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Wrong notes in Rachmaninoff

Posted: 08 Apr 2023, 15:01
by John Ruggero
This is a response to: https://www.henle.de/blog/en/2023/03/13 ... -preludes/ which the reader may wish to consult.

The notes under discussion are in the piano preludes op. 23 no. 9 and op. 32 no. 12:
Rachmainonff op 23 no 9. Original ed.png
Rachmainonff op 23 no 9. Original ed.png (345.07 KiB) Viewed 4541 times
Rach op 32 no 12 Original ed..png
Rach op 32 no 12 Original ed..png (291.78 KiB) Viewed 4541 times

I believe that all three are wrong notes of a type that composers often write by unconsciously omitting accidentals, and that they should be corrected in the main text.

Ms. 19-24 of op. 23 no. 9 (like ms. 9-10) represent an elaborated V chord (= a major chord) ending the section. D naturals are used as the structural tones throughout, and that includes m. 23. The D flats are decorative tones, as they have been since m. 1. Rachmaninoff would not have placed an exposed minor dominant here at the last moment and then “corrected” it to D natural in the arpeggio of the same chord that follows. Note the sequence D :n -D :f -C :f -B :f -A :f -F used three times in ms. 23-24. (Bracketed in the following example.)
Rachmaninoff op 23 no 9 analysis.png
Rachmaninoff op 23 no 9 analysis.png (158.67 KiB) Viewed 4541 times
Ms. 16-20 of op. 32 no 12 represent a V chord being filled out by the tenor melody D# C# B A# G# F##. B natural must be used in m. 18 because we are in G# minor. The B sharp passes between the C# and B. The D# C# B A# G# motive is used throughout the piece, for example in the opening melody ms. 3-4, which also a tenor line. (See motive labeled X in the following example.) The asterisks point out the B natural each case.

F## alternates with F# throughout ms. 16-20, F##-F#-F##-F#-F##-F#-F## as a kind of ostinato along with the D#-F# ostinato in the soprano, and thus the F# must appear in m. 16. This produces the coloristic harmonic effect produced by chromatic neighboring tones that is a hallmark of Rachmaninoff’s style.
Rachmaninoff op 32 no 12 analysis.png
Rachmaninoff op 32 no 12 analysis.png (262.7 KiB) Viewed 4541 times
The wrong notes in m. 32 no. 12 were both corrected by the composer in his recording, at least that is what I hear in the very old recording. They are certainly nothing that he would toy with (especially when recording for posterity) since they are all structurally significant.

Now if only we had a recording of Beethoven playing the A naturals in op. 106!

Re: Wrong notes in Rachmaninoff

Posted: 19 May 2023, 09:01
by benwiggy
I just want to "like" this post, John. Your scholarship is amazing.

Re: Wrong notes in Rachmaninoff

Posted: 21 May 2023, 11:23
by John Ruggero
Thank you very much, Ben!