You can be early, you can be late, the two hands are not in phase; then you make a compensation which re-establishes the ensemble.
George Mathias (pupil of Chopin, teacher of Raoul Pugno and Isidor Philipp)
This article examines closely three historical recordings of Chopin’s B minor Prelude Op.28 No.6, made by Vladimir de Pachmann (in 1927), Moriz Rosenthal (in 1935) and Raoul Koczalski (in 1939), with extensive audio and musical examples. Both Pachmann and Rosenthal had contact with Liszt, who could apparently imitate Chopin’s playing very well, Rosenthal in particular receiving extensive instruction from him. In addition, Rosenthal and Koczalski were taught as boys by Chopin’s disciple, Karol Mikuli. Clearly then these pianists deserve to be taken seriously from a stylistic point of view. The B minor Prelude is chosen for its brevity, the relative simplicity of its texture, and for the similarities of approach noted in the recordings, all of which use asynchrony as an expressive device in stark contrast to the majority of modern recordings.
Asynchrony is a general term which is used to describe playing notes in a separated or not-quite-together fashion where they are written as if they should normally be played at the same time in the score, for example a chord to which an arpeggiation is applied, or a left-hand bass note and right-hand melody note both written on the same beat but actually played with one hand being placed slightly before the other. It is apparent on many early recordings made of pianists who were born in the nineteenth century and has been the subject of detailed analysis in recent years (see Peres Da Costa’s ‘Off the Record’ cited in the bibliography). It is an area of performance practice that I find personally very interesting for its role in some of the most exquisite and in other instances most eccentric-seeming performances recorded by such artists. By incorporating it into my own playing I have found it of great effectiveness in realising the music of Chopin in particular.
Read the full article, with music extracts/examples
Dr Charles Tebbs is a pianist, accompanist and Nottingham-based piano teacher, with a wealth of experience teaching all ages and abilities. He gives regular concerts and recitals and has made a CD of Bach’s Goldberg Variations as well as an amazing collection of over 50 YouTube videos. His doctorate is in musicology (concerning musical endings) and he has also written prize-winning compositions and music for TV