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Antonín Dvořák - Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81


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I'm learning a new part; in the past, I've sight-read it a couple times for fun, but now I'm plunking down real fingerings and trying to figure out how it all lines up ahead of the first rehearsals next month.

What a good piece!  I stumbled on this video recording and had to listen because Amihai Grosz is one of my favorite players right now.  He didn't disappoint.  They all did such a nice job with balance; really remarkable how clear their performance is.  I need to break out a score and take some notes.

 

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After Haydn, Dvorak is probably my most kindred spirit. I have almost never heard a piece of his that I would not love to hear again. Two interesting exceptions are the dumky trio, and the Requiem.

But overall I love his music and he speaks to me very deeply. For once, Brahms was right.

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

After Haydn, Dvorak is probably my most kindred spirit. I have almost never heard a piece of his that I would not love to hear again. Two interesting exceptions are the dumky trio, and the Requiem.

But overall I love his music and he speaks to me very deeply. For once, Brahms was right.

Wait... you don't like the Dumky trio!?  One of my favorite concerts was seeing my friends play Dumky in school.

 

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Listen for the first tutti of the quintet. They did miss it? Not being too critical, I do not think. Live performances are difficult but there is certainly a bit of disconnect at that point. Nervousness? I have made that mistake, too early, too eager to play. But that sudden increase in texture is epic and they missed it. The piece is great, but in all these years did not realize there was a 1st Piano Quintet so will have to research. Again, this is what we consider, what we teach.

Dvorak is wonderful. Did not have the expertise to play Dvorak well enough for my grandmother before she past away. She loved Dvorak. My understanding of life was not sufficient to play what would have made her happy. That sense of effort, tension and beauty was not developed enough back then. I make an extra effort still for Dvorak because of her. 

Antonin was an amazing man. But his works prior to the mid- 50s were not as as cohesive, interestingly enough, arguably, like early Haydn. Would not pass up a opportunity to perform the early pieces. But of I were to promote or present Dvorak's work, it would be of a much later work... 

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10 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Listen for the first tutti of the quintet. They did miss it? Not being too critical, I do not think. Live performances are difficult but there is certainly a bit of disconnect at that point. Nervousness? I have made that mistake, too early, too eager to play. But that sudden increase in texture is epic and they missed it.

I thought so too, until I looked at the score! The grace note in the second violin sounds like a domino if you aren't expecting it, absolutely fine if you are. 

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10 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Listen for the first tutti of the quintet. They did miss it? Not being too critical, I do not think. Live performances are difficult but there is certainly a bit of disconnect at that point. Nervousness? I have made that mistake, too early, too eager to play. But that sudden increase in texture is epic and they missed it.

You could have looked at the score. The 2nd violin has an upbeat to give it that improvisatory Dvorak feeling.

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15 hours ago, GoPractice said:

listen for the first tutti of the quintet. They did miss it? Not being too critical, I do not think. Live performances are difficult but there is certainly a bit of disconnect at that point.

Lots of much weightier problems there. Really , not an example of anything.

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16 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Listen for the first tutti of the quintet. They did miss it?

No. Others have pointed out, there's a grace note in the 2nd violin part.

16 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Antonin was an amazing man. But his works prior to the mid- 50s were not as as cohesive, interestingly enough...

Not sure what you're talking about here... his very first published work was in 1854 when he was 13 or 14.

(Maybe you meant the mid-60s when the Cello Concerto, the Cypresses, and the First Symphony were published.  I don't know early Dvořák well enough to say whether his juvenilia is any good.)

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2 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

(Maybe you meant the mid-60s when the Cello Concerto, the Cypresses, and the First Symphony were published.  I don't know early Dvořák well enough to say whether his juvenilia is any good.)

That was the cello concerto in A major, not often heard

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55 minutes ago, matesic said:

That was the cello concerto in A major, not often heard

Good catch.  I wondered if maybe GoPractice meant the composer's mid-50s as opposed to the mid 1850s, but there is a ton of good Dvořák in the 1870s and 1880s.

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Sorry, need to clarify the Opus numbers. From the Op50+s on the music is much more expansive. And need to clarify more in terms of chamber music. The Slavonic Dances are fine, but as a performer, there is not much there. How many of you have performed the the early Dvorak Symphonies? How many have heard them? The early works are important but not the same as the later works. Haydn's early quartets are charming but rarely will commit to performing them as most audiences expect more.

In the dozen times I have performed this piece, the wonderful cello opening was always transitioned into strength and thickening of texture. Not sure how large that hall is... I have played all the parts ( and performed on three ) but the piano part sort of leads in the new section though the strings want to do their own thing with the ascending line. The upper voices are choppy and the cello viola and piano are not in sync. I like sudden changes in mood and texture a la Beethoven but the massiveness here is lost because my feeling is that they are playing a bit on the rushed side. Should this part sound frantic? As the new idea flows and opens up into a more expansive motiv, the approach feels unsettled. I am not sure that the players are feeling the same sentiments. The shift from cello to upper strings was so contrast-y. I am not sure that Dvorak was an angry as Beethoven. I think he was actually rather compliant.

Whenever I listen to something new, I first listen for things I like. At master classes, one starts by highlighting the performance, right? We want to preserve what might work, what is theirs. Technically, the players are wonderful performers. As mentioned, the balance is enjoyable and the parts are clear. Perhaps because of this, the group does not sound settled... for awhile.  I do like it better when the pianist plays the opening with a hint of swing, or dead on and the cello is lost in their own dreamy world. So that colored my opinion from the start. 

I do enjoy these links to utube. For many reasons, they uncover rare pieces, performances, approaches, education... I also pass the links on to students with my observations or not. Most will not watch the links especially now because of testing season and a lost year of education ( ans friendships ) coming to a close. The ones who do become more and more nervous about being video'd...

Have to say when working with a Hungarian pianist on the Dvorak, the piece became very philosophical because he believed that we did not understand the Eastern European musician. He was patient but would scream, "I have no vibrato," when we made too much in melodic sections. A Polish pianist would plead, "let's play together."  The 1st violinist asked that pianist not to practice with a metronome.

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When I play grace notes, if elongated too much, the audience might hear the grace note as proper fraction of time.

If we play the grace notes too quickly, it sounds clipped. We can reduced that clipped, abruptness by playing a bit of double-stop in transition to the goal note. It is like the slight blurring in frame- by- frame slow motion video. It is getting that information to the audiences ears.

Also a grace note maybe written in, when those specific notes are open to some manner of manipulation. Show pieces have a great deal of grace notes, or dance pieces with slow pick up or anticipated notes. It can be true, individualized, decoration. Or it can be normal part of notation and we stylistically decide how to play the notes, as we do in WA Mozarts works.

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59 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

Sorry, need to clarify the Opus numbers. From the Op50+s on the music is much more expansive. And need to clarify more in terms of chamber music. The Slavonic Dances are fine, but as a performer, there is not much there. How many of you have performed the the early Dvorak Symphonies? How many have heard them? The early works are important but not the same as the later works. Haydn's early quartets are charming but rarely will commit to performing them as most audiences expect more.

In the dozen times I have performed this piece, the wonderful cello opening was always transitioned into strength and thickening of texture. Not sure how large that hall is... I have played all the parts ( and performed on three ) but the piano part sort of leads in the new section though the strings want to do their own thing with the ascending line. The upper voices are choppy and the cello viola and piano are not in sync. I like sudden changes in mood and texture a la Beethoven but the massiveness here is lost because my feeling is that they are playing a bit on the rushed side. Should this part sound frantic? As the new idea flows and opens up into a more expansive motiv, the approach feels unsettled. I am not sure that the players are feeling the same sentiments. The shift from cello to upper strings was so contrast-y. I am not sure that Dvorak was an angry as Beethoven. I think he was actually rather compliant.

Whenever I listen to something new, I first listen for things I like. At master classes, one starts by highlighting the performance, right? We want to preserve what might work, what is theirs. Technically, the players are wonderful performers. As mentioned, the balance is enjoyable and the parts are clear. Perhaps because of this, the group does not sound settled... for awhile.  I do like it better when the pianist plays the opening with a hint of swing, or dead on and the cello is lost in their own dreamy world. So that colored my opinion from the start. 

I do enjoy these links to utube. For many reasons, they uncover rare pieces, performances, approaches, education... I also pass the links on to students with my observations or not. Most will not watch the links especially now because of testing season and a lost year of education ( ans friendships ) coming to a close. The ones who do become more and more nervous about being video'd...

Have to say when working with a Hungarian pianist on the Dvorak, the piece became very philosophical because he believed that we did not understand the Eastern European musician. He was patient but would scream, "I have no vibrato," when we made too much in melodic sections. A Polish pianist would plead, "let's play together."  The 1st violinist asked that pianist not to practice with a metronome.

Great post!  Thank you.

I've had the experience of asking a colleague to stop practicing with a metronome too.

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On 5/6/2021 at 8:20 AM, Stephen Fine said:

I'm learning a new part; in the past, I've sight-read it a couple times for fun, but now I'm plunking down real fingerings and trying to figure out how it all lines up ahead of the first rehearsals next month.

What a good piece!  I stumbled on this video recording and had to listen because Amihai Grosz is one of my favorite players right now.  He didn't disappoint.  They all did such a nice job with balance; really remarkable how clear their performance is.  I need to break out a score and take some notes.

 

I also love the  piano quintet.  It is a wonderful piece for the violist, especially the second (Dumky) movement :)

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On 5/7/2021 at 9:37 PM, GoPractice said:

Sorry, need to clarify the Opus numbers. From the Op50+s on the music is much more expansive. And need to clarify more in terms of chamber music. The Slavonic Dances are fine, but as a performer, there is not much there. How many of you have performed the the early Dvorak Symphonies? How many have heard them? The early works are important but not the same as the later works. Haydn's early quartets are charming but rarely will commit to performing them as most audiences expect more.

In the dozen times I have performed this piece, the wonderful cello opening was always transitioned into strength and thickening of texture. Not sure how large that hall is... I have played all the parts ( and performed on three ) but the piano part sort of leads in the new section though the strings want to do their own thing with the ascending line. The upper voices are choppy and the cello viola and piano are not in sync. I like sudden changes in mood and texture a la Beethoven but the massiveness here is lost because my feeling is that they are playing a bit on the rushed side. Should this part sound frantic? As the new idea flows and opens up into a more expansive motiv, the approach feels unsettled. I am not sure that the players are feeling the same sentiments. The shift from cello to upper strings was so contrast-y. I am not sure that Dvorak was an angry as Beethoven. I think he was actually rather compliant.

 

The performers (who are each and everyone world class) have obviously chosen for energy and urgency, rather than gemutlichkeit in this passage. Earlier you had cast doubt on the totally legit grace note for the 2nd, so maybe your sense what Dvorak wants is not quite in sync with Dvorak, who knows?

 

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Of course you know.

The grace note is not so much in question. There is a wobble in the ensemble after the opening.

No question the players are world class. Are there degrees of energy and urgency? Gemutlichkeit ( comfort, according to my browser )... I am not old school but certainly grew up in an era, here on the west coast of the US, where listening to records from the Eastern Europe consisted mostly of those from Melodia LPs. Otherwise, Isaac Stern? In the 90s, many new musicians moved to California from Eastern Europe and had an opportunity to play with, and learn from. Not that there was a unified thought on how they played but many had thoughts and experiences. And later having read, I think, David Hurwitz's book, there was a chronological dating of associated composers and works that might have been of interest. Works at the time were what we think of as Romantic- era big sound, minimal vibrato works. The pianos still not as robust. Anyway, that was my reference. Maybe I will change it.

I did not know Dvorak. I sense he was a bit more conservative than other composers of the time. If you have better insight, please tell me. When energy or urgency is necessary, there are degrees. Listening to the various recordings of Rostopovich perform the Cello concerto were earth shattering. But Sergiu Luca's violin concerto was something that required concentration because I did not understand it except for its beauty.

The Banff competition videos are the ones that I teach from. I also use lecturers from Professor Adolphe but they are a reference. I do need to watch more videos and update my knowledge of what is currently popular. I would love to learn more, but perform Dvorak as I understand it with others. I only fight for what is essential ( in my opinion ) within an ensemble. There are those with bigger visions. And who needs to argue at dinner?

Could it also be argued that urgency still requires a bit of love and beauty? A century later, music has evolved so much, that if younger performers want to play this way they can. When my generation deviated from our teachers, our practices changed. We play out of tune on purpose, we rubato, we colour the sound rather than choosing an optimum tone and working within it. When I learned Hindemith's works, one instructor urged for unified tone/ approach. He argued that my lack of harmonic study ( lack of study overall ) of the piece put certain lines and phrases in jeopardy.

If they want to drift a bit, that is respected. It is amazing how clear everything sounds these days. With headphones, it sounds as though one is on stage. 

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