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Thread: Johann Sebastian Bach

  1. #361
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    The Goldberg variations.
    I thought that was part of CU2, but I now see that I was wrong!

  2. #362
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    I've always thought of both books of the WTC as collections of individual pieces. Whether or not they are somehow unified as a whole is not really that important to me. Perhaps there is something over looked, though for types of works such as this it is possible an attempt to unify everything could lead to a loss in the uniqueness and individuality of each piece. The distinct character of each musical key is likely what was considered the more important matter in such a compilation. Each work being a unique part of the spectrum of musical keys in a way unifies them.
    Last edited by tdc; Jul-30-2019 at 21:21.

  3. #363
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    The distinct character of each musical key is likely what was considered the more important matter in such a compilation
    I know that Mattheson and probably others proposed key/affect relationships, but what I don't know is whether there was a consensus about this, and whether Bach and other composers really believed in Mattheson's ideas or had other ideas.

    Guido Neve and Frank Agsteribbe investigated this in preparation for their recording of the violin sonatas, and the CD had quite an extensive booklet essay about it. Unfortunately I didn't keep it. The resulting interpretation is extraordinary.

    Leila Schayegh and Jörg Halubek did the same, but they just assert that Mattheson was held in "high esteem by Bach" and that "listening to the Sonatas from Mattheson’s perspective enables one to discover new and sometimes unexpected approaches", which I suppose is true but maybe not very interesting.

    What is interesting is that Schayegh and Halubek sound so very different from Neve and Agsteribbe -- maybe not surprising really.

    Mattheson says that "The key of E major expresses a despairing sadness, even to the point of death; ... and under certain circumstances has something piercing to it... and penetrating, which can be compared to nothing more than to a fatal parting of the body and the soul.” We now need to find all Bach's E major pieces (in the cantatas) and see whether they matche up . . . .and then you get your Ph.D.

    It's interesting that these violinists take affect theory so seriously, but as far as I know the keyboard players don't seem to write about it much. Which harpsichord player has been guided by Mattheson in their interpretation of WTC?

    I heard Egarr give a talk on the affects in the 6th partita, but he was most interested in numerology.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jul-30-2019 at 23:06.

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    Wht not just listen and see? Peter Watchorn's recording is in Bach's tuning.

  5. #365
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Wht not just listen and see? Peter Watchorn's recording is in Bach's tuning.
    Just thinking to the E major prelude in Bk2, Glen Wilson seems to be sensitive to the “dark side” that Mattheson says is part of the meaning of the key, and maybe Suzuki - not surprisingly given his connection with Yo Tomita.

    Bulldog won’t be surprised about that!
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jul-31-2019 at 14:50.

  6. #366
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    I have not studied this point in detail, but there are subtle differences between all those modified mean tone temperaments (Valotti, Werckmeister, Kelner, Lehmann et.c.), which means that the mood of e.g. E-major might differ according to the chosen tuning. In these ears however all the pieces of Bach in E-major I can recall from the top of my head are in a rather festive mood if we don't use pure mean tone. Which tuning does Mattheson's definitions refer to? Maybe pure mean tone.
    Last edited by premont; Jul-31-2019 at 15:17.

  7. #367
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    I have not studied this point in detail, but there are subtle differences between all those modified mean tone temperaments (Valotti, Werckmeister, Kelner, Lehmann et.c.), which means that the mood of e.g. E-major might differ according to the chosen tuning. In these ears however all the pieces of Bach in E-major I can recall from the top of my head are in a rather festive mood if we don't use pure mean tone. Which tuning does Mattheson's definitions refer to? Maybe pure mean tone.
    Or Bach's conception of the affect of a key was different from Mattheson's, and possibly evolved over his life, and that there was no consensus about this sort of thing, just as there wouldn't be today. But how else to find out other than by looking at the keys Bach used to set texts -- and letting the poetry guide your judgement as to the intended affect of the music? That's a big job, several Ph.Ds!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Or Bach's conception of the affect of a key was different from Mattheson's, and possibly evolved over his life, and that there was no consensus about this sort of thing, just as there wouldn't be today. But how else to find out other than by looking at the keys Bach used to set texts -- and letting the poetry guide your judgement as to the intended affect of the music? That's a big job, several Ph.Ds!
    It is not that easy. The affekt of a key (or key coloration) is critically dependent on the temperament. And temperaments changed in Bach's time from mean tone to more and more equal non-equal tuning. So it seems natural, if his experience of key color later in life was different from what was preached around 1700, the different affects of the keys being most pronounced in mean tone tuning. The other extreme is equal tuning, where all keys have the same color except for the difference between major/minor.

    Another point of view is to consider the definition of key color as being the result of convenience. If this actually was true of Mattheson's definitions, I think the concept looses its meaning and interest.
    Last edited by premont; Jul-31-2019 at 20:11.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Just thinking to the E major prelude in Bk2, Glen Wilson seems to be sensitive to the “dark side” that Mattheson says is part of the meaning of the key, and maybe Suzuki - not surprisingly given his connection with Yo Tomita.

    Bulldog won’t be surprised about that!
    No, but I don't consider the E major Prelude particularly dark. It has a sadness below the surface, but I find it rather mild. By the way, that is a fantastic prelude that's beautifully followed by the heroic/ triumphant fugue.

  10. #370
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    The characteristics of different keys are fairly subjective, I think this is true even if the same tuning Bach used is employed, although there will be certain limitations and strengths in different keys if certain non equal temperament tunings are used. I see these pieces as insights as to how Bach perceived the characteristics of different keys. I think the over all mood of each prelude and fugue is maintained whether the music is performed in equal temperament or mean tone tuning, or whatever other tuning gets closest to what Bach used. Maybe it is just a matter of what I'm used to, or imprinted on, but I've never found my over all enjoyment of Baroque music (or any other period) has increased when musicians experiment with different non equal temperament tunings.

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    I don’t think you can talk about the mood of a prelude of Fugue (tdc) or whether or not a prelude is dark or not (Bulldog) These things are aspects of performance, interpretation, and your emotional reaction to the performance. If you listen to Wilson and, for example, Asperen in the E major Bk 2 prelude, the mood, the darkness level, are very different, presumably both performances are playing the music in an informed way, and in the same key with similar tuning.

    I think that a musical performance is an experiment, and I think it’s a interesting that there are a couple of violinists who are using Mattheson to generate some new ideas to try out. I wish some keyboard players would have a go at that, maybe Wilson did.

    As far as tuning goes, if it really is central to the affect generated by a key, I think you’d expect it to be much more specified by the score, because the affect is a major part of the music’s impact on the listener. We know that tuning wasn’t standardised much for harpsichords. Yet there’s at best only one piece where Bach specifies a tuning system with the score - WTC1 (there is no frontispiece for WTC2) - and even that is at best in a hermetic code and at worst is very disputable. As far as I know no other harpsichord compositions by other composers specify a tuning system.

    My own feeling is that tuning and key are two factors amongst many which cause mood, and by no means the most important factors. Tempo, rhythm, articulation, rubato, ornamentation - all the other elements of interpretation, have a major part to play.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Aug-01-2019 at 08:32.

  12. #372
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I don’t think you can talk about the mood of a prelude of Fugue (tdc) or whether or not a prelude is dark or not (Bulldog) These things are aspects of performance, interpretation, and your emotional reaction to the performance. If you listen to Wilson and, for example, Asperen in the E major Bk 2 prelude, the mood, the darkness level, are very different, presumably both performances are playing the music in an informed way, and in the same key with similar tuning.
    Yes, affect is indeed a subjective matter, and different performers may hear different affects in the same music. And if I talk about the affect of a given piece, I think of the affect I hear in my inner ear when reading the score.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka
    As far as tuning goes, if it really is central to the affect generated by a key, I think you’d expect it to be much more specified by the score, because the affect is a major part of the music’s impact on the listener. We know that tuning wasn’t standardised much for harpsichords. Yet there’s at best only one piece where Bach specifies a tuning system with the score - WTC1 (there is no frontispiece for WTC2) - and even that is at best in a hermetic code and at worst is very disputable. As far as I know no other harpsichord compositions by other composers specify a tuning system.
    In all likehood the displayed affect as well as the tuning were up to the performers discretion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka
    My own feeling is that tuning and key are two factors amongst many which cause mood, and by no means the most important factors. Tempo, rhythm, articulation, rubato, ornamentation - all the other elements of interpretation, have a major part to play.
    I admit readily, that my idea of the affect of a piece depends upon much other than the temperament. But sometimes a change in temperament can change the affect - at least in my mind -, the most of course when the difference in temperament is great - e.g. mean tone vs. equal tuning.
    Last edited by premont; Aug-01-2019 at 11:15.

  13. #373
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    .. but I've never found my over all enjoyment of Baroque music (or any other period) has increased when musicians experiment with different non equal temperament tunings.
    Well, I have found the opposite, namely that non-equal tunings most often increase the enjoyment of the music, also when the affect of the piece isn't changed thereby.

  14. #374
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    My own feeling is that tuning and key are two factors amongst many which cause mood, and by no means the most important factors. Tempo, rhythm, articulation, rubato, ornamentation - all the other elements of interpretation, have a major part to play.
    These elements of interpretation certainly do have a big impact and can bring to light certain subtle aspects of a work, however I think the key (major/minor) is a very big factor, at least equal to the elements you have described and definitely bigger than the tuning subtleties we have discussed.*

    Performers are certainly co-creators, but barring major incompetence the essence of the mood or character of a composition is going to come through. I have not come across a version of the Chaconne where the minor key section sounds bubbly and cheerful, or a first movement of the Italian Concerto that sounds dark and eerie.

    *I'm referring to Baroque music here. In post Classical era music major and minor keys often have less of a decisive role in the over all character of a piece of music.
    Last edited by tdc; Aug-02-2019 at 05:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post

    Performers are certainly co-creators, but barring major incompetence the essence of the mood or character of a composition is going to come through. I have not come across a version of the Chaconne where the minor key section sounds bubbly and cheerful, or a first movement of the Italian Concerto that sounds dark and eerie.
    I shall hunt out a performance of the Eroica where someone’s put the fun in the funeral march!

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