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Piano Battle

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Post Voting Period
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after 4 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Judge Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/16/2016 Category: Music
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,610 times Debate No: 94450
Debate Rounds (1)
Comments (61)
Votes (4)




Welcome everybody to our debate!

Before we begin, there are few things I'd like to say. First, a big thank you to my amazing opponent Diqiucun_Cunmin not only for this debate but for being such a great person in general. During my short time here on this site, you have not only given me great advice on how to improve my debating skills but also helped me to improve my French ;)

I would also like to thank our wonderful adjudicators for agreeing to give up their free time to listen and to judge our playing. My opponent and I spent some time carefully selecting and deciding our panel.

Finally, I'd like to thank everybody else who is reading this and listening to our playing. Although it's not an open-voting debate, please feel free to let us know what you think in the comments!

This 'battle' is not intended to be competitive in any way. It is definitely not a platform for us to "show-off". It's really only an opportunity for us to share our art with others and hopefully, if you are someone who was never really interested in classical music, you might change you mind :)

With my introduction finished, I now present the debate structure, rules and general voting guidelines.

(Due to time constraints, everything will be posted in one round.)

Round 1- Baroque
Round 2- Classical
Round 3- Romantic
Round 4- Other

1. In each round, a programme consisting of one or more pieces should be submitted with at least one of the pieces from the corresponding category of that round
2. Programme notes should be provided
3. Repeats should be ignored unless absolutely vital (eg. some Beethoven Sonatas)
4. Recordings should be at least 3 minutes and a maximum of 15 minutes

General Voting Guidelines
As most of our judges are musicians who already have some sort of experience/knowledge of how a competition and the judging process works, I am going to be brief.
1. Our playing should be judged on three main factors- craftsmanship, musicianship and artistry
2. Although technicality (virtuosity, playing the right notes etc) is important, musicianship and interpretation should always come first. However, with that being said, having a wrong note in every second bar would be quite unacceptable!
3. The choice of programme should also be considered when voting, i.e. did the pieces fit together/suit the performer, did you like the overall presentation etc.
4. Ask yourself, did the musician manage to bring a piece of music to life?
5. This debate uses the 7-point system. There are seven points, you decide how you're going to split it. For example, you could give one side three points and the other four points according to your RFD (it doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with things such as 'conduct' and 'sources')

To sum it up, quality before quantity and musicality before technicality.


I also apologise in advance for my audaciously noisy pedal, chair and poor sound quality! I realise that at times, it sounds like I recorded my playing with a potato, especially when the music gets loud.



D Scarlatti, Sonata k.141 l.422
Micheal O'Suilleabhain, Woodbrook

An interesting story of my Scarlatti. When I first heard this piece played by none other than Martha Argerich, I knew immediately that I had to learn it. In my next piano lesson, I told my teacher that I wanted to learn a Scarlatti Sonata. She replied by saying that she also discovered a Scarlatti Sonata which she wanted me to play. She asked me which one I liked and I said "k.141". Turns out, she had the exact same one in mind! For those who don't know, Scarlatti wrote 555 keyboard sonatas altogether and my teacher and I chose the same one. What are the chances? Anyways, Scarlatti (b. 1685) was an Italian court composer who was chosen to accompany his student, Princess Maria Barabara to Spain when she married. In Spain, he was very influenced by the Spanish culture- the music, flamenco dancing etc and we can really hear a strong Spanish sense throughout this piece. The repeated notes and the chords in the left hand remind me of castanets and a Spanish guitar strumming chords.

'Woodbrook' was a piece composed by Irish composer O'Suilleabhain for the documentary on David Thompson, author of 'Woodbrook'. The book is about Thompson's memories at Woodbrook, the place where he found a second family and first fell in love. The piece itself is a beautiful work, accurately conveying the peaceful sceneries of Ireland. The main tune which is heard several times is like that of traditional Irish music.


R2- Classical

Mozart, Sonata k.332 1st movt
Tan Dun, 'Herdboy's Song' from Eight Memories in Watercolour

It would have been terribly ironic for me not to include Mozart in this round!

My chosen Sonata movement has a very simple opening followed by an answering phrase (0:22) in a higher register. Then suddenly, the piece turns very dark and dramatic (0:34), almost like the ending of his opera 'Don Giovanni'. After that, the mood changes again to a lighter almost, dreamy passage before some unusual syncopation (1:27). The interesting thing about Mozart is that in even in a short piece, we can hear such a variety of different moods, from excitement to loneliness to triumph at the very end. See if you can listen out for them.

I learnt Tan Dun's piece especially for this battle because I knew I had to include something Chinese! Tan Dun came from one of the poorest parts of China. His story is absolutely amazing and I could spend ages describing it. He auditioned for the Beijing Conservatory with a violin with only one string left (because he couldn't afford to buy new strings). He can play numerous instruments, especially Chinese traditional ones. This piece is one of the first he ever wrote. Tan Dun said "I was immersed in studying Western classical music but I was also homesick. Therefore, I wrote my first piano work as a diary of longing". I hope you enjoy this piece.


R3- Romantic

Paganini-Liszt, La Campanella

Follow the music, if you can :)

Known as one of the most difficult pieces ever written for piano (in terms of virtuosity), I present to you the legendary La Campanella (literally 'the little bell'). This piece was written by Liszt, the Michael Jackson of his time. It is based on the tune from violinist Paganini's third movement of his b minor violin concerto. Many people think that you need big hands to play this piece (because of the crazy leaps and octaves) but that is definitely not true considering as I'm living proof (I can barely reach a ninth). This piece is an absolute joy to perform (but a pain to practise!) and I would definitely recommend this to any pianist. The melody is one that will stick in your head for a long time. Admittedly, not my best performance of this piece (I may have slipped once or twice), but I was having so much fun when recording it, I thought it would be a shame to re-do it without the same freshness :)

Also, I'm not sure if anyone noticed but yes I did change a different piano to record this piece. The reason is, believe it or not, on my piano, the D-sharp string snapped while I was practicing this piece a few weeks ago. It was replaced of course but we all know that new strings go out of tune so easily (for any instrument). Plus, seeing as half this piece is made up of that high D-sharp, I wasn't going to commit a musical crime and let everyone endure that awfulness :/


R4- Other

Debussy, Reflets dans l'Eau
Shostakovich, Prelude op.34 no.5

You may be familiar with Debussy's Clair de Lune and now, I introduce another equally beautiful piece by this amazing French composer. 'Reflects dans l'Eau' (literally Relections in the Water) begins with these amazing chords in the right hand accompanying a subtle three note melody in the left hand. To me, this feels almost like sunrise. In 0:37, we are introduced to a new harmony with little raindrops in the right hand. 0:52 is what Tiberghien considers as the "most beautiful harmony of the piece". Then we hear ripples in 1:15 followed by a cadenza like passage expanding on the rippling idea until only the right hand plays on its own. The music breaks into three staves where the left hand plays a melody made up of whole tones. This (1:39) reminds me of a graceful swan gliding across the lake. The right hand shays the same until we have our first 'forte' (loud) in the piece based on a sad four chord/note melody which is repeated a few times (1:56). The opening theme is heard again except this time, the chords in the right hand are broken rather than in blocks. After, we hear a dark syncopated melody (2:44) played low in the left hand as if suggesting a mysterious cave. The music slowly grows towards the climax. 3:05 is like the glissando of a harp. At 3:13 we reach the climax of the piece which is like cascades and waterfalls. Gradually, it calms down until the end where the three octave spreads (4:49) are like the reflection of the moonlight shimmering on the lake. The very last notes fade into nothingness until we can all breathe again.

Shostakovich wrote 24 preludes in this work (op.34), managing to write almost one prelude a day. The one I'm playing is bright and full of character, beginning on a scale of D major, followed by chromaticism and then the rest is completely atonal. Why did I choose this prelude you may ask? Well, let's just say that I wanted to 'end on a high note' :D! No more needs to be said.


Thank you for reading and listening! Vote Pro :)

If anybody ever has any questions about piano, choosing repertoire or Classical Music in general, please feel free to PM me.


I sincerely thank my opponent for instigating the debate. Firstly, I would like to apologise to my opponent, the judges and other readers who have been affected by the multiple delays in starting the debate, as my progress had been impeded by pianistic and real-life factors alike. Secondly, I would like to extend my thanks again to my opponent, who has provided me with valuable advice about the piano during the course of this debate, in particular on my R3 piece. Thank you, missmozart - you are truly great.

Before I begin, let me apologise also for the noisy pedal and the poor sound quality. I have abandoned some of the recordings which were especially poor in this regard, but my attempts to digitally remove the background noise ended up hurting the quality even more, so I apologise that I was unable to produce better-quality recordings. I will now proceed to introduce my pieces.

R1) Baroque
JS BACH - I. Prelude from English Suite No. 3

The English Suites were the first set of suites Bach composed for solo harpsichord, predating the French Suites and Partitas. Despite the popular name, the suites had little to do with the music of England; rather, it was so called because the pieces were written 'for an Englishman of rank'.

Compared to Bach's later works, such as the French suites, this piece was relatively virtuosic. It alternates between powerful Tutti sections and flowing Soli sections with rapid, interwoven melodies. These themes are reused and developed throughout until the movement is pushed to a climax with long trills on the right hand, after which the beginning is recapitulated and the piece is drawn to a close.

R2) Classical
MOZART - I. Allegro from Piano Sonata No. 14b, K. 457

This is opening movement of one of the two Mozart piano sonatas in a minor key, the other being the eighth, written shortly after the death of his mother. Unlike the eighth, however, the piece starts out powerful, with a series of ascending octaves forming the I chord: a technique known as the Mannheim rocket. Then descending theme with a strong tremolo accompaniment follows - reminiscent of Beethoven's 'Pathétique', which this sonata anticipates in many ways. This is followed by a modulation, an elegant cantabile section in the relative major. The songlike melody is quickly interrupted by joyous, rising passages.

The first part of the piece concludes with the reappearance of the Mannheim rockets, which introduce the development section. As with most classical sonatas, this is harmonically the most unstable part of the movement and involves the various themes from the exposition. The piece settles down again with the recapitulation. This time, however, the Mannheim rockets before the cantabile section is broken up in a canon-like manner, and the joyous section thereafter is now back in the minor key, rather than the major. The movement ends in a triplet section and slowly dies away.

In contrast with most other Mozart sonatas, this is piece is relatively solemn, and displays sophisticated thematic and harmonic development within the compact space of a single sonata movement.

R3) Romantic
CHOPIN - Mazurka No. 32, Op. 50, No. 3

Chopin adored mazurkas, and this is apparent in the fact that he dedicated a huge chunk of his works - 57 pieces, to be exact - to them. Each mazurka is a miniature that incorporates folk Polish elements but whose complexity renders it unsuitable for dancing.

The church-bell opening, with its canon-like interwoven melodies, introduces the listener to one of the most polyphonic of Chopin's mazurkas, followed by a short section with chordal accompaniments. After this part ends peacefully, however, a series of resounding chords fills the listener's ear, followed by a transition back to the original subject, this time complete with a contrapuntal left hand. The B section is quiet and waltz-like in nature, with a sostenuto section sandwiched between two appearances of a relatively lively theme. The A-section is repeated after a femata, but this time, after the transition, the listener is taken instead to a fantasia building first on the second part, then on the first part of the original theme. The church-bell opening is incorporated into a thick, polyphonic texture and rises upwards with repeated modulations until the piece's climax and subsequent coda.

Here, I would like to thank my opponent again for her valuable advice, and I regret that I was not able to heed more of it in my playing. I tried focusing my energy on individual technical and musical problems while playing the piece. While that sounded okay when I played it, when I re-listened to myself in a recording, I found that this approach led me to ignore the overall beauty of the piece and resulted in very dull, unmusical playing. In the future, I will attempt to internalise these subtleties by repeatedly playing them in the intended style, but I am forced to abandon thempro tem.

R4a) Modern
BARTÓK - 'Ostinato' - No. 146 from Mikrokosmos, Sz. 107, BB 105

Although the 'Mikrokosmos' was primarily designed for pedagogical purposes - to serve as a series of études for the beginner pianist - the works of the two final volumes are sometimes performed as 'real' repertoire. In fact, Bartók arranged some of the pieces, including 'Ostinato', for piano four-hands. As the title suggests, this is an étude on ostinati, which appears in various forms throughout the piece. At the beginning, a single chord is repeated as the accompaniment while the right hand plays a playful tune. After a while, the chord is held for a longer time. Curiously, they are changed on the second halves of each beat. The right hand plays many variations on a single motif. After a transition, the ostinato accompaniment is broken up. The bass note remains repeated throughout, and a new voice appears above it. The right-hand melody is fragmentary and playful.

After a powerful transition, the piece moves on to the more slower B section, which starts with a series of chords, then turns soft, with the right hand playing a variation on the first theme of the A section. After this part dies away, a series of accented notes on the right hand awaken the listener, and the chords on the left hand begins to show subtle signs of rising, with one of the notes in the chords rising one semitone at the time. Later, the left-hand chords rise until they are higher than the right-hand melody, at which the A section returns and the right-hand plays yet another variation on the original theme. This intensifies until the coda, when both hands begin falling gradually, both in volume and in pitch, until the final two bars.

R4b) Pre-impressionist
FAURÉ - Prelude, Op. 103, No. 4

This piece, like much of Fauré, draws on the modal language of the Renaissance. Charles Koechlin called it 'a guileless pastorale, flexible, with succinct and refined modulations'. One of the most innovative composers in Paris towards the end of the Romantic period, Fauré eschewed conservatism incorporated both modern and archaic elements into his works, an attitude that is given even fuller development in the oeuvre of his student Ravel. This is why I chose to label this piece as 'pre-impressionist'.

Despite the pastoral nature of the piece, I regard it as an argument - a sarcastic but reserved quarrel between two friends, perhaps - on two levels. The first is between two conflicting time signatures: 3/4 and 6/8. Although the piece is notated 6/8, 3/4 bars appear alternatively throughout the piece, right from the beginning: in fact, the opening bar sounds more like 3/4 than 6/8, while the second bar is clearly 6/8. The second is between two conflicting themes, which Fauré weaved together elegantly into a single short piece. The two themes coexisted peacefully at first, but diverged significantly as they were given more development, until the argument finally turned heated - and faded away right after the climax, once the two friends had realised their differences were reconcilable.

I chose this piece because it seemed technically less demanding - 'obvious' fingering solutions could be quickly found to tackle most of the tricky passages - which would allow me to focus on musicality. Unfortunately, this wish was not fulfilled as I had spent no more than five days seriously practising this piece, which I regret.

Were this a usual debate, I would conclude my round by summarising my main arguments, why my opponent failed to uphold hers, and why the voter should vote for me. Yet this is not a usual debate; it is an online musical performance of sorts, and we are accountable to our composers. Should I suggest that the voter ought vote for me, it would be a slight on the composers, the judges and my opponent alike.

It is clear from our recordings that my opponent had superior technical skill. I clearly lacked practice, and made slips in every recording. Most were minor, but some broke the rhythmic flow of the piece rather seriously. I also displayed consistent problems with evenness in running passages and with pedalling (the latter was mainly because of my focus on fingerwork rather than footwork). Though these are technical problems, they impair my ability to play musically. On the musical level, I am also clearly inferior to my opponent. Though I tried to bring out the general direction of the piece, I was unable to realise the subtleties that the composer had hidden in each of the pieces. My dynamics and phrasing were also awkward at times, especially at relatively demanding passages.

My opponent clearly has the upper hand, and it is only rightful for me to recommend that the voters select her as the winner.

Debate Round No. 1
61 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Beginner 1 year ago

Tfw you are inferior
Posted by missmozart 2 years ago
Could you please give me honest advice about my playing? I know it wasn't exactly great in this battle so you don't have to be polite :)
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
@missmozart Thanks, I'm actually quite guilty of rushing sometimes, but I guess the recorder might have something to do with my increased discipline :P
Posted by missmozart 2 years ago
You know, I've never heard you rush in any of your recordings so far. It's like you have a metronome inside you when you're playing but you still manage to create a very musical performance. The balance was excellent (when the melody switched) and I really liked your energy :)
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
Thanks for everyone's votes and comments :)

@Sapphique Voicing. There was quite a bit of counterpoint in the last two pages, which Chopin used to create tension.
Posted by Sapphique 2 years ago
Haha, I guess that's why it didn't sound as engaging as your first piece :D Still a fine job but the emotions didn't come through very well.

You're both amazing piano players, in case I didn't say that already.
Posted by missmozart 2 years ago
Wow that's amazing how you could tell with my Mozart. When I was playing that piece, I was in a terribly bad mood because I had an argument with someone just before I recorded it. They say your mood is always reflected in your art. I guess that's true, lol.
Posted by Sapphique 2 years ago
Stupid DDO formatting...
Posted by Sapphique 2 years ago
R1 Missmozart - I absolutely loved your Scarlatti. I think that piece really suits you. It"s lively, and you built up the excitement nicely. As for Woodbrook, I feel that overall you did a good job conveying the peaceful and romantic feelings of the piece. The first half was very smooth and I like how you stretched and pulled on the phrases. However, at the little section around 3:31-4:05, I feel that the tempo and flow faltered a little and I think it was the grace notes that sounded too abrupt to me, at least for the lilting rhythm you set earlier.

R1 Diqiu - I liked that you kept the melody clear in your Bach when it alternated between the right and left hand and it flowed well. I was going to say that if I had to pick at something it would be the lack of dynamic contrast, but then I looked at the sheet music and there were no dynamic markings at all lol.

R1 I would say goes to Missmozart.

R2 Missmozart - Technically speaking I think the Mozart was fine, but emotionally this piece didn"t engage me in the way your Scarlatti did (with that piece I could really tell you were having fun with it). I"m having some trouble figuring out exactly why that is though. The way you played Tan Dun"s piece felt simple yet delicate and nostalgic; I liked that a lot.

R2 Diqiu - I liked this piece more than the one you played for R1. You conveyed a lot of energy and musicality. I especially enjoyed the run passages that were fast and clean. The ending was also cool ^.^

R2 goes to Diqiu.
Posted by Sapphique 2 years ago
R3 Missmozart " I"m probably biased a little towards this because I love this piece :P But nevertheless, hats off to you for being able to play it so well. It"s incredibly fast and I lost my place in the music sometimes lol. A bit near the end sounded a little blurry and I heard a few questionable notes but that"s a minor issue. I don"t think I"ll ever be able to play this on the piano"I do want to play Paganini"s original sometime though. After I finish learning Zigeunerweisen.

R3 Diqiu " This piece sounded nice, but I agree that it seemed to lack genuine musicality and dynamic contrast. I am curious about the technical problems you mentioned"what were they?

R3 in my opinion goes solidly to Missmozart.

R4 Missmozart " I wonder if this could be called a mood piece? It reminds me of impressionist art where instead of bright and clear lines we get the overall feeling of the work while the details remain obscured. I liked the way you expressed this piece and the different images that you pictured. Lol the Shostakovich was just fun. I don"t normally like atonal music, but this particular one I think could totally be played during Tom and Jerry XD

R4 Diqiu " Maybe it"s just me, but I"ve never really understood/enjoyed Bartok"s music because it sounds sort of messy or lacks cohesion. You played it fine though; it was lively and energetic (if you made mistakes, I couldn"t really tell :P). And for a piece that you only spent five days on, your last piece sounds pretty good! I liked its peacefulness.

Hmm, I"m actually not sure who I think won this round"probably Missmozart but not by a large margin.

So overall, Missmozart wins on arguments for winning a majority of the rounds imo, but I"m giving Diqiu the conduct point for his gracious words at the end of the debate. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I hope you guys do more of this in the future ^.^
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Sapphique 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by The-Voice-of-Truth 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The Conduct point goes to Con for the concession, and thus the args point to Pro. However, might I say that both of you are phenomenal. I could never even dream of having such skill on a piano, and I commend you both for the hard work y'all put into learning these pieces and the instrument itself. Bravo.
Vote Placed by Hayd 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by ThinkBig 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I am giving the conduct point to con for his gracious concession at the end. Because of this, it is only fair that I give the arguments point to Pro. I am working on a Google docs that thoroughly goes trough each piece and my feedback on the performance. This will take me a good while so I am leaving this here for now.