Bach partitas question
I've been obsessively listening to every recording of the first movement of the second partita, as I am now working on it. And interpretations vary drastically, more so than on other pieces I've compared. Hahn's is so slow it sounds like half the speed of Heifetz, which is so fast that I don't even think it sounds good (even though it's Heifetz). Perlman is in between. Hahn also builds in a lot of rubato and dynamic changes, and it's clear her bow is often barely gliding across the strings, whereas Perlman is very firm with the bow strokes and there is little rubato.
Is there just no generally accepted tempo or style? Obviously every player puts their stamp on a piece but in this case the differences seem so extreme that often two interpretations sound like entirely different pieces. The degree to which this is so surprised me.
I guess I need to choose a camp?
Yes. Perlman's album is pretty much straight-ahead Galamian school. I had a teacher who would have loved me to do exactly that. (Come to think of it, if I could do exactly that, I could do lots of things I like even better.)
I think yes that's right, no-one knows exactly how fast Bach wanted the Allemande to be, and the music itself can be interpreted at a huge range of tempi and styles. But then that's unaccompanied Bach for you (ok, possibly one of the more extreme examples!)
The two responses should be very helpful to you, The main thing to remember is that the metronome really was not invented until Beethoven's time. So, any metronomic indications of speed that you find in the sheet music are someone else's view of what works. You need to decide for yourself what tempo is appropriate for the music as it speaks to you. The bottom line is that no one knows how Bach envisioned the tempos other than in the most general sense.
I have Szeryng downloaded but haven't had a chance to listen yet. Also Milstein. Will look for van Dael! This is fun! :-)
You have a lot of freedom with these pieces, you can do what sounds right to you. I once did a set of dances from the Bach suites, transcribed for Viola. Knowing that dancers can be very fussy about tempos, I looked at u-tube clips of these court dances as done by supposedly informed, authentic dancers. It was not helpful. The tempos and choreography varied widely. The choreography and tempos also varied between countries and time periods.
Maybe the question isn't so much tempo, but meter.
I have found listening to recordings by non-violinists to be the most helpful with the S&Ps. My favorite such recording is Hopkinson Smith's. That might help you on your search for the ideal-for-you tempo/meter.
I'd like to recommend Miriam Fried:
I would recommend two things. In addition to the recordings you are listening to, search out some from Baroque performance practice specialists. Not that these are necessarily "right" either, but it gives you a different sort of idea in many of these pieces. For example, the Loure in Partita 3 makes absolutely zero rhythmic sense to me in a number of recordings by very well respected violinists. But it makes complete sense in some of the Baroque practice recordings.
Susan's point about the bow is a good one. You can approximate the effect of a baroque bow by holding your regular bow above the frog some. However, getting a baroque bow will give you a better idea of the feel of Bach as he would have played it.
This is one of the least technically demanding movements of the S&P, but I find it a relatively difficult movement to interpret. It can be a challenge to decide which notes to emphasize and where each phrase begins and ends. Listening to a variety of recordings is a good idea. I would second the vote for Rachel Podger. Others on my "Solo Bach Reference" playlist are Rachel Barton Pine, Isabelle Faust, Christian Tetzlaff, and Viktoria Mullova.
I second the suggestions of Milstein and Tetzlaff. The most important thing is to explore the difference between copying and making it your own - that's where the fun lies.
The partita manuscripts in Bach's own hand do not typically contain information on dynamics and tempo. You will see notation for slurs, trills and some bow techniques like staccato. Little more than bare notes on the staves.
I'm no baroque purist, but baroque-informed approaches on more recent recordings are so much more subtle and beautiful than the recordings of a generation ago.
I have the Faust one and listened to it this AM. I really love that one. I liked James Ehnes as well. I will look for the others! :-)
And for an unashamedly older style, Oscar Shumsky did some of the best Bach playing you'll find anywhere. His b-minor Partita blew me away the first time I heard it.
Carmen's point about the ms. is an important one. There is little other than the notes, although to some extent, simply from the way the notes sit on the page, you can get some sense of the phrasing. An additional problem is interpreting the slurs. In many cases, it is difficult to tell exactly which notes sit within one slur, and Bach does not appear to have been consistent in his use of slurs. Anyhow, the ms., in addition to leaving a great deal of room for interpretation, does have its own interpretive problems with regard to the information it contains. With respect to dynamic markings, to the extent you have a phrase that is repeated twice, in baroque practice, the first time, it is played forte or or at least relatively loudly, and the second time, it is played piano, or at least softer. In any event, play the piece in a way which seems meaningful to you, and do not worry that much about orthodoxy.
Thomas--I listened to the Tetzlaff and didn't like it at all. Interpretation is all well and good, but his deviated so radically from anything resembling a tempo that I couldn't listen to it. And no one could dance to it--that's for sure! It's fascinating how much these all differ and how differently people feel about them!
So far, Faust is my favorite, I think.
Elizabeth, I agree, Faust is my favorite too. Her bow technique (and I think she plays with a modern bow) is just astonishing. I don't love the Tetzlaff but it is super interesting -- he is definitely taking risks and trying some things that no one else tries.
I have another favorite--Ilya Kaler. Someone mentioned him above as a non-period interpretation, but I actually find his closest to Faust's, who I gather isn't completely period but is more on that end of things? And I like some things about it better than Faust's. It's not all aggressive and testosterone-pumped like Perlman's or Milstein's, but it's got a little more clear tempo than Faust's. Somewhere between Kaler and Faust is where I fall, I think.
I mentioned Kaler. He is very good. In the past two weeks, I have seen both Hahn and Shaham do live performances of one or more of the S&Ps. What a treat!
I second Thomas B's recommendations. It's a little odd when you say you've "obsessively" listened to all S&P recordings and then mention Perlman, Heifetz and Hahn who are all very old-fashioned Russian-American style ways of playing Bach, which doesn't have a whole lot to do with Bach.
I obsessively listened to the ones I found immediately. Like over and over and over again LOL. I've appreciated the others that were suggested to me here. Amazon music can be daunting when you are looking for something. EVERYTHING is there.
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