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Cesar Franck: Final


Guest Cynic
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yes - I would agree (from a much lower level than Mr Cynic) that "the same fingering" is critical - if I play the right note with the wrong finger in practice, that's a worse error than the wrong note with the right finger, and I wish I'd twigged this at the age of 10 (or even 20) rather than 30!

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I once had a piano tutor who was insistent on correct fingering - even though I occasionally disagreed with her somewhat!

 

I have often found that sitting down with a pencil before even beginning to learn a new work is an essential part of the process, marking down possible problem areas, before proceeding to the actual playing. Going through some of my scores which had remained unplayed for a while, in the Dubois Toccata I found areas where I had marked a different fingering for two identical passages!

 

I was recently talking to a fellow organist about our preferred editions to play from, and he expressed his distaste for any of the Bornemann scores edited by Marcel Dupre, as a result of the pedantic fingering. I on the other hand have found previously tricky areas of Franck (in particular) much more playable by using my editions of the Trois Pieces and Trois Chorals. For the Six Pieces, I still haven't upgraded from my terrible Dover version, with pages falling out and the suchlike which seem to be a frequent issue with many of their scores. Since the Dupre editions are becoming fairly rare, who's the best publisher to go with?

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Guest Cynic

The point about using the same fingering is this. All learning is in fact creating pathways in the brain - small electrical networks. To learn something means to create a strong pathway and this is done simply by going over something in exactly the same way. Those aged crones who used to make us chant our times table knew what they were doing. What you do when you practice is build up a 'default' method for whatever you're doing. Meantime, your fingers are also getting a sort of memory of their own too. This is why when you've learned your piano scales, these frequently seem to work better when played so fast that there's no time to think. When you don't think about it, your hands (and subconscious) will follow what they've been taught to do by careful repetition.

 

There is a danger here - performers may rehearse a piece until they can play it without thinking at all. Some of you may feel that from time to time you have heard performances like these from top professionals, I know I have. What I try to do when I play a piece I know very well is I listen to it - I am a member of my own audience. It helps when you only play pieces you really, really like on organs you really, really like.

 

 

Back to Franck:

This may be a heretical view (and if it is, I don't care!). While I have some of the original edition for reference and all the Dover reprint, I actually use the Peeters edition. The page turns are in sensible places, and all the original registrations are there, along with German translations of them. The score is tidy, reasonably uncluttered (this is my main problem with Dupre editions - too much extraneous information) and in landscape format which works on every console. From time to time I have met consoles where a large format edition of something (almost always French) cannot be conveniently turned without snagging on lights etc. I have no reason to think that the Peeters Franck score is inauthentic; I have never found a misprint, unlike on almost every page printed in France.

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Guest Cynic
Paul,

I also use Peeters. for what reason(s) has it fallen out of favour?

P

 

 

You know how it is - you learn something and get used to a score and not very many years later someone who ought to know is heard to say how that particular edition is considered totally passe and unacceptable. I was interested to find, for instance, that when Nicholas Danby told me I had to buy the Hansen edition of Buxtehude, the (now) much decried Peeters I was already used to was actually a more recent edition! Indeed, the RCO went through a stage of specifiying in their syllabi which editions were not acceptable - as if the use of an unapproved version might reduce the musical standard of a first-class performance to that of a poor one. [i always thought the perfect test of real musicianship would be to demand a commanding and stimulating performance on a poor instrument using a poor edition of relatively worthless music!]

 

My problem with changing an edition, quite apart from the extra cost, is that when I have learned something, I have also learned where on the score to find my place if I take my eye off the copy - to change registration, perhaps. In the end, the only point of interest to me in a new edition would be if the new version cleared up some misunderstanding or mis-readings present in the editions I already have. I would, for instance, strongly consider replacing my UMP edition of Vierne Symphonies because I know they are full of possible mis-readings of his (poor) manuscript.

 

I learned all my Bach between the ages of 12 and 18 (i.e. 40 or so years ago) and used the Novello edition, some of it never revised since the days of Bridge and Higgs. So what?! I never took any notice of the registration hints anyway. I always assumed that the phrasing was editorial - and by and large, whichever edition you buy, it still is! Since my Bach-learning days I should imagine we have all been told at least four times that we should change to the latest version. Is Barenreiter now considered the best? Not for long, you can be sure.

 

I was just being cynical - I use a German edition to play French music - how very dare I?!! I know that fault may well be found with this.

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Cynic's explanation of training your brain with well-planned fingerings is spot-on.

 

"I was interested to find, for instance, that when Nicholas Danby told me I had to buy the Hansen edition of Buxtehude, the (now) much decried Peeters I was already used to was actually a more recent edition!"

 

The Hansen edition was a good one for its time. Whether an edition is more recent or not is irrelevant if it doesn't represent the current state of source-research. I'm quite sure that if Nicholas Danby were still with us he would tell his students to use Broude because Michael Bellotti's edition is universally considered to be the most accurate representation of the sources AND because all the other possibilities from other sources are notated.

 

"I learned all my Bach between the ages of 12 and 18 (i.e. 40 or so years ago) and used the Novello edition, some of it never revised since the days of Bridge and Higgs. So what?! I never took any notice of the registration hints anyway. I always assumed that the phrasing was editorial - and by and large, whichever edition you buy, it still is! Since my Bach-learning days I should imagine we have all been told at least four times that we should change to the latest version. Is Barenreiter now considered the best? Not for long, you can be sure."

 

But the Novello and NBA have completely different purposes which you've confused. Novello, like Widor/Schweitzer and Straube are editions interpreted to represent the aesthetics of a particular period of time and place (mostly late 19th and early 20th century). The NBA, like the Budapest edition (which I use) and the American edition of Quentin Faulkner etc are Urtext editions, ie presenting the text as reliably as the sources will allow. The differences between them relate mostly to the choice of sources use. It is impossible to ignore entirely (however hard you try) the phrasing and tempo marks of an interpretative editor like Bridge, Straube etc. Frankly, were I to play an English Romantic organ, I would embrace them and the registration marks as the organ would probably sound better. Both kinds of edition have their place, it's our job to know when to use the right one.

 

Arguably the best Bach edition is the first Peters edition edited by Mr Grieppenkerl in the time of Mendelssohn. Bach had been dead all of 80 years, the 'Bach tradition' was far more alive than we can imagine now. The text is reliable and the prefaces provide very reliable tempo indications which clearly relate to the baroque sources (Quantz etc).

 

In terms of Franck and Vierne of course, one can make an objective decision about a 'correct' text. A good example is the new Vierne edition by David Sanger hinted at by Cynic which seems to find a very good way through the vagaries of Vierne's texts.

 

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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To learn something means to create a strong pathway and this is done simply by going over something in exactly the same way. . . . .

There is a danger here - performers may rehearse a piece until they can play it without thinking at all.

 

At the front of a Chopin volume containing one of the pieces I've been working on recently is an editorial essay which talks about contemporary methods for learning pieces.

One method suggested is that the student should be able to repeat the piece/passage/page whilst reading a book, newspaper, or whatever.

Surprisingly enough it's acually do-able, mind you, the essay doesn't say whether or not you have to read out-loud, I think that would probably be even harder.

 

This could become a new party trick, rather like playing Widor's Toccata blindfolded; the audience selects the text to be read!

 

DT

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I have heard a tactic recommended whereby one learns the last page of the target work first, then work back from that. I have to say, this never appealed to me. Being a proficient sight-reader, when young I used to try everything at correct (final) volume and nearly correct (final) speed. Now I know a bit more about learning and how it works - I would say do it slowly. How slowly does not matter at all. Once you can play anything slowly, (always with the same fingering NB) getting it up to speed is nothing like the same challenge. You will have the benefit of knowing (amongst other things) that you are playing it accurately. Once again, I have heard a number of approximate performances of difficult works, usually from youngsters who have decided that effect is everything.

 

I had similar advice from one of my teachers. It differed slightly in that he suggested learning from start and end (section or page at a time), forward and backwards towards the middle. He argued that the end was often (but not always) the most difficult bit and that familiarity with the end was crucial. Its a technique I still use for most pieces, though not usually for Baroque pieces, but certainly in most 19th and 20th century literature I've tried to learn in the last few years.

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But the Novello and NBA have completely different purposes which you've confused. Novello, like Widor/Schweitzer and Straube are editions interpreted to represent the aesthetics of a particular period of time and place (mostly late 19th and early 20th century). The NBA, like the Budapest edition (which I use) and the American edition of Quentin Faulkner etc are Urtext editions, ie presenting the text as reliably as the sources will allow.

But this is also an aesthetic choice, as is, for instance, the decision to print using modern layout rather than original C clefs, etc - these things may affect our perception of the music. And the idea that there is necessarily a unique text which one can aim to reproduce is subject to quite strong criticism in some places.

 

Paul

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"But this is also an aesthetic choice, as is, for instance, the decision to print using modern layout rather than original C clefs, etc - these things may affect our perception of the music. And the idea that there is necessarily a unique text which one can aim to reproduce is subject to quite strong criticism in some places."

 

I would struggle to imagine a way in which choice of clef would influence interpretation. Reaching a unique text in terms of Bach or Buxtehude is of course impossible, hence my carefully chosen "as reliably as the sources will allow".

 

Bazuin

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I on the other hand have found previously tricky areas of Franck (in particular) much more playable by using my editions of the Trois Pieces and Trois Chorals. For the Six Pieces, I still haven't upgraded from my terrible Dover version, with pages falling out and the suchlike which seem to be a frequent issue with many of their scores. Since the Dupre editions are becoming fairly rare, who's the best publisher to go with?

 

I rarely learn a piece from any of my original scores any more. One reason is that I find it much easier to read fingering when I've used a pen rather than pencil to write, and I can't bring myself to use pen on a score. I also use colour overliners to mark passages that I have splatted more than once. Because I practice at various consoles during the week, I am constantly transporting my music, and even with the best intentions in the world, constant transporting and use does impact on the longevity of a score. We know that some editions will probably only enjoy a single print run and then not be available to replace damaged copies.

 

Hence, I photocopy all the music of substance that I add to my repertoire. Sometimes I place this in a display folder - but then I need to be careful that spotlights in venues will not reflect off the plastic - or I bind with a spiral bind - much more durable than a comb binding. In my dreams I scan my music when I've performed each piece enough to be happy with my markings in case I lose a copy or my house burns down, so that I won't lose the results of the hard work and time that goes into fingering and preparing a piece.

 

This has the benefit of keeping the weight down when flying to a concert, and airlines in this part of the world now see luggage charges as the salvation of their bottom line.

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Guest Roffensis
While it must be almost 25 years since I last heard it, my memory of the Arthur Wills recording is that it was taken at speed that was somewhere between "stately" and "ponderous".

 

I also seem to recall a recording by Michael Austin from Birmingham Town Hall which was taken at a somewhat faster pace.

 

 

The Wills is measured and very musical. There is much great charm in the middle too. I personally hold it to be one of the very best out there.

 

I held onto my turntable (albeit an excellent high end one), with a sound to more than rival the dry, grainy, and clinical CDs of today!!!

 

As to The Birmingham, I have that too. It is perhaps too fast and sounds hackneyed.

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I had similar advice from one of my teachers.

Me too, and there's a few other related aspects as well.

1 - If you've learnt p1 and worked out the fingering to p2, and you play pp1 and 2, there's always the temptation to go on and bash through pp3-12, which doesn't contribute much to learning those pages unless you've already fingered them out in detail as well (and even then, you may be trying to get the brain to absorb too much stuff in one go). However if you've learnt p12 and worked out the fingering to p11 and start on p11, there's no temptation to semi-sightread through most of it - the only bit available is to play to the end, but since you've already learnt 12, playing it again just reinforces good habits.

2 - Each time you start p11 you're working from unknown (hard) to known (easier) so you get to tackle the hard bit with the mind freshest and you finish up with the option of taking a psychological boost by continuing triumphantly (and accurately) down p12.

 

I swear by this strategy - the combination of this and consistent fingering made a huge difference to the way I learned and retained music.

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