Author Topic: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach  (Read 4508 times)

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Offline JCBuckley

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #40 on: February 23, 2020, 06:45:04 AM »


Is there much love for these performances of Handel's Keyboard Suites from a live performance at a French festival in 1979? I'm not sure who organized this concert, the idea of Richter playing half, Gavrilov playing the other half. Just seems unusual to me. But the results are brilliant. A bit too much background noise, but this is Richter we're talking so that is to be expected.

That set has long been one of my guilty pleasures. Pretty well as un-HIP as it's possible to be, but brilliant playing, as you say.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #41 on: February 23, 2020, 01:15:52 PM »
As I wrote further above, I used to like Richter/Gavrilov more than I do now. But admittedly it's been quite a while that I listened to them. As for the splitting, Richter did have strange gaps in his repertoire and there are a bunch of other live recordings of Handel suites but they are always from the same subset. And it still does not explain why two of the more famous pieces, the B flat suite Brahms took his variation theme from and the Chaconne are missing. Maybe Gavrilov didn't like them either.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #42 on: February 23, 2020, 03:05:00 PM »
This is maybe even more interesting than the EMI set



It contains Suites 2,9,12,14,16.

Now the reason I say it's interesting is that the suites which aren't part of the "Great Eight" have problematic scores, apparently the keyboard player needs to intervene quite a lot to make sense of them -- I've never explored the details of this, I'm just reporting what I've heard.

Most harpsichord players have been shy of Handel's music apart from the Great Eight. But at least two "great" pianists have rushed in where angels fear to tread: Richter and Heidsieck.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #43 on: April 14, 2020, 11:50:31 PM »



He says

Quote
because one can voice so transparently on the piano, it is possible to take the
Weckmann Canzon III (4) at a faster tempo than would make aural sense on organ or harpsichord, discovering a new palate and vibrant textures for
this work, replete with repeated notes.


Well, he knows what he’s talking about, and I’d say he’s right - though I’m not at all clear why it can’t be played at his tempo on a harpsichord.


Quote
And new expressive vistas open
up when one challenges oneself to execute the double notes and figuration work in Sweelinck’s Mein junges Leben with a fleetness and lightness that
still conveys a sense of fragility even as the writing becomes denser – virtually impossible on the organ or harpsichord

He may be right here, though he goes on to say that on organ and harpsichord “ these passages can so
easily sound either laboured or over-busy” - which I don’t agree with.  For me this piece is best on clavichord à la Siegbert Rampe!

I couldn’t help but wish that Daniel-Ben Pienaar had chosen a more characterful piano, he’s compromised by the extremely pure and even sounds of the instrument.
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #44 on: April 15, 2020, 12:08:06 AM »

I couldn’t help but wish that Daniel-Ben Pienaar had chosen a more characterful piano, he’s compromised by the extremely pure and even sounds of the instrument.

Isn't it so, that the playing of renaissance and baroque music on the piano more than anything else reveals, how much character the sound of the piano lacks compared to the sound of harpsichord and organ (period instruments the most). And that this may be one of the reasons why pianists tend to compensate for this fact by using a lot of pianistic measures. And then there is the problem with the tuning. Most pianists use equal tuning, which kills this music. I do not know how Pienaar has got his piano tuned BTW.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #45 on: April 15, 2020, 12:34:37 AM »
Isn't it so, that the playing of renaissance and baroque music on the piano more than anything else reveals, how much character the sound of the piano lacks compared to the sound of harpsichord and organ (period instruments the most). And that this may be one of the reasons why pianists tend to compensate for this fact by using a lot of pianistic measures. And then there is the problem with the tuning. Most pianists use equal tuning, which kills this music. I do not know how Pienaar has got his piano tuned BTW.

I'll email him, see what he has to say about these things.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #46 on: April 15, 2020, 03:12:44 AM »
And he's replied, saying basically that he'd love to work with a better piano and with different tuning but he can't because he just doesn't have the money to make it happen

Quote
That is just the normal reality for musicians without major name recognition. At the same time I have realised my time to be productive as a musician is now, while my technique and ideas are there; so I can’t wait for those ‘ideal’ opportunities to arise - especially since I just do not have the stomach or talent for the kind of self-promotion that seems the order of the day now - but must do the work now, even though it may be less than ideal...
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Offline bioluminescentsquid

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #47 on: April 15, 2020, 11:37:35 AM »
Isn't it so, that the playing of renaissance and baroque music on the piano more than anything else reveals, how much character the sound of the piano lacks compared to the sound of harpsichord and organ (period instruments the most). And that this may be one of the reasons why pianists tend to compensate for this fact by using a lot of pianistic measures. And then there is the problem with the tuning. Most pianists use equal tuning, which kills this music. I do not know how Pienaar has got his piano tuned BTW.

I'm in complete agreement except for the tuning part - I'm actually quite skeptical that a different, unequal tuning will change much at all. I'd still rather listen to the music on, say, a good organ tuned in equal (e.g. Alkmaar Larenskerk) than on a piano tuned in 1/4 comma meantone. The sound of an organ or harpsichord is just often much more intrinsically interesting than that of a piano.

... But it will be a great experiment!

I do think that Sweelinck works quite well on piano, equal or not for some reason.

Offline amw

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #48 on: April 15, 2020, 12:07:14 PM »
I do sometimes play Sweelinck on piano but usually not when anyone else is around and I still have mixed feelings about it. Some pieces obviously work better than others.

I have the Pienaar 17th Century set and enjoy what I’ve heard despite a strong suspicion that it’s lacking in depth....

(Unequally tuned pianos usually just end up sounding out of tune ime, unless you’re using something “radical” like pythagorean just intonation. Piano resonance is always a little out of tune to begin with even in equal temperament)
« Last Edit: April 15, 2020, 12:09:47 PM by amw »

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #49 on: April 15, 2020, 12:24:29 PM »
I'm in complete agreement except for the tuning part - I'm actually quite skeptical that a different, unequal tuning will change much at all. I'd still rather listen to the music on, say, a good organ tuned in equal (e.g. Alkmaar Larenskerk) than on a piano tuned in 1/4 comma meantone. The sound of an organ or harpsichord is just often much more intrinsically interesting than that of a piano.

... But it will be a great experiment!

I do think that Sweelinck works quite well on piano, equal or not for some reason.

Yes, some restored historical organs sound so intrinsically interesting, that one almost forgets the temperament whether equal or not. But essentially I hear the equal tuning a bit out of tune all the time, and I prefer relevant tunings, which for instance means strict mean tone (1/4 comma) for Sweelinck.

Piet Kee has recorded some Sweelinck on the Schnitger/Alkmaar organ, and it sounds nice, but in some way the ccolorful character of the music is nivelled out. Concerning the Alkmaar organ the equal tuning may be considered authentic, since it was tuned in this way already by F.C.Schnitger  But his time was another than Sweelinck's.


I don't think I would find Sweelinck on the piano that interesting, and just meant to say that the equal tuning of a piano adds to the incompatibility of the instrument with this music. However a  mean tone tuned piano would not solve the problem of the pianos dull tone, which is the main problem.
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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #50 on: April 15, 2020, 12:37:47 PM »
I do sometimes play Sweelinck on piano but usually not when anyone else is around and I still have mixed feelings about it. Some pieces obviously work better than others.

Many years ago I also played some Sweelinck on piano, I recall that some of the Lied-variations worked better than the chromatic fantasy.

Quote from: amw link=topic
Unequally tuned pianos usually just end up sounding out of tune ime, unless you’re using something “radical” like pythagorean just intonation. Piano resonance is always a little out of tune to begin with even in equal temperament)

I think it is the equal tuning which makes it sound a little out of tune. And the fact that a piano often gets out of tune a little bit rather shortly after being tuned. There is a recording of the WTC by Hans Georg Schäfer, who plays on a piano tuned in a modified mean tone temperature - I do not precisely recall which one, maybe a Kirnberger tuning - but this piano sounds not out of tune at all.
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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #51 on: April 15, 2020, 12:48:32 PM »
And he's replied, saying basically that he'd love to work with a better piano and with different tuning but he can't because he just doesn't have the money to make it happen

I thought his recordings were generally well received and reviewed (Beethoven sonatas, WTC). But his problems must reflect that recording CDs is a rather unprofitable thing. In a way he is a self promoting idealist like Rübsam with his lute-harpsichord recordings.
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Offline amw

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #52 on: April 15, 2020, 06:05:47 PM »
I think it is the equal tuning which makes it sound a little out of tune. And the fact that a piano often gets out of tune a little bit rather shortly after being tuned. There is a recording of the WTC by Hans Georg Schäfer, who plays on a piano tuned in a modified mean tone temperature - I do not precisely recall which one, maybe a Kirnberger tuning - but this piano sounds not out of tune at all.
Yes, I should have said "especially in equal temperament", I've never worked out exactly what's wrong with the equal tempered piano but octaves, sixths and sevenths all sound too narrow...

That said a lot of unequal temperaments don't seem to work that well either, at least in the few recordings I've heard. I don't know the Schäfer Bach.

Offline bioluminescentsquid

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #53 on: April 15, 2020, 06:59:01 PM »
Interestingly enough Frescobaldi and I think Froberger advocated equal temperament, and it was already frequently used for lute and viol literature (where the fretting makes it much easier to calculate). Werckmeister eventually gave up all his temperaments for equal too.
Sometimes I have the suspicion that we are much more interested in temperaments today compared to the past where they were simply seen as solutions to a practical problem.

That being said, I do prefer mean, or mean-sounding (e.g. Kellner or Werckmeister III) temperaments in general. But I actually can't hear the difference between equal and lots of the milder temperaments (e.g. Neidhardt III, Silbermann-sorge etc.) and would rather have equal at that point.

The Sweelinck chromatic fantasy actually doesn't use 1/4 meantone, since it requires d-sharp rather than the e-flat that strict 1/4 uses (one of the reasons why Dirksen thinks that it is meant for harpsichord, rather than organ, since retuning a harpsichord is much easier than retuning an organ). In the Renaissance, they made quite a fuss about this but today we play it on strict 1/4 meantone organs like nothing is wrong.

A piano with split sharps - now that would be something!

Alkmaar, there's actually some controversy on whether it was in equal after 1721. Ibo Ortgies thinks that it was still in 1/4 comma meantone then.

Offline bioluminescentsquid

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #54 on: April 15, 2020, 07:07:50 PM »
The Weckmann canzona is interesting - Pienaar tries to turn it into a trifle by Domenico Scarlatti, to excite just through rhythmic repetition rather than anything interesting harmonically or contrapunctally.

To be honest, I find it hard to stay interested with these interpretations after the first bars of the pieces as the novelty of hearing a familiar (or not-so-familiar) piece on piano wears off.
I think the best pre-Bach on piano is still Glenn Gould, but of course he has to keep you engaged through his little tricks and mannerisms.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2020, 07:13:03 PM by bioluminescentsquid »

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #55 on: April 16, 2020, 01:39:43 AM »
The Sweelinck chromatic fantasy actually doesn't use 1/4 meantone, since it requires d-sharp rather than the e-flat that strict 1/4 uses (one of the reasons why Dirksen thinks that it is meant for harpsichord, rather than organ, since retuning a harpsichord is much easier than retuning an organ).

It is true that e-flat is avoided in the chromatic fantasy, but there are only three d-sharps in the whole piece. This may be too sparse to conclude that stridt meantone wasn't used.

Quote from: bioluminescentsquid
Alkmaar, there's actually some controversy on whether it was in equal after 1721. Ibo Ortgies thinks that it was still in 1/4 comma meantone then.

Yes, Havinga complained about the mean tone in 1721, so he probably got it changed. Best guess is that the organ had some modified meantone tuning until 1765, where Ortgies writes it certainly was tuned equal.
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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #56 on: April 16, 2020, 01:56:42 AM »
Yes, I should have said "especially in equal temperament", I've never worked out exactly what's wrong with the equal tempered piano but octaves, sixths and sevenths all sound too narrow...

That said a lot of unequal temperaments don't seem to work that well either, at least in the few recordings I've heard. I don't know the Schäfer Bach.

The fact that the piano for each note has three or two strings which are hit simultaneously, and which must be precisely in tune, means that the piano sounds out of tune, if just one of these strings changes minimally, which isn't an uncommon occurrence.. This will be the same whatever temperament one choose.

In equal tuning octaves of course are tuned pure. I think the more annoying quality of equal tuning is the large thirds and the narrow fifths. And the more or less colorless quality of harmonies, which is best "appreciated" on an organ.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2020, 01:58:30 AM by (: premont :) »
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Offline amw

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #57 on: April 16, 2020, 03:24:16 AM »
The fact that the piano for each note has three or two strings which are hit simultaneously, and which must be precisely in tune, means that the piano sounds out of tune, if just one of these strings changes minimally, which isn't an uncommon occurrence.. This will be the same whatever temperament one choose.

In equal tuning octaves of course are tuned pure. I think the more annoying quality of equal tuning is the large thirds and the narrow fifths. And the more or less colorless quality of harmonies, which is best "appreciated" on an organ.
I knew the thing I was thinking of wasn’t imaginary—it’s the Railsback curve https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics#The_Railsback_curve

When a piano is tuned in perfect equal temperament the octaves & any larger interval really sounds too narrow due to inharmonicity in the strings, so a compromise whereby the lower strings are tuned more flat and the upper strings more sharp is necessary. And tuners don’t always get that right I guess. (Digital pianos and MIDI likewise.)

Of course fifths and minor thirds/major sixths sound ugly as well (major thirds sound fine, at least in my experience) due to the equal temperament but at least with piano repertoire from Beethoven onwards that’s taken into account by the composers. Whereas I guess if I were playing Louis Couperin etc on piano I’d want a meantone tuning

Offline milk

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #58 on: April 16, 2020, 03:58:06 AM »
I can't follow this discussion too well but it makes me think of La Monte Young. I wonder how maniacal you have to be to go that far with tuning. It's not a baroque question although don't Riley and Young use some kind of archaic tunings? It sounds like the piano must just be broken after 6 hours with the well-tuned piano. I also wonder if someone wants to play around with meantone for a performance, what means does one need to convince a venue to let you do it. My friend's wife is a pianist and did play Cage a few years ago but he said most places here in Japan are not going to let you stick screw in their instruments.
Sorry for the non sequitur. Back to baroque!

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Re: Baroque and early music on piano excluding Bach
« Reply #59 on: April 16, 2020, 04:43:41 AM »
I knew the thing I was thinking of wasn’t imaginary—it’s the Railsback curve https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics#The_Railsback_curve

When a piano is tuned in perfect equal temperament the octaves & any larger interval really sounds too narrow due to inharmonicity in the strings, so a compromise whereby the lower strings are tuned more flat and the upper strings more sharp is necessary. And tuners don’t always get that right I guess. (Digital pianos and MIDI likewise.)

Of course fifths and minor thirds/major sixths sound ugly as well (major thirds sound fine, at least in my experience) due to the equal temperament but at least with piano repertoire from Beethoven onwards that’s taken into account by the composers. Whereas I guess if I were playing Louis Couperin etc on piano I’d want a meantone tuning

I didn't know this inharmonicity phenomenon-  at least not in the way it is explained in your link. In equal tuning some inharmonicity always will result, because the upper notes aren't precisely in tune with the partials of the lower notes, and summation tones and subtraction tones of different non-harmonic pitches will be produced. I guess this is one of the reasons why earlier ages didn't use equal tuning that much.

A short anecdote: As a teen I listened to a piano tuner tuning the piano of my childhood home, and I observed, that he tuned the upper strings a bit too high. I asked him why he did this, and his answer was : To make the upper register sound more brilliant. This was an answer which made sense to me by then, even if I didn't think this was the ideal solution for all kinds of music.I was not aware if he tuned the lower strings a bit too low, but I wonder what he had answered if I had asked him.
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