WEEK 2: Bach in March Practice Updates

As we enter week 2 of  Bach in March, I'm pleased to share that I've finished memorizing my Bach Toccata in D minor and I can't wait to play it for you on March 20 in my upcoming livestream, Counterpoint Come Alive. I'll talk about how one can use dynamics and articulation to bring out Bach's playful counterpoint.

For this week's discussion prompts, I want to shake things up a bit! Instead of me asking you questions, I want you to ask each other questions!

Here are some questions that may help you enter into conversation and understand how your fellow pianists play, practice, and experience music. Listen and read their practice update and identify something you're curious about. Then  - ask them!

  • How did you decide upon your tempo?
  • What makes you feel connected to your piece?
  • Who have you heard play this piece before?

There's always going to be a first person to post... so that's going to be me! Here's a short video of an excerpt from my D minor toccata. Please ask me a question, and I'll respond!

I'll be so curious to see what we all learn from and about one another!

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    • Monika Tusnady
    • The Retired French Teacher
    • Monikainfrance
    • 6 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Thank you for THE BEST start to Week 2! I wonder how you maintain that lovely warm and welcoming tone even when you play staccato? Is it something that you do consciously? 

    Like 5
      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Monika Tusnady Thanks so much Monika! That's a good question - I don't do it consciously, but I think the piano helps ;) One thing that I notice I do is that I tend to have my wrist rather low, so the staccato comes almost entirely from my fingers. That way, I get a bit more control over the release of the note.

      Like 3
  • Hilda Huang I have not heard this piece before. I need to check out Bach's Toccata more. How do you decide the often overlapping or competing counterpoint phrasings? Without sounding like one hand is tossing the ball over to the other side? 😂

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

      Shaw-Jiun Wang That's such a great question!! Thank you SO much for asking this wonderful question. I try to phrase each voice individually. try to, I know! It's very difficult. But, I think one of the most rewarding parts of counterpoint. I like that one hand might toss the ball over to the other side! It gives it lots of playfulness, I think.

       

      I often group notes together by whether they have some kind of motivic implication, like a rising fourth, or a three-note rising phrase. I also tend to articulate before important beats, which then puts limits on certain phrasings. I'll talk a bit more about this in my livestream tomorrow afternoon! I think that the ear has a great ability to comprehend multiple streams of music at once :)

      Like 1
  • Hilda, I would like to attend but don't know where to sign up . Also, would you or Dominic or anyone else wants to put on a lesson for the Brahms op 10 specifically No 2 is sophisticated and demanding in details? The op.10 is a worthwhile project of what Brahms demanded  thank you for considering.

    Priscilla 

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      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      priscillayam Hi Priscilla! We'll definitely look into the Op. 10 Brahms! Would you mind clarifying what you'd like to attend?

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    • Hilda Huang i was looking to see when you will go over some Bach with us. I think I saw some of the live sign ups and I could listen to them even though I may have missed it live. I was looking at a talk on articulation , pulse and freedom playing Bach.   The early Brahms op 10  No 2 is very sophisticated and all his works are so orchestral . He wants his cake and eat it. I thought technically, this is well within my reach, although I have a small span being 5 ft 3”, but No, after taking one lesson from my teacher Mark Robson, I know I have a long way to go. He recommended tone base may be interested to discuss this opus. It is rather sophisticated. And complicated. I often tell him how much I have learnt from attending Tone Base classes.

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    • Brett Gilbert
    • Piano and classical guitar
    • brett_gilbert
    • 6 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Thank you Hilda for posting the Toccata to inspire us this week!🎹

    🎼My hand finally recovered enough to play so here is the first movement of Bach BWV 992 Capriccio sopra la lontananza del fratello dilettissimo “Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother”. 

    This is a unique early Bach piece composed when he was just 19.  It is a programmatic work and follows a narrative, the first movement roughly translated from the German as “His friends gather and try to dissuade him from leaving”.  Some speculate it may be about his brother Johann Jakob. 

    I’m using the Henle edition from book HN 262.  I hope to get through all 6 movements for this challenge.🎉

    Like 10
    • Brett Gilbert That is very lovely playing Brett

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

      Brett Gilbert Nice work Brett! Love the ornaments! Very enjoyable playing. 

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    • Brett Gilbert So prettily played. Thank you!

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

      Brett Gilbert Wonderfull playing and piece, Brett! I didn't know it.

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    • Brett Gilbert such lovely even playing. Never heard of this piece so thank you for introducing me to it!

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      • Hilda Huang
      • Concert Pianist and tonebase Piano Community Lead
      • Hilda
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

       Brett Gilbert Thanks for playing this lovely piece! Who's that bust of on the side? Is that Bach?

       

      I'd love to ask you - how are you choosing to use the pedal where you are? How are choosing whether to connect or disconnect between phrases?

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      • Brett Gilbert
      • Piano and classical guitar
      • brett_gilbert
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Thank you everyone above for the nice comments! 

      Hilda Huang , yes that is a bust of Bach!

      I probably use too much sostenuto pedal actually.  I just watched the livestream on Bach and pedal use this week and could probably try more "finger pedal" technique in places.

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    • Brett Gilbert I enjoyed your playing, very lovely! Nice job on the ornaments also. 

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  • Thank you Hilda for setting off on Week 2.  There are two questions that spring to mind 1) How does one really learn to memorise more than a few bars? 2) How does one memorise Bach, and other lenghty, complicated works?  No need to answer, as I am concentrating presently on reading faster and making sure that I use the correct notes, not ones that are in the chord/harmony and I have used because they seem to fit better under my hand.  It's only occasionally!

     

    I have four shortish Bach pieces that I am working on presently that are all in my diary.  They are basic up to intermediate level.  I am pleased that after a week the ornaments are settling down.  

    Like 1
    • Roy James-Pike Interestingly enough, I find Bach's music easier to memorize, because every voice could be melodic. I don't know if this is helpful, since memorization has never been a weak point for me in music, but maybe this will give something? Perhaps focusing on the melodic contour and such would be useful, and harmonic progressions, and where the story is going?

      Like 3
    • Thurmond R Thanks for the inspiriration to complete the memorisation of at least one piece for this challenge.  I suspect I give up trying to complete the memorisation of a piece of music because it's easier just to refer back to the score when I get stuck.  It would be useful to hear your methodology as you say that it's something that is a strength, so please share how you would approach memorising a piece from scratch.  I memorised the first fourteen bars of the Little C Minor Prelude today.  It will be interesting to see whether I can play them tomorrow without the music.   Best Regards Roy  

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

      Roy James-Pike Thurmond R I'm so glad that you said that, Thurmond - I am quite with you: I find Bach more straight forward for me to memorize because I can memorize melodies in each of the parts and then stack them on top of one another. I find chopin, by contrast, very difficult to memorize.

       

      Thinking of a piece as a process is really important to me as I try to memorize. I try to "know" where I'm going - IE which key I'm trying to modulate to, and what notes are important. At a very granular level, I like to memorize by *intervals:* I like to memorize what interval a note makes with the note that precedes it. This knowledge can be known completely in a contrapunctal piece. Being so completely determinative makes it a great strategy for bullet-proof memorizing.

      Like 1
  • https://youtu.be/yUGqDfpE_gs

     

    Here is the D minor fugue from book 2, which I've been working on for the past month... It's my first piece by Bach, and I'm really enjoying it! I just love playing and hearing the counterpoint, since I want to be a composer, and it really helps me to understand counterpoint. There are one or two errors, but I think it turned out well. 

    I chose my tempo partly because that's what just seemed "natural"; this is a piece that reminds me of the Tempest (The type of storm more than the Shakespeare play or the Beethoven Sonata, though it does share the key with the Beethoven sonata...), with the winds blowing about...

         One of the things that really intrigues me in this piece is Bach's use of bi-tonality, where, for example in the beginning, you have the second voice enter in A minor like a good second voice, but the first voice is outlining the D minor triad beneath, and other things like that. 

               I have listened to a few performances of this piece, though the one that most readily comes to mind is that of Sir Andras Schiff, who's performance is I think a bit more laidback than mine (maybe not the best word, but I hope you'll all understand what I really mean...).

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    • Thurmond R Sorry that the video didn't quite send correctly the first time!

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

      Thurmond R Sounds great. I prefer the more "energetic" performances of this piece as you've done here, especially for the prelude of this which is one of my favorites in all of book 2.  Would love to hear the prelude if you're working on that as well.

      Like 2
    • Brett Gilbert Thank you! I haven't done any active work on the prelude yet, although I will probably start working on it now that the fugue is about ready. 

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