My performing and teaching work is based on accurate indication of Note Strength. Without playing, just at the first time looking at any score any my student or choir member
(my other work – chorus master at opera) can say about each note whether one should be played louder or softer in relation to the previous and the following note, and by how much.
It is extremely important knowledge because the right or wrong stressing and softening of notes is the only difference between the best and the worst pianist in the world. All of us play the same notes on the same beat, and speed (in spite of mass obsession) eventually does not matter (listen to Horowitz).
We just follow some simple and easy “Dynamics Rules” and it saves a lot of time and energy. In ONE lesson time I can teach anybody to play the piece (s/he is able to play, of course) as the best professionals play. All the students of any level receive inevitably excellent marks (“for exceptional musicality”) at any exam or competition, as soon as they have learned 25-30 basic rules. Quite often mere following these rules improves technique dramatically (this happened recently to my student in 2nd Scherzo by Chopin, she amazed adjudicators with “ultra fine finger work” in the C# minor episode, at the beginning she could not play the 2nd voice at all). A majority of these rules are well known and followed by all good musicians, but the problem is that the rules have never been published altogether in one book, and they are still scattered in many sources. Therefore it is very important and useful to exchange our knowledge with other musicians.
I am gathering and testing these rules for more than 40 years (test considered “passed” if nobody can show me the music, where this rule is not applicable). Unfortunately, after I moved to America, I can not find here anybody with whom I can discuss my concerns regarding dynamics, phrasing, articulation etc. People around me say that they have never heard about any musical rules and laws, instead, they just “self-express themselves in the way they want and feel” (could you imagine – they do it in the music of Bach or Mozart?). Judging from my experience as an adjudicator, this “self-expression” instead of knowledge of basics of music is a real problem for teaching nowadays. Sometimes I even hear the proud words: “I think in phrases in music and I teach to think in phrases. I do not care what they are made of”. Would you like to learn English from a teacher who knows only phrases without understanding of words? Will you learn phrasebook instead of dictionary? Music is just one of human’s languages, rules are the same.
The Scientific Acoustic Research Laboratory of Moscow Conservatory does not work at this time, and I do not know which Western software can be used to display or print (in Disklavier 124 degrees scale) Note Strength of each particular note. This is a very effective and convenient way to discover “artistic secrets” of your favourite pianists, if visual information about timing and strength of each note in their recording is available. (Fortunately, almost everything in Piano Repertoire is recorded today digitally by “Disklavier” and the best performers, so we have a lot to choose from).
I will be very glad to hear from or about somebody who knows “what musical phrases are made of” and wants to share or exchange with me useful rules or can suggest the best ways to perform. I will appreciate the information regarding software as well.
Today my concern is in the very first bars of “Moonlight sonata” by Beethoven.
Which notes of the melody G# G#G# G#G#G# A G#F# B E should be stressed, played stronger than regular ones?
(Stressed notes can be marked with “+” or ”++ “or “+++”, the more pluses – the louder).
Which ones should be softened (marks can be “-“, “- - “ , or “---“) ?
Which notes are just regular (not stressed, not softened – no mark needed or mark “0” can be used)? The differences between # and ##, between - and -- , between 0 and # equal 1 degree. (One degree is THE SMALLEST difference in volume between two notes that we can hear).
For example, G#, G#--, G#++ , G#+, G#, G+++ A, G#++, F#++, B, E+++ ( I hope that nobody plays like this, of course).
I will appreciate any opinion expressed. Vladimir.