all 48 comments

[–]radd_it 14 points15 points ago

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listr provided as a convenience, downvote to have it removed.

[–][deleted] 9 points10 points ago

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Hello and thanks for sharing! How would you compare the feel of the keyboard of these older instruments compared to a modern grand piano? What were some things you liked and disliked about the pianos?

[–]ashowofhands[S] 9 points10 points ago

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Because of the difference in the way the action works (the older pianos aren't double-escapement), the connection feels much more direct- thus giving you much more precise control over tone and dynamics. However, repeated notes are more difficult as you have to make sure to lift the key entirely before repeating the note. Most of the pianos I played had a light feel, but the Pleyel actually had a rather stiff feel. The Erard was also curious because the una corda pedal shifted the keyboard in the direction opposite most pianos- but with the greater control over the tone, the una corda pedal doesn't need to be used as much!

The old and modern pianos have different sets of strengths and weaknesses for different pieces and styles of music. I found the Pleyel's tone a bit plunky for my taste but for most Chopin I'd prefer the sound of the Erard. The polonaise-fantasy is the first piece that comes to mind as one that I'd prefer on a more resonant modern piano.

[–]scrumptiouscakes 2 points3 points ago

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Didn't Chopin also prefer upright pianos? Or did I imagine reading that somewhere?

[–]cannedleech 1 point2 points ago

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I heard he preferred uprights since the sound was directed towards the player rather than up and out to the room, which was perfect for him to play on!

[–]inemnitable 6 points7 points ago

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Wow, the resonance is a lot different from modern pianos. I'll probably always prefer Steinway to play (dat action!), but this was really neat to hear.

I could definitely stand to hear Op. 10 No. 3 :P

[–]ashowofhands[S] 3 points4 points ago

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I thought about it and decided we all could ;). The third etude begins at 3:24.

[–]Chanz 1 point2 points ago

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Because of the tuning of the piano is this piece essentially heard in E flat major?

[–]electrickp0ny 0 points1 point ago

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Tuning and keys are not related this way.

[–]Pladask 0 points1 point ago

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It's closer to our A-440 E-flat major than our E major, yes.

[–]Handyland 6 points7 points ago

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I just listened to the Ballade, and I must say I loved it. The slightly more percussive sound was very interesting, and I think added to the sound; I first noticed it as a significant musical difference in the climax and fast descending figures of the sempre piu mosso (m.45-ish), and quite liked it. The performance really sucked me in. Whether I would go so far as to say I like it better than on a modern piano will take me a lot of time to decide. The Pleyel is a bit lacking in the bass, especially in some of those booming octaves that Horowitz would accentuate in a piece like this. The interpretation was very good as well.

Thank you so much for the upload! Years from now when I have some money, I'll buy the set. In the meantime, if you are uploading more, here's what I'd love to hear:

  • The other Ballades, especially the 4th. (2 and 3 are very hit or miss for me when it comes to interpretation)

  • Of the Nocturnes, the C Minor is my favorite. Slightly less important ones I'd like to hear are the D flat, and maybe the E (Op. 62)

  • The Scherzi, mainly 2 and/or 3.

How are the sonatas and the waltzes? Are the concerti included in the set, and if so, how are they?

Were the older pianos a big adjustment to play? How did you enjoy them compared to, say, the buttery action of a well-maintained modern Steinway?

And what did you play in your recital? (Be sure to link us!)

[–]ashowofhands[S] 5 points6 points ago

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There's nothing like the bass on a modern Steinway - especially under Horowitz's left hand, that's for sure! The "lacking" bass was actually more pronounced on the Brahms-era Streicher piano I played than the Chopin pianos, although unlike the Pleyel, which simply lacked bass (a point that many people make when discussing how to play Chopin on a modern piano), the Brahms piano still had bass, it just took more power and coaxing for it to come out. Although it's quieter, it was also much clearer and really gives you a new perspective on the textures and voices used in his piano music. Your requested uploads are on the way! I couldn't have picked a worse time to do all of this than the second to last week of the semester, but it gives me something to do while I procrastinate rather than my typical whining and watching TV :P

The sonatas and waltzes are of the same quality as what you've heard so far, and you can definitely expect to see some of them on youtube in the near future. The concerti, as well as the other piano and orchestra works, are played with the Orchestra of the 18th Century under the direction of Frans Bruggen, and they do a very good job of accommodating the "smaller" sound of the 19th-century pianos. They also play in a historically-informed style. One of the most interesting differences is that they play with almost no vibrato. Very straight, and very clear sound. I actually generally prefer the sound of straight strings in an orchestra to strings with heavy vibrato. Dang Thai Son is the soloist for the concerti, and his playing is brilliant.

The pianos from the middle and later parts of the 19th century weren't a huge adjustment, but they still felt different. The action of the Chopin-era pianos was surprisingly stiff. The earlier pianos - from Schubert's time and earlier (especially the earliest pianos, including one from the 1790s that had knee levers in lieu of pedals!), were incredibly disorienting, however. Due to the more direct response from the primitive actions, they still had the full dynamic range, but it was all shrunken - ppp on an early piano requires you to play with almost no force whatsoever, just touch the key and it'll make a sound. The reversal of the colors on the keys caused some issues too! The piano pictured was not owned by Beethoven, but it has supposedly been played by him.

In my recital, I opened with a short improvisation, played the Mozart C minor sonata (K457), the first set of Schubert Impromptus (op. 90/D899), Schumann's Arabeske, Liszt's Chapelle de Guillaume Tell, and the first two movements of Debussy's Estampes. I was originally planning to include the 2nd Chopin Ballade and Medtner's Fairy Tale op. 51/3 as well, but had to cut them due to time restrictions. You can find it on my channel, and I may post it separately here as well.

Thanks for listening and the in-depth response!

[–]intisun 0 points1 point ago

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That photo leaves me wondering when and why the colours were reversed.

[–]scrumptiouscakes 1 point2 points ago

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There was a thread about this a while ago which proved largely inconclusive. I can try and dig it up for you if you like.

[–]Handyland 0 points1 point ago

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Thank you for all the info on these older pianos! I'm jealous you got to try some (though not entirely jealous of having to pedal with your knees!)

I'm very interested to hear the concerto you posted...I'm having trouble imagining minimal vibrato. The C minor Nocturne was quite good! That A section was incredibly sobering.

I'll have to check out your performance of the Op. 90 No. 1; that is a wonderful piece. I was toying with the idea of learning it, but piano has fallen by the wayside with other things occupying me.

Thank you again for posting all these Chopin recordings!

[–]ashowofhands[S] 2 points3 points ago

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And here are some of your requests fulfilled:

Ballade no. 4 - also one of my personal favorite Chopin pieces.

Scherzo no. 2 - interestingly enough, the first Chopin piece I didn't like. Back in high school, I had recently discovered the video recording of Krystian Zimerman playing the ballades, the F-sharp major nocturne, the Barcarolle and the Fantasy, along with Schubert's op. 90 Impromptus, and the 2nd Chopin Scherzo. I loved all the pieces...except the Scherzo. At the time I guess it was just a little too far on the wild side for me. But as time went on, I grew to appreciate it more, and it pretty rapidly started to completely boggle my mind. Truth be told, I still enjoy the 3rd and 4th Scherzi more than I do the 2nd, but I've warmed up to the piece since ;)

Scherzo no. 3

Nocturnes, op. 48 - I assume that's the "C minor" Nocturne you meant, not the little posthumous one.

Concerto no. 1

Cheers.

[–]standrightwalkleft 0 points1 point ago

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Seconding the Scherzi! WOOT WOOT WOOT

[–]bosstone42 3 points4 points ago

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Some people might be interested to hear this recording. It's a Polish pianist playing on the actual piano that Chopin ordered from Pleyel while he was in Mallorca, Spain, where he finished the Bb minor sonata, one of the ballades and the Op. 28 Preludes.

[–]ashowofhands[S] 1 point2 points ago

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Very cool! Thanks for sharing! It would be cool to hear more from the same piano.

[–]scrumptiouscakes 4 points5 points ago

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I'm just listening to the Ballade now... and it sounds pretty great. I think this might help me to overcome my slight Chopin aversion :)

Edit: This is amazing. I feel like I'm in an old-timey Saloon.

[–]andthebrain 3 points4 points ago

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Interesting attack / sustain in these pianos. Gives a new insight into the intentions of one of my favorite composers. Thank you for the upload!

[–]Redditor593 2 points3 points ago

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I may sound a bit wet-behind-the-ears, but Fantasie Impromptu?

[–]ashowofhands[S] 3 points4 points ago

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[–]Redditor593 0 points1 point ago

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Thanks!

[–]wbsmbg 2 points3 points ago

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Damnn I wish I could hear the Op. 25 etudes :(((

Awesome list man! Have heard it all and saved your comment :P

[–]ashowofhands[S] 1 point2 points ago

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Sometimes all you need to do is ask!. The op. 25s begin at 30:10.

[–]Espousebeard 1 point2 points ago

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I'm a huge fan of Chopin, so I just wanted to thank you for this post. I will most definitely purcahse the box set whenever I have the funds to do so. Beautiful.

[–]megablahblah 1 point2 points ago

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I vote for the Mazurkas to be next :)

[–]ashowofhands[S] 2 points3 points ago

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op. 7 and op. 56. Uploading all the Mazurkas would be quite the undertaking, so for the time being I selected one early set and one late set (and the op. 56 set happens to be one of my favorites).

[–]megablahblah 0 points1 point ago

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Cool, thank you!

[–]happycadaver 1 point2 points ago

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Stunning, thank you so much!!

[–]mrrikhado 1 point2 points ago

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Thanks a lot for uploading these!

EDIT: How is the price for some of the new box sets cheaper than used ones?

[–]ashowofhands[S] 2 points3 points ago

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Funny how Amazon marketplace works sometimes. People often don't do their research when it comes to pricing, and charge too much - be it by accident, or an attempt to get away with it. I got mine new from a third-party seller. I don't remember how much it cost me exactly, but it was substantially cheaper than the $97 list price.

[–]megablahblah 0 points1 point ago

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Because some sellers are stupid/assholes/all of the above. I think they either buy stuff and think it will become more valuable, or hope to find someone that doesn't do simple research.

[–]vegasmacguy 1 point2 points ago

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Please tell me that you have a link to his raindrop prelude like this.

[edit] Found It

[–]ashowofhands[S] 1 point2 points ago

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I should have added in my original post that time stamps are included in the video descriptions for multi-movement works. In fact I think I'll go add that in now! :)

[–]CrownStarr 1 point2 points ago

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Awesome! Keep the videos coming, these are superb performances and I don't have nearly enough cash to justify buying the whole set.

[–]ashowofhands[S] 1 point2 points ago

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I indulged myself a little bit, admittedly, but I'm glad I did. And after all, what's more important - food or Chopin? :P

[–]trlababalan 1 point2 points ago

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How are these pianos tuned? Lower then A-440?

[–]ashowofhands[S] 1 point2 points ago

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I'm not sure of their exact tuning, but they are lower than A-440 by approximately a half step. A440 hadn't become customary until the second half of the 1800s.

[–]trlababalan 0 points1 point ago

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Thanks for answering. I was not interested in the exact frequency of tone A more about if the tuning was authentic. I've read your answer as yes.

[–]Chanz 0 points1 point ago

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This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

[–]Classh0le 0 points1 point ago

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The orchestra recording is a bit annoying. Beethoven's late string quartets (earlier than Chopin concerto) were not played senza vibrato nor with these Baroque wa-wa's both found in the strings of this E minor concerto recording. It's debasing my opinion of the accuracy of the pianist's style.

[–]duxioei 0 points1 point ago

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ah rad, we also have an Erard at home and my younger brother is recording his next CD on one to get that authentic feel. I'll send him this link so he can check your videos out!

[–]rebelrowzer 0 points1 point ago

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did anybody else cry? the scherzo in b minor, my god. I am so glad this exists.

[–]One_Eyed_Horse 0 points1 point ago

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does it sound all muddy and dead because of the type of instrument, or the fact that its just really old? do pianos age well in general?

[–]ashowofhands[S] 5 points6 points ago

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It has to do with the construction of the instruments. Modern pianos are much louder and the sound takes longer to clear. It can take some getting used to but the clarity can bring out some interesting things in the music.

[–]m3g0wnz 0 points1 point ago

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Hah, I read your title as like "Chopin would have played on authentic period instruments." Then I thought "OP you are dumb; it's not a period instrument if you actually live in the 19th century." and then I thought "No m3g0wnz, you are dumb, that is not what OP was saying at all."

...cool story right