Tuesday, October 23, 2012

№ 97. Un Sospiro

What's the harm in opening
the pages of forgotten dragons?

Fears will rise as staves march on.
Faith will falter at dark shifts and turns.

Flesh will quiver past
sixteenth silences and volleys.

But the arsenal has been sharpened.

Fingers will tease the strings
and dance on checkered steps.

Ego must slay the armor of scales,
rip the timbre of flight,
hum between leaps of bones,
and reel the phrases that sigh
with menace and prayer.

Bento Box:

After about more than fifteen years, I am restarting a challenge. I am again studying Concert Etude No. 3. I may have better success with proportional representation (Constitutional Law) or Reserva Troncal (Civil Law). But here's to fools on the way to La Mancha or some other adventure.

Here's a brief background.

"The "Three Concert Études (Trois études de concert), S.144, are a set of three piano études by Franz Liszt,.... published in Paris as Trois caprices poétiques with its three individual titles as they are known today. As the title indicates, they are intended not only for the acquisition of a better technique, but also for concert performance. The Italian subtitles now associated with the studies - Il lamento ('The Lament'), La leggierezza ('Lightness'), Un sospiro ('A sigh') - were not in early editions.

The third of the Three Concert Études is in D-flat major, and is usually known as Un sospiro.... The étude is a study in crossing hands, playing a simple melody with alternating hands, and arpeggios. It is also a study in the way hands should affect the melody with its many accentuations, or phrasing with alternating hands. The melody is quite dramatic, almost Impressionistic, radically changing in dynamics at times, and has inspired many listeners.

Un sospiro consists of a flowing background superimposed by a simple melody written in the third staff. This third staff—an additional treble staff—is written with the direction to the performer that notes with the stem up are for the right hand and notes with the stem down are for the left hand. The background alternates between the left and right hands in such a way that for most of the piece, while the left hand is playing the harmony, the right hand is playing the melody, and vice versa, with the left hand crossing over the right as it continues the melody for a short while before regressing again. There are also small cadenza sections requiring delicate fingerwork throughout the middle section of the piece.

Towards the end, after the main climax of the piece, both hands are needed to cross in an even more complex pattern. Since there are so many notes to be played rapidly and they are too far away from other clusters of notes that must be played as well, the hands are required to cross multiple times to reach dramatic notes near the end of the piece on the last page." (Wikipedia)

The learning pointers alone can be troublesome, at best. For example, here's one very useful approach: identifying the chords.

"The Learning Process:

The colossal number of notes on each page (a total of 2,835 in the whole piece) and the dense rapidity of its passagework make ‘Un Sospiro’ as visually daunting as any piano work. In these passages, I regularly faced the challenges of 'rapid changes of finger-position, quick changes of hand-shape and finger-changes on repeated notes' (D’Abreu, 1964, p.53-4). What are the best ways of working towards technical security and control when faced with this? An important start is to retain an awareness of the fact that 'florid passages are made up of either scales or chords, or both' (D’Abreu, 1964, p.53) – and break the piece down accordingly. The piece is full of rapid passages in the accompaniment whose basic structure is made up of chords. In tackling these, a logical and effective way to allow the fingers to become accustomed to the hand positions required is to convert them into ‘chord-blocks’. D’Abreu carefully explains this process – 'By practicing as suggested [shown in Images 1a and 1b in the appendix] one learns to shift rapidly from one hand position to another; also one gets accustomed to judging with accuracy the distance between each pair of notes' (D’Abreu, 1964, p.54)." (The Tutor Pages)

My order of battle:

(a) One difficult passage a day (about three pages are evil finger breakers);
(b) Listen to the recordings very carefully, section by section;
(c) One page at a time, when studying the notes, phrasing and dynamics;
(d) Start with a slow tempo (half the speed of the time signature) until completing the piece, all ten pages of them;
(e) Memorize difficult passages--- alternating hands, broken chords and chromatic scales;
(f) Enjoy the scenery, bravado and carnage; and
(g) Brace for neighbors's complaints. It will be noisy on Halloween!

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