John Robson wrote:
Should the piano try to imitate the clavier or harpsichord or organ when playing Bach. What about ritardando, rallentando, crescendo, etc.? Terraced dynamics? Very confusing to me.
Isn't it just ! And the worst is you must make up your own mind about it as there os no absolute right or wrong.
Luckily these days a pianist need not make excuses to play Bach on a piano, and is not required (praise be) to imitate a harpsichord or organ. Although it can make sense to do so in certain pieces, depending on the tempo and character. In other pieces, you may want to imitate a baroque trio or other ensemble, and in others, well you can just be glad you are a pianist, and make the most of that. How Bach would have reveled in the sound and possibilities of a modern grand ! I am 100% sure he would not have given the harpsichord a second glance. Not a very good argument of course... and pure speculation. Like some say that had Bach lived now, he'd be the greatest jazz musician ever (yeah I can just see him stompin' away on a saxophone
Dynamics and tempo variations are all allowed in Bach, I think, as long as they are applied very discreetly. Any excess in Bach will be frowned upon. As I see him, he had the most orderly amd serene mind of all mankind, and that needs to shine through in any performance. About using pedal, that is always a hot issue. I like to use dash of pedal now and then, sometimes to aid the sound, sometimes to create a legato which is otherwise difficult to achieve. But great care must be taken with that because it alwas need to sound clear and calm.
On one interpretative end we have Glenn Gould, like a noisy Swiss clockwork, all the springs and cogs audibly clicking away, harshly exposed under bright fluoresent light. Many people love it. And on the other end there is Sviatoslav Richter with his burnished Russian tone, applying all romantic devices and taking Schubertian slow tempi. Somewhere in between, I guess, lies the truth... now only to find it