Wow, thank all of you for the precious tips and wonderful ideas which have been unknown to me, my Bach-Specialists! I think it'll took a while for me to digest all these practical tips thoroughly. So don't blame me if I would come back to one of these tips after a year...
BTW today is the New Year's Day after the lunar calendar
and the biggest feast day in East Asia! In this sense Happy New Year to everyone
I'm going to go to the Korean church to celebrate this day with others today, so I'm going to go into only part of your replies and will come back to the others later.
This reminds me....I am very interested in East Asian traditional music, and I wonder if you know anything about it. Also, happy new year!
I think I know what you mean about finding certain movements boring, because I often find myself in the same position with Bach. Sometimes his keyboard technique is particularly counterintuitive, and sometimes it's hard to get your hands on a good interpretation. Anyway, I have learned not to trust these intuitions with Bach. It's always good.
Terez, thank you so much for your time and very practical tips which are based on your pedagogical understanding full with sympathy with my (rather primitive) problems! In this passage you wrote one thing is not clear to me. Is what you mean by "not to trust these intuitions" that I shouldn't give up a possible good interpretation just because it is not so easy to realize on the instrument? (I'm afraid I didn't get the right point...)
Okay, I will try to break down what I meant here. I am really referring to the inherent musical value of everything Bach wrote. I have found that every now and then, there are a few weak bars in Bach, but I can't call to mind anything in his published keyboard works (that is, the things he published when he was alive) that is sub-par. Not a whole movement, anyway. It's all good stuff.
Sometimes, we get to know these pieces from other pianists, rather than from the page, and usually it's much easier to familiarize ourselves with pieces that way, but sometimes, none of the pianists we have available manage to sell the piece to us. That doesn't mean it doesn't have that inherent value, and that we can't make something of it.
Chopin has a lot to do with why modern pianism is so different from Bach's keyboard technique, but at the same time, you can see how much of Chopin's technique was inspired by Bach's.
Oh, this idea is very interesting! Could I hear a bit more about it? And one question more about Bach's technique: It seems that many people think non-legato or dettached touch is ideal for Bach. Is it to justify by the historical argument or through the fact that in that way you can handle with his music (technically) better?
Your question actually has a great deal to do with the similarity between Chopin and Bach. Detached touch is certainly necessary to make Bach's keyboard technique work, but it is by no means the rule. Some of his technical problems simply require you to lift your hand off the keyboard and rearrange it completely, and it frequently happens in places where the passage is technically possible
with a legato touch. The legato touch is simply not correct. And I'm not saying there is any rule on this you should follow - I actually prefer editions without fingerings so I can be forced to figure them out on my own, which I think is an important skill, though I have lately taken to comparing my fingerings to professional ones - but when you are practicing, it's a good idea to keep this in mind at all times. If something is awkward when legato, consider that maybe a detached touch will be better. A decent general rule is that, when there are two voices, one will be legato and the other detached. Because Bach uses invertible counterpoint, the voices will change hands, but the motives should be consistently articulated, barring occasional changes that you intentionally do for artistic reasons. When there are more than two voices, at least one of them will be detached, and at least one of them will be legato, as if you were an organist. If there are four voices, it's likely but not necessary to be 2+2, but very rarely does Bach use more than three voices intricately in keyboard music; in the 4- and 5-voice fugues, for example, the 4th and 5th voices are mostly used as harmonic filler, with rare exceptions, such as the return of the b-flat minor fugue in book II, where all four voices have the subject, quite an intricate one, at the same time (2+2 stretto, in thirds in each hand, and melodically inverted in the left).
Also, the 'detached touch' is not completely detached. For instance, you regularly find yourself in Bach with running 16ths in one voice. There are several different ways to articulate each group of 4 16ths, and it will vary depending on the piece, which works best. Connect the first two, making the final three detached? Connect the first three, making the final two detached? While sometimes there will be a mostly detached voice against a mostly legato voice, there are some times when both voices are a combination of detached and legato (for example, those fugue subjects in stretto), and the legato vs staccato effect from RH to LH is still a good general rule. It just gets a tad more complicated.
So, I find in Bach a very strange independence of my fingers from the keyboard, that I did not find without Bach. The easier Chopin pieces did not in any way prepare me for the more difficult Chopin pieces - in fact, they gave me an entirely wrong
idea of how to play the more difficult pieces. I don't really think that you are struggling in this area in the same way that I am, at all, but I also find in Bach a wonderful independence of my fingers that I don't think any other composer's music has given me cause to comprehend, and I think that this value is what most pianists find in Bach.
For example: I am currently playing Chopin's 25/1 etude in A-flat. I have played it before: it was the first Chopin etude I played in public for anything (local competition). I had such an amazingly difficult time with it back then! I realize now it was because I did not know how to make my fingers fly above the keys. From the first time Chopin augments the A-flat chord on the first page of the etude, that technique was required. I played the etude without that technique before, and it was painfully difficult, and the piece did not come off so well, and never quite came close to performance tempo. Now that I have that ability, I can play the first page at performance tempo without having practiced it in the last 15 years at all, and most of my work on it will be learning the notes in the rest of the piece.
But the more Bach I play, the easier it gets to play Chopin, and since I suck at piano
, I have just been playing the same Bach over and over again, and therefore haven't played much.
Yes, we all know that you study a piece really intensively and thoroughly
I have been looking forward to listen to your Bach (or Chopin or Shostakovich) already for a while! You are a music student, so I suppose the school exams or recitals could be recorded by the equipments of your school, or not?
I posted that recital a while back, but I posted it on the General forum, because none of it (not even one movement!) was good enough for the audition room.
(It was in this thread
, but not in the first post.....the links to the recital videos are further down.) One day I will get there, but I'm pretty patient in that area. Maybe I will get some recording equipment one day and record something decent when I'm not shaking in front of the audience. You should be able to see from those videos that I am pretty challenged on piano. I'm not happy with how the recital turned out, but nevertheless, I'm proud of the progress I made. I was really in horrible shape when I returned to school.
I will come by a score of the Art of Fugue and give a look, since I never had its score. BTW isn't it so, that the Bach's intention in which instrumentation this set must be played is not clear?
Henle has some good notes on this question. I will type it out if necessary, but there's a chance Alf or someone knows of a digital version of the notes. Here is a tidbit for now:
Davitt Moroney wrote:
Over the last 50 years, most musicologists and performers have finally accepted the idea that the work must be for keyboard. Much of the overwhelming evidence proving this point has been published by Gustav Leonhardt.....Such notation was normal for intricate contrapuntal keyboard music from the late sixteenth century onwards (as the works of Frescobaldi and Froberger, among others, clearly show); Bach himself used open score notation in two other engraved keyboard pieces of the same period: for the Von Himmel hoch variations and for the six-voiced ricercar in the Musikalisches Opfer (and we have C.P.E. Bach's own written testimony that this ricercar is for keyboard). In fact, it would have been very extraordinary, given its nature, had Die Kunst der Fuge been published in anything other than open score.
One question I forgot to write on the opening post is about the editions. Which edition is recommendable for Bach's keyboard works? Are the IMSLP scores ok, too? Or rather an expensive edition?
IMSLP scores, the Bach-Gesellschaft edition, are the closest thing you can get to urtext for free (and you can get bound editions from Dover for very cheap). The NBA has improved upon B-G greatly in correcting errors against autographs, etc., but the keyboard editions are really not bad, and most of the errors are in the ornaments from what I gather. There was one wrong note in the allemande of the c minor partita, but it was so obviously a wrong note that I couldn't have possibly thought it was right.
I haven't found any other errors yet, but I haven't looked so deeply.