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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:00 am 
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WHOA, forum change. :lol: And my post disappeared! Anyway....

I don't think it sounds mushy at all to play legato, lol! In fact, I think it sounds awful if it's not. There's a difference between legato and holding notes too long so they overlap. Also, I didn't 'agonize' over the fingering. :wink: After having figured it out, I'm quite sure it was intended to be played almost exactly like that.

Incidentally, you are the first organist I've ever heard say something like that, and I know quite a few of them. I know that legato is not always appropriate, but I think this passage is definitely one of those places where it's required. In any case, thanks for letting me know it was an organ piece. :P

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:53 pm 
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Terez wrote:
I don't think it sounds mushy at all to play legato, lol! In fact, I think it sounds awful if it's not. There's a difference between legato and holding notes too long so they overlap.

If you were to play this on a big organ, seamlessly legato, recording it from a listener's position, then listened back to it, you might see my point. The notes really need a little breathing space around them, or everything will sound a blur (ok, maybe not a mush). You can hear an example in the final variation of my recording of Walther's partita (starting from 11:10) where all 16ths are more or less consistently played portato. Even the slow pedal notes should have been played that way, but that is for the next recording.

Terez wrote:
Also, I didn't 'agonize' over the fingering. :wink:

Writing down the finger for each and every note seem pretty agonizing to me....

Terez wrote:
Incidentally, you are the first organist I've ever heard say something like that, and I know quite a few of them.

I don't think US organists are into HIP as much as European ones. If there's one thing I have learned in organ lessons, it is not to play legato. And listening back, I always agree to that adage.

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 3:25 pm 
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Yay, I can post!

1. What is HIP?

2. Why 16ths, and not other note values? If there's any particular note value that calls out for detachment in this piece, I think it's the 8th.

3. What's your definition of a 'big organ'? I will be playing it on a real pipe organ if I ever manage to learn it, but I don't know that I would call it 'big'. It's in an auditorium that seats about 500.

4. I have listened to several recordings of the piece on YouTube. There were two that stuck out in my memory - one for being my favorite recording, the other for having a good video close-up of the organist.

The close-up video is Hans-Andre Stamme, at Waltherhausen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvozjEbs ... re=related

He uses portato on some of the 16ths like you suggested. I'm not fond of the way it sounds, but that's just me. But more importantly, at the end, in the passage in question, you can see that he uses legato fingering, despite playing portato. That doesn't surprise me - I don't see how you could play it otherwise. In fact, he seems to use mostly the same fingering as what I wrote, though I didn't catch all of his fingerings.

My favorite recording, Pierre Cochereau in Notre Dame (before the organ was modernized):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM1SLmAS ... re=related

Sounds to me to be as legato as can be. And I love it. And that's a big organ! :lol: He plays it a bit slower than Stamme, because it's Notre Dame and the resonance in that place is scary. I'm glad he chose to do that rather than playing portato on the 16ths!

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:53 pm 
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Terez wrote:
1. What is HIP?

Historically Informed Performance. Think Harnoncourt, Gardiner, rather than Karajan, Furtwaengler.

Terez wrote:
2. Why 16ths, and not other note values? If there's any particular note value that calls out for detachment in this piece, I think it's the 8th.

Other values too. But the faster the notes go, the more chance of them blurring all together when you don't let them breathe.

Terez wrote:
3. What's your definition of a 'big organ'? I will be playing it on a real pipe organ if I ever manage to learn it, but I don't know that I would call it 'big'. It's in an auditorium that seats about 500.

The acoustic and pipe size os more a factor than the 'size of the organ'. The sound of big pipes take longer to attack and decay, and natural acoustic aggravates that. Try playing legato running notes on a 16ft pipe.

Terez wrote:
4. I have listened to several recordings of the piece on YouTube. There were two that stuck out in my memory - one for being my favorite recording, the other for having a good video close-up of the organist.

Yikes, how I hate Bach played old-style on a French romantic organ with wailing flutes and salicionals and grinding plenum. Cocherau's recording sounds more like Franck than Bach, or maybe like catholic Bach. It becomes a wall of sound, unfortunately more a like concrete than a brick wall.
Stamm's is a lot better - he also has the better organ for this music. Though I don't much like his registrations. At least he is precise and well-articulated but even he does not keep things transparent.


Try Ton Koopman on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ocUsZRmBAA.
Already in the beginning you hear how he detaches the slow pedal notes. The consistently airy touch allows him to dance rather than grind through this piece. This is how it should sound, IMO (well maybe not for all his trills and frills which are too much of a good thing sometimes). If I can ever play organ like that I can die happily :D

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:13 am 
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techneut wrote:
Terez wrote:
1. What is HIP?

Historically Informed Performance.

Ah, okay. I don't think we are less into it than other places, necessarily. In academia, we are probably just as much into it, but I there is no longer an organ prof at my school (he just retired, and due to economic situation, they were able to justify cutting his spot on the faculty), and all the organists I know are church organists, trained to various degrees. That's the thing about the US....there is a church on every corner, especially here in MS, and they all need organists. That results in a lot of opportunists with no training teaching themselves how to play organ from only knowing piano (like me, though my motivation is Bach rather than a church job).

However, I have a philosophy about 'HIP', that basically boils down to this: it's important for me to know how things were done back in the day, but it is not always so important for me to do things that way. Partly because some of the changes in performance practice have come about because of improvements in the making of instruments, and also because of a sort of artistic evolution. And don't mistake the latter sentiment for an impression that music somehow becomes better as time goes on. You know how I feel about Bach. However, there are some ideas that were introduced after Bach's death, particularly in the Romantic era, that I think he would have most likely capitalized upon. It's hard to argue, but it's just as impossible to determine that he would not have done things differently, if influenced by those ideas. So, I would like to know how Bach did it, but in the end, there is still a musical choice to make, and I think that the danger of HIP is that it gives the impression that the choice is already made.

In this case, I would like to know what, exactly, the HIP guidelines are, and what, exactly, Bach had to say on the subject, if anything (via CPE works too).

Chris wrote:
Yikes, how I hate Bach played old-style on a French romantic organ with wailing flutes and salicionals and grinding plenum. Cocherau's recording sounds more like Franck than Bach, or maybe like catholic Bach. It becomes a wall of sound, unfortunately more a like concrete than a brick wall.

But was it 'mushy'? LOL. Well, it is at least clear that you and I have very different ideas about how an organ should sound. Bach was not so prejudiced against Frenchy things! :lol: I don't know why you have a problem with WALL O SOUND, because that's my favorite thing about organ. If it wasn't for that, I would stick to piano!

Chris wrote:
Stamm's is a lot better - he also has the better organ for this music. Though I don't much like his registrations. At least he is precise and well-articulated but even he does not keep things transparent.

I do like the organ he plays on, but I prefer the Notre Dame organ, I think. It's hard to say, because of course registrations have a lot to do with how it sounds. As for Stamm's registrations, from what I could tell, he didn't use a great deal of contrast at all. On his interpretation...particularly disturbing to me was the rushed ending. However...

Chris wrote:

*barf* LOL, sorry, but WTF was up with that ending? How can you not notch it up? Also...what is up with his weird tempo fluctuations? He rushes in some of the most terrible places! But the ending was the worst, and I hear in this one of the most musically disgusting examples I have ever heard of the worst danger of HIP: this notion that the music should somehow speak for itself. I can understand not liking Cochereau's fluty organ, but at least he has some notion of drama.

Chris wrote:
Already in the beginning you hear how he detaches the slow pedal notes. The consistently airy touch allows him to dance rather than grind through this piece. This is how it should sound, IMO (well maybe not for all his trills and frills which are too much of a good thing sometimes). If I can ever play organ like that I can die happily :D

I don't see how legato prevents the dance; in my humble opinion, the dance in Bach comes from a variety of articulation, rather than a rule, and also from the grace of his technique. But it looks as if we will just have to agree to disagree on this point. :lol: I agree about his ornaments being just a bit much sometimes, but there are definitely a few places where I will be adding some. And while the detached pedal does have an interesting musical effect, especially in the first couple of variations, I think I still prefer it legato.

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:50 am 
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Yep, we agree to disagree, and let that be it. Indeed Koopman rushes things forward a bit at times. I could have done without that but did not find it very disturbing.

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:37 pm 
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Thanks for all the info, though. Like I said, it's important for me to know these things. Oh, and one thing I meant to ask you - is Stamm's double-dotting on the first couple of variations appropriate HIP? I have learned about double-dotting from our Bach HIP expert, but she is retired and only teaches one class, and I am having trouble catching her this semester because I have a class at the same time across campus. But I noticed that Koopman didn't do it. I have been experimenting with it, and at first I thought it was weird, but now I like it (much like the double-dotting in the sinfonia of the c minor partita, not to mention the 'double-dotting' where there are not dots in the first place :lol:).

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:03 am 
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Terez wrote:
Thanks for all the info, though. Like I said, it's important for me to know these things. Oh, and one thing I meant to ask you - is Stamm's double-dotting on the first couple of variations appropriate HIP? I have learned about double-dotting from our Bach HIP expert, but she is retired and only teaches one class, and I am having trouble catching her this semester because I have a class at the same time across campus. But I noticed that Koopman didn't do it. I have been experimenting with it, and at first I thought it was weird, but now I like it (much like the double-dotting in the sinfonia of the c minor partita, not to mention the 'double-dotting' where there are not dots in the first place :lol:).

Dunno - I am no HIP expert. I would assume that HIP is for a large part about playing as written. Personally I don't see the point of double-dotting. Bach writes very concisely and if he writes a single dot who are we to make it into a double one ? But then again, if this was what people did in Bach's time, there is as much justification for it as for adding embellishments. There are also modern pianists, in romantic repertoire, who have a tendency to shorten dotted notes too. Recently I noticed this with Stephen Coombs playing Glazunov's first Op.101 prelude.

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:55 pm 
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I finally got to practice on the actual organ last night, for the first time. I have been practicing the manual parts on my digital with the pedal track recorded, and now that I've got them learned and memorized, I figured I'd get to the thing about learning to play with my feets. FOOT SUBSTITUTIONS. lol, finger subs are much easier! :lol: And I haven't figured out how to do it without a lot of pivoting on the bench. Every time the bassline starts over again, on that C, I have to get it first with my right foot, then the left (on a quarter note), and pivot my whole body to the right. It's so weird. But I think I got the hang of it after a few hours. Can pretty much play the whole thing now (not the fugue - haven't started working on that yet at all) except for the parts with the fiddly pedal...

I have a feeling I am going to be experimenting A LOT with registrations....and the reeds are out of tune. :cry:

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:37 pm 
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Terez wrote:
I finally got to practice on the actual organ last night, for the first time. I have been practicing the manual parts on my digital with the pedal track recorded, and now that I've got them learned and memorized, I figured I'd get to the thing about learning to play with my feets. FOOT SUBSTITUTIONS. lol, finger subs are much easier! :lol: And I haven't figured out how to do it without a lot of pivoting on the bench. Every time the bassline starts over again, on that C, I have to get it first with my right foot, then the left (on a quarter note), and pivot my whole body to the right. It's so weird. But I think I got the hang of it after a few hours. Can pretty much play the whole thing now (not the fugue - haven't started working on that yet at all) except for the parts with the fiddly pedal...

So, already after a couple of hours you are playing parts of this Chaconne and feeling like you get the hang of it ? Darn, you have a lot more talent than I ....

Terez wrote:
I have a feeling I am going to be experimenting A LOT with registrations....and the reeds are out of tune. :cry:

Welcome to the wonderful world of organ playing :P

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:29 pm 
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techneut wrote:
So, already after a couple of hours you are playing parts of this Chaconne and feeling like you get the hang of it ?

Well, at first it was really weird. It's still weird, but at first, I had a hard time adding that layer of contrary motion. Because I was just getting the hang of the contrary motion in the manual parts, and of course the pedal is going in yet different directions, lol. But since I have at least been practicing with the pedal part in my ear, I think that helped a lot. It took me the longest time to figure out I could cross feet easily. That made things a lot simpler. Trust me...if it wasn't the same thing over and over again, I wouldn't have gotten the hang of it.

I've been told I'll have to learn how to tune the reeds myself. It's so much! :lol: I'm hoping a real organist will play on it some time soon and tune them....

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:36 pm 
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Terez wrote:
Thanks for all the info, though. Like I said, it's important for me to know these things. Oh, and one thing I meant to ask you - is Stamm's double-dotting on the first couple of variations appropriate HIP? I have learned about double-dotting from our Bach HIP expert, but she is retired and only teaches one class, and I am having trouble catching her this semester because I have a class at the same time across campus. But I noticed that Koopman didn't do it. I have been experimenting with it, and at first I thought it was weird, but now I like it (much like the double-dotting in the sinfonia of the c minor partita, not to mention the 'double-dotting' where there are not dots in the first place :lol:).


I've read and heard different takes on over-dotting in Bach. (I'll try to find my sources to give to you.)

I'm thinking that one is from Willy Palmer in the Alfred edition of the WTC. This was mostly in reference to the D maj. Fugue, #5. Some performers over dot and some do not. The editor's opinion was that over-dotting is more of a French idiom and therefore would be mostly appropriate in German music written in the French style. He also points out that in this particular fugue, there are a couple of spots that over-dotting (to continue the articulation) would result in forbidden parallels. Thus, at least in this instance of Bach, it is likely in appropriate.

Over-dotting might be appropriate in the Overture of the "French Overture" since it is intended to be stylistically French, The dotted eigth / sixteenth is a regular feature, it is usually matched with a 32nd note pattern and its pulse is rather slow.

I don't have my C.P.E Bach "True Art..." with me to see what he has to say about it. Another source to look for is Quantz work on Flute Playing, which offers more on period practice than on actual flute playing.

Just some thoughts. Hope it helps.

Scott

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:26 pm 
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@Teddy: Thank you for sharing your experience about Bach and others!
@Terez: Thank you for the fingering! I followed yours and found I would do nearly the same only if I could think up the finger crossing on the first measure :lol: Anyway it was very useful that I could see your fingering, thanks again. It's really like a logical puzzle. Finding a fingering is sometimes very exciting, indeed, but I tend to change the "logical" fingering I found at last, when my fingers choose another fingering after I'm used to the piece :roll:
BTW what's the "hand switch technique"??
@Chris: As I saw the word "HIP" in your post, it was only the German baby food HIPP which occurred to me :lol: I'm totally orientiert in things around the babys now!

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 Post subject: Re: How should I restart studying Bach?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:19 am 
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lol, I also have a hard time re-learning bad fingering. Also, I just meant by 'hand-switching' that there is often a voice that is in the middle that is passed back and forth between both hands. There is a lot of that in all Bach, and a good bit in this piece in particular, especially that one variation that I didn't finger, where it gets a little bit convoluted. :lol:

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