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 Post subject: 2-part invention in E major
PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 7:56 pm 
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Below is the link to the E major 2-part invention. At least to me, the rhythmics and melody line is a bit awkward and I find it tricky to execute it well. I tried a little experiment with the repeats as I cannot believe that it was Bach's intention to play the repeats exactly the same.

Unfortunately, I make a rhythmic mistake at one spot (did it twice because of the repeat) so I guess I will have to re-record it (pretty sure that at least Chris will spot it ;)). By some reason, I did not hear the mistake until after I listened to my own recording :oops:. Anyway, perhaps someone cares to give me their view of the overall interpretation.

http://server3.pianosociety.com/protect ... lbrand.mp3

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 8:24 pm 
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The only rhythmic anomaly I could spot was the hestitation between bars 57 and 58. I guess that is what you referred to.

Many of the bars with the 32-th notes sound a bit choppy and insecure. And these are precisely the bars that make this piece so charming - I like to imagine Bach is taking a stroll and every now and then can't resist taking some cute hopping dance steps. Sounds like the sort of thing he would do. There were a couple of dodgy notes in the last 15 bars or so, but nothing disturbing. You need to look at bar 32 though, you play a F# which should be a F## (at least in my Henle Urtext it is).

Apart from that, very well done. Good clear interpretation and a nice idea to vary the repeats a little. I've always played this legato but will now experiment with detached as it sounds more lively.
I see no reason why you would need to re-record it unless nitpickers rule the world :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:52 am 
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techneut wrote:
The only rhythmic anomaly I could spot was the hestitation between bars 57 and 58. I guess that is what you referred to.

It is. I play the last not in bar 57 as an 8:th while it should be a 16:th, delaying bar 58.
techneut wrote:
Many of the bars with the 32-th notes sound a bit choppy and insecure. And these are precisely the bars that make this piece so charming - I like to imagine Bach is taking a stroll and every now and then can't resist taking some cute hopping dance steps. Sounds like the sort of thing he would do. There were a couple of dodgy notes in the last 15 bars or so, but nothing disturbing. You need to look at bar 32 though, you play a F# which should be a F## (at least in my Henle Urtext it is).

Yes I do play that and that what my score tells me. But I found that pianostreet had the urtext version for free which says F## as well. Not that I doubted you Chris but we want to see for ourself don't we? ;).
I am a bit insecure in some bars of the 32:th notes and I realize that it is audible. I have probably just practised too little
techneut wrote:
Apart from that, very well done. Good clear interpretation and a nice idea to vary the repeats a little. I've always played this legato but will now experiment with detached as it sounds more lively.
I see no reason why you would need to re-record it unless nitpickers rule the world :wink:

Well, I have had a tradition to put up many not so well played pieces so I thought that I should try to complete this set and at least be satisfied myself.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:00 pm 
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Sounds good to me, rhythmically and soundwise!

The only thing I have a bit to niggle a bit (something to niggle is always), are those 32-th notes (only left hand), they come here and there a bit tenacious. But who has such hands like Bach - it is said, he could equally trill fast and even with every hand every finger, even with feets on organ pedal...

Keep on with your project to go for all inventions!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:34 pm 
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MindenBlues wrote:
But who has such hands like Bach - it is said, he could equally trill fast and even with every hand every finger, even with feets on organ pedal...


where did you read/hear this? Quiet frankly, I think that is impossible, even with millions or billions of practicing trills. Just look at the anatomy of the fingers...there is more strength in the second and third finger than that little tiny finger, just because the connected muscles are bigger..... :roll:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:05 pm 
I've played that invention myself. It certainly is among the more challenging of the inventions, rhythmically speaking. The last section in particular took some pretty careful practice to get right.

My only realy criticism of your performance is that it seems to lack any real expression, particularly with dynamics. This piece is full of great places to be expressive. You seem to have just played all the right notes in the right order and at the right times and that's about it. You should really try and use dynamics more. Just because Bach didn't write any dynamics or that the instrument he was writing for was inable to create dynamics (or at least a great variety of dynamics or gradually changing dynamics) doesn't mean that we shouldn't take advantage of our modern day pianos to enhance Bach's music. Try doing a kind of terraced-effect where you do one section at a low volume and then begin the very next section forte. Also don't forget that you should give shape to your phrases. This piece is very beautiful when performed expressively.

But it is sounding good. Keep it up.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 6:01 am 
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MindenBlues wrote:
Sounds good to me, rhythmically and soundwise!

The only thing I have a bit to niggle a bit (something to niggle is always), are those 32-th notes (only left hand), they come here and there a bit tenacious. But who has such hands like Bach - it is said, he could equally trill fast and even with every hand every finger, even with feets on organ pedal...

Keep on with your project to go for all inventions!

Thanks you and I have a bit problems with the left hands 32:ths as they but from coming out a but fast also sometimes requires a more difficult fingering that for right hand.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 6:07 am 
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DarthDidious wrote:
I've played that invention myself. It certainly is among the more challenging of the inventions, rhythmically speaking. The last section in particular took some pretty careful practice to get right.

Yes it is a lot harder than it sounds. For example, it is much easier to play the 8:th in F -major in tempos much higher than my recording of it.

DarthDidious wrote:
My only realy criticism of your performance is that it seems to lack any real expression, particularly with dynamics. This piece is full of great places to be expressive. You seem to have just played all the right notes in the right order and at the right times and that's about it. You should really try and use dynamics more. Just because Bach didn't write any dynamics or that the instrument he was writing for was inable to create dynamics (or at least a great variety of dynamics or gradually changing dynamics) doesn't mean that we shouldn't take advantage of our modern day pianos to enhance Bach's music. Try doing a kind of terraced-effect where you do one section at a low volume and then begin the very next section forte. Also don't forget that you should give shape to your phrases. This piece is very beautiful when performed expressively.

But it is sounding good. Keep it up.

I play it pretty consistant and do not really like Bach interpretations that moves around too much dynamically. From p-mp-mf is good while I do not like to use forte or higher (and not pianissimo).
But my recording hardly go anything but mp. I have been experimenting with playing gradually piano with left hand and opposite with right hand as for example in the very beginning. I will likely re-record it and perhaps experiment a bit more.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 1:38 pm 
No I'm afriad I disagree with you when it comes to dynamics in Bach. To outright forbid yourself from ever playing forte in Bach just doesn't seem right to me. I'm not talking liszt-ian fortissimo chord-crashing, but just a full, strong forte. I mean that's what the word means anyway, "strong". Not "loud". Especially when coming to the emotional high-points in his pieces, and even more especially at the cadences during those moments. I attended a master class recently where a student played a Bach Prelude in which he would be crescendoing as he approached the cadences, but then immediately as he arrived on the new chord he would diminuendo almost instantly. The effect was very anti-climactic, and the instructor made a point of telling him to extend the crescendo out right to the arrival on the new chord. In fact he quite humourously described it as like saying: "I'm gonna give you a cadence...I'm gonna give you a cadence...I'm gonna give you a cadence...no I'm not.

That's my feeling when it comes to dynamics in Bach. The Piano's namesake comes from the fact that it is able to create such incredible dynamic contrasts, and not using that ability just because you're playing Bach is too me not using the medium to its fullest potential.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 5:08 pm 
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That is what is great about playing Bach. Nobody can tell you what to do and what not do to. One can just guess how Bach would have played on a piano. There are many "Baroque polices" who believes themselves to know how to play Bach and other baroque composers and I am definitely not one of those. I just do not feel in my heart that his pieces ever need much use of dynamics as they are musically so perfect.

According to my view, too much use of dynamics moves the focus too much to the sound of the piano rather than adding anything musically.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 6:53 pm 
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That is what is great about playing Bach. Nobody can tell you what to do and what not do to. One can just guess how Bach would have played on a piano. There are many "Baroque polices" who believes themselves to know how to play Bach and other baroque composers and I am definitely not one of those. I just do not feel in my heart that his pieces ever need much use of dynamics as they are musically so perfect.

According to my view, too much use of dynamics moves the focus too much to the sound of the piano rather than adding anything musically.


I disagree, quite adamantly too, but to each his own I suppose.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:11 pm 
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Only a remark regarding the discussion how to interpret the inventions. There is a hint from Master Bach himself about the manner he liked the Inventions to be played. He wrote it as preface to the Inventions, it is written in very old and long winded German language:

„Aufrichtige Anleitung,
Womit denen Liebhabern des Clavires, besonders aber denen Lehrbegierigen, eine deütlich Art gezeiget wird, nicht alleine mit 2 Stimmen reine spielen zu lernen, sondern auch bey weiteren progreßen auch mit dreyen obligaten Partien richtig und wohl zu verfahren, anbey auch zugleich guten inventiones nicht alleine zu bekommen, sondern auch selbige wohl durchzuführen, um allermeisten aber eine cantable Art im Spielen zu erlangen, und darneben einen starcken Vorschmack von der Composition zu überkommen.
Verfertiget von Joh: Seb: Bach. Hochfürstlich Anhalt-Cöthenischen Capellmeister“


I try a short translation from this old german language (but my english is not the best, unfortunately):

With this it is shown a distinct art to the lovers of the piano (clavier), mostover the students eager to learn, not only to play with 2, but with further progress to play with 3 different voices properly. Foremost the purpose is to get a cantabile art of playing in order to get a stronge taste of the composition.


Sounds pretty proud to me, JSB knew about the little jewels...
Since Bach used the word cantabile together with "foremost" I am pretty sure that he wished to put lots of expression into the playing. However, regardless what the composer liked, the other thing is what the interpret likes - both should be respected.

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Quote:
But who has such hands like Bach - it is said, he could equally trill fast and even with every hand every finger, even with feets on organ pedal...


where did you read/hear this? Quiet frankly, I think that is impossible, even with millions or billions of practicing trills. Just look at the anatomy of the fingers...there is more strength in the second and third finger than that little tiny finger, just because the connected muscles are bigger.....


It is written in the German book "Die kleine Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" from Esther Meynell. This book however is not a biography, and this statement is without a hint to the primary source. So, I don't know of any other source. Maybe you are right that the statement is a bit exxagerated, but maybe there is a primary source for that statement, I dunno.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:25 pm 
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With this it is shown a distinct art to the lovers of the piano (clavier), mostover the students eager to learn, not only to play with 2, but with further progress to play with 3 different voices properly. Foremost the purpose is to get a cantabile art of playing in order to get a stronge taste of the composition.


Sounds pretty proud to me, JSB knew about the little jewels...
Since Bach used the word cantabile together with "foremost" I am pretty sure that he wished to put lots of expression into the playing. However, regardless what the composer liked, the other thing is what the interpret likes - both should be respected.



My feelings exactly. Bach himself wrote the 2 and 3 part inventions with the intent to develop a cantabile style. In my view this makes a dynamically restricted interpretation of Bach completely out of the question.

Of course everyone is free to interpret any given work however they wish, but how you choose to interpret it may not necassarily be interesting for the audience to hear, and when you're performing you can't just ignore the audience's feelings. You've got to make them enjoy the music too. Bach is boring when played with flat dynamics and with little or no expression.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:46 pm 
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The question is, what exactly did cantabile mean back then. The art song had not yet been invented, and opera (to which we know Bach was not attracted) was only beginning to make an impact. So I am not sure Bach would necessarily mean the same as did Chopin when he used the word. Will we ever know for sure ? I guess not. Perhaps he just meant 'fluency' or something like that - I can imagine a lot of keyboard players were not exactly fluent these days and Bach felt it as his task to improve that level.

There is a certain point in applying dynamics and experssion in Bach even if that was not possible on the instruments of his time. We have that freedom, and Bach's music can take it all. But whether the music needs it, or even sounds "boring" without it, I find highly debatable. Though I must admit to preferring Bach on a piano over a harpsichord any time.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:51 am 
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Quote:
The question is, what exactly did cantabile mean back then. The art song had not yet been invented, and opera (to which we know Bach was not attracted) was only beginning to make an impact. So I am not sure Bach would necessarily mean the same as did Chopin when he used the word. Will we ever know for sure ? I guess not. Perhaps he just meant 'fluency' or something like that - I can imagine a lot of keyboard players were not exactly fluent these days and Bach felt it as his task to improve that level.


Good question, to ask what cantabile meant to Bach. If Bach meant fluency instead cantabile he would wrote it, I think. I guess he knew what he wrote. It is true that he did not like operas but does than mean that he disliked singing in general? No, I don't believe, and he has written lots for voice.
Has the meaning of cantabile changed through the age? It describes the manner to try to play as if a singer would sing, right?. Maybe the manner singer perform has changed over ages. Certain criteria about the singing style are the same, so I think. For instance I cannot imagine that singer did sing to Bach's time without a melody bow, for instance. That would be unnatural singing to me.
Maybe as first approach one could take the word "cantabile" simply with the meaning of today instead trying to look for pretty different meaning of the word like "fluency".

Quote:
There is a certain point in applying dynamics and experssion in Bach even if that was not possible on the instruments of his time.


Bach liked to play on his clavichord at night, as far as I know. I don't know the exact term of that instrument, but it must be an instrument with very low volume, but the possibility to change dynamics. If Bach puts the focus on "foremost cantabile" playing for the inventions, it could well be that he had such an instrument in mind, what he liked to play himself, and what was able to produce dynamic changes.

The inventions allow for giving the both voices an own phrasing, for me it sounds the best this way, but difficult to achieve (however worthful to long for). If Bach liked to have it played "foremost cantabile", I don't see any reason to not try to play the Inventions cantabile on the piano.

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Last edited by MindenBlues on Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:02 am 
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Quote:
Bach liked to play on his clavichord at night, as far as I know. I don't know the exact term of that instrument, but it must be an instrument with very low volume, but the possibility to change dynamics


I went to a presentation last year where a man brought his own clavichord and played several pieces. He warned us to be very quiet because the instrument was hard to hear. They had to get someone to turn the air conditioners off and nobody could move a muscle without overpowering the soft delicate sound of the clavichord. The man playing it was able to increase the dynamics only the tiniest amount. So Bach probably played on his clavichord at night because that's when his family was asleep and quiet.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:16 am 
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Quote:
I went to a presentation last year where a man brought his own clavichord and played several pieces. He warned us to be very quiet because the instrument was hard to hear. They had to get someone to turn the air conditioners off and nobody could move a muscle without overpowering the soft delicate sound of the clavichord. The man playing it was able to increase the dynamics only the tiniest amount. So Bach probably played on his clavichord at night because that's when his family was asleep and quiet.


Yes, he played in the bedroom where his wife slept (more or less). But I have read that he loved to play on this instrument also because of its dynamic capabilities (and not only because it is such a quiet instrument). So my point is only, he had a keyboard what whas capable to get dynamics out, he liked to play on it and he composed inventions what should be played "foremost cantabile". So the presumption is not too far he liked to play the inventions with dyamics, if possible in order to simulate that cantabile style.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:32 pm 
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DarthDidious wrote:
Quote:
With this it is shown a distinct art to the lovers of the piano (clavier), mostover the students eager to learn, not only to play with 2, but with further progress to play with 3 different voices properly. Foremost the purpose is to get a cantabile art of playing in order to get a stronge taste of the composition.


Sounds pretty proud to me, JSB knew about the little jewels...
Since Bach used the word cantabile together with "foremost" I am pretty sure that he wished to put lots of expression into the playing. However, regardless what the composer liked, the other thing is what the interpret likes - both should be respected.



My feelings exactly. Bach himself wrote the 2 and 3 part inventions with the intent to develop a cantabile style. In my view this makes a dynamically restricted interpretation of Bach completely out of the question.

Of course everyone is free to interpret any given work however they wish, but how you choose to interpret it may not necassarily be interesting for the audience to hear, and when you're performing you can't just ignore the audience's feelings. You've got to make them enjoy the music too. Bach is boring when played with flat dynamics and with little or no expression.


It is very interesting that you, in the last sentence, state that you know how interpretations will affect the entire mankind. I am sure you mean rather that "Bach is, according to my view, boring"...etc. Anyway, I am quite against trying to play something in the way that the audience would like to have it served. The simple reason is that it would probably have you to go for a safe version. So to speak, as we are used to hear it. That is, according to my view, even more boring than an attempt (failed or not) to create a new perspective. Second, I see no reasons for trying to perfectly match how the composer intended his work to be played. That will only support the pianist who is most easy to program and who can play in a computer like manner. Circus artists more than musicians and there are just too many of them at this time.

The perfect example of someone who definitely did not play Bach as Bach played his own work, was Gould. One of the most extreme example is probably his -81 Goldberg Variations where he plays slow, still with the knowledge that Bach himself was an extreme virtouso and played his own compositions very fast. This recording happends to be one of the most (if not most) loved Bach interpretation ever. For what reasons? Probably many, but I believe it foremost is for its beautiful articulations.

What I try to preach is that one must try to create a version of a certain piece that you believe in yourself and feel happy about. Our ideas about music rely on many things and probably things connected to your own life. My idea is not your idea and one must not like each others ideas. But go from there to say that something is wrong, then you take a step right out in the blue...

But from playing the LH detached and RH legato and then invert the pattern in the repeat for each part (that should be pretty obvious), I am trying to add a gloomy or melancolique side of the invention. My pictured idea of this invention is a young girl, perhaps not even 10 years old, running over a meadow, playing a selfinvented game, half-singing (this invention of course) and taking steps in between in melody of the legato (the detached keys are her steps). She is in her own world and dreams and does not notice much of the world outsite. But is she happy? No, the game is just the young girls escape from the vandals of her own age.


But back to the discussions how Bach intended his works to be played, and in particular his Inventions (as this happends to be the evolved topic of my recording). So to speak, how did he play them himself?

First of all, as Chris also says, we cannot perfectly understand what Bach meant by "Cantabile" in his time. There are many people who have tried and there is also a dedicated page for the topic at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Cantabile-Bach.htm A couple of interesting things from it:
Quote:
Dreyfus, Laurence: Bach and the Patterns of Invention Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1996. p.1

I find Bach's invitation, almost insistence, on arriving at a 'cantabile' manner of playing of the above collection of works both striking and important for indicating how Bach himself wished these pieces to be realized auditorily. In light of the serious difficulties facing musicologists employing stylistic analysis of ancient music (as opposed to very successful structural analysis), it makes sense to re-claim the term "style" to refer to the manner in which works are realized by the musician in performance and to merge it with an aesthetic consideration for what may be termed "stylistically informed performance practice". Generally speaking, aside from JS Bach's keyboard pieces in the French style, his intentions for the auditory realization of his mid-period works on stringed clavier instruments were likely to be in the polished, cosmopolitan (Italian) cantabile style of the time, a style which is well documented and taught by the music aesthetician J.J. Quantz in his treatise on playing the flute. Bach does not mention this style himself, probably for the reason that it was a mainstream performance practice, and aside from a natural antipathy toward higher-paid foreign musicians, but mostly out of natural German self-respect, he would never want or need mention it on the title pages of his publications."


More...

Quote:
Steven Foss wrote (November 17, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Cantabile manner of playing is open to interpretation, the cantabile means Singing. Was he referring to a form of articulation rather than an Italian way of playing?

Does it also mean legato?

Why did K P E refer to his (and to his Father) playing of melodies to be like "a string of pearls," each note seperate, with a distinct beginning and end before the next note. (As opposed to overplaying, note release the note until after the next note had sounded, as mentioned by Richard Troeger in his book on Keyboard Intrepretation)

Although Glen Gould over did the non legato style of playing Bach, the overlegato or 19th century style of Piano legato is somewhat out of place in the Preludes and Fantasias (which would be renamed Inventions and Sinfonias when collected). The Cantabile style of playing maybe only very slightly non legato touch, as I have yet to see Italian keyboard works in Bach's form. The String of Pearls works very well for delineating both inner voices while allowing outer held voices to be more audible.

Did we get any wiser? Well, Bach probably meant Italian Cantabile playing. Polished, smooth and singing so the importance is articulation rather than dynamics.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2006 7:17 am 
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Thanks for your investigation and citations on Bach's cantabile playing, Robert!

Quote:
Did we get any wiser? Well, Bach probably meant Italian Cantabile playing. Polished, smooth and singing so the importance is articulation rather than dynamics.


Bach used some keyboard instruments which were not capable to deliver dynamics. All the expression beside the rhythm must be done via articulation. Like on cembalo or organ (let's take register changes and keyboard switches out of discussion here).
But at night he played on his clavichord and liked it because of the dynamic capabilities. So he used dynamics if he could. On piano, we can use it even much more than on the clavichord.
Of course one can limit the expression to articulation, but if a keyboard is capable to deliver dynamics, Bach used it too. So the dynamics, not only the articulation seemed to be of importance too for Bach, if possible.

The other question of course, the one thing is what the composer had in mind, the other what the interpret does. I agree fully with Robert, it is the freedom of the interpret to do what he/she likes. And also the freedom of the listener to comment accordingly, of course.

And I realize too, that the label "cantabile" can have different meanings. For sure I would not like to listen to an invention in the Chopin style with tons of rubato, exxagerations, pedal (over)use. Barenboim goes dangerous near with this in his WTC1 recording, for my taste.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 7:52 pm 
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I agree to what you say but for with Barenboim's WTK which I have never heard.

Anyway, I uploaded another version of the Invention and really took my freedom to make a rather unusual version this time. I do not expect all of you to agree or like it...but I do ;).

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 5:16 pm 
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I am not convinced this is an improvement on the original version. Yes it has more contrast and things to catch the ear now, but it seems to be trying a bit too hard now, possessed with a sort of Gould-like determination to be different. All the same, very well done save for one or two weak moments in the RH. The 'female pirouettes' seem a bit more heavy-handed than before.

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I do not pretend that I am not a Gould fan, nor that this interpretation has nothing to do with him, but it is actually an advice from my piano teacher to explore a slow version (really slow) of this invention. I mean, all the basic interpretations have been done already. And it feels right to me, at least yet but you can expect me to re-record many of the inventions...perhaps even several times. I will not let them go until I have a complete set I am really happy about.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 1:18 am 
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I love to play the same Bach piece a dozen times in a row, each time playing it very differently than the previous.


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