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Composers/styles where there are disagreements on proper performance practise (Read 1291 times)

Offline anacrusis

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Hey everyone. I was thinking about if there are any particular composers or styles of classical music where there are great disagreements on how one is supposed to perform them, stylistically that is to say?

For example, I feel that when it comes to Mozart, Haydn, or other purely capital C Classical composers, there is not that much room for variation in terms of style - most performers play similarly, apart from small variations in taste and personality. Particularly in Mozart I feel there is not much room to maneuver before it sounds crude or tasteless. I feel the same for Schubert (I know, I know, he is maybe more of an early romantic)

My first thought was baroque music. If you think about how, for example, Bach is traditionally played on the piano, it's rather rhythmically strict to the point of almost sounding mechanical sometimes. But there is also an authentic performance movement that advocates that back in the baroque days performance was much freer, and that you should play in a much more alive and organic way, with more flexible and varied tempo and dynamics and articulation and so on. If you listen to harpsichordists, they tend to use much more rubato than pianists when playing baroque music. Personally, I even think Bach can work in a very romantic style of playing (perhaps this is blasphemy!)

I also feel there is a great variation in how people play Chopin. Some people play very romantically with a lot of rubato and big contrasts in dynamics, whereas others play in a more rhytmically strict and "matter-of-fact" style, and others still play him in a more soft, subdued and laidback manner. For comparison, I feel that it is almost universal that Beethoven is played with very strict rhythm and strongly contrasted dynamics.

What do you guys think? In which styles/composers do people tend to disagree a lot on how to perform them, and why might this be?

Offline j_tour

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Yeah, perhaps.

I don't find that there is any great disagreement in Bach since the past, say, fifty or sixty years. 

In fact, I don't think there's any great divergence in interpretation over the past same several decades.

Yes, there are enormous subtleties, but even in, let's say the precipitato from Prokofiev's 7th piano sonata, where there's been a bit of recent discussion, the differences are comparatively subtle.

Scriabin's another composer whose works have been used and perhaps abused by various performers, but not drastically.

I'd be more inclined to say there's more homogeneity among interpretations, and that radical interpretations just plain don't claim their share of the marketplace.

Instead, one has groups like 2Cellos who interpret and perform (and arrange) works outside of the canon.

In summary, I think the differences in interpretation, execution are rather subtle. 

That is, among people with whom I speak occasionally, one doesn't find some radical, eccentric interpretation of, even with a florid and eccentric composer like Chopin, entertained except as cute little child exercises.  I am sure there are exceptions, but I've not heard of any eccentric performances having been taken seriously, at least by any pianist.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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With regards to Bach when a phrasing or touch represents a "pianistic" mannerism which would sound ugly on a harpsichord that phrasing will misconstrue Bach's language no matter how good one might think it is on the piano. Pianists should not take the natural approach applying pianoforte technique to the clavichord/harpsichord music. Over sustaining (eg:neglecting to hold notes with finger legato and estimating it with sustain pedal) and changing articulatulation, giving one voice more over the other etc, all these do not present us anything interesting about Bach's music and deforms it. Sure you have people saying that doing pianistic things with Bach is a good thing but I don't think it is really a mainstream ideology. Bach in his final years did know about the development of the pianoforte, of course it was in its infancy and he didn't like the instrument. So we should be wary how we actually express Bach and merely applying pianistic technique and expression to it is not paying due respect to the composer who really knew the instruments of his day thoroughly.
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Online brogers70

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I suspect that Bach did not sternly caution his vocalists or string players or wind players against shaping a phrase, or bringing out a fugue subject, on the grounds that such things could not be done on a harpsichord (though they could be on a clavichord, quietly anyway). I doubt he would do so to a pianist with a modern grand piano. If one likes the sound of Bach on a harpsichord, it makes more sense to me to get a harpsichord than to try to impose harpsichord-like constraints on a piano.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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I suspect that Bach did not sternly caution his vocalists or string players or wind players against shaping a phrase, or bringing out a fugue subject, on the grounds that such things
There is simply no need to give more to one voice over the other and I would be very surprised if you can find any literature where Bach supports such things. If you try pianistic ideas with Bach you are not paying respect to the musical language of Bach. Bringing one voice out over the other certainly to my ear is no where near as good as balanced sound where one can choose what part of the polyphony to listen to of if you want to listen to it as one and not be directed to certain parts. You may be interested to read Tovey's Principles of Interpretation for Bach.

Here is an extract:
https://theoryofmusic.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/tovey-on-playing-bachs-48/
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Online brogers70

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There is simply no need to give more to one voice over the other and I would be very surprised if you can find any literature where Bach supports such things. If you try pianistic ideas with Bach you are not paying respect to the musical language of Bach. Bringing one voice out over the other certainly to my ear is no where near as good as balanced sound where one can choose what part of the polyphony to listen to of if you want to listen to it as one and not be directed to certain parts. You may be interested to read Tovey's Principles of Interpretation for Bach.

Here is an extract:
https://theoryofmusic.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/tovey-on-playing-bachs-48/

I'm quite familiar with Tovey. Anything can be overdone; "bringing out the subject" need not (and should not) mean playing it two dynamic levels above everything else - that, obviously, is no good. But distinguishing the voices so that entrances of the subject are clear is something that harpsichordists regularly do, with agogic accents, differences in articulation, even ornamentation. I don't see any reason to think that Bach would object to use of resources available on the piano, including modest differences in dynamics, to help the music be perceived as a series of individual lines rather than as disconnected, vertical events happening on each quarter of a beat.

Offline j_tour

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I must be missing something here.

Is the claim really that in performing Bach on a modern piano, playing voix égales is the undisputed standard?

Yes, I agree that the dominant practice is to not romanticize one or several voices, through an exuberant amount of expression, or to stand on the sustain pedal, or to retard or accelerate the rhythm.  Or to shoehorn various moments into some kind of twisted parody of "chordal accompaniment and melody in the right hand,"

But playing voix égales in Bach seems so contrary to current practice as to require some substantiation:  it is, after all, an extraordinary claim.
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Offline themeandvariation

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Bach had no or very little in the way of phrasing and dynamics indicated at all for the WTC I, II.
If we're are being true to the script, how does one even know, then, at what volume to play, and that all groups of notes are to be connected with legato, there is no phrasing indicated?
The notion of equal volume of voices also falls under this question, as there are no dynamic  marks, in essence, to see.
But one can look at the facsimiles of his hand written phrasing for violin, strings, etc.  Here give one a good idea of his notion of what notes go together and which one are to be separated.  The markings by and large reflect (compositionally) where an idea begins and ends.  This can also be seen in his vocal phrasing.  Much of the time, the phrasing doesn't start on a 1st beat, but is more elastic, which blur the bar line... There is much that could be said in this regard.  Schweitzer talked about this, as well as Ralph Kirkpatrick, I believe, who talked a lot about this.   Bach was writing for a keyboard w limited volume ability, but we can see his approach to that, and to articulation by looking at his non keyboard works..  Definitely, Not everything: equal  volume and always legato. John Eliot Gardiner also touches on these ideas in his book: Bach - Music in the Castle of Heaven
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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I'm quite familiar with Tovey.
Tovey would not condone "bringing out" one part over the other, so one needs to be clear when saying things like that because it is not the traditional method.

Anything can be overdone; "bringing out the subject" need not (and should not) mean playing it two dynamic levels above everything else - that, obviously, is no good. But distinguishing the voices so that entrances of the subject are clear is something that harpsichordists regularly do, with agogic accents, differences in articulation, even ornamentation.
Distinguishing the voices so there is no volume dynamic difference is not the natural reaction one has if someone says "bring out" something over something else. On the piano we are always dealing with the tone decaying so of course we must strike longer notes louder so that they sustain the full time without vanishing even in Bach so in that regard we do hit certain notes with more volume but it is only to sustain the notes. Organ players have no need to do such things and you would never consider that on a haprischord.

I don't see any reason to think that Bach would object to use of resources available on the piano, including modest differences in dynamics, to help the music be perceived as a series of individual lines rather than as disconnected, vertical events happening on each quarter of a beat.
There is simply no need to do so in much of Bachs writing. For instance when he uses octaves the volume naturally increases, as you rise up the keyboard the volume naturally increases and as you go down it gets quieter. His tempo markings also do not necessarily represent an exact mathematical tempo to use but rather character of the music.

Bach had no or very little in the way of phrasing and dynamics indicated at all for the WTC I, II.
If you analyze fugue form for instance you see the exposition, subjects and the ends of them, the development, episodes and chord used etc etc. This all presents rather clear musical phrasing.

If we're are being true to the script, how does one even know, then, at what volume to play, and that all groups of notes are to be connected with legato, there is no phrasing indicated?
For instance when Bach uses combinations of semiquavers vs quavers this writing writing implies more legato touch with semiquavers vs more detached quavers. If you play his works on harpischord the articulation interpretation on the pianoforte becomes quite clear.

The notion of equal volume of voices also falls under this question, as there are no dynamic  marks, in essence, to see.
If you played Bach on the older keyboard you would find no need to give one part more over the other or play louder or softer. The notes themselves will produce the effect and this is what can confound many modern pianoforte technicians. The traditional (and best imho) approach to Bach is to experience how his music flows without us interrupting it or trying to highlight certain parts. On the modern we must of course be wary of decay of tone so of course some notes will initially be struck louder but that is only so it can sustain and not be eaten up by the other notes playing over it.

Bach was writing for a keyboard w limited volume ability, but we can see his approach to that, and to articulation by looking at his non keyboard works..  Definitely, Not everything: equal  volume and always legato.
If you listen to a lot of his organ and harpsichord/clavichord music you will see there is no need to play louder, the addition of notes naturally bring volume. If there are any high level organ players here they will tell you they never have to bring anything out or play anything louder than anything else, it all occurs simply by playing the music Bach wrote. It naturally rises and falls since Bach wrote so well. No one plays Bach all legato I'm not sure why that has come up.
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Offline themeandvariation

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Quote from: themeandvariation on Yesterday at 06:36:14 PM
Bach had no or very little in the way of phrasing and dynamics indicated at all for the WTC I, II.
LIIW "If you analyze fugue form for instance you see the exposition, subjects and the ends of them, the development, episodes and chord used etc etc. This all presents rather clear musical phrasing. "
Ive analyzed - all of them.  Yes, one can see the subject , counter subject, episode etc.
Obviously, clear to see. Once identified, then is the question of articulation, (separation)
Within the idea of the General phrase. One doesn't just casually see 8ths, or 16ths notes and assume that 16ths are connected and the 8ths are not.  There is nothing in the score to suggest such a thing.. It is only in the interpretation OF the score that one hears performers
adding that detachment. 
What I am saying, is to get a clue to phrasing Within a subject, as to the articulation - from works other than WTC, and for other instruments, where Bach indicates much more about articulation Within a subject, counter-subject , etc.
Otherwise, one just might assume that legato is what holds the whole subject together. .
 LIIW:
"Bach in his final years did know about the development of the pianoforte, of course it was in its infancy and he didn't like the instrument.."
Bach visited Silbermann about his pianos, he told Silberman that the action was too heavy, and suggested working on that.  At first, Silberman was upset by Bach's suggestion, but later came to realize he was right.  But, that doesn't imply that he didn't like the instrument, as you have assumed.  He was obviously interested in such a thing as the piano, which is why he paid a visit.
edited.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Ive analyzed - all of them.  Yes, one can see the subject , counter subject, episode etc.
Obviously, clear to see. Once identified, then is the question of articulation, (separation)
Then Bach does clearly define phrases in his music with the use of these tools. I don't think you are defining "articulation" in a traditional sense.

One doesn't just casually see 8ths, or 16ths notes and assume that 16ths are connected and the 8ths are not.  There is nothing in the score to suggest such a thing.. It is only in the interpretation OF the score that one hears performers
adding that detachment. 
We have how it is played on the harpischord which encourages such articulation we don't have a tradition of how to play Bach that was created exclusively from the pianoforte, it extenuates from the keyboard technique of the harpsichord/clavichord and how the playing sounded on those instruments.

What I am saying, is to get a clue to phrasing Within a subject, as to the articulation - from works other than WTC, and for other instruments, where Bach indicates much more about articulation Within a subject, counter-subject , etc.
You said Bach has no clear phrasing so I directed you to these details which do clearly define phrasing of his work. I am not sure what you are trying to define "articulation" as but if it has anything to do with pianistic mannerisms which would sound ugly on the older keyboards I don't think it will tell us anything interesting about the musical language of Bach.

Otherwise, one just might assume that legato is what holds the whole subject together. .
I don't get this conclusion.

Bach visited Silbermann about his pianos, he told Silberman that the action was too heavy, and suggested working on that.  At first, Silberman was upset by Bach's suggestion, but later came to realize he was right.  But, that doesn't imply that he didn't like the instrument, as you have assumed.  He was obviously interested in such a thing as the piano, which is why he paid a visit.
The pianoforte would have been an experimental type instrument that was trying to gain attention, do you think Bach considered it a serious instrument on par with what was already established? Do you think he had any idea where it would have gone? Nope. The instrument would have been leagues away in terms of quality compared to the keyboards he was accustomed to.
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Offline themeandvariation

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"Articulation is a fundamental musical parameter that determines how a single note or other discrete event is sounded. Articulations primarily structure an event's start and end, determining the length of its sound and the shape of its attack and decay."
Kind of like musical punctuation.
Here is an example of the C minor Fugue Book 1 - for the first three bars.
A couple of versions of how it may be articulated. It could be done other ways as well.  But the question is how one arrives at these decisions.   
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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And yet you said weird things like articulation is separation. The articulation in your PDF is unusual.
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Online brogers70

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Tovey would not condone "bringing out" one part over the other, so one needs to be clear when saying things like that because it is not the traditional method.

Czerny, in his edition of WTCI, looked at the ending of the Bb major prelude, decided it lacked umph, and added an additional measure with a forte, octave Bb in the bass. Tovey called that octave "the single most philistine chord in the history of music." What a great line. The point is, that is the sort of Romantic excess that Tovey was worried about. Most current performers of Bach on the piano use some pedal (Schiff is the famous exception) and absolutely do differentiate the voices with modest differences in dynamics (but not by whacking out the subject many dynamic levels louder than anything else). Such common, current practices are not what Tovey was worried about. Your preference may be for a more neutral, voix egales approach because to your ear it sounds better or more interesting. That's fine.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Czerny, in his edition of WTCI, looked at the ending of the Bb major prelude, decided it lacked umph, and added an additional measure with a forte, octave Bb in the bass.
OK though an octave in the bass is not necessarily playing one voice over the other.

The point is, that is the sort of Romantic excess that Tovey was worried about.
I think he put it rather clearly that any pianistic mannerism which sounds unusual on harprichord or clavichord would not present us with anything interesting about the musical language of Bach.

Most current performers of Bach on the piano use some pedal (Schiff is the famous exception) and absolutely do differentiate the voices with modest differences in dynamics (but not by whacking out the subject many dynamic levels louder than anything else).
How is the pedal supposed to differentiate different voices acting together if it is being applied to all in the same manner simultenaously? If it is used it should be very slight, Bach's music doesn't necessarily need it unless you are using a sostenuto pedal to allow low organ notes resonate which would otherwise be impossible to do on the piano when playing organ works.

Such common, current practices are not what Tovey was worried about.
What common current practices are you talking about?

Your preference may be for a more neutral, voix egales approach because to your ear it sounds better or more interesting. That's fine.
I have heard countless interpretations of the same Bach pieces, it is not a matter of preference but a matter of tradition and how one should be taught to pay respect to that music tradition. I might like pianistic effects with Bach but if we must understand how to play his music in a traditional manner and we should be able to pay respect to this first and foremost, then you can go ahead and interpret to your hearts content.

I never used the term: voix egales it seems rather unnecessary to use different languages to define something rather simple. Bach is about producing equal volume to voices to allow the polyphony to be most effective, if you start giving one voice more than the other you corrupt the interaction that the combination of melodies have, you cannot listen to it as a whole or choose which voice to listen to as you experience the music, you are directed to look at it in a certain way which actually takes away from the wholeness of playing more evenly. Instead of a musical object with multiple solutions to its shape you have a musical object which has more defined lines and form, much less interesting on a macrosopic level, it might be interesting for those wanting to explore their own ideas but that is too narcissistic imho. This is paying respect to Bach's musical language, and you will destroy anyone in any competition if you present it in the traditional manner as opposed to a modern pianoforte interpretation which may obsess with certain voices and change articulation just to try and be clever.
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Online brogers70

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OK though an octave in the bass is not necessarily playing one voice over the other.
I think he put it rather clearly that any pianistic mannerism which sounds unusual on harprichord or clavichord would not present us with anything interesting about the musical language of Bach.

In that, I just disagree with him, then. Bach's music is quite abstract and not, in my ear, tied much to any particular instrument. There is plenty interesting to learn about Bach's music from instruments he himself never heard.

How is the pedal supposed to differentiate different voices acting together if it is being applied to all in the same manner simultenaously? If it is used it should be very slight, Bach's music doesn't necessarily need it unless you are using a sostenuto pedal to allow low organ notes resonate which would otherwise be impossible to do on the piano when playing organ works.

I don't believe I advocated overuse of the pedal.

What common current practices are you talking about?
I have heard countless interpretations of the same Bach pieces, it is not a matter of preference but a matter of tradition and how one should be taught to pay respect to that music tradition.

Of course it's a matter of preference. There is no single accepted view of historically informed performance practice for Bach; there are fads and fashions within historically informed performance practice as there are in anything else. Even the style in which Romantic composers performed their own works (those late enough to have left recordings) is quite different from the style in which those works are played today. It is futile to try to call your own personal preference, or even a view of performance practice in vogue at any particular time, just a matter of paying respect to a given musical tradition, as though it were sacrosanct.

I might like pianistic effects with Bach but if we must understand how to play his music in a traditional manner and we should be able to pay respect to this first and foremost, then you can go ahead and interpret to your hearts content.

I never used the term: voix egales it seems rather unnecessary to use different languages to define something rather simple. Bach is about producing equal volume to voices to allow the polyphony to be most effective, if you start giving one voice more than the other you corrupt the interaction that the combination of melodies have, you cannot listen to it as a whole or choose which voice to listen to as you experience the music, you are directed to look at it in a certain way which actually takes away from the wholeness of playing more evenly. Instead of a musical object with multiple solutions to its shape you have a musical object which has more defined lines and form, much less interesting on a macrosopic level, it might be interesting for those wanting to explore their own ideas but that is too narcissistic imho. This is paying respect to Bach's musical language, and you will destroy anyone in any competition if you present it in the traditional manner as opposed to a modern pianoforte interpretation which may obsess with certain voices and change articulation just to try and be clever.

Yes, I understand what is positive about playing all voices at the same level - you step away and allow the counterpoint to exist on its own and allow the listener to figure it out on his or her own. That is one way of doing things, and one that you might reasonably prefer. That it is the only way of doing things that respects Bach's music is quite an ambitious claim.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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In that, I just disagree with him, then. Bach's music is quite abstract and not, in my ear, tied much to any particular instrument. There is plenty interesting to learn about Bach's music from instruments he himself never heard.
There is of course nothing wrong with experimenting with Bach's music and creating ideas with whatever instrument you want to use. I am sure Bach really wouldn't mind and probably would be amazed that his music is actually took off like it did. The idea of "proper" performance practice in my mind with Bach is to be able to understand the traditional approach, but of course other people will think "proper" means exploring possibilities even if they might not improve the music for all ears.

I don't believe I advocated overuse of the pedal.
You suggested that pedalling will help differentiate different voices but I asked if they are acting together the pedal applied will simply effect them all in the same manner so I don't see how that is possible.

Of course it's a matter of preference. There is no single accepted view of historically informed performance practice for Bach; there are fads and fashions within historically informed performance practice as there are in anything else. Even the style in which Romantic composers performed their own works (those late enough to have left recordings) is quite different from the style in which those works are played today. It is futile to try to call your own personal preference, or even a view of performance practice in vogue at any particular time, just a matter of paying respect to a given musical tradition, as though it were sacrosanct.
I'm still not sure what you meant that Tovey wouldn't worry about the "common practices" that you mentioned.

So again let me repeat, it is not a matter of preference it is a matter of education and what is taught at all respected music schools who educate students on Bach. Any school which allows students to play one voice louder than the other in part playing counterpoint is going to a failure school. The literature just does not support it. I am not going to write a complete thesis to present the point, but if you just go out there and read about traditional interpretation of Bach's music none of them are going to tell you take liberty at which ever voice you want to bring out and modify articulation just to present flashy ideas that are possible on the piano. It just is not going to improve Bach's language at all from an academic and traditional perspective of his music. Of course this doesn't mean it is forbidden, people can do whatever they like, but the idea of "proper" performance practice should be well known, then we can go ahead and break whatever rules we want. The tradition should be respected first and a modern pianoforte exponent can learn a lot from the older keyboard techniques of the harpsichord, clavichord and organ.

Yes, I understand what is positive about playing all voices at the same level - you step away and allow the counterpoint to exist on its own and allow the listener to figure it out on his or her own. That is one way of doing things, and one that you might reasonably prefer. That it is the only way of doing things that respects Bach's music is quite an ambitious claim.
It is what they look for in all high level piano competitions, examinations, universities etc. If you go ahead and present something that is all about your own ideology of what sounds good and not pay respect to the tradition how are they supposed to understand what you are doing and mark you? The tradition is the compass. To play the voices of Bach equally on the piano requires a lot of skill, much more so than simply covering it all up with pianistic mannerims. The piano which has that constant decay and failure in tone, if you can create the illusion that it doesn't exist you are a real master Bach player.
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Offline themeandvariation

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LIIW: "Then Bach does clearly define phrases in his music with the use of these tools. I don't think you are defining "articulation" in a traditional sense. "... "I am not sure what you are trying to define "articulation" "..... "And yet you said weird things like articulation is separation."
Well, I have said that articulation separates - like, from what happens before and after the articulation. It is traditional (not weird, as you characterize).
It is a compositional definition.
Here is an example of 14 articulations where the articulation is separate (not connected/legato) from what precedes and comes after the articulation:
https://www.pianotv.net/2016/10/piano-articulations-a-quick-guide/
LIIW:"The articulation in your PDF is unusual."
Oh, really? So given that there are no articulation marks in the score, how do You play this passage Ive exampled?  If you are not playing the whole thing legato (Within the whole subject)
then you are adding articulations.  And if you are, what are they? Do you justify these articulations based on how they would sound on a harpsichord, as you have said?
Please post Your version of the articulation of this passage, so you can demonstrate your thinking.
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Online brogers70

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I'm still not sure what you meant that Tovey wouldn't worry about the "common practices" that you mentioned.

So again let me repeat, it is not a matter of preference it is a matter of education and what is taught at all respected music schools who educate students on Bach. Any school which allows students to play one voice louder than the other in part playing counterpoint is going to a failure school. The literature just does not support it. I am not going to write a complete thesis to present the point, but if you just go out there and read about traditional interpretation of Bach's music none of them are going to tell you take liberty at which ever voice you want to bring out and modify articulation just to present flashy ideas that are possible on the piano. It just is not going to improve Bach's language at all from an academic and traditional perspective of his music. Of course this doesn't mean it is forbidden, people can do whatever they like, but the idea of "proper" performance practice should be well known, then we can go ahead and break whatever rules we want. The tradition should be respected first and a modern pianoforte exponent can learn a lot from the older keyboard techniques of the harpsichord, clavichord and organ.
It is what they look for in all high level piano competitions, examinations, universities etc. If you go ahead and present something that is all about your own ideology of what sounds good and not pay respect to the tradition how are they supposed to understand what you are doing and mark you? The tradition is the compass. To play the voices of Bach equally on the piano requires a lot of skill, much more so than simply covering it all up with pianistic mannerims. The piano which has that constant decay and failure in tone, if you can create the illusion that it doesn't exist you are a real master Bach player.

Several points here.

First, counterpoint is, originally, a vocal technique from vocal music. Each voice is independent, interesting, and important. That does not mean that each voice *at every moment* is equally important. That would be rather like a painting in which every object was equally well lit, without shadows or highlights. Listen to any excellent early music vocal ensemble singing counterpoint and you will hear an ebb and flow in which voice is more or less salient at any given moment, even though they are all interesting and important.

Second, the harpsichord is not in any way an ideal instrument for playing counterpoint, certainly not compared to a vocal ensemble. Skillful harpsichordists can create the illusion of multiple lines, and even the illusion of the ebb and flow of prominence among those lines. Bach could make it easier to do that, too, through his skill in composing. Nonetheless there are certainly moments in the WTC where the characteristics of the harpsichord make it difficult to hear individual lines -say when a fugue subject in long note values appears in the high register while there's a lot of more rapid movement in the lower register. Of course a careful listener can pick it out, but to think that that was Bach's intent or that, if the fugue were to be played by a string or brass ensemble one would work to make that upper line as difficult to pick out as it would be on the harpsichord makes little sense to me.

Third, I've read a good bit on the interpretation of Bach. There are indeed a few sources that advocate a completely equal relationship between all voices at all times. Much more common are warnings against ham-handedly over-emphasizing one voice over all the others. That sort of thing is very different than using subtle differences in dynamics to differentiate voices. Playing two lines in adjacent registers at slightly different dynamics makes it easier to hear *both* voices as separate voices, particularly if their note values are similar. "Bringing out" the subject, subtly with modest differences in dynamics is common among the best pianists. Take a listen to pretty much any recording by Schiff, for example, one of the most severe in eliminating use of the pedal for Bach, and you'll hear that the individual lines are not given identical dynamics and the subject's appearances are (tastefully, not excessively) "brought out." Or listen to Rosalyn Turek (not known as a slouch in interpreting Bach), you'll hear the same thing.

Fourth, tradition itself is a matter of preference. What people think of as traditional,  changes over time. What people think of as correct performance practice changes over time, as do the meanings of the phrases people use to describe what they are doing when they say they are performing correctly. Views of correct tempi have changed quite dramatically over time even within the "authentic performance" movement. In vocal music, the question of whether early music should be sung with or without vibrato has bounced around quite a bit - for every 16th or 17th century treatise you find abhorring vibrato you find another one praising tasteful vibrato, so you end up trying to figure out what the authors meant by tasteful and how their descriptions correspond to the things singers do today.

Finally my impression is that your description of what you consider the correct, respectful way to approach Bach is so rigid that it does not accurately describe the playing of the vast majority of excellent, well-known concert pianists who actually play Bach. Maybe your sort of strict language is a necessary tonic for students who are ham handed and tasteless in using pedal or dramatically overemphasizing individual lines in polyphony. I don't know. It does not sound like an accurate description of lots of beautiful Bach playing by mainline, academically trained pianists that I hear all the time.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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So you talk past all my comments and questions, looks like we have to change mode now.  I am talking about a traditional approach or "proper" practice, there is nothing wrong with interpretation and going beyond that but you should toe the line.

First, counterpoint is, originally, a vocal technique from vocal music.
Yet the keyboard is not using human voices.

Each voice is independent, interesting, and important. That does not mean that each voice *at every moment* is equally important.
Is that your own theory? Sounds like it.  Define the mutual exclusivity between "independent, interesting and important" vs "equally important".

That would be rather like a painting in which every object was equally well lit, without shadows or highlights.
A weak strawman argument.

Listen to any excellent early music vocal ensemble singing counterpoint and you will hear an ebb and flow in which voice is more or less salient at any given moment, even though they are all interesting and important.
An ebb and flow now you say? lol You still can pick and choose individual voices right and are not forced into listening to one part over the other?

Second, the harpsichord is not in any way an ideal instrument for playing counterpoint, certainly not compared to a vocal ensemble.
Oh yeah because voices are better? The piano is an improvement over the control we can have but we still should pay respect to the old keyboards where the music was born from then you can interpret to your hearts content. One should know proper/traditional approaches initially before feeling brave enough to interpret beyond that scope.

Skillful harpsichordists can create the illusion of multiple lines, and even the illusion of the ebb and flow of prominence among those lines.
OOO more ebbing and flowing? What do you mean "illusion" of multiple lines?

Bach could make it easier to do that, too, through his skill in composing.
Make what easier? The ebbing and flowing?

Nonetheless there are certainly moments in the WTC where the characteristics of the harpsichord make it difficult to hear individual lines -say when a fugue subject in long note values appears in the high register while there's a lot of more rapid movement in the lower register.
Disagree, what is wrong with your ears? The piano can do a better job though equalizing lines so that they interact effectively. No one is saying you cannot bend what that effective interaction is but surely one should base it from a traditional perspective initially then go from there.

Of course a careful listener can pick it out, but to think that that was Bach's intent or that, if the fugue were to be played by a string or brass ensemble one would work to make that upper line as difficult to pick out as it would be on the harpsichord makes little sense to me.
So we have gone through lots of intruments but avoided the keyboards we are talking about. This makes little sense to me. The failure of tone in a harpsichord merely pushes for the idea that equality of sound is a more desireable outcome. The volume of the harpsichord is not the only feature we look at when studying keyboard technique for that instrument and how one pays respect to it with the modern piano.

Third, I've read a good bit on the interpretation of Bach.
A good bit huh?

There are indeed a few sources that advocate a completely equal relationship between all voices at all times.
Only a few? Your opinion must have thousands of sources right? It is impossible to have complete equality at ALL times because of the nature of the piano. If you have a long sustained note near the end of a piece you have to play quieter as you get to the end so that low bass sustained note can interact with the final chord that is played clearly. Unlike an organ which can sustain low foot pedal notes at full force for as long as they like, with the piano we have to adjust with the decay of sound.

Much more common are warnings against ham-handedly over-emphasizing one voice over all the others. That sort of thing is very different than using subtle differences in dynamics to differentiate voices.
No one is saying that SUBTLE changes are not ok but it is when you straight out make one voice force its way to attention at the cost of others.

Playing two lines in adjacent registers at slightly different dynamics makes it easier to hear *both* voices as separate voices, particularly if their note values are similar.
Easier to listen to what? Certainly not the combination of melodies clearly interacting with one another, you give more to one than the other how can the combination work perfectly?

"Bringing out" the subject, subtly with modest differences in dynamics is common among the best pianists. Take a listen to pretty much any recording by Schiff, for example, one of the most severe in eliminating use of the pedal for Bach, and you'll hear that the individual lines are not given identical dynamics and the subject's appearances are (tastefully, not excessively) "brought out." Or listen to Rosalyn Turek (not known as a slouch in interpreting Bach), you'll hear the same thing.
Subtle is not the problem all the recordings you would present still toe the line to what is tradition they won't go ahead and obsess about small parts and over emphasise it. Go ahead and post some recordings with the sheets to prove your point, we will see how confident you are then.

Fourth, tradition itself is a matter of preference. What people think of as traditional,  changes over time.
If tradition changes over time where does the tradition go?

What people think of as correct performance practice changes over time, as do the meanings of the phrases people use to describe what they are doing when they say they are performing correctly.
So you think that how we play Bach today is better than what the creator Bach visualised?

Views of correct tempi have changed quite dramatically over time even within the "authentic performance" movement.
Examples? Bach's tempo markings were for character of sounds rather than an exact measure of beats per minute.

In vocal music, the question of whether early music should be sung with or without vibrato has bounced around quite a bit - for every 16th or 17th century treatise you find abhorring vibrato you find another one praising tasteful vibrato, so you end up trying to figure out what the authors meant by tasteful and how their descriptions correspond to the things singers do today.
Have you tried to do vibrato on a keyboard instrument?

Finally my impression is that your description of what you consider the correct, respectful way to approach Bach is so rigid that it does not accurately describe the playing of the vast majority of excellent, well-known concert pianists who actually play Bach. Maybe your sort of strict language is a necessary tonic for students who are ham handed and tasteless in using pedal or dramatically overemphasizing individual lines in polyphony. I don't know. It does not sound like an accurate description of lots of beautiful Bach playing by mainline, academically trained pianists that I hear all the time.
Hilarious, you sound very hurt in this paragraph. You persist in considering my stance is my own and an opinion. That is rather pig headed of you, maybe your strict sense of opinion cannot be swayed. Have you even studied Bach at a reputable school or just read it from a book and watched youtube videos?
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Well, I have said that articulation separates - like, from what happens before and after the articulation. It is traditional (not weird, as you characterize).
It is a compositional definition.
You cannot define articulation as separation without defining what you mean by separation which you didn't.

Here is an example of 14 articulations where the articulation is separate (not connected/legato) from what precedes and comes after the articulation:
https://www.pianotv.net/2016/10/piano-articulations-a-quick-guide/
Don't be ridiculous I've taught piano for over 25 years. We are talking about "proper" performance practice of Bach. How can you say all articulation is absolutely not related to legato touch? What about articulation that is written under a legato tie?

Oh, really? So given that there are no articulation marks in the score, how do You play this passage Ive exampled? 
Generally quavers are detatched, semiquavers are legato, crotchets and tied notes are held. Something like this:


There is no need for such superflous articulation markings since each note duration implies the articulation immediately. The whole piece is not played legato but it certainly is not the mess in that pdf you presented. You have people like Gould who turns things on its head and reverses the condition of the quaver and semiquaver, he is considered a genius. Genius is sometimes considered a little mad but in Gould's example he still toes the line of traditional Bach interpretation he just turns things around. Though if one is studying "proper" traditional Bach interpretations Gould is not really the go to place.



None of these two pianists however give more to one voice over the other which is a key point to take away.
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Offline themeandvariation

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LIIW:"Generally quavers are detatched, semiquavers are legato, crotchets and tied notes are held." 
Based on What?  How it has been Performed?  If so, that's not a strong argument  in to understanding the reasons/logic behind such an appropriation of a "Generalized" approach.

LIIW: "You cannot define articulation as separation without defining what you mean by separation which you didn't."
Yes I have. I said there were places "within the subject/ counter- subject/ episodes - several times. Otherwise, it would be all legato.  Understand?
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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LIIW:"Generally quavers are detatched, semiquavers are legato, crotchets and tied notes are held." 
Based on What?  How it has been Performed?  If so, that's not a strong argument  in to understanding the reasons/logic behind such an appropriation of a "Generalized" approach.
Page 6 of PDF
https://eprints.usq.edu.au/22992/3/Gearing_APPC2011_AV.pdf

The guidelines to a traditional understanding of Bach should be understood then you have room to move from there.


LIIW: "You cannot define articulation as separation without defining what you mean by separation which you didn't."
Yes I have. I said there were places "within the subject/ counter- subject/ episodes - several times. Otherwise, it would be all legato.  Understand?
You didn't define it when you first mentioned it so how am I supposed to know what you meant by it? I never suggested everything would be legato I said the note durations generally imply articulation.
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Offline themeandvariation

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LIIW:"There is no need for such superflous articulation markings since each note duration implies the articulation immediately."
It does?  So where would short phrases be?  It tells you that?  Or you are saying  there are no short phrases Ever w/i a subject? Or of so, How would you determine that?


LIIW "such superfluous articulation"... Well I was not able to view your pdf, and have no idea what or from whom you are mentioning.
But you posted Richter and Gould - and said Gould's is Ok b/c he's a genius and toes the line, and brings voices out equally.  Well, he practically brings the voices out of every composer he plays, whether the composer wanted it or not.  He brings His approach to whomever he is playing, w regard to equal voicing.  Put your hat on that?
LIIW: "superflous articulation markings since each note duration implies the articulation immediately. The whole piece is not played legato but it certainly is not the mess in that pdf you presented."
"A mess?" Why, do you find it complex?  Try singing it, and I think the logic of the articulations should be quite easy and clear.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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LIIW:"There is no need for such superflous articulation markings since each note duration implies the articulation immediately."

It does?  So where would short phrases be?  It tells you that?  Or you are saying  there are no short phrases Ever w/i a subject? Or of so, How would you determine that?
That is not a question "does it?" Of course the note durations imply articulation and I gave you one piano pedagogy paper to look at. Why are you going on about phrasing when my statement is quite simple. There is no need for detailed articulation markings like in the PDF you posted.

Well I was not able to view your pdf, and have no idea what or from whom you are mentioning.
There should be no reason why it doesn't work.

Elements of Baroque Performance Style Applied to a Popular Piece of J. S. Bach
by Phillip Gearing.

A paper for the 10th Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference
Riverina Conservatorium of Music, July 2011
https://eprints.usq.edu.au/22992/3/Gearing_APPC2011_AV.pdf

But you posted Richter and Gould - and said Gould's is Ok b/c he's a genius and toes the line, and brings voices out equally.
I also said Gould is not the go to person if you are looking for traditional interpration of Bach however he does toe the line thus why people find genius in his Bach interpretation. He does not draw out voices over the other they always interact on par with one another never stifling the other.

Well, he practically brings the voices out of every composer he plays, whether the composer wanted it or not.  He brings His approach to whomever he is playing, w regard to equal voicing.  Put your hat on that?
So what is your point?

LIIW: "superflous articulation markings since each note duration implies the articulation immediately. The whole piece is not played legato but it certainly is not the mess in that pdf you presented."

"A mess?" Why, do you find it complex?  Try singing it, and I think the logic of the articulations should be quite easy and clear.
There is no need for such instructions since it may take away choices and ones ability to understand how to phrase and articulate Bach's music. Why play in a stringent manner someone is telling you to when we have a general compass in how we play Bach which then infers proper expansion for good interpretation which pays respect to a traditional response?
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Offline themeandvariation

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LIIW "Why play in a stringent manner someone is telling you to when we have a general compass.."
"Someone... a general compass.."
Yes, and I have posted references to alternate views from those well known figures who have devoted much of their life to (the interpretation of Bach) and written books on the subject:
"There is much that could be said in this regard.  Schweitzer talked about this, as well as Ralph Kirkpatrick, I believe, who talked a lot about this.   Bach was writing for a keyboard w limited volume ability, but we can see his approach to that, and to articulation by looking at his non keyboard works..  Definitely, Not everything: equal  volume and always legato. John Eliot Gardiner also touches on these ideas in his book: Bach - Music in the Castle of Heaven"


 
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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LIIW "Why play in a stringent manner someone is telling you to when we have a general compass.."
"Someone... a general compass.."
Yes, and I have posted references to alternate views from those well known figures who have devoted much of their life to (the interpretation of Bach) and written books on the subject:
"There is much that could be said in this regard.  Schweitzer talked about this, as well as Ralph Kirkpatrick, I believe, who talked a lot about this.   Bach was writing for a keyboard w limited volume ability, but we can see his approach to that, and to articulation by looking at his non keyboard works..  Definitely, Not everything: equal  volume and always legato. John Eliot Gardiner also touches a bit on these ideas in his book: Bach - Music in the Castle of Heaven"
Since you also talk past me I will do the same. Nah you are wrong equal volume sound is the compass and understanding articulation based on note values is fine enough. You keep thinking whatever you like I don’t care if you are wrong. No one said there cannot be interpretation but we want to know what is the proper practice then you can go from there, quite logical.
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Online brogers70

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So you talk past all my comments and questions, looks like we have to change mode now.  I am talking about a traditional approach or "proper" practice, there is nothing wrong with interpretation and going beyond that but you should toe the line.
Yet the keyboard is not using human voices.
Is that your own theory? Sounds like it.  Define the mutual exclusivity between "independent, interesting and important" vs "equally important".
A weak strawman argument.
An ebb and flow now you say? lol You still can pick and choose individual voices right and are not forced into listening to one part over the other?
Oh yeah because voices are better? The piano is an improvement over the control we can have but we still should pay respect to the old keyboards where the music was born from then you can interpret to your hearts content. One should know proper/traditional approaches initially before feeling brave enough to interpret beyond that scope.
OOO more ebbing and flowing? What do you mean "illusion" of multiple lines?
Make what easier? The ebbing and flowing?
Disagree, what is wrong with your ears? The piano can do a better job though equalizing lines so that they interact effectively. No one is saying you cannot bend what that effective interaction is but surely one should base it from a traditional perspective initially then go from there.
So we have gone through lots of intruments but avoided the keyboards we are talking about. This makes little sense to me. The failure of tone in a harpsichord merely pushes for the idea that equality of sound is a more desireable outcome. The volume of the harpsichord is not the only feature we look at when studying keyboard technique for that instrument and how one pays respect to it with the modern piano.
A good bit huh?
Only a few? Your opinion must have thousands of sources right? It is impossible to have complete equality at ALL times because of the nature of the piano. If you have a long sustained note near the end of a piece you have to play quieter as you get to the end so that low bass sustained note can interact with the final chord that is played clearly. Unlike an organ which can sustain low foot pedal notes at full force for as long as they like, with the piano we have to adjust with the decay of sound.
No one is saying that SUBTLE changes are not ok but it is when you straight out make one voice force its way to attention at the cost of others.
Easier to listen to what? Certainly not the combination of melodies clearly interacting with one another, you give more to one than the other how can the combination work perfectly?
Subtle is not the problem all the recordings you would present still toe the line to what is tradition they won't go ahead and obsess about small parts and over emphasise it. Go ahead and post some recordings with the sheets to prove your point, we will see how confident you are then.
If tradition changes over time where does the tradition go?
So you think that how we play Bach today is better than what the creator Bach visualised?
Examples? Bach's tempo markings were for character of sounds rather than an exact measure of beats per minute.
Have you tried to do vibrato on a keyboard instrument?
Hilarious, you sound very hurt in this paragraph. You persist in considering my stance is my own and an opinion. That is rather pig headed of you, maybe your strict sense of opinion cannot be swayed. Have you even studied Bach at a reputable school or just read it from a book and watched youtube videos?

Well, let's make sure I'm not creating a strawman here. Your argument is in two main parts, I think.

Part 1. Bach wrote the WTC (and I guess the Suites and Partitas) with the harpsichord in mind and wrote them so that the counterpoint would be clear on that instrument. Indeed the harpsichord by its nature makes the counterpoint especially clear because voices are automatically weighted equally (at least within similar registers). Therefore not only is there no need to do anything on the piano which the harpsichord cannot do (shape a phrase by changing dynamics over the course of a phrase, play different voices at different dynamic levels, change the overall dynamic except in steps as one might do by changing manuals); and not only is there no need to do such things, but you shouldn't do them because they cannot teach you anything interesting about the music and because doing so disrespects Bach's skill in making counterpoint work on the harpsichord.

Part 2. None of this is your own personal preference but simply represents long established tradition of proper Bach performance, taught in the best conservatories.

Well, I've argued against Part 1 already. You were unconvinced.

So let's go to Part 2. Is there really a tradition of playing all voices equally, handed down in Apostolic succession from JS Bach? As far as I can see, CPE Bach's treatise on keyboard playing says nothing about how to play fugues. There are of course no recordings from his time, and the piano was just being invented. But when might such a tradition of playing all voices at equal volume and using no pianistic resources have gotten started?

Probably not with Czerny, as anyone who would muck about with the actual notes of the WTC the way he did seems unlikely to abjure pianistic devices, but you can't be sure. Certainly not with Busoni, who was more than happy to use every possible option on the piano to turn Bach into a great Romantic. When you get into the 20th century, there's Rubinstein, who seemed most drawn to Busoni's arrangements of Bach, and so to a very painistic, romanticized version of him. Still, we can stick to those who played the actual notes Bach himself wrote....

Horowitz, for example here, from the 1940's



certainly gives different weight to different voices,

as do Edwin Fischer (1930's) here



and Dinu Lipatti (1950) here



If you go to more modern pianists, late 20th century or 21st century, I don't think there's a need to post links. You can find Schiff, Turek, Dinnerstein, Barenboim, and many others. None of them play with equal weight on all voices at all times. None of them (except Schiff) abstain completely from the pedal; all of them shape phrases and make non-terraced, gradual dynamic changes. I don't know. Maybe they didn't study at the right schools.

What there was, was a period early in the "authentic performance practice" movement when there was an academic fad for playing the piano as though it were a harpsichord. That was a relatively brief period and the fashion has faded. It didn't seem to catch on among prominent concert pianists. It was certainly not a tradition handed down solemnly from JS Bach himself, though doubtless its proponents thought that Bach would have approved.

If you think I've been unfair in my choices of pianists, please point me to someone who plays as you describe, with equalized voices and no pianistic devices. I've never actually heard a recording of someone playing Bach that way.

I totally agree with you that one should not make a wash of sound with the pedal, or turn a four voice fugue into a single voice melody and a three voice accompaniment, or hammer out each new entrance of a fugue subject as though the listener were too dense to notice it without that kind of exaggeration. And perhaps you are exaggerating a bit when you talk about *not* bringing out the subject at all or using constant, equal dynamics on all the voices and in spite of what you say, you actually find nothing wrong with the performers I've linked to or mentioned above. But if that's the case, you must have decided to read me as advocating some freakish, idiosyncratic over-Romanticized approach to playing Bach, which is not really there in what I've posted.

And no, I didn't study Bach at a conservatory. I'm absolutely an amateur. But if your argument comes down to "I studied Bach professionally so take it on my authority," well, I don't think that's a great argument.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Part 1. Bach wrote the WTC (and I guess the Suites and Partitas) with the harpsichord in mind and wrote them so that the counterpoint would be clear on that instrument. Indeed the harpsichord by its nature makes the counterpoint especially clear because voices are automatically weighted equally (at least within similar registers). Therefore not only is there no need to do anything on the piano which the harpsichord cannot do (shape a phrase by changing dynamics over the course of a phrase, play different voices at different dynamic levels, change the overall dynamic except in steps as one might do by changing manuals); and not only is there no need to do such things, but you shouldn't do them because they cannot teach you anything interesting about the music and because doing so disrespects Bach's skill in making counterpoint work on the harpsichord.
WTC respects the harpsichord and clavichord. Any pianistic which sounds unusual on a haprischord or clavichord will not tell us anything interesting about Bach's music as Tovey explains in detail. No one is saying you have ZERO room for interpretation but one needs to understand what is the proper traditional manner then you can go from there.

Well, I've argued against Part 1 already. You were unconvinced.
Nah it's just that I don't care anymore, if you ignored all the points and questions I gave previously I don't want to take anytning else what you say seriously.


So let's go to Part 2. Is there really a tradition of playing all voices equally, handed down in Apostolic succession from JS Bach? As far as I can see, CPE Bach's treatise on keyboard playing says nothing about how to play fugues. There are of course no recordings from his time, and the piano was just being invented. But when might such a tradition of playing all voices at equal volume and using no pianistic resources have gotten started?
The very quality of the old keyboards implies how the music of the day was listened to and appreciated. We still have these old instruments, why don't you spend some time playing Bach's works on them? Sure you can interpret on the modern piano, and you can play Bach on whatever instruments you like, but we are talking about the traditional practice, what did it sound like on the instruments that these works were composed on. This is the vision the composer had and was sufficient, you are suggesting that we can improve upon Bach and play it better than he ever visualized? That is rather arrogant. I suggest you read more about interpretation of Bach's music CPE Bach is not cutting it, there is thousands of articles about it. Do you expect me to neatly summarize all the data out there and spoonfeed you?

Probably not with Czerny, as anyone who would muck about with the actual notes of the WTC the way he did seems unlikely to abjure pianistic devices, but you can't be sure.
What do you mean "muck around" what pianistic devices are you using and to what extent? How are you paying respect to the traditional way the music was presented on the period instruments? Do you think it is best to simply ignore all the keyboard technique and sound of the harpischord/clavichord and merely replace it with the modern piano forte ideologies? One should be able to pay respect then go ahead and interpret.

Certainly not with Busoni, who was more than happy to use every possible option on the piano to turn Bach into a great Romantic. When you get into the 20th century, there's Rubinstein, who seemed most drawn to Busoni's arrangements of Bach, and so to a very painistic, romanticized version of him. Still, we can stick to those who played the actual notes Bach himself wrote....
You are talking about composer transcriptions and style additions to Bach's works not purely Bach's writing which is the topic I have been focusing on here.

Horowitz, for example here, from the 1940's
as do Edwin Fischer (1930's) here
and Dinu Lipatti (1950) here
certainly gives different weight to different voices
I don't hear such differences which would sacrifice one line for another, no lines are brought out over the expense of the others. I don't feel like explaining why Fischer's playing is pretty weak in terms of interpretation still passable though if you like that kind of thing.
 
If you go to more modern pianists, late 20th century or 21st century, I don't think there's a need to post links. You can find Schiff, Turek, Dinnerstein, Barenboim, and many others. None of them play with equal weight on all voices at all times. None of them (except Schiff) abstain completely from the pedal; all of them shape phrases and make non-terraced, gradual dynamic changes. I don't know. Maybe they didn't study at the right schools.
No it is just your ears are hearing things. They all will play with equality in mind and form an interpretation around that. Those who take Bach like a support vs melody will sound stupid, or those who obsess with certain voices and supress the others, they merely are telling us how to listen to Bach rather than allowing the polyphony to hit us as a whole. All the examples you have posted so far have equality in them. Do you think I am taking out a dB meter and measuring the volumes of each voice and insist they all be balanced completely all the time? Wake up, I am talking about paying respect to the harpsichord/clavichord while playing music that was written for those instruments. These instruments were not as dynamic as the piano and the fingerings used produce articulation which is important to understand the history of. There is a whole world of old school keyboard technique, you just insist we replace it all with modern piano forte? That seems a terrible idea, everyone needs to pay respect to the history then they can interpret.

What there was, was a period early in the "authentic performance practice" movement when there was an academic fad for playing the piano as though it were a harpsichord. That was a relatively brief period and the fashion has faded. It didn't seem to catch on among prominent concert pianists. It was certainly not a tradition handed down solemnly from JS Bach himself, though doubtless its proponents thought that Bach would have approved.
This is not a fad, I don't do it because it is a fad, piano pedagody which deals with the interpretation of Bach's music draw from the history of music, the history of the instruments that were used, the history of keyboard technique, all of which there is a lot of resource.

If you think I've been unfair in my choices of pianists, please point me to someone who plays as you describe, with equalized voices and no pianistic devices. I've never actually heard a recording of someone playing Bach that way.
I don't understand why you can't hear the equality that permeates through much of those examples?

I totally agree with you that one should not make a wash of sound with the pedal, or turn a four voice fugue into a single voice melody and a three voice accompaniment, or hammer out each new entrance of a fugue subject as though the listener were too dense to notice it without that kind of exaggeration. And perhaps you are exaggerating a bit when you talk about *not* bringing out the subject at all or using constant, equal dynamics on all the voices and in spite of what you say, you actually find nothing wrong with the performers I've linked to or mentioned above. But if that's the case, you must have decided to read me as advocating some freakish, idiosyncratic over-Romanticized approach to playing Bach, which is not really there in what I've posted.
I don't mind if people interpret music and come up with ideas, nothing wrong with that. However what is proper performance practice of Bach's music needs to be well known and there is a solution for that. From there one can make better interpretive decisions. You present professional recordings to analyze, I deal with students who study Bach and think pianistic mannerisms which seem very natural to use are actually a mistake with Bach. I deal with teaching people the correct rules to interpret his music and from there people can then make interpretive decisions that bend those rules.

And no, I didn't study Bach at a conservatory. I'm absolutely an amateur. But if your argument comes down to "I studied Bach professionally so take it on my authority," well, I don't think that's a great argument.
It is important to study the literature and education that is out there. I don't believe if I asked you if you studied at a university did I? It is not a question I usually ask. If you are not sure why I am pushing for equality in Bach and how one determines articulation based on the note durations themselves, these really is a very simple parts of it all. You can go deeper into how one interprets the articulation of the notes, the PDF I posted goes into some detail on that one. This is not the correct place to write out a lecture to present the entire subject in detail. Academics don't just make choices based on fashions, there is a line of information and history that many have traced for hundreds of years. Talk about ornamentation and embelishments in Bach, then you will start a huge fight with many academics.
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Online brogers70

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I don't understand why you can't hear the equality that permeates through much of those examples?

OK then, we actually like generally similar things. What you call "equality" I call subtle differences in dynamics that give shifting weights to different voices. What you call "not bringing out the subject" I call "bringing out the subject without hitting you over the head with it". You don't mind, apparently, when many of these pianists use gradual crescendos or decrescendos in a way impossible on the harpsichord because they do it modestly. That's fine. All of these folks are doing things with the piano that one cannot do with the harpsichord, but apparently not in a way that you find improper. Great. I've never heard your students play, so I have no way of knowing what faults you are providing a corrective to.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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OK then, we actually like generally similar things. What you call "equality" I call subtle differences in dynamics that give shifting weights to different voices. What you call "not bringing out the subject" I call "bringing out the subject without hitting you over the head with it". You don't mind, apparently, when many of these pianists use gradual crescendos or decrescendos in a way impossible on the harpsichord because they do it modestly. That's fine. All of these folks are doing things with the piano that one cannot do with the harpsichord, but apparently not in a way that you find improper. Great. I've never heard your students play, so I have no way of knowing what faults you are providing a corrective to.
Why don't you take an exact bar and example from the audio and put that under inspection? We can have a more detailed discussion then and see exactly what is happening. Give us for example a place where one voice overpowers the other.

The harpischord can sustain notes and have volumes, so it is a complicated answer how to pay respect to the harpsichord since so many improvements were made to the instrument over time. Bach did not live during the infancy of the harpsichord either rather near its end, one doesn't have to explain what that implies. To say the harpischord absolutely had no volume control or no sustain capability is not correct. There are natural rises and falls in Bach's music which we should know without having to use liberal volume control on a modern pianoforte to make it happen. Those who pay respect to these natural rises and falls used will present a wonderful interpretation and there really is no need to overdo it with the pianos capabilities.
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Online brogers70

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Why don't you take an exact bar and example from the audio and put that under inspection? We can have a more detailed discussion then and see exactly what is happening. Give us for example a place where one voice overpowers the other.

The harpischord can sustain notes and have volumes, so it is a complicated answer how to pay respect to the harpsichord since so many improvements were made to the instrument over time. Bach did not live during the infancy of the harpsichord either rather near its end, one doesn't have to explain what that implies. To say the harpischord absolutely had no volume control or no sustain capability is not correct. There are natural rises and falls in Bach's music which we should know without having to use liberal volume control on a modern pianoforte to make it happen. Those who pay respect to these natural rises and falls used will present a wonderful interpretation and there really is no need to overdo it with the pianos capabilities.

I'm done here; I've said several times that I'm not advocating one voice overpowering another, and that I'm talking about subtle differences in volume. You persist in trying to read me as saying something I am not. Not likely to lead to a productive discussion.

Offline themeandvariation

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LIIW:"No one said there cannot be interpretation but we want to know what is the
'Proper practice' then you can go from there, quite logical."

It is the "Proper Practice" that you have as a "given"  that I have challenged this whole way.  Your 'proper practice' ideas you espouse are Not written in the score.  Therefore, your 'proper practice'  IS an interpretation. Obviously.  But you refuse to acknowledge this fact.
And not even a mention of curiosity re: Schweitzer, J E Gardener, and Kirkpatrick, and their ideas on this subject - all of whom specialize in Bach.
Sure, who cares about that (?), when you got "proper practice"..
Your notion of  - 8ths are detached and 16ths are connected - is only looking at isolated notes, and not taking account for where the notes are embedded within a musical idea.  One main suggestion brought up in each of the references (Schweitzer, etc.)
is the intervalic relationship between notes playing a part in determining the articulation.
But, I suppose this is getting too much into the weeds, as you weren't even curious to ask about the logic of other possible applications to Bach's music.
Finally, Id say that your "8ths are detached and 16ths are connected" approach can work much of the time, but is is blind to the context of the musical idea into which it is embedded, which makes all the difference.
One doesn't just see an 8th note, and say, "that is played shorter than its given value," just because it is an 8th note.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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I'm done here; I've said several times that I'm not advocating one voice overpowering another, and that I'm talking about subtle differences in volume. You persist in trying to read me as saying something I am not. Not likely to lead to a productive discussion.
Well show us examples in the recordings where you think they are not playing with even volume and that it is such a difference that it goes against what I initially said Tovey suggested. You said right at the start that one can "bring out" one voice and I warned that there was no such thing as bringing one voice OVER the other, that was just to be clear. If you think I am arguing with you that is a mistake I am merely repeating what is proper performance practice. I am elaborating on what it means to balance the voices. You clearly don't advocate making one voice overpowering the other but I will still repeat what I am on about each time.
 
LIIW:"No one said there cannot be interpretation but we want to know what is the
'Proper practice' then you can go from there, quite logical."

It is the "Proper Practice" that you have as a "given"  that I have challenged this whole way.  Your 'proper practice' ideas you espouse are Not written in the score.  Therefore, your 'proper practice'  IS an interpretation. Obviously.  But you refuse to acknowledge this fact.
Goddness me you are illogical. They didn't come out of my head but from piano pedagogy and a whole history of education with music. It is not MY interpretation but what is taught around the world in music universities which teach Bach.

And not even a mention of curiosity re: Schweitzer, J E Gardener, and Kirkpatrick, and their ideas on this subject - all of whom specialize in Bach.
What about Blackhol, Grenthum and Oysta, they also specialize in Bach. So what?

Sure, who cares about that (?), when you got "proper practice"..
Your notion of  - 8ths are detached and 16ths are connected - is only looking at isolated notes, and not taking account for where the notes are embedded within a musical idea.
Lol, have you ever studied Bachs Inventions? Go ahead and go against detached 8ths and connected 16ths, people will laugh in your face! It is not my notion, I have not lived long enough to come up with that for the first time, illogical mind you have there.

One main suggestion brought up in each of the references (Schweitzer, etc.)
is the intervalic relationship between notes playing a part in determining the articulation.
Who cares? You are throwing down names without showing exact recordings, exact bars, go ahead and be exact with what you are saying then we will see how feeble your ideas are.

But, I suppose this is getting too much into the weeds, as you weren't even curious to ask about the logic of other possible applications to Bach's music.
"The logic of possible applications to Bach's music", wow you should write a thesis on that. Don't you think that it would initially extenuate from proper traditional performance practice of which we have vast history and knowledge to sift through? Or do you think it comes from youtube recordings?

Finally, Id say that your "8ths are detached and 16ths are connected" approach can work much of the time, but is is blind to the context of the musical idea into which it is embedded, which makes all the difference.
One doesn't just see an 8th note, and say, "that is played shorter than its given value," just because it is an 8th note.
*yawn* go play Bachs 2 part inventions and report bach back. You say I am correct most of the time but it is blind, you are illogical. Come on show us some bars of music where there are semiquavers vs quavers and this ideology doesn't stand, be concrete not just ideas in your head.
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Offline themeandvariation

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Reductio ad Absurdum.  And Gaslighting. Have fun!
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Reductio ad Absurdum.  And Gaslighting. Have fun!
Yes I am having fun.
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Well this thread turned crazy since I posted it, felt pretty daunting to try to catch up with everything  ;D

My 2 cents that I want to add is

1.) Tovey is not god and just because he says something doesn't mean it's the absolute truth on how to play Bach. There are disagreements even among people who research performance practise from the baroque era on how to do certain things. In music college we had an interesting seminar when we got to listen to several "early music" ensembles playing the same piece, and their approach was very different.

2.) I don't have the sources, but I am fairly sure that Bach has said that while all voices are important, at any given moment there is one voice that is the most important, else it all gets messy. Naturally, he writes that into the music but we still need to find and understand what is the "melody" at any given moment. It definitely can travel between voices just like in a choir like one user said higher up in the thread. "Harpsichord is not a vocal instrument", you say? Well it's a fact that in harpsichord treatises of the time it is written that the highest art of a harpsichordist, is to be able to play legato and imitate the human voice.


Offline lostinidlewonder

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Well this thread turned crazy since I posted it, felt pretty daunting to try to catch up with everything  ;D
That's what happens when I comment on posts :) You see how quiet it is now? lol. You didn't "catch up with everything" since your opinion of Tovey is unfounded, he is not God but heck find me any academic who disagrees with him please. Harpsichord is not a vocal instrument since the only vocal instrument is the human/animal voice.
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Offline lelle

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@lostinidlewonder why do I get the feeling you are a rascal who likes to stir things up? :D

Offline lostinidlewonder

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It's good to have interaction especially when there is disagreement. I know some people are annoyed with me for it but hey I don't mind being a whipping boy. 
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Offline anacrusis

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That's what happens when I comment on posts :) You see how quiet it is now? lol. You didn't "catch up with everything" since your opinion of Tovey is unfounded, he is not God but heck find me any academic who disagrees with him please. Harpsichord is not a vocal instrument since the only vocal instrument is the human/animal voice.

I guess this may be a semantics/language barrier problem (I am not a native English speaker). When I say the harpsichord is a vocal instrument, I mean that it's an instrument that is capable of imitating the human voice and playing legato - even if it's a well crafted illusion, just like on the piano, perhaps even moreso. It sounded to me like you said we shouldn't imitate a choir because the original instrument the music was written for - the harpsichord - could not do so, and my argument is that it could in some sense, since the fine artist of the harpsichord of the day was expected to imitate the human voice on the harpsichord.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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I guess this may be a semantics/language barrier problem (I am not a native English speaker). When I say the harpsichord is a vocal instrument, I mean that it's an instrument that is capable of imitating the human voice and playing legato - even if it's a well crafted illusion, just like on the piano, perhaps even moreso. It sounded to me like you said we shouldn't imitate a choir because the original instrument the music was written for - the harpsichord - could not do so, and my argument is that it could in some sense, since the fine artist of the harpsichord of the day was expected to imitate the human voice on the harpsichord.
I don't think the meaning of words is anything that can be confused in this case, a vocal instrument has a specific definition. What do you mean "it sounded" like I said something, I either said it or not.
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