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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:32 pm 
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techneut wrote:
I am not sure whether or not Bach had (an) instrument(s) in mind. It's certainly such abstract music that it can be played by anything that produces sound. It would probbaly still sound good on steel drums :lol:

I think I read the story about the ambiguity of the intended instrumentation concerning the recording of Pierre-Laurant Aimard (on an interview or in a CD-booklet). Before that I just had known there are recordings of The Art of Fugue played by a small orchestra or a string quartett, so I was surprised by the fact that that set can be a part of piano repertoires.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:58 pm 
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sarah wrote:
I have recently been working on a P&F and partita with my teacher, and some technical things she suggested (you probably already know these things :wink: )were using a forward towards-the-fallboard motion when playing portato and always, always keeping curved fingers, even when navigating leaps.

Something I experimented with in my last piece to make keeping track of the themes easy was to label each motif with a number, and each phrase related to each motif with the number and an identifying letter (1a, 3b, etc.). It seemed to help with fingering and memorization, too.

Sarah, thanks for sharing your teacher's tips! I knew nothing about them. But you know... I'm afraid to say I didn't understand what is the "forward toward-the-fallboard motion" :oops:
I'll keep your second tip in mind and try to apply to practice :D BTW You seem to be a very analytical and scrupulous person which I'd like to be willingly :)

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:57 pm 
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Thank you Alfonso for the score example (I think it took you not a short time, which I really appreciate) and your explicit and helpful views!
alf wrote:
HJ, you seem more attracted by Bach as a technique booster than his music. Am I wrong?

For now, you may be right, since my recent interest on Bach was mainly awaken by my frustration from the quite unsuccessful practicing of that Bach-Rach piece. I practiced and practiced, but I can hardly see any technical improvement between the recording in my last post on AR and my playing now. At first I thought I have to include some etudes in my daily practicing. But which etudes? Then it occurred to me it could be a Bach, Bach in original.
On the other side I always had a fear of Bach's music, too, after I played his partitas. For the about five years in which I worked with my teacher I could experience various composers (including JC Bach, Janacek, Berg, Sibelius and Scriabin) and I think I learned how to face a new repertoire and to find my own interpretations. But Bach was not the case. I lost myself in the theoretically endless possibilities of interpretations. I could not choose which possibility is here to apply. In this sense one of your views impressed me:
alf wrote:
Third, Bach's music is huge playground for the pianist who wants to experiment with articulation, dynamics, pedalling or tone production.

According to this, the uncountable possibilies could be wonderful stuffs which I can play with. Not the fearful things :D

Quote:
Second, a very effective workout on two underrated elements of piano technique that on the contrary I find extremely useful: finger substitution and finger crossing.

The word "finger substitution" caught my attention! I usually use that technique to play flowing legato. In what kinds of situations could it be applied on Bach? And do you mean by "finger crossing" here just that of 4th and 5th fingers or are there another cases?

Quote:
My one advice about the practice method is: AVOID the metronome and use it only to check your tempi. Trust your inner clock instead.

That is what I usually do. But you know, I find very often my inner clock is disturbed by the fright in front of the recorder! Once I turned on my digital metronom in "mute" (so that I can only "see" the beats") and restarted recording the same thing. And the result was much better. But somehow I felt as if I'm cheating... I don't know...

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Happy New Lunar Year, Hye-Jin. It's a great moment to make new decisions!

Thanks Alfonso! :D Frankly speaking I was thinking only about the delicious things to eat for the feast day, not about making new decisions :shock:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:15 am 
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hyenal wrote:
Wow, thank all of you for the precious tips and wonderful ideas which have been unknown to me, my Bach-Specialists! I think it'll took a while for me to digest all these practical tips thoroughly. So don't blame me if I would come back to one of these tips after a year... :wink:
BTW today is the New Year's Day after the lunar calendar and the biggest feast day in East Asia! In this sense Happy New Year to everyone :D I'm going to go to the Korean church to celebrate this day with others today, so I'm going to go into only part of your replies and will come back to the others later.

This reminds me....I am very interested in East Asian traditional music, and I wonder if you know anything about it. Also, happy new year!

hyenal wrote:
Terez wrote:
I think I know what you mean about finding certain movements boring, because I often find myself in the same position with Bach. Sometimes his keyboard technique is particularly counterintuitive, and sometimes it's hard to get your hands on a good interpretation. Anyway, I have learned not to trust these intuitions with Bach. It's always good.

Terez, thank you so much for your time and very practical tips which are based on your pedagogical understanding full with sympathy with my (rather primitive) problems! In this passage you wrote one thing is not clear to me. Is what you mean by "not to trust these intuitions" that I shouldn't give up a possible good interpretation just because it is not so easy to realize on the instrument? (I'm afraid I didn't get the right point...)

Okay, I will try to break down what I meant here. I am really referring to the inherent musical value of everything Bach wrote. I have found that every now and then, there are a few weak bars in Bach, but I can't call to mind anything in his published keyboard works (that is, the things he published when he was alive) that is sub-par. Not a whole movement, anyway. It's all good stuff. :D Sometimes, we get to know these pieces from other pianists, rather than from the page, and usually it's much easier to familiarize ourselves with pieces that way, but sometimes, none of the pianists we have available manage to sell the piece to us. That doesn't mean it doesn't have that inherent value, and that we can't make something of it.

hyenal wrote:
Quote:
Chopin has a lot to do with why modern pianism is so different from Bach's keyboard technique, but at the same time, you can see how much of Chopin's technique was inspired by Bach's.

Oh, this idea is very interesting! Could I hear a bit more about it? And one question more about Bach's technique: It seems that many people think non-legato or dettached touch is ideal for Bach. Is it to justify by the historical argument or through the fact that in that way you can handle with his music (technically) better?

Your question actually has a great deal to do with the similarity between Chopin and Bach. Detached touch is certainly necessary to make Bach's keyboard technique work, but it is by no means the rule. Some of his technical problems simply require you to lift your hand off the keyboard and rearrange it completely, and it frequently happens in places where the passage is technically possible with a legato touch. The legato touch is simply not correct. And I'm not saying there is any rule on this you should follow - I actually prefer editions without fingerings so I can be forced to figure them out on my own, which I think is an important skill, though I have lately taken to comparing my fingerings to professional ones - but when you are practicing, it's a good idea to keep this in mind at all times. If something is awkward when legato, consider that maybe a detached touch will be better. A decent general rule is that, when there are two voices, one will be legato and the other detached. Because Bach uses invertible counterpoint, the voices will change hands, but the motives should be consistently articulated, barring occasional changes that you intentionally do for artistic reasons. When there are more than two voices, at least one of them will be detached, and at least one of them will be legato, as if you were an organist. If there are four voices, it's likely but not necessary to be 2+2, but very rarely does Bach use more than three voices intricately in keyboard music; in the 4- and 5-voice fugues, for example, the 4th and 5th voices are mostly used as harmonic filler, with rare exceptions, such as the return of the b-flat minor fugue in book II, where all four voices have the subject, quite an intricate one, at the same time (2+2 stretto, in thirds in each hand, and melodically inverted in the left).

Also, the 'detached touch' is not completely detached. For instance, you regularly find yourself in Bach with running 16ths in one voice. There are several different ways to articulate each group of 4 16ths, and it will vary depending on the piece, which works best. Connect the first two, making the final three detached? Connect the first three, making the final two detached? While sometimes there will be a mostly detached voice against a mostly legato voice, there are some times when both voices are a combination of detached and legato (for example, those fugue subjects in stretto), and the legato vs staccato effect from RH to LH is still a good general rule. It just gets a tad more complicated. :lol:

So, I find in Bach a very strange independence of my fingers from the keyboard, that I did not find without Bach. The easier Chopin pieces did not in any way prepare me for the more difficult Chopin pieces - in fact, they gave me an entirely wrong idea of how to play the more difficult pieces. I don't really think that you are struggling in this area in the same way that I am, at all, but I also find in Bach a wonderful independence of my fingers that I don't think any other composer's music has given me cause to comprehend, and I think that this value is what most pianists find in Bach.

For example: I am currently playing Chopin's 25/1 etude in A-flat. I have played it before: it was the first Chopin etude I played in public for anything (local competition). I had such an amazingly difficult time with it back then! I realize now it was because I did not know how to make my fingers fly above the keys. From the first time Chopin augments the A-flat chord on the first page of the etude, that technique was required. I played the etude without that technique before, and it was painfully difficult, and the piece did not come off so well, and never quite came close to performance tempo. Now that I have that ability, I can play the first page at performance tempo without having practiced it in the last 15 years at all, and most of my work on it will be learning the notes in the rest of the piece.

hyenal wrote:
Quote:
But the more Bach I play, the easier it gets to play Chopin, and since I suck at piano, I have just been playing the same Bach over and over again, and therefore haven't played much. :lol:

Yes, we all know that you study a piece really intensively and thoroughly :) I have been looking forward to listen to your Bach (or Chopin or Shostakovich) already for a while! You are a music student, so I suppose the school exams or recitals could be recorded by the equipments of your school, or not?

I posted that recital a while back, but I posted it on the General forum, because none of it (not even one movement!) was good enough for the audition room. :lol: (It was in this thread, but not in the first post.....the links to the recital videos are further down.) One day I will get there, but I'm pretty patient in that area. Maybe I will get some recording equipment one day and record something decent when I'm not shaking in front of the audience. You should be able to see from those videos that I am pretty challenged on piano. I'm not happy with how the recital turned out, but nevertheless, I'm proud of the progress I made. I was really in horrible shape when I returned to school.

hyenal wrote:
I will come by a score of the Art of Fugue and give a look, since I never had its score. BTW isn't it so, that the Bach's intention in which instrumentation this set must be played is not clear?

Henle has some good notes on this question. I will type it out if necessary, but there's a chance Alf or someone knows of a digital version of the notes. Here is a tidbit for now:

Davitt Moroney wrote:
Over the last 50 years, most musicologists and performers have finally accepted the idea that the work must be for keyboard. Much of the overwhelming evidence proving this point has been published by Gustav Leonhardt.....Such notation was normal for intricate contrapuntal keyboard music from the late sixteenth century onwards (as the works of Frescobaldi and Froberger, among others, clearly show); Bach himself used open score notation in two other engraved keyboard pieces of the same period: for the Von Himmel hoch variations and for the six-voiced ricercar in the Musikalisches Opfer (and we have C.P.E. Bach's own written testimony that this ricercar is for keyboard). In fact, it would have been very extraordinary, given its nature, had Die Kunst der Fuge been published in anything other than open score.


hyenal wrote:
One question I forgot to write on the opening post is about the editions. Which edition is recommendable for Bach's keyboard works? Are the IMSLP scores ok, too? Or rather an expensive edition?

IMSLP scores, the Bach-Gesellschaft edition, are the closest thing you can get to urtext for free (and you can get bound editions from Dover for very cheap). The NBA has improved upon B-G greatly in correcting errors against autographs, etc., but the keyboard editions are really not bad, and most of the errors are in the ornaments from what I gather. There was one wrong note in the allemande of the c minor partita, but it was so obviously a wrong note that I couldn't have possibly thought it was right. :lol: I haven't found any other errors yet, but I haven't looked so deeply.

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


Last edited by Terez on Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:24 am 
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I'm also going to butt in on your convo with Alf, as he's probably in bed by now and I think I know what he is talking about.

hyenal wrote:
alf wrote:
Third, Bach's music is huge playground for the pianist who wants to experiment with articulation, dynamics, pedalling or tone production.

According to this, the uncountable possibilies could be wonderful stuffs which I can play with. Not the fearful things :D

Yes! This is exactly what I meant about making it fun, and Bach being flexible. There is more room to experiment in his music than in nearly anything else, certainly more than anything else with inherent musical quality. There is more freedom to put your mark on the music.

hyenal wrote:
Quote:
Second, a very effective workout on two underrated elements of piano technique that on the contrary I find extremely useful: finger substitution and finger crossing.

The word "finger substitution" caught my attention! I usually use that technique to play flowing legato. In what kinds of situations could it be applied on Bach? And do you mean by "finger crossing" here just that of 4th and 5th fingers or are there another cases?

This goes with what Chris said about thinking like an organist sometimes. It is a combination of perfect legato and clever portato that makes Bach's keyboard music interesting. I have to use finger substitution more in Bach than in anything else I play, but even that becomes part of the dance, especially in some sequential passages. One man passes his partner to another man; so one finger passes a note to another. :lol: And if we're talking about 4th and 5th fingers crossing....that is often necessary. I'm thinking right now of the last few measures of the organ passacaglia (not the fugue). Wow. It will take some practice to be able to play those few measures right.....but on a smaller scale, it is required in the harpsichord works as well.

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:15 am 
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Okay, I thought of something that is a good Bach-Chopin comparison. I have never practiced this one, but I had to analyze the d minor set from WTC-I. The prelude introduces a technique that Chopin was very fond of, because Chopin was enormously fond of functional counterpoint, but he had either a distaste for writing strict counterpoint or an insecurity complex about writing it (which would be understandable, in the face of Bach...Bach leaves the impression that any attempt on our part to do what he did with strict counterpoint would be, at best, redundant). But in this d minor prelude of Bach, there is an example of a technique that Bach used quite often, where voices that are not explicitly written are implied. I really favor the interpretation with the light, most connected version of the portato in the right hand, where the 'hidden' voices can subtly rise up out of a generally delicate fluttering. It's very similar to what Chopin did in a number of instances. Well, almost everything Chopin wrote used this 'hidden counterpoint' style, but some works are more similar to that d minor prelude than others. The 25/1 etude is one example.

Image

The 'hidden' voice on the third note of each triplet is similar to the 'hidden' voice here in the Chopin etude, first on the 3rd and 6th notes of each sextuplet, and then on the 2nd note of each sextuplet in the 2nd measure:

Image

Prelude #8 is another example. These two, already, are quite far removed from Bach, but they simply expand outward from Bach's premise. Chopin uses even more chromaticism, even more obscure counterpoint, even more convoluted technical problems, and all of this simply to achieve the aforementioned tapping of the percussive/expressive capabilities of the piano. Even more convoluted is Chopin's use of the false unison, in prelude 14 and in the final movement of the 2nd sonata.

Alf mentioned the WTC as didactic works, but the suites and the Goldberg variations were all published under the title Klavier-Übung, and some organ stuff as well of course. If you have a complex about the suites, though...I understand. :lol: I think I go for the suites because they are so long, and I dig that as opposed to just a prelude-fugue combo. I want my recitals to be more Bach than anything else, so that is my approach. :wink: Everyone is of course quite correct that you shouldn't perform something you don't like.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:18 pm 
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Terez wrote:
Without metronome, I always want to play faster than is strictly wise. :lol:


See? That’s already a good reason to avoid using it out of habit. :lol:

The metronome disorientates (and in the long time impairs!) an important component of your musical faculties, your inner sense of rhythm. The metronome doesn't know what's going on in the score, tic-toc-tic-toc, and makes your playing mechanical and your rhythm artificially stiff. Also, since you're in the delicate phase of learning a piece, that unwanted rhythmic stiffness will ingrain and you will probably never be able to recover an authentic pulse in the piece you are studying.

I've tracked down a quotation by Joseph Hofmann that I remembered reading in the past, about the use of a metronome.

Joseph Hofmann wrote:
Never Play with a Metronome: You may use a metronome for a little passage as a test of your ability to play the passage in strict time. When you see the result, positive or negative, stop the machine at once. For according to the metronome a really musical rhythm is unrhythmical and, on the other hand, the keeping of absolutely strict time is thoroughly unmusical and deadlike. You should endeavour to reproduce the sumtotal of the time which a musical thought occupies. Within its scope, however, you must vary your beats in accordance with their musical significance. This constitutes in musical interpretation what I call the individual pulse-beat which imparts life to the dead, black notes.


But of course my killer argument against the metronome in Bach is that Bach himself avoided using it. :P

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:21 pm 
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LOL, I trust my ability to play without mechanical rhythm when it's important. I can do it even with the metronome on, and I'm sure Chopin could as well, or he wouldn't have used it to the point of keeping it on during lessons. I will continue to practice with a metronome.

PS - I have been practicing that Chopin etude, the 25/1, with the metronome on 4 16ths per beat. :lol: Good way to learn the notes on the inner two pages and accustom myself to the polyrhythm at the same time.

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Last edited by Terez on Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:44 pm 
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Terez wrote:
Alf mentioned the WTC as didactic works, but the suites and the Goldberg variations were all published under the title Klavier-Übung, and some organ stuff as well of course.


The German Organ Mass, framed by the St.Anne's prelude and fugue, is the absolute pinnacle of (Baroque) organ music, containing some of the most ingenious, impressive, and challenging organ chorales ever written.

You don't want to call that some organ stuff Terez, for fear of incurring my eternal wrath :!: :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:57 pm 
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Terez wrote:
This reminds me....I am very interested in East Asian traditional music, and I wonder if you know anything about it. Also, happy new year!

I don't know nothing about the music of other asian countries, but I've been certainly exposed to Korean traditional music. The traditional music for the courts is quite elegant. For example this kind of music is performed for international events again and again :wink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIYLKjD5Pzc&feature=PlayList&p=0FB243CA3581A297&index=0&playnext=1
These things are examples how the traditional instruments are used nowadays to survive (they play "western" music on those trad. instruments):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5j0EnN_RpU&feature=PlayList&p=31F6AC34B16CDF93&index=0&playnext=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tRfOB43mzY&feature=related
Or, some bands play their own original composition:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7kKefjV3sA
Quote:
Okay, I will try to break down what I meant here. I am really referring to the inherent musical value of everything Bach wrote. I have found that every now and then, there are a few weak bars in Bach, but I can't call to mind anything in his published keyboard works (that is, the things he published when he was alive) that is sub-par. Not a whole movement, anyway. It's all good stuff. :D Sometimes, we get to know these pieces from other pianists, rather than from the page, and usually it's much easier to familiarize ourselves with pieces that way, but sometimes, none of the pianists we have available manage to sell the piece to us. That doesn't mean it doesn't have that inherent value, and that we can't make something of it.

Ok, now I understand what you meant!

hyenal wrote:
Quote:
Chopin has a lot to do with why modern pianism is so different from Bach's keyboard technique, but at the same time, you can see how much of Chopin's technique was inspired by Bach's.

Oh, this idea is very interesting! Could I hear a bit more about it? And one question more about Bach's technique: It seems that many people think non-legato or dettached touch is ideal for Bach. Is it to justify by the historical argument or through the fact that in that way you can handle with his music (technically) better?

Quote:
Your question actually has a great deal to do with the similarity between Chopin and Bach. Detached touch is certainly necessary to make Bach's keyboard technique work, but it is by no means the rule. Some of his technical problems simply require you to lift your hand off the keyboard and rearrange it completely, and it frequently happens in places where the passage is technically possible with a legato touch. The legato touch is simply not correct. And I'm not saying there is any rule on this you should follow - I actually prefer editions without fingerings so I can be forced to figure them out on my own, which I think is an important skill, though I have lately taken to comparing my fingerings to professional ones - but when you are practicing, it's a good idea to keep this in mind at all times. If something is awkward when legato, consider that maybe a detached touch will be better. A decent general rule is that, when there are two voices, one will be legato and the other detached. Because Bach uses invertible counterpoint, the voices will change hands, but the motives should be consistently articulated, barring occasional changes that you intentionally do for artistic reasons. When there are more than two voices, at least one of them will be detached, and at least one of them will be legato, as if you were an organist. If there are four voices, it's likely but not necessary to be 2+2, but very rarely does Bach use more than three voices intricately in keyboard music; in the 4- and 5-voice fugues, for example, the 4th and 5th voices are mostly used as harmonic filler, with rare exceptions, such as the return of the b-flat minor fugue in book II, where all four voices have the subject, quite an intricate one, at the same time (2+2 stretto, in thirds in each hand, and melodically inverted in the left).

OMG, this is really helpful! Thank you very much, Terez.

Quote:
So, I find in Bach a very strange independence of my fingers from the keyboard, that I did not find without Bach. The easier Chopin pieces did not in any way prepare me for the more difficult Chopin pieces - in fact, they gave me an entirely wrong idea of how to play the more difficult pieces. I don't really think that you are struggling in this area in the same way that I am, at all, but I also find in Bach a wonderful independence of my fingers that I don't think any other composer's music has given me cause to comprehend, and I think that this value is what most pianists find in Bach.

The special techique you mentioned is still unknown to me and I think it's too clear, since I never studied Bach seriously. Looking forward to the moment where it is unveiled also to me :)

Terez, my baby just made poo-poo, so I'll be back!

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"The love for music. The respect for the composer. The desire to express something that reaches and moves the listener." (Montserrat Caballé about her main motivation for becoming a singer)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:57 pm 
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LOL, sorry Chris. :lol: I don't play organ so I've never had occasion to check it out before. Of course I got bombarded with the organ passacaglia as a listening assignment in music history, so now I've got to play it.....

Hye-Jin....I first read that as 'Terez made my baby poo-poo', lol. I'm glad it wasn't my fault! :lol: And thanks much for the links on the Korean music!

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:02 pm 
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Bach possibly avoided using the metronome because Maelzel was born to invent it yet. :wink:

Anyway, as far as the variety of articulations available in Bach, one thing to consider is that neither the organ nor the harpsichord offered any form of dynamic accent -- a particular note could only be brought out through an agogic accent, which occurs by shortening the note(s) before the stressed note or lengthening the stressed note.

This becomes particularly important in such instances as a piece that starts on an anacrusis (pick up). If articulation is not adequately differentiated to help define the beats, the music can be heard as being a partial beat off -- one can get disoriented. For example, the Invention in D major, the initial notes could sound as beat one.

Articulation is also necessary to spell out syncopations and hemiola.

Though not all harpsichord / organ type articulations will work at every similar spot on a piano (indeed, there can be differences between harpsichord and organ to bring out the same piece), they can often be quite useful in certain spots and at the least inform your use of dynamic articulation on a piano.

(I know what I'm trying to say but I'm not sure that it is coming out well.)

Scott


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:11 pm 
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RSPIll wrote:
Bach possibly avoided using the metronome because Maelzel was born to invent it yet. :wink:

Shhhh, Alf is trying to be funny! :lol:

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:23 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 6:02 pm
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Location: Piemonte, Italy
Terez wrote:
RSPIll wrote:
Bach possibly avoided using the metronome because Maelzel was born to invent it yet. :wink:

Shhhh, Alf is trying to be funny! :lol:


:o

The good news is that, after 1-thousand plus posts here, I can still get surprised. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:52 pm 
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RSPIll wrote:
Bach possibly avoided using the metronome because Maelzel was born to invent it yet.

I guess he'd only just been born then, and Bach decided to wait, but died before Maelzel could invented it ? Makes sense to me :P

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