Bach in March WEEK 1: Practice Updates

Dear Pianists,

Welcome again to Bach in March! Bach is the composer closest to me and I can't wait to share this March with you in practicing Bach. This is the thread where we'll all be posting our biweekly updates for this month's community challenge.

For those who have been here before - you may post video or audio updates just as you did in Discovering Schubert Month! And for those who are new - uploading a video to youtube is often the best way to go! You can then post the youtube link to your video, or embed it directly in your reply.

The introduction and welcome to Bach in March will give you  orientation for the community challenge activities, and provide you with a schedule of relevant livestreams, performance opportunities, and repertoire suggestions.

I'm always curious to hear about your practice experience and encourage you to write replies. If you can't think of where to start, here are some questions to jog your mind:

  • What piece did you choose? How did you learn about it?
  • What's a favorite passage of yours in the piece?
  • What's one musical or technical decision you made while practicing your piece?

Feel free to make these updates as short or long as you wish!

Happy Bach Sounds!

Hilda

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    • GerryM
    • GerryM
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    I've been working on the Prelude and Fugue VII in E Flat, Well Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 852. Every time I work on it (which is quite a bit) I learn something new about it. It's like a fractal- the closer you look, the more you see! It's very challenging for me, particularly the trills in the fugue- I have decided, at least for now, to play the trills on every statement of the subject. This will challenge me to improve my trills particularly in awkward places (see measure 27, subject in the bass, for example, where I'm trying to do a nasty 3-4 trill in the left hand and picking up the e flat and d with the thumb of the left hand-ugh). My favorite parts are the chromatic lines present at the end of both the prelude and the fugue. Anyway, I hope to upload a video of my work in progress soon. More importantly, thank you Hilda for your guidance and encouragement!!

    Like 3
      • Xiao
      • xiao
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      GerryM I love you guys' beautiful discussion as a passive watcher. Hope my entry will not interrupt that intellectual exchange. I listened to the András Schiff YT recording quoted by you.
      I felt it's quite a long prelude contrasting to the fugue. The prelude has a meditative chorale in the middle of commotion-like parts and the following energetic fugue. That to some degree reminds me of the Eusebius and Florestan. Thus, I felt it's OK to play the fugue a little "mad" like both of you mentioned and would like to play the fugue as quick as I could. And that quicker tempo also made the left hand 3-4 (or 4-5, if mad enough) trills less painful (?) because that lessen the number of playable notes. I listened Mr. Schiff do the LH trills much shorter than the RH trills. Maybe it's really really... hard. 
      I think there is a trade-off and also balance between the dilemma of the overall tempo and left hand trills simultaneously with contributing notes of another voice. To do the overall tempo quicker may helps the left hand acrobatics less trickier? 
      For me, cadenza-like passage in Mm.8-9 of the prelude also drop hints to the ecstatic character of following fugue. 
      Although I don't have the quick hands, it's still aluring to play the fugue quicker if considering the following the heart-breakingly beautiful dark E-flat minor - tragic prelude and forgiving fugue - which reminds me of Chopin op.10 no.6.
      Again for me, all these contrasting and extremely emotional characters make the Book I more vivid, earthly and humane than Book II to which I owe a lot of listening and learning.
      I apologize for my going to extremes.
      Is it possible to do the left hand trill using 2-3 or 2-4? For the time being I don't have a piano beside me. 

      Like 1
      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Xiao Hi Xiao thank you for your comments! I agree I will try hard to have a contrast between the prelude and the fugue- they are of very different character. I will try to make the fugue lighter and more exuberant than the prelude. The possibility of shortening the trill (number of "shakes", as Hilda said) exists so as to increase the tempo- I've been trying that out. I like your references to Eusebius and Florestan- I imagine Schumann, if he were alive today, would be saying something similar! 

      Like 1
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      GerryM Xiao Definitely it's a really interesting question because to me, the impression of trilling in the bass of a modern piano is just really different than trilling in the treble.  In the treble,I feel as if I can get away with so many more notes - just because the treble is in general less "muddy" than the bass. So maybe that's why AS is doing fewer shakes in the left hand? I think he must be using his hear to judge what he likes. I find that in general 2-4 is also a cleaner trill fingering than 2-3 - so I definitely use that in the left hand when I can. how about you? is one easier than the other for you?

      Like 1
      • Xiao
      • xiao
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hilda Huang Thank you, Hilda. I really appreciate your insightful opinions. I agree that different registers' characteristics make huge diversified effects, especially in modern pianos, and I also respect András Schiff's aesthetic choice of Bach playing. I remember that He always love seeing artworks in the Palace Museum when he visited Taiwan. IMO, he really appreciates the aesthetics of moderation. He kind of rarely go to the extremes yet he has the ability to do so (it's really hard to be prized in Tchaikovsky competition) and I had listened to some excerpts of his playing Brahms piano concerto no.2. which is greatly different from what the public knew about him.
      However, what I in lesser degree agree is that many notes in lower register could caused muddy resonances. Your excellent playing of the A major fugue BWV 864 says that it can be clearly exuberant even if the bass passage runs in insane and also sane way. I always hope to have that kind of detach touch with my poor left hand (my index finger of left hand also have some problems) and that never came true. Dang Thai Son more than once mentioned about "detached touch" or " Le jeu perlé"  in his masterclasses. Also Bruce Liu apparently get the real essence of that in his wonderful rendering of Chopin op.2 and op.11 (especially the 3rd movement...) which I listened again today. 
      I supposed that kind of touch really plays a big role in the E-flat major fugue, BWV 852 and repertoire including but not limited to Bach and Chopin. 

      I learned about some practice methods which may be deemed old-fasioned from my teachers and some pianists. It helps a lot with my right hand, but cannot make my left hand learn from my right hand. Maybe I just don't pay attention to the left hand as I did with right hand. I had watched Dominic's video of left hand repertoire and gathered all the pieces in my e-ink reader but i wasn't really into it yet. I deem it's time to drill deep in improving left hand in this particular Bach month since there's no such second hand thing in polyphony. As long as I don't defeat myself in the first place.

      Like 1
      • Peter Golemme
      • Piano Player with Day Job (for now)
      • Peter_G
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hilda Huang GerryM  Harriet Kaplan Anthony Miyake Brother Will Green  Thank you Hilda for the feedback, it is most valuable, and Hello to my fellow WTC Sojourners and correspondents. I would like to apologize for the sporadic nature of my postings. This is our busiest time at the office (I'm a tax lawyer by day [and night these days]) and it's making it difficult to make the time right now to post.  I'm inspired by your generous sharings of your thoughts and performances and I am trying to reciprocate by getting the Bm Prelude & Fugue from Bk II recorded for Bach month. I thought I knew it --  but ARGHH, mistakes are popping out everywhere! -- it's like that 3 Stooges episode where Curly is trying to fix a leak in the plumbing  -- with every attempted fix a new one starts shooting water out at him!  I'm slowing it down and hoping to get a marginally acceptable recording in before the month is up.  In the meantime know that I am checking in whenever I can and following all the postings with great interest!

      Like
  • Today my goal was to clean up the unevenness that often occurs in the later part of the Bach Partita 2 Sinfonia. With the metronome, the unevenness is exposed.

    Here is a clip of my practice video du jour: 

    https://youtu.be/UQiJXRXjGT0

    Like 5
  • I am working on Bach-Kempff Siciliano from the Flute Sonata no.2. I have had this on my list for many years after hearing Evgeny Kissin play it on YouTube. I love the beautiful melody and steady pulse of this piece. Musical/technical decisions- bring out the melody, play the thumb softer, maintain the steady beat. Excerpt from my practice below. Hilda Huang and others, I welcome any suggestions for improvement.

    Like 11
    • Vidhya Bashyam beautiful playing, Vidya! I also love the Kissin recording of this piece!

      Like 3
    • Vidhya Bashyam beautiful! Wonderful choice. I have loved this piece too since listening to it on Kempff’s “Favourite Transcriptions” CD.

      Like 1
    • Susan Rogers Thanks. Looking forward to hearing your Bach-Petri Sheep May Safely Graze too! I first heard it played by Yeol Eum Son in her Van Cliburn semifinal round and promptly added to my list to learn. There is also a nice performance (and Bach discussion) by Murray Perahia on YouTube.

      Like 1
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Vidhya Bashyam Beautiful Vidhya! What a music! 

      Like
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Vidhya Bashyam What beautiful music... In your practice, what would it feel like to try playing this with as little pedal as possible? It may encourage you to favor finger pedaling and may give you more control over the legato.

      Like
    • Hilda Huang Thanks Hilda. Yes, I agree it would be good to use less pedal and more finger pedaling. Will give it a try. Thanks for the tip.

      Like
    • Vidhya Bashyam I will look for those on YouTube! Thank you! :)

      Like
    • Hazel
    • Hazel
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    Hi, I love the idea of Bach month. I’ve been working on Prelude and Fugue in C sharp major from book 2 WTC. I often play preludes but run out of steam in learning the fugues but I am determined to learn both this time. Maybe choosing one with 7 sharps was a bit ambitious but am enjoying the challenge!  The prelude reminds me of the book 1 Cmajor and the fugue in 3 parts is quite nice and tuneful. It’s far from perfect but here is my video of the C# major 🙂

    Like 10
      • Hazel
      • Hazel
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Just to say that initially I was struggling with my fugue and realised that I was using an Urtext edition so I found another edition that included phrasing and fingering and I found it a lot easier to read. In the end I used Urtext for the Prelude and an Orlando Morgan edition for the fugue. I wonder if this could be considered cheating?! 🤔 It’s certainly worth considering as a tip though as it made a big difference.

      Like 1
    • Hazel I love to look at editions with finger numbers for ideas - sometimes I find I have the same piece in multiple books and it’s fun to see the different editors suggestions! Saves time too. 

      Like 1
    • Susan Rogers Same. I love doing this too.

      Like 2
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hazel Nice, that sounds so useful. Definitely not cheating! what's the edition?

      Like
      • Hazel
      • Hazel
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hilda Huang The edition I used for the fugue is edited by Orlando Morgan and published by Edwin Ashdown Ltd in 1926.. I picked it up in a 2nd hand shop recently along with a lovely old hard bound edition of Mozart sonatas edited by Henry Litolff from 1889!! I appreciated your comments and advice in your stream about using IMSLP. I use that often too to look at different editions. It's amazing sometimes the difference it makes how a piece is written has on how difficult it is to practice.  I also use IMSLP to find editions with easier page turns if I’m performing a piece for others.

      Like
      • Brett Gilbert
      • Piano and classical guitar
      • brett_gilbert
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hazel WTC Book 2 seems to be less well known but some of my favorites are in book 2 and I love this one!  Sounds great.  Yes, it reminds of the famous C maj prelude as well.  

      Like
      • Hazel
      • Hazel
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Brett Gilbert I have to admit that I’ve had a copy of the WTC 2 for years that I had never looked at. During the Coronavirus lockdown however, I stumbled upon Yulianna Avdeeva’s Bach project where she explored the whole of book 1 and book 2 in weekly streams. It was great and it introduced me to many that I’d never heard before.  All the streams are available in her Youtube channel. Its a great resource if you want to know all about the WTC and lots of other piano music as well.

      Like
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hazel Oh that's so awesome. I heard about her streams but didn't have the chance to check them out quite yet. What kinds of things does she say?

       

      I really love the book 2 WTC, I feel like they're all so individual. Actually one of the first ones I performed in public is A-flat major from book 2. What a warm sound... A-flat and E-flat might be some of my favorite keys! I had a year where basically everything I played was in E-flat major, ha.

      Like
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hazel Oh that's so cool. Where did you get it in the shop?

       

      Actually when I was in Leipzig there were many used book stores and I found lots of Peters student editions (Peters was based (is still based?) in Leipzig) and there were very cool fingerings there. Are you familiar with historical fingerings at all?

      Like
      • Hazel
      • Hazel
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Hilda Huang re. #AvdeevaBachProject The streams cover loads of different topics but there is a lot of discussion about the character of the different keys of all the P and Fs and linking them to other pieces and composers.  I also took part in her online world wide performance of Chopin Nocturne Op 9 no2. It was so exciting to be a part of it, if only for 2 bars!!

      Like
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