Discussion:
J. S. Bach: 48 Preludes and Fugues (WTC 1&2), complete (and free)
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John Grant
2019-09-25 15:35:24 UTC
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WTC 1
https://soundcloud.com/johnlgrant

WTC 2

https://soundcloud.com/johnlgrant/sets/bach-well-tempered-clavier

The latter (WTC 2) contains 28 p & f. The remaining preludes and fugues should be up by the end of the day.

Note: Soundcloud audio is not "premium 48/24" but I think you'll find the audio pretty listenable on most equipment. The instrument used is a pre-recorded Hamburg Steinway, microphone placements vary somewhat from piece to piece, as is the norm in these sort of recordings. Each prelude and fugue has been extensively edited over the years using the latest technology in view of my own highly idiosyncratic predilections.

Issues of performance practice (articulation, pedaling, instrumentation) are still much-disputed where the WTC is concerned. So I should confess right at the outset that I was unable, or perhaps even unwilling, to follow (much less strictly adhere to) baroque practice on the key points of ornamentation are concerned, as well as pedaling (or the absence thereof), articulation, and so on.

Of course, no matter what approach the pianist ends up taking with the music, it makes sense to make efforts to acquaint oneself with what whatever can be learned about how Bach might have wanted his keyboard music performed. This is the case, even though subjective preferences that are incompatible with baroque practice may end up winning the day.

Suffice it to say, Barenboim probably knows what the fundamentals of baroque interpretation and performance consist of, but his recording of the WTC demonstrates that he has chosen not always to employ this knowledge. Schiff, by contrast,is more by-the-book. Which is correct? My own view is that it is entirely a matter of personal taste.

I confess to being, at one point in my life, an ardent "objectivist" where matters of musical interpretation are concerned. Music is a "language" of some kind, I reasoned, a language which conveys to the listener something "objective" and even, in some sense, "measurable" and which, as well, says that "something" by means that can be objectively evaluated. I've long sense abandoned that view, and along with it the view that there are fundamental and inviolable rules of performance for the keyboard. So, for example, I can't agree with Andras Schiff's view that a proper reading of the WTC at the piano must needs be eschew any urge to employ the sustaining pedal. I might prefer, or like very much, no-pedal performances of some, many, or all of the preludes and fugues of the WTC, but I would never go so far as saying that such performances are inherently to be preferred to performances that are in stricter conformance with baroque keyboard practice.

In any case, my methods, which at this point employ a sampled piano and midi-editing, are already a long, long way from adhering to any particular conception of proper piano practice of any description! In my defence on that much-disputed issue, let me say that what I've created, while not a performance or even a recording in the normal sense, is nonetheless a product that satisfies a number of my own highly subjective aesthetic wants where this music is concerned. I have listened to many, many recordings (at the piano, mostly) of the WTC, and I have not been satisfied completely by any of them. My own efforts don't completely satisfy my either. But, at this point in what has been a lengthy journey, they seem to satisfy me a lot. What is more, the technology allows me to make continuous, on-going modifications where I'm dissatisfied.

An entirely selfish undertaking, I admit. And perhaps a bizarre one, as well. But I can, in fact, directly apply the fruits of analysis to my own playing of this music at the keyboard. So, for example, if an alternative articulation of, say, the C major fugue, Bk 1, seems better to me, on listening to my midi-edited version, that articulation can be experimented with at the piano.

This raises an important point. Sitting at the piano and playing is still the most fun, for me. And it is a completely different experience from the experience of sitting at the computer and midi-editing. The latter is almost entirely conceptual. The former is conceptual, but it is also an immediate physical/auditory exploration thatfor me, personally, has no equal. Would I want anyone, including myself, to witness or to overhear this experience, in the form of a "recording" of JG at the piano? (Another way of putting this: Why not do a good old-fashioned recording of the WTC???) The answer is decidedly NO. Playing the piano is immensely pleasurable for me: "immensely engrossing" might be a better way of putting it. But listening to the product ex post facto? No way!

Happy listening (or otherwise).
JohnGavin
2019-09-25 15:43:31 UTC
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So, for example, I can't agree with Andras Schiff's view that a proper reading of the WTC at the piano must needs be eschew any urge to employ the sustaining pedal.

Amen to that!

However you will notice that at his fairly recent performances of both books at the Proms, he does use pedal.
John Grant
2019-09-25 16:13:43 UTC
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Post by John Grant
So, for example, I can't agree with Andras Schiff's view that a proper reading of the WTC at the piano must needs be eschew any urge to employ the sustaining pedal.
Amen to that!
However you will notice that at his fairly recent performances of both books at the Proms, he does use pedal.
Indeed, there is a lot of ugliness in Youtube, but these sort of unsettling revelations are examples of Youtube's inherent beauty!
John Grant
2019-09-25 16:17:33 UTC
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Post by John Grant
Post by John Grant
So, for example, I can't agree with Andras Schiff's view that a proper reading of the WTC at the piano must needs be eschew any urge to employ the sustaining pedal.
Amen to that!
However you will notice that at his fairly recent performances of both books at the Proms, he does use pedal.
Indeed, there is a lot of ugliness in Youtube, but these sort of unsettling revelations are examples of Youtube's inherent beauty!
And, oh, is this a moral failure merely? Or is it, God forbid, possibly something far worse: a lapse in good musical taste?
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