In last weekend's classical music post I discussed how the technique of rubato aids in the beauty of classical music [specifically in the Romantic Era of classical music]. This post, first published years ago, talks about another technique that aids in the beauty of music of a romantic piece in classical music. That is the technique used by the pianist of drop-lift.
Note: There is an appreciative correction at the end, made by a cellist [now retired], of the world class Houston Symphony Orchestra.
"The Drop-Lift Technique in Piano":
I think most of you know, that in the written music score, two notes that are the same that are connected by a curved line is called a tie. That curved line connecting those notes means that you play those two notes as one note, holding it for the timed value of the two notes.
But many of you may not know that a curved line [called slur] connecting two notes that are not the same [like the example below of E and D] means that you play the two separate notes connected in a legato like fashion, and it also means the second note is to be played softer than the first, resulting in a loud-soft sound.
|The "slur line" here means the drop-lift technique will be used where the D will be played softer than the E|
When you have a curved line [slur line] over many different notes it means you play those notes in a legato technique-by holding one note and not releasing that note until you begin to play the second note; but when there are only two different notes connected by a slur line you must also not just play them legato but also use the drop lift technique to play the second note softer than the first.
This technique is many times written at the end of a phrase in a classical music piece. You may not think this means much, but this technique really adds to the beauty of the piece. Along with rubato and ornaments [such as trills, and turns], the drop-lift technique [as it is called for the piano] helps make classical music sound beautiful.
That contrasting dynamic sound between two notes is really pleasing to the ear. Sometimes the contrast is subtle and sometimes it is pronounced.
This loud-soft technique of two different connected notes is also true for the other instruments of the orchestra. I don't know what the technique is called for the different instruments or even if there is a name associated with the technique in instruments other than the piano. I only know that in piano this is called drop-lift.
You can see demonstration of this technique in the following video of the first movement of Beethoven's dramatic Piano Concerto #3 in C-minor as played by virtuoso pianist Krystian Zimerman. There is more than one example of the drop lift technique and the loud soft technique used by the orchestra-but I will note one by each that you can see and hear. In the first movement, the pianist will use the drop lift technique in measures 4:20-4:21, 5:20-5:21, and then you can hear the orchestra [tutti] use the loud soft technique right after that in measures 5:37-5:38 and 5:39-40. Without even having seen the sheet music, I know in both instances they were scored with the slur line over the two different notes.
Please turn up the volume to watch for the drop lift technique and listen to this beautiful piano concerto by Beethoven.
L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3 in C-minor:
Now to see more examples of the drop-lift technique, please turn up the volume and enjoy Robert Schumann's beautiful piano concerto in A minor [movements 2 & 3]. In the following video, note the drop-lift technique from 57-58, and then 1:06-1:07 by the pianist, Dang Thai Son, followed immediately by the tutti [orchestra's] loud-soft technique from 1:08-1:12; and then by both the pianist and the orchestra at 1:19-1:20].
Also, as explained in a recent Tales classical musical article, see if you notice the pronounced rubato in this Romantic era piece.
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Movements 2 and 3, Intermezzo - [5:34] Allegro vivace:
Update Correction: Oct.22, 2016: I have learned from a professional musician that the second note is not always played softer than the first. If you will check out the comment section you will see my friend, Jim Denton, a virtuoso cellist, who has been a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for many years took the time to make this correction [which I am extremely grateful]: "The second note of two slurred notes is not always softer, regardless of whether it's a pianist playing them or a different instrumentalist. Those slurred notes my be located somewhere in the phrase where a crescendo is called for, either because it is "felt" or outright written in the music underneath the staff, due to what comes both before those notes as well as what comes afterward."
Thanks for the correction big Jim!