Thanks for your comments!
Some of the comments you have had here have perhaps been a little more negative than you deserve because, as I understand it, inégalité was a concept which applied across a range of different kinds of inequality, and was not restricted to mere "notes inégales", where some notes written straight were expected to be "swung" (as the jazz people call it) by an unspecified amount at the whim of the performer, in other words they were expected to have their rhythm "distorted".
Well... this is PS!
I'm really used to negative comments.
(we think we know now that Bach knew about but rejected equal temperament, and that his WTC was not a vote for ET, but was to show that one could find (and he had found) a temperament in which it was possible to play reasonably well in all keys while still allowing each key to retain a character of its own). In this sense it is a bit counterproductive to render HIP on a piano tuned to ET.
That's right! These different keys have their different character. Sharp keys sound really "nervous", while flat keys are sweet, like in this this Eb flat suite. While I can't tune my piano in an unequal way (otherwise I couldn't play Chopin or Schoenberg), I use this information as a tip for the character of each piece. In the past, I used to play the F# prelude of the WTCI in a smooth and relaxed way. Now I believe that it should sound nervous and angry, more aggressive, because this is how this tonality sounds in an unequal temperament, at least in those unequal temperaments the harpsichordists usually play. (There are several of them...)
The whole point of inégalité was to avoid égalité or sameness, which was felt to make the music sound bland and boring. They wanted to make it pleasant by making it interesting and varied.
Yeah, it is part of the baroque language to achieve variety in an apparently monotonous music.
Having said that, I must observe that it is possible, and indeed easy, to overdo these effects. We must remember that one of the main objectives of music is that it should please the listener (especially the listener who is paying the musicians!), and I think that one of the requirements of pleasure is that the listener can relate to the music, to be able to predict (not totally, that would be boring) what is going to happen next. Thus meter and rhythm should not be too unpredictable or the listener is going to get confused and irritated.
When Chris made the comment "nauseous listening experience", there is more than a grain of truth in this. An unexpected flow of stimuli can disorient the listener and induce a feeling of motion sickness. It's interesting that in Sherman's article which you cited, the paragraph after the one from which you quoted also contains the word "seasick":
This is all too subjective for me. I do believe it is a matter of culture, of getting used to it.
I usually got angry while listening to harpsichordits in the past. But now I got used to it, and what really annoys me now is a metronomical Bach playing, including by great Bach pianists I would enjoy a lot in the past.
And in fact... talking about prediction, I could say exactly the opposite: after getting used to this type of inflection, when I listen to some performer who does not inflect when I think he should (then my prediction fails), I get frustrated.
Emphasizing every strong beat can also obscure the music's larger shapes and make it sound dry. And "speaking" rhetorically sometimes yields seasick tempo fluctuations. Such instances demonstrate a common problem in the arts: a new approach to style tends to be exaggerated before it is fully digested.
Okay, but did you see that Bernard Sherman loves the way Asperen plays? have you heard Asperen's recordings? Sherman says that Asperen do not exaggerate these inflections...
Well... so far as I saw, he's THE ONE who most exaggerate it! He puts the rhythmic flexibility to the extreme!
(And yes, I like it!)
See how subjective this discussion easily gets?
I don't know if you have deliberately exaggerated the effects in order to stimulate discussion, or whether the exaggeration was unintentional. I believe the effects need to be much more subtle, and I think you have reached this conclusion yourself after the feedback you had in your masterclass.
Nowadays, I've been really angry with historical approaches to early music, since I have noticed that there is really a great amount of subjective judging. There are few possibilities for discussion, and people simply do not talk about what they don't agree with. What I have learned from Judy Tarling about strong beats and articulation is really the opposite from what I have learned from Robert Donington and Paul Badura-Skoda (these two last names, I learned only by reading their books). And also from a great Brazilian harpsichordist.
So now who should I trust?
There was no discussion or explaining why this lingering of the good notes should or should not apply.
I'm really angry, because I decided to study these stuffs in order to get rid of that annoying "argument" of how you should or should not play something, based on NOTHING, based on a famous pianist who recorded that, or based on a subjective personal taste.
And then I reach the historical performance with... THE SAME SUBJECTIVE JUDGINGS.
I have decided myself that I will choose Asperen as an example of good inflections (Robert Donington says in his book that overinflecting is a common mistake, but underinflection is much more common!), and then I'll take only CPE Bach treatise of how to deal with rhythms, ornaments and tempo fluctuations. I think I'll forget all the rest.
From this recording, I think I would only remake the Allemande. Not because I think there is too much inflection... but because I think these inflections were not too well shaped. I usually hurry in the end of each the phrase, when in fact I should do the opposite.
whatever opinion one has about Bach or baroque performance, what I really miss is that more pianists study it! Because pianists (not only my teachers, not only enthusiastic listeners, but also the great Bach names) know beans about it! Ask any pianist if they ever heard about inégalité, affect doctrine, rhetoric, good and bad notes...
But they keep saying that the way they play Bach is "authentic" (whatever that means on a piano...) and "correct" (though I don't believe in any correctness of any performance... it is not a matter of reaching an exact result, like in exact sciences. Besides that, Harnoncourt himself says that we will never know how it should be played: and thanks God!).