Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to?

Posted by: pianoloverus

Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/21/13 08:30 PM

Or were they just based on dance forms but not intended to be danced to?

I'm talking about the French and English Suites and the Partitas.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/21/13 10:11 PM

I have never heard - or read anywhere - that the French Suites, the English Suites or the Partitas are anything other than idealized or abstract music, not meant for dancing. While the various Baroque suites may well have evolved from Renaissance dance forms that were used to accompany dancing, I can't imagine the works mentioned serving such a purpose.

Regards,
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/21/13 10:17 PM

I agree with Bruce. I think they're very similar in this respect to the Chopin Mazurkas. The Bach could be danced to, but it would require a rhythmically constrained performance of the music. BTW I have played Chopin mazurkas for dance things, and had to rhythmically constrain them. smile

Something that I think is relevant to keep in mind for a question like this is the differences between playing on a piano and on a harpsichord. On a harpsichord, I think the expressiveness depends more on rhythmic flexibility, because of the lesser dynamic flexibility. (We often think of rhythmic flexibility as a Romantic thing, but IMO that's mistaken.) If this is so, then it means that in order to play the Bach for dancing in his day (and in Bach's mind), even more of the usual expressiveness would need to be omitted than would be obvious to us pianists.


I'm answering only from what I consider the internal evidence of the music, not from what Bach or anyone else at the time said about this, which I don't know. Using only this approach, I think it would be harder to answer the same question about some other types of pieces, like the Chopin Waltzes. I don't know if those were "meant" to be danced to, but I think they could be without nearly the same degree of complication.
Posted by: chopin_r_us

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 03:30 AM

You could always search out a copy of Dance and the Music of J S Bach.
Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 04:00 AM

The thought of dancing a Bach minuet to the crabby sound of an harpsichord (please note the educated “an” chaps) is more than this Cock Sparrow can stand.

Why not wait for later years ... and those jolly dance routines which Charles Dickens described so poignantly in his famous Pickwick Papers.

However, I prefer to sit on my backside
(bum in ghastly slang) and watch the TV cricket.

It's nice (positively grand) to be posh.

Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 08:52 AM

I wondered the same thing for a while, PL'us, until I ran across a copy of this at the li-bree:

Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
[...] Dance and the Music of J S Bach.


which said in the introduction pretty much what Bruce said, but with thicker diction.

Still can't find the "an" switch to my harpsichord, and so it remains "aff." Sorry, btb.

--Andy
Posted by: Thracozaag

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:02 AM

BruceD is absolutely correct, much akin to the Chopin Waltzes.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:03 AM

If I could only own one book on baroque performance practice, it would be this one. Every serious pianist should have a copy. It's excellent.

Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
You could always search out a copy of Dance and the Music of J S Bach.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:04 AM

It would be incorrect to use the 'educated an' before harpsichord anyway. It should only be used before words beginning with H when the first syllable is unstressed.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:28 AM

My question was prompted when I was thinking about some master classes last summer where Magdalena Baczewska was doing some demonstrations of the Sarabande for students who were playing some Bach. I guess it was just her way of making the students aware of what these dances looked like so they could have a better idea of how to interpret this music.

There is some Youtube series which shows each of the Baroque dances in great detail, but I forget it's name.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Thracozaag
BruceD is absolutely correct, much akin to the Chopin Waltzes.
I've read that about the Chopin Waltzes but I've also read that Chopin liked to improvise at dances so I wonder if there is some conflict in these two ideas?
Posted by: ando

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 10:32 AM

I can see it now, new reality show: So You Think You Can Sarabande...
Posted by: Orange Soda King

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 11:05 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Thracozaag
BruceD is absolutely correct, much akin to the Chopin Waltzes.
I've read that about the Chopin Waltzes but I've also read that Chopin liked to improvise at dances so I wonder if there is some conflict in these two ideas?


Just a guess, but I believe there was definitely a divide between improvising at the dances and composing waltzes. He went to dances and improvised waltzes that were meant to be danced to, and he also composed his waltzes that we are familiar with, which were not really meant to be danced to.
Posted by: chopin_r_us

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 11:59 AM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
It would be incorrect to use the 'educated an' before harpsichord anyway. It should only be used before words beginning with H when the first syllable is unstressed.
If you were in East End London 'an 'arpsichord' would be de rigueur.
Posted by: carey

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 12:06 PM

Just for fun......

http://youtu.be/D5uldHVtGWk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMAWGiHDyxw&feature=share&list=PLD854BF73CD956865

http://youtu.be/UFn9HHs7KgY
Posted by: Auntie Lynn

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 12:51 PM

Herr Bach is probably the danciest of the major composers. All his stuff has been endlessly choreographed, probably the most famous being Mr B's Concerto Barocco; plus most of the Brandenburgs. His comps are all off-the-ground as we say in the biz. He is as fresh and interesting as he was centuries ago. Almost everything he wrote could be successfully choreographed. And yes, I have the book and yes, I play something of his every day...on the job. And all of my principals describe those crappy TV dance shows as "hideous..."
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 12:55 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
It would be incorrect to use the 'educated an' before harpsichord anyway. It should only be used before words beginning with H when the first syllable is unstressed.

Sounds absolutely right, and to me using the "an" where he did would be.....what to call it.....an affectation.
However, with btb's posts, I think we have to look at everything as a possible partial put-on, and I didn't think the "an" was any more of a possible put-on than 90% of the rest of what he says. ha

Plus....there's a fly in this ointment. smile

As I understand, there are some Brit dialects in which almost all initial h's are silent, and oddly also an initial vowel gets an h sound in front of it. Or maybe it's a caricature rather than an actual dialect, I'm not sure. Anyway the old joke goes:

"'Arrison!! I said my name's 'Arrison!!! A haitch, a hay, two har's, a hi, a hess, a ho, and a hen. 'Arrison!"

So....in that dialect, harpsichord would be pronounced 'arpsichord -- and it would get an "an." And if btb speaks that dialect (after all we don't know)....

Thank you very much. ha
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 01:00 PM

Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
Originally Posted By: debrucey
It would be incorrect to use the 'educated an' before harpsichord anyway. It should only be used before words beginning with H when the first syllable is unstressed.
If you were in East End London 'an 'arpsichord' would be de rigueur.

I guess that's what I meant too, it just took me a little longer to say. grin
Posted by: Rostosky

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 03:53 PM

Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
If you were in East End London 'an 'arpsichord' would be de rigueur.


More likely to be "gas-lit maude" methinks.

Can anyone actually imagine Bach dancing? If he did he would be the classical equivalent of a break dancer....

OOOOh I say sir, have you seen mr.Bachs dance moves? His legs are moving in counterpoint to each other, quite difficult to master without the written choreography to hand.

a dance version of a fugue, Bach starts, legs akimbo, others join in later but by the time they get it , he is on to something more complex, left leg moving in twos, right leg flailing in threes.

Banned by the church as innapropriate for the ladies to observe on a sunday.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 04:03 PM

I think we may be oversimplifying things just a bit. While Bach's dances weren't necessarily meant as accompaniment for dance, that doesn't mean the dances are irrelevant. I think the character and sense of motion for the dances matters very much and should be captured in performance, and I think knowing something about the dances is very useful for the pianist.

Just as a knowledge of ballet is extremely useful for understanding Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. I think people grossly underestimate the influence of classical ballet on Prokofiev's piano sonatas, for example.
Posted by: carey

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 04:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Auntie Lynn
Almost everything he wrote could be successfully choreographed. And yes, I have the book and yes, I play something of his every day...on the job. And all of my principals describe those crappy TV dance shows as "hideous..."


And, of course, they're correct !!!!! grin
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/22/13 06:22 PM

There's all sorts of brit dialects, I'm sure what you describe is among them somewhere lol.

I always find it amusing how americans pronounce herbs. You're french now are you? lol. Whatever makes you 'appy.
Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 12:29 AM

Remember chaps that William the Conqueror knocked the crap out of the Saxons in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings ... and that Big Will the Konk was a French chappie ... and for 2 centuries the locals had to learn the “wee-wee” new tongue ... as a result the English language is loaded with French-isms like
dressage, barrage, garage and porrage (sorry that should be porridge (one up to the Scots!).

The story goes that the Conqueror’s cavalry mowed down the locals ... this tactic worked for many years thereafter, until “The Charge of the Light Brigade” when according to poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

And there endeth the history lesson.

PS This has nothing to do with JS Bach or the price of cheese.


Posted by: chopin_r_us

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 03:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Rostosky

Can anyone actually imagine Bach dancing?
There wouldn't have been a court in Europe that didn't have it's French dance master - Bach would have been quite the adept. Jean-Marie Leclair, a contemporary of Bach, started out as the principal dancer and ballet master at Turin. Mozart was said to be good enough to have earned his living as a dance master. So break out those dancing pumps folks!
Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 04:29 AM

It takes a stretch of the imagination to see JS Bach doing a gig ... with 23 children he must have had his hands full helping Mrs Bach prepare enough grub to feed the brawling brood ... all that dizzy dance-master French-Connection stuff alluded to, could only have been on a possible wannabe list ... but knowing Bach I think he would have been happier at his keyboard
dashing out another masterpiece.
Posted by: chopin_r_us

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 05:40 AM

Let's not forget we're talking about someone prone to sword fights in his youth. In his 30's he was imprisoned for a month for insubordination! Hardly the fuddy duddy.
Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 08:00 AM

What gobbledegook from the Englishman ...

“Let's not forget we're talking about someone prone to sword fights in his youth.
In his 30's he was imprisoned for a month for insubordination! Hardly the fuddy duddy.”

I was prone to sword fights in my youth ...
trying to imitate Errol Flynn as Robin Hood ...
at 10 years of age we used to dare each other to a midnight-duel on a local tomb ... we whistled quite a bit ... our swords were made of wood.

I still have the “The Adventures of Robbing Hood" movie ... complete with Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and the rest of those Lincoln-green outlaws.

No one can say of what “insubordination”(JSBach) was guilty. (please note chaps that I didn’t finish off the foregoing sentence with a “preposition.” ... so many are prone to say guilty of.

With due deference ... anybody who calls me “fuddy-duddy” gets a glove in the face ... and a dawn invitation to draw pistols at twenty paces ...
anything more and I might need my glasses.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 09:38 AM

Saying guilty of is fine.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 01:14 PM

Remember diagramming sentences in English class? I believe that affectations such as "AN historic occasion" are an effort to make the article agree in number with the noun, eg "AN occasion (historic)." But we wouldn't say "AN concerto (harpsichord)," or "AN harpsichord concerto." We're in luck that "AN Easter oratorio" ducks the question. "A historic moment" would duck it... though why say that it's a moment, or an occasion, at all, when we already know it.

I think "it sounds wrong" is a good enough reason, but "dodging the bullet" is more widely admired. Being Enry Iggins is also a good enough reason... but who reads Shaw anymore.

On the other hand, "who" and "whom" serve grammatical functions which are actually useful, though most people seem to be ignorant of their proper use, and even like to brag about their ignorance.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 03:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Remember diagramming sentences in English class? I believe that affectations such as "AN historic occasion" are an effort to make the article agree in number with the noun, [...]


How does "a historic occasion" differ from "an historic occasion" with respect to number agreement with the noun?

It's a question of the (perceived) vowel quality of the "h" in historic, isn't it? Similarly, one would say : "a grand piano" but "an expensive piano;" the agreement remains singular between the indefinite article and the noun.

Regards,
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 03:28 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
How does "a historic occasion" differ from "an historic occasion" with respect to number agreement with the noun?....

You're surely right. There's no possible issue of 'agreement in number.'
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 04:31 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Remember diagramming sentences in English class? I believe that affectations such as "AN historic occasion" are an effort to make the article agree in number with the noun, [...]


How does "a historic occasion" differ from "an historic occasion" with respect to number agreement with the noun?

It's a question of the (perceived) vowel quality of the "h" in historic, isn't it? Similarly, one would say : "a grand piano" but "an expensive piano;" the agreement remains singular between the indefinite article and the noun.

Regards,
Of course, even I knew that and I usually have no idea about any grammar or usage questions that appear(for no good reason) at PW.
Posted by: Rostosky

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 07:10 PM

This "an" or "a" grammatical usage has got me very confused and perplexed.

Are you guys saying it is incorrect to use "an" in a sentence like say for example: "He was an histrionic pedant?"
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 07:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Rostosky
This "an" or "a" grammatical usage has got me very confused and perplexed.

Are you guys saying it is incorrect to use "an" in a sentence like say for example: "He was an histrionic pedant?"


It's quite simply a question of "a" before a consonant and "an" before a vowel. The word following "a" or "an" can be a noun or an adjective or an adverb.

An emperor.
A stupid emperor!
An insufferable emperor!
An incredibly stupid emperor!

In all examples, "emperor" is singular and so are "a" and "an."

"Histrionic," "historic," and similar words are considered by some to begin with non-aspirated, or silent "h" - even though the "h" is pronounced! - in which case those persons would speak and write "an historic occasion" - considered by some to be pedantic.

Such words as "hour," "honor," "honesty," do begin with a non-aspirated "h" so one would always write : "See you in an hour." It's an honor to know you." etc. ...

Regards,
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 09:01 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
...."Histrionic," "historic," and similar words are considered by some to begin with non-aspirated, or silent "h" - even though the "h" is pronounced! - in which case those persons would speak and write "an historic occasion" - considered by some to be pedantic....

It's pedantic. ha
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 09:05 PM

.....although.....

I imagine lots of us are familiar with this album (which I still have the LP of):



....although another Amazon page for it calls it "A" Historic Return. ha

And of course this doesn't prove anything, because we'd probably consider the album title pedantic.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/23/13 09:08 PM

....and then there was this album which parodied the above, with the "an" probably being part of what they thought was funny, and I agree:

Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:29 AM

This chap went to a decent school ...

“It's quite simply a question of "a" before a consonant and "an" before a vowel.
The word following "a" or "an" can be a noun or an adjective or an adverb.”

Top marks BruceD ... but if only those American chappies
could spell words like "honour" correctly ... the baseball enthusiasts keep dropping their "u's" ...
we more cultured types play the gentleman's game of cricket, don't you know (straight-bat and all that rot).

Some say that Bach played cricket ... his finger-dexterity must have made him a very good spin-bowler.
Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:37 AM

Basebaul.

Please, btb. Get it right!
Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:41 AM

Basebawl.
Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:41 AM

Basebrawl.

Doh! Whatever...
Posted by: btb

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:42 AM

Some chaps can't even spell basebawl right.
Posted by: Ferdinand

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 12:48 AM

I challenge anyone to rearrange the title of this thread so that it does not end with a preposition.

It's not Bach, but this is a nice performance of a sarabande, in period costume.
Sarabande by Il Giardino Harmonico
Posted by: AldenH

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 01:33 AM

Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
I challenge anyone to rearrange the title of this thread so that it does not end with a preposition.


"Should one dance to the Bach Dance Suites?"

"Were the Bach Dance Suites intended for dancing occasions?

"Perchance upon a pretty lass / when all you've got is a good Bach polonass / what's a lad to do / but to run the whole suite through?"

...

I should probably get some sleep XD
Posted by: KurtZ

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 01:37 AM

You could just drop the last "to" and I think the meaning would still be clear. Or, may I suggest, "Were they meant to be danced to, the bach suites?

do I win something?

This thread is all tommyrot and twaddle up with which I will not put!

KZ
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 02:33 AM

Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
I challenge anyone to rearrange the title of this thread so that it does not end with a preposition.

Were the Bach Dance Suites meant as pieces to which to be danced...........to? ha
Posted by: currawong

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 03:38 AM

Were the Bach dance suites intended for actual dancing?
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 01:15 PM

How much more of this do we have to up with put? smile

Cheers!
Posted by: Damon

Re: Were the Bach Dance Suites meant to be danced to? - 01/24/13 04:55 PM

Originally Posted By: currawong
Were the Bach dance suites intended for actual dancing?


thumb

Most folks just try to rearrange the words, but it's usually easy to just change the words. For instance, instead of saying "for what" as opposed to "what for", you can simply ask "why".