Question about playablility

Posted In: Repertoire

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    robcat2075 on #187847

    Hi, I’m looking for a harpist opinion since I am not one myself.

    This is an excerpt from a piano reduction of a trombone concerto. Does this (the piano part) look like something that was originally a harp passage?

    Is it within the normal technical bounds an average competent performer?

    Thanks in advance.

    concerto excerpt

    carl-swanson on #187850

    It can certainly be played on the harp.It may have been written for the harp by a non-harpist, because a lot of the arpeggios are 10 notes up and 10 notes down, typical of piano writing. A harpist playing this would have to work out how to break up the arpeggios between the two hands.

    robcat2075 on #187852

    I’m seeing 9 notes up then 9 notes down, no?

    I figured it might be broken into 3 notes per hand and that would make for left-right-left-right-left-right.

    carl-swanson on #187854

    You’re not counting it correctly. From the very bottom note to and including the very highest note there are 10 notes. The harpist doesn’t count the notes within beats. He counts all the notes in the run because that’s what he has to play.

    On arpeggio runs that turn around at the top like this page, the harpist wants to organize it so that the right hand plays the last group of notes on the way up, turns around, and plays the first group of notes going down.

    robcat2075 on #187857

    But it is none-the-less playable by a typical harpist?

    I can presume a competent harpist would be able to devise some workable fingering to execute the passage as written, right?

    The tempo is around quarter note = 72

    Sid Humphreys on #187860

    I feel you’re not getting the answer that you want because (fine, I’ll say it here) most of us hate being given a piano part to rewrite! It’s bad enough that composers like Wagner, Vaughan-Williams, Richard Strauss, Berlioz, Elgar, and so many more did this to us. It isn’t that the notes aren’t playable, we have to rewrite the groupings. This involves getting out the white-out and a pencil before you finish with ink, then preferably doing a finished copy in Finale so that you aren’t playing off a hen-scratched copy.This takes up a lot of valuable time.

    So to answer one of your questions, yes a competent harpist could work this out. However, a “typical harpist” is not necessarily a “competent harpist”.

    carl-swanson on #187861

    Thank you Sid! The ugly fact for harpists is: Virtually all other musicians are hired to PLAY the part they are given. Harpists are hired to REWRITE AND PLAY the part they are given, except that they are only paid for the PLAY part. I think that if a violinist, trumpet player, etc. were given an unplayable part(unplayable as written) they would insist on being paid for the work they have to do to make it playable. But harpists are instead denigrated as being incompetent when they are constantly handed parts that were not written for the instrument and need a lot of work to make them playable.

    Emily Granger on #187865

    This not only goes for parts that aren’t originally written for harp but also parts that ARE written for harp. This is just part of what we do, making things work even if they are awkward and seem like it would be much better fit for the piano. Every harpist is different and will take a different approach to each passage depending on the music itself, time they have to prepare, and their ability level. I’ve seen and played much less playable parts, this one seems fairly easy for any harpist to be able to play.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #187869

    The short answer is that yes, it is playable, with no re-writing necessary. The easiest fingering would be left hand taking the first three notes, right hand taking the next four notes, then the left hand turning around at the top.

    Tacye on #187870

    Why are you trying to work backwards from a piano reduction? Don’t the parts or score exist?

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #187880

    To avoid a left-hand turnaround at the top, you can lead into by going left-right-left, and then right hand coming down from the top note. This may also prove to be an excess of note in that tempo, so cutting out notes will be another way to render it playable. You are correct in assuming that a uniform fingering patterns helps make such a passage playable. But you always have to consider the tempo as well as the notes.

    robcat2075 on #187893

    Thank you for your responses, encouraging or otherwise. 😀

    I am previously familiar with harpists’ complaints about the writing in Wagner and yet somehow they manage to get the job done none-the-less so, in view of the several suggested solutions above, I figure this passage can be reasonably assigned to the harp.

    And if not the harp… who? 😮

    Why are you trying to work backwards from a piano reduction? Don’t the parts or score exist?

    That is the problem! If they exist, there are no known publishers of for-sale or rental parts. This early Soviet-era composer’s work seems to have survived mostly in hand-made copies passed down from teacher to student. This present piece is one of his few commercially published concertos (out of 13 trombone concertos!) but it is billed only as “Concerto Nº 2 for Trombone and Fortepiano” with no hint anywhere of an availability of orchestral parts.

    Good trombone concertos are rare things. This one could be a solid entry but the piano incarnation is a virtuoso’s nightmare and there is currently no option to perform it with orchestra so it is rarely performed except in rather diminished circumstances at student recitals.

    robcat2075 on #187895

    The ugly fact for harpists is: Virtually all other musicians are hired to PLAY the part they are given. Harpists are hired to REWRITE AND PLAY the part they are given, except that they are only paid for the PLAY part.

    I’m going to guess that this has only gotten worse since the advent of electronic scoring and playback tools. A composer or arranger can now write ANYTHING and hear it played back rhythmically perfect with some approximation of the instrumental timbres and that becomes the expectation.

    I’m a member of a trombone group on Facebook and just about every week someone posts a snapshot of an absurdity they have encountered in a recording session or a pit-orchestra gig.

    Gretchen Cover on #187900

    Maybe you could hire a harpist to ‘harpize’ the part. This forum might be a place to find someone. There also are 2 Dutch harpists who specialize in marking harp parts playable at I don’t think it would be too difficult to make this an interesting harp part that enhances the trombone.

    robcat2075 on #187952

    I notice that (presuming the pitches written will be the pitches played) there are three or four different opinions here on how to finger such a passage.

    Given that, if the printed notation must suggest proper fingering… what could one possibly put on the printed page that would satisfy everyone?

    For example, my original expectation was to alternate hands in groups of three like this (resembling Saul Davis Zlatkovski’s suggestion):

    harp alternating  hands

    But that is not a majority view. There IS no majority view. What is the conscientious arranger/copyist to do?

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