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#1275549 - 09/26/09 11:32 AM Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Hi

If you play the Goldberg Variations, or even listen to them, you probably know the one I mean. It's the inverted Em arpegiated chord in bar 11 of the Aria. Most (all?) recorded pianists seem to play the chord broken upside-down, that is, the highest pitch first. I've looked at a couple of published editions, and they seem to have an editorial annotation to that effect.

What I wonder is -- why? To my ear it sounds fine either way up, but I wondered if there was some artistic reason for playing it `upside down'. I'm given to understand that Bach used the same sign whichever way he intended arpegiated chords to be played, so no clues there (so far as I know).

Sorry if this question has been done before. Comments welcome.

Best wishes
Kevin

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#1275606 - 09/26/09 01:01 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: kevinb]
heidiv Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/21/09
Posts: 579
Loc: piano bench, usually
Hi Kevin,

I've just started working on this. I'll be performing it for a Master Class early next year. Based on the recordings I've listened to thus far, it seems that the standard practice is to play it from top to bottom the first time (then start the ornament which comes on the second beat on the upper note); and play the e minor chord from bottom to top on the repeat (and start the ornament which comes on the second beat on the lower note).

I'm not an expert in Baroque ornamentation, but it's my understanding that these subtle differences are made to make the repeat different and more interesting. If you were to play the same section the same way twice, what would be the point?

I've noticed other differences on the repeats also; such as, a 3 note ornament on the first play and a 5 note ornament on the repeat. I love this piece!

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#1275610 - 09/26/09 01:04 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: kevinb]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18545
Loc: Victoria, BC
You may be interested in this quote from the many pages of preparatory notes to the Alfred edition of the WTC I, written by Willard A. Palmer :

"Arpeggiating Chords :
The practice of arpeggiating or "breaking" chords was so generally employed on the harpsichord and clavichord during Bach's day that it was not considered necessary to notate it in the music. When arpeggiation is indicated, the chord may be even more broadly spread. No chord sounds very good on the harpsichord without at least some slight degree of spreading.
Chords may be broken beginning with the top note, or beginning with the lower note, or if there is enough time in both directions, particularly in chords near the end of the piece (especially in preludes that have an improvisatory character.)"[1]

It would seem, then, that it is up to the performer to decide, on the basis of context, whether the chord be arpeggiated from bottom to top or top to bottom. Some may feel that it is important to play the melody note first, (the G), giving a greater sense of melodic continuity from the preceding D half-note, hence the arpeggiation from top to bottom in some performances.

[1]J.S. Bach Well Tempered Clavier, volume I, Alfred Publishing Co. Inc., p. 20.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1275618 - 09/26/09 01:16 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: BruceD]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4891
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Thanks Bruce. I now feel better about applying this to WTC prelude in Ab book one.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1275716 - 09/26/09 05:14 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: kevinb]
PelicanMan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/14/09
Posts: 14
Glenn Gould made it popular, Im pretty sure he was the first to play it that way..

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#1275773 - 09/26/09 07:23 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: PelicanMan]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18545
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Cyrus59
Glenn Gould made it popular, Im pretty sure he was the first to play it that way..


I doubt that. It's been a part of Baroque performance practice since long before Glenn Gould.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1275870 - 09/26/09 10:18 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: BruceD]
SeilerFan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/27/09
Posts: 746
Interesting thread. Bruce, thanks for posting the Palmer excerpt. Having mostly Edition Peters sheet music, I realize that I miss out on Palmer's great commentary. Is there a book that comprises his commentary only?

Anyway, I think that in that particular situation in the Aria, the arpeggio from the top to the bottom adds a very peculiar sparkle to the music. It sounds kind of dull when done from bottom to top.

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#1275886 - 09/26/09 10:46 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: SeilerFan]
Counterpoint Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 3
I've always played it from the top down, with the top note being played the loudest and gradually softening until the bottom note is played softly.

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#1276251 - 09/27/09 05:57 PM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: BruceD]
PelicanMan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/14/09
Posts: 14
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Cyrus59
Glenn Gould made it popular, Im pretty sure he was the first to play it that way..


I doubt that. It's been a part of Baroque performance practice since long before Glenn Gould.

Regards,


Yeah that sounded wrong im sure tons of people have done it, but I think he was the first one who did it that got alot of attention

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#1276441 - 09/28/09 04:19 AM Re: Broken chord in b.11 of Goldberg Aria [Re: PelicanMan]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: Cyrus59
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Cyrus59
Glenn Gould made it popular, Im pretty sure he was the first to play it that way..


I doubt that. It's been a part of Baroque performance practice since long before Glenn Gould.

Regards,


Yeah that sounded wrong im sure tons of people have done it, but I think he was the first one who did it that got alot of attention


I've certainly heard people credit/blame Gould for this. But my 1932 edition has an editorial note the effect that it should be played upside-down but `may' be played right-way-up if preferred. So I don't think Gould invented it, although he may well have popularised it among contemporaries.

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