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 Post subject: last of 4 postings tonight: Hindemith Ludus Tonalis (select)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:13 pm 
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Selection from Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis plus program notes to the 4 submissions tonight...

Selection from J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book I:
Prelude and Fugue No. 8 in E flat minor
Prelude and Fugue No. 9 in E major
Prelude and Fugue No. 10 in E minor

Selection from Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis:
Fugue no. 6 in E flat, with Interlude
Fugue no. 7 in A flat, with Interlude
Fugue no. 8 in D, with Interlude
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Program Notes
Introduction
Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier of 1722 and his treatment of the Fugue, is one of the great treasures of keyboard music. Since its completion in 1942, Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis has built a reputation as a "Modern Well Tempered Clavier".

In a fugue, a theme is introduced which is then taken up and developed by the other voices throughout the piece. The fugue is just one musical form which allows the composer to build up textures through counterpoint: the simultaneous sounding of separate melodies against each other.

The “Ludus” in Hindemith’s title implies this whole process should be fun, and acts as a reminder that any formal construction in music turns out, in the end, to be a no more than a "game". I therefore urge the listener to spot the themes and see if they can track their progression through the different voices. This will also help guide you through some of the "foreign" tonalities you‘ll encounter along the way. At the same time allow yourself to sit back and enjoy the rich variety of moods that these composers have created to such great effect around such formal structures.

J.S. Bach Well Tempered Clavier
Bach stated in the title that his work was
"... for the use and benefit of inquisitive young musicians and for the special diversion of those already well versed in this study..."
Bach presents a Prelude and Fugue in each of the twelve major and twelve minor keys. The pieces are arranged in chromatic order (ascending the keyboard to the key of the next adjacent note). This arrangement was simply a device to demonstrate the compositional possibilities of the well tempered tuning system, relatively new in adoption at the time. The well tempered scale comprises adjacent notes tuned to a strict interval. This allows the keyboard to play in any key, freeing up the ability to modulate to other keys. It does however compromise on some of the resonances and tone colours (moods specific to a particular key) achievable when the player can divide the length of a string or pipe, for example.

Prelude no. 8 in E flat minor is a melancholic sarabande. Almost every device is employed in the fugue: swapping the theme several times between different voices, stretto (a close overlap of voices only a few beats apart), stretching (augmenting), inverting and changing note time values.
No. 9 in E major is a light, airy, pastoral prelude and a three part Fugue.
Prelude no. 10 in E minor involves a haunting melody punctuated by short chords and accompanied by constant broken chords in the left hand, leading to a presto. The energetic Fugue involves just two voices. Listen out for the fleeting hemiola (switching accents from three to two in a bar) and a sly breaking of the rules with parts moving in unison an octave apart.

Paul Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis
Though a selection stands programmatically well on its own, it is interesting to point out how Hindemith, following on in the romantic tradition, conceived his own piece as a complete cyclic whole. Hindemith first composed a set of fragmentary fugues, but at some point formulated the idea of tying them together, following a key progression that he had put forward in his Unterweisung im Tonsatz (The Craft of Musical Composition). In this treatise he discusses relationships between tones in terms of their "natural state" (attempting to divorce thought from any stylistic considerations). The fifth has the closest affinity, with the tritone (F sharp) sounding the most remote. The full progression is:
C, G, F, A, E, E flat, A flat, D, B flat, D flat, B, F sharp.
This is best demonstrated by playing the progression along with the base note C. You should sense a distinct move away from "harmony" and an increase in tonal "tension".
Bach's harmony is primarily based on the 3rd plus 5th (triad) and its first inversion. Whilst Hindemith's is based on chords such as the 4th plus 7th and its first inversion. This gives the counterpoint a contemporary "dissonant" sound.
Compositions following on from the Romantic tradition, increasingly blurred the relationships between major and minor. Hindemith therefore writes only twelve fugues, each linked to one another by an interlude, usually starting in the key of the preceding fugue leading to that of the next, and containing hints of the moods of each.
The piece starts with a Prelude and ends with a Postlude, written such that, turn the book upside down, and you have the Prelude again. This 180 degree rotation, beyond mere gimmick, is in fact technically very difficult to implement in any meaningful way. Hindemith limits himself principally to modulations between the keys of A flat, A, C flat, C and C sharp in the Prelude and Postlude, because these five scales encompass their original sound values when turned upside down. Added to this, the note C remains unchanged in 180 degree rotation, thereby providing the link to complete the circle of keys.

I start the selection with the quiet, cantabile Fugue no. 6 in E flat, followed by a black humorous march interlude.
fugue no. 7 is in A flat of moderate tempo and dotted rhythm. The next interlude is broad, orchestral and majestic.
Fugue no. 8 in D is dominated by the interval of the fifth, over 5 beats in complex rhythm. The next interlude provides a frenetic ending.

Further reading:
1) Sleeve notes Angela Hewitt Das Wohltemperierte Clavier Book 1, Hyperion Records.
2) "Hindemith's Ludus tonalis and Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier: A Comparison." Music Review 20 (1959): 217-27.
3) Preface, Giselher Schubert/Gunter Ludwig: Wiener Urtext Edition UT50128 Ludus Tonalis, Paul Hindemith

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 9:35 am 
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This is good :!:

It is easier to admire than to love Hindemith's music, and this will probably not be to everyone's taste. I find this fascinating music though. I had never heard the Ludus, except perhaps once a small excerpt on the radio, so I have no comparison. But your recording sounds totally authoritative and convincing to me. There may be some tiny slips but nobody could tell for sure unless they knew this music inside out.

You almost sound like a different pianist here than in the Bach. Really on top of the idiom as well as the technical demands. Seems like you either have more affinity with Hindemith than with Bach, or have played this music much longer, and you play with far more affirmative tone and touch. The piano also seems to sound better than in the Bach, though that can't be as you recorded all this yesterday evening !?

While I doubt about the Bach, this would be great to have on the site. Will you be recording the whole cycle eventually ? As we store recording by composer and category, there is no possibility to preserve the idea of your 'project'. It is also not customary to have a singe track with a selection of items from a cycle. If we have selections, they should be separate tracks.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 3:14 am 
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I totally agree with Chris. Very good. Weird, but good.

Any Schoenberg on the horizon?

Pierre


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 6:45 pm 
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[ Any Schoenberg on the horizon?

You are a funny man indeed. :lol: or I should say Bartok.

By the way, David, well played. Where are you locating?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:46 pm 
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This was all new to me and interesting to listen to. It sounds like you know the piece very well but I cannot give any constructive critisism. I really like when we have pianists experimenting with not so known composers and not only playing the ordinary stuff. Great playing!

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:58 am 
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Thanks for the comments everyone. I'd encourage people to familiarise themselves with the score and check out the further reading. I'm glad I put across some of the character (which is in abundance throughout the composition). It is fascinating how he treats the fugue. As I say in the program notes, following the themes through helps guide you through the foreign tonalities...

...sounded like a past in-joke...fill me in...Easier on the ear surely than Schoenberg!? Saying this, I've played some of Schoenberg's op. 23 and the first piece is a very effective two part invention. I love Bartok's Orchestral music but have yet to try any on the piano. Any suggestions? Allegro Barbaro perhaps. Anyone tried any other modern (or any period for that matter) fugues (Shostakovich for instance) that would fit well into a program of Bach?

I guess the debate over 20C+ music will rage on. I think it has to be accepted that unfortunately the merits to many compositions only really come out after a bit of study, however I think it's good to shake up an audience with a selection at least, and I tend to cushion them first by giving a few pointers and letting them know just how long it will run (i.e. just how much of their lives will be wasted if they really don't like it!).

Once I'm happy with my Bach (I'll post a reply to recent messages on that subject after this one). I'll split the tracks of the Hindemith and resubmit. I certainly plan to do more of the Ludus Tonalis, but, like the Bach, it will be a lifelong project punctuated by a good dose of other masterpieces!

I'm located in Malvern in the UK. It's in my profile, but noticed that info doesn't always pop up (not with author info whilst I'm typing this reply for instance)?

Thanks again. I take a lot of encouragement from your comments.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 5:59 am 
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DavidBryce wrote:
...sounded like a past in-joke...fill me in...Easier on the ear surely than Schoenberg!? Saying this, I've played some of Schoenberg's op. 23 and the first piece is a very effective two part invention. I love Bartok's Orchestral music but have yet to try any on the piano. Any suggestions? Allegro Barbaro perhaps. Anyone tried any other modern (or any period for that matter) fugues (Shostakovich for instance) that would fit well into a program of Bach?

I can't think of any Bartok that mixes especially well with Bach. I'd pick the Suite Op.14 over the Allegro Barbaro, but no particular reason why (perhaps as Bach wrote suites).
The Shostakovich Op.87 preludes and fugues are the ideal 20th century companion to the WTC, and several pianists combine them on disc. Some immensely complex and difficult items in there but also much accessible material. A cycle that you can be busy with for a lifetime, and IMO one of the pinnacles of 20th century piano literature.
On a more modest scale, the Op.2 Two-part Inventions by Geirr Tveitt are also nice and would fit in with Bach.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 8:39 pm 
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I have now listened to these with score at hand (well on screen really, what would we be without the Internet ;-)

Indeed there are quite some awkward moments, which I did not really notice before. I guess that is nothing more than a lack of preparation, it seems to me you are really attuned to this music, as well as intellectually and technically up to it, and generally you do play this very persuasively and idiomatically.

The only thing I would say (as in the Bach) is, do not be too shy. When Hindemith calls for forte, or "con forza" as is the indication of one of the fugues, just give it to him. If that means blaring out a harsh or even ungainly sound at full force, so be it - that is Hindemith for you. He does that regularly, and a persistent listener will get used to it. If anything, this music is energetic, assertive and unapologetic. Except when it's contemplative of course :wink:

Once again, we could put this up the site if you wish. But I think it would give you more satisfaction if you worked on it a bit more and ironed out some of the creases.

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