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Scarlatti

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by richard66, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    it does, in matter of fact.

    I practised it today with shorter trills. What I need and what I really struggle to do is to relax completely knowing there is a recorder back there somewhere. It is getting better, though. I only needed six takes for this little piece and the heart did not get caught in my front teeth so often.
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I'm glad it's not just me :)
    As for appreciation, I did not want imply this is a bad piece. Just that it seems a bit clumsy in places, and light years away from Scarlatti as we know and love him.
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    In 17th century Italy ornaments were known as effetti, that is a notational device to add expression to the music. But aside from that, here is another concept about ornamentation, although I learned about it so long ago I cannot recall the source. The Baroque harpsichord (in a way not unlike the modern piano--the former depending on quills plucking strings and the latter felt hammers doing likewise) was essentially a percussive instrument. Thus, it could not sustain sound like a violin, french horn, bassoon, etc. The modern day piano has pedals which assist in sustaining somewhat, of course, but the rate of tone decay is still far faster than a violin string being bowed. Thus the theory: Ornaments were meant as a clever device to prolong sound in a musical line. Bach was stubborn and fastidious in often writing out his ornaments rather than using mordent signs, for example, welcomed and accepted by his peers. But still, it could be that he (or Scarlatti in this instance) were not considering those ornaments as being part of melodies, but rather prolonging sound through the elaboration of a trill, turn, etc. Therefore, if a case can be made for that, you could eliminate an ornament too difficult to execute well on the modern piano without doing any violence to the melody at all. Just a thought.

    David
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Actually, I quite like the piece. I think people are perfectly entitled to express negative opinions about whatever music, but if you like the piece, by all means play it. I firmly believe it's far better that people play pieces they believe in than pieces other people believe in.

    I think a little more shaping of phrases would benefit the playing considerably; in particular I think more attention to the left hand in the second part would be helpful (especially from beat 3 in bar 12 onwards where the l.h. seems to me to have more musical interest).

    Regarding the ornaments, if I were you I would write them out in full and be 100% clear about what you are doing there. The reason I suspect Henle has fully-written out baroque ornaments in Bach is probably because there has been an incredible amount of research into baroque ornamentation, and what is printed there is likely to be the product of considerable scholarly effort. I certainly have Bach scores where the ornaments are not fully written out. This is not exactly my area of expertise however, so I'd defer to others more knowledgable. David's comments on ornamentation as a form of sound sustain on a harpsichord sounds very plausible.
     
  5. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    David, is this view based upon urtext editions? I have seen music of Bach by lesser publishing houses that wreck havoc on the score, even changing the key (e.g. of the d# minor fugue of the WTC 1), but never really thought that his manuscripts did so. You can inform me in PM if you prefer.
    Eddy
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Not being much of a Bach pianist (an understatement), the editions I have on hand are nearly all edited, although the Edition Wood shows the ornaments fully written out. As for his preferring to fully write out his ornaments, it seems to me that I read that years ago in a book about Bach, maybe Kirkpatrick or possibly an article in the old Piano Quarterly or Clavier.

    BUT I did find something tonight in the Harvard Dictionary of Music by Willi Apel, second edition, which always offers scholarly articles, and in this case a passage which supports that notion concerning Bach. Here it is:

    "Between 1650 and 1750 the practice of writing ornaments in notes was frowned on as detrimental to the visual clarity of the melodic line. J. S. Bach, for instance, was severely criticized by at least one contemporary musician on the ground that 'He writes down in actual notes the ornaments and embellishments that performers are accustomed to supply instinctively, a habit which not only sacrifices the harmonic beauty of his music but also makes the melody totally indistinct.'" (J. A. Scheibe, in Der Critische Musicus, May 14, 1737.)

    As for mordents, Arthur Rubinstein once said that mordent charts in books often conflicted with one another on how to execute them, and when he would discuss them with other artist friends, there would always be disagreements. He found the whole subject frustrating. Perhaps that was the case even in Bach's day, which might have been why he was intent on writing them out in small notes.

    I'm also aware that during the Baroque (and I imagine, Rococo) periods, it was often routine for keyboardists to improvise their own ornaments. That is still permissible today, and, in fact, Chris has mentioned improvising some in his own recordings. I seem to recall that Andreas has done so as well.

    I hope this helps.

    David
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    David is right about the primary function of ornaments being to prolong a note and even later conposers, like Mozart, used them to sustain a melody (or even to fill in the harmony - think of the so-called Alberti bass).

    Bach wrote out his ornaments part of the time, when he knew exacly what he wanted and where (the same as with Beethoven: knowing the common practice of ommitting repeats, he writes the repeat out in full when he really wants it). Just look at the slow movement of the Italian Concerto. others he used a whole series of symbols, each one with a different interpretation. If you take Henle's edition of the Inventions and Sinfonias you will find the music with the symbols and in the preface a guide on how each symbol should be interpreted, in this case, 13 different symbols, each with its own name: mordant, double-mordant, etc. The 5th Sinfonia is published twice: once in a copy of Bach's original, without ornaments, and a copy of a copy made by one of the sons, where there are all those symbols being used on the melodies. I remember I used to play that one with all the ornaments!

    Scarlatti was not so sophisticated, of course, but since Bach was simply writing-down what was common practice, I would not consider it too amiss to use some of that ornamentation in his music.
     
  8. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    You mentioned the Italian Concerto. In that same article mentioned above, it gave an excerpt of the concerto showing the mordant symbols followed by the same passage in full notation. It was both interesting and amusing to behold.

    David
     
  9. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I must say I usually write the ornaments out to make life easier. I shall do this with the trills in the Scarlatti.
     
  10. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Here is the Scarlatti redone. I shortened the trills and turned them into... turns!


    Tomatoes, anyone?
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    In my opinion this re-recorded Scarlatti is a noticeable improvement. The ornaments are less obtrusive and fit into the musical line so much better. This makes the meter more stable and the rhythmic figures better defined. Good work!

    P.S. We're not allowed to throw tomatoes here, only olive pimentos. They're smaller but still symbolic. :)

    David
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Watch Out!!!!
    BTW, Richard, this in not meant about you!
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Thank you, David. All I did was to divide the ornaments, that is, over each quaver 4 demisemiquavers. No metronome was necessary.

    An interesting thing is that during all these recording sessions the little girl is usually somewhere between the piano and the recorder. Such silence!
     
  14. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    :D
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    This has certainly improved. Now that all the notes are in their proper place, you may want to work more on the musical side, so that it becomes more fluent and more interesting to the listener. One small suggestion is to play the second RH note in each bar a little softer than the first. These two-note 'sighing' motifs are always played with a diminuendo. Also, try to provide some contrast in the repeats. Different phrasing or dynamics, different or more ornamentation, or highlighting the LH part, are some of the staple tricks.

    Simple pieces like this are so deceptive... it is not at all easy to do them right. And because of their simplicity, they must be
    exemplary, and need a lot of TLC to make them stick. See it as an opportunity ;)
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I think I shall let it at that. I suppose I am just not musical, that is all. Nothing to do about it. Maybe I should go and sell peanuts.
     
  17. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I guess we all think like that sometimes. No point in giving in to it, though. Persistence is the key to success....
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    That's right, Richard - don't give up! You've come this far with the piece, now you can have fun in experimenting with the various options that Chris listed. I'm sure you could apply most of them. Yes, it's about being musical, but you could also think of it merely in physical and/or mechanical terms. Adjusting the weight in the arms, moving the fingers on and off the keys in a connected way (legato), making less weight on the finger on the second note of the two-note phrase, that sort of thing. Play around with all that (takes time, don't rush it) and then record yourself and listen back. I bet you'll hear a difference.
     
  19. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Die-hard! I must be a die-hard! :evil:
     
  20. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Or take the other way of looking at it : Don't be a nut about success. If you don't succeed at first, quit :p
     

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