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#1998033 - 12/11/12 07:22 PM Playing the WTC in different keys
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Can the average conservatory student, even at one of the top schools, really do this(play a fugue in any requested key) or is this just something one reads about some world class composer or world class pianist occasionally being able to do?

If one made a list of the top 50 pianists(using whatever reasonable criteria one wanted) playing today, how many do you think could do this?

How about doing the same thing with something like a Beethoven Sonata?

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#1998036 - 12/11/12 07:33 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3752
Loc: Bay Area, CA
None of the conservatory students among my San Francisco Conservatory of Music teacher's conservatory students, several of whom are *extraordinary* musicians, could do this.

I've only met one person in my life who could do this kind of thing, and he was a once-in-a-lifetime genius. For example, he is the youngest professor ever to achieve tenure at Harvard.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#1998048 - 12/11/12 08:32 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
Jolteon Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/11
Posts: 526
Loc: Perth, Australia
My grandmother was, in her day, a nationally-regarded Soprano, and she's told the story many times that her pianist was able to transpose anything to any key at sight. Given they were employed accompanying singers, this would probably be a pretty useful skill. I'm not sure the extent to which they were able to do that, but one imagines that once you have the skill, you wouldn't be limited by the music.
_________________________

Algernon: I hope, Cecily, I shall not offend you if I state quite frankly and openly that you seem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection.

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#1998051 - 12/11/12 08:35 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Jolteon]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3752
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Jolteon
My grandmother was, in her day, a nationally-regarded Soprano, and she's told the story many times that her pianist was able to transpose anything to any key at sight.

Not all music is the same in this regard. I believe it with most song accompaniments; I don't believe it with fugues.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#1998053 - 12/11/12 08:36 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Jolteon]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Jolteon
My grandmother was, in her day, a nationally-regarded Soprano, and she's told the story many times that her pianist was able to transpose anything to any key at sight. Given they were employed accompanying singers, this would probably be a pretty useful skill. I'm not sure the extent to which they were able to do that, but one imagines that once you have the skill, you wouldn't be limited by the music.
Actually, I think transposing a typical song accompaniment is far different and probably far easier than transposing a Bach Fugue or even a Beethoven Sonata.

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#1998082 - 12/11/12 10:14 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Actually, I think transposing a typical song accompaniment is far different and probably far easier than transposing a Bach Fugue or even a Beethoven Sonata.
Depends on the song accompaniment, of course. It would make a difference to me with the fugue or sonata if I was sight-reading (and therefore sight-transposing), or actually knew the piece quite well, which would make it an easier task. I think, for example, I could have a reasonable crack right now at playing the minuet and trio from op31/3 in any key. But a fugue? Well I'd try it if I had to, I'd far rather have the song accompaniment.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1998083 - 12/11/12 10:23 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3546
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Talented organ players can do it, no problem. I had a friend who sat the entrance exam at the Paris Conservatory and he had to sight read a fugue which was switching between 7 different clefs. If you can read all the clefs, transposition is a doddle.

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#1998104 - 12/11/12 11:20 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: beet31425]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8841
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: beet31425
I don't believe it with fugues.

But possible perhaps.

Cesar Franck, age 16 at a piano competition at the Paris Conservatiore, was given a difficult piece to read at sight. Not only did he play it perfectly, he transposed it on the run from Eb to C. (Evidently gave the jury a moment for pause.) He may very well have been able to do that with a fugue.

(I first read this in Schonberg's book 'The Great Composers', but it is also backed up in R.J. Stove's recent scholarly bio of Franck from 2012.)

For all that, I've read some rather alarmingly heroic anecdotes about the abilities of the great organist Marcel Dupre. There seemed almost nothing he couldn't do. He could improvise a complex fugue on the spot -and often did so in recital- and I should not be surprised if he could also transpose any fugue at sight.
_________________________
Jason

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#1998129 - 12/12/12 12:28 AM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6098
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
It is a very rare quality to be able to transpose a fugue in your mind like that. So "the average conservatory student" (as the OP states in his first post) would most probably not be able to do that.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#1998452 - 12/12/12 04:06 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
My teacher in Hawaii told me that Adele Ous de Ohe (spelling) transposed all the preludes and fugues into all the keys.

Seems some are gifted that way. I would have trouble transposing almost anything to another key.

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#1998458 - 12/12/12 04:20 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Varcon]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3752
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Varcon
My teacher in Hawaii told me that Adele Ous de Ohe (spelling) transposed all the preludes and fugues into all the keys.


"all" means 1056 (= 96 pieces * 11 keys) transposings! That's a lot! smile


-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#1998466 - 12/12/12 04:38 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: ando]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: ando
Talented organ players can do it, no problem. I had a friend who sat the entrance exam at the Paris Conservatory and he had to sight read a fugue which was switching between 7 different clefs. If you can read all the clefs, transposition is a doddle.

Obviously, there are Swiss Cheese-like holes in my learning.

I am aware of the treble clef, also known as the G-clef.
I am aware of the bass clef, also known as the F-clef.
I am aware of the two versions of the C-clef, one known as the alto clef, and the other known as the tenor clef.
I am even aware of the French violin clef, as a different positioning of the G-clef.

Those are only 5. Would you be so kind as to fill in my 2 blank voids?

(always learning . . .) Thanks,
Ed

_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1998594 - 12/12/12 09:19 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: LoPresti]
Toastburn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/10
Posts: 221
Loc: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
My copy of The Oxford Companion to Music lists the G,F and the three C clefs you mention. I would guess the extra two clefs are the C clef on the second line from the bottom and on the top line of the stave. Thus the C clef gets to be placed on any line of the 5, plus the G and F clefs, making 7 "clefs" in all. Just the sort of thing organists seem to be able to take in their stride, like figured basses, although a bit of a perverse thing to be asked to sight-read in an audition, IMO.
_________________________
A perennially hopeful amateur!
Pianos: Boston GP178, Lipp 1899 upright
Currently attempting: Bach: WTC I/1,5;II/12; Chopin Polonaise in A; Brahms Op 118 No 2 Intermezzo in D; Scarlatti Sonata L23.

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#1998606 - 12/12/12 09:41 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Toastburn]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6098
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
There are more clefs, but some are not in use any more.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#1998609 - 12/12/12 09:48 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Toastburn]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Toastburn
My copy of The Oxford Companion to Music lists the G,F and the three C clefs you mention. I would guess the extra two clefs are the C clef on the second line from the bottom and on the top line of the stave. Thus the C clef gets to be placed on any line of the 5, plus the G and F clefs, making 7 "clefs" in all.

Toastburn,
I appreciate your response, and I am not attempting to sharp-shoot anything here. Do you know this for a fact, that the "movable" C-clef can reside on any of the five lines of its staff?

And just to clarify, the French violin clef involves the G-clef, not the C-clef.

Thanks,
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1998615 - 12/12/12 10:00 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: LoPresti]
Toastburn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/10
Posts: 221
Loc: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
As I said, my response was a guess. I admit I don't know for a fact that what I said is true - just a guess that seems to me to explain things. I can't think of any reason why the C clef could not be on any of the 5 lines, except for reasons of habit and common practice/familiarity. If there are a couple of exotic other clefs in existence then I'd love to know about them. I can't find anything more in my OCTM to help.
_________________________
A perennially hopeful amateur!
Pianos: Boston GP178, Lipp 1899 upright
Currently attempting: Bach: WTC I/1,5;II/12; Chopin Polonaise in A; Brahms Op 118 No 2 Intermezzo in D; Scarlatti Sonata L23.

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#1998618 - 12/12/12 10:09 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Toastburn]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3546
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Toastburn
As I said, my response was a guess. I admit I don't know for a fact that what I said is true - just a guess that seems to me to explain things. I can't think of any reason why the C clef could not be on any of the 5 lines, except for reasons of habit and common practice/familiarity. If there are a couple of exotic other clefs in existence then I'd love to know about them. I can't find anything more in my OCTM to help.


Yes, I can confirm this. A C clef can be placed on any line of a staff. So yes, 5 C clefs + F and G clefs = 7 clefs.

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#1998620 - 12/12/12 10:11 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
RealPlayer Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2322
Loc: NYC
If you knew those WTC fugues cold (i.e., memorized) I imagine it would not be that difficult to transpose them. But it would require that intimate familiarity.
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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#1998641 - 12/12/12 10:51 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: RealPlayer]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3546
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: RealPlayer
If you knew those WTC fugues cold (i.e., memorized) I imagine it would not be that difficult to transpose them. But it would require that intimate familiarity.


People who are very good at transposition don't read music the same way we do - that is, they don't look so much at actual pitch as they see intervals very acutely. It's a whole different way of reading music. My harmony tutors at university were mostly organ players and they could transpose anything we wrote, straight away.

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#1998649 - 12/12/12 11:00 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: Varcon]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7784
Originally Posted By: Varcon
My teacher in Hawaii told me that Adele Ous de Ohe (spelling) transposed all the preludes and fugues into all the keys.

Seems some are gifted that way. I would have trouble transposing almost anything to another key.



I think some are also trained that way. Or, at least, they once were.

IIRC, Czerny had his students learn to do it, which helps account for why Liszt, as a Czerny pupil, was able to impress Beethoven by being able to transpose a fugue from the WTC. He had some experience with it. About that anecdote, it is interesting that Beethoven even thought of asking for such a thing - it almost sounds as if it might have been something he would expect from a highly skilled adult musician, doesn't it? And maybe he knew it was something Czerny taught, so he was testing Liszt to see if he had reached that stage of learning at a tender age.

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#1998658 - 12/12/12 11:14 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
I don't know...

As a composer I can transcribe plenty of things and transpose anything (thanks for the various instruments, clefs, etc) and I know my way around various clefs.

I'm also able to play a lot of songs (yes, songs, not classical works) in most keys a singer will require. That's easy, since I'm semi-improvising and transposing chords is fine.

But for classical works I've yet to try it. See for easier works perhaps it's possible, but I can't imagine someone playing the waldstein sonata in Bb instead of C. That would make things... well... tricky at best. And the same thing applies to a Bach fugue as well: It something works in a key, and the piano, it doesn't seem entirely impossible that it will work on any given key. At least not on the fly, but with lots of work... :-/

So transposing yes, I think it's possible, but performing it as well seems another story to me. Opinions?
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1998709 - 12/13/12 12:55 AM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: ando]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: ando
. . . I can confirm this. A C clef can be placed on any line of a staff. So yes, 5 C clefs

{{ EDIT: }} Never mind, ChopinAddict's post above has it.

Now I am genuinely interested. I do not believe I have ever encountered anything but the "alto" and "tenor" versions of these. Other than the theoretical capability of being placed on any line, could you site any actual instances of "the other three" from scores?
Are you aware of how they are commonly called? ("Mezzo", "Baritone", whatever)

Thanks,
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1998764 - 12/13/12 05:54 AM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 855
Loc: Scotland
The soprano clef - C on the bottom line - is very common. You can still see it in some Bach and Mozart vocal music and other things. Quite uncommon are the mezzo soprano clef - C 2nd bottom line, and the Baritone clef which I have never seen as a C clef but rather as an F clef on the middle line (the notes reading exactly the same as if it were a C clef on the top line). For score reading renaissance vocal music and Bach Art of Fugue treble, soprano, alto, tenor and bass clefs are essential. A working knowledge of these clefs is sufficient for just about any orchestral score-reading transpositions - leaving horns in F and cor anglais to be worked out.
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#1999072 - 12/13/12 05:19 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
Good evening. My daughter, who is twelve, is familiar with the Ando's seven French clefs: sol 2nd line, fa 4th line, fa 3rd line, ut 4th line (tenor), ut 3rd line (alto), ut 1st line (soprano), ut 2nd line. This is typical French solfege material.

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#2000190 - 12/16/12 10:02 AM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: pianoloverus]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i must not be very talented. Perhaps i could transpose the one in C.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#2000474 - 12/16/12 10:26 PM Re: Playing the WTC in different keys [Re: apple*]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7784
Originally Posted By: apple*
i must not be very talented. Perhaps i could transpose the one in C.


If you had been trained to transpose early on and had practiced it assiduously, you could. It's not so much talent as training, IMO. But of course, I'd guess that talent would affect ability to transpose just like anything else.

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