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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  • This is a video I made in January for my teacher (he said "just hands," so that's what I did) of the Prelude and Fugue in E major from WTC Book I. I started working on this last fall and have kept at it while moving on to other things. (My teacher's comment on this was that my wrist motion was too exaggerated so phrases were getting chopped off a bit.) Video recorded on my iPhone (I think with my external mics).

    Like 13
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan Very good playing, Harriet! Beautiful tone!

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

      Harriet Kaplan Very impressive!  One of my favorite preludes, and you did a great job on the fugue which is difficult.

      Like 1
      • Monika Tusnady
      • The Retired French Teacher
      • Monikainfrance
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan What a lovely, smooth, well thought-out performance!

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    • Harriet Kaplan That's very nice! Loved it.

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    • GerryM
    • GerryM
    • 5 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Wow nothing like making a video of yourself to see/hear what you need to work on.  Here's the current state of the prelude from The Prelude and Fugue in Eb, WTC Book I, BWV 852.  The biggest thing I'll be working on from here is having the piece "breathe" more, with a little more liberty with tempo at the beginning and ends of phrases. This I hope to do particularly at the beginning, having the first section sound a little more "improvisatory". The other will be to be more assertive in bringing out the first, slow-moving fugal subject at various entrances. Suggestions will be very welcome! 

    Like 12
    • GerryM Hi Gerry, that sounds like it's in pretty good shape to me.  This is one of the most challenging of all the 48 Preludes IMO.  It's not necessarily a flashy hi-speed piece but there's so much going on and the fingering is murder! it's like a mini-orchestral suite in 3 movements.  I like your 'fractal' analogy. it's very much like that.  I think you're doing very well with it and can now concentrate on polishing the places you're not happy with.

      Like 1
    • GerryM Beautiful!!! Love this piece. 

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      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Brother Will Green Thank you Brother Will! I do too. I'll try to improve on this and get another video up in a week or two. And then there's the fugue...I hope to post that in a couple weeks as well. 

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      GerryM Sounds beautiful, Gerry! Great playing in Bach style!

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      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 4 mths ago
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      Juan Carlos Olite Thank you Juan Carlos! 

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      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 4 mths ago
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      Peter Golemme Thank you Peter! 

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      • Monika Tusnady
      • The Retired French Teacher
      • Monikainfrance
      • 4 mths ago
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      GerryM What a great choice of music and a fabulous performance. Good on you for playing from memory - doesn't Bach feel solid when you look at your hands? 

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      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Monika Tusnady Thank you Monika! The truth is nowadays I am practicing individual pieces much more than I did when I was younger- partially because I am not under any pressure to learn a lot of pieces quickly. So, with all the repetition, I end up memorizing as I practice. I do enjoy playing the pieces from memory. Sometimes I think we tend to equate "music" with the paper with ink on it in front of us, when, actually, it's the sound we are creating. 

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      • Hilda HuangTeam
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      GerryM wonderful Gerry, you are in great shape and very well prepared.

      How do you think you're going to make it sound more improvisatory?

       

      I love this piece so much, played it last year. How did you go about memorizing? I had to count my way through it to get the beats straight, I'd get lost in the meter with all of the different entrances haha.

      Like 1
      • GerryM
      • GerryM
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Hilda Huang Thank you for the kind message. As for making the beginning sound more improvisatory II feel funny saying this to such an expert as yourself. Since you asked, and are so kind, here goes: To me there are a number of Bach keyboard pieces that cause me to envision Bach himself sitting down at the keyboard and improvising a few notes, thinking a little, playing a few more, then things come together for him, and then he develops his ideas. My favorite example is the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major BWV 564 for organ (I'll bet you play this piece!). At the beginning of the Toccata  he sort of fiddles around with a few ideas in the manuals and pedals (as if he's testing out the organ itself), then, BAM, he dives right into the magnificent main section, in tempo. The Prelude and Fugue in D Major BWV 532 is another example. I hope to have a fairly free tempo at the beginning of the Eb prelude- play the beginning Eb...wait slightly, play the right hand phrase...answer tentatively with the phrase in the left hand, and gradually wind it all up to tempo-playing the first section as if I'm getting my ideas together.  Then when the second section (measure 10) starts it will be mostly in tempo, and continue that tempo through the rest of the piece. At this point my playing sounds a bit "stiff" to me. I hope to relax more with it, and have it sound more free-flowing.  As for memorizing- I don't usually memorize contrapuntal music very easily. In this case, I've practiced the piece a lot-so it didn't take much active memorizing to get it to this point. 

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    • Anthony Miyake
    • Work with numbers and statistics, but music is my true passion. Piano hobbyist.
    • Anthony_Miyake
    • 5 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    It's rainy/snowing Saturday morning, so it was a good opportunity to do a recording of the Rondeaux from Bach's Partita #2 I've started learning for the Bach challenge this month.  One thing I've noticed is that I've been playing the beginning eighth notes as short-long-short which just feels right to me.  It's still a bit rough, especially near the end.  I just scanned the piece this morning and it's taking me some time to adjust to reading the digital score which is smaller in size versus the paper score I initially learned the piece from.  I've also been re-learning the Andante from Bach's Italian Concerto, but will post separately on that piece.

    Like 7
    • Anthony Miyake
    • Work with numbers and statistics, but music is my true passion. Piano hobbyist.
    • Anthony_Miyake
    • 5 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Here's the Andante from Bach's Italian Concerto.  The re-learning is going ok, but the memorization is not.  Had to pause on even just the two measures I tried to memorize for the page turn.  And I used my ipad to avoid that last page turn as I kept messing it up when trying to play by memory.

    Like 9
    • Anthony Miyake I love this piece. Beautifully done. 

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      • Anthony Miyake
      • Work with numbers and statistics, but music is my true passion. Piano hobbyist.
      • Anthony_Miyake
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Brother Will Green , thank you.  It's one of my favorite Bach pieces, too.

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Anthony Miyake Good playing, Anthony! One of these beautiful pieces when Bach looks at southern Europe...

      Like
      • Anthony Miyake
      • Work with numbers and statistics, but music is my true passion. Piano hobbyist.
      • Anthony_Miyake
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite , thanks Juan Carlos.  Yes, I heard somewhere that Bach had never traveled to Italy so likely just heard traveling musicians play in the "Italian" style and was able to write a whole concerto.  It shows the limitless bounds of human creativity that Bach who traveled so little in his life was able to write music with such universal appeal.

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Totally agree, Anthony. The Italian Concerto is a masterpiece of a genius.

      Like
    • What piece did you choose? How did you learn about it?

    I chose the Prelude from English Suite No. 3 and “Sheep May Safely Graze” Bach-Petri. I heard the English Suite on a Kempff CD I was listening to while I was learning his transcription of a Handel Minuet in G minor, about 13 years ago. I heard the “Sheep May Safely Graze” played on a recital of a friend around the same time. They have both been on my “to learn” wish list since then.

    • What's one musical or technical decision you made while practicing your piece?

    I had written in some finger numbers on the Prelude about 8 years ago when I briefly looked at learning it, but hadn’t yet started practicing it - good thing because I am changing a lot of what I had written in. I think choosing the fingers is often the most difficult part of practicing! I am trying to memorize as I go on this one.

    For the “Sheep May Safely Graze” I am going very slow, working on the voicing. Again, I spent a lot of time just writing the fingers in last week.
     

    Like 4
    • Juan Carlos Olite
    • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
    • Juan_Carlos
    • 4 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I don't know why I love so much playing Bach music. It is something very difficult to explain. It is something that refresh your mind, body, spirit... everything that is you. So, when I play the piano I always begin with Bach and if there is time for another composer, it is great; but if there is not much time, it's perfectly ok, only Bach... It could call a complete addiction but, I hope you agree: a very healthy and happy addiction.

    Well, I am so glad to have a Bach month, thanks to Hilda and Dominic. My first video is such a beautiful piece as the French Suite nº 5 BWV 816, cheerful and bright music. It seems that Bach composed it in a happy moment of his life, in Köthen.

    I would like to make more videos this month, at least an abridged version of the Goldberg Variations which I am playing because of the Tonebase Longterm Community Challenge.

    Like 12
    • Juan Carlos Olite Beautiful playing, Juan Carlos! Bravo!

      Like 1
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