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Bach - French Suite no. 4 BWV 815

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by luissarro, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. luissarro

    luissarro New Member

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    Hi, Matthew!

    Thanks a lot that even enjoying a strict Bach performance you were open minded enough to consider listening to this version.
    It's very important to me to collect opinions, since this is an almost virgin terrain, where really few pianists have entered to, so there are really few recordings to compare... it's difficult to know when we are really exaggerating in the rhythmic inflections, or when this is just people who are not used to it (as I said before, I myself was not used to it in the past too).

    If you want to try listening more to this kind of performance, I totally recommend Wolfgang Rubsam's recordings.

    Thanks!
     
  2. rainer

    rainer New Member

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    That's not entirely true. The point is indeed that the instrument should be playable in any key without needing to be retuned, thereby giving the composer/improviser freedom to modulate at will into arbitrarily remote keys. It is also true that ET would have achieved that aim, but (leaving aside the technical difficulties at the time which would have been involved in actually achieving ET) for Bach that was not enough, he wanted all keys to be playable while at the same time retaining personality or colour of keys. He wanted there to be some distortion of scalar relationships, just enough to make the keys sound interestingly different, but obviously not so much as to produce ghastly out-of-tune intervals.

    The problem with Pythagorean tuning (11 pure fifths) was the unavoidable impurity of the 12th (wolf) fifth, but it also had another major problem, that thirds were seriously dissonant.

    The problem with just or natural tuning was that although you could get perfect thirds and fifths, you could only get them in a small selection of keys and once you strayed away from them, it sounded dissonant.

    So along came quarter comma meantone temperament which made the majority of thirds pure by sacrificing not too much of the purity of 11 fifths, but at the expense of making the wolf fifth almost twice as bad as its Pythagorean ancestor. So QCMT meant you could play in quite a few keys, but far from in all of them.

    Subsequent developments involved experimenting with many different temperaments or tuning recipes, which ultimately resulted in the as good as universal adoption of ET as the modern standard for keyboard instruments, with the exception of a significant proportion of the harpsichord world.

    Most pianists alive today simply know no other tuning system than ET, they've been conditioned their entire lives by it and accept it as the norm. This despite the fact of ET's most obvious shortcoming: All keys sound equally out of tune. Due to our conditioning t is easy for us to overlook that ET thirds are actually pretty badly out of tune (relative to their natural counterparts). Not quite as bad as Pythagorean thirds, but still more than half as bad.
    Well, because this difference is not evident on a keyboard, the keys of Eb minor and D# minor, as played on a keyboard, are not at all remote from each other, they are identical. This cannot therefore be conclusive proof that Bach required ET for WTC, he is merely making the point that he has succeeded in closing the circle, by finding a suitable temperament, not necessarily an equal one.
    Well, that was indeed the prevailing expert view for a long time, but apparently, starting approximately in the 1970s opinion has swung the other way and I think you will find that there is now wide agreement among musicologists that Bach's "well" temperament was not ET. Unfortunately there is not much agreement over which of many candidate temperaments he favoured. A tantalisingly appealing relatively recent discovery suggests that Bach "hid" tuning instructions in plain view in the doodles on the WTC title page. Unfortunately there is disagreement over how these instructions (if that's what they are) should be interpreted.
     
  3. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Johann Sebastian da Vinci! :mrgreen:
     
  4. luissarro

    luissarro New Member

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    I think that's why solfa classes are so difficult... our temperament is not that natural, tough it is the best solution yet to make all the keys sound equal.
     

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