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#2304737 - 07/21/14 09:00 AM Input on ornamentation...
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1224
Hey, it's the age-old question! How to ornament in Bach!

Who's up for it?

Anyway, I've got the Allemande and the Sarabande in French Suite 3 in the fingers and am ready to start building up how it's going to sound in the end.

I've practiced it with and without ornaments as they are written in my edition (Wiener Edition, AKA traffic cone orange book). I point this out only because I see that other editions have the ornaments in this particular allemande as mordents and trills, but this one has accented mordents and trills for the most part, which sound a bit different.

Anyway, accented or not, I'm not entirely certain on how and when to execute these. As you might imagine, there are repeats. The Allemande, for example, is split into two sections, each one repeating.

What's your take on how to handle the movement? I've been practicing it with the first repeat straight, and adding the ornaments in the repeat. It sounds a little dry in places with no ornamentation, and then somewhat fussy with them all thrown in on the repeat. So my inclination, if there is to be a difference between repeats, is to play some but not all ornaments the first time through and then add back in the rest on the second time through. But then I feel like I'm...taking liberties with something I should not. I can defend no ornaments and I can defend all of them, but I can't quite explain why I would be choosing among them.

As for the "how", my teacher wants them very strictly executed as per the chart's note values, which certainly makes things straightforward, but when I hear accented mordents and trills in recordings, the accent is much more subtle and the whole mordent is finished way before the timing in that famous chart in the front of every Bach edition would indicate it should be finished.

Anyway, looking for some input, if anybody cares to share!

I have other questions, but I'll start with those.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2304753 - 07/21/14 09:36 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3906
Loc: Rockford, IL
As it was done "in their day," the ornaments as indicated on the page were played first time through, then it was up to the person at the keyboard to throw in *even more* ornaments on the repeat. Yes, indeed, it was a show-off thing.

If you study recordings of various performances, you will hear a wide range of execution as far as ornamentation is concerned. It really comes down to a matter of taste and sensibility, what you are trying to accomplish with your presentation, and what you feel comfortable with, technically and artistically.

Consider this: you already are compromising, in a way, by making music that was written for a rather thin instrument to fit a beefy modern piano. So, already, there are "changes" made in the attack, dynamics, colors, etc. So, with ornaments also, you get to use your good musical judgement! grin

Also, it has been my experience that, as I played more baroque stuff, my ear started to "hear" places for an ornament here or there, and sometimes now, they just come out of my fingers before I even know it.

Take a listen to how Keith Jarrett handles the ornaments in this Handel Keyboard Suite. I think he does a very nice job of "mixing it up" in the repeats, and they are never "overdone" in my opinion:

http://youtu.be/IGVxUhBNtuc?list=PL790E729B5B938359

--Andy
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2304758 - 07/21/14 09:44 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3906
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
[...] As for the "how", my teacher wants them very strictly executed as per the chart's note values, which certainly makes things straightforward, but when I hear accented mordents and trills in recordings, the accent is much more subtle and the whole mordent is finished way before the timing in that famous chart in the front of every Bach edition would indicate it should be finished.


BTW, I think it is very good practice to learn to play the ornaments strictly, as your teacher wants, because when you slow down to learn them, and get more comfortable with them as you bring them up to speed, they really are a blast to play and they can sound really great! Be encouraged--my ornaments sounded so clunky when I started, and they are beginning to get more fluid and relaxed, now (after the ten-thousandth time...) wink
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2305888 - 07/23/14 11:10 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3906
Loc: Rockford, IL
TS--I was hoping (and still am) that someone with actual knowledge and authority would reply to your questions. Hence, I am bumping this thread to wave the "help" flag.

In the meantime, and so this bump has a scintilla of value, here is a very cool book you might want to explore:

http://imslp.org/wiki/The_Interpretation...tsch,_Arnold%29

It was recently re-printed by Dover Books On Music (paperback, 2005).
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2305905 - 07/23/14 11:52 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
gynnis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/14
Posts: 122
Loc: Florida, Connecticut
I usually play Bach on my harpsichord, since I find the piano sound too heavy. Also remember the ornaments, fingering, tuning system, and agogic accent are designed to give emphasis on an instrument that has no expression possibilities.

We don't tend to pay much attention to agogic accent on the piano since the instrument has expression possibilities that the harpsichord and organ do not. Piano fingering tends to be aimed at smooth legato not possible on the harpsichord. I doubt anyone has their piano tuned in an unequal temperament.

Try to find some harpsichord recordings of the pieces you are trying to play. The method of playing is really different. The ornaments are just one piece of the puzzle.
_________________________
Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord, Technics P-30, Roland RD-100.

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#2305908 - 07/23/14 11:57 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
gynnis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/14
Posts: 122
Loc: Florida, Connecticut
I usually play Bach on my harpsichord, since I find the piano sound too heavy. Also remember the ornaments, fingering, tuning system, and agogic accent are designed to give emphasis on an instrument that has no expression possibilities.

We don't tend to pay much attention to agogic accent on the piano since the instrument has expression possibilities that the harpsichord and organ do not. Piano fingering tends to be aimed at smooth legato not possible on the harpsichord. I doubt anyone has their piano tuned in an unequal temperament.

Try to find some harpsichord recordings of the pieces you are trying to play. The method of playing is really different. The ornaments are just one piece of the puzzle.
_________________________
Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord, Technics P-30, Roland RD-100.

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#2306280 - 07/24/14 03:39 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5491
Loc: Orange County, CA
Did you or your teacher choose the Allemande and the Sarabande? Either way, you guys have good taste.

For the Allemande, I do the mordents (on the beat) the first time through, and I think I added a lot more mordents than what my edition (Peters) had, especially on the long tied notes. On repeats, I delay the mordents and add more repercussions that lead right up to the next note. I think I also used different dynamic schemes for the sequences when I took the repeat.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2306285 - 07/24/14 04:05 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: AZNpiano]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1224
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Did you or your teacher choose the Allemande and the Sarabande? Either way, you guys have good taste.


Why, thank you! Though it's easy to have good taste with Bach. At any rate, it was picked together. She wanted me to play Bach. I said fine and steeled myself for the assignment. I have a bit of a glaring hole in my piano education as I spent my childhood fearful of Bach and thus really can only point to a few mangled inventions as my Bach Bachround.

So I knew the Bach was coming. She waited until I was done my first year and had my sea legs back. She opened the negotiations with English Suite 2. I counter-offered with a few selections from AMN. We had a deal at French Suite 3, with a promise to work up to the English Suite.

I am surprised by how much I am loving learning it. I still have a healthy respect/fear for Bach, but I would no longer term it "crippling intimidation".

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
For the Allemande, I do the mordents (on the beat) the first time through, and I think I added a lot more mordents than what my edition (Peters) had, especially on the long tied notes. On repeats, I delay the mordents and add more repercussions that lead right up to the next note. I think I also used different dynamic schemes for the sequences when I took the repeat.


Hmm I hadn't thought of altering the mordent as a variation. I like that idea. I'll try it out tomorrow. I'm not so fully in control of everything that I can be terribly subtle about it, but the general phrasing and dynamics are coming along. Next week she wants to take out some of the strict legato and put in portamento. She had me learning it legato to get me to keep everything small, efficient, and pragmatic. It was tedious (especially working out the fingering to make sure everything happens as it should) but now I kind of like how it sounds legato and even find myself wanting to add a touch of pedal here and there, but I guess we're taking it the other way. I'm sure she's right.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

Top
#2306286 - 07/24/14 04:18 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: gynnis]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1224
Originally Posted By: gynnis
I usually play Bach on my harpsichord, since I find the piano sound too heavy. Also remember the ornaments, fingering, tuning system, and agogic accent are designed to give emphasis on an instrument that has no expression possibilities.


That had occurred to me. There appear to be quite a lot of techniques that are useful on the harpsichord that really aren't needed and/or do not translate to the piano.

Originally Posted By: gynnis
We don't tend to pay much attention to agogic accent on the piano since the instrument has expression possibilities that the harpsichord and organ do not. Piano fingering tends to be aimed at smooth legato not possible on the harpsichord. I doubt anyone has their piano tuned in an unequal temperament.

Try to find some harpsichord recordings of the pieces you are trying to play. The method of playing is really different. The ornaments are just one piece of the puzzle.


I do hear a lot of the differences in performance between harpsichord and piano just as a music listener. Some time ago it just kind of made sense that you gotta do SOMETHING to add interest to an instrument that gives you no way to control individual note volume and that offers relatively little in the way of sustain and resonance. All you've got is the ability to play with timing and layering. I'm sure so much of what you see in Bach's works are grounded in that reality. No wonder he liked a fugue!

Be that as it may, I confess to liking piano better than harpsichord as a general matter, and this extends to my first choices in terms of listening to Bach, but you can really blow it on a piano with Bach.

Anyway, instrumental preferences aside, I may actually just go noodle around on a friend's harpsichord. I've never played one, but this would be a nice time to check it out. I'm sure it'll be informative and enlightening.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

Top
#2306287 - 07/24/14 04:22 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: Cinnamonbear]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1224
Originally Posted By: Cinnamonbear
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
[...] As for the "how", my teacher wants them very strictly executed as per the chart's note values, which certainly makes things straightforward, but when I hear accented mordents and trills in recordings, the accent is much more subtle and the whole mordent is finished way before the timing in that famous chart in the front of every Bach edition would indicate it should be finished.


BTW, I think it is very good practice to learn to play the ornaments strictly, as your teacher wants, because when you slow down to learn them, and get more comfortable with them as you bring them up to speed, they really are a blast to play and they can sound really great! Be encouraged--my ornaments sounded so clunky when I started, and they are beginning to get more fluid and relaxed, now (after the ten-thousandth time...) wink


Little by little, the ornaments are sounding less tortured and forced and some of them are even sounding light and natural! I swear, it surprises me every time.

I may one day learn how to trill properly. As of now, my trills sound nice for a few moments and then I pull the plug with the ending turn as soon as I start seizing up. This may or may not coincide with when the trill was supposed to end. laugh

Edited to add: Oh, and thanks for the bump!


Edited by TwoSnowflakes (07/24/14 04:22 AM)
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

Top
#2306288 - 07/24/14 04:25 AM Re: Input on ornamentation... [Re: Cinnamonbear]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1224
Originally Posted By: Cinnamonbear
TS--I was hoping (and still am) that someone with actual knowledge and authority would reply to your questions. Hence, I am bumping this thread to wave the "help" flag.

In the meantime, and so this bump has a scintilla of value, here is a very cool book you might want to explore:

http://imslp.org/wiki/The_Interpretation...tsch,_Arnold%29

It was recently re-printed by Dover Books On Music (paperback, 2005).


Nifty. I just put the pdf on my iPad for when I have the time to look through it!
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

Top

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