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Playing Bach (Read 6569 times)

Offline Celeste

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Playing Bach
« on: April 12, 2003, 07:31:20 PM »
I recently played in a Bach competition. The adjudicator said I used too much dynamics (now that's one I've never heard) and that I was playing the piece too Mendelsohnian. How am I supposed to play Bach?

Offline MzrtMusic

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Re: Playing Bach
«Reply #1 on: April 12, 2003, 08:34:52 PM »
Every person has different ideas about how Bach should be played... There are three basic schools of though.

1. Bach was written for harpsichord, and should only be played on harpsichord. No pianist can or should play Bach, because they don't have the right instrument... Would you play a piano concerto on a violin?

2. It is OK to play Bach on a piano, it should just be tastefully done. That means doing your best to keep the piece very baroque by using terraced dynamics (only forte and piano) and by keeping your phrasing, articulation, ect. at a minium.

3. Not only is it OK to play Bach on a piano, but you should play Bach with the full resources of the instrument. This means using lots of dynamics, influding the in-between ones, and adding phrasing and articulation. Some people feel that this keeps Bach from becoming a technical study.

Now, from what you said, I would say you play Bach like option No. 3, and the judge was looking for something closer to No. 2. This doesn't mean that he's right, and you are wrong. This just means that you disagree. It is my personal opinion that you should look at each piece, and decide how to play it. When I play Bach's French Suites, I play them closer to No. 3. Many of his WTC preludes and fugues I play closer to No. 2. There really isn't any way you are supposed to play Bach. It's all a matter of personal opinion. All you have to do is go out there and play like this is the only way, because it's your way. If you can play with a very convincing, confident attitude, that might make the judge see the whole of what you are doing!

I hope this answers your question!


My heart is full of many things...there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all.
-- Ludwig Van Beethoven

Offline tosca1

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Re: Playing Bach
«Reply #2 on: April 13, 2003, 10:07:11 AM »
Dear Celeste,
I am sorry that the judge did not approve of your Bach. I believe that it is a misconception to play Bach on the piano  in some arid, pedantic way.  Bach's music is highly expressive and the piano is a perfect medium to give his music life.  
Of course, you must be careful to retain the textural clarity of the music and pedal very tastefully.  Do not detach notes too crisply and give the sound plenty of weight.  
I would suggest too that you listen  to some of the wonderful Bach exponents on the piano:  Murray Perahia, Angela Hewitt and a gorgeous Portugese pianist Maria Joao Pires.  Listen carefully to shaping of the phrase and the amazing range of tonal colours that these people can draw from the piano when playing Bach.


Offline davy10tunes

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Re: Playing Bach
«Reply #3 on: April 13, 2003, 06:43:55 PM »
             Let me ask you a question.What's one of the most interesting things about the performance of Bachs keyboard music?
It's the freedom of interpretation! The fact that there are so many differing opinions on the way Bach should be played is quite liberating.Take any criticism as constructive, think about it and then, if you still have valid reasons for doing it your way, do it.If you get the chance, listen to recordings of Tureck, Pogorelich, Gould, Schiff.All play Bach very differently but all have valid reasons for doing so.
p.s.  Out of the pianists I mentioned I like Andras Schiffs way of playing Bach the most.


Offline BuyBuy

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Re: Playing Bach
«Reply #4 on: April 15, 2003, 06:04:14 PM »
They used to accuse Horowitz of playing Mozart in a romantic way, that Mozart would have never played that way at his time and so forth...

To this he used to answer :"If Mozart did not play it like that, it is only because the instrument did not allow him at that time. If Mozart had a grand Steinway like ours, he would do the same as I do : exploit the full resources of the instrument to express his music." It is valid for Mozart as for Bach or anyone, I believe.

What is important is the music : what it does express. Use the instrument to convey that, without overworrying on the way they used to play at that time, cause if this is the point, we should just play on harpshichord and that's it. Let's be consequent.

By the way, Horowitz interpretation of Mozart sonatas is magnificent.