Take the longest scale (measure 56--in this previous discussion some alternatives were given but it does not address my question): The Henle edition I have (shown here) seems to group rather evenly (see blue vertical lines). My question is, would it make more "musical sense" if one plays a D on RH at the same time as a lower D on the LH, and a C# on RH with the C# on the LH, provided that the D or C# are nearby anyway? For example something like the yellow vertical lines? Or maybe it doesn't matter because it's played very fast?

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2 Answers 2


TL;DR: Scroll down to the final sentence.

You're correct that, played literally and at speed, it's not going to matter. The difference will be so subtle and momentary so as to be indistinguishable. However, the notation is deceiving in that it suggests all 35 notes be played with equal length — a true 35-tuplet — which is not the musical intention.

However, for the purposes of learning the passage, it can be very helpful to have target correspondences, and there is clear logic behind matching like pitch classes (i.e., D to D and C# to C#).

Given the question, let's temporarily assume equal note lengths within each tuplet and look at the musical result.

m. 56 cadenza, notated as indicated in OP

This strategy gives an alignment against the eighth notes of 9-8-8-10, which is both reasonably balanced and has a slight "rollercoaster" effect: slower coming over the "hump" and then faster on the down-slope.

The example from Henle suggests a grouping of 9-9-8-9, which is more evenly distributed by the numbers, but negligibly different musically.

I tend to play the first 2–4 notes quite slowly, then rush up to the top, and then a ritardando on the way down. So even though the note-to-note distribution might be something like 9-8-8-10, in practice, the notes within those tuplets are not necessarily all the same duration as each other.

  • 1
    Nobody said the interpretation of Chopin pieces was going to be easy. Playing those two runs correctly and convincing is enough to break you.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 27 at 18:03
  • Fun fact I tried making a guitar arrangement of this to sell on Hall Leonard, but had to give up because I could figure out how to do 34 in the time of 4 in musescore.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 27 at 18:05
  • @NeilMeyer FWIW, it's easy to do in MuseScore 4.
    – Aaron
    Mar 27 at 18:45
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    I get it from both answers that unless it's for the purpose of learning to play it, it doesn't matter how one groups the RH with respect to LH. Regardless, is there such a thing as Which note "goes with" which note, from the point of view of music theory / harmony? Obviously the same note goes with the same note on different octaves (e.g. D with lower D). Other than the same note, is there another note that "goes with" D, while the rest of the notes do not "go with" D, musically speaking (i.e. don't sound in harmony)? Mar 27 at 21:15
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    @GrandAdagio That depends a bit on the harmonic interpretation. Let's imagine that the passage is played slowly, such that it matters which notes are paired. A straightforward interpretation is that the underlying harmony is the ii7 chord in C# minor (i.e., D# half-diminished seventh = D# - F# - A - C#). In that case, we'd want to match chord tones. By that interpretation, the left hand's D# could be paired with the right hand's highest D# or the A or C# leading to it or away from it.
    – Aaron
    Mar 27 at 22:37

You don't have to over think it it is the 30 some notes in the time of the four notes in the bass. As long as all those notes are played in the time it takes to play the bass notes the rhythm is correct.

There is a crescendo as the passage ascends and a decrescendo as it descends and all should be played legato. I know this piece well and most interpretations I have heard speeds up and then slows down.

I'm reminded of what I read in the Oxford companion to music donkey years ago. After giving a detailed account of all the irregular note groupings (triplets and the like) it notes than composers are free to group any amount of notes in the time of something else.

  • This one by Wladyslaw Szpilman seems to be starting slowly up then speeding up thereafter: youtube.com/watch?v=n9oQEa-d5rU An interesting fact is that two Holocaust survivors both chose this piece when asked by Nazis to play piano for them. Here is Natalia Karp's 1949 recording (can't discern fast/slow in the scale part, all really fast): youtube.com/watch?v=cQAHnK7QWSI Mar 28 at 0:52
  • @GrandAdagio did Adrian Brody not also play this in the movie The Pianist?
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 28 at 12:50
  • Neil Meyer, Brody played the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman in the movie and took piano lessons during the filming. From what I've read the movie used the recording of Wladyslaw Szpilman (the "pianist" in real life). Mar 28 at 14:39

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