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Let's consider this example (Shostakovitch, Waltz)

As we see, there are two rests in the left hand, after the sustain pedal. Due to the sustain pedal, the left hand C note will be longer than a quarter : it will be 3 quarters long.

So do the rests mean "absence of sound" or "absence of new sound" ?

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  • I'm wondering is there are any other instruments where this would also be true and I cannot think of any. So this question appears to me at least to be very specifically for piano and not a general issue with rests in music. Doesn't make it a bad question though.
    – JimM
    Commented May 11 at 11:12
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    @JimM Vibraphone has a quite similar concept when dealing with sustain pedal, both technique and usage don't change much between them. Commented May 11 at 15:05
  • Can you provide a more extended version of the piece? Or at least, the full title, including edition/transcription info, since this doesn't seem to be to originally written for piano. Commented May 11 at 15:10
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    @musicamante : it is a french score that I bought in a shop. the reference is : Dimitri Chostakovitch, Sérénade Valse pour piano, editeur : Le chant du monde. Commented May 11 at 15:15
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    @MathieuKrisztian It may look similar, but it's not the same. You may not be used to these differences, but they are important in engraving: 1. the metre font; 2. the distance between the key signature and the metre; 3. the distance between the two staves; 4. the vertical alignment of the rests; 5. the missing staccato dot under the low C; 6. the distance between the left staff margin and the clefs; 7. the vertical distance of the pedal; 8. the font and casing of the tempo signature; 8. the staff brace. In any case, as written above, in both situations the "Ped" position just seems wrong. Commented May 12 at 1:19

2 Answers 2

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If I am correct, the first C, in bass clef, has a staccato mark under it. so while it is emphasised (line), if you pedal after that note is let go, the problem isn't there any more. So, if that is a staccato mark, the bass note isn't even a quarter beat, let alone three quarters.

To directly answer your header question: a rest has exactly the same duration (of silence) as the matching note has sounding.

If indeed it is Shostakovich Waltz 2, then listening to it, the pedal is often (not always, it's tricky) pressed after (but not always, it's tricky), giving a sort of echo effect. I asked about that very effect years ago here, and there didn't seem to be a consensus answer.

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  • It's the 2nd Waltz indeed. I found it here, though it seems a different edition (with very poor notation), with a more clear pedal indication starting from bar 2. It seems like the OP may have a revised version, but the "typo" at the beginning remains. Commented May 11 at 15:30
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    The horizontal line looks like tenuto. Commented May 11 at 17:15
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    Now I see it, there are both tenuto and staccato marks ... And sustain pedal with rest... Apparently do whatever you like. Commented May 11 at 17:17
  • @MichaelCurtis - not at all. Do what it says!
    – Tim
    Commented May 11 at 19:28
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There is a long tradition of impossible things being written for piano by composers who perfectly well knew they were writing impossible things. For example, Mozart and Beethoven both wrote plenty of crescendos over long held notes. The idea is to convey to the performer what the music is supposed to feel like even if it's impossible to make it literally sound that way.

The intent in this piece is clear. Imagine a string orchestra playing in a resonant concert hall. The cellos and basses play on the first beat, holding it slightly longer than one beat (that's a tenuto mark, not a staccato mark), and let the string continue to vibrate (in resonance with what the violins and violas are playing) after they stop bowing. (This includes lifting the bow off the string rather than stopping it on the string.) So the note sort of continues to go on without it being played.

Can you literally duplicate this effect on the piano? No. But, aided by a bit of acting (lift your left hand so the audience can see it) and some suspense of disbelief on the part of the audience (and classical audiences are long conditioned to hear pianos as if they were string orchestras), you can try to get as close to this effect as you can.

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    The low note has both a tenuto and a staccato mark. Commented May 11 at 15:44
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    It's an agogic accent rather than tenuto, I believe, so it'd be difficult to play full length plus a bit at the same time as staccato. Which makes this answer inaccurate.in my opinion.
    – Tim
    Commented May 11 at 16:55
  • If you want to take the staccato mark more seriously - there is also a long history of composers writing impossible things for strings like pizzicato whole notes. Commented May 11 at 17:04
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    Pizzicato whole note is not impossible nor contradictory, pluck it and let ring four beats. Whether it's audible is something else. Commented May 11 at 17:22

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