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Bach Prelude No. 2 in Cm WTC Book 1

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    J. S. Bach, WTC Vol. 1 Prelude & Fugue No. 2 in Cm (the prelude is in this post, and the fugue in a companion post.)

    This is my first Bach recording since 1963.

    This prelude is driven by a persistent animated broken-chord figuration. The fugue features three voices and four episodes. The only volumes I could find in my collected scores were the Schirmer’s Czerny editions (distributed in 1838). I found Czerny’s fingerings to be very sensible and practical. I recall once reading that Czerny (Beethoven’s piano pupil) sat and listened to Beethoven playing most of the preludes and fugues. He would then write into his scores the details of Beethoven’s renditions. Bach died in 1750 while Beethoven was not born until 1770, so Beethoven never directly heard Bach play these pieces. Whereas Bach gave few performance instructions, there is no real reason to follow those markings based on Beethoven’s preferences. I believe that Bach wanted all musicians to come up with their own interpretations. Also the early Maelzel metronomes of the day were notoriously unreliable, thereby leaving the pianist to select the tempos—which is as it should be. NOTE: I have split the Prelude and Fugue into two postings, as I believe that's the preference here.

    David

    Comments welcome.

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid fully raised.
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  2. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Bach Fugue No. 2 in Cm WTC Book 1

    This is the separate recording of the fugue in Bach's Prelude and Fugue in Cm. Program notes appear in the Prelude's post.

    David
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David, You've been here long enough to know that we prefer a P&F in one track, and hence in one posting (and a quick look at the WTC page would have told you). I have merged the two postings into one and will be back with some comments later. Breakfast first, now.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, I never thought I'd live to see the day of you recording anything non-late romantic, least of all Bach :) What changed your mind ?
    Having a thing about Bach, I'm afraid I'm going to have to be a bit critical about these recordings. If these were mine I would not have gotten away with them either.

    In the Prelude, the hands are often not well together, and some of the passage work is rather rickety. The tempo is a bit inconsistent.
    The fugue should be articulated better, and the tempo inconsistencies here are worse - already in a couple of bars you are speeding up. Bach does not have to be totally metronomic but the basic pulse should be like a clockwork.
    A pity you opted for Czerny's awful octave doublings near the end. I have great respect for Czerny but, except perhaps in Busoni's organ transcriptions, octaves have absolutely no place in Bach. He never wrote them and they do not add anything here other than pomposity and disorder. The final ornament should definitely not have been caught with the pedal.

    There are not a great many slips, but unlike in Catoire or Goedicke, every slip in Bach grates. It is so difficult to get right, and people get real finicky about it.... Sorry to be less than positive David, but I believe you can do much better than this if you really want it. Just don't do it if your heart is not in it.
     
  5. MarkieUK

    MarkieUK Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think the fugue is OK and quite nicely played. There are some tempo fluctuations, though. I thought the prelude wasn't quick enough to get the effect of the emphasis of the first note of the bar and the tempo isn't steady enough. The ending of the prelude sounds quite good.
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    My apologies for the two tracks! It must have been a "senior moment" for sure. And thanks for migrating the other onto a single track.

    Actually I was between recordings and thought that I would prepare a Bach piece. I do think, however, it will be my last attempt. Let me respond to your observations below.

    Hands not together: In the prelude I did my best with that. My theory is that the fingers are unequal, so I spent hours playing with the metronome to attain evenness in the playing. That is to say, if it's even, then it's automatically simultaneous too. I also played a lot of Hanon Part II. It didn't work.

    Tempo(s): In the prelude the tempo is marked allegro vivace. In my defense Andras Schiff selected a tempo not much different from mine. Later in the piece the tempo changes to presto, then adagio, next allegro, and finally lento. Those are the markings. If what you're saying is that I was making tempo changes within those markings, it was not my intent. The fugue is marked allegretto moderato with no changes thereafter. If I was changing the tempo there, it's probably due to that well known phenomenon of increasing speed in live performance, or similarly in recording.

    Octaves: Well, I rather liked those octaves! The hand has to take an octave "mold" while the wrist "shakes" out the octaves. It's a good training and does add some additional excitement nearing the coda.

    Articulation: I thought in the fugue that I made that rather crisp and rhythmic almost to the point of sounding mechanical.

    Ornament: If Bach could return here and try out our modern pianos, perhaps he would rethink the taboo of taking the ornament in the pedal at the end. Of course that's conjecture.

    Slips: Yes, I admit there are a few slips in there. Bach's pieces are very transparent, so there are no ways to hide a slip that can easily be glossed over in a Romantic piece with thick or heavy textures. Of course Bach never had to worry about recording, but I wonder if he ever made slips in his own playing, having been a mortal just like us.

    I'm OK leaving these Bach pieces in Audition Room. Some might learn from my errors. There are several artists here, including you, who set and maintain a high benchmark in performing Bach or Baroque altogether. I applaud that. I think in my own effort, I gained a greater appreciation in trying to meet the rules in performing Bach.

    David
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi MarkieUK,

    Thanks for listening and commenting. As for the tempo in the prelude, it's quite close to that used by Andras Schiff. The problem is that there are passages to come that considerably faster. So in taking that slower pace at the outset, I was also able to keep speed in reserve for when I would need it later on in the first tempo change.

    David
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Concerning my choice of playing the octaves, here is an interesting historical account given to me at another piano site:

    "Well... actually..... Many German harpsichords of the day had double keyboards and/or multiple stringings. One of the few dynamic controls you had was to lock them in sync, thus creating - gasp - octaves! Sometimes one and sometimes a triple. Alexander Siloti excused his own use of octaves (in the face of criticism) by reference to this practice."

    As you know, Siloti was a first cousin of Rachmaninoff and the latter's second piano professor following Nikolai Zverev.

    I guess I could invoke the same defense as Siloti. But to me it was really a miniature etude within the fugue that just happens to improve pianism. So it's musical and beneficial too. :)

    David
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, whatever rocks your boat. You don't have to defend your choices. It's not my taste but then I'm not an old school pianist.
    How manual couplings on a harpsichord or organ are used as justification to insert octaves ad. lib. in a fugue is beyond me though.
     
  10. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I would have liked to listen to these recordings, but couldn´t find the links. I regret that. Even if David wanted to leave these recordings in audition room, the links should be there, isn´t it?!
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Good to see you back here at PianoSociety!

    I've not been here for a week or longer, so hadn't noticed that the music links had disappeared. It's doubtful that Chris or Monica would have eliminated them. So it's definitely a mystery.

    David
     
  12. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Thank you very much, David! I'm very glad to meet you again here! :D

    So, I ask the site adiminstrators: what could have happen to these files?
    I appreciate and know you as an experienced and deep pianist with a focus on romantic epoque from the beginning of our membership here on PS. You always took a certain distance to playing Bach yourself, though you appreciate his music very much and always showed much interest in our Bach recordings here. So I really ache to listen to your first Bach recording after so many years here.
    Would you mind to reupload them for me, please?

    With best regards
    Andreas
     
  13. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Here are the Prelude & Fugue, No. 2 Cm WTC Book 1.

    David
     

    Attached Files:

  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I sure did not delete them. Not that I know of, anyway :)
    Although I do occasionally clean up attachments to avoid them cluttering the disk, I have not done so for a long time. And if I had, I would have started with older stuff, and left more recent things alone for a while. I checked the list of orphaned attachments are they're not in there either. Definitely a mystery...
     
  15. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,
    thank you very much for the reupload!
    It really was very interesting to listen to these recordings. I wonder, if f.ex. Busoni would have played Bach like this. I have the feeling this could be the way, Bach was played and understood in 19. century, with a lot of dynamics and rubato. The octaves at the end of the prelude sound very interesting and cause a true "furioso".
    From my personal view (and a more modern one) there are too many tempo differences in both, prelude and fugue. (I don´t mean the different tempo parts during the prelude, of course, there should be different tempi.) The presto part in the prelude should be played much faster in my opinion (it´s not so easy). At some places you should play steadylier, but one still could count that to a romantic interpretation.
    Overall from my view that´s a convincing interpretation in a romantic sense. I would like to encourage you to work out some (smaller) problems of technique (which cause the slips, I think) and steadyness and to try a rerecording, because you really have to say something unique with Bach!
     
  16. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Thank you for writing that thoughtful response on my Bach recordings. I appreciate your finding something to laud there. It's very helpful.

    You make an interesting point in wondering if Busoni would play these pieces differently in the modern age three centuries after the Baroque era. I believe Busoni would intuitively put his own chosen style in performing them. (He had a very strong personality.) And you're correct--I do add some romantic touches to this prelude and fugue in Cm. I loved working up those octaves in the fugue, and, I believe, to good effect.

    I too was aware of speeding up after setting a slower tempo(s). I've read in several places that this is a well known phenomenon, more so with students than more advanced pianists. In student recitals young pianists tend to accelerate speed with no such direction from the composer. At 71 I don't have that excuse. I did a lot of work with the metronome knowing that a tempo in Baroque had to be carefully executed except where the composer indicated a change.

    The other demon was evenness which I also know is very important. There again, a lot of metronome work, but not successful in that regard. I also think that another factor contributes to it. That is, in Romantic music very little is strict counterpoint. Those of us who spend a great deal of time in Romantic and Late Romantic music are constantly called upon to play two against three, three against four etc. almost all the time. So when I'm confronted with Baroque (especially not having played it for decades), evenness (not to mention rubato) becomes a challenge of precision in "mirroring" the right and left hands playing together. I'd have to work hard on that. As to that Presto marking which is a very difficult spot, I had two choices: 1) Do it with ghost notes and wrong notes, or 2) play less than presto with accuracy. I opted for the latter.

    It took me a long while to prepare the Cm prelude and fugue especially where I have narrow windows of practice opportunity. At the moment I'm preparing an etude by Kosenko which is difficult. Once I record and submit that, the question would be to revisit Bach, or move on to something new in the Late Romantic literature. I'll have to give it some thought as to which is the higher priority.

    I really appreciate having the benefit of your thinking in this matter. Thanks for listening and commenting.

    David
     
  17. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,
    the appreciation is absolutely on my side, too.
    It´s interesting, that you have tried to work out a metronomical evenness (sorry, I didn´t remember the correct english word and wrote "steadyness"), but didn´t succeed with it. Yes, indeed, you speed up shortly after the beginning in both pieces, prelude and fugue.
    I also do some more or less smaller rubati in my Bach-interpretations, by the way, but always in a base of an even tempo. So, there is a certain, but only a certain degree of unevenness possible in Bach music. It´s a matter of taste, of course, how many rubati you do, but it shouldn´t be like in a Scherzo by Chopin f.ex. or a prelude by Rachmaninof.
    But I already have listened to very romantic Bach-interpretations. Andras Schiff in his earlier times (when he was between 20 and 30) played him quite romantically, with quite a lot of dynamics and rubati here and there. Later he reduced this romantic expression in his Bach-interpretations. And I remember to have heard a recording of the Goldberg-Variationen by another pianist (don´t remember the name at this moment, maybe later it will come back), which was very romantic. With quite a lot of pedal and he always tried to bring out the whole bows respecitve large lines of melody. He played the Goldberg-Variations like I would play a prelude by Rachmaninof. But overall it seems convincing to me.
    I think, Bachs music is so universal, that it offers nearly endless possibilities of reception!
    By the way, the presto-part in the prelude is also quite uncomfortable for me, there is always one place, I quite often make a slip or so. If I remember correctly, I have made a cut at this one place, when I recorded my version for PS. :wink: Or there is a third possibility: to play it like Glenn Gould with a lot of rubato. (It´s a very interesting version.)

    I would like to encourage you not to aim at an original baroque-interpretation, but at a true romantic one. My advice would be not to use any more the stupid metronom, but just listen to your heart and to work out the great bows and lines. You are a romantic musician and I suppose, you only can be convincing as such! These are only my personal thoughts, of course.
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Yes, I could keep a very steady speed playing along with the metronome a few times. But when I would then shut off the metronome, I would try to maintain a steady speed... but I would actually speed up! That presto you mentioned is a tough one to play. Czerny's fingerings are very sensible indeed, but at that speed there is a measure that I play not with the fingers but instead with thrusts of the hand. Where there's a will there's a way.

    Anyway, I think that Schiff is the foremost Baroque pianist of our time.

    Here's something you might not know: There was a German-American Baroque artist -- Edwin Bodky -- who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1940s. He died here in 1958. He had degrees from the Hochscule fur Musik and the Scharwenka Conservatory, both in Berlin. In the greater Boston area he was on the music faculty of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts and later Brandeis University. His piano teachers were Dohnanyi, Juon, Busoni, and Richard Strauss. Bodky gave many recitals in Boston and elsewhere. As his audiences grew, he ended up performing in Sanders Theatre. Television became a reality around 1950 and Bodky had his own TV program on the Public Broadcasting System! He would not only play piano, but harpsichord, and clavichord etc. while also giving lectures. At the time I didn't know of all his accomplishments, but I (and my parents) never missed his TV shows. The thing I recall most though was that he played with expression. I also recall seeing Wanda Landowska on TV -- severely dry playing. I suspect it was mostly about observing the rules thereby making the music sound dry and sterile. I think that Schiff has opened up new avenues in performing the Baroque piano literature.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

    David
     
  19. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi David,
    that all is very interesting and it shows you were respective still are influenced by some great pianists. I have to admit I didn´t know Bodky. And I agree, Schiff has opened new avenues in playing baroque music, more modern ones and with quite a lot of individual expression. Originally he is a romantic pianist with hungarian blood (in his youth respective younger years this came out much more than today), influenced by Sandor Vegh, the great violinist, who was his teacher and friend, but also by Ferenc Rados. He also is a great interpreter of Bartoks music like Sandor Vegh was, too.
    I´m curious, if we will have the opportunity to listen to a rerecording or another Bach-piece one nice day here...

    With best regards
    Andreas
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Thanks for the additional information about Schiff's Hungarian heritage. He was born there in 1953. I would bet that Schiff heard recitals of leading artists such as Giorgy Sandor (died 2005) and possibly Erno Dohnanyi (died 1960). The older generation of pianists can often provide a lot of inspiration to young pianists. I once heard Artur Rubinstein in recital at Symphony Hall in Boston in 1961 when I was 17. It meant a lot to be there and and I've never forgotten it. So I would presume that Schiff in his time learned a lot from the Hungarian school of pianism.

    My Kosenko etude is progressing nicely. I had some time available today, so played through the Bach prelude and fugue. In the existing recording, I started at a slower tempo, found the music stimulating -- thereby resulting in my playing faster. Listeners then noticed the lack of consistency. I now realize that the key will be to determine a faster but controllable tempo. That will allow for consistency throughout. Given that revelation, yes I'll probably re-record them.

    Best regards,

    David
     

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