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A truly magnificent keyboard obsession


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Don Quixote has nothing on this guy. Maybe you thought you were a discerning man of actions......well between a forte and a steinway lies a vast gulf in the size of the keys and the result of hitting them.

[video:youtube]

 

We all know how anal these classical folks are about exactly reflecting the desire of the composers. What if they have been doing it wrong the whole time? It's a question tied up with fortepiano design and time notation, and it is perhaps the hottest topic with many in that circle today, and getting hotter. How would you prove your point?

 

1) Have an exact replica of one of Beethoven's fortes made for you. If you check his videos you will see the whole process.

 

2) Bring in a wunderkind to play Beethoven at "modern" speed on the instrument. It has just happened in the video above.

 

3) Have him play Beethoven at what you, and others believe was the true speed intended, despite all the ridicule you have suffered for this belief.

 

 

He has a ton of interesting videos related to this crazy quest, and many others which suggest we have Beethoven-Liszt utterly wrong in some other ways as well. Which just cracks me up. I found him reserching clavichords, about which I knew very little. They were adored in the day and were in wide use hundreds of years before the Harpsichord. Here he compared three:

[video:youtube]

 

I love these clavichords! Aftertouch for real.

 

Now he is making everyone hear these sonatas at about half speed I think. They are going nuts. They all thought the lighter action of the forte is what allowed the blistering pace we all know. Turns out the heavy modern action will support far faster playing. Essentially the speeds we know were impossible---and well, he has the rig to make the case now.

 

Is this how it really sounded?

[video:youtube]

The comments are priceless.

 

All the pompous critics, maestros, and professors may have been desecrating Beethoven for 150 years. I imagine a more "woke" dude, "Look, Bee-man is so friggin tedious, but if you play it double speed.......cool!"

 

I will never remonstrate myself for a slow practice tempo again. ;)

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Natal drums/congas etc & misc bowed/plucked/blown instruments. 

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In the words of Tori Amos: "Where did that rule come from, and what dead guy thought it up?"

 

I absolutely love this, for entirely selfish and not terribly sensitive reasons.

 

And yes, clavichords were the first instruments with aftertouch, and remember that "aftertouch" on the Mellotron was an accidental design flaw exploited by players.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Musician, Author, Editor, Educator, Impresario, Online Radio Guy, Cut-Rate Polymath, and Kindly Pedant

Editor-in-Chief, Bjooks ~ Author of SYNTH GEMS 1

 

clicky!:  more about me ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job ~ my bookmy music

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Is this how it really sounded?

[video:youtube]

 

I very much doubt it, given the tempo markings that Beethoven himself wrote on his score. The second movement is marked Prestissimo FFS, That's the very fastest tempo that there's a word for - what you get when allegro isn't enough, molto allegro still isn't enough and even presto STILL isn't enough. Can you seriously listen from 9.41 and tell me that's what you're hearing?

 

It's great that we have Youtube and people can get this stuff out there, and I love a good obsession as much as the next man. :) But Opus 109 is one of my favourite sonatas and really . . . just no.

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Is this how it really sounded?

[video:youtube]

 

I very much doubt it, given the tempo markings that Beethoven himself wrote on his score. The second movement is marked Prestissimo FFS, That's the very fastest tempo that there's a word for - what you get when allegro isn't enough, molto allegro still isn't enough and even presto STILL isn't enough. Can you seriously listen from 9.41 and tell me that's what you're hearing?

 

It's great that we have Youtube and people can get this stuff out there, and I love a good obsession as much as the next man. :) But Opus 109 is one of my favourite sonatas and really . . . just no.

 

Very interesting, I have to put that to him and see what he says, or better you should in his comments. He is very nice really, and if it really is as you say, it's an interesting, strong point. He must have considered it. He has been at this a long time now.

 

However "prestissimo" on a forte will be much slower than on a modern grand, or this is what he believes not without considerable work to find out. The forte he had built is jaw-dropping.

 

What we think of as virtuoso simply did not exist in 1800, he puts forward. Bach and Beethoven were not superhuman gods. He has a detailed case that Liszt quit playing in public when confronted by a new generation of speed demons.

 

I know this is true of alpine ski racing. The bar was knee high in 1968 compared to 2020 in terms of both athletes and equipment. So many fewer pursuing the sport. How many had access to a forte in 1820? Wim makes the case with many many examples, especially Czerny, where modern beats are impossible at the written metronome speeds. He uses many original sources to refute ideas like "those are aspirational speeds", and the constant complaining by composers that their pieces were played too fast.

 

I will never know enough to have a valid opinion about it, but I know I have learned alot about many aspects of the music and the instruments from him as he explains his deep and highly researched belief. His first focus was organ. Real organs. In this context the Hammond is the clone LOL:

[video:youtube]

RT-3/U-121/Leslie 21H and 760/Saltarelle Nuage/MOXF6/MIDIhub, 

SL-880/Nektar T4/Numa Cx2/Deepmind12/Virus TI 61/SL61 mk2

Stylophone R8/Behringer RD-8/Proteus 1/MP-7/Zynthian 4

MPC1k/JV1010/Unitor 8/Model D & 2600/WX-5&7/VL70m/DMP-18 Pedals

Natal drums/congas etc & misc bowed/plucked/blown instruments. 

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