Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

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Charles Cook
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Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by Charles Cook » Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:00 pm

I am currently learning this piece using the fingerings from the 2018 Royal Conservatory Level 8 edition. I wonder if anyone can help me with a couple of questions?
1. I have always thought that in playing baroque music (counterpoint) that you don't need to focus on ringing out the melody, hence no need to worry about a melody sitting on top of anything. However, listening to recordings, many guitarist play the 2nd and 3rd string notes softer. Which is the best approach?
2. I also notice that all of the on-line instructional video seem to ignore the rests following the base notes. Of course, not hampering them makes for easier playing, but the videos seem to suggest that it isn't a sin. Or is it? I figure Bach put the rest in for a purpose....
3. How much time should an intermediate player expect to work on this beautiful piece before you can play though it at a comfortable level? I ask this because, I am not plowing through it. After about two weeks, I can comfortably play the first 8 bars. Should I keep going or set it aside until my technique improves (I should also add that I returned to classical guitar about 5 months ago after a 35 year vacation. Never played anything this challenging before, but I think I can finish it, but it may take 3 -4 months)
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:39 pm

Congrats, wonderful piece!

1) you bring out the voices, not "the" melody, in counterpoint, and they cross and interweave and sometimes stand alone. Each voice carries a motif or melody, and there can be several of them repeated in imitation throughout. So it's not a matter of which string, but which voice (s), you bring out and that voice crosses the strings in most cases. In this piece, that main motif is the minor or major second or third (eg, the opening F#-E-F#, that open the piece, and which repeats on different notes throughout.)

2) It's a transcription from the Cello original, and there are lots of transcriptions. The only way you can truly answer this is to look at the original to figure out what the editor is doing. What are written as rests for the guitar may not be in the cello original, and vice-versa. Most editions of this piece added notes to bring out the implied harmonies, and rests removed or added. Sometimes they'll even change the octave of certain voices. So it's not a "sin" to let notes ring; it's purely editorial.

3) Don't be surprised if it takes longer than 3-4 months, and don't stress yourself over that. It's not an extraordinarily difficult piece but not beginner level either. If you don't have a deadline, don't put yourself on one, no need to. That said, you can look at other editions to make it a bit easier (and there's lots of discussion on this!). Everyone has a favorite "best" edition. I don't know the one you're using. Some use the higher positions, some (eg, Koonce and Iceland Guitar School) tend to use first and second position most of the time, which can be a little easier. Some are fairly densely harmonized, very guitaristic and more difficult (eg, Barrueco) and some, very spare with few added notes, more like the original cello version (Koonce). Unless you must stick with the edition you're using, consider looking at others.

You might also try listening to the piece on cello. You'll get an idea for how cellists separate and bring out the voices, and that can inform your musical (and possibly technical) approach. Try Casals, who "discovered" them; YoYo Ma (very straightforward, modern); Mischa Maisky (very romantic, but modern, different from Casals), Peter Wispelwey, who plays them on a baroque-style cello. There are SO many to listen to, but those four represent very different approaches.

It's a gorgeous piece, simple and complex: once you learn it well you'll constantly be learning more. That's the fun of Bach! :D
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by David Norton » Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:45 pm

Charles Cook wrote:
Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:00 pm

2. I also notice that all of the on-line instructional video seem to ignore the rests following the base notes. Of course, not hampering them makes for easier playing, but the videos seem to suggest that it isn't a sin. Or is it? I figure Bach put the rest in for a purpose....
It is very easy to get obsessive about "playing/honoring rests". I am guilty of this fanaticism myself, to the point that I simply quit playing the guitar at all for much of last springtime. Gohar Vardanyan recently participated in a CG Festival here in Utah. She made the valid point that, unless there's a very obvious dissonance created by over-ringing, the steadily decaying notes can be considered as "natural reverb" or "adding fullness to the sound". If it's creating a harmonic clash, well that's different.

As for the chronic analogy made of comparing guitar over-ringing to a choir or an orchestra, there's a huge difference in the sheer number of decibels generated by an orchestra/choir continuing to play/sing a note versus a CG player or lute player not cutting off a sustained decay. Sure, there are a few CG pieces which specifically call for silence, but most of the time that's not the case at all.
Charles Cook wrote:
Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:00 pm


3. How much time should an intermediate player expect to work on this beautiful piece before you can play though it at a comfortable level? I ask this because, I am not plowing through it. After about two weeks, I can comfortably play the first 8 bars. Should I keep going or set it aside until my technique improves (I should also add that I returned to classical guitar about 5 months ago after a 35 year vacation. Never played anything this challenging before, but I think I can finish it, but it may take 3 -4 months)
3-4 months is fine. I've been playing this Prelude for about 35 years and still find things to improve on!
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Charles Cook
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by Charles Cook » Fri Aug 31, 2018 5:08 pm

Thanks to both of you for responding so quickly. I've gone through 3 editions, but find the fingering of the Royal Conservatory Level 8 to work the best for me. I hear what you are saying about the focus on the motif. I never thought about the motif as a melody in this piece. I will pay more attention to this. Also thank you for the advice on listening to cello recordings. I have limited all of my listening to CG. I'll download Casals today.
Dave - I am really relied about what you share about the rests. Gohar is an inspirational performer.
Your answers to my questions have motivated me to keep pushing. The best thing about learning this piece is the enjoyment along the way.
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:17 pm

Great! You can find Casals and all the others on Youtube as well. It's fascinating to listen to the differences!
Enjoy!
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by Charles Cook » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:50 pm

Thanks again. Listening to Casals play the Cello Suites right now!
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:06 pm

Just curious, does the RCM use the Werner edition?
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by Charles Cook » Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:19 pm

No, it's arranged by Jeffrey McFadden. I actually bought it based on a recommendation form a post on the forum.
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:33 pm

Ah, ok, that IS the one I'm looking at after all. Thanks!
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by franks59 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 12:19 pm

It took me about 4 or 5 months to get comfortable with the Barrueco transcription.

As far as ringing notes, Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philharmonic seems to think they all should ring because he thinks they were meant to sound more like chords than individual notes.

Here's an amusing video of him giving a masterclass to some poor cellist.



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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by JohnB » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:21 pm

celestemcc's post addresses the issues very well.

Just a few further points:

Don't just listen to Casals. He was a great cellist but his interpretations are somewhat of their time. Do listen to the other cellists that celestemcc listed, in addition to Casals.

David Norton wrote
Gohar Vardanyan recently participated in a CG Festival here in Utah. She made the valid point that, unless there's a very obvious dissonance created by over-ringing, the steadily decaying notes can be considered as "natural reverb" or "adding fullness to the sound".
That is very valid but very often the issue is whether letting a note ring on will confuse or cloud the melodic line.

As far as whether it is better to continue with the piece or put it aside for a while. That is a very personal decision but looking at it objectively - you can play the first eight bars after two weeks, of those 8 bars, 6 bars are pretty straightforward. If those bars pose a problem and take time to get under the fingers that probably implies that it might be better to put the piece aside for a while. (Having said that, we all tend to tackle pieces that are well beyond us from time to time.)
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:57 pm

Interesting video with Benjamin Zander... and also interesting to note that Peter Wispelwey's interpretation (which is from an early-music perspective I believe) is very similar to what Zander is proposing -- a much faster tempo. Wispelwey is one of the cellists whom I recommend because of his very different approach (to the whole Suite, in fact).

Not sure what I think of it, at least for playing it on guitar this fast. One thing that makes it work on the cello is the relatively quick decay of the notes.
....the issue is whether letting a note ring on will confuse or cloud the melodic line.
. That is my concern about playing this on guitar at such a rapid tempo. The notes will of course ring regardless of the tempo, and it's not easy to damp all the basses in this piece. But given the nature of the guitar, as a plucked instrument, the more "traditional" slower approach gives the music a bit more time, so to speak, to make the melodic lines clear.

Gonna go try it for fun at this quick tempo. Much to be learned even if I stick to my usual tempo in the end.
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by Tom Poore » Sat Sep 01, 2018 3:13 pm

Charles Cook wrote:1. I have always thought that in playing baroque music (counterpoint) that you don't need to focus on ringing out the melody, hence no need to worry about a melody sitting on top of anything. However, listening to recordings, many guitarist play the 2nd and 3rd string notes softer. Which is the best approach?
Not all Bach is strictly contrapuntal. The BWV 1007 Prelude is pretty much melody with accompaniment. (Much of the accompanying notes written into guitar transcriptions aren’t by Bach. If you want to hear a particularly florid approach, track down the Ponce arrangement—Segovia recorded it.)
2. I also notice that all of the on-line instructional video seem to ignore the rests following the base notes. Of course, not hampering them makes for easier playing, but the videos seem to suggest that it isn't a sin. Or is it? I figure Bach put the rest in for a purpose....
In the original manuscript, there are no rests in the BWV 1007 Prelude. So any rests you see in your edition aren’t by Bach.
3. How much time should an intermediate player expect to work on this beautiful piece before you can play though it at a comfortable level? I ask this because, I am not plowing through it. After about two weeks, I can comfortably play the first 8 bars. Should I keep going or set it aside until my technique improves (I should also add that I returned to classical guitar about 5 months ago after a 35 year vacation. Never played anything this challenging before, but I think I can finish it, but it may take 3 -4 months)
Practically speaking, you may burn out on something that takes three months to learn. But if you can keep up your interest, then go for it. Bach is a composer who pulls us forward. His music is difficult, but it’s so damned good that we’re willing to work at it.

As for tempo, it can work at many different speeds. I take an approach that to some might be a tad languid:

http://www.pooretom.com/bachprelude1.html

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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by celestemcc » Sat Sep 01, 2018 3:18 pm

Lovely playing, Tom -- your own edition? An approach I haven't heard yet re the interpolated notes. Shows just how many versions of this there are for guitar! Hard to pick just one. I pretty much use the same tempo as you myself, maybe just one or two beats faster.
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Re: Bach BWV 1007 Prelude

Post by zupfgeiger » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:56 pm

David Norton wrote:
Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:45 pm
Charles Cook wrote:
Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:00 pm

2. I also notice that all of the on-line instructional video seem to ignore the rests following the base notes. Of course, not hampering them makes for easier playing, but the videos seem to suggest that it isn't a sin. Or is it? I figure Bach put the rest in for a purpose....
It is very easy to get obsessive about "playing/honoring rests". I am guilty of this fanaticism myself, to the point that I simply quit playing the guitar at all for much of last springtime. Gohar Vardanyan recently participated in a CG Festival here in Utah. She made the valid point that, unless there's a very obvious dissonance created by over-ringing, the steadily decaying notes can be considered as "natural reverb" or "adding fullness to the sound". If it's creating a harmonic clash, well that's different.

As for the chronic analogy made of comparing guitar over-ringing to a choir or an orchestra, there's a huge difference in the sheer number of decibels generated by an orchestra/choir continuing to play/sing a note versus a CG player or lute player not cutting off a sustained decay. Sure, there are a few CG pieces which specifically call for silence, but most of the time that's not the case at all.
Charles Cook wrote:
Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:00 pm


3. How much time should an intermediate player expect to work on this beautiful piece before you can play though it at a comfortable level? I ask this because, I am not plowing through it. After about two weeks, I can comfortably play the first 8 bars. Should I keep going or set it aside until my technique improves (I should also add that I returned to classical guitar about 5 months ago after a 35 year vacation. Never played anything this challenging before, but I think I can finish it, but it may take 3 -4 months)
3-4 months is fine. I've been playing this Prelude for about 35 years and still find things to improve on!
rest lines are not a big issue in the cello suites, but very important in the lute suites because they are polyphonic. I struggle for years with getting the right balance of all voices (sometimes up to 4) in the 1. lute suite. Particularly the presto and the gigue are extremely challenging.
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