View Full Version : Rachmaninoff fingering

Aug-04-2008, 15:46
Hi I am new to this site. I wondered whether anyone had some insight into fingering for Rach. piano playing. I have a teacher who wants me to learn the Rhapsody without pedal and make it as smooth as possible using fingering that would not be necessary if the pedal could be used to overcome leaps of a 10th etc. She then says that the pedal is later introduced very sparingly, not as a kind of first line of defence.

I can understand Bach without the pedal given the instrument he was writing for. But with Rach., he was writing for an instrument similar to what we use and the pedal is crucial? Shouldn't we use the pedal to help with the playing, rather than having contorted fingerings with just a touch of pedal. (Of course, fingering generally is important).

Is my teacher being overly strict? She says that you can hear when someone does not have their fingering right and uses the pedal to smudge.
Hope to hear from you.

Corno Dolce
Aug-04-2008, 21:14
Hello andker333,

Welcome aboard - please do make yourself feel right at home and stay for a spell.

Ah - so you'll be tackling the Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini - you are probably already a good pianist. Although I am an organist by profession I still love the music of Rachmaninoff and play his music often. In regards to fingerings let me humbly suggest that ultimately the fingering should help to set you free so that you can concentrate on making music.

Generally speaking, using the pedal to mask *fudgings* is counterproductive. It is necessary to play a piece without the pedal so that one may hear the piece being played cleanly. It cannot be stressed too much that correct fingering is very important. If a passage is awkward for the hand then a correction must be made. Seriously, have you mentioned to your pedagogue that certain passages feel awkward? You must also take into account that during the study of a work there will be difficult sections that need extra care and attention.

As one of our esteemed members shares: Amateurs practice till they get it right - professionals practice until they can't get it wrong. Inadequacy of fingerings will also hamper our proper memorization of a piece. I hope this will help you in your quest as you continue to study one of the great masterworks in the canon of piano literature.


Corno Dolce :):):)

Aug-04-2008, 21:21
Hello andker33

Welcome to the forum, good to have you here.

I will leave your question to the experts.


Aug-05-2008, 01:17
Hi Corno Dolce Thanks so much for your reply. I think you and my teacher would get on well! I suppose I was looking for the quick fix. Interestingly, I am playing again after 20 years of no technical work! and just had my second lesson. She is a lovely Jewish (I mention this becasue as you know, they have such a rich tradition of fine pianists and attention to technique - that's my understanding anyway) woman whose father was very strict in her formation as a pianist. She tells me that he would sometimes get her up at 3am to play pieces in her sleep almost, saying that if she could do that, she could do it when she was fuly awake...also, he would get her to play pieces blindfolded. I am really fired by her passion for technique. Doesn't music just surpass everything else?

Corno Dolce
Aug-05-2008, 01:36
Hello andker333,

I'm glad that my answer could help you. Technique is a tool to get you where you're going but the real triumph is the freed musical soul that you'll be sharing with people. That soul is unfettered by technique - that soul is what people will gladly pay money to experience. If people don't experience that soul, well, then they'll vote with their feet. Music does indeed occupy a most exalted place - indeed it does!

Respectfully yours,

CD :):):)

Aug-06-2008, 07:11
Look, she sounds like a hard task master (er, mistress) but that can only be good for you. I'm with Corno on this question, the less pedal use in piano playing the better especially once you get into the 20th century. Is she able to give you recommendations, bearing in mind that your hands and hers will be quite different creatures. Organists are MASTERS at smooth playing by nature ... there ain't no pedal to tide you over at page turn time.