Author Topic: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier  (Read 252189 times)

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1560 on: October 28, 2019, 10:40:43 AM »
Gould plays it as an absolutely undifferentiated stream of semiquavers, which is definitely not how I imagine it ought to. Gigues require a springing trochaic rhythm (which is very well notated in the text) whereas Gould refuses to use any emphasis whatsoever for some reason. I grant that angels may sometimes dance a gigue as well, but the WTC is generally quite focused on the incarnate world with the crucified Christ as its most divine figure (the fugue BWV 869, at least in Ledbetters opinion).

Vieru is alright—I didn’t come across his recording in my initial search for some reason. Definitely better than the average, though I will evaluate properly at a later date.

I mentioned Gould only because he does not play it slowly.  The part I bolded is beyond my ken; I never think of this work (or any work other than sacred music) in that light.  The WTC is what I have always considered a perfect example of absolute music.

 8)

Offline hvbias

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1561 on: October 28, 2019, 10:59:38 AM »
Gould plays it as an absolutely undifferentiated stream of semiquavers, which is definitely not how I imagine it ought to. Gigues require a springing trochaic rhythm (which is very well notated in the text) whereas Gould refuses to use any emphasis whatsoever for some reason.

IIRC doesn't Landowska also play it like that? I've often sort of drawn parallels to the two of them in my mind.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1562 on: October 28, 2019, 11:23:05 AM »
I mentioned Gould only because he does not play it slowly.  The part I bolded is beyond my ken; I never think of this work (or any work other than sacred music) in that light.  The WTC is what I have always considered a perfect example of absolute music.

 8)

There's supposed to be a cross actually in the score if you join the dots as it were, I used to have a good image of this but I can't find it, annoyingly. He was always encoding stuff in the music like that, it's all a bit strange from a c21 point of view but he was 300 years ago.

What I've never known is whether other composers do the same. I mean, noone ever talks about crosses and sighs and stumbling christs and 3s for the trinity and stuff like that in Pachelbel or Scheidemann as far as I know -- maybe they do and I've missed it.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2019, 11:26:13 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1563 on: October 28, 2019, 12:06:50 PM »
There's supposed to be a cross actually in the score if you join the dots as it were, I used to have a good image of this but I can't find it, annoyingly. He was always encoding stuff in the music like that, it's all a bit strange from a c21 point of view but he was 300 years ago.

What I've never known is whether other composers do the same. I mean, noone ever talks about crosses and sighs and stumbling christs and 3s for the trinity and stuff like that in Pachelbel or Scheidemann as far as I know -- maybe they do and I've missed it.

I have a book on the keyboard music (Schulenberg, David. The Keyboard Music of J.S. Bach. Brantford, Ont: W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2011.) and looked up this prelude/fugue.  No mention of any religious symbology and indicates that the prelude is to be taken in a relaxed manner as opposed to other "gigue-like fugues in C# minor and F - notated in 12/16 and 6/16 respectively - the slower harmonic rhythm and the opening pedal point make this more of a pastorale.  The hand crossings do not contradict this impression, for in each case they grow naturally out of the texture of the preceding phrase; they do not open up new registers but represent continuations of the underlying voice leading."

I also have a book "Bach & God" (Marissen, Michael. Bach & God. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.) which only discusses The Musical Offering from the secular instrumental works as possibly containing extra musical aspects. 

I am not saying any religious symbology is not there in the WTC, only that it may be a red herring as well.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1564 on: October 28, 2019, 12:35:52 PM »
Yes I don't know that book, Ledbetter is a Bach scholar I think, he writes

Quote
Expressively the subject is also much stronger than Albinoni's. Instead of the traditional chromatic tetrachord Bach experiments with other possibilities of dissonant steps and leaps (passus/salmus diriusculi), finding powerful and novel effects here and in cantata movements such as the opening aria (also in B minor) of BWV 154 (1724. perhaps earlier). Bach has greatly increased the effect of this harshness by setting it off with serenely diatonic episode material. The episode figure can be traced to trio sonata figurations, but it also occurred to other composers for the same purpose of relaxation, from Frescobaldi's harshest and most mannered contrapuntal piece, the Captiaio cromatico con ligature al contrario (1626), to the fugue of Beethoven's Op.106. Kimberger, equating progression by small intervals with doubt and sorrow, cites this subject as a good example of the expression of despair (1782 p.2; Dok.III p.361). Whether or not we agree with that precise emotional shade, this is surely Bach's most elaborate use of the device of chiasmus, with every four quavers of the 'sigh' motif forming the cross shape, all framed by the tonic and dominant triads.'

 Since the subject is not only very expressively chromatic but also modulates to the dominant, the answer will need to be carefully handled, and Bach changed his mind about this several times. The problem is that the subject moves up a 5th from B to F sharp, but the answer will have to start on F sharp  . . . .


As I say I used to have a good image of the score showing the motif with the cross drawn in, it'll turn up no doubt. I this chiasmus is pretty common in music. This sort of thing

« Last Edit: October 28, 2019, 12:44:31 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline amw

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1565 on: October 28, 2019, 01:07:27 PM »
For the record here are Ledbetter's comments on 12/16 time and the B flat prelude respectively.




It is significant that regardless of the intended mood (which in any case is largely up to the performer) Bach renotated the prelude from the 12/8 of a pastorale to the 12/16 of a fast gigue, & that these were considered very different metres and implying very different tempi by his contemporaries.

Re the B minor bkI fugue and its religious associations




Offline San Antone

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1566 on: October 28, 2019, 01:07:36 PM »
Yes I don't know that book, Ledbetter is a Bach scholar I think, he writes


As I say I used to have a good image of the score showing the motif with the cross drawn in, it'll turn up no doubt. I this chiasmus is pretty common in music. This sort of thing



Chiiasmus in ancient texts, and even Milton, has been considered important for Christianity, referring to the crucifixion.  But to advance that idea to the theme of Bach's name?  I dunno, seems like a stretch, not to mention that a musician with the kind of humility such as attributed to Bach would link his name to Christ would strike me as far-fetched.

While this kind of speculation may be interesting in the abstract, when it comes to appreciating the WTC it does not add to my enjoyment or appreciation.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2019, 01:09:41 PM by San Antone »

Offline hvbias

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1567 on: October 28, 2019, 01:23:49 PM »
For the record here are Ledbetter's comments on 12/16 time and the B flat prelude respectively.

[img width=480 height=478]https://i.imgur.com/abkckuL.png
[img width=480 height=211]https://i.imgur.com/QGJgwaO.png

It is significant that regardless of the intended mood (which in any case is largely up to the performer) Bach renotated the prelude from the 12/8 of a pastorale to the 12/16 of a fast gigue, & that these were considered very different metres and implying very different tempi by his contemporaries.

Re the B minor bkI fugue and its religious associations

[img width=480 height=137]https://i.imgur.com/53cOUAB.png
[img width=480 height=327]https://i.imgur.com/KGXmUxx.png
[img width=480 height=119]https://i.imgur.com/KGclWxL.png

How do you find the quality of Ledbetter's book? And is that in eBook format? Amazon only lists print copies.

Offline amw

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1568 on: October 28, 2019, 02:25:02 PM »
As far as I know the ebook is only available to institutional subscribers. Once I leave academia I’ll probably buy a print copy as it’s a very useful reference, even if a bit dry for casual reading lol

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1569 on: October 28, 2019, 08:57:57 PM »

Vieru is alright—I didn’t come across his recording in my initial search for some reason. Definitely better than the average, though I will evaluate properly at a later date.

I think in Bk 2 at least it’s very successful indeed. I wonder what happened to him.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1570 on: October 29, 2019, 01:24:45 AM »
Unfortunately I have only Book 1 with Ross and Koroliov. So I listened to Koopman in B flat major II. He is fast enough for my taste although it does not quite sound like a gigue, it's certainly far less uniformous than Gould's. (I have a few more of course, but had not enough time to listen to them.)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline hvbias

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1571 on: October 31, 2019, 07:12:51 PM »
Vladimir Feltsman- probably the most straight forward recording I've heard on piano. Nothing really unusual tempo wise, relatively narrow dynamic range, and I think it was this thread (or another here) where someone said pianists interweave voices in and out too much? Here Feltsman is playing them nearly side by side like you would hear on a harpsichord.

I personally found this a bit too ordinary, as in a conservatory student recording them (this critique is much harsher than I intend, I'm at a loss how to convey that more diplomatically), but I could see how this would be one that others would like. I may well change my mind on it as well, this sort of unadorned playing can be refreshing, just might not have been what I wanted tonight. One other thing it has going for it is the recording is dry, so the sound is very detailed and sort of helps the style in which Feltsman brings out counterpoint and voices.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1572 on: November 01, 2019, 12:21:03 AM »
these recordings of WTC by Genzoh Takehisa are some of the wildest I’ve heard. It’s worth a listen, really. The instruments sound great and are well recorded, however, I wonder if some people might passionately hate it.



Where can I get this in the UK without importing from Japan (import charges are prohibitive)? This is on youtube, and it suggests someone with something fresh to say.  Does he use a piano for the second book and a harpsichord or clavichord for the first?

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY</a>
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 12:27:23 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline milk

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1573 on: November 01, 2019, 01:19:57 AM »


Where can I get this in the UK without importing from Japan (import charges are prohibitive)? This is on youtube, and it suggests someone with something fresh to say.  Does he use a piano for the second book and a harpsichord or clavichord for the first?

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY</a>
The U.S. iTunes store has it. I'm guessing UK would as well but I don't know if that quality is good enough (and some people don't use apple anything)? I believe he switches between harpsichord and fortepiano for the second book. What's really annoying is the way the books are split between 4 recordings with similar looking covers.
He's curious because he's seemingly not connected with any European teacher or instrument builder. Or, maybe I even read somewhere that he builds his own instruments. 

Offline Jo498

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1574 on: November 01, 2019, 01:48:40 AM »
I now listened to a few more recordings of the II B flat major Prelude. Sheppard is clearly on the slow "pastoral" side, I think it becomes the longest piece in all of his book II. Jaccottet and Levin are both fast and gigue-like enough for my taste. As for the Gigue-like character, I think this is somewhat mediated. Similar to the Prelude of the A major English suite (that quotes a gigue by Dieupart? or some other French composer). Even many of the explicit dance movements by Bach are rather abstract and keep only some features of the "original", e.g. the slowish "gigues" in the first French suite or the e minor partita etc.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1575 on: November 01, 2019, 02:06:12 AM »
Unfortunately I have only Book 1 with Ross and Koroliov. So I listened to Koopman in B flat major II. He is fast enough for my taste although it does not quite sound like a gigue, it's certainly far less uniformous than Gould's. (I have a few more of course, but had not enough time to listen to them.)

That Koopman 890 prelude seems to me totally inexpressive and inhuman.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1576 on: November 01, 2019, 02:32:22 AM »
I focussed more on the tempo and rhythm and whether these parameters come close to the comments about the character mentioned above. Not sure how human and inhuman sounds... ;)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline milk

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1577 on: November 01, 2019, 02:50:14 AM »


Where can I get this in the UK without importing from Japan (import charges are prohibitive)? This is on youtube, and it suggests someone with something fresh to say.  Does he use a piano for the second book and a harpsichord or clavichord for the first?

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tm0aKcQcdMY</a>
I decided to buy these for download. I'd been streaming but I ended the trial for apple. Even though I'm steeped in apple products I'm annoyed with them too and don't want the apple subscription. I was lucky to catch that one is doubled on itunes. There are three recordings and I guess one more to be released. It's very weird as each recording has a mix of P/fugues from both books.
Sorry but I think Bk2 is all fortepiano. I got confused because, like I said, he mixes book 1 and 2 on each "record."
I don't know if I'm a sucker for buying it but I do think his playing is interesting and unique.

Offline milk

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Re: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier
« Reply #1578 on: November 04, 2019, 03:32:22 PM »
these recordings of WTC by Genzoh Takehisa are some of the wildest I’ve heard. It’s worth a listen, really. The instruments sound great and are well recorded, however, I wonder if some people might passionately hate it.
I have some more praise for these recordings by Genzoh Takehisa. The only problem here is that he splits book 1 and 2 over four releases, with the two books mixed on each and the fourth recording yet to come out.
That really confused and annoyed me. I can’t possibly imagine the justification for such a plan.
I’ve come to love his performances, although I did find them off-putting at first.
Takehisa finds new angles through expressive rubato, articulation and ornamentation, and, perhaps most jarringly, through the instruments he chooses - a pedal harpsichord in Bk 1 and a fortepiano in Bk 2.
Some of the Prelude/Fugues might be comparable to other artists, while other sets sound like they’re in their own universe. In Bk1, he’s often heavy and dramatic -which seems counterintuitive. In Bk 2 the fortepiano brings more brittleness and sensitiveness but he uses the same elasticity to express the music. Some might find Takehisa’s approach jarring at first. But I think it very musical.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 12:38:02 AM by milk »