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Staccato and legato in Bach #398884
12/14/03 06:46 PM
12/14/03 06:46 PM
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Posts: 118
Ben Lomond, CA
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bobrunyan Offline OP
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I'm working with an edition of Bach's piano works that does not indicate anything in the way of slurs, staccato, and legato. In trying to work out what sounds best to my ear, I found that I could systematize it, at least as a starting point. I'm wondering if others also use similar or very different "systems".

What works for my ear is to slur all the sixteenth notes with the following note and to slur any eighth notes that lead to another note a half or whole tone away. All other eighth notes are played staccato.

Again, this is just to use as a starting point. Thoughts?


Bob Runyan
Ben Lomond, CA
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Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398885
12/15/03 09:02 AM
12/15/03 09:02 AM
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toronto
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sandman Offline
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my teacher used to get me to systematize it...eighth notes stacatto, sixteenth noted stacatto, although i never really wanted to be quite so rigorous, however it does help to highlite themes and through touch rather than volume

Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398886
12/15/03 10:00 AM
12/15/03 10:00 AM
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apple* Offline
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WWBD?

I would think the melody of a phrase would determine how the notes within would be played.. I don't know that assigning a mathematical value would be anything but entertaining. Why would you do that? (asked out of curiousity rather than derision) smile


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)
Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398887
12/15/03 10:00 AM
12/15/03 10:00 AM
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Oklahoma City
JBryan Offline
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The best guide to interpretation is to just sing it. Bach's music has a definite lyrical quality (after all, he wrote tons of choral music) and the best sound is realized if it is played as though it were being vocalized. Systematic approaches are nonsense in my view.


Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness. :t:
Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398888
12/15/03 10:54 AM
12/15/03 10:54 AM
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Phlebas Offline
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A systematic approach might be a little didactic, but I wouldn't say it's total nonsense. JBryan is right, though, about singing. Too many people play Bach without an idea of phrasing, and singing will help with this.

CPE Bach's "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments" is useful for understanding 18th century music, and it's interpretation.

Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398889
12/15/03 11:33 AM
12/15/03 11:33 AM
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Ben Lomond, CA
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bobrunyan Offline OP
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Why systematize it?

Well, I find that I can play phrases in many ways that sound good. There are many other ways that sound awful to me. Some phrasings come off even comical. However, after trying a lot of phrasings on a lot of Bach's works I have found that the system above gives a really good starting point that almost always sounds good. This saves me time because I don't have to struggle with phrasing as much at the beginning of learning a piece. I can then adjust the phrasing as I become more familiar with the piece.

Another advantage: I can sightread a piece and make it sound like I have carefully considered the phrasing.

Try the system on, say, the Gigue from the sixth French Suite or the Gavotte from the third English Suite (where the eighths would be legato and the quarters mostly staccato). Try it on the Courante from Partita number VI. Works wonderfully on that one!

The system is somewhat more subtle than just "eighth notes staccato; sixteenth notes legato". Try it, then forget about it if you'd like. I'd like to think that phrasing is too personal, too important to systematize, but this approach works uncannily well, to my ear.


Bob Runyan
Ben Lomond, CA
PTG Associate Member
Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398890
12/15/03 11:39 AM
12/15/03 11:39 AM
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I used to try to systemize Bach this way, but I started finding way too many exceptions. It really depends on the style of the movement. And then you have to take into account things like non-legato/detached articulations, articulation on the last note of a legato phrase or slur, etc. etc. These days I just try to use common sense along with my ear to determine the articulation and even more importantly the phrasing.

Ryan

Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398891
12/15/03 11:46 AM
12/15/03 11:46 AM
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netizen Offline
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What you've worked out on your own is fine as far as it goes-- eighth notes stac against more legato sixteenths (as say, for sake of simple illustration, in the no.8 invention in F -to emph the canonic imitation) but it really depends on the piece and a variety of other factors: tempo, motivic materials, etc. Vocal music is not necessarily a good model for forumulating an interpretation --though it certainly will not hurt. Bach's keyboard music is really more linked to dance (minuet, allemande, gigue, etc). What piece are you working on?

Also worth consideration is Paul Badura Skoda's Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard


Good luck, N.


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that
we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."-- Theodore Roosevelt
Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398892
12/15/03 12:38 PM
12/15/03 12:38 PM
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Ben Lomond, CA
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bobrunyan Offline OP
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Again I'm not just suggesting "eighth notes staccato against more legato sixteenths". What I'm suggesting is more subtle and works better than that. See above.

Three of the pieces I'm working on I mentioned above: the Gigue from the sixth French Suite, the Gavotte from the third English Suite and the Courante from Partita number VI. Any suggestions on those?

Bob


Bob Runyan
Ben Lomond, CA
PTG Associate Member
Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398893
12/15/03 03:09 PM
12/15/03 03:09 PM
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Posts: 80
Fredericksburg, VA
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When working on Bach's WTC, my teacher usually went with the 8th notes detached, and 16th notes legato.

Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398894
12/16/03 03:11 PM
12/16/03 03:11 PM
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Colorado
ryan Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by bobrunyan:
Three of the pieces I'm working on I mentioned above: the Gigue from the sixth French Suite, the Gavotte from the third English Suite and the Courante from Partita number VI. Any suggestions on those?
I would first figure out the character of the piece. Then I would determine the phrasing and any special groupings of notes (slurs, etc.), paying special attention to lines that I want to bring out. And then I would determine what articulation to use that best supported my goals for the music.

Ryan

Re: Staccato and legato in Bach #398895
12/16/03 05:49 PM
12/16/03 05:49 PM
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pianodevo Offline
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Charles Rosen's book (something like "Piano Notes", published in 2002 I believe) spends 10 - 15 pages talking about interpreting Bach.

His most reasoned conclusion is that today there is no authoritative way to play Bach.

His synopsis of various experts going back many years leads to the conclusion that there are many fully acceptable interpretive schools.

Rosen even mentions a Russian edition which uses a LOT of pedal, and states that many fine players agree.

Conclusion: IMO let your ear make the decisions when playing Bach. [With or without your preprocessing.]


pianodevo

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