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Terraced Dynamics

Discussion in 'Repertoire' started by John Robson, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. John Robson

    John Robson New Member Piano Society Artist

    Jan 18, 2007
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    Miami, Florida, USA
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    How to interpret Baroque music (Bach) is a subject I would like to know more about. Most performers today tend to play Bach quite romantically, which I often like. While working on WTC XV, I find myself inclined to crescendo and decrescendo quite often. However, I remember hearing a lot about terraced dynamics as a strong characteristic of Baroque music. I found this explanation of it on Google.

    Terraced Dynamics:

    Paralleling the continuity of mood, the dynamics of the piece also stay constant for some period of time before it shifts to another level. When the dynamics shift, it is sudden like physically stepping of a step. Therefore, terraced dynamics are a distinctive quality of baroque music. Gradual changes such as crescendo and decrescendos are unheard of this is partly due to the fact that the manuals of the keyboards instrument then were able to provide only the loud or the soft sound. They were not able to provide the “in between” sound.

    (Excuse the awkward English and punctuation.)

    Referring to the above quote, should an interpretor of Bach "provide the 'in between' sound"? Any thoughts?
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Jun 12, 2006
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    I don't have a strong opinion on this matter, but the fact that Bach could not do a crescendo on his instruments should not make us feel that we are not allowed to. After all we do not stick to the harpsichord just because JS had no piano (how he would have loved one...).
    However, I do not believe in huge dynamic contrasts in Bach. Fortissimos and hairpin crescendos have no place in Baroque music.
  3. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Referring to the above quote, should an interpretor of Bach "provide the 'in between' sound"? Any thoughts?[/quote]

    I dislike by heart the pianist who do not use the piano and his dinamic subtilities in Bach
    and in all the music written in baroque era. Do you want to play in "baroque style and execution
    praxis"? Ok, boy, the harpsichord is there....
    But the harpsichord origin of this music make me use a lot of pedal also in Bach.
    Does the harpsichord seems more to a piano wiith pedal on or to a piano without pedal.
    The first is the correct answer: it is mathematic, the correct pedalling in Bach is as in Scriabin,
    and you'll hear this in my Bach (or Bach-Scriabin) recordings :x :x :x :D

    All best,

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