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Author Topic: Playing Bach like Mozart  (Read 18816 times)
kghayesh
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« on: October 12, 2006, 03:11:08 AM »

I am kinnda confused about how to interpret and play Bach on the piano. I don't know whether I should approach the score romantically (but not much) and try to add much nuances here and there and playing lazy legato with my fingers (lazy fingers are when you don't lift the previous sound until you play the next sound so that the sounds overlap. This guarantees a perfect legato.)

Or I should play it in a restricted Mozartian style, where nuances were limited and the touch detached resembling the touch of an old fortepiano.

I feel it is a big debate as we find recordings from world-reknown pianists who each conform to a rule of those.

I just want to know which approach is better. My teacher told me to play Bach deeply with emotion and seriousness and with an emphasis on a perfect legato.
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thierry13
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2006, 04:55:37 AM »

Do what you want. Bach didn't think it legato at all. It was played on the likes of harpsichord so ... no legato there. So, if you want to play it like Bach composed it, do NOT play it legato, but that doesn't mean it is less sensitive, or communicates less emotion. Legato isn't all. On the other hand ... if you don't care for what Bach did, and you want to play it your way... then you decide. Art is art ... you seem to define better by the closer to what Bach intended. Then it is no legato.
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nicco
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2006, 06:34:12 AM »

Bach was the first romantic, some say Wink
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mephisto
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2006, 07:03:27 AM »

Bach loved the clavichord were you can play legato, somehow.
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Mozartian
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2006, 06:05:33 PM »

I think your teacher is absolutely wrong to tell you to concentrate on a 'perfect legato' in Bach, especially in a fugue. A fugue, as you know, has multiple voices. I find it much more effective to employ different 'touches' to the different voices than to play them all legato (for example- one line of 16th notes being legato, although not romantically so, while another is short staccato 8th notes, while another trips along merrily in sets of twos, or whatever. Obviously depends on the piece). I think it's easier to bring out the different lines this way, and I think it sounds better.

That being said, I think the real trick to really learning to play Bach well is to listen to as many recordings and performances as you can of counterpuntal works and really develop your ear. A satisfying Bach performance doesn't lie so much in whether it's all legato or staccato as in whether or not the voices and lines are brought out and displayed to their fullest glory. I've heard 'romantic' Bach that I really liked, as well as more harpsichord style Bach that was wonderful; but both performances shared well-brought out and stunningly musical voices and lines.

Hope that helps, somewhat.

-moz
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[lau] 10:01 pm: like in 10/4 i think those little slurs everywhere are pointless for the music, but I understand if it was for improving technique
Kassaa
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2006, 06:57:14 PM »

I fully agree with Mozartian.

I'd like to add that Bach's musical lines are not long and superlegato like Chopin, it is way more articulated. The whole piece has still to be rhytmically structured and when you choose to play an articulation in a certain way, you should also keep it that way for whole the piece. I think it's fine if you play it expressively and legato, only you have to keep yourself to the rules of the Baroque
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2006, 04:47:37 AM »

I am kinnda confused about how to interpret and play Bach on the piano. I don't know whether I should approach the score romantically (but not much) and try to add much nuances here and there and playing lazy legato with my fingers (lazy fingers are when you don't lift the previous sound until you play the next sound so that the sounds overlap. This guarantees a perfect legato.)

Or I should play it in a restricted Mozartian style, where nuances were limited and the touch detached resembling the touch of an old fortepiano.

I feel it is a big debate as we find recordings from world-reknown pianists who each conform to a rule of those.

I just want to know which approach is better. My teacher told me to play Bach deeply with emotion and seriousness and with an emphasis on a perfect legato.

First of all every music has nuance, and maybe you mean something specific by nuance, but that I can't guess.  Bach's music probably has the most nuance of all.  This comes from legato, from articulation, from different kinds of ornamentation, from tempi, from characterisation, all this. 

Second of all, the fortepiano sound is not necessarily detached, as Mozart's contemporaries recorded that his playing was "like oil," though Beethoven, the master of the fortepiano, said his playing was "choppy," and if it was choppy, then surely a smooth sound (legato) was possible.

Third of all the nuance in Mozart is without bound, unless again you mean something specific by nuance.  I mean the character changes constantly, and the sound changes constantly.  If you try playing on a fortepiano, you may notice the great difference in timber between the registers (Lage in german).  Mozart exploited this to gain an operatic nuance and contrast in his piano works.  We often hear more monotone performances of his piano music today because people are not aware of this; we have to compensate on modern instruments that are more or less homogenous in register.

I think it is good that your teacher emphasizes the legato in Bach, because too often it is taken for granted that people will play it detached and dry, but legato adds such a beautiful effect.  I remember reading Ernest Hemingway who said that writers who imitated him only imitated his faults.  Strange that they would think of those as his strongest points.  Those who take Glenn Gould for instance as a starting point, do the same.  They don't listen actually to his wondrous use of legato, and his uncanny ear for contrast between a detached touch and a legato touch.  They only hear the detached, they only hear the most unusual thing, and miss all the subtly inside the performance.  There is just as much legato as staccato in Gould's Bach, and this I can promise you.

As for this person who is claiming that there is no such thing as legato in Bach because of a damn harpsichord, I can only throw my head back and laugh.  Bach had a harpsichord, a clavichord, and an organ, and God only knows what else.  If anything we should take organ articulation as a starting point, and this means for modern piano playing, that if anytime a note is repeated, it has to be non-legato, and not pedalled through.  Glenn Gould also understood this.  In his DVD of the Goldbergs, you can plainly see he does[/i/] use pedal, although so many people claimed he never did - this is a complete utter lie, and you can see it for yourself.  However he never used pedal to connect a note that was repeated with the previous one.  He always articulated!

Anyways, the understanding that harpsichord "can't make legato" is like the understanding that the piano "is not a flute."  But why does Busoni write quasi flauto in his Bach editions?  And why does Liszt write so many times, vibrato[/i/]?  It is because these things are possible, not because they are impossible.  It is possible for a harpsichord to make a legato, and if that is false, then Bach never would have written slurs or staccato marks into his music, which he did.

Walter Ramsey
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healdie
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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2008, 12:27:29 PM »

I depends on what sort of performance you are after, if you want it authentic then do not play it legato, but bach did not include dynamics, articulation or even tempo in his works as they were suppost to be interprated by the performer, but i think it is neglecting the advantages of the piano not to play expressivley, but i think you should interprate the piece yourself and if you feel it should be romantic, then play it romantic, Music is an art form so there is no right or wrong
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2008, 02:08:58 PM »

Of course you can play Bach legato! Where on earth does the idiotic idea of not playing legato come from??? You can get legato on a harpsichord! Bach was an organist, and LOVED legato on the organ. His choral music...legato lines a lot of the time, his string music...legato a lot of time. I don't understand why anyone would say Bach didn't like legato. Bach was obsessed with cantabile tone (and the other composers...and do singers sing staccato? erm...NO) hence the piano was invented.

Articulation is the main key to playing Bach well, and legato is one of the main features of articulation.

I depends on what sort of performance you are after, if you want it authentic then do not play it legato, but bach did not include dynamics, articulation or even tempo in his works as they were suppost to be interprated by the performer, but i think it is neglecting the advantages of the piano not to play expressivley, but i think you should interprate the piece yourself and if you feel it should be romantic, then play it romantic, Music is an art form so there is no right or wrong

Well what is an authentic performance? As far as I am aware, "do not play it legato" doesn't really offer an explanation.

He didn't include dynamics and markings becasue back then music was like a language. They didn't need to be told. Bach's music went "out of fashion" for a period of time, and this understanding was probably lost. Then his music was revived again by the Romantics, and the Romantic style of playing went with it. Then the academics came along, and gathered their evidence for "authentic" performance. I honestly think if you argue for authentic performance, you should at least start by playing on the right instrument!
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slobone
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2008, 06:08:29 PM »

But why does Busoni write quasi flauto in his Bach editions?  And why does Liszt write so many times, vibrato[/i/]?  It is because these things are possible, not because they are impossible. 

Great post, Walter, and I agree with everything you say. But how exactly do you make a vibrato sound on the piano?
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teresa_b
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2008, 08:30:42 PM »

Great post, Walter, and I agree with everything you say. But how exactly do you make a vibrato sound on the piano?

You don't!  I seem to recall the clavichord might lend itself to some sort of vibrato, but not the piano, since it's physically impossible. 

I notice this is an old thread resurrected, but if it's of any interest, I wonder why the poster would say Mozart is played with limited nuance.  Huh  I disagree that either Bach or Mozart ought to be played with "little" or no nuance.  The interpretations of each composer are quite different in my mind, too.  Bach's dynamics, for example are more terraced rather than being Romantic style crescendos, etc.  And while Bach's music to me is a stunning piece of architecture, Mozart's is purity and grace personified, and interpretation depends on the feel of the music. 
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slobone
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2008, 03:58:15 AM »

You don't!  I seem to recall the clavichord might lend itself to some sort of vibrato, but not the piano, since it's physically impossible. 

I notice this is an old thread resurrected, but if it's of any interest, I wonder why the poster would say Mozart is played with limited nuance.  Huh  I disagree that either Bach or Mozart ought to be played with "little" or no nuance.  The interpretations of each composer are quite different in my mind, too.  Bach's dynamics, for example are more terraced rather than being Romantic style crescendos, etc.  And while Bach's music to me is a stunning piece of architecture, Mozart's is purity and grace personified, and interpretation depends on the feel of the music. 

Very true, but don't underestimate Mozart's architecture. His music is put together brilliantly.
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teresa_b
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2008, 11:20:47 AM »

Very true, but don't underestimate Mozart's architecture. His music is put together brilliantly.

I didn't mean to dismiss Mozart's music as architecture, by any means.  I was trying to describe a gut reaction I have to each composer's music in general.  For me, each one reaches sublimity in a different way.  The architecture is more the essence of Bach, while the essence of Mozart is its seeming effortlessness, as though there were no "beams and posts" so to speak.  (We know there are, but the key is to make it seem as though it is flowing directly from the divine!)

Teresa
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classical88
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2008, 02:00:34 PM »

The question of playing Bach on the piano is a fascinating one.  What is clear is that none of his keyboard works were written specifically for the piano.  Therefore, my approach is to treat each piece as a transcription for the piano without changing any of the notes.  Studying what scholars tell us of performance practice in the 18th century regarding phrasing and articulation gives a starting point, and then I make it sound good on a modern piano.  As in any transcription, the aim is to use the strengths of the new medium, in this case the piano, so it is silly to try and play the piano like a harpsichord.  On the other hand, the piano's strengths can be utilized quite freely and effectively without excessively "Romantic" long lines and rubato.  I truly believe that Bach's music sounds best when a balance is achieved between 18th century performance practice and the use of a late 19th and 20th century instrument.  Because of this, we have the wonderful variety that exists in the interpretations of Bach's music.

Many years ago, I began study with a teacher who always worked with every new student on Bach, because Bach "gives us more freedom than any other composer in the standard repertoire."  When I reacted with the expected surprise, he explained that Bach for the most part wrote only the notes and rhythms, leaving all the other decisions to the player, and therefore seeing what a new student would do with Bach told him much about the potential artistry of that student.
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2008, 07:29:26 PM »

I am kinnda confused about how to interpret and play Bach on the piano.
You've read a lot of opinions until now. Let me just add this: Interpretation isnt deterministic. Try to think in terms of 'whatever serves the structure and the music itself best, is legitimate'. Never restrict yourself to fixed rules. Think concrete as you approach that one specific piece you're working on, and think abstract as you remind yourself that this is baroque contrapunctual music.
Since you're playing an instrument that is perfect for contrapunctual music, you must use every possibilty (articulation, volume, rhythm) to stress individuality as well as synthesis of the voices.   

There seem to be some general rules as to how to play bach, such as clarity, deliberate staccato, good voicing etc, but as soon as you work on one concrete piece, you must first grasp its essence, i.e. what its all about, to find out what exactly you need to do with the different voices and the legato and staccato and the speed and whatnot. The music is paramount, and in order to bring it out, everything is ok, because music itself is beyond rules.
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« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2008, 05:23:22 PM »

My teacher told me to play Bach deeply with emotion and seriousness and with an emphasis on a perfect legato.

I think your teacher is right and gives you excellent suggestion.

Re: legato vs. detached.
There should be very a clear distinction between formal physical legato and mental one, which in a broader understanding is a connection between ideas, rather than notes. It is possible formally connect notes, but they would sound completely disconnected. On the other hand, playing detached can be perfectly organaized and connected into ideas.

A perfect example would be G. Gould.  Some say he plays non legato, when in reality it is perfectly connected. It might be sounded paradoxal, but in this sense, non-legato is a highest incarnation of legato.

Best, M
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« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2008, 06:49:12 AM »

So... good morning all, and welcome back to me, who hasn't been on this forum for a while now!

I cannot believe such a fine bunch of musicians as yourselves have managed to speak on articulation to this extent, without mentioning acoustics.

Allow me to generalise, and say that Bach himself performed mostly in very large acoustics, whether at court, or in churches. Modern concerthalls fall usually within certain parameters - optimized mainly to romantic symphonic repertoire, piano recitals, and sometimes for clarity of the spoken word. Now obviously if one were to record a piano disc [Liszt, Rachmaninov, any of the big stuff], somewhere like the Boston Symphony Hall might be your preference, if you could get it. And most modern concert halls are designed to fall somewhere in the vicinity of this room.

Now back to Bach... and if you look at the places he performed his music, on a weekly basis, you see that they are generally far more cathedralesque... sounds are more "floaty" and less direct than the most acoustically-generous of modern halls, not to mention far longer reverberation times [perhaps 8 or 9 seconds compared to about 2 in Boston Symphony Hall], and "wetter" or at least "less clean" sounding.

If you hear perhaps a Bach Cantata in a European cathedral/church, it would probably be a far different experience to the same cantata sung by the same choir, in a modern concert venue.

So, by extrapolation, I would propose that, as a rule for a good musician, the playing must be tailored to the acoustic. The same prelude and fugue would be played very differently in [1] Notre Dame, [2] Boston Symphony Hall, [3] a lounge room. In all three cases, the instrument could well be the same [a Steinway B, a harpsichord, whatever], but the playing would change.

In the same way that Bach on a Steinway is far from "original practice", so too is Bach in a modern venue. Now what I don't understand is why today's pianists, performing on Steinways in modern halls, are so interested in authenticity.... "Bach didn't play legato, so I won't".

I'd say Bach was a musician first and foremost, and tried to get the best and most musical result, using whatever was available.

However, to be scientific about this, my main point is that "articulation" is really an acoustical question, if one is interested in the "effect" of the articulation moreso than the "cause" [the finger's duration and touch on the key].

So surely this is the startpoint for a musicians' dialogue on Bachian articulation?
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m
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« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2008, 08:08:08 AM »

So... good morning all, and welcome back to me, who hasn't been on this forum for a while now!

I cannot believe such a fine bunch of musicians as yourselves have managed to speak on articulation to this extent, without mentioning acoustics.

Allow me to generalise, and say that Bach himself performed mostly in very large acoustics, whether at court, or in churches. Modern concerthalls fall usually within certain parameters - optimized mainly to romantic symphonic repertoire, piano recitals, and sometimes for clarity of the spoken word. Now obviously if one were to record a piano disc [Liszt, Rachmaninov, any of the big stuff], somewhere like the Boston Symphony Hall might be your preference, if you could get it. And most modern concert halls are designed to fall somewhere in the vicinity of this room.

Now back to Bach... and if you look at the places he performed his music, on a weekly basis, you see that they are generally far more cathedralesque... sounds are more "floaty" and less direct than the most acoustically-generous of modern halls, not to mention far longer reverberation times [perhaps 8 or 9 seconds compared to about 2 in Boston Symphony Hall], and "wetter" or at least "less clean" sounding.

If you hear perhaps a Bach Cantata in a European cathedral/church, it would probably be a far different experience to the same cantata sung by the same choir, in a modern concert venue.

So, by extrapolation, I would propose that, as a rule for a good musician, the playing must be tailored to the acoustic. The same prelude and fugue would be played very differently in [1] Notre Dame, [2] Boston Symphony Hall, [3] a lounge room. In all three cases, the instrument could well be the same [a Steinway B, a harpsichord, whatever], but the playing would change.

In the same way that Bach on a Steinway is far from "original practice", so too is Bach in a modern venue. Now what I don't understand is why today's pianists, performing on Steinways in modern halls, are so interested in authenticity.... "Bach didn't play legato, so I won't".

I'd say Bach was a musician first and foremost, and tried to get the best and most musical result, using whatever was available.

However, to be scientific about this, my main point is that "articulation" is really an acoustical question, if one is interested in the "effect" of the articulation moreso than the "cause" [the finger's duration and touch on the key].

So surely this is the startpoint for a musicians' dialogue on Bachian articulation?

I have a couple questions, if I may.

The original poster asked very specific question. In the light of your message, how would s/he approach start working on Bach?

As a side note, may I ask you how many times you yourself played Bach (or anything, for that matter) in:

1) Notre Dame, and
2) Boston Symphony Hall.

Best regards, M
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slobone
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2008, 11:08:52 AM »

Bach's keyboard music (other than the organ music), like all solo keyboard music before Liszt invented the piano recital, was meant to be played in a private home, not in a public performance. So you're right that a performer playing the music in a concert hall today has to make some adjustments to the sound.

But that doesn't affect most of us here, who are just playing at home. And it doesn't really solve the problem of articulation.

Which anyway I think is starting at the wrong end. Bach's music is contrapuntal, and the right place to start is figuring out which note belongs in which voice. Then you need to decide where you want to bring out individual voices, and where you can just focus on the overall texture.

Only then should you decide on articulation. It may be that it works better for one voice to be staccato, or half-staccato, and the other legato. I have a place in one of the Goldberg Variations where I play the right-hand eighth notes legato, while simultaneously playing the left-hand eighth notes in a short staccato. It works fine for me, though obviously that's not the way GG plays it.
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« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2008, 03:32:23 AM »

Hi Marik,

MARIK, attempts to show people up like this, and critisize through implication, are not going to help the greater musical good, you would agree?

This may well be a semi-anonymous piano forum, but I request your written apology.

Peter
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« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2008, 05:25:08 PM »

1) When a piece by Bach is played by a modern piano we already hear a trancription.  Authenticity is irrelevant because the sound it by default different from what Bach had in mind.

2) Bach wrote not only for keyboard. I usually try to think of orchestral or choral "instrumentations" when playing Bach. A 4 voice fugue for me is supposed to sound like a string quartet or a choir with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.


Quote
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thierry13
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« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2008, 08:19:01 PM »

1) When a piece by Bach is played by a modern piano we already hear a trancription.  Authenticity is irrelevant because the sound it by default different from what Bach had in mind.

2) Bach wrote not only for keyboard. I usually try to think of orchestral or choral "instrumentations" when playing Bach. A 4 voice fugue for me is supposed to sound like a string quartet or a choir with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.

Very good post. I'd like to add that you CAN think of it as an harpsichord ALSO. It's a matter of choice/interpretation. Glenn Gould often chose the harpsichord esthetic, wich is very good, and the orchestral/choral esthetic is also very effective and convincing when played well.
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general disarray
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« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2008, 05:22:13 AM »

This is a tired revival of an ancient thread.

As a musician, if you have to ask others how to play Bach, you better hang it up.

Bach IS music.  He's whatever your heart yearns for.  Just play what you feel, for goddssake. 

Music is the last frontier of freedom.  It's the soul's expression.

Express it.  Without shame.  Without apologies.

Bach connected with infinity.  He won't object to legato.  Just enjoy him.  Trust me.
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« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2008, 04:33:11 PM »

2) Bach wrote not only for keyboard. I usually try to think of orchestral or choral "instrumentations" when playing Bach. A 4 voice fugue for me is supposed to sound like a string quartet or a choir with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.
I agree, but only partially. Bach didn't write the same way for keyboard as he did for a chorus or an instrumental ensemble.

When he writes for four performers, each part is relatively strong and independent. Especially in vocal music, where the singer is singing a text, it's usually possible to sing, say, the tenor part by itself and have it sound like a melody all the way through.

That's not always true in the keyboard music. If you try it you'll find that there are places where the part is strongly melodic (such as at an entrance of a subject), and others where the voice is mainly contributing notes to the overall harmony. Parts disappear for a measure or two and then come back in with only a fragment of a melody, stuff like that.

As a performer, you need to be aware of this and keep a good balance between the vertical and horizontal aspects of the music. But when you're learning a fugue, it's a useful exercise to play the voices separately so you can hear what they're doing.

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« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2008, 10:29:25 PM »

Bach IS music.  He's whatever your heart yearns for.  Just play what you feel, for goddssake. 

Music is the last frontier of freedom.  It's the soul's expression.

Express it.  Without shame.  Without apologies.

Bach connected with infinity.  He won't object to legato.  Just enjoy him.  Trust me.

Well said!
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« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2008, 11:31:10 PM »

Bach connected with infinity.  He won't object to legato. 

i.e., "He's dead, do as you please?"

All kidding aside, there are many shades of legato (though I'm sure Mr. Disarray does not speak of a quasi-Debussy "glued finger" touch) and the ear will tell us what is the right tone color for each individual piece of Bach's.
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general disarray
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« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2008, 04:37:50 AM »

i.e., "He's dead, do as you please?"

All kidding aside, there are many shades of legato (though I'm sure Mr. Disarray does not speak of a quasi-Debussy "glued finger" touch) and the ear will tell us what is the right tone color for each individual piece of Bach's.

"All kidding aside," Mr Langlois, your loose and oddly hostile interpretation of my comments manage to cloud my argument:  if you have ANY musicality at all, you will find no problem with Bach's notation.  The music speaks for itself.  Where legato is necessary, if you are a true musician, you will instinctively be aware of it.  As to the infinite "shades of legato," well, only Maestro Langlois seems to hold those magical keys.   
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michael_langlois
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« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2008, 11:36:12 AM »

  The music speaks for itself. 

Precisely!
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m
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« Reply #28 on: June 08, 2008, 06:45:06 AM »

Hi Marik,

MARIK, attempts to show people up like this, and critisize through implication, are not going to help the greater musical good, you would agree?

This may well be a semi-anonymous piano forum, but I request your written apology.

Peter

Dear Peter,

For some reason I misread the tone of your message and specifically that of 2nd sentence, which for some reason I perceived rather sarcastic. I can see now how it gave me a wrong starting point, which resulted in rather abrasive tone of my message, for which I gladly apologise. Hopefully, you don't keep hard feelings...

Re: articulation and acoustics.
I understand and could see some validity of your point. I could however argue that certain acoustics affect rather performing aspects, such as choose of tempo, use of pedal, etc., i.e. something that only experienced artists can know (and only when coming for dress rehearsal).
In this respect Bach's music is not much different from performance of Mozart, Liszt, or Bartok.

On the other hand, I highly doubt Bach was writing his music thinking about set up it was supposed to be performed (or even instrument--He was composing MUSIC).
Throughout all his keyboard output we can distinctly see very different mix of genres and sounds even in one set of pieces (let's take almost any Partita, for example, where some cathedralesque moments are immediately followed by Giguealesque ( Shocked)), which rather supports this assertion.

I however completely agree with you saying I'd say Bach was a musician first and foremost, and tried to get the best and most musical result, using whatever was available.

I am for one who believes that only emotional and intellectual connection with Bach's music, based on deep studying of its style, syntax, punctuation, diction, and motive construction can tell one about articulation.
This and only this can determine the "right" of performance, which can take hundreds different ways or directions, including such different, but equally beautiful and effective approaches as Feinberg, Tureck, Richter, Babayan, Gould, or Feltsman...

Best, Mark

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general disarray
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« Reply #29 on: June 08, 2008, 03:22:15 PM »

Amen.  Well said.
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« Reply #30 on: June 09, 2008, 01:29:26 PM »

Marik, excellent post, I would only add that Bach is different from almost every other composer in that some of his music is very abstractly conceived. He was fascinated by the technical aspect of music, and there is a very strong intellectual dimension to his compositions.

That's why they can work (usually) when transcribed for almost any instrument or combination of instruments.

The other thing that makes Bach different from most of the composers we play is that, in his day, composers usually didn't indicate tempo, dynamics, or articulation in their scores. That's why we're having this discussion in the first place. If it were Chopin, we wouldn't be asking "should you play staccato or legato" because he tells you which he wants (not always, to be sure.)

So ultimately you have to use your own taste and judgment, but as you point out, it can take a lifetime to develop that.

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« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2008, 04:04:54 PM »

I agree, but only partially. Bach didn't write the same way for keyboard as he did for a chorus or an instrumental ensemble.




An interesting tidbit, did you know that in Bach's time, he was often criticized by his contemporaries for writing vocal music as if it were keyboard music?

Walter Ramsey


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« Reply #32 on: June 19, 2008, 10:45:12 PM »

An interesting tidbit, did you know that in Bach's time, he was often criticized by his contemporaries for writing vocal music as if it were keyboard music?

Walter Ramsey



As was Beethoven, in the 9th symphony. As one who's sung in the chorus for that, I wholeheartedly concur. They could easily have replaced me with a tuba...
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storyseller
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« Reply #33 on: June 20, 2008, 08:11:36 AM »

Quote
That's why they can work (usually) when transcribed for almost any instrument or combination of instruments.

True, I've seen in happen - Fugues by Bach played live, transcribed for string quartet. It really was a revelation.
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« Reply #34 on: June 24, 2008, 04:45:26 AM »

As a matter of technicality, you can't actually play legato on a piano either.... Technically speaking. You can however give the effect, which is what we try to do. This is possible on a harpsichord as well. Play faster is all. True legato is not possible on any of the percussion/keyboard instruments largely available today. However, there are many schools of thought on interpreting Bach. I find this particularly exciting in that Bach gives no markings of his own, and in a strange way, we are actually free to do more than in romantic music or the like. I would suggest studying Bach, doing some research on common schools of Bach interpretation, and drawing your own conclusions.

Also, that lazy fingers bit you're talking about. That's how you're supposed to play legato. Chopin was very particular about that in his students.
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Karli
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« Reply #35 on: October 24, 2008, 02:54:10 PM »

.
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m
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« Reply #36 on: October 26, 2008, 04:54:57 PM »


At the very least, your post (coupled with my experience at the instrument) has provided me with a new curiousity and "level" to listen for in Glenn Gould's pianism, as well as listening for more detail in others and in myself.  So, thank you Smiley.


I am glad at least one person found my post helpful  Smiley.
Also listen to old masters, and esp. Josef Hoffmann. They knew secrets of perle, which is a very light staccato with illusion of perfect legato.

Best, M
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« Reply #37 on: October 28, 2008, 03:43:45 AM »

.
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« Reply #38 on: October 29, 2008, 03:27:51 AM »

Golly gosh people get confused over simple terms. I didn't think that legato could be explained in so many ways.

But legato is such a small aspect of playing Bach. We should of course understand two different ways to approach his music, that of which pays respect to our modern instrument and also the instruments of the day (organ, harpsichord, clavichord, fortepiano etc). Musical Phrasing is a term that should replace LEGATO when dealing with Bach. Sing Bach, when you physically feel like you need to take a new breath do the same on the piano.
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« Reply #39 on: April 08, 2009, 10:04:38 AM »

We should of course understand two different ways to approach his music, (...)

Actually, I would even venture to say there are more than two ways; Bach’s music is such a multi-layered one. In that respect, I think that attempting to generalize on how to play Bach on the piano is fundamentally erroneous for different reasons, and mainly because his various keyboard works are very diverse, each set using distinctive “musical vocabulary” (although I don’t really like language analogies) and setting up different atmospheres.

I think it’s mistaken to reduce Bach to a “baroque composer”; after all, the greater part of his work was written in the ending of what is considered the baroque era. Bach already had one foot out of the baroque boundaries; he was basically a rule-breaker, a very rigorous one for that matter, which is somewhat paradoxical; but in my opinion, a substantive part of his music was somewhat removed from the era he was living, I’m even tempted to say that it is not temporal.

Another interesting fact about Bach is that he didn’t hesitate to “recycle” some of his works; a famous example is BWV 1006 and BWV 1006a which is the same material for which Bach himself provided a version for solo violin and a version for lute (for which a bass line is added). I think it’s quite interestingly revealing about Bach’s mindset about instruments because, although both lute and violin are string instruments, they are extremely different instruments as far as sound, articulation and resonance are concerned. That suggests that Bach didn’t care a lot about those aspects, inviting us to rather focus on the musical content. The instrument is just a “container”.

As a consequence, my current opinion is that the debate around “Bach on the piano” is an artificial one. There is no general answer as to play legato or staccato nor is there any general answer Re. pedaling or playing dry like on a harpsichord.

I think it’s more relevant to think in terms of choice to emphasize (or not) some voice(s) in the counterpoint. And when we choose to emphasize, how do we do it? (With dynamics? With articulation? With agogics?)

All those decisions cannot be made without an in-depth understanding of the music itself and it will guide us to the appropriate technical means.
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« Reply #40 on: April 09, 2009, 12:24:02 AM »

Interpretations of Bach are limitless.

Play however sounds the most pleasing to your ear. Don't let anyone persuade you with "rules" or fashions or the technicalities of pianism, nor let the tribe that want to be known as "virtuosi" persuade you either.

Music is meant to be enjoyed, and if you are the one playing it, you should be the one enjoying it the most. :)

If others disagree with your interpretation, very well. If you're overwhelmingly honest about pleasing yourself you're almost sure to please others.
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« Reply #41 on: April 09, 2009, 01:08:57 AM »

When I said 2 ways I really meant the traditional and the pianistic approach. Of course there are many sub sections that stem of each.

We had a little discussion on interpretating Bach here:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,32232.msg376950.html#msg376950
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