Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how great music is storytelling. This has many ramifications. For example, a great piece of music sometimes evokes images and emotions that can tell a story. It may not tell a story with words as much as with feeling and direction. Interestingly, this is also true of great improvisations. For example, listen to a great jazz pianist crafting a ballad. As it unfolds, it can remind you of so many things in your life that you can’t even put into words. That’s what’s so great about music!
A performance can sometimes tell a story.
What I’m going to do today is something a little bit different. I thought I’d challenge myself and play the beginning of Chopin’s G Minor Ballade. I will play it twice. The first time, I’m going to try to play it absolutely faithfully to the score. The second time I’m going to try to tell a story. I’ll let the notes evoke something to make you feel it’s going somewhere and keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering where it’s going next. Can this really be done? I’m going to see if I can play this absolutely accurately the first time. Then, I’m going to go back and see if I can do something more than that and tell a story with the same exact notes, markings, rhythms, and phrasing. I will add subtlety of emotion that can somehow transcend the notes. Is this possible? This is what this experiment is about today.
It’s just like the lines of a play.
The lines of a play can be read in so many different ways. Everything the playwright wrote is in there, yet each actor has a completely different feeling and tells a different story. That’s what I’m going to attempt to do now. I’ll see if I can take the same passage of music with all the same markings, the same notes, rhythm, fingering, phrasing, and expression and see if I can tell more than what is on the page.
See video for my performances of the beginning of Chopin’s G Minor Ballade.
I wonder, could you hear a difference? I’m really interested in your opinions of these two different performances. They both are accurate from a technical standpoint, all the notes that Chopin wrote were in both of them. I’m wondering what your feelings are about them, if they evoke different senses. Do they tell different stories? That’s what music is all about. It’s telling stories that can’t be told with words – stories of emotion. That’s what I believe. I’m wondering how many of you feel the same way, and what these two different snippets of the Chopin G Minor Ballade did for you. Let me know in the comments, on LivingPianos.com, as well as on YouTube. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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Chopin Ballade #1 in G-Minor on Steinway Model D Concert Grand