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Langlais - La Nativitie


Mark Taylor
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Please bear with me… this is probably a pretty basic question for most of the people here, but I would be grateful for some advice.

 

I’ve been looking at “La Nativite” by Langlais and (following advice from earlier postings) I started working on it from the end – and I have immediately got stuck!

 

I have started at the section “La Sainte Famille”. The third bar of this section starts with a chord of low D flat, A flat, F, B flat and F. As notated, the bottom two notes are played with the left hand and the top three with the right hand. This is fine, but by the end of the bar we have low D flat, A flat, F, C, and A flat. So, to hold that tied F in the middle there is a stretch of a tenth - whichever way you do it, either in the left hand or the right hand (and it’s a stretch too far for me).

 

It seems to me that options are:

i) not to play the F in the middle of this chord at all;

ii) to release the F, either on the third beat or the fourth beat of the bar; or

iii) to play the F an octave lower, in the left hand.

 

My first question is - what to do in this specific example?

Secondly, what general principles should be applied in this sort of situation?

As a rider, presumably Langlais had large hands?

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Please bear with me… this is probably a pretty basic question for most of the people here, but I would be grateful for some advice.

 

I’ve been looking at “La Nativite” by Langlais and (following advice from earlier postings) I started working on it from the end – and I have immediately got stuck!

 

I have started at the section “La Sainte Famille”. The third bar of this section starts with a chord of low D flat, A flat, F, B flat and F. As notated, the bottom two notes are played with the left hand and the top three with the right hand. This is fine, but by the end of the bar we have low D flat, A flat, F, C, and A flat. So, to hold that tied F in the middle there is a stretch of a tenth - whichever way you do it, either in the left hand or the right hand (and it’s a stretch too far for me).

 

It seems to me that options are:

i) not to play the F in the middle of this chord at all;

ii) to release the F, either on the third beat or the fourth beat of the bar; or

iii) to play the F an octave lower, in the left hand.

 

My first question is - what to do in this specific example?

Secondly, what general principles should be applied in this sort of situation?

As a rider, presumably Langlais had large hands?

 

 

I believe your option iii) would be the best - as a general principle, I would try to include every note that the composer wants, if necessary changing the shape of a chord or taking a different inversion if this is the only way that this can be done. A good rule of thumb would be to change LH rather than RH - a change here is bound to be less obvious. Generally doublings can readily be lost, especially doubled thirds. A lot of Reger recordings omit his rather irritating octave doublings, I must confess I have done this myself on a few occasions where the alternative is to sacrifice either pace or accuracy.

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I believe your option iii) would be the best - as a general principle, I would try to include every note that the composer wants, if necessary changing the shape of a chord or taking a different inversion if this is the only way that this can be done. A good rule of thumb would be to change LH rather than RH - a change here is bound to be less obvious. Generally doublings can readily be lost, especially doubled thirds. A lot of Reger recordings omit his rather irritating octave doublings, I must confess I have done this myself on a few occasions where the alternative is to sacrifice either pace or accuracy.

I agree with your general principle. I just wonder if the low F (Creating a harmonic of 32' rather than the 2nd, 3rd & 5th harmonics of 16' as written) risks muddying the texture too much without really making the F that clear (unless the gamba is much cleaner than most UK examples). The F is present in the Ped (albeit at 4') so there's nothing missing from the harmony. The problem recurs later - a iv th alternative would be to drop the Ab's down the octave......

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I can manage the tenth at that point, but it gets harder where you get F and B flat and a quaver A flat above that. I can just do it; you could try letting your right little fingernail grow a bit! But I have to give up 3 bars later where you have to hold A flat, C flat and play a quaver B flat in the middle of the bar. I confess that I delay the A flat until the third beat.

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