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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:05 pm 
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I assume part of the rationale behind certain rhythmic distortions and other HIP manifestations is that a harpsichordist would have done them to draw attention to certain structurally important or otherwise facets of the music.


What does this acronym HIP refer to? I'm not familiar with it. I guess I'd still be curious about the more specific logical justfication for why anyone would feel free to change rhythms that are printed on the page a certain way. Surely Bach would have written them differently if he wanted them played that way. I don't think it should matter whether it's played on a harpsichord or piano; music is music, as Eddy alluded to above. This is not to say that individual performances can't be wildly different from one another. But in the end, I think it's this dichotomy between understanding the rules and conventions and interpreting them that makes an individual performance successful and interesting. In other words, I like to hear the rules stretched to their limits, but not wildly changed and distorted so that the original is unrecognizable. I don't even have a problem with occasionally altering rhythms (e.g., double dotting) when it makes logical sense. I just don't see that anything in this performance has the least logical justification behind it at all.

Quote:
The playing here reminded me of our former member Sandro Bisotti whose playing tended to be very eccentric (albeit for
different reasons).


I wonder whatever happened to his piano circus :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:06 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
I join Joe and Chris in bluntness. Believe it or not, it makes no difference if you play Bach on a piano, a harphsichord, a cello, a harp, a guitar, with a string quartet, a brass choir or an orchestra. Rhythm is rhythm, meter is meter, tempo is tempo and rubato is rubato. The same interpretation is possible (within mechanical capability) with all of them. I'm afraid you have gone over to the dark side and have become intoxicated with your notions. You will have a VERY small set of appreciating auditors given the extremes you are practicing - It is just too odd for folks with predictable heartbeats and rhythm-of-gait to appreciate. Your new-styled performances would not be acceptable for admission to any serious music school. In the course of music history, each of the elements of music have gone through a process of change, extension, and increasing complexity. Melodies have changed their character; rhythm and meter became more complex, displaced and fragmented. Harmonies went from the very simple to the complex, to the cluster, to the indeterminate. Compositions have gone from those defined and created by the composer, to the extremely mathematical, to the null set of abandoned art with stochastic, chance and ambient-noise "music." But through it all, temporal proportions have remained true to their referent. As I argued elsewhere, the practice of notes inégales practiced sometimes in the French Baroque, never gives permision to distort the very fabric of time with pliable/oscillating meter or to re-write [melodic] rhythms as you desire. You are putting mustaches and goatees on great musical works of art a la Duchamps' Readymades. Perhaps you should take up chess even as he did. I think it would be helpful for you to approach music more as a composer, and think of others taking the liberties with your compositions. If you were like Bach, detailed in the defining of the meter, every pitch and every rhythm, you might be outraged at the distortion produced ... or might feel that the performer had a poor internal clock. Hopefully, this is just some phase that you will work through (the Prodigal Son in "a far country") and in the end your pendulum will be more properly aligned. Having said all this, I will add that I found your Gigue very acceptable - but then it offers you the least potential for modification.
Application of notes inégales to contemporary performance of music not written in France, for example the music of J.S. Bach, is extremely controversial, and indeed resulted in one of the most heated debates in 20th-century musicology.


Eddy, I really don't see the point of your comment here.
I have already read it somewhere else... What's the point of copying previously written comments?


musical-md wrote:
Your new-styled performances would not be acceptable for admission to any serious music school.

I quite sure of that!
I'll soon criticize my own performance here below, but at first this is my first claim: pianists know beans about Bach and mainly Baroque practice. This Robert Hill's performance on piano would not be accepted also (and THIS IS ROBERT HILL!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR0Ljdm21l4

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:16 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
I have noticed over time that recordings of Bach on the harpsichord and on the piano sound very different

Very good point, Richard! This is exactly what motivated me to investigate this kind of performance. It's so strange to our common practice of nowadays that it should have a point, and I wanted to know which point it is.

richard66 wrote:
I am not aware that Bach ever used words such as "precision", "unchanging tempo", "squareness" or the like. He always emphasises "a singing style". This is the lesson behind the Inventions and Sinfonias.

Yes. It's reinforced in CPE Bach's treatise. That's one of the reason that Glenn Gould's Bach are really weird to the baroque language (no problem: Gould never said his performance was authoritative from a historical point of view).

richard66 wrote:
Bach never even bothered, most times, to give any tempo indications, leading to many theores that tempo was implied, following a convention now forgotten, in the time signature and notation, but that is only a theory. There are examples of it in action on YouTube.

That's theory, some of them with good points. For example, there are treatises that say the tempo must follow the pulse beat. There is also proportional timing (this one CPE Bach says something like this: you must see the fastest passages of the piece and play them in a clear and comfortable way. This is the tempo for the whole piece).

But this is something that I treat in a more relaxed way, since the piano is more flexible about it (harpsichordist can't play too slow because it can sustain the notes, for example).

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:21 pm 
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techneut wrote:
It's impossible to know what Bach 'wanted', or what is right or wrong. But it seems fair, at least to me, to assume he would NOT have wanted his music to be pushed and pulled this way, so that almost every bar is being distorted rhythmically. Even if some harpsichordists feel they must play it this way.

Your personal and passionate judgings are contradictory. If it's impossible to know what Bach really intended, so we really can't say anything about is acceptable or not: if it's really impossible to know it, or everything is acceptable, or nothing is (considering mainly that Bach didn't write this pieces for piano...)

techneut wrote:
In the end, the important question is whether this is nice to listen to

Sure. But this is more cultural than it seems at first. We'll like what we are used to listen to. Before starting studying Baroque more, I'd appreciate Gould, Tureck and Schiff a lot. Now I don't even have patience for it. I've bought a lot of new CDs played by Pieter Belder.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:25 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
Even if we look at pianists in general, there will be those you worship znd the man (or woman, for that matter) next door abhors. Look at Martha Argerich and Arau and Pogorelich. I have heard very strong opinions about their musicality or lack and here we are on less controvertial ground!

Good point: I started studying historically informed performances (including in Romantic repertoire - there is a book entirely of how to play Brahms! =D) in order to get rid of this kind of "argument". Something like: "but Argerich plays this faster... but Arrau plays this with more pedal"... this goes nowhere. It sounds like a fight like this: "I like yello. No! Blue is A LOT MUCH BETTER!"
:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:41 pm 
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andrew wrote:
Is it really the case that HIP is reasonable on a piano? Surely it should be applied strictly to period instruments. I assume part of the rationale behind certain rhythmic distortions and other HIP manifestations is that a harpsichordist would have done them to draw attention to certain structurally important or otherwise facets of the music.. and presumably because the harpsichord is much more limited in its power to draw attention through expressive methods like dynamics. If the second part of my sentence is correct, then why use HIP on the piano at all when HIP only arises out of a now obsolete weakness of the instrument?

Interesting point, Andrew!
You're very much right: what Joe called "pauses" in the Courante, for example, are slight breaks intended to draw attention fo the structure.

It's very discussable to decided to use them on the piano or not.
One could say that the piano has other ways to convey these musical structure, like dynamics for example. In my personal opinion, I find it quite limitating to simply apply dynamics without these "breaks". But this is EXACTLY the romantic discourse (one can play without rubato and even so sound romantically!).

I'm not saying that one should not apply dynamics on a piano while playing Bach. There were other instruments with dynamics (like the strings, and the clavichord which does nuance dynamics -- you can't play too forte otherwise it sounds ouf of tune). So we have three possibilities:

1) no breaks, with dynamics
2) with breaks, no dynamics
3) with both

I would left this decision for the performer decision. But in my personal opinion, I find the first possibily too limitating: it sounds exactly the opposite of the Baroque musicianship. It subtracts information.
I think the third possibility results in a richer musical experience: it grabs the Baroque musicianship and adds a little of what couldn't be played at that time (contrasting dynamics on keyboard).

This same argument could be applied to Baroque keyboard articulation which does not link the bad note to the good note (this kind of articulation was made to keep clear the strong beat in an instrument without dynamics, like the harpsichord. BUT... it was also used on the clavichord, which DOES HAVE dynamics. So that's why I don't think we should leave it out.)

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:44 pm 
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techneut wrote:
I understand why on a harpsichord you need to lean a little on a note to make it stand out. Although there's no need for that on a piano,
it gives a nice authentic feeling if you do it a little bit, in addition to using dynamics. But both devices should be used discreetly and sparingly IMO, or else
it will become a caricature.

So now we agree on something.

And more importantly than deciding about my performance being acceptable or not, is motivate everyone to study this kind of thing so that pianists someday may put some stuffs on common sense. Because the way it is now... we see people that know beans about Bach keep saying how you should and you SHOULD NOT (which is even worse than what you SHOULD) play Bach.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:54 pm 
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How far can an "interpretation" be stretched before it has gone beyond the bounds of good art? I will put a stake in the ground by answering as I have before: If a musician with exceptional dictation skills would produce a score that did not conform to the original from listening to a performance, then the "interpretation" has broken the "Law of Fidelity to the Score." We don't have the right to just change notes and rhythms (among other elements) willy-nilly. So, e.g., if an "interpretation" of running 16th notes to the 1/4 note come out more like a dotted 8th followed by a 16th and two more 16ths (all under a triplet sign: wish I could just print what I mean), or an 8th followed by three 16th notes all under a quintuplet group, then one would have to say, "But that's NOT what the composer wrote," and the "interpretation" would be illegitamate IMO. As Andrew has mentioned, there are nuances of time that are used for structual puncuation of formal features, but these are only visited occasionaly and would be understood and contextualized by a musicain taking dictation. In summary, I hold that the Principle of Reversability (from performance to score) is an important threshold/benchmark for what is acceptable/unacceptable interpretation.

@Joe: HIP=Historically Informed Performance


Edits: spelling

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Last edited by musical-md on Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:02 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
What does this acronym HIP refer to? I'm not familiar with it. I guess I'd still be curious about the more specific logical justfication for why anyone would feel free to change rhythms that are printed on the page a certain way. Surely Bach would have written them differently if he wanted them played that way. I don't think it should matter whether it's played on a harpsichord or piano; music is music, as Eddy alluded to above. This is not to say that individual performances can't be wildly different from one another. But in the end, I think it's this dichotomy between understanding the rules and conventions and interpreting them that makes an individual performance successful and interesting. In other words, I like to hear the rules stretched to their limits, but not wildly changed and distorted so that the original is unrecognizable. I don't even have a problem with occasionally altering rhythms (e.g., double dotting) when it makes logical sense. I just don't see that anything in this performance has the least logical justification behind it at all.


Joe, if you pay attention to Bach's notation, there are LOTS, huge LOTS of overdotting, underdotting and other rhythmical alterations which Bach didn't notate because their notation system was quite different from ours. It's very common to see an 8th dotted note, followed by three 32th. If you count', you'll see it doesn fir the bar time! So this argument that "it must be played this way otherwise Bach would have written it differenctly" makes really no sense.

Bach wouldn't have written it differently because:
1) Bach wrote in the 17th century, not 21th one. Their notational system was different, mainly regarding rhythm.
2) some notations were forbidden, like double dotting.

I didn't give you explanation for what you listened to (as far I as I know, you only listened to three dances from the set of seven) because I wasn't home: I was using a tab for accessing the internet, which is quite uncomfortable.

But now I will: in the Courante, you noticed some breaks, which you called "pauses". These are for calling the attention for the structure. It was a harpsichordist player who recommended me to do that. In that passage, there is a measure which modulates, and modulates, and modulates. The melody is the same, but the harmony changes. There are slight little breaks in these measures.

In the gigue, you said that I "missed" some trills. Not really. This is pretty much explained in Badura-Skoda's book: in Bach, there is NO DIFFERENCE for "tr." and "~" notation. They all mean the same. If you are going to play a long trill or a small mordent depends on the musical context, and sometimes on the performer decision. I used to play this passage with long trills, like most pianists do (including myself in the past: there is already a recording of mine of this suite here on PS), but the harpsichordist who taught me thought that these lots of trills were blurring the passage.

In the Allemande, since it is a SLOW DANCE (not a fast one, as pianists insist to play, with no reasonable argument), we have more liberties than on faster dances. The same happens to the Sarabande. What I did to the Allemande was to linger the good notes. This is quite common practice for cellists, for example, when they play Bach's suites (below, I'll criticize this playing. Today, I had a masterclass with Judy Tarling, and he said this lingering of the good notes is annoying). When the texture becomes thicker, with right hand playing two voices, there is break when one phrase ends and the other one beggins. In 17th century, people were considering the musical discourse as close as possible to a verbal one. Playing each phrase as if it was "spoken" is a Baroque practice. This is what happens here. There is historical evidence for it. It was suggested to me by the harpsichordist who gave me classes, though Judy Tarling does really not like it. Now I'm really confused. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:14 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
In summary, I hold that the Principle of Reversability (from performance to score) is an important threshold/benchmark for what is acceptable/unacceptable interpretation.

What is wrong and unmusical. This is the 20th belief, but it simply can't stand: music is a spontaneous manifestation. His notation came much later. And our notational system is very limited. You can't notate rubato, for example. When one plays a Chopin's Mazurka, if one wants to convey a Mazurka rhythm, one should linger the second beat. Our notation system can't deal with it also. And one of the Chopin students wrote that sometimes Chopin lingered so much the second beat that the Mazurka sounded as a 4/4 instead of a 3/4.

You wrote above that playing notes inégales on Bach is controversial. I agree!
But all HIP is controversial. And the non-HIP are even MORE CONTROVERSIAL! :lol:
Because... what are they based on? Personal, subjective taste? Cultural common practices? There is too much disagreement on music to say that it does exist a common practice nowadays... Remember the Argerich, Arrau, Pogorelich discussions... :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:32 pm 
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Today, I have played Bach-Brahms Chaconne for Judy Tarling in a masterclass.
When I played those lingered good notes and sharp articulation, she said it was too much detailed information. I asked her: but what to think of those cellists that linger the good notes on recordings?

She said: Yes, they play ilke that, and it annoys me! You're listening to too much recordings.

:lol:

So we ended up playing a very very strict chaconne. Not even rallentandos for a lot of cadenzas.
I also learned the violin articulation, which does not correspond to that of the harpsichord. She told me to forget the barlines.


Within some weeks I'll record this chaconne and post here.

I enjoyed the class very much (she's a very nice person), and she found it amazing that a whole piece of music could be played with only one hand. She said it was the first time she saw that. =D

But I left the class with lots of doubts. Lingering the good notes is indeed Baroque practice. Patrick Cohen and Wolfgang Rubsam do that on piano! Why there are people who does not like it? Was it a misunderstanding of the past studies? So now therer are early music experts who don't think it should be played this way?

HIP are always controversial... but they are rational and based on real evidence. It also evolves and changes within time, when people go deeper in the understanding of the musical treatises. Is lingering good notes and old-fashioned practice of the past decades, which has been overcome with new evidences?

Before today's class, I was quite convinced of my French Suite recording. Now I'm not any more (though I must say that lingering the good notes is what always fascinated me about harpsichordist playings!). My studies will go further.

It's very difficult for any pianist to enter this subject because the good and beautiful recordings of Tureck, Gould, Schiff, Perahia and Hewitt are not historically authentic. I think that Hewitt comes closer to authenticity (because she talks about overdotting, which is something simple that all the others don't even know it exists, though they underdot when needed), but even so there is much left out. I can talk to harpsichodists, but they don't like Bach playing on the piano (and most harpsichordist are even good pianists... they simply are not open minded enough, or they are not pianists from heart =D ), and the pianists are also very narrow minded: all this prejudice I found in this forum is repeated in "real life". A lot of arguments based on nothing, trying to convey you that Bach loved a metronome. :lol:

As far as I know, there are three pianists who plays Bach historically informed on a modern piano:
- Paul Badura-Skoda
- Robert Hill
- Wolfgang Rubsam

These three names play very differently from each other. Rubsam lingers the good notes and plays inégalement in several passsages, quite on the contrary than Badura-Skoda's straightforward performance. And Robert Hill plays with a different rubato which I can't even name (I don't recognize that!).

Please, if someone find any other pianist who tries to play Bach in an authentic way, I'd really appreciate.

I'll keep my studies and investigate the reason for these discrepancies.
I do not want to make anyone accept my performances, even so because I'm also changing them as my studies go on. Instead, I'd like to invite anyone to help me understand the baroque performances and how to play them on a modern piano. It's really revolting that we commonly accept great pianists performance as authentical, but it is really not. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:44 pm 
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Well it's certainly nice to see a lively discussion:D Forgive me for butting in again...

Quote:
Joe, if you pay attention to Bach's notation, there are LOTS, huge LOTS of overdotting, underdotting and other rhythmical alterations which Bach didn't notate because their notation system was quite different from ours. It's very common to see an 8th dotted note, followed by three 32th.


True, there are occasional differences, but then those are generally clearly marked by an edition editor (e.g., in the Courante, the convention is of course to play the dotted rhythm in the left hand as a triplet and is performed that way by practically everyone). It seems contradictory to say that I can pay attention to notation that isn't notated, as you do above.

Quote:
In the gigue, you said that I "missed" some trills. Not really. This is pretty much explained in Badura-Skoda's book: in Bach, there is NO DIFFERENCE for "tr." and "~" notation.


To my ears, many of the trills had hardly any notes at all in them or were fumbled, regardless of the type of trill you were choosing to play.

Quote:
In the Allemande, since it is a SLOW DANCE (not a fast one, as pianists insist to play, with no reasonable argument), we have more liberties than on faster dances.


Not necessarily. An Allemande, literally, is merely a German dance. Of course, it is unlikely to ever be as fast as a Courante or a Gigue but that doesn't mean it has to be slow. Anyway slower performances on can appeal to me just as much as faster ones depending on how they're played. My personal argument for a faster tempo is how the voices unfold. To me, it loses somewhat of the voicing and rhythmic point at a slower tempo.

Quote:
@Joe: HIP=Historically Informed Performance


@Eddy - Duh, I should have gotten that given the subject:oops:

Quote:
Because the way it is now... we see people that know beans about Bach keep saying how you should and you SHOULD NOT


But Felipe, I think this isn't seeing the point of the discussion here. The question isn't about just Bach. It's about all music. Both Chopin and Lliszt, for example, were very fastidious about rhythm. Liszt, in teaching the Chopin 8th prelude to a masterclass, got angry when a student didn't care about playing the lefthand triplet precisely. Bach was also known to be fastidious about rhythhm and was a taskmaster in teaching the inventions and sinfonias to Wilhelm Friedman. I'm very suspicious of any of this "historically informed" practice or "early music" expertise. It seems that such "scholars" just want to make a name for themselves and try to do something new for the point of doing it. I believe Eddy had a good example when he referred to putting moustaches on great works of art. There simply have to be standards that one masters first before interpretation. It's the reason contemporary art, beginning with Picassoesque cubism, is a bucket of crap. There's no recognizable form in such art, except for what existed in the artist's mind, and the purpose of art is to communicate. If your interpretation really is unique, you don't need these ersatz, fluffy ideas that aren't grounded in logical sense. As T.S. Eliot said, "Henry James had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it."

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:54 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
True, there are occasional differences, but then those are generally clearly marked by an edition editor

Oh God!
And you believe them? :shock:

So instead of making the decision yourself, they do that for you, so it happens that you don't even know what you're doing.
And for making that decision, someone else had to study. They end up put on paper everything, including the controversial stuffs we discussed here...
Take the Gavotte of Bach's 6th Partita... how to play those 16th?

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:53 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
Your personal and passionate judgings are contradictory.
So what :D I don't intend to have the last word or even make sense... I know beans about Bach anyway. Guess it's time to read some books :P

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815
PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:46 pm 
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luissarro wrote:
As far as I know, there are three pianists who plays Bach historically informed on a modern piano:
But we cannot know that Historically Informed Performance = Historically Authentic Performance, anymore than we can recreate classical Greek music from studying Plato's doctrine on the Ethos of Music found in his Republic. :|

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