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In some pieces, there is a pedal designation along with staccato. How should this be played?

Staccato with a pedal

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Are the pedal markings there in the original, or are they editorial? Same goes for the staccato. I may be inclined to ignore editorial markings in this context. If neither of the two are editorial, then the earlier-suggested half-pedaling certainly seems the way to go. – user12105 Jun 12 '14 at 4:16
I’ve come across the same problem in Schnabel’s edition of Beethoven’s sonata Nº 13, so I’m glad to find this question (even if it means I don’t get to ask a question after all). – PJTraill Jun 20 at 23:10
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Great question.

The notation here seems pretty explicit. I would simply play them as if you weren't holding the pedal down, i.e., keep your finger motion the same as it would be if there was no pedalling. Note that this is "OK". The sustain pedal is not for legato, it's for sustain; playing staccato whilst pedalling will give you a unique effect, one that appears to be desired in this instance.

You could also try half-pedalling on each staccato note. This will help it sound more like normal staccato notes without totally breaking the sustain. Use your judgment.

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While I agree with most of your comment (it is indeed a great question), I don't entirely agree with "the sustain pedal is not for legato". It is certainly not only for legato, but creating a legato effect when it can't be done with the fingers is an entirely legitimate and important use of the sustain pedal IMO. (continued) – BobRodes Mar 11 '14 at 21:22
I remember watching the great Jorge Bolet fly through a long passage of rapid octaves in the bass of a Mendelssohn fugue, pedaling every note perfectly (using "syncopated pedaling", where the pedal is lifting exactly as each note goes down, and then going immediately down again) and getting a legato effect that sounded as if it were a single-note legato passage. I can't imagine telling him that that wasn't what the pedal was for! – BobRodes Mar 11 '14 at 21:23
@BobRodes That's a very interesting use! Thanks for sharing. – Matthew Read Mar 12 '14 at 15:30
Do you think your remarks also apply to the same thing in (Schnabel’s edition of) Beethoven’s sonata Nº 13, e.g. bar 11 in the first movement? And does an upright piano (Liebmann) affect the issue? Can you describe the “unique effect” more specifically so I know what to aim at? – PJTraill Jun 20 at 23:20
@PJTraill I have not actually seen a score for that piece with pedal markings, though performers do seem to make use if it. I would probably half-pedal at most to keep the notes from muddying. The unique effect is that you still get the sharp attack and death of a staccato note, but the some of the sound and sympathetic vibrations/muddying continue (giving a fuller sound). – Matthew Read Jun 20 at 23:32

A very common issue; this occurs a lot in the works of Mendelssohn as well. Some professional pianists seem to ignore the composers' pedal marks in passages like these, and some observe them. It seems like in these cases the composer was thinking of an orchestral analogue, so in the RH of that piece it looks like the phrase marking he would have written for strings. Consequently one should think of, and try to reproduce, the accentuation that those markings would produce in orchestral instruments, but if following the pedalling, there will be no actual staccato.

It may be that these composers imagined that the sound of staccato played within a pedal was different to the sound of legato played within a pedal, which I don't believe it ever was on any piano, given the same key velocity. In the case of Mendelssohn it seems as if he often just intended the staccato mark, or indeed short notes like isolated semiquavers, to mean "play these notes lightly", and he was not thinking about sustain, as he so frequently marks pedal over the silences. Sometimes these pedal marks occur only in the last bars of his pieces, but suggesting they should actually have been pedalled throughout, as in Op. 67 no. 2.

As has been commented already, since our instruments have more sustain than early 19th C ones, our results will always be different, and discretion needs to be used. I think there is no right answer.

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On many pianos, it would not be implausible that pressing a key most of the way down and releasing it before the hammer strikes the key (but after imparting enough momentum to the hammer that it hits the key) would produces a different sound from pressing and holding the key, even if the hammer would strike the key with the same velocity in either case, since in the former case the only energy to be imparted to the string would come from the momentum of the hammer, while in the latter it would also be powered by the momentum of the key and even the player's hand (on many pianos... – supercat Jun 21 '15 at 20:47
...the key will be connected to the hammer right up until the point where the hammer touches the string). I'm not sure to what extent a player would be able to hit the key precisely enough to ensure that the hammer could coast into the string without actually being pushed the full distance, but it would at least theoretically be possible. – supercat Jun 21 '15 at 20:50
Do you think your remarks also apply to the same thing in (Schnabel’s edition of) Beethoven’s sonata Nº 13, e.g. bar 11 in the first movement? And does an upright piano (Liebmann) affect the issue? – PJTraill Jun 20 at 23:17

When Liszt wrote that music, the pedals didn't work as well as they do now, and hitting a short note with the pedal down sounded differently than holding the key down with the pedal.

I'd hold the pedal about half-way.

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I don't actually know how the pianos of Liszt's day worked but I'm a little suspicious that the pedal would have worked differently. That is, I don't see why the pedals wouldn't have lifted the dampers all the way up. Anyway, since the sound of those instruments in general was not as long-sustaining as today, I still agree that half-pedalling is probably the way to go. – nonpop Jan 10 '13 at 22:27

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