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Topic: Why polyphony?  (Read 3302 times)

Offline chupaadino

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Why polyphony?
on: January 28, 2017, 12:09:15 PM
Dear people from Pianostreet,

Last week my teacher and I talked about my gap in learning piano (currently playing some of the harder Chopin repertoire) since I never actually studied Bach. She told me to play lots of Bach, especially his polyphonic works like the two-part inventions and such.
Which benefits come with having studied polyphonic pieces? Better voicing and phrasing for example? I do trust my teacher on this, but would like to hear from you how this will benefit my playing. ;D

Kind regards,
Dinant.

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #1 on: January 28, 2017, 12:53:06 PM
Because certainly, like Bach (who he studied extensively), Chopin was a great polyphonist himself.
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #2 on: January 28, 2017, 02:58:45 PM
Because Bach helps you to develop your ear's ability to hear and follow multiple voices concurrently, to differentiate, and to bring subtle balance of volume there.. sometimes controlling 2 or three voices in One hand…  not to mention appreciating an incredible  economy of compositional thinking.  There is no fat on these structures: every note is necessary.

Chopin is not usually perceived as one who deals in polyphony much at all - though, there is some counterpoint there - (however light).

4'33"

Offline chopinawesome

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #3 on: January 28, 2017, 11:06:55 PM
If you can play the harder part of Chopin repertoire well, you should have already mastered voicing voices and polyphonic texture(e.g. Ballades 3 and 4). I am surprised that you haven't played bach.
If your teacher wants you to play bach, go for the harder Prelude and Fugues,Toccatas, and polyphonic mvts from Partitas. BWV 903 isn't too bad either.
Anyways, I find Bach very difficult. You can't make a wrong note. You must bring out all the voices without interrupting the melodic line. Bach does help your technique though. I would recommend:

Partitas 1,2,5,6
Toccatas(all of them are beautiful works)
Italian Concerto
BWV 903
From WTC I : 848,852,860,861,857,859,868,869
From WTC II: 871,872,873,874,875,876,877,878,880,881,883,884,885,886,888
 
Beethoven Op 2/2
Chopin Op 20, maybe op 47/38
Debussy Etude 7
Grieg Op 16
Want to do:
Chopin Concerti 1 and 2
Beethoven Waldstein
Ravel Miroirs

Offline milchhpiano

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #4 on: January 29, 2017, 12:20:01 AM
Because Bach helps you to develop your ear's ability to hear and follow multiple voices concurrently, to differentiate, and to bring subtle balance of volume there.. sometimes controlling 2 or three voices in One hand…  not to mention appreciating an incredible  economy of compositional thinking.  There is no fat on these structures: every note is necessary.

Chopin is not usually perceived as one who deals in polyphony much at all - though, there is some counterpoint there - (however light).

I second all of this!

I remember when I first started Bach that the biggest problem for me was that I had to commit to fingerings. I started out with romantic rep pretty early on, and I could fake through most of what I was playing with a pretty good degree of success. But Bach, just playing it with improvised fingers will create several gaps in your melodic and contrapuntal lines. I think the biggest thing one might learn from it is how your melodic playing in other rep (such as Chopin) is probably lacking. Like themeandvariations mentioned above, all of the fat is trimmed in Bach... and now we need to trim the fat in our other music as well!

Happy practicing!
Recital/MM Audition Program
Bach Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue
Beethoven Op. 111
Liszt Dante
Rachmaninoff Op. 39/6
Kapustin Variations Op. 41

Offline j_tour

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #5 on: January 29, 2017, 02:44:54 AM
Anyways, I find Bach very difficult. You can't make a wrong note. You must bring out all the voices without interrupting the melodic line. Bach does help your technique

If Chopin says it, I'd listen.

I like the posts above, but I'd just reinforce that playing Bach reinforces all your existing technique, in addition to the pecularities of his music and polyphonic music in general.  Perfect scales, both hands, perfect arpeggios and interval-jumps of all kinds, perfect control of dynamics in each finger, are needed for a good performance of Bach -- and that's the minimum, rudimentary technical basis.

Without pedal to hide behind.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #6 on: January 29, 2017, 05:12:41 AM
Studying Bach tends to improve all styles of piano playing and especially reading skills, he really is the most useful composer to study in all my years of piano playing (and i hated most of Bachs works when I was young). Most modern pieces are constructed "melody vs support (chords, arpeggios, scales etc). Part writing where there are a combination of "voices/melodies" or parts creating a polyphony of sound is more challenging for our fingers than simple melody vs support writing. It is also more challenging for our listening, coordination and fingering.

If you can read/play part writing with ease other styles become somewhat more easily understandable. So for me reading complicated part writing is the most difficult music to deal with, I notice after doing difficult part writing works then going to other styles, it feels a lot easier. It is like the baseball player who warms up with a weighted bat before playing the game with a normal one. Being aware of multiple voices moving individually but working as one is a great skill to improve upon it makes you much more aware of your playing, listening and reading.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #7 on: January 29, 2017, 02:50:25 PM
Chopin is not usually perceived as one who deals in polyphony much at all - though, there is some counterpoint there - (however light).
No, because there aren't many who look beyond the surface.  Here's Oscar Bei in 1898:

'...But the peculiar charm of his technique begins only in the parallel application of three voices ...in the laying alongside of three motivated systems, three musical thoughts, three principal paths.'

Indeed it sounds as if he's talking about Bach!    
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline milchhpiano

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #8 on: January 29, 2017, 04:48:12 PM
Studying Bach tends to improve all styles of piano playing and especially reading skills, he really is the most useful composer to study in all my years of piano playing (and i hated most of Bachs works when I was young). Most modern pieces are constructed "melody vs support (chords, arpeggios, scales etc). Part writing where there are a combination of "voices/melodies" or parts creating a polyphony of sound is more challenging for our fingers than simple melody vs support writing. It is also more challenging for our listening, coordination and fingering.

If you can read/play part writing with ease other styles become somewhat more easily understandable. So for me reading complicated part writing is the most difficult music to deal with, I notice after doing difficult part writing works then going to other styles, it feels a lot easier. It is like the baseball player who warms up with a weighted bat before playing the game with a normal one. Being aware of multiple voices moving individually but working as one is a great skill to improve upon it makes you much more aware of your playing, listening and reading.

I second the reading comment! I know this won't be specifically addressing OP's comment, but I've begun reading through Bach's works as part of my daily practice. My current line of work has me dealing with a lot of musical theater scores and other reductions, however once I get to Bach the wheels really start to turn. I've found that reading Bach each day, or at least most days a week, has given me a better grasp on choosing better fingerings when sight-reading other music.

Also, what is it with hating on Bach when you're young? I was the same way. It took studying theory when I was younger to understand that Bach was truly remarkable :)

No, because there aren't many who look beyond the surface.  Here's Oscar Bei in 1898:

'...But the peculiar charm of his technique begins only in the parallel application of three voices ...in the laying alongside of three motivated systems, three musical thoughts, three principal paths.'

Indeed it sounds as if he's talking about Bach!   

I have a feeling that themeandvariations might have been getting at Chopin's general treatment (both literal and how we as pianists/listeners percieve him) of polyphony as opposed to Bach.

This is going to be a very general comment, but it is my opinion that we should follow in the footsteps of folks like Schumann who treated Bach (specifically his WTK) as his "daily bread." It's rather interesting to find that many of our beloved composers from the romantic eras and beyond studied and borrowed from Bach in their work and playing (while they took overarching principles and philosophies from Beethoven, but that is a separate point).
Recital/MM Audition Program
Bach Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue
Beethoven Op. 111
Liszt Dante
Rachmaninoff Op. 39/6
Kapustin Variations Op. 41

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #9 on: January 29, 2017, 05:07:37 PM
Both Beethoven and Chopin could play the entire 48 from memory (and certainly better than Schumann I'll bet).
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #10 on: January 29, 2017, 10:29:12 PM
Hey Mr. Hardy,
 you mention "No, because there aren't many who look beyond the surface.  Here's Oscar Bei in 1898:

'...But the peculiar charm of his technique begins only in the parallel application of three voices ...in the laying alongside of three motivated systems, three musical thoughts, three principal paths.'


What material is this quote referring to?  Or better yet, what material have You discovered that reflect Mr. Bei's findings? 
4'33"

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #11 on: January 29, 2017, 10:31:32 PM
ps.. and please spare me Chopin's sorry ass excuse for a fugue as an example :)
4'33"

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #12 on: January 30, 2017, 05:18:46 AM
Hey Mr. Hardy,
 you mention "No, because there aren't many who look beyond the surface.  Here's Oscar Bei in 1898:

'...But the peculiar charm of his technique begins only in the parallel application of three voices ...in the laying alongside of three motivated systems, three musical thoughts, three principal paths.'


What material is this quote referring to?  Or better yet, what material have You discovered that reflect Mr. Bei's findings? 
I'm afraid they're all around you.  I was taught to look and listen for all the tunes in Chopin. 
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #13 on: January 30, 2017, 05:42:55 AM
Chopin's music is generally not considered like the polyphonic language or part writing style of Bach. Yes you do find polyphony in Chopin's music (more in his later works) but it is not like the Baroque part writing permeates throughout Chopin, he afterall was more Field/Cramer/Czerny like.

This might interest: https://www.chopin.pl/ewolucja_stylu.en.html

Chopin's style run in four principle stages:

1. Adaptational stage (to ca. 1825), characterized by the composer's reception of the stylistic means present in the classical musical heritage.

2. Promorphic stage (from ca. 1825 to the mid-thirties), connected - as writes Danuta Jasińska - with the composer's participation in the European heritage of instrumental music of the nineteenth century.  This stage is characterized by a "personalization [of musical language] which overcomes the schematicism of conventionality, and thanks to which the spectacular gestures inherited from the brillante virtuosity penetrate the sense of structure, and, as such, dynamicize changes of personal style" [1995: 140].

3. Transformational stage (second half of the 1830s), in which was achieved the chief transformation of harmonic texture into a free essential chromaticism, and the tendency to shake the tonal unity of works became manifest.  Within the perimeter of musical syntax, a revision of the principles of classical period structure in favour of a free syntax was made, with the breaking and expanding of the musical phrase in its drive toward an open phrase.

4. Neomorphic stage (the 1840s) of "late Chopin", characterized by the intensification of all premises which became apparent in the transformational stage.  One must emphasize here the increasing significance of polyphony, the elimination of melodic ornamentation, the growing independency of particular voices, as well as the tendency to hybridize the form, the turn away from the means of stile brillante, and an enhancement of expression.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #14 on: January 30, 2017, 06:01:10 AM
Hardy…
"It's all around you"  is  far too general .. You still have not shown that you are able to see it.. I have said that is there, just 'light' .. but apparently, you think of him As a polyphonist which is almost laughable, for anyone who knows how to see structure for oneself..  Try not citing some grand scheme - generalizing - but tell me which piece and why.. then we can talk.. I've heard your attempt at the c# minor waltz you posted recently, and the way YOU play it, (aside from the sloppiness) is purely a foreground /background affair - which i would posit is Generally the case .. A background, and a melody.. when counterpoint is used it is usually fleeting - and decorative, not a consistent  secondary melodic line..  
4'33"

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #15 on: January 30, 2017, 06:24:50 AM
LIIW -
Yes,as you mention  "not like the Baroque" but i would add - or like Beethoven, Brahms,  etc. (too many to name, especially when one gets either side of the romantic era.. :)
I do not necessarily mean that Chopin is less expressive.. I believe he writes exactly perfectly for what he is trying to convey.. and i do love his music.   (i wouldn't go as far - as some - who call him {jokingly} 'the right handed genius'..:)
4'33"

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #16 on: January 30, 2017, 06:38:06 AM
You folks think you know better than Oscar Bei?  I'll leave it there.
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #17 on: January 30, 2017, 06:41:10 AM
Pick your piece Hardy.. and stop using a stand-in for your own analysis.
 My original quote - (with it's shading) I still stand by, quite comfortably:
"Chopin is not usually perceived as one who deals in polyphony much at all - though, there is some counterpoint there - (however light)."
4'33"

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #18 on: January 30, 2017, 06:44:34 AM
LIIW -
Yes,as you mention  "not like the Baroque" but i would add - or like Beethoven, Brahms,  etc.
You are of course right, I only focused on Baroque because of the connection of Bach to Chopin the op mentioned and of which hardy_practice went all crazy on ahahah :) There is a pretty clear definition of what polyphonic language is and one doesn't consider Chopin really to understand this of course!!

Just to play devils advocate here is example of some polyphony use in Chopin:

"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #19 on: January 30, 2017, 06:55:15 AM
I agreed with you "Chopin is not usually perceived as one who deals in polyphony much at all".  Oscar Bie (sorry spelt his name wrong) and myself perceive otherwise.  It comes down to teachers as I said earlier.  If you don't consider Oscar Bie, both a writer and composer (https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/4348343.Oscar_Bie), as a credible source that's your problem.    
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #20 on: January 30, 2017, 07:01:50 AM
Thanks for that - LIIW.  A beautiful nocturne.. nice choice ..

Hardy - no need to look at it, eh ? cuz someone ('credible') already did?  :)
4'33"

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #21 on: January 30, 2017, 07:04:44 AM
Look at it!?  I hear it and was taught it!
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why polyphony?
Reply #22 on: January 30, 2017, 07:10:27 AM
Ok.. "Hang in there, baby. "
Cheers.
4'33"
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