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Irina Lankova has been recording and posting each variation, individually, with a brief introduction into each piece. She has recorded them beautifully in black and white. You might find it worth exploring.

This is a link to the playlist, and below is the Aria:


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Thanks for that, the few I've listened are lovely. She has such a sensitive touch.

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Interesting. I will listen to it. Regarding the interpretation of the aria, it is quite in line with all the modern ones I have listened to recently. Without judgement of what is right or wrong, good or bad, I think though that it is not what Bach intended when he composed that piece and that it is our modern slow version of it.

The first and early version of Gould is probably closer to the composer intention and style, that is a stylized typical sarabande dance based on a chaconne bass. Gould completely changed his interpretation in his second full recording of this aria.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZCSOdi19jQ

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Maybe so. I’m not arguing for or against her interpretation, just sharing what I thought was a very nicely presented series.


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I will say that Gould recording is something I’ve never heard. He plays it in an interesting style. A lot of staccato. It’s fun to listen to.


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Originally Posted by cmb13
Maybe so. I’m not arguing for or against her interpretation, just sharing what I thought was a very nicely presented series.


Same for me. It is a nice interpretation with a nice touch. I like this pianist, she recorded also Rachmaninoff pieces which are wonderfull.

Indeed the Gould recording is fairly unique. He used that style frequently in the wtc in his early recordings. The piece is based on a dance, so his version is rythmically closer to what was originally intended, imo. But the Lankova version brings out the more poetic and meditative side of the piece.

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My teacher does a brilliant parody of Gould’s staccato playing. She really can have me rolling on the floor with laughter. Maybe Gould brought out the inner voices in how he played Bach but did those inner voices have have to be so ugly? LOL.

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I’m biased in a few ways ... I took some lessons from Irina and found her to be easily among the best teachers with whom I’ve studied. So +1 for Irina.

The idea of a composer’s “intention.” I’ll say that at any given moment none of us know why we do as we do. Is that really true? ... Thus, the many things we say such as “I didn’t realise that THAT was what I was really trying to say.”

And, as another example, I compose and know many composers who have said such-and-such performer brought out aspects of their music they hadn’t even considered. So, -1 to “intentionality.”

Or perhaps “intentionality” is a fraught word that needs more examination and attention. Or, perhaps the greatest pieces stand up to and accommodate any number of interpretations (subject to any number of different this and thats).

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, I think, that his second and last book was a refutation of his first book. (All Wittgenstein books in between those two were transcriptions of notes and lectures, as I understand it to be).

Therefore, not surprising that over 30 years later, Glenn Gould, playing with a lot more life experience on a different piano in a different recording space with a different engineer and different recording equipment and a different technician and different microphone placement leads to a different interpretation on any particular piece. +1 for change. Those two recordings are fabulous bookends, as it were.

Who knows? (I don’t!) .... we all bring a lot of filtered and unfiltered opinion to pieces like the GVs, as in: what do we expect to hear? What do we hear? What surprises us or sounds anew in any given performance? Do we have a somewhat fixed or somewhat malleable POV?

All above is opinion, question, and NOT meant as argument!!

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You took lessons from her? Jealous!!!!!

Great perspectives, thanks for sharing.


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Same as Craig. Definitely jealous.

I do like your perspective as a composer and the relationship with a performer, specifically performers bringing out something you hadn't considered.

That is similar to what I've heard from authors when hearing back from readers and their interpretation of what was written.

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Thanks so much for posting this. She won my heart when she said she choose a slow tempo. I’m now finishing Johan Sebastian Bach: The learned musician for the second time and can’t enough Bach.


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Originally Posted by Mark Polishook
Or perhaps “intentionality” is a fraught word that needs more examination and attention. Or, perhaps the greatest pieces stand up to and accommodate any number of interpretations (subject to any number of different this and thats).

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, I think, that his second and last book was a refutation of his first book. (All Wittgenstein books in between those two were transcriptions of notes and lectures, as I understand it to be).



I think the term intention is probably not exactly the right one. I am referring to the overall stylistic and performance practice at the time of Bach, and also the instrumental context. The Goldberg are one of the few pieces where we know with certainty that Bach composed them specifically for the harpsichord. It is not to say that our modern interpretation should align with it - even if we do know many things about the interpretative style of the period, we do not know everything; and playing on the piano is already a form of transcription.

I do agree that many pieces can certainly accommodate different interpretations, and our modern sensitivity has changed from what it was 100 years ago, not speaking of 300 …There is also no issues if Gould changed its interpretation. I would think many pianists do so in the course of their career when it is a long one.

What I am always surprised with, is the fact that on the one hand we have a nearly dogmatic, psycho-rigid position about respecting the composer’s indications when it comes to music of the 19th century, but we do not mind playing sometimes completely differently many pieces of Bach, tempo, articulation, ….. A pro pianist would never play a Beethoven allegro like an adagio and yet many pieces of Bach are played with a tempo ranging twice (or more) faster or slower. Similarly if Beethoven indicated an ff, we would not find acceptable that it is played p.

Similarly, there are a few cases where we do have the recording of the composer like Debussy. It is quite interesting to see that the style used by Debussy is quite far remote from the way the piece is played nowadays. And I think few pianists would actually dare playing Clair de Lune the way he does. IMO, if by magic we could get a recording of Bach playing, we would be quite surprised.

In the case of this aria, except the Gould recording, most players would adopt a slow if not very slow tempo (ie around 40 quarters/m). Yet given that it is a saraband, the minimal tempo acceptable at the time would be around 60-70, especially if we consider that it is a dance. Also interestingly, Czerny recommends a tempo of 72, Bischoff 76 and Kirkpatrick 56 (which is circa the tempo of Gould). So as the time passed by, the trend has been to slow down.

Again, those are just observations. I am not advocating that the piece must be played faster. Lankova and many other interpretations adopt this very slow tempo and the piece is written in such as way that it actually works quite well. But it certainly says something of our modern taste.

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Sidokar,

The points you make are of course part of the overall scenario and of course there are endless scenarios that challenge how we hear something.

Now that you mention the harpsichord that’s yet another piece of the puzzle and here’s a recording by Scott Ross (of the aria):

https://youtu.be/GDGQSRpLIJk

I’m pretty sure he did NOT like Gould’s approach (and was vocal about it!). Ross’s tempo is maybe closer to what you’ve described.

Here’s an interview with Mahan Estafani, a fabulous (and much younger( harpsichordist. In the background you can hear his “slower” *(more contemporary?) tempo.

https://youtu.be/PhEZNJcAbWE

Here’s Irina L playing a piece on piano transcribed (by Bach but likely w/out a piano in mind). I include it only because her playing is mesmerising .... I THINK!!!!!!!

https://youtu.be/moI0_rZ_a7o

In any case, I post examples to amplify all points in the discussion, especially regarding your observations re: tempo.

And perhaps, the longer sustain of contemporary pianos has something to do with slower tempos? Perhaps not?

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Originally Posted by Mark Polishook
Sidokar,

The points you make are of course part of the overall scenario and of course there are endless scenarios that challenge how we hear something.

Now that you mention the harpsichord that’s yet another piece of the puzzle and here’s a recording by Scott Ross (of the aria):

https://youtu.be/GDGQSRpLIJk

I’m pretty sure he did NOT like Gould’s approach (and was vocal about it!). Ross’s tempo is maybe closer to what you’ve described.

Here’s an interview with Mahan Estafani, a fabulous (and much younger( harpsichordist. In the background you can hear his “slower” *(more contemporary?) tempo.

https://youtu.be/PhEZNJcAbWE

Here’s Irina L playing a piece on piano transcribed (by Bach but likely w/out a piano in mind). I include it only because her playing is mesmerising .... I THINK!!!!!!!

https://youtu.be/moI0_rZ_a7o

In any case, I post examples to amplify all points in the discussion, especially regarding your observations re: tempo.

And perhaps, the longer sustain of contemporary pianos has something to do with slower tempos? Perhaps not?

The last is among my favorites. BWV 974


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I saw Angela Hewitt play the Goldberg Variations live and it was an incredibly moving performance, one which mesmerized the hall.

https://youtu.be/6w6VuAnnDdc

I've seen Mahan Esfahani play a few times, in a pair of concerts dedicated to selections from the Well Tempered Clavier, Books I and II. He studied with Zuzana Růžičková. There is a film about Zuazana's life:

https://youtu.be/eibpWeoExWM

and it is amazing what she survived.

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Originally Posted by Mark Polishook


Here’s Irina L playing a piece on piano transcribed (by Bach but likely w/out a piano in mind). I include it only because her playing is mesmerising .... I THINK!!!!!!!

https://youtu.be/moI0_rZ_a7o


And perhaps, the longer sustain of contemporary pianos has something to do with slower tempos? Perhaps not?


This version of Bach/Marcello is indeed beautiful, And Ms. Lankova is a wonderful pianist with a lot of sensitivity, using very skilfully of all the possible nuances available on the piano. Unrelated to Bach, she also played beautifully Rachmaninoff like in this concert in Paris:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VCkuCVK2Pg

Regarding Scott Ross, his tempo is close to the first version of Gould (54MM). Of the very few recordings that have a faster tempo, here are 2 versions by Blandine Verlet on the harpsichord. She is very well known, and she recorded many baroque pieces by bach, Rameau and the full keyboard work of F. Couperin.

The first version is the fastest at 76MM. Here she emphasizes more the french syle of the piece. At that tempo you can feel the dance-like character of the piece in a typical baroque style and the effect of the ornaments.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9bpkJd2rNI

Her second version is more poised at circa 67MM. She achieved a more balanced version between the french and italian cantabile style, maybe more characteristic of Bach. She is using a 2 manuals instrument, with the full registers on the first pass and one register on each repeat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixVok2-LZ9k

I think our way of playing music is certainly influenced by the capability of the instrument but also by our social and cultural context. The baroque aesthetics is totally foreign to us, as I think a large part of the modern interpretative style is heavily influenced by the late 19th century music. But that is why music is something alive and evolving as we evolve.

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Here's a slightly off topic question - does anyone know of an edition of the Goldberg Aria with the ornaments realized? I know Alfreds publishers has done that for some Bach, but I don't see one for the Goldberg.

Sam

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Here you have one edition: https://www.mutopiaproject.org/ftp/BachJS/BWV988/bwv-988-aria/bwv-988-aria-a4.pdf
The first measures, to see if it is what you are looking for:
[Linked Image]

Last edited by supertorpe; 03/06/20 07:14 AM.

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Originally Posted by Sam S
Here's a slightly off topic question - does anyone know of an edition of the Goldberg Aria with the ornaments realized? I know Alfreds publishers has done that for some Bach, but I don't see one for the Goldberg.

Sam


The Kirkpatrick edition with Schirmer is a good start. You have both the original and above it the fully realized ornaments. Some of his options can always be discussed but it is musically sound.

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Originally Posted by supertorpe
Here you have one edition: https://www.mutopiaproject.org/ftp/BachJS/BWV988/bwv-988-aria/bwv-988-aria-a4.pdf
The first measures, to see if it is what you are looking for:
[Linked Image]

Actually, no, I wanted the ornaments written out...

Sam

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