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 Post subject: BWV 772
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:41 am 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
Here is a first post for the WIP board!!

I am working on Bach's 1st invention. I played this piece last year for my second semester repertoire, so I have some acquaintance with it. This recording isn't something I am happy with, so yes, it's a work in progress. Still getting it into my fingers. Here is the score:

http://imslp.org/wiki/15_Inventions,_BWV_772-786_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)

I'm using the Breitkopf & Härtel public domain copy, I own the Henle urtext, but do not have it with me now. All that said, I'd be interested in hearing some opinions on how this piece should be played (preferably from people who have played it, but not limited to). Without a tempo indication, without phrasing marks, it would seem then, that one should play it in strict time. And certainly would be the Bach thing to do! (given how some scholars like Cory Hall on YT have played it), but I listen to Jan Bertran's version and I think a little bit of rubato is called for.

My friend David has told me Bach music is difficult because it is like there is no way to hide. It is true. Starting at m. 16 there are half notes, a welcome respite (and really the only thing in this piece resembling a rest). Ok, to be fair m. 7, but are you really only supposed to play one eighth? That just seems so robotic and so odd. I question why Bach would not write half notes there, (though it seems to be the provocation) if only I could ask him! :lol:

My teacher was telling me that this piece is like a conversation between two people. The RH is one person, the LH, another. The conversation goes from light topics, to off-limit topics at m.11. Then beat 2 of m. 13. It's like they are both butting heads with sixteenths in both hands. Then they give eachother turns to talk in the next section and finally by 22 they have made up :lol:

-I know I messed up the mordent with a slash in m. 13...

-I know there isn't a trill at the end of m. 14 but I am pretty sure there is in the urtext. So I am playing most of this edition but, that is what I remember from the other.

One last thing, I apologize for the poor audio.


Attachments:
bach-invention-1-tucker.MP3 [2.39 MiB]
Downloaded 184 times

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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:42 am 
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Hi Riley,

Not bad. You definitely have the right idea with the conversation. The two hands are beginning to take turns coming forward when they need to.

Now on to the things you mentioned.

Rubato: I'm not opposed to a small amount of tasteful rubato in baroque music, but your amount of rubato is much too much in my opinion. It hearkens back to the time when everyone played everything as if it was Chopin. (Yes, I'm aware that that is a generalization, but you must agree things were pretty bad before historically informed performance came along and made us all think twice.) If you are worried about sounding robotic, try exploring options other than tempo for human breath and expression. For example, try varying the dynamics more, or the articulations.

"Robotic" lone eighth notes in measure 7, 8, 9, 10: Think of the rests as part of the music. Using your teacher's conversation metaphor, the right hand says its sentence, then closes its mouth and listens politely to the left hand.

Urtext: I cannot comment as I have not got the urtext.

I have one thing of my own, which is to think more about where the phrases begin and end. It's clear from the first measure that the main idea starts just after a sixteenth rest. So then in measure 2, the right hand's next phrase begins on the second note, the G, just after the sixteenth note which concludes the first phrase. In measure 3 the right hand's next phrase begins on the second note, the high A. And so on. Same with the left hand in measure 8, 9, 10, etc. Not that you would want to play the beginnings of phrases in exactly the same way every time, but knowing where they are is important. Also, this is another answer to your question about the lone eighth notes in the RH in measures 7, 8, 9, 10: it's not a random lone eighth note, it's the end of the preceding phrase. It lasts a little longer than usual (eighth instead of sixteenth) to make it sound more final, but not nearly as long as the half notes will be later. When working on phrasing in Bach it is much easier to work hands separately most of the time until your phrasing decisions are well-established, as phrases in the different hands tend to start and stop at different times.


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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:01 pm 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
You are indeed remembering correctly about the Henle Urtext edition showing a trill in bar 14.

If you do rubato, it must be deliberate and for the right reasons (which means you must have thought a fair bit about where, why, how, and how much), and never the result of laziness: If there is unevenness of tempo, never say "oh, that's just my rubato" unless it really is; don't use rubato as an excuse for an inability to play evenly. Therefore, at this stage in your progress, forget rubato. Play as metronomically as a MIDI rendition would, and keep it that way until you get it up to your target performance speed. Not before that's secure should you even be thinking about pulling it around a little in places. And don't overdo it, keep it subtle. For example, I think the way you slow down at the end is too much and too soon, it ends up just sounding as though you're struggling to find the notes. That said, you don't need to be too fussy about holding the final chord for its full value. Remember that on a harpsichord the sound would have decayed much more quickly than on a modern piano. I think your recorder (phone?) must have an automatic gain control which bumps up the sensitivity when the sound volume is lower, and this rather works against the natural decaying of the piano's sound, which causes the bizarre effect of your final chord not really decaying at all. It would be worth checking to see if you can disable this feature.

Phrasing is the most important thing here, and what Heather said about this is absolutely right. What she said about the 16th notes also applies to many of the 8th notes. Look at the left hand in bars 3 and 4. You play them as one big slurred phrase, but really it helps to think of it as divided into four-note phrases, which happen all to be ascending scale fragments: (B C D E) (G A B C) (E F# G A B C), the last one, for extra interest, being a 6-note phrase, of which we get another example in bars 5 and 6 (B C D E F# G). Similar phrasing in right hand in bars 11 and 12. Also, where you have groups of four 8ths wedged inbetween groups of 16ths, as in bars 1 and 2 and 7 to 10, again don't think of the four 8ths as one phrasing unit, but think of the first 8th as belonging to (and forming the climax of) the preceding 16ths, and think of the other three 8ths as going with (and climaxing in) the first of the following 16ths.

You mention Cory Hall on YT. Interesting how the phrasing comes through even though he doesn't slur at all.

Definitely yes to the "lone" 8ths in bars 7 to 10. When the half-notes are introduced later, from bar 15 onwards, it's different, and this difference serves to make the piece more interesting.

Don't worry too much about the left hand mordent in bar 13, I'm sure you'll sort it out. I'm wondering whether the fact that the next note (E) involves a hand-collision (it appears in both voices) may be throwing you off your stride here. Just be aware of it, and don't feel obliged to strike the E with both hands. Consider playing it with the right hand (thumb) only, and then the left hand can simply play the DCD mordent with 121 and then lift, and then perhaps continue with 12345 for CBAGF#.


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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:36 pm 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
Heather and Rainer,

Thanks for listening and for your comments.

I definintely agree with your combined assessments: that I need to use less rubato. I think, though it may take some time (and I may have to start at a slow bpm, the metronome should be my friend, at least at first when I am working on getting all the notes played in their proper time.

I'll try to just play the eighth notes for their value. I like your analogy its like two people being polite, I can defininintely imagine that. Like when two people talk at once and you stop and each say "no what were you gonna say?" :lol: Variation in dynamics would be nice. Of course, no indication about that either on the score. I assume it should be mf. At 13 I think I could be louder or even before then, the first sign of conflict.

YEs, my teacher also told me that, that the first phrase should be that eight note G as it is the first note with a longer agogic accent than the sixteenths. I didn't do it in my recording, but I think there should also be some space before the C in the bass, as it is really like the 9th note, which if this was just two bars of straight eights it woudl be the first beat of the second measure in the left hand, given that the music phrases were written in the barlines designating to play it that way.

Yes my recorder is really junky. I wish there was some auto settings for it. I think part of the problem is that it's on a phone so it's just manufactured to transmit voice and also the recording space is so small and the recorder is so sensitive it picks up the noise to easily and so you hear some waveform distortion due to the "riding the level-by-ear" nature of the device.

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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:57 pm 
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Congratulations, Riley, on being the first to submit a WIP! :) I tried to listen to your recording a couple days ago but couldn't open the file. Now it does.
I think you are off to a good start on this piece; all the notes are there. The other members have already given you good help and tips. All I can add (maybe you've already done this) is to listen to as many recordings of this as you can. That helped me when I recorded one of the Inventions (can't remember the number now). Keep practicing and then you will be ready to record it when you come back home and can use your better recorder.

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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:01 am 
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pianoman342 wrote:
Variation in dynamics would be nice. Of course, no indication about that either on the score. I assume it should be mf.

No dynamic indications on the score doesn't mean "play mezzo forte all the way through." It means Bach left the dynamics up to the performer. Monica's suggestion to listen to recordings is a good one -- you can see how other performers have interpreted the dynamics. You can also look at some edited scores to see where different editors choose to put dynamic changes.


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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:03 am 
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hreichgott wrote:
You can also look at some edited scores to see where different editors choose to put dynamic changes.

That's also a good tip! I know the Alfred books write out (in small type above the notes) how to play ornaments. That helped me when I was learning some Bach. Also, just talking about it...like in here! :) I remember when I was learning Bach's "Aria"...I thought I knew what I was doing until another member here told me that one can play the ornaments differently if one chooses. That really opened up my eyes and so I listened to as many recordings of the piece that I could find and took certain ideas from ones I liked.

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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:23 am 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
Monica,

Thanks for your listening and input here.

Quote:
Congratulations, Riley, on being the first to submit a WIP!


Yay! Do I win a prize?!

Quote:
That helped me when I recorded one of the Inventions (can't remember the number now). Keep practicing and then you will be ready to record it when you come back home and can use your better recorder.


I think this is a good idea, to wait till I can get a better set of keys and recorder. By the way, I checked the site, it looks like you played the no. 13 in A minor.

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 Post subject: Re: BWV 772
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 1:51 pm 
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Posts: 302
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
hreichgott wrote:
pianoman342 wrote:
Variation in dynamics would be nice. Of course, no indication about that either on the score. I assume it should be mf.
No dynamic indications on the score doesn't mean "play mezzo forte all the way through."
To some extent that's exactly what it does mean. Let's not forget that this was written at a time when the fortepiano had only recently been invented but was still quite rare. Bach apparently disliked the earliest models he met (some 15 years after these pieces were written) but seems to have changed his mind after improvements had been made, about another 10 years later.

These pieces would have been played on harpsichords, where the lightness or heaviness of your touch has no effect on the dynamics produced. You could pick the dynamic level you wanted at the outset, by selecting an appropriate registration (like on an organ). You were then pretty well stuck with that choice for the duration of the piece. If you had the luxury of a two-manual instrument, you could have the option of two fixed levels of volume or tone colours. Since no dynamic variation would have been possible (on a single-manual harpsichord), that seems a pretty good reason not to put any dynamic markings in the score! :)

Okay, they would also have been played on clavichords, on which touch does influence dynamics. That's why I said "to some extent". :wink:


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