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Kelsey Z.

the joys of bach!

May 14, 2008 at 7:35 PM

I've come to the realization that no matter how you look at it, playing Bach is hard. You can practice for hours and hours and hours, the notes are there, the techniques there, the musicality is there but somehow the overall performing of it just never gets easier! Every time you perform Bach it's a new experience. New things go right, new things go wrong, new voicings or individual notes/ideas stick out. It's cool because you never really get bored of it but at the same time it's frustrating because you never really know what to expect, you do, but you don't. I've been practicing the E major Partita a lot this term at school and it's finally all memorized. I can get through it (though not flawlessly) by memory now. Yesterday I ran it 4 times from start to finish. It's an exhausting task to do and for me, when it comes to my recital next week, the tricky part is going to be my ability to stay mentally focused on the task at hand at all times. It's physically demanding to play but it's mentally the most taxing and difficult to get through. The first 3 mvts go well, the 4th and 5th kind of float along and then in the Bourree and Gigue at the end, thoughts unrelated to Bach tend to creep in. Thoughts like "gee, I could use a caramel macchiatto about now" or "why did the ceiling fan just come on? Or has it been all this time and I just didn't notice?" or "Why am I so hungry? I just ate lunch!" and all these thoughts are usually followed with "Oh.....(insert expletive here).... where am I?"

I don't normally listen to recordings of pieces I'm working on that much but yesterday warranted some listening! I found an old film on youtube of Perlman playing the entire E major Partita and out of all the renditions of the Partita that I've heard over the years, his is the character that I hope to capture in my performance next week. There is such joy and energy and love in his playing that few players capture. For all the dark and moody qualities that exist in Bach's music, so often the joy and pure beauty that are present are left behind and Perlman, for me, really captures that true joy and happiness that exists in this Partita. His pacing is beautiful. Never rushed, never lagging. It all runs so smoothly, each mvt flowing from one into the next. It's gorgeous!

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on May 14, 2008 at 9:35 PM
I totally agree! Bach is some of the most physically and mentally demanding music there is . . . but it's so worth it. I'm just starting the A minor sonata and am looking forward to the journey ahead. :)
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on May 14, 2008 at 10:51 PM
Great post, I agree too! I'm currently working on the Chaconne and it is such a wonderful experience - there really is so much to discover and develop in this amazing music.
From Bruce Berg
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 1:32 AM
I like to tell my students that no violinist likes any other violinist's interpretation of solo Bach because there are so many individual choices to be made. That said, I actually like Christian Tetzlaff's recording which was made in I believe 1993. There is a later version which I do not have. This is a historically informed performance on the modern violin. I also like Milstein on the modern violin. If you want to get a good idea about style on the modern instrument, listen to Casals playing the cello suites.

I have performed all the sonatas and partitas on 2 seperate programs on both the modern and Baroque violin. My approach is totally different when playing on the 2 different instruments.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 10:03 AM
That sounds really interesting Bruce. Can you please tell us a bit more about how your approach differs - modern/baroque?
From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 1:24 PM
Loved what you wrote here!
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 1:46 PM
This sounds like great training for your mind. Your focus is impressive. I'd probably start thinking about the mochacchino already during the Preludio!
From Debra Wade
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 7:10 PM
Fantastic Blog!

I'm revisting the Bach concerto in A Maj. after 11 years and I'm amazed at the things that stand out to me now that I wasn't aware of before.

Good luck!

From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 10:22 PM
I'm also working on the A minor sonata now, the first movement. I look at the page of black ink and it just looks like a big foggy blob: where are the phrases?, what dynamics go where?, where is the music going??? It's an enigma and it's up to your to make your own solution! It's tough and endless. It really is such hard music to perform. And the tragedy of it is the audience doesn't know the difference =\. But it's beautiful that every individual has endless personal interpretations. I don't knwo what I'm talkign about I really got on a rant ahha

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