Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Raindrop

I like shortcuts.  And so, abbreviations in crosswords never bothered me.  If a theme is interesting, I don't even think about the little abbreviations that support the whole shebang. This probably has something to do with early musical training. Abbreviations are intrinsic to musical score vocabulary.

Shortcuts support the creation (performance) of a piece of music.  And if you're sight reading (performing music for the first time, and trying to get folks to hire you again), abbreviations keep the score landscape uncluttered; this helps you look ahead, and process a block of measures before you actually play the notes.

Take Chopin's Prelude No. 15 (Op. 28), nicknamed "Raindrop." This video follows the score, with a Vladimir Horowitz soundtrack.  Check out the standard abbreviations:

cresc. =  Crescendo (gradually increase the sound)
f = Forte (play loudly)
p = Piano (play softly -- especially beautiful at 3:12)
smorz. = Smorzando (play so that the sound dies away)

At music camp, we told the younger kids that smorzando markings originated with a Romanian composer who gorged on S'mores until his stomach exploded and he died.  "That's why you make the sound die away . . . ."

This is probably why our camp counselor left in the middle of the night to take a job opening at a computer camp 2,000 miles away.

I can't imagine Vladimir Horowitz being within 2,000 miles of a S'more, or having any knowledge of its composition or taste.   But he sure does justice to this prelude and the smorzando at 4:19. His "Raindrop" is a lovely soundtrack to today's wintry mix of snow and rain.

The "Raindrop" nickname (adopted after Chopin's death) is another handy bit of shorthand. If someone says: "I just heard the 'Raindrop' on the radio," the DNA of the piece is understood.  You know it's a piano piece, a prelude by Chopin. Nuff said.

Here's Vladimir . . . can you hear the raindrops?  


DONALD said...

You're the best!

Howard B said...

Chuckling (pp) at smorzando. I think that I agree about s'mores. They're molto melty.

La Liz said...

Awww, Donald . . . thank you. I bet you say that to all the violists! :)

Howard, your *Molto Melty* is particularly evocative . . . perfect score mark for "The Wizard of Ooze"

Joanne said...

This piece brings back so many memories for me! I played it probably about almost 10 years ago. Oh Chopin. Love that man.

Edy said...

Beautiful -- thank you