Do you accept JSB's work played on the piano?

Mar 22, 2015

Today, people play JSB's keyboard music on the piano.
That may be taken for granted, but JSB didn't compose anything for that instrument: it is not that he didn't know its existence - the piano was there in his later years.
So I guess he had his reason for not choosing the piano for one of his recipes.

Thus I am not inclined very much toward playing his works on the piano.
Am I the only one who feel like that?


Comments

No, I also dislike playing JSB's pieces on the piano.
The pianos of JSB's times have almost nothing in common with say a modern Steinway. We have no way of knowing if JSB would have, indeed, prefered the grand piano over any other instrument for his keyboard music. That said, I do love to listen to his works played with "authentic" instruments.
Bach didn't like the first piano he saw in the 1730's because the upper range was dynamically impotent, though he did approve of a newer design he saw about 3 years prior to his death. In my opinion, Bach's musical identity and style of composition was too deeply ingrained in the harpsichord and organ to incorporate the piano. While piano is prominent today, the use of the harpsichord provides a greater authenticity to performances of his keyboard works.
I know there's something to say about staying authentic and consistent to what the composer originally wanted, and I do like the sound of Bach's music on "authentic" instruments, but I really do prefer the piano for Bach's keyboard music. I like the amount of color and shape that you can add with the piano, and I think there are a lot more options for interpreting Bach's music that way. I'm sure there's an argument that says his music doesn't need that color, but I still prefer to have it.
It's fun to think what is authentic enough. Should we only accept performances of Bach's music on instruments that Bach played himself (if they even exist)? If we speak of listening to music, it's also an experience. Should we only accept live performances as there was no Spotify, Youtube, or cds when Bach lived. People are bigger nowadays than they were in Bach's time. Should we only accept performances by small people with small hands that fit better to the small keyboards of Bach's time. People smelt bad as personal hygiene was elementary, there were no antiperspirants... So, an "authentic" live Bach performance could be quite unbearable to most people today.
I admit that "authenticity" is subjective.
And I don't think WTC I and II played by Richter or Gould, for example, sound bad: I guess those two show how JSB' works should be performed on the piano.
But I am convinced that if JSB had composed for the piano, he would have created something different from the pieces that he composed for the harpsichord.
The Goldberg variations being played on the piano give so much depth to the melodies being played. The Aria in particular sounds so beautiful and no harpsichord in the world could replicate that. Plus, Bach's works being played on piano makes it sound more acceptable to the common ear that isn't really that familiar with classical/baroque music. Is that realistic, or just me?
>The Goldberg variations being played on the piano give so much depth to the melodies being played.

I think that depends on the pianist who plays them. If you mean the performance by Gould, I agree that it has much depth.
But you must be aware that, to attain the effect, Gould extensively devised "resolutions" such as softening the hammer felt, etc.
I doubt if he (or anybody, for that matter) could have realised the effect without such efforts.
I think it says a lot about JSB's music that it works on the piano. He tried to put emotion in his music that was obviously beyond the capacity of the instruments he used. The middle movement of his Italian Concerto is very suited to piano because Bach clearly was looking to create the sort of texture that a piano can provide and he employed the type of harpsichord (2-manual forte and piano) to do so.

I'm certain he would have been using one of the later pianos (such as the one used by Schumann) had he been active later. Handel was very fond of using a clavichord, as were many keyboard composers, and I suspect they valued the tone production for some of their pieces as opposed to the brighter sound of a harpsichord.
> had he been active later

But he WAS musically active well into 1740's, wasn't he?
I love hearing keyboard on instruments they were written for but EVERYONE'S MUSIC IS BETTER MORE DELINEATED . MORE INTERESTING . MORE CHANGEABLE ON A PIANO . TURECK and Gould make Bach shine on the piano. A greater pianist is the Canadian Hewitt .There are dozens of others Schiff is unforgettable as is Sokolov in J.S. Bach . I so need to spend time with C.P.E. Bach .
I like the piano's sound better than a harpsichord or clavier so I prefer his pieces played on piano. What I HATE is when people say "If Bach had dynamics, he would have used them!" and then make that their license to dynamic the shit out of his pieces instead of letting the counterpoints do the work. If Bach had dynamics, he would have written different music! His music is the way it is because he didn't have dynamics and he had to work around that to get his counterpoints to sing on their own! Adding dynamics ruins the genius of Bach! Rant over.
>If Bach had dynamics, he would have written different music!
>Adding dynamics ruins the genius of Bach! Rant over.

I quite agree.
I don't blame anyone playing JSB on the piano, but I can hardly accept self-indulgence in the name of "proper dynamics."

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