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Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
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#1550000 - 11/03/10 11:07 AM What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly?
D4v3 Offline
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Given that most pianists and composer were improvisers during that time and looking at the Urtext editions there are no dynamics or tempo markings.

I believe there are some general rules to playing baroque music and was told that to think of polyphonic music as an interchangeable melody and accompany or call and answer is not the right way to think of it.

Someone also told me to think of this kind of music as the perfect form of communism, each note is respected individually and there is not any one note or sets of notes that get more attention than the others.

Your thoughts?
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#1550050 - 11/03/10 12:19 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
Palindrome Offline
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Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3916
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Listen to a lot of his choral music.
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#1550085 - 11/03/10 01:20 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
Steve Chandler Offline
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When I studied organ I was taught that each voice needed a specific articulation. On the organ (and harpsichord) you can accent individual notes. The way to make the individual melodies in a contrapuntal texture stand out was to play them differently. For example when Bach has sixteenth note movement with eighth note accompaniment the eighth notes may often be played detached or even staccato. In a four or five voice texture this becomes more difficult but usually some way of articulating the various voices is possible.

Another of example might the c major fugue from Book 1 (WTC). I'll play the ascending part legato but detach the eighth notes after the 32nd note figure. There's no right or wrong in doing this, it's simply what works for you. However, in a fugue it's very important to be consistent in articulation, especially as regards the theme. One last example would be the Eb major fugue from Book 1. The theme has a trill in it. I've found that if I use a short trill I can put it into every entry of the theme.

The good news is that with Bach you get to be creative in developing your interpretation. That can also be bad news.

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#1550117 - 11/03/10 02:15 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
BruceD Online   content
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One "mistake" that students often make in playing Bach contrapuntal works on the piano is bringing out the subject louder than the other voices every time it occurs. This often destroys the flow of the other voices, whether they are (also) playing the subject, or the counter-subject or episodes. Volume is only one way of bringing out the subject; as Steve points out, there are others, among them articulation.

Regards,
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#1550150 - 11/03/10 03:10 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
david_a Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Yes, listen to the choral music, AND to all the other non-keyboard Bach you can get your hands on. Listen to keyboard music too, but definitely don't stick to that.

Descriptions about "think of polyphony this way" are always lame and inadequate, only rough guides to the situation.
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#1550155 - 11/03/10 03:20 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Cantabile!
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#1550157 - 11/03/10 03:23 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: keyboardklutz]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Cantabile!


Well, yes; depending on context.
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#1550187 - 11/03/10 04:09 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
survivordan Offline
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Another element to consider is what kind of dynamics to have (both dynamics range and form (terraced, or not)).
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#1550188 - 11/03/10 04:12 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: BruceD]
Hideki Matsui Offline
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Registered: 08/19/10
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I think I may be guilty of some of this. I have been working on English Suite #2. 1st movement. I think I watched too much of Ivo Pogorelich's performance on YouTube and have been trying to emulate the percussive attack he uses. It just doesn't sound right without, among many other things, the tempo, which is at least 18 bmp away for me.

Originally Posted By: BruceD
One "mistake" that students often make in playing Bach contrapuntal works on the piano is bringing out the subject louder than the other voices every time it occurs. This often destroys the flow of the other voices, whether they are (also) playing the subject, or the counter-subject or episodes. Volume is only one way of bringing out the subject; as Steve points out, there are others, among them articulation.

Regards,


Edited by Hideki Matsui (11/03/10 04:18 PM)
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#1550230 - 11/03/10 05:06 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
david_a Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
To answer the exact question in the title of the thread:

Yes. smile
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#1550259 - 11/03/10 05:41 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: david_a]
beet31425 Offline
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Registered: 06/12/09
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Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: david_a
To answer the exact question in the title of the thread:

Yes. smile

Thanks, David. I was trying to determine the implications of the thread title (e.g. are there other, non-musical aspects to playing Bach correctly, which the OP doesn't want to consider for the purposes of this thread?), but I like your parsing much better. smile

-J
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#1550273 - 11/03/10 05:59 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
What is the correct way to play Bach? That's one hell of a question considering the reply space given.
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#1550293 - 11/03/10 06:09 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi D4v3,

As you will notice ... unless you accurately present the Bach keyboard work which is presently testing you ... most of the membership start vaguely shooting from the hip.

Let’s hope you mention something from the Well Tempered Clavichord I or II.

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#1550296 - 11/03/10 06:11 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: btb]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: btb
As you will notice ... unless you accurately present the Bach keyboard work which is presently testing you .....

That's not the issue at all.
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#1550328 - 11/03/10 06:41 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Sorry to have to disagree with your comment Mark C ... but without a definite target, you chaps are going to continue to shoot from the hip.

The OP is in dire need of help in picking up on the voices contained in a Bach keyboard work if he (or she) comes up with the outlandish revelation

“Someone also told me to think of this kind of music as the perfect form of communism, each note is respected individually and there is not any one note or sets of notes that get more attention than the others.” (how boring!!)

So far, the other chaps have added

1. Listen to choral music
2. On the organ play each note differently
3. Avoid playing individual notes louder
4. Listen to Bach’s music
5. Play cantabile
6. Consider dynamics
7. “One hell of a question”

Let’s be specific ... Bach’s output is so vast ... we do him a disservice by being vague.

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#1550335 - 11/03/10 06:46 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: btb]
Mark_C Online   content
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What I meant was that there are other, greater issues about the original post.
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#1550337 - 11/03/10 06:47 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: btb]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: btb
Sorry to have to disagree with your comment Mark C ... but without a definite target, you chaps are going to continue to shoot from the hip.

The OP is in dire need of help in picking up on the voices contained in a Bach keyboard work if he (or she) comes up with the outlandish revelation

“Someone also told me to think of this kind of music as the perfect form of communism, each note is respected individually and there is not any one note or sets of notes that get more attention than the others.” (how boring!!)

So far, the other chaps have added

1. Listen to choral music
2. On the organ play each note differently
3. Avoid playing individual notes louder
4. Listen to Beach’s music
5. Play cantabile
6. Consider dynamics
7. “One hell of a question”

Let’s be specific ... Bach’s output is so vast ... we do him a disservice by being vague.


My comment was not a shot from the hip. The OP asks for an entirely impossible reply, thus it's one hell of a question.
_________________________

"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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#1550341 - 11/03/10 06:49 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: stores]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: stores
My comment was not a shot from the hip. The OP asks for an entirely impossible reply, thus it's one hell of a question.

That's pretty close to what I meant too.

I didn't exactly think it asked for an impossible reply, but that it was confused and unclearly stated.

And in fact, I don't think BTB exactly meant "shoot from the hip" either. smile
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#1550352 - 11/03/10 07:04 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: Mark_C]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: stores
My comment was not a shot from the hip. The OP asks for an entirely impossible reply, thus it's one hell of a question.

That's pretty close to what I meant too.

I didn't exactly think it asked for an impossible reply, but that it was confused and unclearly stated.

And in fact, I don't think BTB exactly meant "shoot from the hip" either. smile


But how is it NOT an impossible reply? Who here can pinpoint such a thing in a clearly defined way without authoring a short novel and even then words only fall short when the subject is art.
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"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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#1550355 - 11/03/10 07:07 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: stores]
Mark_C Online   content
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You seem to think you know what he was asking.
Which is a pretty good trick, considering that I don't think he did. smile
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#1550372 - 11/03/10 07:32 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
John_B Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/10
Posts: 621
Loc: Bristol, UK
Just a comment on the suggestions to listen to Bach's choral music.

That encompasses an enormous range - the St John and St Matthew Passion, the B min Mass, the motets and the cantatas. The cantatas aren't known as well as the two passions and the B min Mass but many are absolutely wonderful. Some of aria's in them are heart stoppingly beautiful. (Many pianists with know the chorale (i.e. hymn) setting 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' which is lifted from his Cantata No 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben")

However, these works, together with, say, the violin concertos, etc reveal a different side to Bach to that of the keyboard works. Often much more lyrical - often sublimely beautiful.

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#1550373 - 11/03/10 07:35 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Couldn't agree with you more stores,

That's why the suggestion is made for the OP to be more specific about the Bach work.

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#1550445 - 11/03/10 09:16 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6070
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
D4v3: If nothing else, listen to lots and lots of Bach's music... The piece you're working on, other pieces from that set, other keyboard works in general (partitas, English suites, French suites, Well Tempered Clavier), and then choral works/concerti/anything else.

The more Bach you listen to, the better! laugh

You will become more familiar with the style, and that will guide you closer to the direction you're looking for.

If you present us a specific example, some members here might be able to give you even better pointers.

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#1550555 - 11/04/10 01:25 AM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Some would take a good deal more brandy with their soda ... a menu of unadulterated Bach-listening sounds like perdition.

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#1550557 - 11/04/10 01:28 AM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Some would take a good deal more brandy with their soda ... a menu of unadulterated Bach-listening sounds like perdition.

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#1550659 - 11/04/10 07:25 AM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
Peyton Offline
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Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 2618
Loc: Maine
It's been a long time since I took lessons but as I recall when I played Bach for my teacher she would insist I not use the pedal. Is that standard practice?
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#1550700 - 11/04/10 09:50 AM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
D4v3 Offline
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Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 501
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
wow, thanks for all the replies! Also, I did not intend for the question to be confusing, so my apologies there.

This is situation where my former teachers have allowed me to delv into advanced pieces with minimal exposure to Bach and polyphonic music; so, my current teacher is sending me back to the two-part inventions (#2 C min) to be exact.

I thought it would be as simple as finding the "theme" and bringing it out more than the accompanyment(sp?) and as the theme shows up in the other hand bring it out more there. In other words, all non theme parts arent as loud.

My teacher said that this was wrong and where I am confused is that I am getting the impression that Bach music is supposed to be played at the same volume for each "voice" but that you differentiate them via accents?

My teacher really wants me to stick to the Urtext editions on this era which have no dynamics or tempos so Im not sure how to shape the bach piece right now outside of my limited idea of louder theme vs softer non theme.

Also, apparently there is a "cross" mentality to Bach vertically understanding the chord structures of the piece and horizontally understanding the theme.

So I am to learn hands seperately memorized because the horizontal part of Bach music is apparently the hardest for students. After all of this I guess we will be transposing the piece inito different keys.

If that made any sense to you then you win +1 internets.


Edited by D4v3 (11/04/10 09:53 AM)
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#1550742 - 11/04/10 11:41 AM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: D4v3]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Here’s the first page of JS Bach’s Invention no. 2 ... Allegro moderato in C minor ... it is worth noting that Bach makes an exact repeat of certain RH outlines to the following measures in the LH ...

RH m1-2 is identically repeated in LH at m3-4, and similarly
RH m7-8 is identically repeated in LH at m9-10

Learning about “mordents” (upper and lower) is a necessary part of a musical education ... and Bach throws in a fair dose of these twiddly bits in his Inventions ... but glad I’ve graduated out of the Baroque Era.

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#1550809 - 11/04/10 01:17 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: Peyton]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Peyton
It's been a long time since I took lessons but as I recall when I played Bach for my teacher she would insist I not use the pedal. Is that standard practice?

No.

It's a view. smile

Not an uncommon view, but not predominant.
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#1550878 - 11/04/10 02:49 PM Re: What is the correct way to play Bach, musicaly? [Re: btb]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: btb
Here’s the first page of JS Bach’s Invention no. 2 ... Allegro moderato in C minor ... it is worth noting that Bach makes an exact repeat of certain RH outlines to the following measures in the LH ...

RH m1-2 is identically repeated in LH at m3-4, and similarly
RH m7-8 is identically repeated in LH at m9-10
Err.., it's called counterpoint?
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