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 Post subject: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:11 pm 
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Hi!

Since I got interested in historically informed Baroque practices, I radically changed my way of playing Bach, so here is a new version of my previously uploaded French suite.

I have also made a video of this recording (same audio):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uwgdH9zKKw&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ1Xl42LD_8&feature=plcp

These two weeks I'm quite excited because I'm having classes with Judy Tarling, and within 15 days I'll play to her Bach Chaconne in D minor transcribed by Brahms (yet, she's an early music expert, but she's quite open minded! she said it would be interesting. =D)

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:12 pm 
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Dawn!

I can't upload MP3 from work. :|
I'll upload the MP3s when I get home, much later...

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:37 am 
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Here they are.


Attachments:
bach-bwv815-7-sarro.mp3 [3.75 MiB]
Downloaded 204 times
bach-bwv815-6-sarro.mp3 [2.81 MiB]
Downloaded 189 times
bach-bwv815-5-sarro.mp3 [1.54 MiB]
Downloaded 272 times
bach-bwv815-4-sarro.mp3 [2.68 MiB]
Downloaded 272 times
bach-bwv815-3-sarro.mp3 [5.43 MiB]
Downloaded 254 times
bach-bwv815-2-sarro.mp3 [2.78 MiB]
Downloaded 260 times
bach-bwv815-1-sarro.mp3 [6.07 MiB]
Downloaded 258 times

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:44 am 
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This will make interesting comparison with Joe's version! Did you meant in this way or is that just one of those unbelieveable coincidences, that both of you were in the dark of the night preparing the same suite?

I have heard so far the Allemande and the Courrente, so will offer comments later, if you do not mind.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:13 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
This will make interesting comparison with Joe's version! Did you meant in this way or is that just one of those unbelieveable coincidences, that both of you were in the dark of the night preparing the same suite?

I have heard so far the Allemande and the Courrente, so will offer comments later, if you do not mind.


its just a coincidence. the only suites I play are this one and Partita no. 6. I tried to record this one a month ago, but my piano was out of tune.
and itll take months for me to re-record the partita, since Ive been very busy in college tryingo to do lots of things I dont even have time to. =p

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:27 am 
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Felipe,

I listened to the Allemande, the Courante, and the Gigue.

Normally I would consider it in poor taste to comment on someone's performance who had just submitted the same piece as me, but are you sure you wanted to submit this like this?

Don't get me wrong; I very much enjoy listening to interpretations that are wildly different from my own, and rubato can be applied in Bach in many different interpretive ways. But this strays into the territory of the undeniably incorrect. In the Allemande, for example, you're pausing in almost every measure as if the downbeat isn't a quarter note but a dotted half. I know that as you say, there are historically informed practices, but surely these couldn't be advocating rhythms that are wrong? Not to mention that there are many passages that don't sound worked out and are very noticeably uneven. In the Gigue, you don't play the notes in many of the trills, and there are some strange pauses again. Those lefthand sixteenths at the conclusion sound noticeably smushed together. The Courante is the best, but even there there are pauses that completely alter the rhythm and wild tempo changes abound. I don't think Bach is any different than any other music in that it requires at least some degree of adherence to the rules of music before an interpreter can exercise individual freedom.

Sorry to be blunt (as I generally am). Just my limited opinion of course. It just puzzles me because you clearly have fingers and I've heard you play very well before.

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:45 am 
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hi, Joe!
I enjoyed your comment because it was this same suprising effect that stroke me when I heard a harpsichordist playing Rameau at 12. It impressed me in a very bad way. And until 1 year ago, I would never enjoy it.

it's also funny because in your commentary you practically detailed every Baroque practice I have applied here, including UNEVENNESS (in French, inégalité).
=D

I dont expect everyone to enjoy this, even so because this may sound as weird practice for pianists (as it sounded to me until last year). Its just a try to include the Baroque musicianship on modern piano playing, mixing the old with the "new" (piano), since mathematical performance is really not Baroque practice.

It was this same reaction (in the beginning, it sounded disgusting) that made me got interested in studying it. And I got amazed that almost everything I had learned about Bach and Baroque performance was wrong. Its so revolting that great pianists (who are our "models") refuse to study it! =\

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:39 pm 
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I need to be blunt here too.... IMO you've gone way over the top with playing "HIP rubato" here. No two notes are of equal length, making for a nauseous listening experience. At least in the Allemande, which I really could not finish listening. Some of the other items fare a bit better, in particular the Gigue which is not as distorted rhythmically as the other items.
Technically there is nothing wrong here, but to me these interpretations seem a bit perverse, and I hesitate to put them up. Perhaps this approach would work to some extent on a harpsichord, but not on piano. I sorely miss Bach's rhythmic drive and vitality here. Just my personal opinion of course !

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:17 am 
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I join Joe and Chris in bluntness. Believe it or not, it makes no difference if you play Bach on a piano, a harphsichord, a cello, a harp, a guitar, with a string quartet, a brass choir or an orchestra. Rhythm is rhythm, meter is meter, tempo is tempo and rubato is rubato. The same interpretation is possible (within mechanical capability) with all of them. I'm afraid you have gone over to the dark side and have become intoxicated with your notions. You will have a VERY small set of appreciating auditors given the extremes you are practicing - It is just too odd for folks with predictable heartbeats and rhythm-of-gait to appreciate. Your new-styled performances would not be acceptable for admission to any serious music school. In the course of music history, each of the elements of music have gone through a process of change, extension, and increasing complexity. Melodies have changed their character; rhythm and meter became more complex, displaced and fragmented. Harmonies went from the very simple to the complex, to the cluster, to the indeterminate. Compositions have gone from those defined and created by the composer, to the extremely mathematical, to the null set of abandoned art with stochastic, chance and ambient-noise "music." But through it all, temporal proportions have remained true to their referent. As I argued elsewhere, the practice of notes inégales practiced sometimes in the French Baroque, never gives permision to distort the very fabric of time with pliable/oscillating meter or to re-write [melodic] rhythms as you desire. You are putting mustaches and goatees on great musical works of art a la Duchamps' Readymades. Perhaps you should take up chess even as he did. I think it would be helpful for you to approach music more as a composer, and think of others taking the liberties with your compositions. If you were like Bach, detailed in the defining of the meter, every pitch and every rhythm, you might be outraged at the distortion produced ... or might feel that the performer had a poor internal clock. Hopefully, this is just some phase that you will work through (the Prodigal Son in "a far country") and in the end your pendulum will be more properly aligned. Having said all this, I will add that I found your Gigue very acceptable - but then it offers you the least potential for modification.
Application of notes inégales to contemporary performance of music not written in France, for example the music of J.S. Bach, is extremely controversial, and indeed resulted in one of the most heated debates in 20th-century musicology.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:14 am 
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musical-md wrote:
Application of notes inégales to contemporary performance of music not written in France, for example the music of J.S. Bach, is extremely controversial, and indeed resulted in one of the most heated debates in 20th-century musicology.


The article you point out is actually not as straightforward as the quotation above seems to imply.

I am not taking sides here, but I do note four things:

I have noticed over time that recordings of Bach on the harpsichord and on the piano sound very different and I note this recording is closer in style, to my ears at least, to one played of a harpsichord. It might be interesting to pick the recordings of, say Gustav Leonhardt, and listening to them critically. I might prove wrong and the difference is due to ornamentation or some other factor.

I am not aware that Bach ever used words such as "precision", "unchanging tempo", "squareness" or the like. He always emphasises "a singing style". This is the lesson behind the Inventions and Sinfonias.

Bach never even bothered, most times, to give any tempo indications, leading to many theores that tempo was implied, following a convention now forgotten, in the time signature and notation, but that is only a theory. There are examples of it in action on YouTube.

I have listened to Bach performances from the 1940s onwards. Would we nowadays accept the b minor mass played by a large orchestra with a choir of 300 voices that sounds more like Bruckner? Would we accept the 1970s Bach, which was supposed to be played as written: no ornaments, no dynamics, no expression, because such was Bach's intention, or else he would have written it. What would the 1940s public make of the 1970s performers? Which of them would be right? What do we say about them? What will people say about Joe's and Luis' versions in 50 years time and again, who will be right?

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:38 am 
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I sense a learned and lofty discussion in the making :D

It's impossible to know what Bach 'wanted', or what is right or wrong. But it seems fair, at least to me, to assume he would NOT have wanted his music to be pushed and pulled this way, so that almost every bar is being distorted rhythmically. Even if some harpsichordists feel they must play it this way.
In the end, the important question is whether this is nice to listen to, rather than if is according to what someone wrote in a book. To my uninformed
ears it is not. Other may feel different of course.

Sorry Luis :cry: I'd recommend everybody to play Bach - especially a die-hard Romantic like you - but not like this.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:28 pm 
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techneut wrote:
I sense a learned and lofty discussion in the making :D

Let us just hope it will not end up with a free for all with each of us calling the other names! :D

Luis posted one of the sinfonias some weeks ago, which Monica enjoyed a lot (viewtopic.php?f=20&t=5391), which just shows you how this matter might really escalate till it rivals the Querelle des Bouffons.

Even if we look at pianists in general, there will be those you worship znd the man (or woman, for that matter) next door abhors. Look at Martha Argerich and Arau and Pogorelich. I have heard very strong opinions about their musicality or lack and here we are on less controvertial ground!

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:56 pm 
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This isn't really my area of repertoire, but I have listened to a couple of them and, if I'm being honest, it was profoundly musically disorientating. In the Allemande I could barely establish where the beats lay. Nice touch, and quite elegant, but it was like an elegant, beautifully-coiffured drunk staggering down the road, sorry.

Speaking semi-rhetorically (and potentially making a fool of myself :lol: ):

Is it really the case that HIP is reasonable on a piano? Surely it should be applied strictly to period instruments. I assume part of the rationale behind certain rhythmic distortions and other HIP manifestations is that a harpsichordist would have done them to draw attention to certain structurally important or otherwise facets of the music.. and presumably because the harpsichord is much more limited in its power to draw attention through expressive methods like dynamics. If the second part of my sentence is correct, then why use HIP on the piano at all when HIP only arises out of a now obsolete weakness of the instrument?


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:11 pm 
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Good point. I understand why on a harpsichord you need to lean a little on a note to make it stand out. Although there's no need for that on a piano,
it gives a nice authentic feeling if you do it a little bit, in addition to using dynamics. But both devices should be used discreetly and sparingly IMO, or else
it will become a caricature. The playing here reminded me of our former member Sandro Bisotti whose playing tended to be very eccentric (albeit for
different reasons).

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:16 pm 
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techneut wrote:
But both devices should be used discreetly and sparingly IMO, or else it will become a caricature.


Exactly my feeling. Plus, if you're using it to bring out places of structural importance, save it for when it matters - it's not like every bar contains such fundamental aspects.


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:05 pm 
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Quote:
I assume part of the rationale behind certain rhythmic distortions and other HIP manifestations is that a harpsichordist would have done them to draw attention to certain structurally important or otherwise facets of the music.


What does this acronym HIP refer to? I'm not familiar with it. I guess I'd still be curious about the more specific logical justfication for why anyone would feel free to change rhythms that are printed on the page a certain way. Surely Bach would have written them differently if he wanted them played that way. I don't think it should matter whether it's played on a harpsichord or piano; music is music, as Eddy alluded to above. This is not to say that individual performances can't be wildly different from one another. But in the end, I think it's this dichotomy between understanding the rules and conventions and interpreting them that makes an individual performance successful and interesting. In other words, I like to hear the rules stretched to their limits, but not wildly changed and distorted so that the original is unrecognizable. I don't even have a problem with occasionally altering rhythms (e.g., double dotting) when it makes logical sense. I just don't see that anything in this performance has the least logical justification behind it at all.

Quote:
The playing here reminded me of our former member Sandro Bisotti whose playing tended to be very eccentric (albeit for
different reasons).


I wonder whatever happened to his piano circus :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:06 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
I join Joe and Chris in bluntness. Believe it or not, it makes no difference if you play Bach on a piano, a harphsichord, a cello, a harp, a guitar, with a string quartet, a brass choir or an orchestra. Rhythm is rhythm, meter is meter, tempo is tempo and rubato is rubato. The same interpretation is possible (within mechanical capability) with all of them. I'm afraid you have gone over to the dark side and have become intoxicated with your notions. You will have a VERY small set of appreciating auditors given the extremes you are practicing - It is just too odd for folks with predictable heartbeats and rhythm-of-gait to appreciate. Your new-styled performances would not be acceptable for admission to any serious music school. In the course of music history, each of the elements of music have gone through a process of change, extension, and increasing complexity. Melodies have changed their character; rhythm and meter became more complex, displaced and fragmented. Harmonies went from the very simple to the complex, to the cluster, to the indeterminate. Compositions have gone from those defined and created by the composer, to the extremely mathematical, to the null set of abandoned art with stochastic, chance and ambient-noise "music." But through it all, temporal proportions have remained true to their referent. As I argued elsewhere, the practice of notes inégales practiced sometimes in the French Baroque, never gives permision to distort the very fabric of time with pliable/oscillating meter or to re-write [melodic] rhythms as you desire. You are putting mustaches and goatees on great musical works of art a la Duchamps' Readymades. Perhaps you should take up chess even as he did. I think it would be helpful for you to approach music more as a composer, and think of others taking the liberties with your compositions. If you were like Bach, detailed in the defining of the meter, every pitch and every rhythm, you might be outraged at the distortion produced ... or might feel that the performer had a poor internal clock. Hopefully, this is just some phase that you will work through (the Prodigal Son in "a far country") and in the end your pendulum will be more properly aligned. Having said all this, I will add that I found your Gigue very acceptable - but then it offers you the least potential for modification.
Application of notes inégales to contemporary performance of music not written in France, for example the music of J.S. Bach, is extremely controversial, and indeed resulted in one of the most heated debates in 20th-century musicology.


Eddy, I really don't see the point of your comment here.
I have already read it somewhere else... What's the point of copying previously written comments?


musical-md wrote:
Your new-styled performances would not be acceptable for admission to any serious music school.

I quite sure of that!
I'll soon criticize my own performance here below, but at first this is my first claim: pianists know beans about Bach and mainly Baroque practice. This Robert Hill's performance on piano would not be accepted also (and THIS IS ROBERT HILL!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR0Ljdm21l4

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:16 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
I have noticed over time that recordings of Bach on the harpsichord and on the piano sound very different

Very good point, Richard! This is exactly what motivated me to investigate this kind of performance. It's so strange to our common practice of nowadays that it should have a point, and I wanted to know which point it is.

richard66 wrote:
I am not aware that Bach ever used words such as "precision", "unchanging tempo", "squareness" or the like. He always emphasises "a singing style". This is the lesson behind the Inventions and Sinfonias.

Yes. It's reinforced in CPE Bach's treatise. That's one of the reason that Glenn Gould's Bach are really weird to the baroque language (no problem: Gould never said his performance was authoritative from a historical point of view).

richard66 wrote:
Bach never even bothered, most times, to give any tempo indications, leading to many theores that tempo was implied, following a convention now forgotten, in the time signature and notation, but that is only a theory. There are examples of it in action on YouTube.

That's theory, some of them with good points. For example, there are treatises that say the tempo must follow the pulse beat. There is also proportional timing (this one CPE Bach says something like this: you must see the fastest passages of the piece and play them in a clear and comfortable way. This is the tempo for the whole piece).

But this is something that I treat in a more relaxed way, since the piano is more flexible about it (harpsichordist can't play too slow because it can sustain the notes, for example).

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:21 pm 
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techneut wrote:
It's impossible to know what Bach 'wanted', or what is right or wrong. But it seems fair, at least to me, to assume he would NOT have wanted his music to be pushed and pulled this way, so that almost every bar is being distorted rhythmically. Even if some harpsichordists feel they must play it this way.

Your personal and passionate judgings are contradictory. If it's impossible to know what Bach really intended, so we really can't say anything about is acceptable or not: if it's really impossible to know it, or everything is acceptable, or nothing is (considering mainly that Bach didn't write this pieces for piano...)

techneut wrote:
In the end, the important question is whether this is nice to listen to

Sure. But this is more cultural than it seems at first. We'll like what we are used to listen to. Before starting studying Baroque more, I'd appreciate Gould, Tureck and Schiff a lot. Now I don't even have patience for it. I've bought a lot of new CDs played by Pieter Belder.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:25 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
Even if we look at pianists in general, there will be those you worship znd the man (or woman, for that matter) next door abhors. Look at Martha Argerich and Arau and Pogorelich. I have heard very strong opinions about their musicality or lack and here we are on less controvertial ground!

Good point: I started studying historically informed performances (including in Romantic repertoire - there is a book entirely of how to play Brahms! =D) in order to get rid of this kind of "argument". Something like: "but Argerich plays this faster... but Arrau plays this with more pedal"... this goes nowhere. It sounds like a fight like this: "I like yello. No! Blue is A LOT MUCH BETTER!"
:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:41 pm 
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andrew wrote:
Is it really the case that HIP is reasonable on a piano? Surely it should be applied strictly to period instruments. I assume part of the rationale behind certain rhythmic distortions and other HIP manifestations is that a harpsichordist would have done them to draw attention to certain structurally important or otherwise facets of the music.. and presumably because the harpsichord is much more limited in its power to draw attention through expressive methods like dynamics. If the second part of my sentence is correct, then why use HIP on the piano at all when HIP only arises out of a now obsolete weakness of the instrument?

Interesting point, Andrew!
You're very much right: what Joe called "pauses" in the Courante, for example, are slight breaks intended to draw attention fo the structure.

It's very discussable to decided to use them on the piano or not.
One could say that the piano has other ways to convey these musical structure, like dynamics for example. In my personal opinion, I find it quite limitating to simply apply dynamics without these "breaks". But this is EXACTLY the romantic discourse (one can play without rubato and even so sound romantically!).

I'm not saying that one should not apply dynamics on a piano while playing Bach. There were other instruments with dynamics (like the strings, and the clavichord which does nuance dynamics -- you can't play too forte otherwise it sounds ouf of tune). So we have three possibilities:

1) no breaks, with dynamics
2) with breaks, no dynamics
3) with both

I would left this decision for the performer decision. But in my personal opinion, I find the first possibily too limitating: it sounds exactly the opposite of the Baroque musicianship. It subtracts information.
I think the third possibility results in a richer musical experience: it grabs the Baroque musicianship and adds a little of what couldn't be played at that time (contrasting dynamics on keyboard).

This same argument could be applied to Baroque keyboard articulation which does not link the bad note to the good note (this kind of articulation was made to keep clear the strong beat in an instrument without dynamics, like the harpsichord. BUT... it was also used on the clavichord, which DOES HAVE dynamics. So that's why I don't think we should leave it out.)

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:44 pm 
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techneut wrote:
I understand why on a harpsichord you need to lean a little on a note to make it stand out. Although there's no need for that on a piano,
it gives a nice authentic feeling if you do it a little bit, in addition to using dynamics. But both devices should be used discreetly and sparingly IMO, or else
it will become a caricature.

So now we agree on something.

And more importantly than deciding about my performance being acceptable or not, is motivate everyone to study this kind of thing so that pianists someday may put some stuffs on common sense. Because the way it is now... we see people that know beans about Bach keep saying how you should and you SHOULD NOT (which is even worse than what you SHOULD) play Bach.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:54 pm 
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How far can an "interpretation" be stretched before it has gone beyond the bounds of good art? I will put a stake in the ground by answering as I have before: If a musician with exceptional dictation skills would produce a score that did not conform to the original from listening to a performance, then the "interpretation" has broken the "Law of Fidelity to the Score." We don't have the right to just change notes and rhythms (among other elements) willy-nilly. So, e.g., if an "interpretation" of running 16th notes to the 1/4 note come out more like a dotted 8th followed by a 16th and two more 16ths (all under a triplet sign: wish I could just print what I mean), or an 8th followed by three 16th notes all under a quintuplet group, then one would have to say, "But that's NOT what the composer wrote," and the "interpretation" would be illegitamate IMO. As Andrew has mentioned, there are nuances of time that are used for structual puncuation of formal features, but these are only visited occasionaly and would be understood and contextualized by a musicain taking dictation. In summary, I hold that the Principle of Reversability (from performance to score) is an important threshold/benchmark for what is acceptable/unacceptable interpretation.

@Joe: HIP=Historically Informed Performance


Edits: spelling

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:02 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
What does this acronym HIP refer to? I'm not familiar with it. I guess I'd still be curious about the more specific logical justfication for why anyone would feel free to change rhythms that are printed on the page a certain way. Surely Bach would have written them differently if he wanted them played that way. I don't think it should matter whether it's played on a harpsichord or piano; music is music, as Eddy alluded to above. This is not to say that individual performances can't be wildly different from one another. But in the end, I think it's this dichotomy between understanding the rules and conventions and interpreting them that makes an individual performance successful and interesting. In other words, I like to hear the rules stretched to their limits, but not wildly changed and distorted so that the original is unrecognizable. I don't even have a problem with occasionally altering rhythms (e.g., double dotting) when it makes logical sense. I just don't see that anything in this performance has the least logical justification behind it at all.


Joe, if you pay attention to Bach's notation, there are LOTS, huge LOTS of overdotting, underdotting and other rhythmical alterations which Bach didn't notate because their notation system was quite different from ours. It's very common to see an 8th dotted note, followed by three 32th. If you count', you'll see it doesn fir the bar time! So this argument that "it must be played this way otherwise Bach would have written it differenctly" makes really no sense.

Bach wouldn't have written it differently because:
1) Bach wrote in the 17th century, not 21th one. Their notational system was different, mainly regarding rhythm.
2) some notations were forbidden, like double dotting.

I didn't give you explanation for what you listened to (as far I as I know, you only listened to three dances from the set of seven) because I wasn't home: I was using a tab for accessing the internet, which is quite uncomfortable.

But now I will: in the Courante, you noticed some breaks, which you called "pauses". These are for calling the attention for the structure. It was a harpsichordist player who recommended me to do that. In that passage, there is a measure which modulates, and modulates, and modulates. The melody is the same, but the harmony changes. There are slight little breaks in these measures.

In the gigue, you said that I "missed" some trills. Not really. This is pretty much explained in Badura-Skoda's book: in Bach, there is NO DIFFERENCE for "tr." and "~" notation. They all mean the same. If you are going to play a long trill or a small mordent depends on the musical context, and sometimes on the performer decision. I used to play this passage with long trills, like most pianists do (including myself in the past: there is already a recording of mine of this suite here on PS), but the harpsichordist who taught me thought that these lots of trills were blurring the passage.

In the Allemande, since it is a SLOW DANCE (not a fast one, as pianists insist to play, with no reasonable argument), we have more liberties than on faster dances. The same happens to the Sarabande. What I did to the Allemande was to linger the good notes. This is quite common practice for cellists, for example, when they play Bach's suites (below, I'll criticize this playing. Today, I had a masterclass with Judy Tarling, and he said this lingering of the good notes is annoying). When the texture becomes thicker, with right hand playing two voices, there is break when one phrase ends and the other one beggins. In 17th century, people were considering the musical discourse as close as possible to a verbal one. Playing each phrase as if it was "spoken" is a Baroque practice. This is what happens here. There is historical evidence for it. It was suggested to me by the harpsichordist who gave me classes, though Judy Tarling does really not like it. Now I'm really confused. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:14 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
In summary, I hold that the Principle of Reversability (from performance to score) is an important threshold/benchmark for what is acceptable/unacceptable interpretation.

What is wrong and unmusical. This is the 20th belief, but it simply can't stand: music is a spontaneous manifestation. His notation came much later. And our notational system is very limited. You can't notate rubato, for example. When one plays a Chopin's Mazurka, if one wants to convey a Mazurka rhythm, one should linger the second beat. Our notation system can't deal with it also. And one of the Chopin students wrote that sometimes Chopin lingered so much the second beat that the Mazurka sounded as a 4/4 instead of a 3/4.

You wrote above that playing notes inégales on Bach is controversial. I agree!
But all HIP is controversial. And the non-HIP are even MORE CONTROVERSIAL! :lol:
Because... what are they based on? Personal, subjective taste? Cultural common practices? There is too much disagreement on music to say that it does exist a common practice nowadays... Remember the Argerich, Arrau, Pogorelich discussions... :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:32 pm 
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Today, I have played Bach-Brahms Chaconne for Judy Tarling in a masterclass.
When I played those lingered good notes and sharp articulation, she said it was too much detailed information. I asked her: but what to think of those cellists that linger the good notes on recordings?

She said: Yes, they play ilke that, and it annoys me! You're listening to too much recordings.

:lol:

So we ended up playing a very very strict chaconne. Not even rallentandos for a lot of cadenzas.
I also learned the violin articulation, which does not correspond to that of the harpsichord. She told me to forget the barlines.


Within some weeks I'll record this chaconne and post here.

I enjoyed the class very much (she's a very nice person), and she found it amazing that a whole piece of music could be played with only one hand. She said it was the first time she saw that. =D

But I left the class with lots of doubts. Lingering the good notes is indeed Baroque practice. Patrick Cohen and Wolfgang Rubsam do that on piano! Why there are people who does not like it? Was it a misunderstanding of the past studies? So now therer are early music experts who don't think it should be played this way?

HIP are always controversial... but they are rational and based on real evidence. It also evolves and changes within time, when people go deeper in the understanding of the musical treatises. Is lingering good notes and old-fashioned practice of the past decades, which has been overcome with new evidences?

Before today's class, I was quite convinced of my French Suite recording. Now I'm not any more (though I must say that lingering the good notes is what always fascinated me about harpsichordist playings!). My studies will go further.

It's very difficult for any pianist to enter this subject because the good and beautiful recordings of Tureck, Gould, Schiff, Perahia and Hewitt are not historically authentic. I think that Hewitt comes closer to authenticity (because she talks about overdotting, which is something simple that all the others don't even know it exists, though they underdot when needed), but even so there is much left out. I can talk to harpsichodists, but they don't like Bach playing on the piano (and most harpsichordist are even good pianists... they simply are not open minded enough, or they are not pianists from heart =D ), and the pianists are also very narrow minded: all this prejudice I found in this forum is repeated in "real life". A lot of arguments based on nothing, trying to convey you that Bach loved a metronome. :lol:

As far as I know, there are three pianists who plays Bach historically informed on a modern piano:
- Paul Badura-Skoda
- Robert Hill
- Wolfgang Rubsam

These three names play very differently from each other. Rubsam lingers the good notes and plays inégalement in several passsages, quite on the contrary than Badura-Skoda's straightforward performance. And Robert Hill plays with a different rubato which I can't even name (I don't recognize that!).

Please, if someone find any other pianist who tries to play Bach in an authentic way, I'd really appreciate.

I'll keep my studies and investigate the reason for these discrepancies.
I do not want to make anyone accept my performances, even so because I'm also changing them as my studies go on. Instead, I'd like to invite anyone to help me understand the baroque performances and how to play them on a modern piano. It's really revolting that we commonly accept great pianists performance as authentical, but it is really not. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:44 pm 
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Well it's certainly nice to see a lively discussion:D Forgive me for butting in again...

Quote:
Joe, if you pay attention to Bach's notation, there are LOTS, huge LOTS of overdotting, underdotting and other rhythmical alterations which Bach didn't notate because their notation system was quite different from ours. It's very common to see an 8th dotted note, followed by three 32th.


True, there are occasional differences, but then those are generally clearly marked by an edition editor (e.g., in the Courante, the convention is of course to play the dotted rhythm in the left hand as a triplet and is performed that way by practically everyone). It seems contradictory to say that I can pay attention to notation that isn't notated, as you do above.

Quote:
In the gigue, you said that I "missed" some trills. Not really. This is pretty much explained in Badura-Skoda's book: in Bach, there is NO DIFFERENCE for "tr." and "~" notation.


To my ears, many of the trills had hardly any notes at all in them or were fumbled, regardless of the type of trill you were choosing to play.

Quote:
In the Allemande, since it is a SLOW DANCE (not a fast one, as pianists insist to play, with no reasonable argument), we have more liberties than on faster dances.


Not necessarily. An Allemande, literally, is merely a German dance. Of course, it is unlikely to ever be as fast as a Courante or a Gigue but that doesn't mean it has to be slow. Anyway slower performances on can appeal to me just as much as faster ones depending on how they're played. My personal argument for a faster tempo is how the voices unfold. To me, it loses somewhat of the voicing and rhythmic point at a slower tempo.

Quote:
@Joe: HIP=Historically Informed Performance


@Eddy - Duh, I should have gotten that given the subject:oops:

Quote:
Because the way it is now... we see people that know beans about Bach keep saying how you should and you SHOULD NOT


But Felipe, I think this isn't seeing the point of the discussion here. The question isn't about just Bach. It's about all music. Both Chopin and Lliszt, for example, were very fastidious about rhythm. Liszt, in teaching the Chopin 8th prelude to a masterclass, got angry when a student didn't care about playing the lefthand triplet precisely. Bach was also known to be fastidious about rhythhm and was a taskmaster in teaching the inventions and sinfonias to Wilhelm Friedman. I'm very suspicious of any of this "historically informed" practice or "early music" expertise. It seems that such "scholars" just want to make a name for themselves and try to do something new for the point of doing it. I believe Eddy had a good example when he referred to putting moustaches on great works of art. There simply have to be standards that one masters first before interpretation. It's the reason contemporary art, beginning with Picassoesque cubism, is a bucket of crap. There's no recognizable form in such art, except for what existed in the artist's mind, and the purpose of art is to communicate. If your interpretation really is unique, you don't need these ersatz, fluffy ideas that aren't grounded in logical sense. As T.S. Eliot said, "Henry James had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it."

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:54 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
True, there are occasional differences, but then those are generally clearly marked by an edition editor

Oh God!
And you believe them? :shock:

So instead of making the decision yourself, they do that for you, so it happens that you don't even know what you're doing.
And for making that decision, someone else had to study. They end up put on paper everything, including the controversial stuffs we discussed here...
Take the Gavotte of Bach's 6th Partita... how to play those 16th?

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:53 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
Your personal and passionate judgings are contradictory.
So what :D I don't intend to have the last word or even make sense... I know beans about Bach anyway. Guess it's time to read some books :P

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:46 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
As far as I know, there are three pianists who plays Bach historically informed on a modern piano:
But we cannot know that Historically Informed Performance = Historically Authentic Performance, anymore than we can recreate classical Greek music from studying Plato's doctrine on the Ethos of Music found in his Republic. :|

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:55 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
But we cannot know that Historically Informed Performance = Historically Authentic Performance, anymore than we can recreate classical Greek music from studying Plato's doctrine on the Ethos of Music found in his Republic. :|

We will never know how it "should" be played. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and get it as close as possible, ideally.
As I said before, Historically Informed Performances are controversial. But non-HIP are MUCH MORE controversial, since they are based on NOTHING! :shock:

Eddy, I don't think I will go on discussing with you, since you "slide" your arguments too often. When I posted the Sinfonia, you were too much worried about pulse and not rhythmic alteration. Then I sent you a Robert Hill recording, just to say that early music experts play with lots more liberty than pianists do, and you said that Robert Hill didn't alter the pulse (in that case, you were only worried about pulse. But Robert Hill DID ALTER the rhythm, according to your perception -- everything that differs from a MIDI player you say it's "rhythmic alteration").

Now, the thing is quite inverted: Hill's rhythmic alterations were accepted, because the context was about my other recording (which didn't have any "rhythmic alteration"), but you don't accept it here in the current post, because now it does have. So this is a pretty neat way of always being over the discussion! This way, it seems you're always right. Difficult to discuss with someone who changes his ideas all the time... including the meaning of the words. Your will of being "right" all the time made once you say that rubato doesnt affect rhythm (!)
Well... in Clive Brown's book, there's a whole chapter called "Rubato as a rhythmic embellishment". Rubato not only affects rhythm, but it can affect pulse (when you don't restore the "stolen time"), and sometimes both!

And I would say more: when rhythmic alterations were really intended, playing strict is the REAL rhythmic alteration of the original text! The performer is altering what is supposed to sound. CPE Bach said: "Some rhythmic alterations are beautiful". It's part of the Baroque idiom, and no one can argue it shouldn't be applied in Bach's specific case, because it was said by his son (!)

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:06 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
Today, I have played Bach-Brahms Chaconne for Judy Tarling in a masterclass.
When I played those lingered good notes and sharp articulation, she said it was too much detailed information. I asked her: but what to think of those cellists that linger the good notes on recordings?

She said: Yes, they play ilke that, and it annoys me! You're listening to too much recordings.

:lol:

So we ended up playing a very very strict chaconne. Not even rallentandos for a lot of cadenzas.
I also learned the violin articulation, which does not correspond to that of the harpsichord. She told me to forget the barlines.


Within some weeks I'll record this chaconne and post here.

I enjoyed the class very much (she's a very nice person), and she found it amazing that a whole piece of music could be played with only one hand. She said it was the first time she saw that. =D

But I left the class with lots of doubts. Lingering the good notes is indeed Baroque practice. Patrick Cohen and Wolfgang Rubsam do that on piano! Why there are people who does not like it? Was it a misunderstanding of the past studies? So now therer are early music experts who don't think it should be played this way?

HIP are always controversial... but they are rational and based on real evidence. It also evolves and changes within time, when people go deeper in the understanding of the musical treatises. Is lingering good notes and old-fashioned practice of the past decades, which has been overcome with new evidences?

Before today's class, I was quite convinced of my French Suite recording. Now I'm not any more (though I must say that lingering the good notes is what always fascinated me about harpsichordist playings!). My studies will go further.

It's very difficult for any pianist to enter this subject because the good and beautiful recordings of Tureck, Gould, Schiff, Perahia and Hewitt are not historically authentic. I think that Hewitt comes closer to authenticity (because she talks about overdotting, which is something simple that all the others don't even know it exists, though they underdot when needed), but even so there is much left out. I can talk to harpsichodists, but they don't like Bach playing on the piano (and most harpsichordist are even good pianists... they simply are not open minded enough, or they are not pianists from heart =D ), and the pianists are also very narrow minded: all this prejudice I found in this forum is repeated in "real life". A lot of arguments based on nothing, trying to convey you that Bach loved a metronome. :lol:

As far as I know, there are three pianists who plays Bach historically informed on a modern piano:
- Paul Badura-Skoda
- Robert Hill
- Wolfgang Rubsam

These three names play very differently from each other. Rubsam lingers the good notes and plays inégalement in several passsages, quite on the contrary than Badura-Skoda's straightforward performance. And Robert Hill plays with a different rubato which I can't even name (I don't recognize that!).

Please, if someone find any other pianist who tries to play Bach in an authentic way, I'd really appreciate.

I'll keep my studies and investigate the reason for these discrepancies.
I do not want to make anyone accept my performances, even so because I'm also changing them as my studies go on. Instead, I'd like to invite anyone to help me understand the baroque performances and how to play them on a modern piano. It's really revolting that we commonly accept great pianists performance as authentical, but it is really not. :shock:


Today I've talked to Judy Tarling and asked her opinion about inégalité in Bach. She said it's pretty much acceptable.
Then I asked her opinion about harpsichord articulation (which "isolates" the good note) and about lingering the strong beats. She said that barlines don't matter as people think they do (!). Lingering a bit, like on Gustav Leonhardt playing, is interesting. Too much, she said she gets irritated.

I've recently found an article about this style of playing:
http://bsherman.net/WTC.htm

Though this article irritates me with subjective judgments which I myself consider to be childish (like "unsurpassed recording", "corect performance", "the perfect tempo"), it has an interesting point:


" Harpsichordists can't differentiate beats with obvious gradations of loud and soft, so they set off strong beats with rhythmic nuances. To emphasize downbeats they often insert a tiny silence just before them; sometimes they hold downbeats a little longer than written. They also use timing and other devices to emphasize motifs, cadences, and points of arrival.(...) On the other hand, when harpsichordists just ignore the 'metrical hierarchy' of strong and weak beats, they can sound mechanical."

This is the EXACT reason why I wanted to study this kind of performance: it was an attempt of being free from this mechanical way of playing Bach. I don't think that only harpsichordits get mechanical when they don't emphasize these elements (good notes, motifs, cadences, points of arrival), but also do the pianists!
The mechanical "pianist way" of playing Bach used to entertain me in the past, when I thought there was no other possibility for this kind of music. But now that I found that it is probably less authentic than inflecting the phrases, I'll no more play Bach like I did in the past!

techneut wrote:
Technically there is nothing wrong here, but to me these interpretations seem a bit perverse, and I hesitate to put them up. Perhaps this approach would work to some extent on a harpsichord, but not on piano. I sorely miss Bach's rhythmic drive and vitality here.


My studies will go on, and I will get into these "good note inflection" discussions better with my teachers. It can be that my performance changes in the future (it probably will in the very long future, maturing all these ideas).
But since I really can't agree with my previous previous mechanical approach (someone calls it "rhythmic drive", to me this is mechanicalness :lol: ), I'd please ask to remove my french suite of the PS.

In the next months, I'll re-study Partita no. 6 and re-record it. And let's see what you think of it, if it can substitute my last recording or not.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:55 pm 
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Don't worry, I haven't returned to argue, only to share a link to an article that IMO makes a pretty convincing case against fussing over HIP:

[url]http://www.artsjournal.com/ontherecord/2009/09/historically_informed_performa.html
[/url]

It doesn't dismiss it entirely, just questions the wrongheaded modern obsession with it.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:49 pm 
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This applies to early music experts, when they get too narrow minded.

I don't think this applies to pianists. If we had obsessions with HIP, we wouldn't even play Chopin on a modern piano.
I think what happens to pianists is quite the opposite: wrongheaded obsession with unjustified practices, based on nothing (or based on a first pianist who recorded those pieces for a great -- and rich! -- label).

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:18 pm 
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Luís,

Some of the comments you have had here have perhaps been a little more negative than you deserve because, as I understand it, inégalité was a concept which applied across a range of different kinds of inequality, and was not restricted to mere "notes inégales", where some notes written straight were expected to be "swung" (as the jazz people call it) by an unspecified amount at the whim of the performer, in other words they were expected to have their rhythm "distorted".

It seems perfectly reasonable that meter should also have a degree of flexibility applied to it, to help certain beats stand out more where dynamic differentiation was not possible (such as on a harpsichord). Other aspects of inequality would be choice of ornamentation, and also, importantly, the use of unequal temperament (we think we know now that Bach knew about but rejected equal temperament, and that his WTC was not a vote for ET, but was to show that one could find (and he had found) a temperament in which it was possible to play reasonably well in all keys while still allowing each key to retain a character of its own). In this sense it is a bit counterproductive to render HIP on a piano tuned to ET.

The whole point of inégalité was to avoid égalité or sameness, which was felt to make the music sound bland and boring. They wanted to make it pleasant by making it interesting and varied.

Having said that, I must observe that it is possible, and indeed easy, to overdo these effects. We must remember that one of the main objectives of music is that it should please the listener (especially the listener who is paying the musicians!), and I think that one of the requirements of pleasure is that the listener can relate to the music, to be able to predict (not totally, that would be boring) what is going to happen next. Thus meter and rhythm should not be too unpredictable or the listener is going to get confused and irritated.

When Chris made the comment "nauseous listening experience", there is more than a grain of truth in this. An unexpected flow of stimuli can disorient the listener and induce a feeling of motion sickness. It's interesting that in Sherman's article which you cited, the paragraph after the one from which you quoted also contains the word "seasick":

Emphasizing every strong beat can also obscure the music's larger shapes and make it sound dry. And "speaking" rhetorically sometimes yields seasick tempo fluctuations. Such instances demonstrate a common problem in the arts: a new approach to style tends to be exaggerated before it is fully digested.

I don't know if you have deliberately exaggerated the effects in order to stimulate discussion, or whether the exaggeration was unintentional. I believe the effects need to be much more subtle, and I think you have reached this conclusion yourself after the feedback you had in your masterclass.


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:27 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
But since I really can't agree with my previous previous mechanical approach (someone calls it "rhythmic drive", to me this is mechanicalness :lol: ), I'd please ask to remove my french suite of the PS.

It is removed.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:40 pm 
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Hi, Rainer!

Thanks for your comments!

rainer wrote:
Some of the comments you have had here have perhaps been a little more negative than you deserve because, as I understand it, inégalité was a concept which applied across a range of different kinds of inequality, and was not restricted to mere "notes inégales", where some notes written straight were expected to be "swung" (as the jazz people call it) by an unspecified amount at the whim of the performer, in other words they were expected to have their rhythm "distorted".

Well... this is PS!
I'm really used to negative comments. :lol:

rainer wrote:
(we think we know now that Bach knew about but rejected equal temperament, and that his WTC was not a vote for ET, but was to show that one could find (and he had found) a temperament in which it was possible to play reasonably well in all keys while still allowing each key to retain a character of its own). In this sense it is a bit counterproductive to render HIP on a piano tuned to ET.

That's right! These different keys have their different character. Sharp keys sound really "nervous", while flat keys are sweet, like in this this Eb flat suite. While I can't tune my piano in an unequal way (otherwise I couldn't play Chopin or Schoenberg), I use this information as a tip for the character of each piece. In the past, I used to play the F# prelude of the WTCI in a smooth and relaxed way. Now I believe that it should sound nervous and angry, more aggressive, because this is how this tonality sounds in an unequal temperament, at least in those unequal temperaments the harpsichordists usually play. (There are several of them...)

rainer wrote:
The whole point of inégalité was to avoid égalité or sameness, which was felt to make the music sound bland and boring. They wanted to make it pleasant by making it interesting and varied.

Yeah, it is part of the baroque language to achieve variety in an apparently monotonous music.

rainer wrote:
Having said that, I must observe that it is possible, and indeed easy, to overdo these effects. We must remember that one of the main objectives of music is that it should please the listener (especially the listener who is paying the musicians!), and I think that one of the requirements of pleasure is that the listener can relate to the music, to be able to predict (not totally, that would be boring) what is going to happen next. Thus meter and rhythm should not be too unpredictable or the listener is going to get confused and irritated.

When Chris made the comment "nauseous listening experience", there is more than a grain of truth in this. An unexpected flow of stimuli can disorient the listener and induce a feeling of motion sickness. It's interesting that in Sherman's article which you cited, the paragraph after the one from which you quoted also contains the word "seasick":

This is all too subjective for me. I do believe it is a matter of culture, of getting used to it.
I usually got angry while listening to harpsichordits in the past. But now I got used to it, and what really annoys me now is a metronomical Bach playing, including by great Bach pianists I would enjoy a lot in the past.

And in fact... talking about prediction, I could say exactly the opposite: after getting used to this type of inflection, when I listen to some performer who does not inflect when I think he should (then my prediction fails), I get frustrated.

rainer wrote:
Emphasizing every strong beat can also obscure the music's larger shapes and make it sound dry. And "speaking" rhetorically sometimes yields seasick tempo fluctuations. Such instances demonstrate a common problem in the arts: a new approach to style tends to be exaggerated before it is fully digested.

Okay, but did you see that Bernard Sherman loves the way Asperen plays? have you heard Asperen's recordings? Sherman says that Asperen do not exaggerate these inflections...
Well... so far as I saw, he's THE ONE who most exaggerate it! He puts the rhythmic flexibility to the extreme!
(And yes, I like it!)

See how subjective this discussion easily gets?

rainer wrote:
I don't know if you have deliberately exaggerated the effects in order to stimulate discussion, or whether the exaggeration was unintentional. I believe the effects need to be much more subtle, and I think you have reached this conclusion yourself after the feedback you had in your masterclass.

Not really...
Nowadays, I've been really angry with historical approaches to early music, since I have noticed that there is really a great amount of subjective judging. There are few possibilities for discussion, and people simply do not talk about what they don't agree with. What I have learned from Judy Tarling about strong beats and articulation is really the opposite from what I have learned from Robert Donington and Paul Badura-Skoda (these two last names, I learned only by reading their books). And also from a great Brazilian harpsichordist.
So now who should I trust?

There was no discussion or explaining why this lingering of the good notes should or should not apply.

I'm really angry, because I decided to study these stuffs in order to get rid of that annoying "argument" of how you should or should not play something, based on NOTHING, based on a famous pianist who recorded that, or based on a subjective personal taste.
And then I reach the historical performance with... THE SAME SUBJECTIVE JUDGINGS.

Image

I have decided myself that I will choose Asperen as an example of good inflections (Robert Donington says in his book that overinflecting is a common mistake, but underinflection is much more common!), and then I'll take only CPE Bach treatise of how to deal with rhythms, ornaments and tempo fluctuations. I think I'll forget all the rest. :?

From this recording, I think I would only remake the Allemande. Not because I think there is too much inflection... but because I think these inflections were not too well shaped. I usually hurry in the end of each the phrase, when in fact I should do the opposite.

Anyway...
whatever opinion one has about Bach or baroque performance, what I really miss is that more pianists study it! Because pianists (not only my teachers, not only enthusiastic listeners, but also the great Bach names) know beans about it! Ask any pianist if they ever heard about inégalité, affect doctrine, rhetoric, good and bad notes...
But they keep saying that the way they play Bach is "authentic" (whatever that means on a piano...) and "correct" (though I don't believe in any correctness of any performance... it is not a matter of reaching an exact result, like in exact sciences. Besides that, Harnoncourt himself says that we will never know how it should be played: and thanks God!).

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:46 pm 
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Luis,
As one who has an intellectual approach to music, I do wish to commend you for your steep historical interest and efforts to research and investigate (and apply) this subject (HIP).

Rainer and Luis (especially Rainer),
You have missed a very important fact regarding Equal Temperment (ET) and Bach's WTC. Yes any key can be tuned to sound with a particular character and consonance, BUT, the point of the WTC is that ONCE TUNED, the instrument could play in any key without distortion of the scalar relationships. What ET provided was an ability to modulate and visit remote keys without distortion of the scalar/tonal parameters either within a work or between works. For instance, to play the Beethoven Waldstein Op.53, which has the unusual modulation in the first movement of tonic to chromatic mediant (C major to E major), a very remote modulation, would sound HORRIBLE on an instrument not tuned with ET. With ET, one could have the instrument tuned to which ever absolute standard one desired (e.g., A440) and then the performance of the entire WTC in all of its keys would be harmonious and internally consistent, thus arguing the support of ET, not its rejection. Without ET, a performance beginning with the C major prelude would have to be interrupted to retune the instrument before performing in much other than A minor, G major, E minor, F major or D minor, and even some of these would sound stretched or contracted in odd places of the scale. To do any of the others would sound worse the farther from 0-sharps-or-flats one went. The ultimate proof is to observe that Bach even conjoined the remotest of keys in the Eb Minor Prelude with the D# Minor Fugue of WTC1. (We have already observed elsewhere on other threads that these notes are not the same pitch in natural/Pythagorean tuning: the D# actually being higher than Eb by about 1/9 the distance of a whole step. Obviously, this difference is not evident on a keyboard, but is (less so) in wind and (more so) in string instruments.) The WTC is Bach's Summa for the support of ET.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:59 pm 
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Eddy, no one said about retuning the instrument when changing the key of the piece.

But people usually mixes up "well tempered" with "equally tempered". No, Bach's music was never equally tempered. If there are disagreements about articulation or rhythmic inflections, I never saw one early music expert saying that Bach's music should be equally tempered. In fact, it's quite the opposite: these differentes in the character of each key make the piece sound "strange" to the main key while you modulate to distant keys. And this has a rhetorical meaning: it represents the "confutatio", the opposed ideas of the "narratio". (like in an argumentation, there are times when you present the opposed ideas, with the intention to refutate).

I don't think you got this information above from a reliable source. You even talk about "no distortion". Distortion??? Distortion to "what"? Distortion to what YOU call an undistorted temperament? Do you know that in our modern temperament an octave is REALLY NOT an octave? It is more than the double of the frequency! Isn't it a distortion, from the physical acoustic point of view?

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:03 pm 
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Luis,

Thank you so much for this posting and the introduction of some very interesting and lively discussion!

I'm far from a Bach expert and will stay out of the historical particulars. As an observer, I am very impressed with the argument you put forward; clearly you have wrestled with this for some time. While I don't know where the line sits demarking offensive/acceptable liberties with Bach or other Baroque-period music, I personally am skeptical about placing too many [artificial?] limitations when performing. Perhaps this is a reason I'm no Bach expert, eh?? :) I like the dynamic capabilities of modern instruments. While I do appreciate precise and well-executed performances, especially in very rich music such as Bach, I rarely am moved emotionally by technical prowess alone.

I did not read the entire thread until after listening to your music, and I began with a copy of the score in front of me. I admit I was at first confused following along with the music. So I decided to set it aside and just listen.

Not sure if I'm in the minority on PS here, but I really liked the Allemande. Your touch was very delicate and expressive, and the music was very interesting to me. I've heard this piece before, but it has been a long time so perhaps I was more open to hearing it this way. ??

For me, the Sarabande was probably my least favorite and probably the only time the unevenness in the LH (especially) bothered me slightly and sounded a bit improvised (again, with no score in front of me).

Overall I just wish to say you have undeniable talent here, and I feel your vision for the music was applied consistently throughout. The Gigue was very lively and thoughtful, light and clean, with excellent articulation of all the voices.

Sincerely,

Matt

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:49 pm 
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mwyman1 wrote:
Luis,

Thank you so much for this posting and the introduction of some very interesting and lively discussion!

I'm far from a Bach expert and will stay out of the historical particulars. As an observer, I am very impressed with the argument you put forward; clearly you have wrestled with this for some time. While I don't know where the line sits demarking offensive/acceptable liberties with Bach or other Baroque-period music, I personally am skeptical about placing too many [artificial?] limitations when performing. Perhaps this is a reason I'm no Bach expert, eh?? :) I like the dynamic capabilities of modern instruments. While I do appreciate precise and well-executed performances, especially in very rich music such as Bach, I rarely am moved emotionally by technical prowess alone.

I did not read the entire thread until after listening to your music, and I began with a copy of the score in front of me. I admit I was at first confused following along with the music. So I decided to set it aside and just listen.

Not sure if I'm in the minority on PS here, but I really liked the Allemande. Your touch was very delicate and expressive, and the music was very interesting to me. I've heard this piece before, but it has been a long time so perhaps I was more open to hearing it this way. ??

For me, the Sarabande was probably my least favorite and probably the only time the unevenness in the LH (especially) bothered me slightly and sounded a bit improvised (again, with no score in front of me).

Overall I just wish to say you have undeniable talent here, and I feel your vision for the music was applied consistently throughout. The Gigue was very lively and thoughtful, light and clean, with excellent articulation of all the voices.

Sincerely,

Matt


Hi, Matthew!

Thanks a lot that even enjoying a strict Bach performance you were open minded enough to consider listening to this version.
It's very important to me to collect opinions, since this is an almost virgin terrain, where really few pianists have entered to, so there are really few recordings to compare... it's difficult to know when we are really exaggerating in the rhythmic inflections, or when this is just people who are not used to it (as I said before, I myself was not used to it in the past too).

If you want to try listening more to this kind of performance, I totally recommend Wolfgang Rubsam's recordings.

Thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:38 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
You have missed a very important fact regarding Equal Temperment (ET) and Bach's WTC. Yes any key can be tuned to sound with a particular character and consonance, BUT, the point of the WTC is that ONCE TUNED, the instrument could play in any key without distortion of the scalar relationships.
That's not entirely true. The point is indeed that the instrument should be playable in any key without needing to be retuned, thereby giving the composer/improviser freedom to modulate at will into arbitrarily remote keys. It is also true that ET would have achieved that aim, but (leaving aside the technical difficulties at the time which would have been involved in actually achieving ET) for Bach that was not enough, he wanted all keys to be playable while at the same time retaining personality or colour of keys. He wanted there to be some distortion of scalar relationships, just enough to make the keys sound interestingly different, but obviously not so much as to produce ghastly out-of-tune intervals.

The problem with Pythagorean tuning (11 pure fifths) was the unavoidable impurity of the 12th (wolf) fifth, but it also had another major problem, that thirds were seriously dissonant.

The problem with just or natural tuning was that although you could get perfect thirds and fifths, you could only get them in a small selection of keys and once you strayed away from them, it sounded dissonant.

So along came quarter comma meantone temperament which made the majority of thirds pure by sacrificing not too much of the purity of 11 fifths, but at the expense of making the wolf fifth almost twice as bad as its Pythagorean ancestor. So QCMT meant you could play in quite a few keys, but far from in all of them.

Subsequent developments involved experimenting with many different temperaments or tuning recipes, which ultimately resulted in the as good as universal adoption of ET as the modern standard for keyboard instruments, with the exception of a significant proportion of the harpsichord world.

Most pianists alive today simply know no other tuning system than ET, they've been conditioned their entire lives by it and accept it as the norm. This despite the fact of ET's most obvious shortcoming: All keys sound equally out of tune. Due to our conditioning t is easy for us to overlook that ET thirds are actually pretty badly out of tune (relative to their natural counterparts). Not quite as bad as Pythagorean thirds, but still more than half as bad.
Quote:
The ultimate proof is to observe that Bach even conjoined the remotest of keys in the Eb Minor Prelude with the D# Minor Fugue of WTC1. (We have already observed elsewhere on other threads that these notes are not the same pitch in natural/Pythagorean tuning: the D# actually being higher than Eb by about 1/9 the distance of a whole step. Obviously, this difference is not evident on a keyboard, but is (less so) in wind and (more so) in string instruments.)
Well, because this difference is not evident on a keyboard, the keys of Eb minor and D# minor, as played on a keyboard, are not at all remote from each other, they are identical. This cannot therefore be conclusive proof that Bach required ET for WTC, he is merely making the point that he has succeeded in closing the circle, by finding a suitable temperament, not necessarily an equal one.
Quote:
The WTC is Bach's Summa for the support of ET.
Well, that was indeed the prevailing expert view for a long time, but apparently, starting approximately in the 1970s opinion has swung the other way and I think you will find that there is now wide agreement among musicologists that Bach's "well" temperament was not ET. Unfortunately there is not much agreement over which of many candidate temperaments he favoured. A tantalisingly appealing relatively recent discovery suggests that Bach "hid" tuning instructions in plain view in the doodles on the WTC title page. Unfortunately there is disagreement over how these instructions (if that's what they are) should be interpreted.


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:45 pm 
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rainer wrote:
A tantalisingly appealing relatively recent discovery suggests that Bach "hid" tuning instructions in plain view in the doodles on the WTC title page.
Johann Sebastian da Vinci! :mrgreen:

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:59 pm 
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rainer wrote:
Most pianists alive today simply know no other tuning system than ET, they've been conditioned their entire lives by it and accept it as the norm. This despite the fact of ET's most obvious shortcoming: All keys sound equally out of tune. Due to our conditioning t is easy for us to overlook that ET thirds are actually pretty badly out of tune (relative to their natural counterparts). Not quite as bad as Pythagorean thirds, but still more than half as bad.

I think that's why solfa classes are so difficult... our temperament is not that natural, tough it is the best solution yet to make all the keys sound equal.

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