Author Topic: Bach on the piano  (Read 64074 times)

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #540 on: November 08, 2018, 05:46:03 AM »
I've lately been enjoying some Liszt transcriptions a great deal, specifically György Sándor playing transcriptions of the Prelude & Fugue in a minor, BWV 543, and the Fantasia & Fugue in g minor, BWV 542.

OT, perhaps, but I played for Sandor in a masterclass in the early 80's. He was a kind and perceptive teacher. At the time he was promoting his excellent book "On Piano Playing", about the best description of piano technique and how to develop it. He also played the 3rd Piano Concerto of Bartok in concert, for which he was quite renowned.
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Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #541 on: November 09, 2018, 04:09:32 AM »
Shepkin plays the 6. I like this so far. How's his French and WTC? Anyone a fan of his? He's new to me but he seems very connected to the music.

Offline springrite

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #542 on: November 09, 2018, 04:20:37 AM »
Shepkin plays the 6. I like this so far. How's his French and WTC? Anyone a fan of his? He's new to me but he seems very connected to the music.
I have him in Goldberg and the partitas. He is excellent. I have never heard his kind of attention to details but sometimes he does seem to try to manipulate every note a bit too much. That having been said, he is certainly one of a kind and I am glad I have these recordings.
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Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #543 on: November 09, 2018, 04:24:17 AM »
I have him in Goldberg and the partitas. He is excellent. I have never heard his kind of attention to details but sometimes he does seem to try to manipulate every note a bit too much. That having been said, he is certainly one of a kind and I am glad I have these recordings.
I notice some really shining moments in the Partitas. He sustains an inventiveness. But, maybe he goes a bit wrong here and there. I wonder what people think of his WTC.

Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #544 on: November 09, 2018, 04:35:28 AM »
I watched this movie called Private Life yesterday (which I didn't like much). There are three or four moments in the movie with Bach on the soundtrack. It's immediately noticeable that this is Glenn Gould and I realized for the first time how truly disagreeable I find his playing. First of all he really jumps out. His Bach is jarring, and uniquely so - and I don't mean this in a good way. It's cloying. Second, his playing is disagreeably monotonous, without rubato or even the sense of a "normal" amount of emotion. I'm not sure I understand anymore how Gould got so famous or why people always go back to him as if no one else plays Bach. I almost think the people who continually throw Gould on soundtracks don't really know or love Bach that well; it's like they located Bach through an association w/Gould and never have gone any further with the music. Or could it be that they really think Gould is the top of the heap after comparing him with others? Sorry for my rant. I'm sure there are Gould lovers here who can speak to his good points and his enduring legacy. 

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #545 on: November 09, 2018, 04:58:58 AM »
It's immediately noticeable that this is Glenn Gould and I realized for the first time how truly disagreeable I find his playing. First of all he really jumps out. His Bach is jarring, and uniquely so - and I don't mean this in a good way. It's cloying. Second, his playing is disagreeably monotonous, without rubato or even the sense of a "normal" amount of emotion.

This is not far from my sentiments.
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Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #546 on: November 09, 2018, 05:16:04 AM »
This is not far from my sentiments.
I'm sure I'm not being fair to his fans. But, at the same time, I realized when he popped up in this movie that there's a kind of propaganda in this that this is THE WAY Bach IS and if one is only a casual observer of classical music there's a good chance one would not know anything else. That kind of sucks. Why did Gould get to "take over" Bach? Even in intellectual circles this is the case: I remember a decade ago when I first got into Bach (and classical) I only knew the first Gould and a Professor asked me how I compare the two GBVs and I didn't know what to answer because I didn't know the second. Maybe I should give Gould more credit. Would Woody Allen's joke exist without Gould having popularized this music ("I always thought the GBVs were something Mr and Mrs Goldberg tried on their wedding night")? 

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #547 on: November 09, 2018, 06:54:27 AM »
I'm sure I'm not being fair to his fans.

What do you mean?

What has critizising somebody to do with his/her fans?





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Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #548 on: November 09, 2018, 02:57:22 PM »
What do you mean?

What has critizising somebody to do with his/her fans?
Yeah, I put that wrong, you're right. Maybe there is something I should try harder to understand about the importance of Gould. To bring the case against myself, I have to admit that Gould was the first Bach I listened to, and I listened a lot. I remember watching a long documentary on him when I was trying to understand the music better. But looking back now, it seems like maybe some of the reason for his success is the mystique around him as a person...his idiosyncrasies. If he's the reason some people like Bach, I wonder if he's also partially the reason why some people describe Bach as too serious or academic.

Offline Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #549 on: November 09, 2018, 03:02:32 PM »
Somehow the Gould thing passed me by. Up until two years ago I had purchased only one Gould record (French Suites) and found it so repellent that I think I only listened to it once. I found it baffling that Gould's Bach got so much attention.

I learned Bach keyboard music from Andras Schiff, mostly. Then Hewitt. Recently I got some of the Gould releases in the big reissue. I find them impressive for the dexterity demonstrated, they strike me as "unmusical." I might go to them occasionally to see if I hear something different in them, but I have no love for them.


Offline milk

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #550 on: November 09, 2018, 03:12:56 PM »


Actually, I'm just listening to BK I. I really like this a lot.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 03:02:54 AM by Que »

Offline Iota

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #551 on: November 10, 2018, 07:44:47 AM »
Not a lot of love hereabouts for Gould! :laugh:  A vivid example it seems to me of how differently people can hear things.
I have no interest whatsoever in any personal mystique or idiosyncrasies surrounding Gould. I love his Bach for one reason which is that when it is right (which for me is most of the time) it is one of the most joyful musical experiences I know.
His Bach playing always dances to its core, it's like someone turning on a light at the heart of the music ... he always seems to land on the pulse with such a natural terpsichorean joy. I find this often particularly true when others appear to deem him 'rattling along'. And you could bet your house on the clarity of his polyphony. All of this to my ears comes naturally out of the music, is a genuine celebration of it (i.e not an egotistical celebration of his own abilities).

I assume by idiosyncrasies some reference is being made to his vocalisations. Far from appealing, this put me off his playing to the extent that for two decades I could hardly listen to him. It still bothers me sometimes, like sonic graffiti on great art. But when I'm able to put that to one side I hear music making that makes me glad to get up in the morning.

I don't feel the same about his playing of other composers, his appeal for me lies in the dance and polyphony of Bach's music.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #552 on: November 10, 2018, 08:35:25 AM »

His Bach playing always dances to its core, it's like someone turning on a light at the heart of the music ... he always seems to land on the pulse with such a natural terpsichorean joy. I find this often particularly true when others appear to deem him 'rattling along'. And you could bet your house on the clarity of his polyphony. All of this to my ears comes naturally out of the music, is a genuine celebration of it (i.e not an egotistical celebration of his own abilities).





I may be wrong about this, but I don't think anyone's going to dispute that he brought a solid pulse to the music. Not everyone will agree that this is a good thing, because it makes the music more predictable. You know, Bach didn't write music to dance to as far as I know! He didn't expect anyone to clear the furniture to the walls . . .

Hearing the voices is not at stake here, but what the voices are doing is. How he makes the voices interact is a more contentious aspect of his art, especially in the light of experiments in interpreting polyphony made after he died by, for example, Sergio Vartolo and his student Matteo Mesori, and in the USA by Glen Wilson. Obviously it wouldn't be fair to expect him to play like a good 21st century keyboard player, nevertheless, these days Gould's style seems dated.

Some other areas of contention lie around touch (portato) and tempo.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 08:42:08 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Iota

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #553 on: November 10, 2018, 09:20:24 AM »
I may be wrong about this, but I don't think anyone's going to dispute that he brought a solid pulse to the music. Not everyone will agree that this is a good thing, because it makes the music more predictable.

I didn't say 'solid pulse', that sounds dull and leaden in this context. I said (perhaps a bit colourfully ...) that it lands on the pulse with a natural terpsichorean joy, which I hope implied something very different.

You know, Bach didn't write music to dance to as far as I know! He didn't expect anyone to clear the furniture to the walls . . .

I do. I mean his music dances, and prompts a similar feeling within me. I'm sorry all these things weren't clear in my post.

Hearing the voices is not at stake here, but what the voices are doing is. How he makes the voices interact is a more contentious aspect of his art, especially in the light of experiments in interpreting polyphony made after he died by, for example, Sergio Vartolo and his student Matteo Mesori, and in the USA by Glen Wilson. Obviously it wouldn't be fair to expect him to play like a good 21st century keyboard player, nevertheless, these days Gould's style seems dated.

Some other areas of contention lie around touch (portato) and tempo.

Interesting. But to me in my current state of knowledge, it *is* about hearing the voices clearly, in a way that seems appropriate to the music, and that imo is what he very successfully does with great freshness and bouyancy. I'm not sure in what way his playing/touch is deemed contentious bearing in mind he's already playing on a concert grand. Sometimes he accents heavily for example, but even then it nearly always seems wholly pertinent to something in the music. 

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #554 on: November 10, 2018, 09:47:54 AM »
I didn't say 'solid pulse', that sounds dull and leaden in this context. I said (perhaps a bit colourfully ...) that it lands on the pulse with a natural terpsichorean joy, which I hope implied something very different.



Terpsichorean joy is certainly a good thing, an irresistible thing, in dance music.


I mean his music dances, and prompts a similar feeling within me. I'm sorry all these things weren't clear in my post.




Sure, I understand. He swings.

in a way that seems appropriate to the music,

Appropriate is papering over a lot of stuff here. He's playing the notes in the right order more or less, so what he comes up with is bound to be

wholly pertinent to something in the music.

There may be other ways which give you lots to think about, and unexpected things to feel too. I doubt that anyone is better than him at making feet tap though, there we agree.



I'm not sure in what way his playing/touch is deemed contentious bearing in mind he's already playing on a concert grand.

Just he sometimes chooses to to play with notes which are rather disjointed, which sounds a bit kooky to me.


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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #555 on: November 10, 2018, 11:20:57 AM »
For me the absolutely most critical aspect of Bach, and I say this as a performer and listener of his music, is playing so that the 'beat' is crystal clear. This has nothing to do with predictability, and I don't even understand why that comment was made. Now, not everyone may agree with me, but I think all successful performances of Bach have this trait. When I look for or hear a great performance of Bach, this is one of the universal traits.

Gould has this in spades. He also has great expressivity within that. It's not monotonous, it's precise and clean.

Can I also say how I find it a bit unexpected to see complaints about lack of rubato in Bach. Rubato is generally viewed as a 'romantic' practice. But I think rubato is generally unhelpful in much of Bach's keyboard works.
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #556 on: November 10, 2018, 11:36:52 AM »
Of course Bach's music must be played with a clear basic pulse, but this does not mean, that each note should be played metronomically. Within the frames of the basic pulse there should be room for rhetoric and rhythmic rubato for affective expressive purposes. This has nothing to do with the sentimentality of romanticism.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #557 on: November 10, 2018, 12:12:28 PM »
For me the absolutely most critical aspect of Bach, and I say this as a performer and listener of his music, is playing so that the 'beat' is crystal clear. This has nothing to do with predictability, and I don't even understand why that comment was made. Now, not everyone may agree with me, but I think all successful performances of Bach have this trait. When I look for or hear a great performance of Bach, this is one of the universal traits.

Gould has this in spades. He also has great expressivity within that. It's not monotonous, it's precise and clean.

Can I also say how I find it a bit unexpected to see complaints about lack of rubato in Bach. Rubato is generally viewed as a 'romantic' practice. But I think rubato is generally unhelpful in much of Bach's keyboard works.

Why do you think rubato is unhelpful in Bach? If it's used well, it's expressive, which seems helpful.

Noone is saying that in Bach there shouldn't be a pulse, the problem for me comes if the beat is always landing on the pulse like a metronome.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 12:28:41 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #558 on: November 10, 2018, 12:17:44 PM »
Of course Bach's music must be played with a clear basic pulse, but this does not mean, that each note should be played metronomically. Within the frames of the basic pulse there should be room for rhetoric and rhythmic rubato for affective expressive purposes. This has nothing to do with the sentimentality of romanticism.
I disagree. Bach's keyboard works definitely benefit from a tilt toward the metronomic side (of course, my opinion) - perhaps better to say a stricter adherence to it. My tolerance for rubato in Bach (and music like it) is much lower than in other styles. Of course, there are degrees and I suspect that we are disagreeing about that. I would not (necessarily) equate sentimentality with rubato.
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Bach on the piano
« Reply #559 on: November 10, 2018, 12:22:13 PM »
Why do you think rubato is unhelpful in Bach? If it's used well, it's expressive, which seems helpful.

Noone is saying that in Bach there shouldn't be a pulse, the problem for me comes if the beat is always landing on the pulse like a metronome.
As I wrote above, I lean toward metronomic in Bach. The reason is that the line is more easily lost in Bach without it.

Rubato is unhelpful because, in my view, it distorts the music (particularly in Bach). Where in Beethoven it lends meaning and emphasis, it removes that somewhat in Bach. Within a stricter rhythmic approach, there still needs to be a musical sound. It should not be robotic, but Gould is anything but that.
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