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Topic: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, NO. 12 from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II  (Read 8940 times)

Offline pianoperformer

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This is one of the pieces I was assigned over the summer.

The prelude is very simple, but I'm at a loss for interpretation. I have another piano teacher while I'm at home since I live about 100 miles from college, and she is not very good at offering interpretation suggestions, besides the dynamics written in the music. Well, we're using the Henle edition, and there are no dynamics.

Does anyone know of any recordings of this piece, or recommendations for how to interpret this? I'm tempted to just record it and upload it to get suggestions, but I literally just finished it last weekend so it's not perfect, yet.
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Offline Kassaa

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What happens when you play it while not thinking about how to play it? Have you made the different voices and their functions clear for yourself? A very contrapuntal approach really helps me in 'interpreting' Bach, and for me it's just as important as the melodic quality and rhytmic intensity. Dynamics are important, but less so I think. I'd like to hear a recording, screw playing perfectly anyway.

Offline pianoperformer

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Not sure about the voices. In this piece, the left hand actually doesn't have that big of a role, as in past pieces I've played by Bach. Well I guess it kind of complements and completes the melody in some points, but there's no part where it is a melody all on its own.

I will try to make a recording later.

I am beginning to develop a sense of my own style to it, but it's still developing and sometimes I just don't know what to do with certain parts.

I'll post a recording later, though it'll probably be on my less than quality keyboard.

Offline pianoperformer

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Attached is my recording. sorry if there is a bit of extra sound. It is my keyboard and I had the recorder right on the back of it so sometimes you can hear the keys.

Offline Kassaa

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Lots of things to say, I'll have some difficulty saying it in English, so if you don't understand please say it.

I think your problem is that you don't really divide the prelude into certain sections, making it all sound rather long and without a goal. This whole prelude seems to be divided in sections of four beats, right from the beginning with the F in the left hand. Immediately after that again a small phrase of four beats, but with a entirely different harmony, maybe you can see the first four beats as a question, and the phrase after that as the answer!

When the sixteenth-notes begin in bar 5  the left hand eighth notes and the sixteenth notes sound the same, the eighth notes are rather similar to the four quarter notes in the beginning, they're also divided into phrases of four (beats/notes), the sixtheenth notes should be not equal to the eighth notes, but rather be floating around them. You could probably have more line in that passage, preferably seeing the eighth notes as the melody. Then the opening comes back, but in my opinion it should be a more different character than the beginning, because the prelude has really developed with the previous passage.

Also you could make more use of the harmonic progression in the piece, it try to play it really slowly and listen to what each chord wants, and why it is there.

Then about your articulation, (might be because of the piano), I often hear accents on the second eigth note of a pair of two eighth notes, like on the third third (e and g) and the sixth in bar 5 (g and e), I would never play them louder than the one before, because it's on a weak beat.

In general I would use the left hand as the most important thing, it really gives more sense! And I hope I don't sound harsh or criticizing, just trying to help :) . You have the notes down pretty well, so from now on you can really work on all those small things.

Offline pianoperformer

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Thank you very much for your suggestions. You don't sound harsh at all. :)

When the 16th notes come in, I actually was thinking of making those 8th's the melody, and tried to a bit, but perhaps it didn't come out enough.

What sort of different character? I did think I played it a bit differently, or at least a bit louder. To me though it had a sense of stretching, reaching for something, as the chords in the right hand kept getting higher and higher.

Hmm, usually it is because the left hand had an 8th note before, then the right hand had a weaker 8th, and then, to me, a little stronger one on the second beat. I dont' know if that's what you are refering to, though.

I will try to bring out the left hand more.

Offline sharon_f

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I have quite a few different recordings of the WTC, everyone from Gould to Ashkenazy, and for this particular P & F my favorite recording by far is Richter's. I did find it posted on youtube:

https://au.youtube.com/watch?v=cQG05n3o2qA

Purists may find it a little too romantic but I absolutely love what he does with it. (But then again, for me Richter is a god.)
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.
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Offline pianoperformer

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I have quite a few different recordings of the WTC, everyone from Gould to Ashkenazy, and for this particular P & F my favorite recording by far is Richter's. I did find it posted on youtube:

https://au.youtube.com/watch?v=cQG05n3o2qA

Purists may find it a little too romantic but I absolutely love what he does with it. (But then again, for me Richter is a god.)
Indeed too romantic, but still beautiful. I'd be interested what others think of this interpretation.
I've not played much Bach. I played a prelude to his 2nd English Suite last semester, and my piano teacher actually had me vary the dynamics a lot, despite what some here have said about not using such extremes of dynamics with Bach. But I still don't think it was that romantic.

But with that one, at least I could discern the different voices. Same goes for the fugue I'm learning.

Offline webern78

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The recording by Vladimir Feltsman is my favored version on piano, bar none, but i doubt it's very "accurate" as far the interpretation goes. You'd have to turn on an harpsichord for that.

Offline pianoperformer

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The other question is, how fast should it go? The book also doesn't have a metronome marking. I tried playing it as it is in my recording, and yesterday I tried speeding it up a bit (not rushing, just a bit faster), and the feeling was totally different. When played slower, it sounds calm, maybe even contemplative. When faster, it sounds a little more agitated.

Offline faulty_damper

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This was perhaps the first prelude and fugue by Bach that I first learned because I loved it after listening repeatedly to a recording by Rosalyn Tureck on the BBC label.

Tureck takes an even slower and more deliberate tempo than Richter and it's even more solemn.  The character between the two are somewhat similar though I prefer Tureck's interpretation because it has much more musical depth.  One voicing issue she solves is that that the inner voice in the RH is very softly played so the upper voice is audible and makes the motivic phrases more refined.

As for interpretation:
- The prelude is built from the *sigh* motive....
The *sigh* motive is a very often used motive in the Baroque period.  If you don't understand the significance and meaning, you'll not be able to make informed musical decisions.  (Gould's interpretations is clearly un-informed).

- This *sigh* motive is supported by the bass structure which is built on resolving dominant - tonic motion.
Knowing how dominants resolve to tonics is extremely important.  They resolve exactly as they should.  If you aren't sure how a dominant to tonic (e.g. C - F) should sounds like, ask a choral director.  It sounds like the dominant is a bit louder and the tonic is softer, like a decrescendo, but more aptly put: like a relaxation.

- There is a 2 keyboard section which even stumps me as to how to interpret.

- There is a descending sequence which should be very expressively performed (the 16th note sections).  Sequences used by Bach can be described as important connective tissues which brings contrast, musically significant material, and structural support.


And lastly, a comment on the "romantic" statement: Such comments dismiss valid interpretations, probably because they rub against the grain of preconcieved notions of music of the Baroque and of Bach. 

Offline faulty_damper

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Attached is my recording. sorry if there is a bit of extra sound. It is my keyboard and I had the recorder right on the back of it so sometimes you can hear the keys.

Angela Hewitt describes this prelude as a "dance".  I disagree heavily because when played like one, it sounds bad.  Reason: The *sigh* motive is disrupted, cut short of it's plea.

As for your recording: use pedal to connect voices, especially the anticipations to the *sigh* motive and in the descending sequences.  The anticipations are part of the motive.

If you listen to the attached recording of the prelude, note that the *sigh* is stretched ever so imperceptively but it has a character that really pulls on your expectations.  This really epitomizes the *sigh* motive because it reflects very accurately what it represents.

Offline pianoperformer

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Very nice, faulty_damper; thank you for the suggestions. I think I see what you mean.
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