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Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) #2238785
02/28/14 12:25 AM
02/28/14 12:25 AM
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ChopinLives81 Offline OP
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I know Bach composed his keyboard works for the harpsichord, but I'm wondering if it *should* be played on the same instrument. The piano adds a dynamic that was non-existant to Bach and while it does sound beautiful,but I sometimes think that we might be taking away one thing in favor of another.

This is purely an opinionated topic, I would like to get some sort of consensus on how you feel about it. Feel free to throw in any relevant facts though.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238786
02/28/14 12:28 AM
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Harpsichord but since most of us don't have one we don't.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238789
02/28/14 12:37 AM
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Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? Yes, but with the caveat that an organ or clavichord or synthesizer will work, too.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238790
02/28/14 12:37 AM
02/28/14 12:37 AM
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Here's something I often tell an audience before playing Bach:

One of the amazing things about Bach is that most of his music sounds very good transcribed for different instruments or played in a different register. Play the Moonlight sonata one octave up and it sounds terrible. Play the C major prelude from Bach's WTC (Book I) one octave up and it sounds very good.

In other words, part of Bach's genius is that he wasn't generally writing for a particular set of "instrument sounds". He was writing at a more abstract level, at the level of the relationship between the notes themselves, rather than how those notes happen to sound on a particular instrument.

(The other amazing thing about his genius, btw, is that while you might have thought this abstract approach would produce strictly cerebral music, Bach also happened to generally write the most beautiful combinations of sounds and melodies ever. It's the combination of these two forces, abstraction + beauty, that makes Bach Bach to me.)

So, yes, I think it's fine to play him on a modern piano.

-Jason


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238795
02/28/14 12:50 AM
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Bach is just such an original genius and font of so much original and incredible musical thought that it is difficult to define exactly what makes his work uniquely his, yet his stamp of ownership on his mature works is readily apparent.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238798
02/28/14 12:57 AM
02/28/14 12:57 AM
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Bach *should* be played. Should Bach be played on a Kazoo? Or, hummed without a kazoo if you don't have one?



Or, for those who prefer more crystal tones:





I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238807
02/28/14 01:21 AM
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Last edited by Hrodulf; 02/28/14 01:27 AM.

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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: beet31425] #2238847
02/28/14 04:21 AM
02/28/14 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by beet31425
One of the amazing things about Bach is that most of his music sounds very good transcribed for different instruments or played in a different register.

Yes, this is what I came here to say.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238876
02/28/14 06:15 AM
02/28/14 06:15 AM
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Much better on a harpsichord, or clavichord - if we are excluding the organ works of course - but Bach works well on any instrument, assuming the performer is musical enough.

I will always go to the harpsichord to play Bach, except on a few occasions, usually late at night, when I am drawn to, say, the A Minor prelude from WTC Book 2. I must admit that it then doesn't stop there!

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238881
02/28/14 06:21 AM
02/28/14 06:21 AM
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Since you ask for opinions, in my opinion, Bach sounds great on the piano. I find the harpsichord to be a bit too bright for my taste. I also like Bach on classical guitar, it sounds really nice and mellow. I once saw a two part invention on two guitars, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238892
02/28/14 07:46 AM
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My very general listening preference is for Bach's harpsichord works (which, BTW, doesn't include the WTC) on the harpsichord. But I'm not about to deny myself the playing of some wonderful interpreters simply because they aren't playing harpsichord.

My own playing of Bach is on the piano, and I enjoy it, but if I were a professional pianist, I think I'd try to avoid playing Bach in concert.

BTW, clavichords were ubiquitous in Bach's time, especially in homes, and they DID have dynamics (and even vibrato!). IIRC, it was reported that Bach liked playing them very much. But, on the other hand, AFAIK, he didn't write any music specifically for the clavichord, unlike the music he wrote that was meant to be played on harpsichord.

Going off on a tangent, it seems to me that a fairly large chunk of the WTC is best suited for neither harpsichord nor clavichord, but for organ. I think it is too bad there are not more recordings of it that take that into account and split the music between organ and harpsichord, and maybe clavichord as well.

Besides all that, in terms of being a listener, I find that the sensibilities of the really fine harpsichordists I've heard on recordings are just more immersed in the Baroque generally, and bring a kind of in depth knowledge of stylistic issues to bear that pianists usually don't. It's their home turf, and it shows.


Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: Cinnamonbear] #2238923
02/28/14 09:30 AM
02/28/14 09:30 AM
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Glenn Gould's thoughts on the subject.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238929
02/28/14 09:36 AM
02/28/14 09:36 AM
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Both.
Andras Schiff's playing Bach on the piano cannot likely be surpassed.
And there is a rumor that one of Bach's last acts was to order a piano.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: Frito] #2238945
02/28/14 10:09 AM
02/28/14 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Frito
Both.
Andras Schiff's playing Bach on the piano cannot likely be surpassed.
And there is a rumor that one of Bach's last acts was to order a piano.


He played an early piano for Frederick the great, resulting in the "musical offering."


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2238954
02/28/14 10:36 AM
02/28/14 10:36 AM
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Any device that produces pitched sound. Bach's music transcends the medium.

I have two clavichords. The clavichord was Bach's favourite instrument (He had a two manual, pedal clavichord for practising organ works. ) You can play with expressive dynamics, and with vibrato (bebung) and change the pitch on the fly to make the music more harmonious, or just pitch-bend it for a jazzy effect. But the piano, with the right performer, I think, has the ability to reach deeper into the soul of the listener.

Just my opinion.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: beet31425] #2238963
02/28/14 10:56 AM
02/28/14 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by beet31425
Here's something I often tell an audience before playing Bach:

One of the amazing things about Bach is that most of his music sounds very good transcribed for different instruments or played in a different register. Play the Moonlight sonata one octave up and it sounds terrible. Play the C major prelude from Bach's WTC (Book I) one octave up and it sounds very good.

In other words, part of Bach's genius is that he wasn't generally writing for a particular set of "instrument sounds". He was writing at a more abstract level, at the level of the relationship between the notes themselves, rather than how those notes happen to sound on a particular instrument.

(The other amazing thing about his genius, btw, is that while you might have thought this abstract approach would produce strictly cerebral music, Bach also happened to generally write the most beautiful combinations of sounds and melodies ever. It's the combination of these two forces, abstraction + beauty, that makes Bach Bach to me.)

So, yes, I think it's fine to play him on a modern piano.

-Jason
thumb
Originally Posted by Cinnamonbear
Bach *should* be played. Should Bach be played on a Kazoo? Or, hummed without a kazoo if you don't have one?

thumb thumb My thoughts exactly.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: beet31425] #2238995
02/28/14 12:21 PM
02/28/14 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by wr
My very general listening preference is for Bach's harpsichord works (which, BTW, doesn't include the WTC) on the harpsichord. But I'm not about to deny myself the playing of some wonderful interpreters simply because they aren't playing harpsichord.


Wohltempierte Clavier means well tempered keyboard [instrument]. That would include harpsichords.

Originally Posted by beet31425
Here's something I often tell an audience before playing Bach:

One of the amazing things about Bach is that most of his music sounds very good transcribed for different instruments or played in a different register. Play the Moonlight sonata one octave up and it sounds terrible. Play the C major prelude from Bach's WTC (Book I) one octave up and it sounds very good.-Jason


The octave of the pitch was not always clear on instruments of Bach's time. There were 4-foot harpsichords and spinets built, pitched an octave higher than our pianos. They would have been fairly common in homes.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239015
02/28/14 01:12 PM
02/28/14 01:12 PM
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Good point that Bach wrote for the keyboard-- and it works on various keyboard instruments. THe piano offers different possibilities for dynamics and texture than the harpsichord of course.

Not everyone is a fan of the harpsichord--Sir Thomas Beecham said that the harpsichord sounds like "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof" ! laugh

Last edited by sophial; 02/28/14 01:13 PM.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239017
02/28/14 01:23 PM
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When you look at the number of pieces which were transcribed, or purported to have been transcribed, for different instruments during that era, you realize that specific timbres were not as important as they were in other eras.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239050
02/28/14 02:34 PM
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I think he'd want his music played on the best quality instrument possible, so I am all for piano. Think of it like this... would a computer program still want to be using punch cards to program or one of today's computers?

Last edited by boo1234; 02/28/14 02:41 PM.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239057
02/28/14 02:47 PM
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Good evening.

Bach should be played on fill in the space

Bach should be played on harmonica

Last edited by landorrano; 02/28/14 03:03 PM.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: boo1234] #2239060
02/28/14 02:51 PM
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This assumes the piano is "better" than the harpsichord. They are just different instruments and to suggest the piano is superior is akin to saying the oboe is superior to the clarinet - or vice versa. They are both wind instruments but make different sounds and require a different technique to play them and that last phrase applies to both the wind instruments mentioned and to the piano and harpsichord.

I am always aware when playing Bach on the piano - which I enjoy, it works - I am realising the music using an instrument Bach did not know. I am a step away from Bach's natural sound world. With the harpsichord I am on his home territory.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239065
02/28/14 02:59 PM
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I never understood this question and the debate around it. As others have said the music transcends whatever vessel is used to express it.

Should Bach be played? Yes and often.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239067
02/28/14 03:02 PM
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I would also like to add that Sir Thomas Beecham said "The sound of a harpsichord – two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm"


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: Hrodulf] #2239098
02/28/14 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Hrodulf
I would also like to add that Sir Thomas Beecham said "The sound of a harpsichord – two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm"

As sophial pointed out earlier.


Regards,

Polyphonist
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239101
02/28/14 04:28 PM
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I forgot to read the thread.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: BDB] #2239176
02/28/14 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by wr
My very general listening preference is for Bach's harpsichord works (which, BTW, doesn't include the WTC) on the harpsichord. But I'm not about to deny myself the playing of some wonderful interpreters simply because they aren't playing harpsichord.


Wohltempierte Clavier means well tempered keyboard [instrument]. That would include harpsichords.



Which doesn't make it one of Bach's works specifically for harpsichord, which was what I was saying. I thought that was fairly clear - my mistake, I guess.



Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239180
02/28/14 07:33 PM
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It's unclear what instrument it was meant for, like in the case of Art of the Fugue.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: ChopinLives81] #2239236
02/28/14 09:49 PM
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Even harpsichords were very different from one another. The modern piano is the most standardized keyboard instrument that has ever existed. Everything else was very diverse.


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Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions) [Re: Frito] #2239379
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Originally Posted by Frito

And there is a rumor that one of Bach's last acts was to order a piano.


I wouldn't be surprised - but it wouldn't have been the instrument we call a "piano", but an early (and probably somewhat primitive) fortepiano. At any rate, he didn't write any music specifically for it.




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