Week 2: Why did we ever stop improvising? And why we shouldn鈥檛.

Welcome to the second week of "Imagination on the Piano: Improvising Classically with George Ko"!

This is the thread for posting the submissions and assignments for the second week. Watch the second Livestream to learn more about the Week Two Assignments!

Did you know that the great composers we admire all improvised? In fact, Beethoven was known as the greatest improviser in Europe. So why did we stop? Today we take a deep dive in the world of classical improvisation, and steal some tricks from Mozart and Chopin.

Week Two Assignment

What鈥檚 your favorite improvisation like passage from your favorite composers? Feel free to share a recording, or better yet, a quick clip of your performance of the piece! It could be a recitativo melody, a slow melodic 2nd movement, etc.

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  • George Ko I went on a sailing holiday a couple of weeks ago, which meant I had to catch up on work when I returned so the piano received very little piano attention before I went to a family wedding, from which we returned yesterday.  I shall now start to engage with this commmunity challenge by reviewing the responses to Week 1 and your previous posts.  Loving your live streams!  

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      • George KoTeam
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      • GeorgeKo
      • 3 mths ago
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      Roy James-Pike wow sounds like a wonderful holiday, looking forward to your improvisations Roy and thanks for the kind words on the live stream!

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    • George Ko Hello George, sorry about this but I am assuming that your next TB session will be on the coming Thursday, and if so, I have double-booked that Thursday evening.  I shall catch-up at the weekend.  Aplogies. Roy 

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      • GeorgeKo
      • 3 mths ago
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      Roy James-Pike No worries! the beauty of technology is that once it's recorded you can always return to it. Will look forward to your post afterwards, all the best :)

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  • Hi George, could you post the date and time of the third workshop session?  I assume it's Thursday at same time but can't see it anywhere to confirm.  Thanks [ and if it's already posted somewhere, please excuse my inability to find it! ]

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  • So sorry, just found it! "Never mind".. User Error strikes again...

    Here it is for those, like me (or am I the only one?) still learning how to navigate the site:

    https://app.tonebase.co/piano/live/player/george-ko-left-hand-magic

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      Peter Golemme Thanks Peter for sharing the workshop link!

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  • Thank you, Dominic!

    Have included an attempted first slow part of Debussy鈥檚 Claire de Lune as my favorite improvisation-like passage鈥

     

    https://www.facebook.com/messenger_media/?thread_id=100003570472230&attachment_id=762773725174633&message_id=mid.%24cAABa8-VLVSaHvuHTZ2BjZqcrDDfS

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    • Sorry, my mistake. I meant to say 

      Thank you, George! 

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    • George KoTeam
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    • GeorgeKo
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    Haha no worries Rudelle Gaje   I wasn't able to see the video in the link, do you mind reuploading it? Thanks so much!

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  • https://youtu.be/AImgmarH6Xo

     

    This link will take you to my "Improv # III", which takes as its inspiration Rachmaninoff鈥檚 Prelude in G major, Op. 32 No. 5 ---- in particular the gentle rocking 鈥渧amp鈥 on the I-VI chords that underlies his theme, and then the little riff on the scale steps that follow the main theme. These are not played literally here, but modified/adapted and then transposed into our F-E-D chord pattern. 

    This Improv is squarely centered in F Major.  For my E chord I used diminished & half diminished qualities, which allow me to use it as dominant (sort of) to get in and out of F major and D minor.  For the D chord I use mostly a d minor, which alternates with the F major tonality (the same I-VI alternation we see in Rach鈥檚 G Major Prelude). 

    In homage to the Master, I quote his closing cadence at the very end (but in F, not G of course), and try to fit in a couple of other quotes which are not as clear.  Hope you like it.  I鈥檒l try to post separately something about the G Major Prelude if I get a chance.

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      • George KoTeam
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      • GeorgeKo
      • 3 mths ago
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      Peter Golemme wonderful playing! I'll comment more after the stream, I just got a chance to hear everyone's lovely improvs and will reply to all later in the day!

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      • 3 mths ago
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      Peter Golemme Love the way you created a pattern in your left hand, you were already ahead of the curve of today's workshop! I think I would work on the things we mentioned today in the stream, but also think about more of pedalling and how your music is creating the ambience.

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      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
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      Peter Golemme Wow, Peter!  I love everything about your improv.  Great job in already nailing the cool LH pattern and sharing your choral analysis with us.  

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    • Gail Starr thanks a lot for listening & for the feedback Gail. It is so interesting to hear everybody鈥檚 improvs and their reactions to one鈥檚 own.  I鈥檒l look forward to hearing yours when you鈥檙e  able to post. 

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    • Peter Golemme Great improv, Peter! It鈥檚 a very nice prelude to have as an influence for improvisation. 

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    • Peter Golemme wonderful ideas you have there. That prelude is one of my favorites.

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  • What I think is Improvisational about the Rachmaninoff G Major Prelude

    As a supplement to my video link in the post below, I had tried to dust off and relearn Rachmaninoff鈥檚 G Major Prelude, Op. 32 No. 5 (which I used to play several years ago) in order to post a performance here, but after a few days of practice, I can鈥檛 yet play it well enough to inflict on you, even as a practice take.  I鈥檒l try again this weekend.

    So for now I'll share my thoughts as to what I think is improvisational about it.  As I mentioned in last week's chat, I think that many of Rachmaninoff鈥檚 Preludes are based in his improvisations, which he then refined and distilled into very 鈥榗omposed鈥 pieces of music. 

    One feature here that lends itself to improvisation is the gently rocking LH arpeggiated chords underlying the theme in, among other places, mm 1-6 and mm 9-14 (which alternates between the I & VI chords, as articulated by the held notes of D (G chord) and E (e minor chord)). He uses this pattern as a unifying motif for the whole piece.  The D-E note alternation also goes through some changes (e.g. briefly into the G minor mode in the middle) and then articulating a I-V pattern under the chromatic flourishes at the very end.

    Jazz/pop players would call that pattern a 鈥榲amp鈥, which refers to a short repeating chord pattern, which you then improvise on top of. I believe his melody line, which is something less than a 鈥榯heme鈥 and is repeated in different variations, provides a few examples of what could be improvised on top of this 'vamp''.

    Another improvisational feature is the 鈥榬iff鈥 in mm 6-8 and mm 14-18, which is simply a series of scale steps up and down, but beautifully decorated with an upper note (B in the first several iterations), followed by a sort of mordent 鈥 a little piece of a trill from above before settling on the scale step in question.  So simple, and pure genius!

    I use both the 鈥榲amp鈥 and the 鈥榬iff鈥 in my Improv III, modified and adapted to a different kind of melody, played over our F-E-D pattern.   Hopefully, I can supplement this text later with a performance of the Prelude if I can get it somewhat up to snuff, to illustrate these points a little more graphically.

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      • George KoTeam
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      • GeorgeKo
      • 3 mths ago
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      Peter Golemme no worries, again this is a safe space so whatever you share, we are truly blessed to hear your music, always love to hear it.

      Rachmaninoff often had a very improvisatory instinct, which I believe is why his notated music is always quite bizarre and spontaneous as compared to his contemporaries, nice choice to use Rachmaninoff as a source of inspiration.

       

      On the unifying motif, absolutely! Motif's or core themes, or identifying elements even to the extent of an idee fixe from Berlioz helps keep a piece grounded and provides the listener tools to connect the thread of the beginning to the middle and to the end of a piece.

       

      and yes! mordent's are like flourishes, or when jazz players say "honey". very nice observations indeed!

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    • CK
    • br0wn
    • 3 mths ago
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    Hello, just manage to upload this. I felt that am away from the topic馃槗. Feel free to give me some feedback

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