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#1455418 - 06/12/10 08:55 PM BACH DYNAMICS
Feminicricket Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
I have always had this question in my mind. I was told when I was a student that you do not play BACH keyboard pieces like Preludes and Fugues etc with dynamics like crescendo and diminuendo unless written. Recently a colleague of mine stated that if the melody line goes up you go louder and when it comes down you get softer even if the dynamics are not written. (I always understood that you do this for the Romantic era pieces like CHOPIN) Whereas I have always followed a specific dynamic soft or loud and only cresc. and dim. when written for BACH pieces. Which is correct ? Is there a correct way or is it all up to individual intrepretation? I did appreciate my colleague`s input on this because it was a different approach to BACH. We were actually discussing the Minuet in G BWV Anh 114. Could anyone shed some light on this?
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#1455425 - 06/12/10 09:18 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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In addition to choral and orchestral music, Bach wrote for organ, which can change dynamics by changing the number of ranks. I don't recall that he had access to any instruments with a swell organ, but he may have known about them. He also had at home instruments which did change dynamics, including two many harpsichords, which at least have mf and f available for the player.

To assume that Bach would not use dynamics is, I believe, the height of arrogance and condescension, if not outright stupidity. Everything we know about Bach's writing, especially for the big works, were expressive in the extreme. His music, especially the sacred, was full of emotion and emotive music is most certainly not monotone in nature.

I suspect that the idea of not using dynamics stems from a period when performers were thinking of imitating the harpsichord on the piano. An idea which has hopefully died out completely.

Then the question becomes, when to use dynamics. It is certainly not marked, just as ornamentation isn't marked. Musicians were expected to know when to use both and how to use both. Following a formula such as your friend suggested is better than nothing, but I think it's best to carefully analyze the music and perform accordingly.
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#1455431 - 06/12/10 09:30 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Feminicricket Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Thank you John. That is exactly what I was told when I was student "Imitate the Harpsichord" . What confuses me is that I scored really high marks for the Prelude and Fugue that I played for the exam where I did 'blocks of dynamics' as opposed to swelling dynamics. Maybe the examiner was going for that way of intrepretation. I definitely feel that it sounds better and much more musical following the melody line and going up and down with it, with the loud and soft. Well at least I can have some peace of mind with the knowledge that you have imparted that there are more people who go with that than "imitate a Harpsichord". Thank you again.


Edited by Feminicricket (06/12/10 09:45 PM)
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#1455440 - 06/12/10 09:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
stores Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
In addition to choral and orchestral music, Bach wrote for organ, which can change dynamics by changing the number of ranks. I don't recall that he had access to any instruments with a swell organ, but he may have known about them. He also had at home instruments which did change dynamics, including two many harpsichords, which at least have mf and f available for the player.

To assume that Bach would not use dynamics is, I believe, the height of arrogance and condescension, if not outright stupidity. Everything we know about Bach's writing, especially for the big works, were expressive in the extreme. His music, especially the sacred, was full of emotion and emotive music is most certainly not monotone in nature.

I suspect that the idea of not using dynamics stems from a period when performers were thinking of imitating the harpsichord on the piano. An idea which has hopefully died out completely.

Then the question becomes, when to use dynamics. It is certainly not marked, just as ornamentation isn't marked. Musicians were expected to know when to use both and how to use both. Following a formula such as your friend suggested is better than nothing, but I think it's best to carefully analyze the music and perform accordingly.


Huh? Ornamentation isn't marked? It certainly is. Bach, owned instruments which DID change dynamics? His estate lists several harpsichords (which could have included virginals, or spinets, though it's not known WHICH keyboards he owned, nor their makers), though the only change in dynamics one would hear from a harpsichord would be that of a dual keyboard instrument. "MF" and "F" would not be the only dynamics available to some larger harpsichords as some of them employ lute stops as well. There are some works, though few, in which Bach DID indicate dynamics, however. The Italian Concerto, is just one example.


Edited by stores (06/12/10 09:48 PM)
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#1455449 - 06/12/10 09:56 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Feminicricket Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: stores




Huh? Ornamentation isn't marked? It certainly is. Bach, owned instruments which DID change dynamics? His estate lists several harpsichords (which could have included virginals, or spinets, though it's not known WHICH keyboards he owned, nor their makers), though the only change in dynamics one would hear from a harpsichord would be that of a dual keyboard instrument. "MF" and "F" would not be the only dynamics available to some larger harpsichords as some of them employ lute stops as well. There are some works, though few, in which Bach DID indicate dynamics, however. The Italian Concerto, is just one example.


Out of curiosity, on the piano what would you do if there are no dynamic marking on a certain part of a Bach keyboard work. Would do get louder as the melody goes up and get softer as it goes down etc?
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#1455451 - 06/12/10 09:59 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Feminicricket Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
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Loc: USA
At the end of the day it is all up to individual intrepretation of the performer I guess. What nags my mind is the correct way to teach a little one learning Bach. Maybe I am over-thinking this.
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#1455453 - 06/12/10 10:01 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Minniemay Offline
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Actually, Bach's favorite keyboard instrument was the clavichord. This instrument IS capable of dynamic variation, albeit subtle.

My approach to Bach (generally) is to drive to the cadences. Build it gradually to each cadential point, then drop off and start again. A generalization, I realize, but one which often works.

It is of utmost important to think about voicing as well.
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#1455455 - 06/12/10 10:04 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
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Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Originally Posted By: stores




Huh? Ornamentation isn't marked? It certainly is. Bach, owned instruments which DID change dynamics? His estate lists several harpsichords (which could have included virginals, or spinets, though it's not known WHICH keyboards he owned, nor their makers), though the only change in dynamics one would hear from a harpsichord would be that of a dual keyboard instrument. "MF" and "F" would not be the only dynamics available to some larger harpsichords as some of them employ lute stops as well. There are some works, though few, in which Bach DID indicate dynamics, however. The Italian Concerto, is just one example.


Out of curiosity, on the piano what would you do if there are no dynamic marking on a certain part of a Bach keyboard work. Would do get louder as the melody goes up and get softer as it goes down etc?


Well, outside of a very few works, there AREN'T any dynamic indications that we have from Bach. That said, finding the character of the work certainly helps establish what you may want to do dynamically speaking, as well as following the rise and fall of the line. The shape of a phrase and the way you start and taper it are also helpers in defining dynamics. The bottom line with dynamics in Bach, is sound, musical, common sense. It shouldn't, of course, end up sounding like Chopin, but employing dynamics that make musical sense certainly can enhance a performance.
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"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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#1455460 - 06/12/10 10:07 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Minniemay]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
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Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, Bach's favorite keyboard instrument was the clavichord. This instrument IS capable of dynamic variation, albeit subtle.

My approach to Bach (generally) is to drive to the cadences. Build it gradually to each cadential point, then drop off and start again. A generalization, I realize, but one which often works.

It is of utmost important to think about voicing as well.


It is known that he had a preference for the clavichord, though what's interesting is that, at least, with the instruments found in his estate at the time of his death, he didn't own one.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1455462 - 06/12/10 10:11 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Minniemay]
Feminicricket Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, Bach's favorite keyboard instrument was the clavichord. This instrument IS capable of dynamic variation, albeit subtle.

My approach to Bach (generally) is to drive to the cadences. Build it gradually to each cadential point, then drop off and start again. A generalization, I realize, but one which often works.

It is of utmost important to think about voicing as well.


Makes sense. Thanks.
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#1455495 - 06/12/10 11:37 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Originally Posted By: stores

Huh? Ornamentation isn't marked? It certainly is.


With very few exceptions, ornamentation isn't marked. If your edition has ornamentation markings, it's been added by the editor. Get your hands on a good Urtext.

The major exception, such as it is, are pieces noted by his students with ornamentation added. Even those are not comprehensive. Much more can be tastefully added.
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#1455498 - 06/12/10 11:40 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: stores
There are some works, though few, in which Bach DID indicate dynamics, however. The Italian Concerto, is just one example.

Actually, Urtext editions of the Italian have very few dynamic markings, just forte and piano as I recall.
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"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#1455502 - 06/12/10 11:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5513
Loc: Orange County, CA
Bach also used forte and piano in some parts of French Overture. I think the last movement (Echo) had dynamic markings; however, they are very "terraced."

When I play Bach, I use all that's available on a modern piano--una corda, sostenuto pedal, damper pedal, crescendo, diminuendo, and all kinds of dynamic shadings.

My students still run into judges who write nonsense comments to them. Seriously, one judge wrote something to the effect of "you need to make the piano sound more like a harpsichord for Bach." Huh??? I guess there are still some folks leftover from the "no pedal in Bach" school of piano playing.
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#1455541 - 06/13/10 02:01 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
keyboardklutz Offline
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You play as you would sing. All Bach's kids (and himself) were singers, violinists and keyboard players.
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#1455550 - 06/13/10 02:23 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
You play as you would sing. All Bach's kids (and himself) were singers, violinists and keyboard players.


I agree with you that vocal feeling is important in Bach's keyboard music. Some of the fugues would sound awesome in SATB arrangement. However, what do you do when you encounter passages that are not "singable"? Or too fast to sing? Or intervals too large to be conceived vocally (I'm thinking of passages that jump beyond an octave).
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#1455559 - 06/13/10 03:24 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Play them coloratura?
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#1455585 - 06/13/10 07:41 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: stores

Huh? Ornamentation isn't marked? It certainly is.


With very few exceptions, ornamentation isn't marked. If your edition has ornamentation markings, it's been added by the editor. Get your hands on a good Urtext.

The major exception, such as it is, are pieces noted by his students with ornamentation added. Even those are not comprehensive. Much more can be tastefully added.


Oh thanks for the advice. LOL. Actually, I own practically every keyboard work by Bach and all are either Henle, or Barenreiter (and the Kirkpatrick Goldbergs which is Schirmer) as well as various other editions for research/comparison. Bach, is my passion and I've spent the better part of 40 years studying/researching/reading/playing his music. While the ornamentation that Bach left us doesn't often fill the page quite so much as various editions would have us believe, he DID indicate ornaments (look at Bach's autographs and/or copies made by those close to him)quite often. If an edition has ornaments they're not all added by the editor, however, determining what HAS been added by the editor versus those actually left by Bach, can be quite a time consuming bit of research. To say that an edition containing ornamentation is all the work of an editor, because Bach didn't leave any, is, quite frankly, wrong.
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#1455590 - 06/13/10 07:59 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: stores
There are some works, though few, in which Bach DID indicate dynamics, however. The Italian Concerto, is just one example.

Actually, Urtext editions of the Italian have very few dynamic markings, just forte and piano as I recall.


Yes, that's right. The only indications are "forte" and "piano". I didn't say there were more, or less, only that the Italian is a work in which Bach indicated dynamics.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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#1455591 - 06/13/10 08:15 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Bart Kinlein Offline
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I believe that there are basically two valid ways to approach Bach on the piano. First, imagine that Bach had a modern instrument available and think about how he might have played his works on it - dynamics, pedal, etc, and probably fairly sparse ornamentation.

Second, try for "historic accuracy" and strive to imitate the harpsichord. Lots of ornamentation, very minor dynamic change and pedaling.

I find myself vascillating between the two. Neither, to me, is "right". In fact, playing a piece with both approaches seems to me to be bring some insight to the piece.
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#1455592 - 06/13/10 08:16 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Bach also used forte and piano in some parts of French Overture. I think the last movement (Echo) had dynamic markings; however, they are very "terraced."

When I play Bach, I use all that's available on a modern piano--una corda, sostenuto pedal, damper pedal, crescendo, diminuendo, and all kinds of dynamic shadings.

My students still run into judges who write nonsense comments to them. Seriously, one judge wrote something to the effect of "you need to make the piano sound more like a harpsichord for Bach." Huh??? I guess there are still some folks leftover from the "no pedal in Bach" school of piano playing.


Yes, the French Overture does contain dynamic markings and they're not all found in the "Echo" only. I don't know what you mean by "terraced" (?)
While I agree that jurists often make inane comments such as that which you provided, it may be that while lacking the ability to say so, they're real intention is that Bach, and Chopin, are two different composers. Pedal, in Bach, should be used sparingly and judiciously and only in those places where employing legato is impossible after attempting such with various fingerings, etc. It is fine to use all the means possible found with the modern piano, but whatever is used should be kept within character and should, by all means, always be musical. One problem with using all that is available to us with modern instruments is that it's quite easy to develop a crutch and we often tend to use said crutch to gloss over what boils down to inept technique which should not ever be the case.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1455593 - 06/13/10 08:16 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Registered: 03/11/10
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When I play Bach, I tend to keep to relatively narrow dynamic range compared to later composers - so more like p > f.

Personally, I don't take anybody seriously who says you try to play with it like a harpsichord, but I do find it worthwhile to at least consider how it might sound on one, in order to gain a different perspective. I am currently teaching a student the Andante in F major from the ABRSM grade 5 syllabus, and I find it invites much in the way of subtle gradation, especially in the cadenzas.

As is the case with a lot of repertoire, there has to be an acceptance of different approaches, so long as they are considered and musical. How dull would it be if every performer of Bach's keyboard works were to adhere to a 'no dynamics, no pedal' approach?
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#1455595 - 06/13/10 08:20 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Bart Kinlein]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
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Originally Posted By: Bart Kinlein
I believe that there are basically two valid ways to approach Bach on the piano. First, imagine that Bach had a modern instrument available and think about how he might have played his works on it - dynamics, pedal, etc, and probably fairly sparse ornamentation.

Second, try for "historic accuracy" and strive to imitate the harpsichord. Lots of ornamentation, very minor dynamic change and pedaling.

I find myself vascillating between the two. Neither, to me, is "right". In fact, playing a piece with both approaches seems to me to be bring some insight to the piece.


If one imagines how Bach thought about a certain thing, then unfortunately, said point cannot be considered a valid one unless, of course, one has some special insight regarding Bach's thoughts/intentions. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it's your OWN idea and wouldn't, as a result, stem from Bach, himself.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1455615 - 06/13/10 09:21 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Bart Kinlein Offline
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Quote:
it's your OWN idea and wouldn't, as a result, stem from Bach, himself.


Undoubtedly, but an interesting exercise, I believe. And if one studies his works, as you (and I) have, you must have some insight into his thinking. As you stated earlier, consider his compositions for other instruments, groups, etc. and consider what he has done when dynamaics and phrasing are available. I think one can arrive at a reasonable (OK, not vaild) conclusion about how he may have approached a performance on a modern piano.
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#1455618 - 06/13/10 09:40 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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stores, just to respond to a couple of your comments earlier.

The urtext editions do contain some ornaments (as I previously stated), just not very many of them. The performer is expected to add more as appropriate. Turn to your copy of Invention #4, which most readers of this forum probably have at hand.

My Henle shows 4 ornaments in Bach's hand, 2 more added by one of his students. Is that all you use when playing this invention? Hopefully not. At a minimum, I teach my students to add another 6 ornaments, generally mordants, as they play this.

What about phrases and dynamics? There are none marked. How do you teach your students to perform this? Completely legato, completely detache, or some useful combination of the two? Do you begin mf? p? ff? Do you maintain a constant level throughout? What do you do about the interplay between the subjects and counterpoints?
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#1455662 - 06/13/10 11:21 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13802
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Some of the fugues would sound awesome in SATB arrangement. However, what do you do when you encounter passages that are not "singable"?


You just gotta practice!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjGRifv-DrY
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#1455671 - 06/13/10 11:38 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Kreisler]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Posts: 5513
Loc: Orange County, CA
That's a cool video, Kreisler! Did that group do the B-flat minor Fugue from WTC-I? That fugue always sounds like a chorus to me.
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#1455709 - 06/13/10 12:32 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13802
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I'm not sure - they've done a ton of Bach, and some of their arrangements have been publisehd (we did one when I was in high school - the fugue from D Major WTC II)

It's a neat group, though!
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#1455790 - 06/13/10 02:17 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Bart Kinlein]
Feminicricket Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Bach again


Edited by Feminicricket (06/13/10 02:24 PM)
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#1455802 - 06/13/10 02:31 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Feminicricket Offline
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Actually my whole 'confusion' started because when I was a student we had to prepare pieces from 3-4 eras for our exams... Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern for the ABRSM Grades 1-8 and Trinity College Diplomas. My teachers went out of the way to 'seperate' the way each piece defined its era. It was like going to a concert and listening to a pianist playing pieces from different eras showing distinctly the difference in character. Now when I am faced with students myself as a teacher , I question how much of this should I teach a beginner starting on Bach Minuets.


Edited by Feminicricket (06/13/10 02:36 PM)
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#1455849 - 06/13/10 03:56 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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The pendulum swings back and forth. When I was a student, musicologists, avant garde teachers, performers were reacting to the over-editing of Baroque period music using the standards of the Romantic period. In the opinion of many, myself included, they went way overboard in austerity. As we're not privy to actual Baroque performances (no recordings available!) we can only follow best guest approximations using written material of the period and the classical period immediately following. And we have to remember that language changes as well, so we're really only guessing at best.

That said, the music lends itself to certain performance characteristics. Each period being different. Yet Bach was highly intelligent as well as emotional, and his performances would not have been dry and rectangular. There would be life, vitality, and the gamut of human emotion as best he could on the instrumentation he had available.

For the sake of your students, I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.
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#1455854 - 06/13/10 04:05 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Feminicricket Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
The pendulum swings back and forth. When I was a student, musicologists, avant garde teachers, performers were reacting to the over-editing of Baroque period music using the standards of the Romantic period. In the opinion of many, myself included, they went way overboard in austerity. As we're not privy to actual Baroque performances (no recordings available!) we can only follow best guest approximations using written material of the period and the classical period immediately following. And we have to remember that language changes as well, so we're really only guessing at best.

That said, the music lends itself to certain performance characteristics. Each period being different. Yet Bach was highly intelligent as well as emotional, and his performances would not have been dry and rectangular. There would be life, vitality, and the gamut of human emotion as best he could on the instrumentation he had available.

For the sake of your students, I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


I will mark the score. Thank you for your opinion and suggestions.
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#1455856 - 06/13/10 04:06 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Feminicricket Offline
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Thank you to all of you. You have clarified my thoughts.
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#1455897 - 06/13/10 05:39 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kevin Nolan Offline
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Posts: 4
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Bach also used forte and piano in some parts of French Overture. I think the last movement (Echo) had dynamic markings; however, they are very "terraced."

When I play Bach, I use all that's available on a modern piano--una corda, sostenuto pedal, damper pedal, crescendo, diminuendo, and all kinds of dynamic shadings.

My students still run into judges who write nonsense comments to them. Seriously, one judge wrote something to the effect of "you need to make the piano sound more like a harpsichord for Bach." Huh??? I guess there are still some folks leftover from the "no pedal in Bach" school of piano playing.



I'm new to this forum but I have to say I find this particular post a little worrying. The poster seems to suggest we have free reign over the performance of Bach; and is also a bit critical of those who might subscribe to a more purist approach (and I'm not saying purist is better!).

My own two penny's worth. Even performing Bach on a piano is questionable because he did not write for piano - but of course this is very impractical to get round. But I do feel that composers such as Bach make a case for the likes of Yamaha putting a LOT more care into the creation of Harpsichord sampled instruments (or Virtual Acoustic Instruments) for players to practice Bach as he wrote it.

Secondly - since Bach's keyboard music was not written with volume dynamics even in his perception, then I believe it is always prudent to minimise such dynamics when performing his music in particular. Indeed, not only did perhaps Bach address the same 'intention of dynamics' through the likes of ornamentation; but you could argue that his entire thinking when composing - as in the density of the harmony used, carefully placed held notes and so on - were his ways of articulating variety and dynamics (which could be provided by the later composers such as Beethoven with a lower density of harmonic movement but great volume dynamics?). In short - Bach's music was arguably inadvertently written with dynamic expression though variations in rhythmmic, melodic and harmonic movement and texture - suggesting that a correct interpretation of his phrases and proper practice of held notes and ornaments and so on will fully address any dynamic requirements inteneded in the music.

Finally, if this poster took similar liberties with music richly notated with volume dynamics, such as by Debussy for example, he'd run into a lot of trouble.

As incomplete or frustrating as it may be, the old axiom of trying to perform the music as close to the stated intention in the score; should surely be the best guide? We could certainly imagine Bach using all of the latest dynamic instruments to amazing effect if he were alive these days; but I could equally imagine him being pretty peeved with anyone taking liberty with his serious creative output.

Regards,
Kevin.


Edited by Kevin Nolan (06/13/10 05:49 PM)

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#1455903 - 06/13/10 05:45 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


John:

I did that. Circled. Highlighted. Some judges still challenge my indications. There are also festivals in which no scores are required, so the judges just hear the pieces and write down comments. For these events, it's easier to get contradictory comments, which I completely understand.
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#1455909 - 06/13/10 05:58 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
stores Offline
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


John:

I did that. Circled. Highlighted. Some judges still challenge my indications. There are also festivals in which no scores are required, so the judges just hear the pieces and write down comments. For these events, it's easier to get contradictory comments, which I completely understand.


Do you mean that the judges actually critique your indications themselves? If so, that's out of line, in my opinion (granting that they realize those indications are from you). I've judged many competitions (and a Bach festival annually) and I never make mention to a student anything I might disagree with that falls on their teacher. I might converse with colleagues about certain teachers, but never within earshot of a student. If I disagree with something marked in a students score I'll find a creative way of commenting on it in my critique, so that the problem is highlighted without directly challenging them, or their teacher.
I do have other thoughts about what you're describing, but I'll leave them alone for now.
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#1455926 - 06/13/10 06:11 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Originally Posted By: stores
Do you mean that the judges actually critique your indications themselves? If so, that's out of line, in my opinion (granting that they realize those indications are from you).


YES! Unfortunately, local piano competitions are always uneven with the judging. Sometimes you get good judges. Other times you get judges who just want to show off how much they know.
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#1455932 - 06/13/10 06:17 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Kevin Nolan]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Originally Posted By: Kevin Nolan
I'm new to this forum but I have to say I find this particular post a little worrying. The poster seems to suggest we have free reign over the performance of Bach; and is also a bit critical of those who might subscribe to a more purist approach (and I'm not saying purist is better!).

.....

Secondly - since Bach's keyboard music was not written with volume dynamics even in his perception, then I believe it is always prudent to minimise such dynamics when performing his music in particular. Indeed, not only did perhaps Bach address the same 'intention of dynamics' through the likes of ornamentation; but you could argue that his entire thinking when composing - as in the density of the harmony used, carefully placed held notes and so on - were his ways of articulating variety and dynamics (which could be provided by the later composers such as Beethoven with a lower density of harmonic movement but great volume dynamics?). In short - Bach's music was arguably inadvertently written with dynamic expression though variations in rhythmmic, melodic and harmonic movement and texture - suggesting that a correct interpretation of his phrases and proper practice of held notes and ornaments and so on will fully address any dynamic requirements inteneded in the music.

........

As incomplete or frustrating as it may be, the old axiom of trying to perform the music as close to the stated intention in the score; should surely be the best guide? We could certainly imagine Bach using all of the latest dynamic instruments to amazing effect if he were alive these days; but I could equally imagine him being pretty peeved with anyone taking liberty with his serious creative output.

Regards,
Kevin.


Welcome, Kevin, to the forum and the on-going and never ending debate over Bach performances. This is just the latest chapter of many thousands of posts on this subject, here and elsewhere.

Many, many artists, pedagogues and musicologists are in agreement with AZN. It doesn't make us right, but it is certainly an opinion which is in its ascendancy at the moment.

Bach had both choruses and orchestras at his disposal, and I would wager that he did not allow them to speak in a monotone (dynamically speaking).

Regretfully, without the benefit of historical recordings, this is a debate which cannot be fully settled.
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#1455953 - 06/13/10 06:48 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Kevin Nolan]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Originally Posted By: Kevin Nolan
Finally, if this poster took similar liberties with music richly notated with volume dynamics, such as by Debussy for example, he'd run into a lot of trouble.


Hello, Kevin. Welcome to the forums. I'm honored that you took the time to address my previous post. You wrote some insightful info about Bach and his compositional process. I'm sure you know that the Bach Debate will never cease, but the act of debating makes us look closer at the music and study it more carefully.

FYI: Debussy is one of my idols, so I would never destroy his music by changing his marks. laugh
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#1457134 - 06/15/10 01:59 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kevin Nolan Offline
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Hi John v.d.Brook and AZNpiano -

Thanks most sincerely for your warm welcome to the forum. I shot from the hip a little AZNpiano - so thank's for replying is such a balanced manner. My apologies for being a little too self-righteous.

FYI I'm an amateur pianist with my ALCM, and slog hard to play about OK, so I claim no special insight. And I have a confession to make - there's nothing I love more than playing Bach's 3-part invention in Cmin with a little damper pedal in places (blush!).


So I accept your point for sure that this debate will rage on long after we're around. And on thinking about it further, the pianists who play Bach I like listening to the most are those with incredibly clear articulation and sense of rhythm – there’s simply noting more satisfying.

Thanks most sincerely for your kind welcome to what is a very exciting and incredibly insightful forum.


Very best regards,
Kevin.

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#1457169 - 06/15/10 02:45 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Christopher Sedlak Offline
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A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher
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#1457208 - 06/15/10 04:09 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Christopher Sedlak]
Minniemay Offline
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If you listen to the music of Bach played on the harpsichord or the organ, you will notice the intensity that occurs as the voices build on top of each other at cadences.

It doesn't sound the same on the piano if you do not use dynamics. A pianist must make adjustments of volume and voicing to produce that same kind of intensity.
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#1457269 - 06/15/10 06:24 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Christopher Sedlak]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Originally Posted By: Christopher Sedlak
A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher


Moments ago, our local FM radio station was playing some Bach, as performed by Angela Hewitt. Because of this current thread, I really tuned in. Dynamically, she was phrasing each and every thread with changes in dynamics. Of course, it sounded wonderful. If Bach could hear it, my guess is he would say, "That was wonderful. Move over, let me try that!"
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#1457331 - 06/15/10 09:38 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
stores Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Christopher Sedlak
A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher


Moments ago, our local FM radio station was playing some Bach, as performed by Angela Hewitt. Because of this current thread, I really tuned in. Dynamically, she was phrasing each and every thread with changes in dynamics. Of course, it sounded wonderful. If Bach could hear it, my guess is he would say, "That was wonderful. Move over, let me try that!"


Angela Rocks!
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#1457365 - 06/15/10 11:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Minniemay Offline
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+1
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#1457405 - 06/16/10 01:13 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Minniemay]
keyboardklutz Offline
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I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1
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#1457426 - 06/16/10 04:00 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
stores Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1


No, it wouldn't make sense to a warped mind, I suppose.


Edited by stores (06/16/10 04:19 AM)
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#1457429 - 06/16/10 04:17 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: stores
No, it wouldn't make sense to an warped mind, I suppose.
An warped mind? Am I missing something? Or is that just plain rudeness?
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#1463123 - 06/25/10 09:54 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
al-mahed Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1


Are you really saying Angela Hewitt is a bad Bach interpreter???????? crazy
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#1463135 - 06/25/10 10:30 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
Kreisler Offline


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To my ears, Angela Hewitt's Bach is beautifully done, but expected. I find very little that's surprising. It's textbook in all the good ways - clear, transparent, stylistic, and unselfish; but there are risks that aren't taken and I sometimes wonder if a bit more daring would be worthwhile.

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#1463239 - 06/26/10 01:28 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: al-mahed
Are you really saying Angela Hewitt is a bad Bach interpreter???????? crazy

Yes. She doesn't understand the period. She plays an amorphous 19th century style rather than look carefully for what each piece is saying.
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#1463408 - 06/26/10 12:13 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
Jeff Clef Offline
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"I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense."

Well, there are other interpreters.

I heard Angela in concert recently, and I had the opposite impression. She filled a good-sized hall on a week night, too.
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#1463413 - 06/26/10 12:29 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Jeff Clef]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

I heard Angela in concert recently, and I had the opposite impression. She filled a good-sized hall on a week night, too.
So does Barry Manilow.
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#1463610 - 06/26/10 08:38 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
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And though the inadequacies of both Barry Manilow and Angela Hewitt are strangely similar (bland and inoffensive, little apparent passion, lack of subtle details), I would never begrudge audiences the right to love them.
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#1463611 - 06/26/10 08:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Doctor Fugue]
al-mahed Offline
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She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.
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#1463615 - 06/26/10 08:54 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
stores Offline
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Originally Posted By: al-mahed
She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.


No, because to state that she knows nothing of the period is absolutely absurd. In fact, such a claim is entirely laughable.
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#1463693 - 06/27/10 02:17 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Doctor Fugue]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Doctor Fugue
And though the inadequacies of both Barry Manilow and Angela Hewitt are strangely similar (bland and inoffensive, little apparent passion, lack of subtle details), I would never begrudge audiences the right to love them.
Agreed.
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#1463694 - 06/27/10 02:20 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: stores
No, because to state that she knows nothing of the period is absolutely absurd. In fact, such a claim is entirely laughable.
Doesn't sound like me at all. I said she doesn't understand the period - no doubt she knows plenty of stuff.
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#1463860 - 06/27/10 12:58 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
al-mahed Offline
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Originally Posted By: al-mahed
She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.



???
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#1463866 - 06/27/10 01:28 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: al-mahed

???
My guess would be you wouldn't hear it. Like Ms Hewitt you probably have 19th century ears. 18th century ones take a lot of cultivation.
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#1479859 - 07/23/10 12:35 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Gerard12 Offline
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I was taught to articulate individual lines in Bach in a manner that is similar to what many organists and some hrpschrd-ists do, I believe.

I'm pretty strict on this - much to the consternation of the lazier students who just want to imitate what Angela Hewitt, or even Glenn Gould, does.

But without convincing articulation, it just doesn't sound like Bach to me. Regardless of whatever dynamic scheme you throw on top of it.

As a pianist/teacher, I disagree with much of what the aforementioned artists do in Bach. But yet as a listener - after much struggle to ignore preconceptions - I find what they do to be engaging (and in the case of Ms. Hewitt, really beautiful).
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#1516652 - 09/16/10 02:57 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Gerard12]
Feminicricket Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gerard12
I was taught to articulate individual lines in Bach in a manner that is similar to what many organists and some hrpschrd-ists do, I believe.

I'm pretty strict on this - much to the consternation of the lazier students who just want to imitate what Angela Hewitt, or even Glenn Gould, does.

But without convincing articulation, it just doesn't sound like Bach to me. Regardless of whatever dynamic scheme you throw on top of it.

As a pianist/teacher, I disagree with much of what the aforementioned artists do in Bach. But yet as a listener - after much struggle to ignore preconceptions - I find what they do to be engaging (and in the case of Ms. Hewitt, really beautiful).






Articulate in what way? non-legato with raised fingers, very seperated but not staccato?
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#1521011 - 09/23/10 10:11 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Gerard12 Offline
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I guess I'm not a very good poster,, 'cause everytime someone asks a question about a post, my work schedule becomes insane and I disappear into the non-virtual world......

A blanket staccato, non-legato, or semi-detached doesn't work for me. But varying degrees of separation does. And that's despite the fact that it tries
one's patience to practice, leaving one to wonder if it's worth the effort to work on something that is so subtle........

Anyway, this stuff can be gleamed from any of the kybrd treatises of the 18th cent (CPE Bach, Turk, etc....) not to mention books by Rosenblum and Rosalyn Tureck. I don't know how much of this stuff comes to me filtered through my teachers' tastes and prejudices- and the following is heavily
generalized - but a few highlights are:

Separation before and after ties.

Melodic intervals of a 2nd are legato - end of motivic groups, slurs excepted.

Melodic intervals of a 3rd and larger are separated, but the degree of separation become longer as the interval grows. For me, this works for notes that climb upward, but downward ones rarely sound convincing. And if you're working with slower tempi or longer note values you need to use your own sense of taste.

I could go on and on......I trust that you get the idea. There are a few who dismiss stuff like this as being old fashioned, despite the scholarly lineage.

I think it's a good place to start. Where you end up is up to you.


Edited by Gerard12 (09/23/10 10:37 AM)
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#1600390 - 01/18/11 09:52 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Mike86 Offline
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Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 92
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but no one has mentioned Bach's fondness for the Clavichord, an instrument that, though quiet, is capable of much dynamic refinement. It is also capable of a vibrato effect. I cannot imagine old Bach just playing on one dynamic plane as he approached climaxes, dissonances and certain cadences.

On the other hand, someone mentioned that the organ is capable of dynamic changes through the use of stop pulling. In historically informed performances these days, it is customary not to add extra stops during the course of a movement. It has to do with the movement in question having one particular Affect that it is trying to convey. However, there are some pieces where adding stops seems de rigueur, e.g. the St. Ann Fugue with it's tripartite design. Bach's organs had no Swell division, so there was no gradual opening of the shutters to create pp to ff.

I realize these 2 foregoing paragraphs seems to contradict each other as to how to approach Bach on the modern piano. I accept playing Bach on the piano as a sort of transcription, since the piano does things differently than the organ or harpsichord. So I am inclined to use touches of pedal here and there to create a better legato line, and use varied dynamics, within reason. I also may use an inverted mordent rather than a trill at times, since the piano action is heavier, making ornaments a bit harder to execute.

My 2 cents.

Mike86

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#1600527 - 01/19/11 02:50 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Agreed.
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#1600532 - 01/19/11 03:19 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5513
Loc: Orange County, CA
I recently asked a student of mine to compare/contrast several recordings of the same Bach piece. It's interesting to know how each artist took his own tempo, made his own articulation choices, and added (or not added) dynamics.

In particular, the Gould recording had the least amount of dynamic contrast (and it was played the fastest), so I concluded that Gould was content to let the music's forward momentum speak for itself, while other artists were interested in bringing out the different layers/aspects of the music via dynamics.

But this is what makes playing Baroque music alive and FUN!
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