Fastest piece of piano music

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timgill
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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Thu May 27, 2010 7:10 am

Fred’s research raises some interesting points. The direction at the outset of Le Festin d'Esope is “Allegretto senza licenza quantunque (126 = ♪)”. So you set the metronome and start playing, keeping in absolutely strict time regardless of the piece’s considerable difficulties. When you get to variation 17, you play the first bar, stop, close the book, turn off the metronome and go into the kitchen for a stiff drink.

Gibbons and Ponti slow down to ♪ = 115 which, according to Alkan’s instruction, is unacceptable. Lewnthal and Ringeissen have the temerity to slow to ♪ = 100. The fact is that only Hamelin can play these two variations at the correct speed – as matter of fact he plays them even quicker here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSxbao_Chq0 – 27 seconds by my reckoning, or 1130 notes per minute (but rather more messily than on the CD).

So this appears to address a particular human limitation. Maybe one could execute a trill at a higher speed, or even the notes E-F#-G#-A#-B up and down ad nauseam, but the fact remains that there is a limit as to how fast one can play.

As a parting shot, maybe Alkan knew all along that nobody would be able to play these two variations at the required speed. Could he?

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Thu May 27, 2010 7:46 am

timgill wrote:Fred’s research raises some interesting points. The direction at the outset of Le Festin d'Esope is “Allegretto senza licenza quantunque (126 = ♪)”. So you set the metronome and start playing, keeping in absolutely strict time regardless of the piece’s considerable difficulties. When you get to variation 17, you play the first bar, stop, close the book, turn off the metronome and go into the kitchen for a stiff drink.

Gibbons and Ponti slow down to ♪ = 115 which, according to Alkan’s instruction, is unacceptable. Lewnthal and Ringeissen have the temerity to slow to ♪ = 100. The fact is that only Hamelin can play these two variations at the correct speed – as matter of fact he plays them even quicker here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSxbao_Chq0 – 27 seconds by my reckoning, or 1130 notes per minute (but rather more messily than on the CD).

So this appears to address a particular human limitation. Maybe one could execute a trill at a higher speed, or even the notes E-F#-G#-A#-B up and down ad nauseam, but the fact remains that there is a limit as to how fast one can play.

As a parting shot, maybe Alkan knew all along that nobody would be able to play these two variations at the required speed. Could he?
I think the answer to the last two words is an emphatic yes, simply because we all know what his contempories thought of his playing, Liszt used to fear Alkans presence in the audience according to what I have read, plus and this is the one factor not mentioned up to now is that the action of the pianos in those days was considerably lighter and I think shallower than the modern monsters pianists are virtually forced to break their fingers on and that of course increases the possibility of playing such music up to speed, especially as the passages in question for the right hand fall well under the fingers, the leaps in the left hand are another matter!!!
regards
Brian
hehe! how about another composing competition for a Toccata or etude which pushes the speed question to its ultimate, how fast can the human hand play on modern pianos (trills excepted of course), how many subdivisions of the beat can be squeezed into 3 or 4 minutes for example?

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by fredbucket » Thu May 27, 2010 7:58 am

timgill wrote:As a parting shot, maybe Alkan knew all along that nobody would be able to play these two variations at the required speed. Could he?
Alkan is no stranger to what might be considered excessive speeds. Le Chemin de Fer, op.27, is specified as 896 semiquavers per minute, and Fa from Op.38b a whopping 1296 notes per minute I don't know anything faster than this.

It is interesting that George Beck, in his 1971 edition of Alkan's works, states that the MM markings are invariably too fast and not to be taken literally, but by the same token the music loses something if not played at something approaching what Alkan specifies. The limitations are not only the pianist but also the clarity and resonance of the piano.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by timgill » Thu May 27, 2010 8:20 am

Fred's right. Fa is even fa-ster than Le Festin.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by Timtin » Thu May 27, 2010 9:56 am

Playing too fast is like eating too fast or copulating too fast - ultimately not very satisfying.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by fredbucket » Thu May 27, 2010 10:41 am

Timtin wrote:Playing too fast is like eating too fast or copulating too fast - ultimately not very satisfying.
Oh, I don't know - ever watched Meerkat Manor? :-)

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Fred

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by fredbucket » Thu May 27, 2010 10:42 am

timgill wrote:Fred's right. Fa is even fa-ster than Le Festin.
Yes, but it's a bit fa-fetched to expect anyone to play it at that speed, don't you think?

Regards
Fa

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by Dannen » Thu May 27, 2010 3:26 pm

I can't type -- I mean play -- more than 500 notes per minute. I suppose that makes me a half-fast piano player.

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by Paul » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:24 am

If we do such dubious things here like counting notes per minute I would suggest Cage's 4-33 as the slowest possible piece: zero notes/min!

Have a nice weekend

Paul

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Re: Fastest piece of piano music

Post by WCosand » Sat Jun 05, 2010 3:04 pm


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