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bach inventions (Read 4007 times)

Offline guidofellini

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bach inventions
« on: April 04, 2008, 08:18:43 PM »
Hi everyone ! I'm have just began to work on Bach inventions. I'm working no.1 and no.4.  I just watched some videos on youtube and I noticed than lots of pianists play these pieces staccato. There is no indication for that on the score.  Why do most of them play like this ? Why not legato ? Should Bach be played always staccato ? Thanks in advance. Sorry for my english, I'm not a native speaker.

Sheet music to download and print: Inventions by Bach



Offline cygnusdei

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #1 on: April 04, 2008, 08:55:54 PM »
Playing Bach on the piano, you have artistic license for articulations. I'd say articulations are secondary to phrasing, steadiness of rhythm, and tonal control. If you have these nailed down, the audience will care less if you play legato/staccato. If anything, a person is not limited to just one interpretation of a piece.

My opinion though, if melodic lines are composed of short intervals (2nds), staccato is okay because the melody can still be easily perceived. I'm not sure it will work for larger intervals.

Have you heard the fugue subject of BWV 565 played staccato?

Offline dan101

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #2 on: April 04, 2008, 09:16:51 PM »
Depending on the tempo, Bach's music is often played with a non-legato touch (not as short as true staccatos). The touch is trying to best reflect the style and instrumentation of Bach's time. As for dynamics and tempo, that's left to you. Best of luck.
Daniel E. Friedman, owner of www.musicmasterstudios.com
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Offline nyquist

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #3 on: April 05, 2008, 02:36:58 AM »
Often, in the inventions, one voice goes twice as fast as the other.  In that case I often play the faster voice legato and the slower staccato.  Just try different approaches and decide what you like.  There is no general agreement on what is appropriate.  Even specialists in original instruments will disagree.

nyquist

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #4 on: April 05, 2008, 09:51:48 AM »
Ill tell you some 'general rules' about how to play Bach:

1) 8s are played like 'half stacato', so abit longer than normal stacato.
2) if something goes up, play it abit crescendo
3) if something goes down, play it abit dim.
4) no pedalling
5) hardly any legato.

And watch your left hand. Baroque music (like bach) isnt played like Romantic (right hand has usually melody and thus louder).  Melodies are in both hands.

Good luck, gyzzzmo
1+1=11

Offline popdog

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #5 on: April 05, 2008, 10:26:11 AM »
These are some good suggestions.  In my experience 8th notes tend to be played slightly detached (not staccato-not legato).  One way of approaching this is to gather a number of different recordings of the pieces you are learning and listen to the different interpretations, choosing what you think is appropriate.  Also there are plenty of books around on interpreting Bach which might be worth using as a reference. 

It sounds like you don't have a teacher, but try and talk to a teacher or pianists you know if you can.  That might help. 

popdog.

Offline slobone

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #6 on: April 06, 2008, 08:02:49 AM »
Two words: Glenn Gould. He played nearly everything by Bach staccato, for reasons of his own. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. However, there's a whole generation of pianists now who grew up being told that he was God when it came to Bach, so they imitate him as whenever possible.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #7 on: April 06, 2008, 03:26:39 PM »
Two words: Glenn Gould. He played nearly everything by Bach staccato, for reasons of his own. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. However, there's a whole generation of pianists now who grew up being told that he was God when it came to Bach, so they imitate him as whenever possible.

I dont like the Gould recordings, as you said theyre like all stacato and missing alot of musicality. Too much technique ;)
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Offline slobone

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #8 on: April 07, 2008, 08:07:07 PM »
I admire some of his recordings enormously, for example the second Goldberg recording, although parts of it irritate the hell out of me. But I think he's the only performer who's truly succeeded at turning the variations into a full-scale composition, a narrative if you will, with a sense of progression and dramatic peaks and valleys.

But I reiterate: don't try this at home!

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #9 on: April 07, 2008, 09:15:36 PM »
The Bach inventions are amazing music, and should certainly be played by more pianists. I also find that if you want to develop a big octave technique, learn the 2 part inventions in double octaves  :D And still play musically of course, and legato as possible. Very hard to do, but very useful, and much much much more musical than Czerny octaves.

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #10 on: April 07, 2008, 09:19:05 PM »
The Bach inventions are amazing music, and should certainly be played by more pianists. I also find that if you want to develop a big octave technique, learn the 2 part inventions in double octaves  :D And still play musically of course, and legato as possible. Very hard to do, but very useful, and much much much more musical than Czerny octaves.

You mean staccato?

nyuk nyuk nyuk .......

Offline term

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #11 on: April 08, 2008, 07:29:53 AM »
Ill tell you some 'general rules' about how to play Bach:

1) 8s are played like 'half stacato', so abit longer than normal stacato.
2) if something goes up, play it abit crescendo
3) if something goes down, play it abit dim.
4) no pedalling
5) hardly any legato.
These rules are too stiff. I'd modify this. As written, its just plain wrong.
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something." - Plato
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Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #12 on: April 08, 2008, 10:44:12 AM »
These rules are too stiff. I'd modify this. As written, its just plain wrong.

Always funy these people.... 'ITS JUST PLAIN WRONG!!!'
I think they'll work fine as general rules, if you dont agree with them, you better make a usefull reply instead of replying kid stuff.
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Offline franzliszt2

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #13 on: April 08, 2008, 02:30:00 PM »
You mean staccato?

nyuk nyuk nyuk .......

No I do mean legato. Obiously the thumb canniot be legato, but the top can be at all times, but obviously you will play sections that are staccato....staccato  :)

Offline thierry13

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #14 on: April 08, 2008, 03:32:14 PM »
Ill tell you some 'general rules' about how to play Bach:

1) 8s are played like 'half stacato', so abit longer than normal stacato.
2) if something goes up, play it abit crescendo
3) if something goes down, play it abit dim.
4) no pedalling
5) hardly any legato.

And watch your left hand. Baroque music (like bach) isnt played like Romantic (right hand has usually melody and thus louder).  Melodies are in both hands.

Good luck, gyzzzmo

I'd have to agree those are hardly general rules. We are not playing their old instruments so be it. We play Bach on the piano, well that's Bach on the piano, that's not Bach on his old harpsichord. I think that the rule if something goes up crescendo and inverse when it does down simply doesn't work that good musically and it's too romantic. If you want to play Bach in his style, it's not by trying to make a non-pedal and staccato sound on a piano, but by the structure of the pieces. There SOULD be, by all means, legato in Bach. Not to abuse, but it's VERY good to use it in some counterpoint. Finally, I wouldn't play the right and the left hand on the same volume. It's not a hands thing. It's a voice thing. You should ->often<- play the voice of the subject/theme or main melody out of the rest. You have to create a sort of stair in your voicing or it just doesn't make sense. It's allways a voice thing and you must make them work together, not against each other.

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #15 on: April 08, 2008, 07:22:24 PM »
Proposal:

Pick an invention and post your interpretation of the piece! Actually since the OP is learning nos. 1 and 4, just pick either one.

My prediction: success of the interpretation depends less on articulation and more on phrasing, rhythmic and tonal control.

Oh, I'd be interested in hearing the double-octaves!

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #16 on: April 08, 2008, 09:09:34 PM »
I'd have to agree those are hardly general rules. We are not playing their old instruments so be it. We play Bach on the piano, well that's Bach on the piano, that's not Bach on his old harpsichord. I think that the rule if something goes up crescendo and inverse when it does down simply doesn't work that good musically and it's too romantic. If you want to play Bach in his style, it's not by trying to make a non-pedal and staccato sound on a piano, but by the structure of the pieces. There SOULD be, by all means, legato in Bach. Not to abuse, but it's VERY good to use it in some counterpoint. Finally, I wouldn't play the right and the left hand on the same volume. It's not a hands thing. It's a voice thing. You should ->often<- play the voice of the subject/theme or main melody out of the rest. You have to create a sort of stair in your voicing or it just doesn't make sense. It's allways a voice thing and you must make them work together, not against each other.

We're indeed not playing it on an old harpichord/clavecimbel, but its still baroque music. And thats why people should play it baroqish. And people should really avoid those 16s too legato, because if you perform Bach on a grand, bach is getting blurred if you play it legato as in Chopin.

About the right hand/ left hand, i gues i wasnt clear enough in my explanation. Youre absolutely right there, but i just wanted to get him off that romantic idea of 'melody-right hand' and thus thinking with the right hand.
gyzzz
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Offline slobone

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #17 on: April 09, 2008, 01:35:17 AM »
Always with Bach's contrapuntal music, there's a horizontal aspect and a vertical aspect. Sometimes one comes to the fore, sometimes the other. Even in a piece with 2 or more distinct voices, they're not always both equally interesting. Sometimes one is just providing harmonic support for the others.

So yes, there will be times when one of the voices (not always the top one) takes the lead, other times when it's more interesting to play them as equals. It's very hard to generalize, and even in the same piece, good players can handle it differently.

As for staccato/legato -- neither one is going to make your piano sound like a harpsichord! So don't even try for that. I'm finding with the Goldbergs, for example, that there are places where the 8th notes need to be legato, or half-staccato, or full staccato. There are certainly ways to do it without indulging in romantic excess. (Sixteenth notes I generally play legato, but I'm not dogmatic about it.)

I think Bach very consciously tried to make his music as abstractly beautiful as possible -- some of his pieces may never even have been intended to be played. That's why transcriptions of his music for almost any instrument still work. Including transcriptions for the piano...

Offline nia_kurniati

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #18 on: April 09, 2008, 02:35:30 AM »
As far as I know it neither staccato or legato. It should be portato (half staccato) because it would sound like old piano (harpsichord??). And when I start to learn invention, I start with 1 phrase 1 hand first. After I know each phrase then I play both hands but still within in 1 phrase. I go with this way until all the song. With this way I can play the melodic line clearly. What others think about it? Sorry I am not native too.

Hi everyone ! I'm have just began to work on Bach inventions. I'm working no.1 and no.4.  I just watched some videos on youtube and I noticed than lots of pianists play these pieces staccato. There is no indication for that on the score.  Why do most of them play like this ? Why not legato ? Should Bach be played always staccato ? Thanks in advance. Sorry for my english, I'm not a native speaker.

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #19 on: April 09, 2008, 09:07:14 AM »
Legato and staccato is possible on a harpsichord (a good one), and there are many ways to articulate. I studied Bach on Haprsichord for a while, and discovered very quickly that you cannot apply the same style onto the piano. You have to use articulation to do everything, becasue you can't simply bring a voice through by volume alone.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #20 on: April 09, 2008, 09:34:24 AM »
Cant remember i implied anywhere that bach-on-piano should be played as bach-on-harpichord. It should be played like baroque music, not romantic, thats all.
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Offline slobone

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #21 on: April 09, 2008, 09:53:20 AM »
Legato and staccato is possible on a harpsichord (a good one), and there are many ways to articulate. I studied Bach on Haprsichord for a while, and discovered very quickly that you cannot apply the same style onto the piano. You have to use articulation to do everything, becasue you can't simply bring a voice through by volume alone.
Depends what you mean by volume. The piano allows for small adjustments in dynamics not possible on the harpsichord, which can be used to shape a phrase. That's really what all pianists do instinctively anyway. Together with articulation, that takes you a long way toward independence of voices.

I guess if you want to sound more baroque-style on the piano, you should avoid large-scale changes in dynamics and tempo, like crescendos and accelerandos. Not to mention rubato, although as mentioned on another thread, there may be a place for agogic accent in the appropriate style.

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #22 on: April 09, 2008, 01:12:05 PM »
Depends what you mean by volume. The piano allows for small adjustments in dynamics not possible on the harpsichord, which can be used to shape a phrase. That's really what all pianists do instinctively anyway. Together with articulation, that takes you a long way toward independence of voices.

I guess if you want to sound more baroque-style on the piano, you should avoid large-scale changes in dynamics and tempo, like crescendos and accelerandos. Not to mention rubato, although as mentioned on another thread, there may be a place for agogic accent in the appropriate style.

Why avoid large scale dynamics? Just listen to the choral music of Bach to realise that music in the past was all quiet and subtle changes. 2nd partita for example can really be quiet loud. Play it on a harpsichord and you'll see how dramatic it sounds. Of course you don't play bach like Rachmaninoff, but I think there is still a huge dynamic range available. Tempo should always be natural, metronomic bach does not work, and if you play it on harpsichord, you find yoursefl doing loads of rubato, and spreading chords, and of course adding extra ornaments.

Bach's music is so free, there's no real exact style, the music is so divine it cannot have an appropriate style as such.

Has anyone ever played any Rameau, Couperin, Froberger etc...? Studying that music on harpsichord is really amazing, and will change your views on Bach.

If you really want to get a sense of style and voicing, listen to the choral music by Bach. The problem with the harpsichord is when you want to articulate a particular phrase one way, you have to maintain that articulation (especially in fugues). Therefore later on in the piece, you may get a section which has 4 voices, and you can't get a legato effect becasue it is physically impossible, therefore you have to go back and change the articulation for the whole piece. On piano you don't get this problem, because you can touch the pedal. Thats why I prefer the 48 on a piano. I prefer Goldberg variations on harpsichord though.

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #23 on: April 09, 2008, 04:51:08 PM »
I prefer Goldberg variations on harpsichord though.

The 2 clav comes in handy in variation 5.

Offline term

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #24 on: April 09, 2008, 05:29:03 PM »
Always funy these people.... 'ITS JUST PLAIN WRONG!!!'
I think they'll work fine as general rules, if you dont agree with them, you better make a usefull reply instead of replying kid stuff.
I'm sorry to not be able to even partly agree, however just because i can't doesn't make it 'kid stuff', nor that you don't like my answer.
The most useful answer is the one that i already gave, don't follow these rules as they generalise interpretation of a variety of pieces from a certain composer - in other words, trying to put into a straight jacket what should be free and creative interpretation.
So instead, i suggest you better give good reasons why these rules are of any relevance and on what foundation they're based if they claim to be generally true. I mean, i'm familiar with the argument of historical authenticity, but interpretation is not and never has been bound to rules of the past. It can be, but doesn't need to.
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something." - Plato
"The only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth" - Eco

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #25 on: April 09, 2008, 08:05:22 PM »
Because i got these general rules for baroque/bach by a conservatory teacher. I applied them, did audition, and got praised for my Bach performance (didnt study there afterall btw). Also, if you're familiar with historical authenticity, you should know that especially baroque music is pretty bound to rules, in contrast with romantic music.
With that 'kid-stuff' i ment that you're replying in a way especially kids seem to do: Being against alot, but dont give any decent argumentation.
You may disagree, but try correcting in an adult way, with explanation if you know everything that right.

gyzzzmo
1+1=11

Offline Kassaa

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #26 on: April 09, 2008, 08:25:54 PM »
Which teacher? PM me if you don't want to say it publicly.
Everything will pass, and the world will perish but the Waldstein Sonata will remain.

Offline thierry13

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #27 on: April 10, 2008, 01:24:24 AM »
Because i got these general rules for baroque/bach by a conservatory teacher. I applied them, did audition, and got praised for my Bach performance (didnt study there afterall btw). Also, if you're familiar with historical authenticity, you should know that especially baroque music is pretty bound to rules, in contrast with romantic music.
With that 'kid-stuff' i ment that you're replying in a way especially kids seem to do: Being against alot, but dont give any decent argumentation.
You may disagree, but try correcting in an adult way, with explanation if you know everything that right.

gyzzzmo

If he suggests no legato and no pedal as a rule, the quality of this teacher is doubtful ... of course you do not put pedal at the bottom of it's action, but it is essential to some parts to use half-pedals or less/more. The hardly any legato part is laughable. Just listen to Glenn Gould play Bach. He uses lots of pedal and legato, and his Bach is gorgeous. Same for Hewitt, except she's nothing compared to Gould. I recently saw her play some P&F at a concert ... it was REALLY bad. <- That's for my taste, but even objectively, it was at most decent. Some of her recordings are great tough, but still nothing compared to Gould.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #28 on: April 10, 2008, 07:10:45 AM »
Bit weird, if i listen Glen Gould's WTC recordings, he plays like everything stacato.
Also about Gould. You might take him as your BIG example, but Gould's Bach translations are highly critisized by many people. Maybe you like him alot because you are american yourself(?). Another thing, if you listen to a recording, especially if its a recording from some of his concerts, the way you hear it isnt always the way you play it.
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Offline Kassaa

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #29 on: April 10, 2008, 09:36:04 AM »
Bit weird, if i listen Glen Gould's WTC recordings, he plays like everything stacato.
Also about Gould. You might take him as your BIG example, but Gould's Bach translations are highly critisized by many people. Maybe you like him alot because you are american yourself(?). Another thing, if you listen to a recording, especially if its a recording from some of his concerts, the way you hear it isnt always the way you play it.
Gould was

tadada

Canadian

Gould is often criticized by conservative dogmatic cocks who can't accept Bach being played in a way other than their 'normal' way.
Everything will pass, and the world will perish but the Waldstein Sonata will remain.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #30 on: April 10, 2008, 10:59:31 AM »
Canadian i gues, my fault :p
Maybe we should start playing Chopin without pedal too, everything stacato. Just to pester those 'dogmatic cocks'.
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Offline Kassaa

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #31 on: April 10, 2008, 11:02:36 AM »
Canadian i gues, my fault :p
Maybe we should start playing Chopin without pedal too, everything stacato. Just to pester those 'dogmatic cocks'.
If someone can do it effectively and truly believes in it, why not?
Everything will pass, and the world will perish but the Waldstein Sonata will remain.

Offline term

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #32 on: April 11, 2008, 11:56:08 AM »
Because i got these general rules for baroque/bach by a conservatory teacher. I applied them, did audition, and got praised for my Bach performance (didnt study there afterall btw). Also, if you're familiar with historical authenticity, you should know that especially baroque music is pretty bound to rules, in contrast with romantic music.
With that 'kid-stuff' i ment that you're replying in a way especially kids seem to do: Being against alot, but dont give any decent argumentation.
You may disagree, but try correcting in an adult way, with explanation if you know everything that right.

gyzzzmo
I have heard about these rules from a piano teacher also; then, i have heard a lot of rubbish from teachers ;) so that is not convincing in itself.
Whatever, suggesting strict rules for interpretation is something i will probably never understand.

@Gould: He did not at all play 'everything' staccato. Goulds interpretations are a very good example of how these rules are actually not generally correct.
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something." - Plato
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Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #33 on: April 11, 2008, 01:05:53 PM »
Noticed the word 'general' in 'general rules'?
Ofcourse you dont have to apply them stricly, but thats not how i put it there, nor were my intentions. And yes, there are many ways to play Bach, but for somebody who's new to Bach, its not a bad general guideline at all, since most new people (without teacher) play Bach 'Chopinish'.

@Gould: Goulds interpretations are differently from most interpretations, i dont agree with his interpretations but luckily music is different for everybody. Still, since Gould plays Bach in a different way than the average opinion, its better to give 'average general rules' than his controversial interpretations.
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Offline thierry13

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #34 on: April 11, 2008, 02:53:40 PM »
Gould's interpretations are far from controversial if you liste to what he does without thinking of what you heard before. There are no indications in Bach, therefore the best way to play it is to make the structure of the piece work. That's exactly what Gould does, and that's exactly what your rules do not lead to. Of course, there is a lot of non-pedal and staccato playing, but that's never a rule, and it must not be because of a rule that you do it, but to make the music work. Your supposition that I like him because we're both Canadians is simply insulting. There are tons of russian european or american pianists I would like over any canadians. Gould is Gould whatever his nationality is, and I like him for what he did. One of the greatest musical minds ever.

Offline term

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #35 on: April 11, 2008, 04:37:00 PM »
Noticed the word 'general' in 'general rules'?
I understand where people are coming from when they declare these rules. I just don't agree with saying these are general rules, thats my point. They aren't even that. These are rules from people who spend rather little time with bach; i mean if you have tons of repertoire, bach is just one of many composers, so in order to roughly get the idea of how to interprete bach or teach a student his music, you have teachers coming up with such rules. They oversimplify dramatically. Are there similar rules for chopin or liszt? like: chopin: all legato? Liszt: all banging? Thats how it sounds when you say Bach: staccato.

however, i really must say that this:
Quote
2) if something goes up, play it abit crescendo
3) if something goes down, play it abit dim.
is definitely inacceptable in any case and quite ridiculous, if i may add; and i wonder how musically intelligent people come to accept something like that.  :P
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something." - Plato
"The only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth" - Eco

Offline slobone

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #36 on: April 11, 2008, 05:10:39 PM »
Liszt: all banging?

I've been to concerts where that rule was apparently being applied...

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #37 on: April 25, 2008, 09:42:43 PM »
Have you heard of this Angela Hewitt DVD? Just found out about it today:

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/details/68001.asp

Looks quite interesting.

Offline popdog

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #38 on: April 26, 2008, 03:19:30 AM »
Liszt: all banging?

Very amusing.  I have also seen this rule applied...

Offline theodore

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #39 on: May 01, 2008, 04:02:32 PM »
When playing J. S. Bach the pianist can play staccato, half staccato or marcato or whichever  technical way he/she decides. However this particular  forum has neglected to bring to mind the various styles of the individual historical Baroque movements.

The playing of staccato for a Siciliano is not in the tradition of a lilting legato melody in 6 or 12 eight time.  A Sarabande is also a slow melodic tune which is dignified and formal. The Badiniere however is playful and energetic and requires much contrast and the staccato is a definite ingredient.  The Polonaise is an energetic yet formal dance which sometimes requires decisive marcato playing.

To play Bach in only staccato is like putting severe restrictions on historical musical style. Glen Gould played in a piano style which emphasized clarity and this is admirable. However he sometimes negated the inherent joy which comes from playing these baroque dances in their varied individual styles.

Theodore

Offline ptyrrell

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #40 on: October 03, 2008, 07:29:57 AM »
when I first heard glen gould I did'nt really like it.  I saw a documentary on him and he kinda looks awkward when he plays.

It was only when I listend to the goldberg variations that I realised his genius.  His interpretation is sublime in the extreme.  I also like his recordings of inventions.  I have heard bach played way to metronomically, I think this is wrong.  Sure it shouldnt be played heavily phrased rubato like romantic music but the phrases need to have a singing quality.  I always sing the phrases as I play breathing inbetween phrases this seems to give each phrase a lovely singing quality.  Once I taught a high school choir the 1st invention, splitting the parts in 2, it was quite beautiful
good luck

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: bach inventions
«Reply #41 on: October 03, 2008, 11:10:39 AM »
When you played Bach on harpsichord or clavichord the interpretation of legato vs staccato wasn't really there. However with the modern piano we see it of good taste to play the longer notes staccato and the shorter notes more legato. This is only paying respect to Bach style of keyboard music, where no long notes really where possible. So when we play we don't allow the longer notes to be long, but short paying respect to the old instruments. You often see quaver staccato vs legato semiquavers in 2 part writing a lot.
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