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how to play Bach with stability? #2550678 06/20/16 03:00 AM
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beet31425 Offline OP
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I've performed Bach before, from memory, but it always feels risky. I work out all the individual voices carefully, and at home it feels so secure, but when I play it for others I'm just never confident.

I used to have this problem with other composers-- now it's mostly Bach. With everyone else, I can mentally "chunk" or group notes together into recognizable features, like a chord, an arpeggio, an Alberti bass. But with Bach, everything is so horizontal, all the lines are so alive, that it's hard to group things vertically, and I'm left with the sense of arbitrary streams of notes, which can get off track so easily. (Not arbitrary in a musical sense, but along the lines of exactly which notes are involved.)

I think the key lies in conceptualizing bigger patterns that I can group together, and I'm also starting a more detailed harmonic analysis of my F# fugue. But I'd like to know if anyone out there has any ideas. I assume we've all struggled with this-- what works for you?

-Jason


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
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Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2550721 06/20/16 07:36 AM
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hreichgott Offline
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Jason, I was just at a concert the other night with two extremely good pianists performing two hours of Bach (solo works, alternating pianists.) They both used the score for every piece. So that's one thing.

I personally am much more secure playing from memory and I know that I sound better when playing from memory, and I share your difficulties with memorizing Bach in particular. I think that because there is so much to keep track of, the preparation arc from "fully learned" to "performing" just needs to be much longer, at least for me.

2 1/2 years ago I learned the 4th French Suite. I spent around four months working on it with my teacher at the time and making it sound as good as possible. Over the next year and a half I played movements from it at various church services, as ballet students were stretching before classes, at a gig where I was background music. I programmed it for a concert last summer and then removed it from the program because it really wasn't going well during run-throughs. This March I had another background music gig and played the whole suite and that's the first time it really went well in front of anybody (not that anyone was listening). I just took it out again for church this Sunday and I think it'll go pretty well again. So maybe I just need 2 years for Bach.
My experience with the A major Prelude and Fugue has been on a similar timeframe.
Even the D major Little Prelude, which is a pretty simple piece, I had trouble with the ending when playing it in church until about the seventh or eighth time I played it.
The Gigue from the Bb Partita I've known since I was 10 years old, and even that piece I know I need to play it every single day from memory for a month if it's going to go well in front of listeners.

Sometimes I wonder, if I played Bach as much as I play Haydn and Beethoven, would I start at some point to be able to learn and remember Bach as quickly as I can with those composers? But I think I will always be playing more Haydn and Beethoven than anyone else so I won't have the opportunity to find out...

Maybe someone who is a really experienced Bach player will chime in smile


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2550732 06/20/16 08:58 AM
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Isabelle1949 Offline
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I would love for an e perished Bach player to chime in. His music looks so simple on paper, but when the fingers hit the keys and the eyes hit the page, by brain is scrambled. I've thought of taking one month to read nothing but Bach. Maybe my brain will acclimate.


Always working to improve "Chopsticks". I'll never give up on it.
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: Isabelle1949] #2550738 06/20/16 09:35 AM
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BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted by Isabelle1949
I would love for an e perished Bach player to chime in[...]



"... e perished " = experienced? or ... this could be an explanation of how things get lost in the ether of the internet. "My message e-perished!" I like it!?


BruceD
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Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: BruceD] #2550741 06/20/16 09:50 AM
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Emanuel Ravelli Offline
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There's a plaque in my music room that reads: "There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the music plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach

As if . . . laugh


Phil Bjorlo
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2550758 06/20/16 11:02 AM
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gooddog Offline
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Originally Posted by beet31425
... But with Bach, everything is so horizontal, all the lines are so alive...

I love this description.

I've seen videos of both Murray Perahia and Angela Hewitt playing Bach with the score so you are in exalted company.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: hreichgott] #2550781 06/20/16 12:13 PM
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Vid Offline
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
2 1/2 years ago I learned the 4th French Suite. I spent around four months working on it with my teacher at the time and making it sound as good as possible. Over the next year and a half I played movements from it at various church services, as ballet students were stretching before classes, at a gig where I was background music. I programmed it for a concert last summer and then removed it from the program because it really wasn't going well during run-throughs. This March I had another background music gig and played the whole suite and that's the first time it really went well in front of anybody (not that anyone was listening). I just took it out again for church this Sunday and I think it'll go pretty well again. So maybe I just need 2 years for Bach.


You don't happen to have a recording of it floating around in the interwebs? I'm interested on your take on it.

For memorization in Bach I find having solid "goal posts" to be very useful. These are simply start places where you know exactly the starting interval(s) between the voices. Even though the music tends to flow there are always cadence points. The more of these you can manage the better. I've even gave them numbers and then randomly pick where to start from.


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Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2550797 06/20/16 12:56 PM
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If you are interested in a detailed, blow-by-blow description of how Bach's Italian concerto, presto movement, was learned/memorized, you might want to look at this book by Roger Chalfin 'Practicing Perfection'. The last chapter is a running commentary on the process used by a concert pianist.

https://www.amazon.com/Practicing-Perfection-Performance-Expertise-Applications/dp/0415651026

Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: Isabelle1949] #2550799 06/20/16 01:07 PM
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Cheeto717 Offline
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Originally Posted by Isabelle1949
Maybe my brain will acclimate.


It will. Bach has a very specific musical language that not many others use. Spend enough time with it and you'll learn new Bach works more easily and efficiently.

Cheeto


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2550914 06/20/16 09:44 PM
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WhoDwaldi Offline
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For stability navigating Bach, you need a longer string for your gyroscope. 😀


WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 5' 10"
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: Vid] #2550918 06/20/16 10:05 PM
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hreichgott Offline
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Vid -- Thanks for the encouragement, maybe I'll record it sometime, perhaps after I've played it a few more times wink
I like your idea of using cadences as goal posts. That could be helpful both for thinking in sections and for improvising one's way out of a momentary difficulty.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: hreichgott] #2551074 06/21/16 12:24 PM
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Vid Offline
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Vid -- Thanks for the encouragement, maybe I'll record it sometime, perhaps after I've played it a few more times wink
I like your idea of using cadences as goal posts. That could be helpful both for thinking in sections and for improvising one's way out of a momentary difficulty.


I'll share mine - https://soundcloud.com/eo2/french-suite-no-4-in-e-flat-major-js-bach

This was my contribution to the Baroque e-cital. I think the Allemande and Sarabande are probably the strongest of these movements for me. The gigue and those trills still giving me trouble.



  • Schimmel Upright
  • Kawai VPC-1 with Pianoteq

Any issues or concerns are piped to /dev/null
Re: how to play Bach with stability? [Re: beet31425] #2551153 06/21/16 06:01 PM
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hreichgott Offline
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Ok, I'll take your dare, and file this away to listen to after I've made a recording smile
I think the Gigue is the hardest movement.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music

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