A great editorial on Bach

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MessyTendon
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A great editorial on Bach

Post by MessyTendon » Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:31 am

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/musi ... _bach.html

I guess I feel the same way. Bach is like too fast and technical. It's like if you can't play Bach like a maniac you haven't earned your wings as a classical artist.

brooks
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by brooks » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:15 am

Excellent piece, thanks very much for that. He's beautifully and amusingly articulated what I've often felt listening to contemporary recordings/performances. Loved these excerpts:

There's a speed sweepstakes going on. Six years ago in Boston I heard a Bach "B Minor Mass" from which slow tempos had been essentially banished. No more grandeur, no more sublimity, no more sweetness, no more tragedy—all qualities in which the "B Minor" is incomparably rich. Or used to be. In this performance the speeds were brisk, brisker, breakneck. In the "Crucifixus" movement, Christ trotted all the way to Golgotha, pumping his cross.

Gardiner takes the chorus of lamentation at near-gigue tempo. Jesus is crucified, his performance cries. Let's dance!

Lol! But he really nails it here, I think:

There's something more troubling going on here, beyond tempos in classical music. I think people don't want any music to be serious anymore. It's all rock 'n' roll now. Many people know mainly dance music, and that's all they want to know—even in classical pieces. There's an increasing disconnect between music and meaning.

The article is a decade and a half old, and maybe the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way... at least there seem to be some signs of this in the guitar world.

ddray
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by ddray » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:47 am

I'm tired of those "historically informed" performances that are both wheezy and too fast. It sounds like there are 5 violins, a cello, a bass and a dozen singers and the continuo is about all you can really hear. That may have been all Bach had at his disposal, but he may have hated the limitations. I'll take the Karl Richter recordings any day.

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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:28 am

"It's all rock 'n' roll now. Many people know mainly dance music, and that's all they want to know—even in classical pieces."

All my co-workers play rock all day long over the store stereo. When it's my turn I play something appropriately classical (given the limitations of the environment). A heavy rocker who cranks the stereo complained that Scarlatti sonatas played on guitar "were too dissonant". Another turns down the stereo at the slightest swell of the music; then crashes Tom Petty and the Ramones all day long. I was told that Bach solo violin and piano sonatas were headache inducing. I think that for a lot of people classical music is bewildering and so produces emotional responses which have nothing to do with the music. In my opinion this reflects an impoverishment of our culture. Oddly, rock and roll has become dictatorial. It's entirely predictable and so comforting I suppose for most. You really know what's going to happen in that 1-4-5 progression. Anything beyond a pop format seems threatening and anxiety producing.

that said, and to contradict myself. light jazz and the Buena Vista Social Club are acceptable to my co workers.
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Contreras
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Contreras » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:26 pm

I agree entirely ... mainly because I love playing Bach and I can't play it fast 😋
However, many are unquestionably playing it too fast ... dear little Ana V tears through it at an unseemly pace ... and the brilliance of the composition is lost.
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Peter Lovett
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Peter Lovett » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:17 am

A very interesting article. Thank you for posting the link. Incidentally, the author is also the author of a recent biography of Beethoven which is excellent.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:54 am

I'm extremely sceptical that this article is much more than a journalist filling his contracted number of words. I wonder if somebody could link to some performances of Bach that they feel justify the article's argument?
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Peter Lovett
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Peter Lovett » Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:45 am

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:54 am
I'm extremely sceptical that this article is much more than a journalist filling his contracted number of words. I wonder if somebody could link to some performances of Bach that they feel justify the article's argument?
There are links in his article.
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slidika
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by slidika » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:15 pm

WAY back when I was a piano major in college, I was given a Bach Invention and Sinfonia to learn. Well, I managed to get the Invention down really well and could play it faster than a recording I heard of it at the time (it was played at a brisk pace in the recording). However, whether played fast or slow, my impression of the particular Invention I was assigned was that it was just a collage of notes -- not really melodic at all. This made it quite boring to practice . . .

And I agree -- I have heard a lot of music played much too quickly and thereby losing its appeal to me.
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Jeremiah Lawson
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by Jeremiah Lawson » Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:28 pm

Vidovic's take on Bach isn't really that much faster than Szigeti's take on Bach half a century earlier. What's strange about guitarists complaining about Bach being played too fast is that it can seem as though the "too fast" for guitarist's tastes is actually just the "normal" tempi taken by violinists. It was a revelation to hear a pianist play Albeniz' Asturias at the actual tempo specified by the composer in the score! It didn't mean I didn't enjoy the much slower guitar transcriptions I'd heard of this piece before, but it was a so-to-speak ear-opening experience to recognize what sacrifices often get made in translating a piano score into a guitar performance.

... Slate's not generally the first place I think to visit on line for detailed and engaging musical analysis and hasn't been since, around the time I even knew there was a website called Slate. It's just not their strong point.

MessyTendon
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Re: A great editorial on Bach

Post by MessyTendon » Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:20 am

Jeremiah this article was not pertaining to classical guitar, but more Bach and arrangements in general. I think Bach doesn't belong on classical guitar. I think it sounds like is a status symbol, you prove your worth of guitar by playing Bach because it's technically difficult. But I also think a guitar doesn't really belong in orchestra, electric guitar sure...crank it up.

But a dainty little guitar with a full orchestra backing it sounds neutered. What is fascinating about Bach is that historically he's probably one of the most modernized composers out there. Even modern day valve trumpets, to my ears take away from the richness of multiple keyed horns and natural playing where there are no holes on the instrument...

For purists sake I think Bach is a mystery. We don't know much of anything other than interpreted scores. But I think this article points out a truth regarding instrumentation. If you hear as close to period correct instrumentation as possible, the sound is imperfect...there isn't perfect pitch and the timbre is jagged in terms of frequency responses.

Music is sounding more and more linear and absolute these days. To my dumb ears.

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