Fastest piece of piano music

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timgill
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Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Tue May 25, 2010 8:45 am

Someone has asked me what is the fastest piece of piano music ever written. Any ideas?

I think we should exclude Nancarrow because my friend wants to try and play it with his own hands!

I came up with 2 possibilities, both by Alkan: the first study from op 39 - Prestissimamente (but I don't have a copy to work out the number of notes per minute), and variations 17 & 18 from the last study of the same work, which I work out at 1008 notes per minute...

Cheers for any help

Tim

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by 4candles » Tue May 25, 2010 10:21 am

timgill wrote: Alkan: the first study from op 39 - Prestissimamente (but I don't have a copy to work out the number of notes per minute)
This piece is in 2/16 time and apparently goes at about 160 bars per minute, so if my memory serves me correctly, at 6 melody notes per bar, that makes it 960 notes per minute.
Does that sound right to those in the know?
4c

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Tue May 25, 2010 12:07 pm

Sounds about right to me - about the same revs as my car engine when it's idling!

kh0815

Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by kh0815 » Tue May 25, 2010 7:43 pm

Two examples appear in my mind: Marc-André Hamelin with some nearly unplayable Kapustin heard some weeks ago (not possible to make it more concrete) - and another Alkan: Variations 17 & 18 in "Le Festin d'Esope" op.39,12. Please forgive me that I refuse to count bars etc.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by rob » Tue May 25, 2010 9:04 pm

Not wishing to quibble (of course ;) ) but doesn't it also depend on just how fast a piece is played? I realise that the thread title has to be easy to understand, but it really does remind me of those teenagerish drivellings about "The Most Bestest Possible Piece of Music Absolutely EVER!"...

Oh well: Rimsky Flight of something or other...

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by fredbucket » Tue May 25, 2010 11:41 pm

I always thought it was the Minute Waltz as played by Liberace...

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Wed May 26, 2010 6:36 am

I'm stumbling a bit here, because we need a definition of the word "fast". I think one thing we DO need is a metronome mark, otherwise the speed is open to interpretation, although it's no good having an MM of crotchet/quarter note = 200 and then playing semibreves.

Also, the speed should extend for the whole piece/movement, not just the odd couple of bars of pyrotechnics, so we're probably looking at perpetual motion/toccata type works.

So far nobody has come up with anything faster than the Alkan variations 17 & 18 from op 39/12. I have the Hamelin recording and I've never heard anything so quick - even the left hand goes along at more than 500 notes/minute in variation 18. I showed it to my mate and he said thanks for asking, but maybe he'd give it a miss. Oh well...

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Wed May 26, 2010 8:55 am

Here's the Hamelin recording of Le Festin d'Esope. The passage in question starts at 4:17 and ends at 4:47, and in those 30 seconds his right hand plays 509 notes. Anyway, enough statistics, just have a lsiten http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n97AMizsHrs

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by fredbucket » Wed May 26, 2010 11:32 am

timgill wrote:Here's the Hamelin recording of Le Festin d'Esope. The passage in question starts at 4:17 and ends at 4:47, and in those 30 seconds his right hand plays 509 notes. Anyway, enough statistics, just have a lsiten http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n97AMizsHrs
In his entertaining and informative Schirmer edition of Alkan's music, Raymond Leweenthal states that the maximum you can expect here is around 800 notes compared to the 'theoretical' 1000 notes per minute, so Hamelin gets as near as makes no odds to the theoretical. Lewenthal plays the same passage in about 38 seconds, Jack Gibbons in 33 secs, Bernard Ringeissen in 38 secs, Michael Ponti about 33.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by rob » Wed May 26, 2010 4:57 pm

fredbucket wrote:...Lewenthal plays the same passage in about 38 seconds, Jack Gibbons in 33 secs, Bernard Ringeissen in 38 secs, Michael Ponti about 33...
sad sad sad...

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