added, in different acoustics).

 

We are lucky enough to be able to travel, or at the very least to be able to hear good recordings of the instruments for which pieces x, y and z were written. We know what sound the composer wrote for. If we don't have that sound available we have to make an artistic judgement about which of the available resources best conveys what was intended.

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Yes. This brings us back to a point I have raised before: which better represents the composer's conception: following slavishly what is printed on the page or reproducing the sound that was in his head?

 

That we can never know exactly what was in his head is a separate issue.

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Yes. This brings us back to a point I have raised before: which better represents the composer's conception: following slavishly what is printed on the page or reproducing the sound that was in his head?

 

That we can never know exactly what was in his head is a separate issue.

 

It's got to be the head, surely.

 

With regard to the liberties - I believe the same does apply to notes as registrations. The reason for deviation in both cases is coming from the same place; a necessary enhancement to create the effect you believe the composer required.

 

If I take a piece by, say, Howells, conceived for the old Gloucester organ (DON'T start, ANY of you) and wish to play it on a small 2 manual down the road, there are going to be times when thickening up the texture somewhat to compensate for missing manual doubles and growling swells is going to be a good thing for the music. I would be able to justify that on the basis of trying to match the intensity and excitement in the music as well as just the sound itself.

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I think this is a most interesting topic.

 

In answer to one specific question, I remember reading that Vladimir Horowitz 'edited' some of his repertoire to make it more effective artistically, and I have no problem with this.

 

I think the art of the musical performer is to realise the true wish of the composer, even if that is sometimes hidden within, or even concealed by, the explicit instructions on the page.

 

I remember once playing a piece of Howells ; my page turner, who was a very precise musician, was horrified that I changed manuals in a different sequence from that indicated by Howells. 'If Howells had wanted you to change manuals at that point, he would have said so'. No, I think Howells wrote what seemed best for him on the organ he was playing at that point. He wanted to convey the impression he desired, and relied on having a sensitive and artistic performer to realise or interpret it. There must be discretion for the individual performer to realise the music in the most effective way on the instrument available to him at the time of performance.

 

Obviously, this must be balanced judiciously with a respect for the actual notated score, and the art of the musician is in knowing from experience and scholarship what must be accurately performed, and where a little more freedom is allowed.

 

My teacher, Robert Munns, was a great champion of Stephen Montague's 'Behold a pale horse'. Montague is a fine composer but does not play the organ. Robert substantially re - wrote parts of the piece to make the textures more suitable for the organ and, as a result, the piece more effective. Montague was delighted when Robert talked through these changes with him, complaining that when he studied composition, 'no - one told him how best to write for the organ'.

 

In the same way, when recording Diana Burrell's 'Arched form with bells', Kevin Bowyer suggested to the composer that it might be effective to end the piece by turning off the blower, a la 'Volumina'. A pretty drastic change which, apparently, the composer was delighted with.

 

Last year I took part in a most informative masterclass with Jos van der Kooy. He reminded us that sometimes composers wrote notes simply so that the music and voice - leading looked correct on the page. In reality, for example, it may not be necessary to play a passage written in octaves - the extra notes are simply there to make the music correct 'on paper', they are not needed in reality. This led him to conclude that it was not always necessary, for example, to attempt some of the huge stretches in Franck's music ; the notes were there for the sake of grammatical correctness, rather than being obligatory in performance. Franck, after all, approved revisions to some of his pieces for students with small hands who could not manage the larger stretches.

 

I sometimes thin out textures or re - write chords in this way simply to make performance more secure and convincing. Putting it crudely, I have asked myself if anyone in the audience will actually notice the difference. Almost certainly not, whereas they would certainly notice a lack of conviction or shaky rhythm in performance when trying to play an otherwise 'impossible' passage. That seems to me musically justifiable.

 

In terms of additions, the only one I hold my hands up to is the L Wely B flat sortie ; I think the ending rather runs out of steam, and under the last chord I play a descending B flat scale in quavers in the pedal, which seems to give a much better sense of conclusion to this masterpiece.

 

In the words of the Fast Show, should I now get my coat ?

 

M

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Guest Cynic
I remember once playing a piece of Howells ; my page turner, who was a very precise musician, was horrified that I changed manuals in a different sequence from that indicated by Howells. 'If Howells had wanted you to change manuals at that point, he would have said so'. No, I think Howells wrote what seemed best for him on the organ he was playing at that point. He wanted to convey the impression he desired, and relied on having a sensitive and artistic performer to realise or interpret it. There must be discretion for the individual performer to realise the music in the most effective way on the instrument available to him at the time of performance.

 

 

Absolutely. And this goes for every composer, I believe.

 

 

'The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.'

Someone's motto, I think. RCO?.... was it?

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I think this is a most interesting topic.

 

In answer to one specific question, I remember reading that Vladimir Horowitz 'edited' some of his repertoire to make it more effective artistically, and I have no problem with this.

 

I think the art of the musical performer is to realise the true wish of the composer, even if that is sometimes hidden within, or even concealed by, the explicit instructions on the page.

 

I remember once playing a piece of Howells ; my page turner, who was a very precise musician, was horrified that I changed manuals in a different sequence from that indicated by Howells. 'If Howells had wanted you to change manuals at that point, he would have said so'. No, I think Howells wrote what seemed best for him on the organ he was playing at that point. He wanted to convey the impression he desired, and relied on having a sensitive and artistic performer to realise or interpret it. There must be discretion for the individual performer to realise the music in the most effective way on the instrument available to him at the time of performance.

 

Obviously, this must be balanced judiciously with a respect for the actual notated score, and the art of the musician is in knowing from experience and scholarship what must be accurately performed, and where a little more freedom is allowed.

 

My teacher, Robert Munns, was a great champion of Stephen Montague's 'Behold a pale horse'. Montague is a fine composer but does not play the organ. Robert substantially re - wrote parts of the piece to make the textures more suitable for the organ and, as a result, the piece more effective. Montague was delighted when Robert talked through these changes with him, complaining that when he studied composition, 'no - one told him how best to write for the organ'.

 

In the same way, when recording Diana Burrell's 'Arched form with bells', Kevin Bowyer suggested to the composer that it might be effective to end the piece by turning off the blower, a la 'Volumina'. A pretty drastic change which, apparently, the composer was delighted with.

 

Last year I took part in a most informative masterclass with Jos van der Kooy. He reminded us that sometimes composers wrote notes simply so that the music and voice - leading looked correct on the page. In reality, for example, it may not be necessary to play a passage written in octaves - the extra notes are simply there to make the music correct 'on paper', they are not needed in reality. This led him to conclude that it was not always necessary, for example, to attempt some of the huge stretches in Franck's music ; the notes were there for the sake of grammatical correctness, rather than being obligatory in performance. Franck, after all, approved revisions to some of his pieces for students with small hands who could not manage the larger stretches.

 

I sometimes thin out textures or re - write chords in this way simply to make performance more secure and convincing. Putting it crudely, I have asked myself if anyone in the audience will actually notice the difference. Almost certainly not, whereas they would certainly notice a lack of conviction or shaky rhythm in performance when trying to play an otherwise 'impossible' passage. That seems to me musically justifiable.

 

In terms of additions, the only one I hold my hands up to is the L Wely B flat sortie ; I think the ending rather runs out of steam, and under the last chord I play a descending B flat scale in quavers in the pedal, which seems to give a much better sense of conclusion to this masterpiece.

 

In the words of the Fast Show, should I now get my coat ?

 

M

 

 

========================

 

 

A very interesting reply indeed, and one which would certainly bear fruit with a composer like Reger, where

academic accuracy combines with pianistic style, to create writing of great complexity. It is quite amazing how many notes can be left out of Reger to absolutely no ill-effect: the instrument itself more than capable of putting most of them back in again!

 

I've found this with the Reubke, where the there is a doubling, in octaves, of a rhythmic dotted motif written for both pedals and left-hand, and where missing out the left-hand doubling makes not the slightest musical difference. I have therefore placed this awkward moment to the bottom of the priority list, and should I find myself running out of time, I will just simplify it.

 

Of course, missing notes out is one thing, but putting notes in is another, and it is at this point that one may easily stumble into Stokowski/Virgil Fox territory, where the music of Bach, for instance, is "improved" (sometimes to quite good effect, it has to be said).

 

I raised the point about the Mushel Toccata specifically, because musically, it is "a bar short of symphony," and quite obviously so. That may or may not excuse the fact that I came up with very effective but decidedly adventurous penultimate harmony, with the pedals somehow achieving a bottom Eb before the final C major chord. However, it sounds OK, and besides, the Russians (Ukraines?) never worried about conventional harmony.

 

Having opened up this can of Australian flat-worms, it is proving very interesting.

 

MM

 

If I take a piece by, say, Howells, conceived for the old Gloucester organ (DON'T start, ANY of you)

 

====================

 

I didn't know that!

 

How very interesting.

 

:)

 

MM

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Am I indulging in mortal-sin, or just being very naughty, naughty or every so slightly naughty?
"Very naughty" was how Sidney Campbell described a small modification he made to a certain well-known piece in order to emphasise a rhthym explicit in, but not adequately projected by, the composer's notation. A small modification, but effective and one which I am ashamed to say I have occasionally adopted. As far as I can recall it was the only piece he tampered with.

 

Since your alteration is of a more radical nature I guess that makes it a mortal sin.

 

There's an organist who regularly turns pages for the great and good in recitals. No mean player himself, he is full of derision for those organists who charge professional rates and then simplify the difficult bits. This apparently happens more than you might expect. Of course these organists may be not so much simplifying the music as making it more effective, but, whatever they claim, who is ever going to believe them? The masses may be none the wiser, but few people scoff at each other like organists do. Except perhaps string players...

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Just to add something to my earlier post, I have been thinking about this question further overnight, and two examples came to mind that crystallise my thoughts.

 

In the second quiet section of the Dupre Allegro Deciso, there is a lot of triple and quadruple pedalling. At one point, both feet play a three part F# major chord in second inversion. The right foot has to play a F# and A# simultaneously.

 

However hard I practice this point, I know that in performance, this chord is likely to be a '50 / 50' moment, normally depending on the dimensions of the pedal board concerned.

 

Recently I played it and took an executive decision to omit the F #.

 

As a result, I went into that whole sequence knowing that I could give a rock solid performance, rather than feeling nervous that I was going to fluff that chord.

 

That must be reflected in the confidence and security of my performance overall. Now, the question is this. Which is fairer to the audience who have (we hope) come to hear you ; aiming to play every note but feeling a bit shaky at that point, or making the judicious cut, but thereby being able to give your audience a 100% confident performance ?

 

The same comments apply to that point in the Durufle Adagio from the Veni Creator where, in the build up to the climax, the left foot has to play a F# / B chord. If I was recording the piece, that would be different and I would make jolly sure I got it right for the final version. If I was playing it privately, it would not matter and I would probably get it right 9 times out of 10, but the heat of performance, perhaps, justifies a different approach.

 

That's my guilty secret out of the cupboard. Go on, what do the rest of you do ?

 

M

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I suppose if you are just entertaining people you can do whatever you like.

But if you are playing to an informed audience, would you like to be remembered as the player that funked the difficult bit.

 

I remember a recital at Eaton where the recitalist (who had often been described as a leading teacher of organ) had chosen a programme of generally of modest difficulty - but when he played the Sei Gegrusset variations he left out the more challenging one! I wonder if he suggested this to his students....?

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