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 Post subject: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:58 am 
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(I bet I'll get replies from at least three persons among: Chris, Terez, Alfonso, Andreas and Stan (maybe Sarah, too?) :lol: )
Everytime I read discussions on our forums, I think I must study Bach... Bach seems to be THE solution to every kind of problem :wink:
Here is my personal history concerning Bach (and my piano playing). I started piano playing at the age of 5 and if I remember correctly I learned all the inventions and sinfonias as an elementary school kid. It was a great fun and I prefered the sinfonias to the inventions. After several years I quit the piano lessons at the age of 13 and the first P&F from WTC were the last pieces. I found the fugue very difficult and never tried to learn alone the WTC further (even though I learned many Chopins for myself). As an undergraduate I restarted to get lessons and played the second English Suite with that teacher. I remenber a slow movement was very beautiful and that is all I can say now :oops: A long break again and I restarted with lessons again here in Germany. My teacher had me once asked if I ever played Bach's partitas and let me learn the fourth and the fifth partitas. In the fourth I began to warm toward Bach's keyboard music again but my LH and the difficulty of detached touch let me much frustrated. From the fifth only the Praeambulum and the Gigue appealed to me. The others were boring... (sorry for the disability to estimate the novel music :wink:). And the LH trills in the Gigue... that sucks :x That's my last Bach and it was in the year 2007. Now I don't take lessons anymore since I have a young baby and it seems I have to teach myself if I start to study Bach again.
And here is my experience with Bach outside of keyboard pieces: I love to listen to solo violin pieces above all and like the cello suites, too. (Compared to them listening to keyboard music of Bach is rather boring at many times... I mean from a whole CD... I do like to listen to your Bach, guys :) ) Besides I had sung in a church choir here (about four years) and learned quite a few Bach cantatas. And of course heard many Bach for organ in that church, too :wink: That choir experience was very important to me - studying vocal works helped me immensely in understanding polyphony in general. As the last thing I like his Matthäus-Passion a lot but find the Christmas Oratorio boring :p

Now my questions:
Is it possible for me with such a poor experience with Bach to learn Bach alone? (Anyway I never had a teacher who is specialized in Bach-technique or Bach-interpretation, even though my German teacher is a Gouldmania.)
With which piece schould I start?
Which practice-methode is recommendable to benefit from Bach technically?

Of course any other tips around Bach much appreciated!! :D

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Hye-Jin Lee
"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: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:17 am 
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LOL, you have played more Bach than me. I have played one invention (#1), one sinfonia (#15), one WTC set (b-flat minor, book 1), and one other WTC prelude (c major, book 1), and two partitas (2 and 6). I have played around with some other things, though, and partita 4 is one I have spent a bit of time with.

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. Sometimes, the music requires a little deeper digging. I just started working on partita 2 recently, and the courante was the movement that I had trouble getting into. In partita 6, it was the gavotte. In partita 4, it's probably the allemande. Allemandes always seem a little harder to get into than other movements in the dance suites; they're not quite as profound and angsty as sarabandes (like that lovely one from English suite 2 that you liked), and they're not as catchy as the faster movements. I partita 4, I am quite fond of the courante. I will probably never be able to play it as fast as GG though, and that makes me sad. The minuet/passapied are also a lot of fun I think. Sometimes, the movements that are the hardest to get into are the ones I end up liking the most.

A good tip if you are bored with one of the Bach dances: spend less time on the A section than on the B section (unless it's one of the rare non-binary ones). The real meat is always in the B section, and often the best bits of the A besides. Play hands separate, and voices separate as well. Play hands together, bringing out a different voice every time. And above all, I think it is helpful to think of your fingers actually dancing the notes of the dances, instead of just playing them. It makes it more fun to me, as opposed to just being work, and it also helps me keep out tension.

I think that Bach can probably be a bit like a miracle drug for piano technique, but I think you have to get into it for it to work. I have always liked Bach, but I have always had a hard time playing most of his music, so I stayed away from it. I think a lot of pianists in the last 200 years have probably felt the same, because after the piano took over the harpsichord, no one wrote like that any more. Keyboard technique changed completely, in order to take advantage of the full range and percussive/expressive potential of the instrument. Mozart was conservative on those terms; Beethoven tried to orchestrate for piano; Chopin perfected the art of pianism, and his contemporaries weren't bad at it either; 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.

But, most kids prefer the easier Chopin things, the easier Schumann and Liszt and Debussy and Rachmaninoff and maybe Mozart and Beethoven too, and generally stuff where you only have to lift the damper pedal every now and then, and it's all legato and essentially homophonic. And it's not that those composers are actually easier than Bach; they all wrote a good number of things that are fairly difficult that most kids would simply rather play...because they're flashier? Bach is sometimes flashy. Prettier? Sarabandes are about as rip-your-heart-out as they come, but they are harder to pull off on a piano, for sure. It's hard to describe, but Bach was old-fashioned even in his time, and he's certainly considered old-fashioned now, so old that he didn't actually write for our instrument! :lol: But, as a musician, I find his music the most rewarding to learn. Chopin is not far behind him for me, and sometimes I think I only put Chopin behind him because the stuff I want to play is so difficult. 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:

So, to sum up:

Hye-Jin wrote:
Is it possible for me with such a poor experience with Bach to learn Bach alone?

Yes!

Hye-Jin wrote:
With which piece schould I start?

One that you like, and one that challenges you. A suite would be good, cause it will give you a wide range of music and technical problems.

Hye-Jin wrote:
Which practice-methode is recommendable to benefit from Bach technically?

Make it fun for you. If it is boring, then spice up the articulation, suspend notes that aren't written that way, do crazy ornaments on the repeats. Bach is really flexible. :wink:

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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: Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:21 am 
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I have nothing useful to add to Terez' essay.
Of course playing Bach is not the 'solution' to all 'problems'. It will not help your octaves and parallel scales. But as a rock-solid foundation both technically and musically, there is nothing better.

I never understand the 'what should I play' kind of question. Indeed, something you like. Then again, I can't understand how you could not like any Bach piece, except maybe early or spurious pieces which can drone on a bit sometimes. I would actually recommend the Art Of Fugue. Maybe not all of it but the first couple of Contrapuncti are great examples of counterpoint.

One tip which may help. Think like an organist and observe note values (and by consequence, rests) religiously. This tends to be hard for a pianist in the beginning, but should not have to be so for you. I find that this really helps appreciating the music and keeping the concentration.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:24 pm 
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I would also add that to get started, you do not need to confine yourself to an entire suite. If a suite has some movements that you like and others that are not your cup of tea right now, do the movements that you like. Even in Bach's day, it was not a requirement to play all of the movements of a suite and those with more than one of a certain type, the performer could chose one or another.

Also, (and I know some purists will want to shoot me for this) a lot of Bach grooves along quite well with an 8 beat pop or rock or Bossa Nova drum pattern in the background. It's certainly more fun than a metronome. If you have access to a digital keyboard with rhythms than you can use that or set it up near your acoustic piano. I believe that there are also some software "groove boxes" available on-line.

Scott


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:13 pm 
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That was another thing I forgot to mention. Make sure you practice Bach on a decent acoustic piano as often as possible. He didn't write for piano, but his technique plays quite well into the percussive nature of the instrument, and the acoustic feel facilitates the best Bach-playing in my opinion. Some digitals are decent at imitating that feel, but I don't think any of them have quite managed it. I think all Chris meant about thinking like an organist is dealing with the suspensions, which are not typical of modern piano-writing, but after having listened to you play the Rach transcription, I don't really think this is something that you would have a problem with, and you are not exactly a Bach beginner anyway. :wink:

@Scott....I don't usually do beats (I am rather fond of the metronome), but there are some sounds settings that I like to use for some Bach stuff (like strings, for the sarabande from the g minor English Suite, and pipe organ for the allemande in the c minor partita).

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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: Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:51 pm 
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I have nothing substantial to add after all of these wonderful suggestions. :D I don't think you need to be concerned about not connecting with all of Bach's music. (Shhh, I have the same problem :wink: ). I second the idea of playing what you like, as I would certainly think that is necessary to connect with the music and interpret it well. I've never been able to interpret a piece I disliked to my satisfaction, and that usually leads to a further dislike of the piece. :wink:

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.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:14 pm 
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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.

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...) BTW I liked the courante from the 4th partita, too! Yes, GG plays that in a very fast tempo, so I decided to follow the tempo of Tureck :wink: She plays that a bit slowly, but like a real dancing. Ah, I especially appreciate that tip of thinking my fingers are dancing! It would be really helpful.

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:
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?

Quote:
That was another thing I forgot to mention. Make sure you practice Bach on a decent acoustic piano as often as possible. He didn't write for piano, but his technique plays quite well into the percussive nature of the instrument, and the acoustic feel facilitates the best Bach-playing in my opinion. Some digitals are decent at imitating that feel, but I don't think any of them have quite managed it.

Oh, unfortunately I have no access to a decent acoustic now :( As I learned the two partitas, I practiced those on a decent Steinway and I still remember what I felt through my fingers. I have to play some of them on my digital and try to find how the digital on Bach is different.

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Hye-Jin Lee
"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)


Last edited by hyenal on Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:34 pm 
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techneut wrote:
I would actually recommend the Art Of Fugue. Maybe not all of it but the first couple of Contrapuncti are great examples of counterpoint.
One tip which may help. Think like an organist and observe note values (and by consequence, rests) religiously. This tends to be hard for a pianist in the beginning, but should not have to be so for you. I find that this really helps appreciating the music and keeping the concentration.

Thank you very much, Chris! 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? I think I read something like that somewhere. Could you find some differences concerning the playing technique (if it weren't composed for the keyboard, there could be one) as you played that set?
About the second tip from you I think you don't worry about it. My German teacher was always unbelievably strict about all the note and rest values (in every repertoire) so I'm used to it. :wink: But when a long bass note cannot be played without a pedal (actually I don't know well there are such cases in Bach), is one allowed to use it? I think using pedals in Bach is another large topic, though.

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?

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Hye-Jin Lee
"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: Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:37 pm 
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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:
And yet I find it immensely pianistic and very rewarding to play. There are some very awkward spots here and there, but none of them really unplayable, unless you have small hands (which I think you have, so some resort to pedal still be inevitable).
On editions, I mostly have Henle Urtext for Bach. Not cheap but still worth the money. You don't want to play this music (which should be with you for al your life) from a4 sheets.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:59 pm 
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What a nice thread!

HJ, you seem more attracted by Bach as a technique booster than his music. Am I wrong?

I agree on many things said here, especially the Bach-Chopin connection. This connection is more evident looking at the didactic works (that is, WTC and Etudes). It's all about figurations and technical patterns, compare for example these two snippets:


Image

Image


They are much the same, except that the Chopin requires a different technique. In other words, you can master that pattern in Bach and still have not a clue in Chopin. In fact, as far as piano technique is concerned, Bach is not the immediate predecessor of Chopin; Czerny, Moscheles, Clementi but especially Hummel are. One can fill the technical gap between Bach and Chopin by learning some etudes by those composers, if needed. So, why study Bach then? I can just tell you what I see in Bach's 'piano' music (especially the stricter one), from a technical standpoint. First, you have almost constantly think in terms of contrapuntal lines, learning to differentiate weight and touch -this is of paramount help in virtually all the piano literature. 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. Third, Bach's music is huge playground for the pianist who wants to experiment with articulation, dynamics, pedalling or tone production. There's enough to make it your daily bread, I believe. Plus, Bach never stales!

That said, my idea for an advanced amateur pianist with a limited time at hand is that including in their everyday round bits from the WTC and Chopin's Etudes is more than enough to build up and retain a good hand mechanism. Notice that, while the WTC is perfectly doable by every AAP, one doesn't need to bring a Chopin Etude to the performance level. In fact the single most important thing is to tackle, understand and solve the technical problems exposed.

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

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

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Alfonso Bertazzi, amateur pianist.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:38 pm 
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LOL, I would be lost without a metronome. :cry: Why do you suggest avoiding it?

Hye-Jin, I missed your response to me, and I will be rectifying that shortly.

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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 Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:44 pm 
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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?


I have most of Bach's keyboard music on Henle. I've recently bought WTC and Partitas in the Baerenreiter Edition (this is the Neue Bach-Ausgabe) and I believe it's the current best edition for Bach. I've just ordered the French Suites also, to replace my old (and broken) EMB score. NBA prices are in the 10-20 EUR range depending on which you want. AFAIK IMSLP doesn't have reliable scores for Bach. Also, this is not music for a quickie, it's music for a lifelong relationship.

On a side note, last year I bought the volume VII 'Trascriptions' of the former Belwin-Mills edition of the piano works of Rachmaninoff (now Alfred Publishing). Well it started to lose pages just after the second or third reading. Some 17 EUR flushed down the loo.

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Alfonso Bertazzi, amateur pianist.


Last edited by alf on Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:59 pm 
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Terez wrote:
LOL, I would be lost without a metronome. :cry: Why do you suggest avoiding it?


Because playing in time doesn't mean that you make every bar last as long as the previous and the next one, as practicing with a metronome would induce you to do. Would you practice Chopin, Liszt or Scriabin with a metronome? Why then should you do with Bach?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:25 pm 
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RSPIll wrote:
I would also add that to get started, you do not need to confine yourself to an entire suite. If a suite has some movements that you like and others that are not your cup of tea right now, do the movements that you like. Even in Bach's day, it was not a requirement to play all of the movements of a suite and those with more than one of a certain type, the performer could chose one or another.

Also, (and I know some purists will want to shoot me for this) a lot of Bach grooves along quite well with an 8 beat pop or rock or Bossa Nova drum pattern in the background. It's certainly more fun than a metronome. If you have access to a digital keyboard with rhythms than you can use that or set it up near your acoustic piano. I believe that there are also some software "groove boxes" available on-line.

Scott

Thanks for your really practical tips! The first tip really encourages a Bach-(re)beginner like me finally to tackle a Bach-piece who was scared by the idea of playing all the pieces in a Bach suite. Actually I always have had that idea (not always with a reasonable cause), so I tried to learn or to record all the movements in a sonata or in a suite which usually prevents me from a free exploration to a new repertoire.
Your second tip is very interesting. Actually I have only a digital piano, so I'll search for that function. You know, I heard Argerich saying a similar thing in a interview. After a recital a jazz musician came to her and told her how much he liked her Bach and he thought that her playing sounded like a Swing :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:26 pm 
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alf wrote:
Terez wrote:
LOL, I would be lost without a metronome. :cry: Why do you suggest avoiding it?


Because playing in time doesn't mean that you make every bar last as long as the previous and the next one, as practicing with a metronome would induce you to do. Would you practice Chopin, Liszt or Scriabin with a metronome? Why then should you do with Bach?

I practice everything with a metronome, unless it is something that has no clear tempo (lots o rubato). Not always with the metronome, but at least part of my practice is with metronome. I use it less as the technique progresses....I just find that it helps me to keep the piece at a tempo I can handle, which helps with steadiness. Without metronome, I always want to play faster than is strictly wise. :lol: I still don't understand your reasoning for avoiding it.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.)

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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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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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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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hyenal wrote:
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.


Ah that was the trigger, I see. Well, I think it's normal that a difficult piece cannot be mastered the first time you approach it (at least, that is what happens to me everytime). When you feel that there's no further improvement on a piano piece, it is time to give it a rest, especially if you have been working exclusively on it.

Re which etudes can be useful to reinforce the kind of technique required by that transcription I recommend: some of the 2 Clav.variations from the Goldbergs (ex: V, XI, XIV, XVII, XX, XXIII, XXVI), some Scarlatti sonatas with jumps and crossings like the K.28 (but there dozens with jumps and crossings).

hyenal wrote:
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?


Finger substitution/changing on the same note is ubiquitous in Bach's keyboard music, particularly in the contrapuntally denser works. But you can use it every time you must or want to keep the music clean of the pedal. Finger crossing is when a finger of 'lower numeral' crosses over a finger of 'higher numeral' in a direction away from the thumb or viceversa (a 'higher' finger over a 'lower' one towards the thumb). It's very useful to obtain an otherwise unachievable legato and, in many cases, I prefer it to 'thumb under' in order to keep the hand perpendicular to the keyboard. Both finger substitution and finger crossing are helpful when you 'run out' of fingers and cannot or don't want to employ the thumb. The finger crossing piece par excellence is Chopin's Etude Op.10/2 of course.

Look at these 2 examples of finger crossing from the Bach-Rach Gigue (the second one is my fingering, probably others would put the thumb on the E#).

Image

Image


hyenal wrote:
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...



I don’t think it’s cheating, but a bit bewildering (me). :roll:


Terez wrote:
The easier Chopin pieces did not in any way prepare me for the more difficult Chopin pieces


Well, this is true for every composer, isn't it? However what's really remarkable in Chopin is that virtually all the difficult passages in his music are entirely included in his 2 sets of etudes. Only Scriabin, to an extent, did something like that.

Terez wrote:
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).


No biedermaier or early romantic composer would have possibly written music in the strict style à la Bach (apart sometimes Mendelssohn, clearly an exception). In the best case, the goal was to assimilate the techniques of the old masters, blending them in a new style.

Terez wrote:
Alf mentioned the WTC as didactic works, but the suites and the Goldberg variations were all published under the title Klavier-Übung


Don’t mix up the original destination of those works in their aesthetic frame of reference with the didactic use that piano teaching has historically made of them. Bach published the Partitas as (the first volume of the) Clavier-Uebung after Kuhnau’s C-U, itself a collection of suites in 2 volumes. The ‘Uebung’ here is a concept that has more to do with the composer activity than the player’s.

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I don't see that, in the end, there is much difference, though. Both the WTC and the suites are both have the same sort of technical problems and the same sort of compositional approach, on the per-movement scale. Most of the suites have at least one fugue if I am not mistaken (though it would have to be in the gigues in the French Suites, and some of those are not fugal), and some suites have two, and then there are fugato and accompanied-fugue types of thing like the capriccio of the c minor partita (which is just like a gigue, double fugue with the second exposition being the inversion of the subject in the B section, and not like an accompanied one as there are no extra voices, but all three voices are in play from the beginning). All of the preludes of the WTC are classifiable as genre examples, though some are less clear than others: allemande, french overture, sarabande, etc. The suites just have more movements, and are more balanced toward the non-fugal writing; also, the opening movements of the partitas and English suites are more large-scale than the typical WTC prelude.

Alf wrote:
No biedermaier or early romantic composer would have possibly written music in the strict style à la Bach (apart sometimes Mendelssohn, clearly an exception).

Yes, but not every early romantic composer was as obsessed with Bach as Chopin seemed to be. Mendelssohn obviously being an exception. But yes, I already indicated earlier that hardly anyone wrote that way for keyboard after the piano became popular, but there were few composers who benefited as much from Bach's counterpoint lessons as Chopin did, and there lies the contrast.

Alf wrote:
Well, this is true for every composer, isn't it?

Except for Bach. :wink:

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Terez wrote:
I don't see that, in the end, there is much difference, though.


That's in fact my point. Ex post, there's clearly a progressive path of difficulty in Bach's 'piano' works, from the 2-part Inventions to the Goldbergs, but it's not correct to state as you said that, for instance, the Goldbergs are a didactic work because are 'Uebungen'.

Terez wrote:
Alf wrote:
No biedermaier or early romantic composer would have possibly written music in the strict style à la Bach (apart sometimes Mendelssohn, clearly an exception).


Yes, but not every early romantic composer was as obsessed with Bach as Chopin seemed to be.


Simon Sechter was even more obsessed than Chopin with Bach and counterpoint, but nobody seems to care... :P

Terez wrote:
Alf wrote:
Well, this is true for every composer, isn't it?

Except for Bach. :wink:


Of course not, since a 2-part invention doesn't 'prepare' you for the Goldbergs or even a spot hard movement from the Partitas. This sounds quite plain to me.

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Terez wrote:
PS - I have been practicing that Chopin etude, the 25/1, with the metronome on 4 16ths per beat.


FOUR 16ths per beat in the 25/1 means that for example at bar 29 LH plays 2.(6) notes per beat, on the first beat. That is for sure a creative way to use a metronome. :P

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hyenal wrote:
But you know... I'm afraid to say I didn't understand what is the "forward toward-the-fallboard motion" :oops:

I'm sorry, I don't think I explained that very well! :oops: Hopefully this clip will explain it better than words can (I exaggerated the motion so it's more visible).

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:02 pm 
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Hey Hye-Jin!

wow you have a pretty good musical foundation if your piano teacher got you to learn all the 2 and 3 part inventions at such a young age.
Surely that must have played a positive role in your musical development.


Funny thing about bach, people play it in so many different ways, different ideas of articulation/dynamics/phrasing/tempo. Ive always found the safest bet when all else fails is to simply be very subtle/clear and let the music speak for itself. The music itself I feel is so beautiful and survives so many different interpretations and instruments.

My attitude on repertoire has always been to simply play the music which you want to play! In the case of Bach there is really so much music and different styles of music, one could easily spend their entire life on it.


b.t.w. some may be surprised that I am actually a big believer in the use of the metronome, though I am also at times fearfull of it. I believe it is important to build an internal sense of time and expression, I also know of no other way of correcting or identifying an inconsistent tempo then by the use of a metronome. Funny thing is though, the metronome as far as I know was invented in 1810 long after the death of Bach! Makes me wonder what people did back then :)


hyenal wrote:
(I bet I'll get replies from at least three persons among: Chris, Terez, Alfonso, Andreas and Stan (maybe Sarah, too?) :lol: )
Everytime I read discussions on our forums, I think I must study Bach... Bach seems to be THE solution to every kind of problem :wink:
Here is my personal history concerning Bach (and my piano playing). I started piano playing at the age of 5 and if I remember correctly I learned all the inventions and sinfonias as an elementary school kid. It was a great fun and I prefered the sinfonias to the inventions. After several years I quit the piano lessons at the age of 13 and the first P&F from WTC were the last pieces. I found the fugue very difficult and never tried to learn alone the WTC further (even though I learned many Chopins for myself). As an undergraduate I restarted to get lessons and played the second English Suite with that teacher. I remenber a slow movement was very beautiful and that is all I can say now :oops: A long break again and I restarted with lessons again here in Germany. My teacher had me once asked if I ever played Bach's partitas and let me learn the fourth and the fifth partitas. In the fourth I began to warm toward Bach's keyboard music again but my LH and the difficulty of detached touch let me much frustrated. From the fifth only the Praeambulum and the Gigue appealed to me. The others were boring... (sorry for the disability to estimate the novel music :wink:). And the LH trills in the Gigue... that sucks :x That's my last Bach and it was in the year 2007. Now I don't take lessons anymore since I have a young baby and it seems I have to teach myself if I start to study Bach again.
And here is my experience with Bach outside of keyboard pieces: I love to listen to solo violin pieces above all and like the cello suites, too. (Compared to them listening to keyboard music of Bach is rather boring at many times... I mean from a whole CD... I do like to listen to your Bach, guys :) ) Besides I had sung in a church choir here (about four years) and learned quite a few Bach cantatas. And of course heard many Bach for organ in that church, too :wink: That choir experience was very important to me - studying vocal works helped me immensely in understanding polyphony in general. As the last thing I like his Matthäus-Passion a lot but find the Christmas Oratorio boring :p

Now my questions:
Is it possible for me with such a poor experience with Bach to learn Bach alone? (Anyway I never had a teacher who is specialized in Bach-technique or Bach-interpretation, even though my German teacher is a Gouldmania.)
With which piece schould I start?
Which practice-methode is recommendable to benefit from Bach technically?

Of course any other tips around Bach much appreciated!! :D


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:37 pm 
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Terez wrote:
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.

Terez, sorry for this delayed comeback. Before you made my baby poo-poo :lol: :lol: :wink: , I had watched your whole recital and I must say your Bach was really impressive! Even though I'm not familiar with that partita, I can still notice how profound your musical ideas are from your performance. You are saying that you're not satisfied with that recital and I think you are so, because you have worked on that set very intensively and you could not show all of that on that day. But you know, what you prepared for a public performance (even a part of that) must be revealed to a mature audience (including me? :lol:) Of course, you made some wrong notes, but if you hadn't correct them, those recordings are already very good! BTW it was very cunning of you to have posted that on the General forum! Do you know how many times I used the "Search" funtion to find your recordings in AR? :roll:

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:44 pm 
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alf wrote:
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:

:lol: :lol:
BTW I reached the 500 posts!!! :D (This is the 505th)

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@Chris, Alfonso and Terez:
Thanks for the informations around the edition things! Now I think I have to pay something for good scores... What I have here in Germany is only partitas on Henle. Before I bought it my teacher showed me two scores: Bärenreiter(NBA) and Henle. He recommended the NBA, but said Henle is ok, too. I saw in NBA there is no fingering, so I decided for Henle :lol: It's funny of me that I always have preferred scores with fingering than without it, even though I must change many fingering of it at last. As Terez said, it is still interesting to compare mine with other's. (Thanks for the score example for finger substitions, Alfonso. I think your own fingering for that Gigue (3 instead of 1) very good, of which I didn't think yet)
As final question, what do you think guys is the advantage of NBA against Henle? Chris mentioned only Henle and Alfonso/Terez only NBA.

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Last edited by hyenal on Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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sarah wrote:
hyenal wrote:
But you know... I'm afraid to say I didn't understand what is the "forward toward-the-fallboard motion" :oops:

I'm sorry, I don't think I explained that very well! :oops: Hopefully this clip will explain it better than words can (I exaggerated the motion so it's more visible).

Sarah, it is very endearing of you that you made that video! Thanks very much. The technique you showed help me even on that Bach-Rach set (in the Gavotte en Rondeau) :D BTW your hands on that video look pretty :)

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:20 pm 
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Stan wrote:
Ive always found the safest bet when all else fails is to simply be very subtle/clear and let the music speak for itself.

Hi Stan! Thank you very much for your advice :D Your view seems to say something very important, but I'm not sure if I understood it :oops: May I ask what you meant by "be subtle/clear"?
s_winitsky wrote:
wow you have a pretty good musical foundation if your piano teacher got you to learn all the 2 and 3 part inventions at such a young age.
Surely that must have played a positive role in your musical development.

Hopefully it did that :wink: This would be the general advantage of playing "classics" at young age, but at that age one cannot appreciate the musical qualities of them properly :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:12 pm 
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Ah yes it does sound like a contradiction doesn't it? :) Subtle in terms of the expressive devices one would use such as rubato, accents, dynamics, even articulations. Clear in terms of playing each separate voice precisely, making sure to hold each note for the correct duration and making sure they have relative equal prominence in terms of volume. In my case I try to give a voice just a bit of prominence if it has what you might call the main melody part, or when a voice enters while other voices are playing.

In terms of dynamics/rubatos/accents I simply try to consider the start and end of my phrases as I would with anything else, except in this case there is usually 3 or 4 independent voices to consider. Each voice may start and end at different spots.

In the case of articulations, I really find less is better then more. I much prefer no articulation to random/inconsistent articulation. Also articulation is often used as a device to distinguish between voices when the voices are very close to each other on the piano. But I think it should not sound like you articulating unless it is really somehow part of the music phrase/idea. Rather it should sound like independent voices (perhaps as you might hear it sung with the human voice.) Otherwise it makes it too evident to the listener that you are playing piano music and not music that spans many instruments. Just my opinion though :) I know there are many rules about articulation which are also very relevant.

Even in this case, I found many pros exagerate articulations, dynamics, expressions, tempo etc. They sometimes make one voice exteremely prominent etc. For me the above ideas is kind of a safe way or starting point for an interpretation.

Anyway most of this is really just my opinion, and at the end of the day, I really just like playing bach for fun!


hyenal wrote:
Hi Stan! Thank you very much for your advice :D Your view seems to say something very important, but I'm not sure if I understood it :oops: May I ask what you meant by "be subtle/clear"?


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hyenal wrote:
Sarah, it is very endearing of you that you made that video! Thanks very much. The technique you showed help me even on that Bach-Rach set (in the Gavotte en Rondeau) :D BTW your hands on that video look pretty :)

I am so glad the video was useful! Thank you for the kind compliment... :D

And my congratulations on getting over 500 posts on PS! I will try to emulate your good example. :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:49 pm 
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@Stan: Thank you very much for that detailed explanation, Stan. Now I see what you meant. You said you like playing Bach just for fun, but you have very clear concepts about interpreting Bach! I want to have such a solid view on my own, too. One must find it by oneself in playing Bach, right?
@Sarah: Thanks Sarah, but '500 posts' is nothing, compared to Terez' or Alf's over 1000, or Chris' over 6000!!! On the other side I think I was indeed very diligent in participating in the discussions here even though it's always not so easy for me to write something in English :D

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hyenal wrote:
...it was very cunning of you to have posted that on the General forum! Do you know how many times I used the "Search" funtion to find your recordings in AR? :roll:

LOL, I am flattered that you took the trouble. But I suppose not surprised. I do talk an awful lot don't I? And everyone is probably thinking, 'gee, she thinks she knows everything, but can she play?' :lol: No, I can't! So there.

Thank you for your kind comments, though, and thank you for listening to the whole recital. I don't think anyone else did. :wink:

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hyenal wrote:
As final question, what do you think guys is the advantage of NBA against Henle? Chris mentioned only Henle and Alfonso/Terez only NBA.

I can't compare them but I can say that I find the fingerings in the Henle are nearly always good. I like the look and feel (as well as the smell) of the Henle books. They are very nicely made, especially the clothbound (of which I have only two but I still think they were worth the dough).

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hyenal wrote:
@Sarah: Thanks Sarah, but '500 posts' is nothing, compared to Terez' or Alf's over 1000, or Chris' over 6000!!!

Haha... What's in a number. As a rule, one post from Terez or Alf is longer than 10 of mine. :P

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:50 am 
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Perhaps you are just better at condensing your points, Chris. :wink:

Rather off-topic, but I wanted to clear this up:
alf wrote:
Terez wrote:
PS - I have been practicing that Chopin etude, the 25/1, with the metronome on 4 16ths per beat.


FOUR 16ths per beat in the 25/1 means that for example at bar 29 LH plays 2.(6) notes per beat, on the first beat. That is for sure a creative way to use a metronome. :P

Not so creative, really. Chopin wrote four sixteenths per beat in the left hand in some notable passages throughout. Since six-per-beat is intuitive for this etude, four against is slightly counterintuitive. It's simple 2-against-3, but it helps me to even out the polyrhythm, to concentrate (subconsciously) on the submissive division of the beat. I have even more trouble with the f minor t-n etude (3-against-4), so when I was first learning it, I practice the right hand against the metronome on four, and practice the left hand against the metronome on triplets. I don't get dependent on this sort of metronome practice, but it is helpful in establishing the feel of the polyrhythm. I won't be able to use it much longer, as the highest metronome setting doesn't get anywhere near performance tempo at 4-per-beat, but for now, while I'm still learning the notes of the inner pages, I find it a useful tool. I really only concentrate on every other tick, as those align with the 1 and 4 of the 6, but that subdivision is there, working its way into my brain so that I won't have to think about it any more.

OT, on editions: I have always used Bach-Gesellschaft. I have all the suites, inventions/sinfonias, and the Goldberg in a cheap $10 volume from Dover. I have gotten other scores from IMSLP. I just got some Henle editions of a few things, but I chose them mainly because NBA is harder to come by, and I'm not so sure the improvement on B-G was really worth the money I paid.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:45 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
@Chris, Alfonso and Terez:
Thanks for the informations around the edition things! Now I think I have to pay something for good scores... What I have here in Germany is only partitas on Henle. Before I bought it my teacher showed me two scores: Bärenreiter(NBA) and Henle. He recommended the NBA, but said Henle is ok, too. I saw in NBA there is no fingering, so I decided for Henle :lol: It's funny of me that I always have preferred scores with fingering than without it, even though I must change many fingering of it at last. As Terez said, it is still interesting to compare mine with other's. (Thanks for the score example for finger substitions, Alfonso. I think your own fingering for that Gigue (3 instead of 1) very good, of which I didn't think yet)
As final question, what do you think guys is the advantage of NBA against Henle? Chris mentioned only Henle and Alfonso/Terez only NBA.


I still use Henle extensively (now for example: the Italian Concerto), but I'm progressively replacing all my older Bach editions with the Bärenreiter NBA/Dürr (so far, Partitas and WTC). I agree with your teacher, Henle is OK if you cannot find Bärenreiter. I buy my scores at Di-Arezzo's (the German site is: www.di-arezzo.de), they have probably the largest classical catalogue in Europe. Prices are good and if you use the normal postal service the delivery costs 7,50 EUR. For me a good edition means also a quality paper, a quality binding and a quality typography. Henle, Wiener-Urtext and Bärenreiter rank at the top for all those features and cover most of the mainstream piano literature, plus are often less expensive than other alternatives which are often less reliable as well.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:51 pm 
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Chris, Terez, Alfonso, thank all of you very much for the edition informations again! :)
I live in Germany, so here you can buy Bärenreiter and Henle nearly at every local music store. (Dover is hardly to come by, I guess.) But I'll check the prices at the internet store you let me know, Alfonso, thanks!
And this would be between Off-Topic and On-Topic: which edition of Chopin Etudes would you guys recommend? I know the newest edition is Peters Critical Edition and I have one of them (Preludes). But everything is too small printed there and the binding is not so comfortable to use. Maybe this is one of many causes which let me give up to learn them so early :roll:

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