Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

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Fred G. Unn
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Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by Fred G. Unn »

I'm trying to make my way through the Karg-Elert "30 Studies for Flute" (Op. 107), and found this metrical curiosity on #9:

Image

The 2/8 + 3/8 obviously means sometimes you feel it in 2 and sometimes in 3, but that's not typically how you'd notate that, or is it? I'm sure I've seen things like 6/8 (2/4) written before, but the addition of the + here makes this look really strange to me. I would imagine that any additional metrical info is completely unnecessary anyway if the beaming is used to show the grouping. In notation software, this would probably have to be done with text, graphics, playing techniques, etc., as the meter indication isn't mathematically correct. Just curious how common this practice is, as it's not typically how I interpret additive meters.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

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I agree and don't think that it is correct at all. Better would be 6/16 =3/8, the way Debussy did it, or nothing at all.

But that brings up the famous controversy about Debussy's Prelude...Engulfed Cathedral. He appears to be saying that the quarter note is constant throughout. But in his own recorded performance he plays the quarter notes in the opening 6/4 at the same speed as the half notes in the following 3/2. Pianists now generally play it like he did since musically it is much better.
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by Fred G. Unn »

Good to know I'm not the only one that thought that was incorrect! I flipped through the rest of the book, and he didn't have any other additive time sigs like that, but did have a couple of things like this, which are much more straightforward:

Image

I have his "25 Caprices for Saxophone" too and it doesn't contain any parenthesized time sigs.
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by MichelRE »

John Ruggero wrote: 18 Nov 2023, 17:43 But that brings up the famous controversy about Debussy's Prelude...Engulfed Cathedral. He appears to be saying that the quarter note is constant throughout. But in his own recorded performance he plays the quarter notes in the opening 6/4 at the same speed as the half notes in the following 3/2. Pianists now generally play it like he did since musically it is much better.
I listened to the Debussy recording, and it's awful. I suspect that recording length limitations may have been at the origin of that tempo... however
here I will disagree with you completely: that tempo has most definitely NOT been adopted as the official speed by pianists as a whole.
There are lots of pianists who push the tempo a tiny bit in those half notes, but none actually double the speed the way Debussy did in that old recording.
And at twice the speed, it sounds horrible. There is absolutely nothing "better" musically about playing it at that breakneck speed. It ruins the entire musical effect of the piece.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by John Ruggero »

It's controversial, so I shouldn't have said it is "generally played" like the composer played it. As you said, some pianists strike a compromise and play the 3/2 in a faster tempo to make it more "fluid" but not at double speed. And I am sure that some play exactly what is written.

Personally, I find keeping the quarter note constant impossible musically. The 3/2 drags terribly if one takes an atmospheric tempo for the opening 6/4. I agree that Debussy's performance seems constrained by something, possibly time limitations, but this seems to affect the entire piece, which is too fast and not at all expressive or atmospheric in my opinion. However, to me it seems unlikely that he would have altered such a basic metrical relationship in a recording for posterity.

Here is a short comment on the prelude and meter from the Alfred edition of the Preludes Book 1 by Maurice Hinson, who usually toes the standard line and is very orthodox in his views on interpretation (often too much for me) since the Alfred edition is so widely accepted and used by piano students in the US:
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MichelRE
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by MichelRE »

I don't understand this "metrical enigma" issue.

6/4 and 3/2 contain the exact same amount of quarter notes. The overall pulse simply switches from dotted half to half, like in Bernstein's "America" (only in a slow tempo).

What I've seen most pianists do (and what I've chosen to do in my own interpretations as well) has been to give a bit more mouvement when you get to the "organ melody" section. Just a very light rhythmic pressure is enough to stop that section from stagnating, and doesn't put the pianist in an uncomfortable position for the return to the opening mood later on.
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by JJP »

Fred G. Unn wrote: 18 Nov 2023, 17:32 The 2/8 + 3/8 obviously means sometimes you feel it in 2 and sometimes in 3, but that's not typically how you'd notate that, or is it? I'm sure I've seen things like 6/8 (2/4) written before, but the addition of the + here makes this look really strange to me.
I usually am not this decisive about notation questions, emphasizing that context rules the day; but that notation is simply wrong.
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Karg-Elert metrical curiousity

Post by Fred G. Unn »

JJP wrote: 19 Nov 2023, 01:19 I usually am not this decisive about notation questions, emphasizing that context rules the day; but that notation is simply wrong.
Good, glad to know others are in agreement that this is incorrect!
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