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Chopin Competition Aftermath: Breakfast with Tony Yang

Many have enjoyed the Chopin Competition performances live and via streaming and the “now factor” has been very well provided for. But what about after-Warsaw? During his visit to Warsaw, Patrick Jovell had a breakfast talk with laureate 2015 Tony Yang, the youngest prize winner ever – in the history of the competition. Read more >>

What about the use of the right pedal in Bach? (Read 4605 times)

Offline la_carrenio2003

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What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
« on: August 03, 2003, 08:49:39 AM »
Are you at the side of Richter's and Schiff's Bach "pianistic" playing or are you from those who want to imitate the sound of the harpsichord?
"Soli Deo Gloria".
     J.S. Bach

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #1 on: August 03, 2003, 09:11:49 AM »
My teacher says absolutely no.  She thinks that when you decide that it's *ok* to use a *little* pedal, it's not too long thereafter that you start overusing it.  She's probably right.

I personally don't care because I hate most Bach anyway.
So much music, so little time........

Offline Hmoll2

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #2 on: August 03, 2003, 02:57:19 PM »
Damper pedal in Baroque music:

Don't use it to connect notes. Use it for tonal color.

Offline rachfan

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #3 on: August 04, 2003, 03:04:27 AM »
Many people forget that Bach played the piano.  Yes, it's true.  The first models had been introduced before his death, and he actually tried them out.  They weren't perfected, of course, and he quickly retreated to his harpsichord.  However, if Bach could return to us for a day and try out a modern Steinway B or Baldwin SF10, he would see infinite possibilities far beyond where he left off composing in his lifetime.  You can be sure too, that he would quickly gravitate to the piano due to its power, better sustained tone, range of dynamics, and, yes, its pedals.  Let's not forget too that Bach was a superb organist, an instrument that sustains and can be played legato.  Even though the piano is a percussive instrument, it is more able to be played legato than a quill-plucked harpsichord.  I have little doubt Bach would donate the harpsichord to a museum, where it belongs.  

It's also important to recognize that Bach imbued his works with passion.  If you doubt that, just listen to some of his Preludes and Fugues, Patitas, Concerti, etc.  If for one moment he ever suspected that one day self-proclaimed "purists" would insist on playing his music in a dry, dispassionate,  mechanical way, you can be sure he would have become furious and burned all his manuscripts on the spot!  

Did you ever notice in good urtext editions, how Bach's pieces are nearly devoid of tempo, dynamic, and other markings?  That was by intent.  Keyboardists then were expected to be good improvisers too.  They were also expected to be able to take a score such as his, form a defendable interpretation, and execute the piece creatively and in an interesting manner.  Again, this argues for justifiable pedal effects in the context of the writing.

Thus, I think it makes all the sense in the world to play Bach on piano, and to use pedal.  But the pedal must be used sparingly and always in good taste, governed by a keen ear.  That is the important point.

Once I was in a competition held at the New England Conservatory of Music, adjudicated by members of its piano faculty.  One of the pieces I played (as Bach was always compulsory on such occasions) was the Prelude and Fugue in c.  As to tempo, I played the Prelude presto.  You can be sure that I used judicious pedal where merited.  Also, Bach ends the Prelude in a Picardie third.  I incorporated my own acciaccatura to that third to add some improvisatory panache to that ending cadence.  Did the jury's eyebrows fly off and hit the ceiling, or did the jurists pass out? Hardly. In fact, they sent me on to the finals.    
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #4 on: August 04, 2003, 05:35:29 PM »
Use the pedal but don't let us here it,
Ed

Offline eddie92099

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #5 on: August 04, 2003, 05:36:49 PM »
*hear

Offline la_carrenio2003

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #6 on: August 10, 2003, 09:25:45 AM »
Let move the things around here. If you wanted to buy some Bach's recording for listening: would you prefered enjoy some Richter's way recordings -colourful and not standard or purist way of playing- or would you buy some harpsichord alike performance?
"Soli Deo Gloria".
     J.S. Bach

Offline tph

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #7 on: August 10, 2003, 09:56:57 AM »
I tend to agree with RachFan's general sentiment.  Basically, I feel that if one opts to play Bach on a piano to begin with, one has already tacitly accepted to maximize the possibilities, afforded by that instrument, in the service of the music.  If that means clean transparent pedalling, for note-ties or tonal shading, then fine.  And if that also means playing without pedal, depending on the sound desired, then great.  The variety of interpretative possibilities is simply further evidence of Bach's greatness, in my opinion.  Personally, I don't hesitate to make use of the pedal, when no alternative exists.


tph

Offline eddie92099

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #8 on: August 10, 2003, 10:49:58 AM »
Quote
I tend to agree with RachFan's general sentiment.  Basically, I feel that if one opts to play Bach on a piano to begin with, one has already tacitly accepted to maximize the possibilities, afforded by that instrument, in the service of the music.  If that means clean transparent pedalling, for note-ties or tonal shading, then fine.  And if that also means playing without pedal, depending on the sound desired, then great.  The variety of interpretative possibilities is simply further evidence of Bach's greatness, in my opinion.  Personally, I don't hesitate to make use of the pedal, when no alternative exists.


tph


I don't believe that Bach's greatness is because of the variety of interpretive possibilities - it just so happens that he was writing for harpsichord/clavichord and therefore the debate about playing his music on the modern piano arises. This is also the case with many lesser known and certainly less great composers - where the variety of interpretation is the same. Additionally there is an alternative to the pedal which is simply legato fingering (which is almost certainly what Bach would have done and intended)
Ed

Offline la_carrenio2003

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #9 on: August 10, 2003, 12:27:04 PM »
The pedal is not for playing legato,and in Bach, as many people already said here, is for tonal colour... And the debate is behind, everybody is recording Bach in piano, like Murray Perahia, I don't know it's ready yet, but I heard he's recording the WTC and the English Suites...
"Soli Deo Gloria".
     J.S. Bach

Offline tph

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #10 on: August 10, 2003, 07:57:09 PM »
Quote


I don't believe that Bach's greatness is because of the variety of interpretive possibilities


That wasn't my point.  The variety of interpretations is not the only or even the primary reason for Bach's greatness, in my opinion.  I  simply observe that Bach's great music is capable of transcending the particular considerations of the instrument  - which, note, does not preclude, nor allow for, that possibilty for other composers - and I think that's great.

Quote


Additionally there is an alternative to the pedal which is simply legato fingering


My use of the word "alternative" meant to encompass broader considerations than legato.  I was specifically thinking of interpretational possibilities of tonal shadings, articulations, resonances, harmonics, etc.

tph

Offline BuyBuy

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #11 on: August 11, 2003, 04:08:15 PM »
When you play on a harpshichord, like what Bach intended, can you really hold the sound of notes ?

Because that's the whole point of holding one voice with a finger as the other fingers play a second voice. But I thought that an instrument like harpshichord or clavichord can't hold the sounds for very long...

Offline la_carrenio2003

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #12 on: August 13, 2003, 09:28:44 PM »
You can hold the sound but for a very short period of time, in the clavicord more than in the harpsichord. But it's enough for the pieces which are written for those instruments. In the WTC, all those preludes and fugues with very long pedaling notes were written for organ.
"Soli Deo Gloria".
     J.S. Bach

Offline rachfan

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #13 on: August 14, 2003, 05:57:03 AM »
I believe that Bach's supposed "intended harpsichord sound" lies in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the ear of the auditor.  Was it a case of Bach writing for the harpsichord, or, rather, was he held hostage to a woeful state of the art in keyboard technology in his time, since the piano as alternative was still in its infancy?  Like they say, if you are stuck with lemons, then make lemonade.  The best way to recreate Bach's music and to serve him best is to elevate it through the medium of the modern piano and its vastly improved capabilities.  Must we read a Dickens book by a 20W bulb to mimic the oil lamp which served the author for illumination in writing it?  Can we only view the facade of the Cathedral at Rouen from the exact window in the hotel where Monet stood to paint it, or might other vantage points be superior?  Should Carmen only be be staged at the Paris Opera because of certain original accoustic properties there that Bizet heard or "intended" despite the fact that other houses might serve equally or even better?  I don't believe so.  A hallmark of great art is that it's appeal is eternal.  Bach's music can and will live on as instuments continue to evolve in the future.      
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline la_carrenio2003

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #14 on: August 14, 2003, 06:07:42 AM »
Bravo,Rachfan. I find all your replies really interesting. Thanks for sharing them with us.
"Soli Deo Gloria".
     J.S. Bach

Offline Hmoll

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #15 on: August 14, 2003, 04:39:07 PM »
Yes Rachfan is right. Bach intended his keyboard works to be played on keyboard instruments. That usually meant whatever was available.
So, his keyboard music was not "intended" for the harpsichord or any other specific keyboard instrument.
One exception might be the Goldberg Variations, which were written for a pupil of Bach's who intended to play the variations on harpsichord for an insomniac patron. Since there is some historical record of this, and since the keyboard writing lends itself to a two manual harpsichord, you may make a case that this piece is intended for the harpsichord.
Be that as it may, I would not say it precludes playing the Goldberg Variations on piano or any other instrument that can convey the range, and  expressiveness of the Goldberg Variations.
Like Rachfan said. Bach was a slave to the instruments available to him at the time.
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!" -- Max Reger

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #16 on: August 14, 2003, 08:53:08 PM »
And so am I!
So much music, so little time........

Offline glamfolk

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #17 on: August 14, 2003, 10:46:36 PM »
Bravo RachFan!  I concur.  The ability of any music to withstand the test of time is testament to its greatness, and this includes malleability. Think of some wonderful bach harpsichord music as played on solo guitar.   Any composer is, to some extent, a slave to the instruments of his/her day.   Style is also an issue here.  I had a student playing a Bach cello piece on his bass guitar, and ended it with a flourish which included some pretty (improvised) blue notes.  The student was a wonderful and accomplished bassist  who really understood music as a language, and I thought his flourish was musical and creative.  The judge lambasted him and pretty well crushed his spirit.  Can't anyone have fun anymore?  Purists with no sense of music or fun give me the creeps.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #18 on: August 14, 2003, 11:05:41 PM »
I'm with you!  The purists that do not allow for any creativity are just going to keep classical music in a closet till it just dies away.  I think that since these folks are DEAD, that the ocassional flirtation with the style can't hurt and helps keep the music *fresh*.  Otherwise it's just the same old thing we've always heard - again.
So much music, so little time........

Offline ahmedito

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #19 on: September 04, 2003, 07:09:10 PM »
I completely agree. My bach is pretty out there in terms of style and Im a complete fan of improvisation. Just remember, no pedal no improv bach is ESSENTIAL as a teaching tool, the student learns to make a decent legato, independence of fingers and hands, and countless other stuff. Just dont confuse this with actually playing bach as a student its 2 different things.

One more thing, The surge in the 30s of that "dry" bach, came after decades of abuse by a romantic mentality. To me a romantic mentality is beautiful, but when its not supported by knowledge of style and other factors its useless... I mean, most people didnt even know that Couperin wrote for the harpsichord and not the piano.
You have to investigate and learn. There are many myths. A lot of bachs music was written for the clavichord, an instrument that has a ringing tone like the guitar, and CAN do dynamics, although its extremely soft... try to learn as much as you can, so you can come to an intelligent interpretative decision.
For a good laugh, check out my posts in the audition room, and tell me exactly how terrible they are :)

Offline jakester

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #20 on: September 05, 2003, 05:39:18 PM »
Also, to add to the previous message, just because a piece was written for the harpsichord doesn't mean dynamics were not involved - Any good harpsichordist were disagree with your fervently when you say a harpsichord can't do dynamics. And most "historically correct" (don't argue, I know there is no such thing) performances made on harpsichords are not by any means dry, and with an amount of rubato that one cannot use on a piano. I think, therefore, that when one plays bach on the piano, one should go for the idea of what Bach was after in the music, rather than try to make it sound as if it was a harpsichord or go overboard romantically. My bach playing has been criticized as slightly overly romantic, by the "dry" group of people, and I don't give a sh*t.

The moral of the story? play it whichever way you like. :)

Jakester the Jokester
The world without a pianist. That would be paradise. The world without a piano. That would be hell.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #21 on: September 06, 2003, 01:20:27 AM »
It is a physical fast that a harpsichord can only play at one dynamic,
Ed

Offline jakester

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Re: What about the use of the right pedal in Bach?
«Reply #22 on: September 06, 2003, 01:29:25 AM »
Ed, it might be a physical fact that harpsichord can play at only 1 Loudness, which is debatable due to the fact that they have different manuals, and also that the more notes you play, the louder it seems. However, any good harpsichordist will tell you that they can do crescendos and diminuendos on a harpsichord, without the help of manuals. It's an elaborate system of rubato, agogic accents, timing, and ornamentation that achieves such goals.

Jakester
The world without a pianist. That would be paradise. The world without a piano. That would be hell.



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