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sample

This is from Prokofiev's piano concerto number 3, the third movement.

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Wikipedia refers to these as "double-note arpeggi":

Then the coda explodes into a musical battle between soloist and orchestra, with prominent piano ornamentation over the orchestra (including famously difficult double-note arpeggi, sometimes approximated by pianists with keyboard glissandos using the knuckles)

There is a notated glissando earlier in the movement, one bar before rehearsal mark 98.

glissando

The double-note passages are clearly notated, rather than marked as glissandi, so it's clear that Prokofiev's intent was literal.

The fingering given in the Russian "Collected Works" at rehearsal mark 137 reinforces Prokofiev's intent.

double-note arpeggio

Each double-note is to be played with a single finger, and each ascending and descending section comprises ten note-units (either singleton or double), thus being "playable" by the two hands acting side-by-side as ten fingers. ("Playable" being a relative term.)

The Isidor Philipp edition1 features an even less plausible fingering (IMO):

Philipp edition fingering


In this video of Martha Argerich with the Singapore Symphony, you can see her hands when she first encounters the double-note arpeggi (28:58). She uses a hand-over-hand technique. However, at 29:08 she uses a side-by-side technique. 1000 bonus points to anyone who can figure out what she's actually doing. :-)


1Serge Prokofieff, "Concerto No. 3 (1917-21)", ed. Isidor Philipp (1956, International Music Company).

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  • TIL about single-finger double-note! Any other composers who instructed performers to use this technique? Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 14:26
  • My fingers DO NOT WANT to play arpeggios on the cracks. I've been trying to MAKE them for some considerable time today, but they refuse. I had always heard these as glissandi. Seeing the music I assumed the fingering showed what one hand was doing but left the other hand up to the pianist. One hand was therefore on top of the other. I had some - modest - success playing it like that. But you are right. The glorious Martha Argerich (youtube.com/watch?v=BS0SwRoYAW0) is playing it correctly (at 28'58"). At this stage I generally point out I'm primarily a composer, not a pianist. :-) Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 15:30
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    @CarlWitthoft One of the more commonly encountered examples (at least in my experience) is Chopin's Prelude in A Major, Op. 28 No. 7. In m. 12 there is a chord requiring the two lowest right-hand notes (A# and C#) to be played with the thumb. The Prokofiev technique, however, I've not encountered before.
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:38
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    @OldBrixtonian Wow. I listened to a different video that showed the score, so I presumed she was using the "knuckle technique" mentioned in the Wikipedia description.
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:52
  • @CarlWitthoft I've never seen quite this technique. Seconds played by the thumb are common enough though. (Debussy's Feux d'Artifice prelude and Bartok's Dance Suite eg.) Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 21:07

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