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Thread: A Newbie Question

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    Default A Newbie Question

    As of late I've noticed some discussion of romanticizing the works of Bach. What is it? I have some idea but I want to be sure what it means.

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    using rubato; altering slightly the tempo in different places; being loosey goosey with rhythm and dynamics are at least some of the ways to Romanticize.
    A conductor is a musician who's adept at following many people at the same time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    using rubato; altering slightly the tempo in different places; being loosey goosey with rhythm and dynamics are at least some of the ways to Romanticize.
    This is a good description of the Romantic approach to playing Bach. Also, the use of the sustaining pedal on the piano is often considered to be a Romantic way of playing Bach's keyboard music (something which, I must admit, I am occasionally guilty of doing!)

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    OP: In solo Bach cello and violin works, using a lot of vibrato and sliding from one note to another. Also using diminuendos and crescendos.

    In solo Bach keyboard works, the modern piano with its expressive capabilities is usually the culprit-using pedal, employing dramatic dynamic changes, etc;

    For all solo Bach: taking trills beginning on the lower note; holding the final note of a piece and even worse, holding it into a crescendo or diminuendo.

    All of the above are Romantic tendencies.

    It is the great recreative artist who can work stylistically within the acceptable Baroque framework and creative a gripping, moving listening experience. It can and has been done!
    Last edited by hpowders; Sep-30-2017 at 16:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bettina View Post
    This is a good description of the Romantic approach to playing Bach. Also, the use of the sustaining pedal on the piano is often considered to be a Romantic way of playing Bach's keyboard music (something which, I must admit, I am occasionally guilty of doing!)
    As far as use of the pedal goes, case dismissed. While it's important not to turn Bach's immortal music into pseudo-Romantic mush, there is absolutely no automatic connection between doing that and using the pedal. What counts is expressing what's there in Bach's music as best one can and, if using pedal helps in that endeavour without tempting the player to go overboard, I say go ahead and use it. Doing so is actually recommended here and there in the notes to Tovey's edition of the 48 Preludes and Fugues, and I know of no better authority than that.

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    People have differing ideas about what "romanticizing" means, based on what they think "authentic" Baroque style should sound like. Our ideas of authenticity have evolved, and players now exercise more freedom in employing rubato, dynamics and vibrato than they did thirty years ago when the so-called HIP movement was young. We can get too uptight about this. My suspicion is that performance practice was rather free and variable in Bach's day, and I think we too can be free to express ourselves naturally and spontaneously in his music even while being wary of, but not afraid to employ on occasion, what we think are anachronisms.

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    Romantic Bach is how many of us of my vintage learned Bach: from those glorious, sonorous over-the-top arrangements by Leopold Stokowski, Lucien Cailliet and a few others. To hear the Philadelphia Orchestra in its hey day with Ormandy play these completely inappropriate transcriptions was a thrill never to come around again. Nowadays, orchestras and conductors are so brain-dead that anything that isn't Historically Accurate is eschewed. Bach wasn't alone in getting the treatment: Handel, too, came in for some wonderfully tacky arranging.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Romantic Bach is how many of us of my vintage learned Bach: from those glorious, sonorous over-the-top arrangements by Leopold Stokowski, Lucien Cailliet and a few others. To hear the Philadelphia Orchestra in its hey day with Ormandy play these completely inappropriate transcriptions was a thrill never to come around again.
    Well said. They're so wrong, but they still sound good. Ormandy's St. Matthew Passion is like that also; it isn't what Bach was hearing, but it still kicks you in the gut.

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    Of course Bach never envisioned an instrument as capable as the modern piano. I think most of the romanticisms mentioned above are useful and appropriate except rubato. I imagine that Bach played the rhythms pretty straight as he wrote them. The piano can be a great advantage in that its volume allows the harpsichord part to be heard over other instruments. I.e. the great harpsichord riffs in the Brandenburg concertos are mostly covered up by violins.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry View Post
    Of course Bach never envisioned an instrument as capable as the modern piano. I think most of the romanticisms mentioned above are useful and appropriate except rubato. I imagine that Bach played the rhythms pretty straight as he wrote them. The piano can be a great advantage in that its volume allows the harpsichord part to be heard over other instruments. I.e. the great harpsichord riffs in the Brandenburg concertos are mostly covered up by violins.
    Samuil Feinberg's Bach might change your mind.

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    After performing Bach on cello, piano, in choirs (St. Matthew passion, cantatas, too many to remember) Brandenburg Concertos, all the best performances are pretty straight. I hurts to hear so many "artists" who should know better, schmaltz up Bach.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry View Post
    After performing Bach on cello, piano, in choirs (St. Matthew passion, cantatas, too many to remember) Brandenburg Concertos, all the best performances are pretty straight. I hurts to hear so many "artists" who should know better, schmaltz up Bach.
    Well, it's your opinion, and your entitled to it, but we don't really know what Bach would have sounded like, what he would have thought of the modern piano, and on it goes. For me, it depends on the player. I find Richter's Bach very compelling, despite his rubato and all other sorts of practice that would drive people like you crazy, but many other Pianists as more arbitrary.

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    The great thing about music is that the piece is not damaged by someone's experiments. One always has another version to listen to, undiminished.

    Walter Carlos hurt nothing.
    Last edited by JeffD; Oct-14-2017 at 05:58.
    How did I become a senior member? I only recently figured out where the restrooms are.

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