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 Post subject: Your opinions on "historical informed performance"
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 10:06 am 
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Well, to me it seems that in the last 30 years or so a new trend has etablished regarding the interpretation of baroque music. The so-called "Historical informed performance practise" (HIP) does not belong only to the baroque area, however the trend how to interpret has changed dramatically in that area, so I see it.

Only an example: I have a 30 year old recording of Haendels "Messiah" with an big orchestra, oppulent choir, and the interpretation is highly romantic - the ouverture is played very slow, lyrical.
Now I have watched a very convincing new performance: a small baroque orchestra with historic instruments, playing almost without vibrato, small choir, playing the piece at A=415Hz. The ouverture was played pretty fast, dotted notes as double-dotted notes, and most important, a VERY groovy, dancing like articulation what accents all quarter notes, divided in strong and weak quarters. This articulation makes the piece very light and lively.
To make it short: I really preferred that new approach. Can't say whether it is more or less historical relevant, but I preferred it over the romantic version described above.

To me, playing the piano and organ of baroque music, an approach towards that HIP changes the interpretation largely, and as I think, to the better. For instance, to articulate not only more or less legato, instead in rhythm groups according to the rhythm of the piece (and additional according to the certain melody phrase).

I would be interested whether this trend influences your approach towards interpretation especially for baroque music?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:49 am 
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I am a bit wondering why this theme seems to be of no interest here.

As it is now, the interpretation of baroque music (mostly chamber music, but instrumental music too) is about in a drastical change. Does nobody else realize that here? Instead playing with long melody lines in a romantique legato manner one hears now interpretations with strong articulation, with emphasis on strong and weak clocks within a bar, what leads to more groovy, or even rocking renditions. Because from the historical researches one can conclude that they did play in that manner originally (derived from books, and from fingerings e.g.). Often, this new approach sounds much more convincing to me. To you too?

This surely influences the contemporary interpretation for piano music of baroque music too. For organ playing it is already state-of-the-art to articulate not in longer legato lines with neglecting the rhythm pulse (a la highly romantique Straube editions of Bach organ works). Instead articulation according the rhythm. The older used fingering helps for that. That's not easy but the result speaks for itself.

Regarding piano playing of baroque music, this trend seems not to be that well developed so far. So I never heard someone playing WTC items in a consequent rhythm driven articulation manner. Maybe I will post another version of some fugues played according to that, so that you can hear what's the difference and whether you like it more or not.

Really no opinions, isn't that no hot topic for you?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 7:31 am 
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Somehow I missed the initial posting.

It's a subject that does interest me, though I can't say it is really a 'hot topic' for me. These days it just goes without saying that you use the insights of the last decades when playing baroque. Nobody in their right mind performs the Mattheus Passion anymore like it was done 40 years ago, with ponderously slow tempi, reverberant sound, using huge choruses and orchestras, and soloists more suitable to grand opera. Likewise, nobody performs Bach keyboard works anymore like Karl Richter or Gustav Leonhard did. Even recordings made only 15 or 20 years ago can sound pretty stilted in comparison. The focus now is on lively tempi, rhythmic snap, and precise articulation. I too believe this is a good development, although you can hear it overdone sometimes - some performances are ridiculously fast.

Certainly my organ teacher is an exponent of the new school, keen to point out all the wonderful rhythmic and contrapuntal miracles that go on in Bach's organ writing, and making sure I give them full attention. That also extends to matters of tempo, articulation, and registration.

I believe this also benefits my piano playing - with my piano teacher I do not play any Bach (after one or two sessions) as her approach is a bit too traditionally romantic for my taste.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:48 am 
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Yes, your observations regarding how nowadays the St.Matthew passion is performed, says it all. I did sing in the choir that passion Eastern this year, with a high level small baroque orchestra (this passion is oppulent even with small choir and orchestra, since this magnificent piece is designed for 2 choirs and 2 orchestras in parallel), and our cantor tried hard that the choir adapted that lively groove this orchestra exuded.

And the same in my case, my organ teacher takes care for proper articulation too (albeit I always articulate too rough, she likes only marginal articulation differences, but precise ones). According to her, it is a must that I articulate every quarter in a 4/4 metrum. What I do inside a quarter note with the 16th notes is up to me. I can but must not play legato there. And also, no manual switches or register changes within a fugue - all needs to be played through with same registration. Also, not too much registers in order to maintain a good transparency of all voices.

And yes, it seems to me too, that in the piano playing that new style (or it is the original one, who knows?) is not that established as in the baroque chamber or organ music. If I listen to the only some years old Barenboim recording of WTC1, it is very romantique played, tons of dynamics and pedal work but rather weak articulation. Maybe I try a re-recording of the WTC1 d minor and/or d major fugues with accenting the rhythm stronger, for something to discuss here, maybe in some weeks. And also a recording of the g minor organ fugue BWV578 what will come earlier I hope.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:30 am 
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Olaf, you know me, I like to hear examples. So, yes, do record yourself playing something one way and the other way. It's hard for me to imagine a Bach fugue in a groovy way, but maybe that's what is needed to turn me on to them. Then again, I like romantic playing, so who knows...I'm not sure exactly what I like anymore. Feels like I am going through some kind of change in life (musical).

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:16 pm 
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I will leave this forum and pretty much cry to myself in my closet (in the fetal position), if someone dares to play Bach or any baroque music in a 21st Century-Jazz-Elton John-Nonsense style and uploads it in the Audition Room.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:27 am 
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juufa72 wrote:
I will leave this forum and pretty much cry to myself in my closet (in the fetal position), if someone dares to play Bach or any baroque music in a 21st Century-Jazz-Elton John-Nonsense style and uploads it in the Audition Room.


Not everyone likes rocking adaptions of baroque music. It seems however that this kind of music eludes to do so as the numerous examples show. In my case, I am open minded to something like that, and like to improvise or to play some Bach too on different instruments. But everyone's taste is different.

However regarding that topic here, that is competely another thing, it is just the opposit. The HIP development you can watch anywhere tries to come back to the origin, to search and discover how the music was originally played. So no 19th or 20th or 21 Century-Jazz-Elton John-Nonsense style, instead coming close to how Bach played, so far it's possible to recover. That does not mean that one can not or should not apply pedal on a modern piano. The goal is more to remove the over-romanticed manner one is used to hear Bach over the last decades or centuries and to dig for the original pure beauty. In the assumption that old Bach not only knew how to compose wonderful music, but to perform it wonderful too. Since no original recordings are available we have to base on what is written about the interpretation of the original time. The HIP is the result or the beginning of a development to come close to that. Hope that's now clear what is meant.

So no need for you to cry to yourself in the fetal position. Better come out of the closet and try to discover on your piano what historical informed performance can give you :wink: !

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 12:11 am 
In a piano society forum, the first observation should be that for Baroque non-organ keyboard performance, the instruments available at the time were harpsichord, clavichord, early pianofortes (aka fortepianos) and perhaps a few oddities.

I enjoy listening to the harpsichord in small doses but wouldn't want to only listen to historically informed performances - if that means preserving the original instrumentation. Would drive me nuts.

Have listened to a little clavichord and wasn't that crazy about it. Need to try again. Heard that you can get a vibrato out of the clavichord which would make for some very interesting playing. Is that true?

To me, playing Bach on the modern piano is a basic historical inaccuracy - but I love the modern piano and believe Bach would have loved it too. He would gladly have played a Steinway or Fazioli and would have written idiomatic music after exploring it's possibilities. Almost all my recordings of Bach keyboard music are piano performances.

Any websites or books you would recommend to get a checklist of what currently is considered historically accurate (of course, I'll be playing on the 'wrong' instrument so will pick and choose from the list appropriately).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 6:14 am 
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2p8h wrote:
In a piano society forum, the first observation should be that for Baroque non-organ keyboard performance, the instruments available at the time were harpsichord, clavichord, early pianofortes (aka fortepianos) and perhaps a few oddities.

Good of you to tell us ! Learning all the time ... :P

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 1:12 am 
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2p8h wrote:
In a piano society forum, the first observation should be that for Baroque non-organ keyboard performance, the instruments available at the time were harpsichord, clavichord, early pianofortes (aka fortepianos) and perhaps a few oddities.

I enjoy listening to the harpsichord in small doses but wouldn't want to only listen to historically informed performances - if that means preserving the original instrumentation. Would drive me nuts.

Have listened to a little clavichord and wasn't that crazy about it. Need to try again. Heard that you can get a vibrato out of the clavichord which would make for some very interesting playing. Is that true?

To me, playing Bach on the modern piano is a basic historical inaccuracy - but I love the modern piano and believe Bach would have loved it too. He would gladly have played a Steinway or Fazioli and would have written idiomatic music after exploring it's possibilities. Almost all my recordings of Bach keyboard music are piano performances.

Any websites or books you would recommend to get a checklist of what currently is considered historically accurate (of course, I'll be playing on the 'wrong' instrument so will pick and choose from the list appropriately).


I'm curious, how did you pick your username? Toothpaste? :lol:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 1:22 am 
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2 pianos, 8 hands :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:29 pm 
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@ 2p8h:

Yes, you can perform a vibrato on a clavichord through applying more or less pressure on the key while the tangent remains on the strings. It is not a deep vibrato however, I tried it out on a real clavichord.

Next, historical informed practise does not necessarily mean to play on a historical instrument. The question is more, what can the knowledge about that help to come closer to the original playing style.

For instance, the knowledge that in the pre-Bach times the thumb was not much used: That means they simply did not play throughoutly legato. There must be necessarily be articulation beside legato in order to switch fingers. All what I heard so far, this articulation was in first rank done on clock measures, distinguished in strong and weak clocks. In a 4/4 metrum piece, the first quarter gets the most articulation, the 3rd quarter the next strong articulation, the 2nd and 4th quarter weaker articulation and the 16th notes in between more or less legato (as rule of thumb).

That is what HIP performances in chamber music also for Bach celebrate nowadays and I confess, this gives a dancelike strong pulsing vibe what gets the baroque music out of a romantic overlegato corner and puts it back into something I appreciate much.

And I think, it could be applied also in much stronger and consequent manner for some if not all keyboard music from Bach.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 10:39 pm 
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Terez wrote:
2 pianos, 8 hands :lol:


Haha, yes.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 2:54 pm 
Techneut, sorry for mentioning something so obvious but since there was only mention of orchestras and choirs prior to my post I thought it worth kicking around a bit. In reading some reviews of recordings of say Couperin or Rameau on the piano I detected that the reviewer considered this music on the piano a novelty and really not mainstream. But for Bach, few really seriously question whether it should be played on the piano. Just something that I try to think a bit more about as I read about the history of instruments and performance.

I'm currently reading Badura-Skoda's 'Interpreting Mozart on the Keyboard'. Perhaps a bit dated, but the issues surrounding trying to somehow recreate a historical performance are discussed and still seem relevant today. The most interesting observation to me is that while some performer may successfully be faithful to the original intentions of the composer, the listener has changed in the last 2-3 centuries. The listener's ear has grown accustomed to modern pitch, volume, articulation, rhythm, ambient noise, sound effects used in everyday life, etc, not to mention extra-musical changes that influence the way a particular piece of music is perceived. All these make for a fundamentally different experience. A perfectly historically accurate performance may sound grotesque, bizarre, thin, underwhelming, overwhelming, etc to the modern ear. A historically informed but not perfectly accurate performance may sound grotesque to a resurrected long-dead composer. I'd like to purchase 'Interpreting Bach on the Keyboard' as well to see what further insights there are.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:03 am 
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2p8h wrote:
The most interesting observation to me is that while some performer may successfully be faithful to the original intentions of the composer, the listener has changed in the last 2-3 centuries.


Very true!

However since the listener is able to change (the success of chamber music with HIP performances shows it), there are open ears regarding the original intentions of the composer. So chances are well that the listeners taste will change too to come back to the root of the music, depending in which century the music was composed. I can imagine a tendency towards stronger devision in the interpretation of romantic or classic or baroque music for the future, also regarding piano playing.

For instance, the interpretation of the "Messiah" has gone through a dramatic change in the last decades, just compare one of the romantic performances with extra large orchestras and oppulent choires and melting interpretation with nowadays much more groovy interpretations with small choirs and orchestras, almost without vibrato on the string instruments, but strong articulation.

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