Posted by: rbbadger | November 5, 2012

Rosalyn Tureck on Bach

I’ve loved Bach’s music for a long time.  My introduction to Bach as a child began with a couple of recordings.  We had a LP of Lorin Hollander playing some various piano works, of which there was a transcription of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  The other CD was by the pioneering synthesist Wendy Carlos who was then known as Walter Carlos.  Switched On Bach II introduced me to the fifth Brandenburg Concerto and other favourite Bach work.  Not long after, I began piano lessons and soon after began playing Bach on the piano and later on the organ.

To be honest, I find it difficult to play Bach on the modern concert grand.  I love playing Bach on the piano, but it takes a bit different technique than say playing Chopin.  I don’t think that Bach must only be performed on period instruments.  However, when it comes to the modern piano, there are some challenges.  For one, there are the questions of balances.  The bass notes are often louder than the treble notes.  Dynamics can be challenge, especially because crescendi and decrescendi simply did not exist in the time of Bach.  If you play on a harpsichord or an organ, you don’t have those challenges.  However, some organs are more challenging than others.  I had to come up with some fairly interesting registrations when I had a four manual American symphonic organ to deal with when playing Bach.  I later found out how to play Bach on the mighty Möller, but it took some doing.  While I could play Bach, other Baroque composers were pretty much impossible.

Bach is endlessly fascinating.  You can see foreshadowings of later styles in his work.  Despite never having travelled beyond his native Germany, he was very well aware of developments in Italy and France. The 20th century Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg found foreshadowings of his own methods in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.  Rosalyn Tureck manages to find shades of Debussy and Stravinsky as well.  Tureck also shows why Chopin absolutely cannot be played on any instrument than the piano.

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