Thursday, May 10, 2007

Faking Schubert/Faking Pianos

First of all, it should be noted that although the word "faking" has negative associations, and the way collaborative pianists such as I "fake" is sometimes deserving of negative associations, there is also a real art that can be defined as faking in my world. At its best, it describes a creative approach to all sorts of challenges that can arise in performing as a musician - such as staying with a singer when he/she goes off course. (Could this be jury day?)

Anyway, the ever-innovative Hugh Sung, who boldly carries his entire rep and page-turner in a Tablet PC setup, has some interesting suggestions for pianists trying to survive the Erlking. I think I've tried all of these suggestions at one time or another, all with mixed success. I really just need to practice more and raise my pain threshold, but in commenting on his post, I came up with an interesting connection between text and technique.

I'm sure other pianists have noted before that the first moment in the song which allows for a slight letup is the first time in the poem that the Erlking speaks. Not only does the music become sickly sweet here, but the right-hand actually has some regular little rests thrown in. (See second system of p.172.) I can't be alone in feeling a great sense of anticipation as that first respite arrives. The next 'break' (4th system of p.173), coinciding with the Erlking's second speech, is even more refreshing - innocent arpeggios that a child could play. Following that, it's every tendon for itself to the bitter end, but only today did it occur to me to think of those two oases as Screwtape-like, the wicked piano part drawing you into a momentary sense of comfort, just as the elf king seduces the doomed child. And that piano part is pure evil.

Hugh also has some video podcasts (this guy takes tech seriously) demonstrating a new kind of digital piano. It seems to offer a major step forward in simulating the way a piano actually produces sound. Whereas I find the virtual orchestra described below to be disturbing in many ways, this sort of advancement is quite exciting and has less negative aesthetic baggage.

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