2017 was our 20th year online!

Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 3 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments.
Over 100,000 members from around the world.
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Shop our online store for music lovers
SEARCH
Piano Forums & Piano World
(ad)
Best of Piano Buyer
 Best of Piano Buyer
(ad)
Faust Harrison Pianos
Faust Harrison 100+ Steinway pianos
(ad)
Wessell Nickel & Gross
PianoForAll
Who's Online Now
39 members (David Boyce, barbaram, Bentsch, Boboulus, clothearednincompo, CyberGene, Cushite, Animisha, 10 invisible), 496 guests, and 509 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
(ad)
Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Page 3 of 3 1 2 3
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
beet31425 #2239761 03/01/14 09:24 PM
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,694
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,694
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


THIS.

I'd add that in that time period, there was not actually the same stringent attitude of music correlating with instrument. Keep in mind that Bach composed the Well Tempered Klavier for "unspecified" keyboard instruments - could have been the organ, harpsichord, etc.

Also, while the harpsichord can't have any dynamic/tonal infection, other instruments Bach wrote for (voice, violin, gamba, etc) COULD, so it's not like the concepts of crescendo and diminuendo or tonal inflection were alien to him.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
Opus_Maximus #2239771 03/01/14 09:47 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
H
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
H
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
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


THIS.

I'd add that in that time period, there was not actually the same stringent attitude of music correlating with instrument. Keep in mind that Bach composed the Well Tempered Klavier for "unspecified" keyboard instruments - could have been the organ, harpsichord, etc.

Also, while the harpsichord can't have any dynamic/tonal infection, other instruments Bach wrote for (voice, violin, gamba, etc) COULD, so it's not like the concepts of crescendo and diminuendo or tonal inflection were alien to him.


I was thinking the same thing. He just had the musical bad fortune to live before the full development of the piano although he did supposedly play an early one in the encounter that produced the musical offering.

Last edited by Hrodulf; 03/01/14 09:47 PM.

[Linked Image]
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
BruceD #2239789 03/01/14 10:31 PM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 9,328
P
9000 Post Club Member
Offline
9000 Post Club Member
P
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 9,328
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Hrodulf
I think it is appropriate to add some expression to Bach's keyboard works but it is possible to go to far in this regard, witness the Czerny edition of the c minor fugue book I wtc there is a staccato dot placed above virtually every note.


Have you seen the Busoni edition of the WTC, Bk I?

Look what he suggests for a couple of measures of Prelude 21!

[Linked Image]

Regards,

Wow. That may be Busoni, but it's certainly not Bach.


Regards,

Polyphonist
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
ChopinLives81 #2239801 03/01/14 10:48 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
H
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
H
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
I really don't mind adding a register but some of the phrasing editors have come up with are clearly not authentic.


[Linked Image]
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
ChopinLives81 #2239941 03/02/14 05:18 AM
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 879
D
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
D
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 879
You can learn a lot from the Busoni editions of Bach. But it is not generally acceptable to use them for exam purposes; this with good reason. Check out the Eb fugue.

John


Vasa inania multum strepunt.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
Opus_Maximus #2239965 03/02/14 07:36 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 9,101
W
wr Offline
9000 Post Club Member
Offline
9000 Post Club Member
W
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 9,101
Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus

I'd add that in that time period, there was not actually the same stringent attitude of music correlating with instrument. Keep in mind that Bach composed the Well Tempered Klavier for "unspecified" keyboard instruments - could have been the organ, harpsichord, etc.



One might also note that in the Baroque period, they generally weren't playing music on their harpsichords, etc., that had been written 250 years earlier for completely different instruments.

I'd also say that Bach didn't compose the WTC for any instrument at all, but rather for an abstract idea of a keyboard that was in a well-tempered tuning. Sure, he could have had any (or even several) of a number of instruments in mind when writing any given prelude or fugue, but he still chose not to give any specific indications. Essentially, AFAIK, the work was conceived as a didactic tool, not as performance material.








Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
Vid #2239983 03/02/14 08:29 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 9,101
W
wr Offline
9000 Post Club Member
Offline
9000 Post Club Member
W
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 9,101
Originally Posted by Vid
I never understood this question and the debate around it. As others have said the music transcends whatever vessel is used to express it.


It's about wanting to understand the music idiomatically, and play with a sense of the appropriate style, I think.

While it may be true that some of Bach's music is less dependent on a particular instrument than, say, Debussy's, that doesn't mean that it is therefore a good idea to simply ignore instrumental considerations altogether. Bach wrote what he wrote within the instrumental world of his own time, and that world did not include a modern grand piano. It just didn't.

And because Bach didn't write a single note with the modern piano in mind, it means that whenever we play his music on a modern piano, we are transcribing it to an instrument other than one he knew. And doing that transcription means, to me, that we should try to have some knowledge about what we are doing, in terms of differences in instrumental capabilities, timbre, and playing style.




Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
wr #2240038 03/02/14 11:09 AM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 864
S
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 864
Quote


And because Bach didn't write a single note with the modern piano in mind, it means that whenever we play his music on a modern piano, we are transcribing it to an instrument other than one he knew. And doing that transcription means, to me, that we should try to have some knowledge about what we are doing, in terms of differences in instrumental capabilities, timbre, and playing style.





Absolutely.

Also, I wonder about why pianists want to claim Bach's keyboard music for their instrument and believe that Bach would have written for the piano had it existed and therefore it can just be played on the piano anyway.

As wr wrote above, pianists should approach playing Bach in the same way that, say, instrumental groups approach The Art of Fugue. That is, how do I realise this music on my particular instrument (s). Just because a piano has a keyboard doesn't mean it seamlessly and effortlessly substitutes for a clavichord, harpsichord or chamber organ (one or two "organ partitas" have no pedal part, therefore can be played on keyboard alone)

No-one, I believe, thinks Couperin's music can be easily realised on a modern concert grand. Because Bach's music can sound wonderful on all sorts of instruments doesn't mean that we should forgo the work to realise it in a manner that Bach (hopefully) would acknowledge as doing justice to his original design. Free interpretation/re-composing like Jaques Loussier - which I love - is another matter. If we are playing Bach "straight", then we need to be aware of how his music was played on his instruments, as a matter of respect.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
ChopinLives81 #2240057 03/02/14 11:35 AM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
H
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
H
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 848
I'd love to have a harpsichord but I don't have the space and can't afford it.


[Linked Image]
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
sandalholme #2240072 03/02/14 12:05 PM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
Originally Posted by sandalholme
Because Bach's music can sound wonderful on all sorts of instruments doesn't mean that we should forgo the work to realise it in a manner that Bach (hopefully) would acknowledge as doing justice to his original design. Free interpretation/re-composing like Jaques Loussier - which I love - is another matter. If we are playing Bach "straight", then we need to be aware of how his music was played on his instruments, as a matter of respect.

I don't think we should get too hung up on what instruments Bach envisaged his instrumental music were played on. At that time, composers placed less (or no) emphasis on the actual tone colour of the instruments than on the actual notes.

Here is Bach transcribing Vivaldi:
http://youtu.be/Av7peBiJRRc to http://youtu.be/tJ49G2-Chhs grin

...and the 'modern' equivalent http://youtu.be/QA1L0SsEXxU

And a well-known chorale that Bach arranged himself:
http://youtu.be/L2qt2d-k2_o to http://youtu.be/b_G1-QHfzhU


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
bennevis #2240103 03/02/14 12:45 PM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 864
S
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 864
So why did Bach specify instruments such as oboe d'amore rather than plain oboe in some works? (Can't specify from memory)

Why did Handel write trio sonatas for different combinations of instruments?

I would rather give Bach the credit for knowing precisely which instrumentation he wanted, for instance in the cantatas (and why is the 2nd orchestral suite the only one for, in effect, obbligato flute?) than assume he didn't care which instruments played his music. Having said that, I agree Bach's music - perhaps uniquely - works beautifully, given a sensitive musician, on all sorts of instruments.

In any case, even if we might agree that Bach, knowing that his instrumental music might/could be played on clavichord, harpsichord, organ, even early piano, didn't care which, he would, I believe, have thought long and hard if he had the opportunity (time travel!) to compose for the very different modern grand.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
sandalholme #2240114 03/02/14 12:59 PM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
Originally Posted by sandalholme
So why did Bach specify instruments such as oboe d'amore rather than plain oboe in some works?

Because he wanted the lower notes? grin

Yes, in some works, the instrumental colors are utilized.
But they are the exception rather than the rule. Unlike for Haydn, Mozart et al.

The number of possible permutations of instruments used for modern performances of The Art of Fugue is unparalleled - because nobody really knows what Bach intended. Even the Goldberg sounds great on everything from string orchestra to saxophone quartet to harp to accordion.

Handel's music, being more homophonic than Bach's, placed more reliance on the actual instrumentation. But still nothing like the Classical composers after him.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
sandalholme #2240183 03/02/14 02:36 PM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 1,127
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 1,127
Originally Posted by sandalholme
No-one, I believe, thinks Couperin's music can be easily realised on a modern concert grand. Because Bach's music can sound wonderful on all sorts of instruments doesn't mean that we should forgo the work to realise it in a manner that Bach (hopefully) would acknowledge as doing justice to his original design. Free interpretation/re-composing like Jaques Loussier - which I love - is another matter. If we are playing Bach "straight", then we need to be aware of how his music was played on his instruments, as a matter of respect.

But we don't know how Bach would have played it; we have no recordings from that time.
I believe that the main concern for musicians should not be: How would the composer have played it? It should be: How do I play it so that it sounds like music?

I once heard the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903 played on an accordion. The performer didn't change the notes, and it sounded good. The accordion is not my favourite instrument; but the result was still Bach.


My grand piano is a Yamaha C2 SG.
My other Yamaha is an XMAX 300.
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
sandalholme #2240215 03/02/14 03:30 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,887
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,887
Originally Posted by sandalholme
No-one, I believe, thinks Couperin's music can be easily realised on a modern concert grand. Because Bach's music can sound wonderful on all sorts of instruments doesn't mean that we should forgo the work to realise it in a manner that Bach (hopefully) would acknowledge as doing justice to his original design.
Sokolov has played quite a bit of Couperin and other French composers of that period in concert. Tharaud recorded an entire CD of Couperin on a modern piano.


Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
pianoloverus #2240238 03/02/14 03:59 PM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,096
This is one piece of Couperin that, I think, works better on the modern piano than on a harpsichord:

http://youtu.be/1lvBZhXEJXY


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
beet31425 #2241287 03/04/14 01:45 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 113
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 113
Originally Posted by beet31425
Here's something I often tell an audience before playing Bach:

...

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.

...

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

-Jason


Thanks, Jason - that's one of the most succinct and intelligent takes on this oft-debated subject. I had a harpsichord for a while years ago and tired of it quickly (and I now mostly share Sir Thomas Beecham's opinion of it).


1906 Steinway B (#124401)
Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
ChopinLives81 #2241354 03/04/14 03:39 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
L
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
L
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
Originally Posted by ChopinLives81
Originally Posted by gooddog
Originally Posted by Vid
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.
Ten thumbs up!


I ask because the technique required to play is very different between a piano and a harpsichord. I could learn a piece on the piano, but Being that a harpsichord has no dynamic variation, I could also learn the same piece on a keyboard or simply turn off the touch response on my digital and play it that way, and it would still be acceptable.

One of the things the Taubman folks and my coach Thomas Mark talks about is co-contraction. Playing Bach on a harpsichord is no big deal when you have to hold one note down and play others, but on a piano, it causes me nothing but grief, physically.

For others who can do this, more power to them, but personally, I am not going to develop a special technique specific to one composer's music.

This is especially true when it has been written that Bach tried out some the pianos of his day and couldn't technically play his music on them. Other than those pianos built by his friend Gottfried Silberman, on whose design he collaborated, Bach had essentially nothing to do with the instrument.

And, for the record, until Harold Samuel and Edwin Fischer came along, no one played Bach's piano music in recital anyway.

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
ChopinLives81 #2241362 03/04/14 03:51 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 405
A
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 405
I don't think Bach intended to have the voices of longer duration to be strictly held, it's as much a visual to keep abreast of each voice's individual line or trajectory

Re: Should Bach be played on a piano or harpsichord? (Opinions)
antony #2241365 03/04/14 04:02 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 4,468
P
4000 Post Club Member
Offline
4000 Post Club Member
P
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 4,468
Originally Posted by antony
I don't think Bach intended to have the voices of longer duration to be strictly held, it's as much a visual to keep abreast of each voice's individual line or trajectory

An excellent observation. However, there is also a historical performance technique where the line is not written out in full duration but expected to be played full duration anyway, for example BWV 825, Allemande - the line in the right hand is all sixteenth notes, but the player would normally lengthen to an eighth the first, third, fifth and so on sixteenths in each descending arpeggiated line in order to bring out the descending arpeggio. On a piano, it is not necessary to do this since a tenuto over those notes achieves the same end.

Last edited by prout; 03/04/14 04:05 PM.
Page 3 of 3 1 2 3

Moderated by  Brendan, Kreisler 

Link Copied to Clipboard
What's Hot!!
News from the Piano World
100,000!
---------------------
NEW! Sell Your Piano on our world famous Piano Forums!
---------------------
Posting Pictures on the Forums
-------------------
Forums RULES & HELP
-------------------
ADVERTISE on Piano World
(ad)
Pianoteq
Steinway Spiro Layering
(ad)
PianoDisc

PianoDisc
(ad)
Piano Life Saver - Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad)
Mason & Hamlin Pianos
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Bach chorales for piano
by marklings - 01/19/21 04:32 AM
Introductions to the great composers
by Animisha - 01/19/21 02:43 AM
NAMM 2021 Keyboards & Digital Pianos
by Osho - 01/18/21 08:57 PM
Advice on Grey Market Yamahas - Melbourne, Vic
by Tim_Au - 01/18/21 08:08 PM
Faulty Anytime in Kawai GE-30 AT
by Lempriere - 01/18/21 07:39 PM
Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
Forum Statistics
Forums42
Topics204,374
Posts3,048,787
Members100,115
Most Online15,252
Mar 21st, 2010
Please Support Our Advertisers


Faust Harrison 100+ Steinways

Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver

 Best of Piano Buyer

PianoTeq Bechstein
Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter |


© copyright 1997 - 2021 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4