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Goldberg Variations BWV 988
General Discussions - Part 7 (2007)

Continue from Part 6

New Recording of Goldberg Variations

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 17, 2007):
I uploaded a complete new recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV988-Mus.htm

I would like to hear your impressions.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 17, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] Is the the Joyce Hatto recording? :-)

Moc Fujita wrote (February 18, 2007):
I made my original mp3 of the Goldberg Variations.
http://geocities.yahoo.co.jp/gl/imyfujita/view/20070218

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (February 18, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] I am listening to this now and enjoying it. Is it the Joyce Hatto CD?

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 18, 2007):
[To Anne (Nessie) Russell] This is not Hatto. It is a genuine new recording.
Awaiting for your impressions.

Shelly wrote (February 18, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] Horse-race fast, and a bit heavy-handed.
This music can be expressive. I like Perahia!

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (February 18, 2007):
[To Shelly] I have heard faster. Ekaterina Dershavina comes to mind.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 16, 2007):
Mysterious Goldberg (was: Fugues BWV 944-962 - Discography)

Philip Peters wrote:
< I may have missed something but has Aryeh already disclosed the identity of the pianist who played the Goldbergs he posted rather recently? I liked it but I have no idea who is playing and I would dearly like to find out... >
I have not yet revealed the name of the pianist. I had asked to get your impressions, but received rather few. So please... it is there, you can listen to complete Goldbergs for free...
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV988-Mus.htm

Enjoy & please write,

 

Windy Goldbergs

Jan Hanford wrote (May 20, 2007):
I discovered a lovely recording that I think deserves some attention. It's the Goldberg Variations arranged for woodwind instruments: http://www.quartzmusic.com/cd/QTZ2051.htm

Since I don't buy cd's anymore I was happy to see they have digital downloads and at a nice price of £4.99.

It's delightful.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (May 21, 2007):
[To Jan Hanford] I tried some of the samples. Sound good! Thanks for the link.

 

Braatz's opposition to Butt's practical commentary on the Goldberg Variations

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Even without the additional context based upon Forkel, Butt still has not explained what evidence he has that would support his claim that "it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the variations in the last few years of his life". Based upon Bach's condition of health, there seems to be a vast difference here between possibly stating "in the last year of his life (1750) and Butt's assertion: "in the last few years of his life." >
Ah, we see once again that your bewilderment comes from having no physical experience playing all of this composition, the Goldberg Variations.

I speak especially of variations 11, 14, 17, 20, and 23. First spend the months to perfect the fingering, hand motions, and expression to play these variations (been there, done that, more than 20 years ago in college).

THEN--and this is crucial--even if you have them perfectly in your technique, try to play them in the dark. The basic problem here is the way the hands have to keep orienting and re-orienting to different places on both keyboards at once; next to impossible without being able to take a peek at the target points on some of the leaps.

I've read John Butt's mini-article about this, there on pages 195-197 of the Oxford Composer Companion. His assertions make sense to me, a reader who actually plays the piece, coming from a writer who is also able to play the piece. There is no need to "explain evidence." There is simply a need for readers (and would-be critics) of the article to understand the physical demands of Bach's composition, i.e. musical experience performing it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I've read John Butt's mini-article about this, there on pages 195-197 of the Oxford Composer Companion. His assertions make sense to me, a reader who actually plays the piece, coming from a writer who is also able to play the piece. There is no need to "explain evidence." There is simply a need for readers (and would-be critics) of the article to understand the physical demands of Bach's composition, i.e. musical experience performing it.<<
This empirical argument makes no sense basically because you or Butt are not of the same caliber of keyboard artist that Bach was (the evidence here is based on the technically difficult keyboard music Bach composed and on contemporary reports from Bach's time which indicate that keyboard artists (other than Bach) who attempted to play Bach's music found it very difficult to play).

BL: >>There is no need to 'explain evidence'.<<
Evidence based on empiricism alone is quite faulty. Consider a test for color blindness. You and Butt may have the same eye defect in not detecting certain colors. Does this mean that those who can see these colors must believe you or Butt simply because you state something you deem to be true (and, as it happens, is actually physical true for both of you)? Perhaps even Bach was able to perceive colors that you and Butt are unable to detect. Why should Butt declare that something was almost impossible for Bach to play because Butt finds it extremely difficult to play? This is only a reflection of Butt's playing ability not Bach's. What I am looking for in regard to Butt's assertion is some other foundation in fact based upon contemporary records which show (like Händel, when already blind, who had to led to the organ to play) that Bach, in the 1740s, suffered a physical debility which prevented him from finding quickly the correct notes to play on the keyboard, notes from a difficult composition with which he was necessarily quite well acquainted.

Using your empirical argument against you, consider how many keyboard artists (older at the time of their performances and/or recordings than Bach when he died) in recent years were able to perform very difficult music exquisitely. Why should Bach not have been able to do the same with the Goldberg Variations?

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This empirical argument makes no sense basically because you or Butt are not of the same caliber of keyboard artist that Bach was >
You really must lend your Time Machine to other members of the list . I thought that you just channeled Bach's ghost, but now it appears you have actually heard Bach play! You really should have said hello to Brad when you came incognito to hear him play.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 2, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>You really must lend your Time Machine to other members of the list.<<
My Time Machine is called the "Bach-Dokumente", large portions of which are available in "The New Bach Reader" where you will find statements like (p. 306 from the Obituary): "Bach was the greatest organist and clavier player that we have ever had." That even serves to put the virtuoso Goldberg in his proper place.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< My Time Machine is called the "Bach-Dokumente", large portions of which are available in "The New Bach Reader" where you will find statements like (p. 306 from the Obituary): "Bach was the greatest organist and clavier player that we have ever had." That even serves to put the virtuoso Goldberg in his proper place. >
YEAH! Bach should never have even written the Variations in the first place! That damn Goldberg thinking he could play it! Bach just should have given it to a choirboy to sightread.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 2, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>YEAH! Bach should never have even written the Variations in the first place! That damn Goldberg thinking he could play it!<<
The funniestpart of all this is the mistaken notion that Bach actually wrote the variations for Goldberg. This information seems to come from two rather unreliable sources: WF Bach via Count Keyserlingk to Forkel many years (decades) later. The most that can be assumed to even begin to approach the truth is that Bach, after the Clavierübung IV had been published, might have given a printed copy of the score with a handwritten dedication to Keyserlingk in November, 1741 when Bach stayed at Keyserlingk's house in Dresden or may have promised to send him a copy later. The story about the payment with a golden cup containing 100 Louis d'or may have come from WFB who had connections with Keyserlingk and taught Goldberg during the years when he resided in Dresden and whose need for myth-making may have been as great or even greater than his brother's, CPE who created the deathbed composing scenario (something like: 'at this point in the middle of this composition now left unfinished, J S Bach died'). All in all, and for other reasons as well, renowned Bach experts like Christoph Wolff and Martin Geck find the anecdote that JSB composed the variations specifically for Goldberg to be highly questionable. It is highly unlikely that JSB, while composing these variations at a time when Goldberg was only 12 to 13 years old, had to 'tailor' his variations to suit the playing capabilities of this young artist. There is little doubt that Goldberg did play parts or all of the variations for Keyserlingk later on when he was older and still employed by the count. It was also customary to place dedicatory information on the front page of a printed edition, even when dedicated anonymously (Bach's dedication of the Clavierübung to "Denen Liebhabern") a custom to which Bach also adhered as in the case of the Musical Offering. The 'Goldberg' variations show no such dedication; indeed, they were written with a different purpose in mind as part of a greater plan encompassing a number of different parts.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The funniest part of all this is the mistaken notion that Bach actually wrote the variations for Goldberg. >
Actually the funniest part of this is the mistaken notion that no one else was capable of (or worthy of) playing Bach's music. Whether Goldberg was in fact the intended player is inconsequential. There were others -- most notably the much-maligned CPE Bach -- whose technique and taste were more than adequate to the demands of the music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 2, 2007):

Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Actually the funniest part of this is the mistaken notion that no one else was capable of (or worthy of) playing Bach's music. Whether Goldberg was in fact the intended player is inconsequential. There were others -- most notably the much-maligned CPE Bach -- whose technique and taste were more than adequate to the demands of the music.<<
CPE probably sight-read the variations in contrast to many present-day performers who make a big issue out of how long it took them to work out the interpretation and fingering.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 2, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, I think you are being nasty. I don't know why you persist in this manner, as if there were nothing better to do in life? Maybe CPE read these scores from sight, but if he did (and we have no way of knowing) prior to all such an accomplishment everyone who plays keyboard works out the details. You may not have listened very closely between recordings of Bach's keyboard works, but the variety of expression from one extremely accomplished player to another is considerable. Those of us who appreciate God given talent and hard work appreciate those wonderful distinctions. In Bach each line (SATB...or even five parts) is important. The lines are like a conversation between each other where voices express emotions and maybe even ideas. To simply sight read a Bach keyboard piece does not correspond to what any serious keyboard player has done historically.

I also want to comment on the remark that Bach was the greatest keyboard player of all time. We do not have any recordings to prove the case so you are blowing straw in the breeze when you try to create controversy over such matters. I'm inclined to believe that from the greatest to the least those who can master the intricacies (please listen to the recordings more carefully and ask someone to show you on the piano how this works) those who play Bach know the heart of the master in a way in which intellectual discussion cannot compete. You could experience more of this if you would ask a real musician to assist you in the matter of listening.

Please drop the Mr. Nasty routine and try to construct something that edifies in your writings. Resources are one thing, but you seem to miss the context of these great works by trying to initiate derision.

Neil Mason wrote (June 3, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] We must of course remember that sight-reading from handwritten manuscript in candlelight was done much better 300 years than is done these days from printed manuscript with good illumination. The reason is that the training that musicians got then by not studying at a university is much better than nowadays. Also, because people did not have adequate diets and did not live very long, this meant that they were much more experienced players than nowadays.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 3, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
>>We must of course remember that sight-reading from handwritten manuscript in candlelight was done much better 300 years than is done these days from printed manuscript with good illumination.<<
Correction: the 'Goldberg' Variations were available during Bach's lifetime in printed form. Bach probably had a number of copies for sale at his apartment at the Thomasschule at any time after the first printing. Candlelight illumination was something that all musicians learned to cope with for evening performances, but there also were many performances which took place during daylight hours.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 3, 2007):
[To Neil Mason] I appreciate the humor in Neil's sarcasm, but, truth be told, trained professional vocalists in Bach's day were, in comparison, more capable of advanced singing techniques than today's singers are accustomed to.

I was involved in a major recording project of the hymns of Martin Luther. We used a professional singing group that routinely sings virtually every genre of music available today.

They were absolutely astonished to think that any Lutheran congregation would actually sing these hymns, since they were so complex in comparison to the kind of "fluff" that passes for much of church music today, and other vocal styles, etc.

They found it incredibly challenging.

And I found that interesting.

Paolo Fagoaga wrote (June 3, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] If it is the case to talk about source reliability
Is the obituary of any person a reliable source?

Neil Mason wrote (June 3, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< I appreciate the humor in Neil's sarcasm, but, truth be told, trained professional vocalists in Bach's day were, in comparison, more capable of advanced singing techniques than today's singers are accustomed to. >
Mmm... Not sure that I can agree with that. There are a number of factors involved. We know much more about the voice now than even 15 years ago. www.ncvs.org is an interesting site (that I previously recommended to one list member off-list re the Bernoulli principle and singing). Also, at A=440 pitch, the tessitura is almost certainly higher than Bach would have heard.

< I was involved in a major recording project of the hymns of Martin Luther. We used a professional singing group that routinely sings virtually every genre of music available today. >
Now this is a relevant factor. Singers in Bach's day were only required to sing in Renaissance and Baroque styles. It is very hard for singers who predominantly sing opera to sing such florid music as Bach routinely wrote
for his vocal soloists. The singers who can successfully make the transition are fine indeed.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 3, 2007):
Pablo Fagoagwrote:
>>If it is the case to talk about source reliability
Is the obituary of any person a reliable source?<<

No, but even less so the anecdotes related by Forkel a half century later.

There are other testimonies for Bach's keyboard playing virtuosity if the obituary written by his son, CPE, his former student, Agricola, Mizler and Vensky seems suspect for you.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< There are other testimonies for Bach's keyboard playing virtuosity if the obituary written by his son, CPE, his former student, Agricola, Mizler and Vensky seems suspect for you. >
CPE attacked his father's manuscripts with a penknife! It all sounds oedipal to me.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 3, 2007):
Paul McCain wrote:
< They were absolutely astonished to think that any Lutheran congregation would actually sing these hymns, since they were so complex in comparison to the kind of "fluff" that passes for much of church music today, and other vocal styles, etc.
They found it incredibly challenging.
And I found that interesting. >
I imagine the choir carried the parts and most of the members if they sang were in unison. Even so, thinking about the amount of focus required for the hymns sung by some congregations that focus might have been easier in an environment of minimal musical exposure for many, and other than folk songs or drinking songs little else to learn for the average person. This may have helped the situation in the churches. This is an interesting topic, and I'm looking forward to more thoughts the on the matter of the complexity of hymns...leaps, jumps, unusual harmonies, or whatever.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< CPE probably sight-read the variations in contrast to many present-day performers who make a big issue out of how long it took them to work out the interpretation and fingering. >
Oh, poop. Once more the modern experts have been incontrovertibly trumped by the sight-reading ability of dead people. There's just no way to refute that self-evident truth, or such a watertight argument. Dang. I sure wish I'd been smart enough to think of such an angle to historical truth. It certainly would have saved me the trouble and expense of earning a doctorate in this. Since my peers and I could never possibly be as good as the way dead people sight-read the music, we might as well just hang it up and go work at Burger King. (No offense intended to people who do work at Burger King.)

By the way: the thing I'm doing for fun right now is sight-reading all the way through the marvelous book English Pastime Music, 1630-1660: An Anthology of Keyboard Pieces (edited by Martha Maas, published 1974, Yale). Delightful stuff, 119 compositions. Not nearly as hard as the Goldberg Variations, on which I spent about half a year of solid work back in 1984-5, but it does require years of harpsichord experience to sight-read accurately. Have a go at it yourself, if you think this instrument and its technique are trivially easy. There are even some great examples of strong-3 fingering (English style) right there printed in the score.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
> Evidence based on empiricism alone is quite faulty. <
"Evidence based on" ignorance of a topic is faulty. So there.

As if evidence can be "based on" anything whatsoever, but heck with it. This is already beyond absurd.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Evidence based on empiricism alone is quite faulty. Consider a test for color blindness. You and Butt may have the same eye defect in not detecting certain colors. Does this mean that those who can see these colors must believe you or Butt simply because you state something you deem to be true (and, as it happens, is actually physical true for both of you)? Perhaps even Bach was able to perceive colors that you and Butt are unable to detect. Why should Butt declare that something was almost impossible for Bach to play because Butt finds it extremely difficult to play? This is only a reflection of Butt's playing ability not Bach's. >
What happens to this argument of yours, if YOUR OWN subjective perceptions and YOUR OWN specious methods of reasoning are the color-blindness?

Perhaps musical experts are able to perceive features in the music (by hearing, analysis, research, and/or the physical processes of playing the composition) that you are unable to detect.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"[...]
This empirical argument makes no sense basically because you or Butt are not of the same caliber of keyboard artist that Bach was (the evidence here is based on the technically difficult keyboard music Bach composed and on contemporary reports from Bach's time which indicate that keyboard artists (other than Bach) who attempted to play Bach's music found it very difficult to play). "
All these comparisons between actual and past musicians do not make sense to me.

Not only is it impossible to listen to the performances of dead (and unrecorded) artists, but contemporary reports from Bach's time could have no knowledge of the way actual musicians play. So how is it possible to assess the "caliber" of different artists without hearing them in the same context, something that nobody has ever done and will ever be able to do in the case we discuss?

This also applies to sight-reading abilities and the like (being aware that sight-reading in itself has little to do with musicianship).

As for the Obituary ("Bach was the greatest organist and clavier player that we have ever had" (note the we)), it is all but unbiased evidence. If I find my kid the smartest / most beautiful / most gifted / kindest of all kids, I do not think all other mothers will agree... And if someone tells me that beer XYZ is the best in the world (sorry for the example, I am Belgian), I am not sure to agree!

And supposing Bach was the greatest clavier player around at one time, this does not mean that he remained such throughout his whole life.

Additionally there is a large difference between finding something very difficult to play and being able (or not) to play it with enough time / work / concentration / dedication. Maybe Bach found its own music difficult to play!

In short, I find this "logic" full of holes and irritating to read at length - sorry.

 

New recording: Goldberg Variations played by Riemer on Viennese fortepiano

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2007):
Released a few weeks ago, Walter Riemer playing Bach's Goldberg Variations on a Stein-type fortepiano (the ones Mozart preferred): http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/Goldberg.htm
with info and downloadable MP3 samples of everything.

The disc also has ten of the inventions/sinfonias as filler, since not many repeats are taken in the variations. Program notes are here in German and English: http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/GBbooklet.pdf

Riemer told me he's working on the English version of the web page, soon.

This recording (like his Art of Fugue set a few years ago) goes along with a busy concert series he runs at a castle in Austria.
http://niederfellabrunn.at/OLD2006.HTM
http://niederfellabrunn.at/OLD2007.HTM

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 3, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>[Walter Riemer's] Program notes are here in German and English:
http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/GBbooklet.pdf<<
In his notes Riemer explains:

>>Over decades or centuries music science and authors deplored the fact that Bach did not document his "temperature" in writing, so his method of tuning his "Claviere" unevenly (different from today's method used for the modern piano) came into oblivion.<<

Tuning unevenly means that certain keys are more out of tune than others.

Here is what is stated in Bach's obituary, written for the most part by his sometimes factually unreliable son, CPE Bach and another famous student of his father's, JoFriedrich Agricola (perhaps these two composer musicians simply could not tell the difference between equal temperament and any of the numerous variants of not-quite-equal temperament more recently called 'well-tempered'):

>>In the tuning of harpsichords, he [JSB] achieved so correct and pure a temperament [note that the obituary does not use the term 'well-tempered'] that all the tonalities sound pure and agreeable. He knew of no tonalities that, because of impure intonation, one must avoid.<< p. 307 of the NBR or p. 88, item 666 of vol. III of the Bach-Dokumente.

This description fits the characteristics of equal temperament better than it would any of the so-called well-tempered ones, one of which Riemer happens to have used in his recording. Using equal temperament, Bach would not need to avoid remote keys because they begin to sound 'odder' than those usually favored.

Neil Mason wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This description fits the characteristics of equal temperament better than it would any of the so-called well-tempered ones, one of which Riemer happens to have used in his recording. Using equal temperament, Bach would not need to avoid remote keys because they begin to sound 'odder' than those usually favored. >
Sorry, but no it doesn't. Whatever may be the merits or drawbacks of Brad's squiggle theory, that temperament sounds excellent in all keys; no key sounds odd.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 4, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
>>Whatever may be the merits or drawbacks of Brad's squiggle theory, that temperament sounds excellent in all keys; no key sounds odd.<<
This has nothing to do with the various interpretations of the squiggles, but rather with the fact that a personal assessment by any individual is meaningless unless equal temperament and the various competing 'well-tempered' temperaments are given a 'blind' test where a large jury (or all listeners) with the ability to discern fine variations in tuning is given an opportunity to hear sustained chords in various keys and mark and/or explain their reactions to each temperament. Also, they should judge which temperament fulfills the description "all tonalities sound pure and agreeable" given in the JSB obituary and not "some tonalities sound very pure indeed while a few others sound a little worse than they usually do."

Neil Halliday wrote (June 4, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< In his notes Riemer explains:
>>Over decades or centuries music science and authors deplored the fact that Bach did not document his "temperature" in writing, so his method of tuning his "Claviere" unevenly (different from today's method used for the modern piano) came into oblivion.<< >
Actually, despite Riemer's claimed (?) use of an (unspecified?) unequal temperament, this recording sounds incredibly much like equal temperament!

I have an electric keyboard with adjustable pitch; after lowering the pitch slightly to match that of the recording, and while simultaneously (with the recording) playing the right hand part of the most chromatic variation (number 25), for much of the time I cannot hear myself self playing, since the blend is so perfect!

Surely of much greater significance than any slight variation in temperament, as far as the impact of the music is concerned, is the timbre of the instrument, in this case a particular forte piano, not to mention other things such as the player's expression, phrasing, etc. etc.

Conclusion: there is no loss of character in playing the piece in equal temperament; and, for example, the effect of the shocking, 'rising' chromaticism of the closing bars of the first section remains as sublime in equal temperament as in any special temperament that Bach himself might have been using.

Consider another piece of equally sublime music, namely, the final pages of the Andante of Schubert's Bb major Sonata. This highly emotionally wrought music is heard (in the last two pages) in C major, and then after various modulations is repeated in C# major (ie, from no accidentals to 7 sharps!) - shocking and sublime in its effect (surely Schubert's farewell to the world). Is there any need of an unequal temperament in such music?

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 4, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< CPE Bach and another famous student of his father's, Johann Friedrich Agricola (perhaps these two composer musicians simply could not tell the difference between equal temperament and any of the numerous variants of not-quite-equal temperament more recently called 'well-tempered'): >
Or perhaps they could?

< >>In the tuning of harpsichords, he [JSB] achieved so correct and pure a temperament [note that the obituary does not use the term 'well-tempered'] that all the tonalities sound pure and agreeable. He knew of no tonalities that, because of impure intonation, one must avoid.<< p. 307 of the NBR or p. 88, item 666 of vol. III of the Bach-Dokumente. >
Surely this is intended as humor? In the first paragraph, we discredit CPE, in the second we cite him (as primary author of the obituary), as expert?

< This description fits the characteristics of equal temperament better than it would any of the so-called well-tempered ones, >
Perhaps , but it begs the two fundamental questions:
(1) Why bother to write in twenty four keys, if all are evenly odd?
(2) Why the title page, 'Well Tempered Clavier'?

< one of which Riemer happens to have used in his recording. >
Should I make a wild guess as to which that might be?

< Using equal temperament, Bach would not need to avoid remote keys because they begin to sound 'odder' than those usually favored. >
By that logic, Bach would not need to write in different keys, because all would sound evenly odd (see point (1), above). Best explained, for the non-musician who can cope with a bit of physics, in Duffin, R. W., 'How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)'. I gather from the recent discussions and recommendations, that musicians also respect this text.

Apologies for my pun on 'odder'. 'Evenly odd' means approximately the same as 'equally unpleasant'.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 4, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Here is what is stated in Bach’s obituary, written for the most part by his sometimes factually unreliable son, CPE Bach and another famous student of his father’s, Johann Friedrich Agricola (perhaps these two composer musicians simply could not tell the difference between equal temperament and any of the numerous variants of not-quite-equal temperament more recently called ‘well-tempered’):
>>In the tuning of harpsichords, he [JSB] achieved so correct and pure a temperament [note that the obituary does not use the term ‘well-tempered’] that all the tonalities sound pure and agreeable. He knew of no tonalities that, because of impure intonation, one must avoid.<< p. 307 of the NBR or p. 88, item 666 of vol. III of the Bach-Dokumente.
This description fits the characteristics of equal temperament better than it would any of the so-called well-tempered ones, one of which Riemer happens to have used in his recording. Using equal temperament, Bach would not need to avoid remote keys because they begin to sound 'odder' than those usually favored. >

Strangely enough, I used that obituary quote MYSELF as the very first sentence of my CD booklet notes, printed 18 months ago. But, I used it in support of my work, rather than as a homemade makeshift pipe bomb against it. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1003.html

And see also the notes of the organ set: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1002.html

As for CPE: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cpeb.html

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 4, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
>>Whatever may be the merits or drawbacks of Brad's squiggle theory, that temperament sounds excellent in all keys; no key sounds odd.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This has nothing to do with the various interpretations of the squiggles, >
The squirming over the squiggles is perhaps tmost pathetic in all of this lengthy discussion:
(1) Sparschuh claims prior discovery.
(2) Braatz straddles the fence, supporting Sparschuh, but discrediting the Lehman explanation, all the while deriding the idea of any 'meaning' in the decorative squiggles.

< but rather with the fact that a personal assessment by any individual is meaningless unless equal temperament and the various competing 'well-tempered' temperaments are given a 'blind' test where a large jury (or all listeners) with the ability to discern fine variations in tuning is given an opportunity to hear sustained chords in various keys and mark and/or explain their reactions to each temperament. >
And the reports from the large jury are in, and reported by you? Of all people to attack a 'personal assessment by any individual'. The irony is rich, for the casual spectator.

< Also, they >
The large jury? Who will decide 'the ability to discern fine variations in tuning'? Isn't the idea to make music which sounds good, intuitively, to listeners who are not necessarily expert musicians? It is a very convincing argument to hear a comparison of two sounds, and be asked which is 'better', in the context of the scholarly and physical analysis. I would be the first to agree that 'better' may be confused with 'more familiar', but not in the instance where the opposite is true. That is, the 'less familiar' sounds 'better'.

< should judge which temperament fulfills the description "all tonalities sound pure and agreeable" given in the JSB obituary and not "some tonalities sound very pure indeed while a few others sound a little worse than they usually do." >
Unfairly skewing both the question and the answer. Anyone remotely interested in the details will enjoy reading Duffin. Anyone whose mind is already made up will enjoy posting opinions here. We will continue to cope.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 4, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>Why bother to write in twenty four keys, if all are evenly odd?<
I've beem wondering about this for a quite a while.

As an experiment, I've played the opening bars of the Moonlight Sonata in C# minor (the composer's key), C minor, and D minor.

Obviously, there is a striking difference in the sound of the piece played back to back in each case, simply by virtue of the different pitches of the tonic. Why did Beethoven choose C# minor from the other eleven available minor keys? I don't know, but it may be that the tonic of C# minor, in that particulat octave, is just the right pitch that he was looking for.

I have not read Duffin's book. Does he convincingly describe how "equal temperament has ruined harmony"? Does it come down to some persons' sensitivity to particular temperaments. Has he considered that for a long time the ears of listeners were assaulted by various mean tone tunings, in particular in organ tunings? I never liked the Silbermann sound in Bach's organ music, and I have seen it written that there was widespread acknowledgement of the unsuitability of Silbermann's tunings, though opinions vary.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 4, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Surely of much greater significance than any slight variation in temperament, as far as the impact of the music is concerned, is the timbre of the instrument, in this case a particular forte piano, not to mention other things such as the player's expression, phrasing, etc. etc. >
I am not sure I can agree with your emphasis on much greater significance, but I do agree with the priorities you suggest.

< Conclusion: there is no loss of character in playing the piece in equal temperament; >
From the opposite perspective, are there any subtle improvements in character to be realized from an alternative temperament, which may have been Bach's intent?

More important, is it worth making every effort to unravel the composer's intent, to see what it sounds like?

These are the questions at the basis of most of the relevant discussion and publications. On this list, the questions are mostly obscured by personal prejudices (unlike life in the real world?).

Are the questions worth investigating? As long as there are grad students, yes.

Without thinking ahead, I snipped the earlier part of your post, where you referred to 'Riemer's claimed (?) use of an unspecified (?) unequal temperament'.

A separate question altogether, whether the claims of a published recording are in fact accurate. I would be interested to know opinions and/or evidence, in this particular instance.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 4, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I have not read Duffin's book. Does he convincingly describe how "equal temperament has ruined harmony"? >
By good fortune, I found it available as a new acquisition on my local library network, when it was first mentioned on list.

'Ruined' is a bit of an overstatement, but Duffin makes his points clearly, and the format is innovative and entertaining: cartoons, sidebars, and historical anecdotes all interspersed.

< Does it come down to some persons' sensitivity to particular temperaments. Has he considered that for a long time the ears of listeners were assaulted by various mean tone tunings, in particular in organ tunings? >
You would likely enjoy the book, and get much more from it than I can.
Key points:

(1) What we call harmony, and harmonious, are specific to European culture. The sounds evolved from the voice, and string instruments, with continuously variable pitch, and subtle distinctions in sharp and flat intervals.

(2) Fixed pitch instruments, especially organ, required compromises, which evolved to become equal temperament, with sharp and flat intervals equal, at a semitone..

(3) What people in a particular culture accept as harmonious is a complex interaction of physics, instinct, and cultural habit (I hope I am not distorting Duffin). So equal temperament has become harmonious to our 20-21st C., twelve-tone ears, but it has 'ruined' the earlier concept of specific tonal character, with subtly different and unique intervals in each key..

Neil Halliday wrote (June 4, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (2) Fixed pitch instruments, especially organ, required compromises, which evolved to become equal temperament, with sharp and flat intervals equal, at a semitone..
(3) What people in a particular culture accept as harmonious is a complex interaction of physics, instinct, and cultural habit (I hope I am not distorting Duffin). So equal temperament has become harmonious to our 20-21st C >:
Thanks for this summary, Ed.

Hmm. Those Europeans, trying to escape nature as usual, with advanced technology leading to complex instruments such as organs, where ET turns out to be the most practical solution to issues of tuning.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Tuning must be an art, and anyone who plays the flute knows the headaches of keeping an instrument in tune with a band or orchestra considering temperature changes in a building. When I played in groups I kept two or three flutes with me just to accomodate the issues of pitch and switched off. In extreme cold even a pipe organ develops pitch issues...I know this from experience. So I had been wondering about these tuning issues and I can hear a difference between recordings of equal and unequal tuning. In the case of the second my initial reaction was that the instrument was not quite in tune but the playing was pretty good. But you have explained nicely, and I have concluded that the best view I can take is to appreciate both approaches within the historical context of either the work of the composer or the instrument(s) upon which the playing has been done.

I might add from using mixing and mastering software that one would hope a recordist would not tamper with what the artist has produced in the case of very fine work, but this is something that is possible even though we can't know. Such issues as pitch if they are minimal are easy to fix...and we could have some judgment calls by someone producing an album in some cases.

Thanks Ed.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] I have been reading a book on organ building, and in the brief history given at the beginning the authotells of the origin of organs being simple wood folk pipes or flutes, and panpipes. I found this absolutely fascinating because this places the origin of the organ back with the Greeks and Romans, and perhaps others. The basic element of the organ is essentially a whistle. Humorously, we were told by my pietistic grandmother as children not to whistle because we were calling to the Devil. But she loved the church organ. If she had known that we had a bunch of whistles in church she would have been quite upset. Of course the Europeans were the ones who brought the instrument into a state of sophistication. And many fine American companies have done such excellent work expanding that which started so long ago. I just completed reading the book, "All The Stops" on the history of American organ building. I have to imagine that members of this group have a much more sophisticated view toward this topic than I do as I am in the learning stages of understanding just what it was I played when I was young. At that point I had a lot of music to learn and quite a bit of responsibility and no access to books on the expanded study of organs.

Later we got into the overtone series in music theory, and delightfully I began to understand the details of pitch better. But in the context of Bach I have had little background so I appreciate the flow of this discussion and those who can contribute to it.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 4, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Without thinking ahead, I snipped the earlier part of your post, where you referred to 'Riemer's claimed (?) use of an unspecified (?) unequal temperament'.
A separate question altogether, whether the claims of a published recording are in fact accurate. I would be interested to know opinions and/or evidence, in this particular instance. >
Riemer has been using the Bach temperament regularly for the past two years: not only on his fortepiano for his concerts since 2005, but on the Boesendorfer (in some of the 2006 concerts) for the series at his castle. Furthermore, he set up his own web page there explaining it. Take a look at the concert series details, where he describes the music they've had tuned this way: Schumann, Beethoven, Ravel, Scriabin, Schubert, et al.....

German:
http://niederfellabrunn.at/OLD2007.HTM
http://niederfellabrunn.at/OLD2006.HTM
http://niederfellabrunn.at/OLD2005.HTM

English:
http://niederfellabrunn.at/ENGLISH/OLD2007E.HTM
http://niederfellabrunn.at/ENGLISH/OLD2006E.HTM
http://niederfellabrunn.at/ENGLISH/OLD2005E.HTM

As he explains on his pages:
http://niederfellabrunn.at/KdF/BachStimmung.htm
http://niederfellabrunn.at/ENGLISH/BachStimm-e.htm
He used Kellner's temperament on his "Art of Fugue" recording 2005, where he hadn't seen the new research yet at that point; but since his Nov 22 2005 concert where he played Bach/Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven/Schubert, he doesn't use Kellner anymore.
(Also he's told me this personally in several e-mails...and sent me a CD of one of their Boesendorfer concerts....)

I've listened to most of the samples of his new Goldbergs disc, including those inventions/sinfonias; he's got it accurately. http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/Goldberg.htm

The differences from equal temperament are easier to hear on harpsichords and organs than they are on pianos. That's because pianos (and fortepianos) are weaker in overtones beyond the first several.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 4, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
> The differences from equal temperament are easier to hear on harpsichords and organs than they are on pianos. That's because pianos (and fortepianos) are weaker in overtones beyond the first several<
Thanks for leaving me some wriggle room (perhaps I'm not tone deaf)!

(Plus maybe the poor quality internet sample, etc.)

I think I did notice an effect of your temperament in an example of a SMP recitative, some time ago, in an organ Eb minor chord that sounded more 'mellow' than the surrounding music, IIRC. .

Steven Foss wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman, in response to his 1st message] Thanks for the tip, I will check it out. I still prefer the Goldberg Variations on the Harpsichord, Hogwood used a Ruckers/Taskin many years back on CD that had a beautiful tone to it. I would love to hear the same variations done on a Hass, a Zell, a Mietke, and a Graebner for comparison. I would love to hear a Silberman Harpsichord, but alas none have survived.

There is a German Harpsichord Maker in the Phillipines that has made a reconstruction of the Silberman Harpsichord using the very early Forte Pianos for scaling and shape with the nuts, bridges, etc from Silberman's Nephew to supply the details. I am to far for me to fly to hear and to poor to commision another.

Neil Mason wrote (June 5, 2007):
You wrote:
< This has nothing to do with the various interpretations of the squiggles, but rather with the fact that a personal assessment by any individual is meaningless unless equal temperament and the various competing 'well-tempered' temperaments are given a 'blind' test where a large jury (or all listeners) with the ability to discern fine variations in tuning is given an opportunity to hear sustained chords in various keys and mark and/or explain their reactions to each temperament. Also, they should judge which temperament fulfills the description "all tonalities sound pure and agreeable" given in the JSB obituary and not "some tonalities sound very pure indeed while a few others sound a little worse than they usually do." >
Sorry but this is absolute BS. My personal assessment is far from meaningless, thank you very much.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2007):
Steven Foss wrote:
< Thanks for the tip, I will check it out. I still prefer the Goldberg Variations on the Harpsichord, Hogwood used a Ruckers/Taskin many years back on CD that had a beautiful tone to it. I would love to hear the same variations done on a Hass, a Zell, a Mietke, and a Graebner for comparison. I would love to hear a Silberman Harpsichord, but alas none have survived. >
Bob van Asperen's recording of the Goldbergs is on an original 1719 Mietke, and Alan Curtis's on the 1728 Zell. Blandine Verlet's is on a 1751 Hemsch.

< There is a German Harpsichord Maker in the Phillipines that has made a reconstruction of the Silberman Harpsichord using the very early Forte Pianos for scaling and shape with the nuts, bridges, etc from Silberman's Nephew to supply the details. >
There is a 1998 copy by Schmidt built directly from a Silbermann harpsichord in a museum, and recorded by Gerald Hambitzer. I reviewed that CD a couple of years ago. Click through the "read online" link at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/essays.html

Neil Halliday wrote (June 5, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
>My personal assessment is far from meaningless, thank you very much.>
Neil, I'm sure Thomas is not claimimg that any individual's personal reaction to a particular temperament is invalid, rather that in order to judge the relative worth of many competing temperaments vis a vis equal temperament, a blind test involving a (large) number of people who know the music in a scientically controlled setting is necessary. I for one would jump at the chance to be involved in such a test.

Neil Mason wrote (June 6, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] I wish I could be so sure, but I agree with your last sentence.

Tom Dent wrote (June 15, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
< that temperament sounds excellent in all keys no key sounds odd. >
Who says? You? Brad? Surely whether or not music in this or that key sound 'excellent' with some tuning or other depeSTRONGLY on your individual taste.

It is a strange situation if someone asserts 'this sounds excellent' as if it were an objective fact! (Yet this is what many people end up doing...)

After some experiments with harpsichords, I happen to think that some chords and keys sound rather /worse/ than they need do in this tuning. Considering the Goldberg variations, D major is slightly less purely tuned than in equal temperament (!) while A major is definitely worse than ET. In fact, the tuning seems to systematically favour the purity of flat keys over sharp ones, which seems an odd choice for a work almost all of which uses sharps rather than flats.

Since however the Stein piano used has a timbre lightyears away from any harpsichord (due to its lack of prominent harmonics) more adapted to ET than to noticeably unequal tuning, I don't suppose the tuning is that much of a factor.

Try it here: http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/Goldberg.htm

very dry acoustic and close recording, not helped by the instantaneous damping of the instrument - in contrast to good harpsichords, which ring on subtly after the key is released.

Var 19 is one of my favourites with a nice resonant lute-like harpsichord register - but here? a series of thuds.

Concerning tuning, the Sinfonia in F minor (track 40) is a severe test; how do people think it comes out? To me some chords do sound odd; I'd actually expect Brad's tuning to do better.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 15, 2007):
Tom Dent wrote:
< It is a strange situation if someone asserts 'this sounds excellent' as if it were an objective fact! (Yet this is what many people end up doing...)
(...)
Try it here:
http://niederfellabrunn.at/Ftp/Goldberg.htm
(...)
Concerning tuning, the Sinfonia in F minor (track 40) is a severe test; how do people think it comes out? To me some chords do sound odd; I'd actually expect Brad's tuning to do better. >
Well, my own harpsichord recording of it is readily available here (and has been for 17 months), for any who would like to compare it against that fortepiano recording:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1003.html

http://www.last.fm/music/Bradley+Lehman/Playing+from+Bach's+fancy&autostart
There's a 30-second streaming example of track 16 there, but of course it sounds better on the real CD. (And here my word "better" means the recording sounds more faithful to a real harpsichord, listening to the CD on a decent system rather than the MP3 sample on cruddy computer speakers.) I recorded it myself as demonstration because it's an excellent and severe test, and because I enjoy the piece.

And Peter Watchorn has been recording all the inventions/sinfonias this spring, also on harpsichord. I'm eager to hear it.

For the record, your phrase "I'd actually expect Brad's tuning to do better" means what exactly, as to "better", in the context of an extremely chromatic composition as this, in the notoriously crunchy key of F minor? Does "better" mean "more pathos" or "more contrast" or "less contrast", or something else entirely? "Db and Ab triads better than Lindley's and Kellner's and Barnes's", perhaps? (If that's the game, I'd expect mine to do better too!)

=====

As for asserting that "some chords do sound odd"...well, your own advice above points out that this isn't an objective fact....

Plus, you've just observed yourself in this same message that fortepianos have a substantially different timbre anyway. Your own words, here:

< Since however the Stein piano used has a timbre lightyears away from any harpsichord (due to its lack of prominent harmonics) more adapted to ET than to noticeably unequal tuning, I don't suppose the tuning is that much of a factor. >
By the way, what do you think of the Anton Walter-styled fortepiano recording here, tuned that same way?
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=BIS-SACD-1472

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 16, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
>> that temperament sounds excellent in all keys no key sounds odd. <<
Tom Dent wrote:
Neil Mason wrote:
< Who says? You? >
Since the post is signed, it is clear who says?

< Brad? Surely whether or not music in this or that key sound 'excellent' with some tuning or other depends STRONGLY on your individual taste.
It is a strange situation if someone asserts 'this sounds excellent' as if it were an objective fact! (Yet this is what many people end up doing...) >
'Many people end up doing'? Name even one assertion of 'this sounds excellent'. Perhaps I overlooked it.

If you are referring to any of my comments, with reference to Brad's demonstration of his tuning, I have not said more than:
(1) The best argument is in the listening
(2) The examples Brad chooses to present are convincing.

Are they conclusive? Depends STRONGLY on your individual taste.

Are professional, performing musicians convinced, to the extent of giving it public exposure? In essence, putting their money where their mouth is? I am a spectator from the bleacher seats, but it looks like it from here. From where folks buy tickets to listen.

Great theorists:
Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington: 'I only like one kind of music. The good kind.'
Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach): 'If it sounds good, it is good.'

Or was it Duke who said both? Or borrowed both? Mobilize the grad students..

Neil Mason wrote (June 16, 2007):
You wrote:
<< that temperament sounds excellent in all keys no key sounds odd. >>
Neil Mason wrote:
< Who says? You? Brad? Surely whether or not music in this or that key sound 'excellent' with some tuning or other depends STRONGLY on your individual taste. >
Well, as a matter of fact, me.

Tom Dent wrote (June 16, 2007):
[To Neil Mason] OK, so any argument based on the assertion 'it sounds excellent in all keys' is true if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent. The tuning is consistent with CPE Bach's requirements of purity if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent. JS Bach could have used the tuning [which is what Neil was arguing towards!] if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent.

Is this any way to think about history or musicology? No, it's a perfectly normal and banal different of taste between two 21st-century listeners with no historical significance at all. You see the problem with trying to reason as if your personal taste had some influence on historical events: 'I like it, therefore Bach might / ought to / must have done it that way'. Avoid thinking like this and things should become a whole lot clearer.

Tom Dent wrote (June 16, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< (mostly repeating my own words, for no apparent reason) >
... Hopefully it is clear I don't want to banish subjective artistic opinions - just to recognize when we are liable to deceive ourselves by imagining that they have some bearing on historical facts. Unless we achieve time-travel, our opinions can have no influence at all on historical events. So it is somewhat frustrating to continually see certain people saying 'it sounds good!' in a context that strongly suggests they think it ought to be evidence of what happened in the 18th century.

Curiously we find on Brad's website:

'All musical/historical analysis here on the LaripS.com web site is the personal opinion of the author (...)'

which sounds like having your cake and eating it too. If it's a historical fact (for example, what CPE Bach wrote about tuning, or the fact that JS Bach tuned his harpsichord one day), it can't be your personal opinion. Let alone if it's mathematics, such as the fact that three pure major thirds don't add up to an octave - which is a major part of Brad's analyses. Conversely if the whole of someone's analysis is their personal opinion, why should we think it has anything to do with historical events?

Given this, it's only confusing that I have to keep reminding mysel: whenever Brad says 'Bach's tuning' he's referring to a 21st century opinion, not an 18th century person. And when people talk about a discovery, what has really been discovered concerns - their own personal tastes and reactions.

This is actually a rather comforting vision: everyone can discover his own, separate, Bach tuning, without their being the least logical conflict between them.

Now the reason I remarked on that fortepiano F minor sinfonia is nothing very fancy or aesthetically convoluted: just that certain thirds (I think Ab-C and Db-F) actually sounded wider and less harmonious than I expected, given Brad's tuning. I suspect the pianner may not have been tempered quite as advertised. But Brad should be much more sensitive to the technically correct tuning of his recipe than I; so I wondered whether the recording really has the Lehman seal of approval, so far as temperament goes.

(having just been to a harpsichord recital of the Goldbergs where the acoustic pretty much erased all evidence of temperament ... the counterpoint seemed to be accompanied by disembodied voices following half a beat behind. Actually not as ghastly as one might imagine, since at least the start of each note was clear.)

Neil Mason wrote (June 16, 2007):
Tom Dent wrote:
< OK, so any argument based on the assertion 'it sounds excellent in all keys' is true if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent. The tuning is consistent with CPE Bach's requirements of purity if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent. JS Bach could have used the tuning [which is what Neil was arguing towards!] if you are Neil Mason - but not if you are Thomas Dent.
Is this any way to think about history or musicology? No, it's a perfectly normal and banal different of taste between two 21st-century listeners with no historical significance at all. You see the problem with trying to reason as if your personal taste had some influence on historical events: 'I like it, therefore Bach might / ought to / must have done it that way'. Avoid thinking like this and things should become a whole lot clearer. >
When I said "me" I wasn't actually being 100% serious, which you seem to have missed.

OTOH, I wasn't being 0% serious either. The point is that I have the right to decide for myself what is acceptable to me.

The sum of people like myself making that sort of decision results in some sort of "community" (I'm not going to define this further) making such a decision.

What you don't seem to take account of is that the development of equal temperament (or any other sort of temperament for that matter) has gone through a similar process. There are all sorts of historic documents that early supporters of equal temperament were thought to be affected by alcohol - Frescobaldi springs to mind - but nevertheless after a period of time a community of musicians accepted it as valid.

Note that I'm not saying that because I like it Bach did it that way. I'm merely saying that IMHO he might have, and that the way the temperament sounds is such that the possibility shouldn't be excluded.

Also, CPE Bach had nothing to do with it. I don't ask my son if I'm right in such matters. (again, don't take this comment 100% seriously)

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 17, 2007):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Now the reason I remarked on that fortepiano F minor sinfonia is nothing very fancy or aesthetically convoluted: just that certain thirds (I think Ab-C and Db-F) actually sounded wider and less harmonious than I expected, given Brad's tuning. I suspect the pianner may not have been tempered quite as advertised. But Brad should be much more sensitive to the technically correct tuning of his recipe than I; so I wondered whether the recording really has the Lehman seal of approval, so far as temperament goes. >
The temperament sounds basically right, as far as I can tell without measuring it in any way other than my tuning-by-ear experience; but as you should notice in there, in the top half of the instrument, especially, he's got some problems with wobbly unisons (listen closely to single notes in melodies...for example, the starting F in both that sinfonia and the two-part invention). That's contributing more inharmonic tang to the thing than the temperament is!

Also, at least the top A and C on the instrument are not quite true as octaves from the middle; I'm noticing that especially melodically in some of the variations. Such things happen sometimes, and instruments go out of tune during recording sessions too. Ah well. (Riemer has done better overall here with his unisons and octaves than he did a couple of years ago in his Art of Fugue recording, which is ostensibly in Kellner.)

Obviously, O Tom, if you are interested in hearing what this F minor piece really sounds like under better controlled conditions (and not merely setting up straw man arguments/complaints against it on fortepiano)...you're going to have to do this yourself on a single 8 on a harpsichord. Tune it yourself and play parts or all of the piece, with your head as close to the soundboard as is feasible. I know you have this playing skill, as I've heard the clavichord samples of yourself on your web site. And I'm sure you know where to find at least three or four sets of tuning-by-ear instructions which should see you through the project.

And/or listen to my recording, or get Watchorn's when it comes out. All of this is much clearer and purer on harpsichords anyway!

 

Yet Another Goldberg Variations

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (August 29, 2007):
Has anyone heard of Simone Dinnerstein? According to this article she made this recording herself and it was picked up by the Telarc label. http://www.slate.com/id/2172856

Neil Halliday wrote (August 30, 2007):
[Toi Nessie Russell] Amazing. "The ripple and shimmer of Debussy" (no.28). Wonderful playing.Another example of Bach effortlessly spanning centuries.

Thanks for the link.

Shelly wrote (August 30, 2007):
Simone Dinnerstein
-----------------------
Lots of info at Amazon!

 

'Goldberg' aria at home

Tom Dent wrote (March 30, 2008):
I vaguely remember some discussion of ways to play the 'Goldberg' aria (which first appeared as a free-standing piece in the Anna Magdalena notebook)...

Here are a couple of takes from an evening with a little digital recording device - see the most recently added files at: http://www.thphys.uni-heidelberg.de/~dent/

As far as I can hear, stylistically the piece belongs rather close alongside the Sarabandes of the G maj and E maj French Suites.

 

Continue on Part 8

Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
Comparative Review: Goldberg Variations on Piano:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Comparative Review: Round-Up of Goldberg Variations Recordings:
Recordings | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
GV - R. Barami, J. Crossland, O. Dantone, D. Propper | GV - M. Cole | GV - J. Crossland | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr [Lehman] | GV - R. Egarr [Satz] | GV - R. Egarr [Bright] | GV - Feltsman | GV- P. Hantai | GV - P. Hantaï (2nd) | GV - K. Haugsand | GV - A. Hewitt | GV - R. Holloway | GV- H. Ingolfsdottir | GV - J. Jando | GV - B. Lagacé | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV- K. Lifschitz | GV - A. Newman | GV - T. Nikolayeva 3rd | GV- J. Payne | GV - W. Riemer | GV - C. Rousset | GV - S. Schepkin, M. Yudina & P. Serkin | GV - A. Schiff [ECM] | GV- H. Small | GV - M. Suzuki | GV - G. Toth | GV - K.v. Trich | GV - R. Tureck [Satz] | GV - R. Tureck [Lehman] | GV- B. Verlet | GV - A. Vieru | GV - J. Vinikour | GV - A. Weissenberg | GV - Z. Xiao-Mei
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - D..Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr | GV - V. Feltsman | GV - C. Frisch | GV - G. Gould | GV - P. Hantaï | GV - R. Holloway | GV - J. Jando | GV - K. Jarrett | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV - V. Makin | GV - A. Newman | GV - S. Ross | GV - A. Schiff | GV - R. Schirmer | GV - H. Small | GV - G. Sultan | GV - G. Toth | GV - R. Tureck | GV - S. Vartolo | GV - B. Verlet
Article:
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [T. Braatz]

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