[Smt-talk] Pieces with improvisatory openings

Eliot Handelman eliot at colba.net
Tue Oct 25 11:25:24 PDT 2011

On 24/10/2011 4:43 PM, Mitch Ohriner wrote:
> Tapping or conducting along with a performance of the G-minor Ballade 
> can be very difficult at the beginning and is usually much easier 
> after m. 9.

That depends on the performance, no? Or are you saying that the notated 
music implies a certain kind of performance,
in which case, again, the question would be, what (notational) features 
imply such a performance, where the toe-tappers
would be disappointed?

> This is the feature that makes the opening of the Ballade seem 
> improvisatory to me. To say that the opening is improvisatory is of 
> course fictive. 

Ok. I don't find the word "improvisatory" very helpful, either.  
Improvised music isn't supposed to sound
improvised. "Improvisatory" might then point to a defect in the music, 
"fingers idly wandering over the keys,"
music doesn't go anywhere.  Second, what these old guys may have 
considered to be improvisation is either
represented in their music or we don't know what it is. Is /Träumerei 
/improvisatory? By accounts, it seems
it was so intended, but it's doubtful anyone now hears it this way. 
Perhaps the idea in the opening of the
Ballade is to evoke a kind of emptiness and doubt -- if one can ever get 
the historical semiotics of this right --
a trope of the hapless artist awaiting the inspired moment.  There may 
have been that kind of self-reflection in Schumann,
but in Chopin?

-- eliot
Eliot Handelman

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