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Temperament / Key Character / Tuning

Part 3

 

 

Continue from Part 2

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 8, 2003):
Hugo Saldias requested: >>Please look into the Die Kantaten written by the amazon critic Michael Wersin and tell me plesae if you agree on the basis and may be it could be included in this web site to guide us all in how to eveluate any Bach<<
I was unsuccessful in calling up the article that you are referring to, so I decided to do the next best thing -- a Google search which turned up the following:

Michael Wersin: (as a bass (formerly a tenor) he is singing Schubert’s Die Winterreise on Dec. 5-6, 2003 in Mooshausen, Germany and he is a member of the Allgäuer Cantata Choir (and sometimes conducts it.)

Here is a short biography:

Geboren 1966 in Bielefeld, Studium in München: Gesang, Chorleitung, Gehörbildung und Musikwissenschaft. Heute weitgehend freiberuflich tätig als Sänger, Gesangspädagoge, Kirchenmusiker und Musikjournalist; Lehraufträge an der LMU München und am Bayrischen Priesterseminar (Georgianum). Promotion über Johann Sebastian Bach ist als Nächstes avisiert. Verheiratet, wohnt in der Nähe von Augsburg. [born in Bielefeld in 1966, studied in Munich: Singing, Choir conducting, (a new course name referring to development of hearing), and musicology. Today a freelance singer, vocal teacher, church musician, and music reporter; has also taught part-time at the LMU in Munich and the Georgianum (Bavarian Seminary for Priests.) Plans to obtain a doctorate on the subject of J.S.Bach. Married and lives near Augsburg, Germany.]

In his critique of:

Advent Cantatas conducted by Gardiner Archiv Produktion/Universal 463 588-2

Michael Wersin stated:
>>Angesichts des Gesamteindrucks der Aufnahme fragt man sich jedoch hier und da, warum die vom Prinzip her etablierte und überzeugende "historische Aufführungspraxis" oft allzu schnelle Tempi und eine ruppige, über-rhetorische Musizierweise mit sich bringt. Die Musiker der Barockzeit müssen wohl sehr nervöse Menschen gewesen sein und immer ganz wenig Zeit gehabt haben.<<

“Regarding the general impression of this recording, the question arises here and there, why it is that the ‘historical performance practice,’ which is based on {musical} principles and is otherwise satisfying, is often accompanied by tempi that are much too fast and a ragged/coarse/shabby manner of making music that has placed an overemphasis on rhetorical mannerisms. The musicians during the baroque period must have been very nervous individuals who were constantly under the pressure of time.”

This simply affirms many of the opinions already expressed regarding many of the HIP recordings of Bach cantatas on Aryeh's site.

Bradley Lehman wrote (Maay 8, 2003):
<< Bradley Lehman wrote: discerning musicians have listened to equal temperament and decided that it sounds bad. (And other discerning musicians have come to the opposite conclusion too, of course.) I'm with the former set. >>
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: If every discerning musician besides you were to have proclaimed the virtues of equal temperament, would you have decided otherwise? >
No; equal temperament still sounds horrible when I hear it next to the alternatives. This is very easy to demonstrate (and I have done so in a lecture): set up different temperaments on different registers of the same harpsichord, and switch back and forth rapidly. The difference of character is obvious. The difference of character IN THE MUSIC is obvious.

If every discerning gourmet in the world said that McDonald's serves good food, would you decide otherwise?


<< What makes you think that J S Bach really meant "equal temperament" but was clueless and/or sloppy when he titled his work "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier"? >>
< What sort of faith makes you believe the opposite? >
The way the music sounds when played in well temperaments. What more practical answer can I give you than that one? <shrug>

<< If he had really meant equal temperament, he could have titled the work "Das Gleichschwebende Klavier". He didn't.
http://www.google.com/search?q=gleichschwebende >>
< Is anything proven about Bach by a counterfactual assertion? Does a citation of evidence make that assertion a scholarly inquiry into fact? >

That seems to be Mr Braatz' standard method of "scholarly" inquiry here on this list, looking things up in his books until he can triumphantly present the evidence (usually devoid of appropriate context); and his method appears to convince some people here (or, at least, to convince himself). Why don't you challenge him on that method? Why are you picking only on me?

<< Isn't it possible that Bach REALLY DID want >>
< No - in the present, Bach's intentions retain no authenticity. >
Agreed; but is it not still of interest what Bach probably meant? Is it not worth taking Bach seriously?

<< Have you seen the (rather famous) article by Barnes in which he has analyzed the WTC harmonically and melodically, and come up with the most likely well temperament for this work? He examined the textures in the music to see what Bach emphasized or avoided, as evidence of a temperament choice. Barnes came up with a 1/5 comma well temperament. >>
< It was Barnes's choice to make, and should be credited as his own, made by conscious deliberation, and not Bach's, by mystical devotion. >
Of course. With the exception of yourself, nobody here has said that there is any mystical devotion or other mumbo-jumbo divination going on.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: Now back to Brad, who sometimes seems to delight in leading me and others who are reading his posts in circles without fully concentrating on one item: what did Bach mean when he wrote the title, “Das wohltemperierte Klavier” and just what does ‘wohl temperiert’ mean in the German language? Brad has now led us far afield (using Google) to obtain information which he hopes will answer his question:
>> What makes you think that J S Bach really meant "equal temperament" but was clueless and/or sloppy when he titled his work "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier"? If he had really meant equal temperament, he could have titled the work "Das Gleichschwebende Klavier". He didn't.<<
Here Brad reveals his lack of understanding of the German language because he does not bother to check out the meanings of key words. If he wanted to know the history of a term in English, he would consult the OED, but when it comes to German, he simply ‘wings’ it by relying on secondary sources offered by a Google search or by Owen Jorgensen. >
I'm not relying on any secondary sources of a Google search! If I remember correctly, I learned the term "Gleichschwebende" more than 15 years ago when I read Murray Barbour's book...
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0306704226/
...and Easley Blackwood's book The Structure of Recognizable Diatonic Tunings.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0691091293
Blackwood's book is as much a mathematics text as a musical exposition: he goes into mathematical proofs of the results when fifths are used to generate temperaments. Blackwood develops theorems that can be applied to any size of fifth, whether pure (in Pythagorean tuning) or narrow (in meantone and 12-tone equal) or wide.

Blackwood is also a composer (right there in your Chicagoland, Tom) who has worked with all sorts of styles and scales. Check out his CD of microtonal compositions:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000018Z8/
In these he has set up a synthesizer to play many other systems of equal temperament (13 notes per octave, 14, 15, 16, ...up to 24) and these are ear-benders. :) And on the other hand, his symphonies and chamber music sound as if they could have been written in the 19th century. And he's a terrific pianist, playing Berg and Ives and Copland....

< The next significant entry on “gleichschwebende Temperatur” occurs in Riemann’s “Geschichte der Musiktheorie” (1921): als musikalischer Fachausdruck, besonders in der Verbindung “gleichschwebende Temperatur” mit der jene Stimmung der Instrumente bezeichnet wird, in der alle gleichartigen Intervalle in gleichem Maße und Verhältnis von ihrer Naturreinheit einbüßen, um die ‚gleiche Schwebung’ höher bzw. niedriger gestimmt werden. Gegen Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts von Andreas Werckmeister als Forderung aufgestellt und von ihm als ‚wohl temperierten Zustand’ bezeichnet, welcher Ausdruck hinter der kurz nach 1700 aufkommenden Bezeichnung‚ gleichschwebende Temperatur’ im 18. Jahrhundert. sehr bald zurücktritt. [„as a technical musical term, particularly in connection with the phrase „equally-beating temperament” which was used to designate the tuning scheme of instruments in which all similar intervals lose some of their natural purity to an equal degree and in relationship to each other and are tuned accordingly higher or lower. Toward the end of the 17th century Andreas Werckmeister called for a “wohl temperierten Zustand” {a well tempered condition} which was the expression that was soon replaced by a term, ‘gleichschwebende Temperatur’ {equal temperament} that arose in the early 1700s and quickly supplanted ‘wohl temperiert.’]
According to Rieman, Werckmeister wanted a ‘well tempered’ [wohl temperiert] condition, but this was quickly replaced by ‘well tempered’ [gleichschwebende] temperament.
In any case, ‘gleichschwebend’ is a rather poor choice to designate ‘equal’ temperament (as Dr. Billeter has pointed out.) Technically each interval, as you proceed up or down by semitones, will not be equal (equal number of beats,) but according to Riemann (1921), Werckmeister demanded a ‘wohl temperiert’ tuning {Riemann assumes that this refers to an ‘equal’ temperament}, the term used by Bach. This was, however, replaced (according to Riemann) in the early 18th century during Bach’s lifetime by the term, “gleichschwebend” {Riemann, once again, assumes that this means the same thing as ‘equal’ but he gives no documentation on the history of this word, which according to the DWB can only be documented in the last quarter of the 18th century at the earliest (Heinse)} Unless someone else, (Brad, how about it?) can come up with an earlier documentation of the term ‘gleichschwebend’ = ‘equal’ temperament, it is impossible for Bach to have used this term for the WTK as Brad suggested that he could have. >
Tom, please read your own writing and check out your own logical (in)consistency! Right here, two paragraphs ago, you have confirmed that (according to Riemann) the term "gleichschwebende Temperatur" (for equal temperament) was used in the early 1700s. So, how is it 'impossible' for Bach to have used this term, if he really had meant equal temperament? This just looks like wishful thinking on your part!

< When Owen Jorgensen in his book “Tuning” (1991) (Nomenclature page shared by Brad – it did not fully load for me on my computer - no footnotes were given, which in this case would be very important) states the following opinion as he makes up his own definitions, there is no reference given to the contexts and dates as to just when, where, and under which circumstances the term ‘wol temperirt’ is used in German. Allowing for Brad to share the all-important footnotes which might shed light on this matter, I do not want to prejudge Jorgensen’s assertions, but currently I am rather concerned that he (Jorgensen) may not have investigated the word history of this term thoroughly. >
The footnotes are there; try reloading the page.
http://www.vaix.net/~bpl/jorgensen.htm

Believe me, I'm not relying ONLY on anything Owen Jorgensen says; I have plenty of quibbles with his scholarly methods and some of the other conclusions he reaches elsewhere in his book. But (in my opinion) his introductory chapter about nomenclature is OK; if I didn't think so, I wouldn't have cited it here.

And if you want to learn about how we tuners do our jobs using beat rates, check out my page of examples at:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/temper-examples.html
See the gray charts on that page. The beat rates (in any temperament) change on every note as we go up the scale, because the frequencies of the fundamental pitch are higher. In all the regular temperaments, the thing that remains constant is the ratio, not the number of beats. It's geometric (i.e. by multiplication), not arithmetic (by addition).

That's why it's handy to have a spreadsheet or other method of calculating all those beat rates. There is a free one here, written by me as part of my doctoral project in this area.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/temper.html
or http://how.to/tune

I've also seen the spreadsheet prepared by the organ-builder John Brombaugh, but his is not freely available.

See also the outstanding bibliography of tuning resources:
http://www.xs4all.nl/~huygensf/doc/bib.html
This is the one that used to be hosted at
ftp://ella.mills.edu/ccm/tuning/papers/bib.html
but evidently has moved to that mirror site (and elsewhere), so I guess I'll update the link from the bottom of my web page....

Tom, I'd encourage you to check out as many of those as you are able to, rather than simply running to one convenient 100-year-old source (Riemann) and believing you've learned enough from him.

< Quoting from Jorgensen who quotes from Rousseau’s Dictionnaire de musique (1779), really does not add much of anything to this discussion. It begins to resemble some of the evidence seriously put forth by proponents of the ‘shortened accompaniment in secco recitatives’: references that are not specifically related in time and place to Bach’s tenure in Leipzig, Germany. >
You wish.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 8, 2003):
Brad stated: >>Tom, please read your own writing and check out your own logical (in)consistency! Right here, two paragraphs ago, you have confirmed that (according to Riemann) the term "gleichschwebende Temperatur" (for equal temperament) was used in the early 1700s. So, how is it 'impossible' for Bach to have used this term, if he really had meant equal temperament? This just looks like wishful thinking on your part!<<
You don't seem to get it: I am reporting here as objectively as possible what I have found and have pointed out that:

1) Riemann, in the 20th century is looking back (without revealing any of his sources - we are supposed to believe him on his authority) at the 18th century.

2) The earliest evidence of "gleichschwebende Temperatur" as a musicological, technical term is at the end of the 18th century (Heinse)

My personal view of this is:

What Riemann is doing here is, in essence, 'connecting the dots' between Heinse's use of the term (late 18th century) and Riemann's own assumption (early 20th century) that "wol temperirt" was gradually going out of fashion as a viable concept after Werckmeister had used it at the beginning of the 18th century. 'Nature abhors a vacuum' so Riemann makes the 'leap of faith' to fill out the gap between the beginning and the end of 18th century without supplying evidence that would support his contention. Riemann is forced to assume that the term 'wol temperirt' = 'equal temperament' (Riemann certainly must have been aware of the approximate date of Bach's WTK and the latter's use of this term) did not simply die out with Bach's use, but that somewhere "gleichschwebende Temperatur" = 'equal temperament' replaced 'wol temperiert' without a gap. It would not make sense to have the use of the German term for 'equal temperament' die out in the middle of the 18th century only to be once again revived at the end of the century. Somehow the mind wants to see a slow, but steady development taking place, not a complete demfollowed by a fairly sudden reappearance. Perhaps, also, Riemann wants us to believe that 'wol temperirt' and 'gleichschwebend' temporarily existed side by side with the same meaning for both terms until 'gleichschwebende Temperatur' eventually took over.

Brad stated: >>Believe me, I'm not relying ONLY on anything Owen Jorgensen says; I have plenty of quibbles with his scholarly methods and some of the other conclusions he reaches elsewhere in his book. But (in my opinion) his introductory chapter about nomenclature is OK; if I didn't think so, I wouldn't have cited it here.<<
I tried loading your pages again and this time it worked! Thanks!

Brad, don't you find it exasperating when Jorgensen makes a blanket statement such as this:

"In recent years, the term ‘well tempered’ developed to include also the meaning of ‘equal tempered.’ Thus a term such as ‘well tempered’ has changed its meaning through the centuries to accommodate whatever was considered the most proper or appropriate temperaments of the time."

and then Jorgensen does not even include any significant evidence from the article which he is citing: Peter Williams, 'Bach, Handel, Scarlatti Tercentenary Essays,' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 293-310.

Just what does Peter Williams know that is not available elsewhere in this world. Wouldn't this article which supports Jorgensen's extremely broad assertion, for which Jorgensen gives no evidence on the pages you cite or in the footnote, be of the greatest importance for a professor who is an expert on this subject and teaches it? Or is Peter Williams simply rehashing material from secondary sources upon which we are supposed to rely because he (Williams) believes they are reliable?

Bradley Lehman wrote (Maay 8, 2003):
<< When Owen Jorgensen in his book “Tuning” (1991) (Nomenclature page shared by Brad – it did not fully load for me on my computer - no footnotes were given, which in this case would be very important) states the following opinion as he makes up his own definitions, there is no reference given to the contexts and dates as to just when, where, and under which circumstances the term ‘wol temperirt’ is used in German. Allowing for Brad to share the all-important footnotes which might shed light on this matter, I do not want to prejudge Jorgensen’s assertions, but currently I am rather concerned that he (Jorgensen) may not have investigated the word history of this term thoroughly. >>
< The footnotes are there; try reloading the page.
http://www.vaix.net/~bpl/jorgensen.htm >
I have added a scan of Jorgensen's chapter 48, since he references that in the footnotes of chapter 3....

Chapter 48 is where he explains the modern term of "well temperament"...that is, the 'new' tuning ("unrestricted"...all keys can be used) in the 18th century, as opposed to the 'old' or 'common' tunings (regular or modified meantone temperaments).

Here's the book these are from:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0870132903

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, point taken.

Now consider this: yes, you are "reporting here as objectively as possible what [you] have found" but you (and Riemann) are also still laboring under the assumption that "Wohltemperiert" EVER meant equal temperament (as the most likely option) during Bach's career. Your "objectivity" is colored by that assumption, that foregone conclusion! So is Riemann's. [I agree with your assessment that we shouldn't rely on Riemann's statements.]

You seem not to have got this point: "Wohltemperiert" (to Bach) may simply mean 'the new, unrestricted methods of tuning in which all keys can be used' as opposed to the common/vulgar/normal tuning, i.e. meantone and its flavors. That's what Jorgensen is pointing out in chapter 48 (reload
http://www.vaix.net/~bpl/jorgensen.htm again).

And those methods of unrestricted/circulating temperament for keyboards, including Werckmeister's from the 1690s, are NOT equal temperament. Keyboards are not lutes and viols. Lutes and viols have limited scope for unequal temperaments, because their frets go straight across the fingerboard. Keyboards have more flexibility than that; and these 'new' unrestricted temperaments (new c1700) were developed to take advantage of that, to do better (an aesthetic judgment) than simply slapping equal temperament on there. They knew about equal temperament, and they rejected it; they invented circulating temperaments that sounded better (to them) than equal temperament.

Is that picture clear? New vs old. Not equal vs unequal!

Equal temperament then gradually gained ground through the 19th century as the western world became more industrialized: interchangeable parts in manufacturing, scientific 'precision' in tuning (as opposed to using a trained musical ear and aesthetic judgment), mechanization. By Riemann's time, this had become the new norm. A new "new vs old" c1900, where the "old" was now the unequal circulating temperaments, and the "new" was equal. As you correctly point out, Riemann was wrong to conflate this. And it is equally wrong to assume that the "new" of 1700 was equal temperament, on keyboards. That is imposing 20th century values on the 18th century!

=====

What do you think of Bach's model for the WTC: Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer's "Ariadne Musica" of 1715...20 preludes and fugues in almost all the keys?

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you s much. I owe you one...

Santu De Silva wrote (May 13, 2003):
This [below] is a wonderful post; it contains some of the most interesting questions in music, namely the color and feel of keys—in the equal temperament context. There was a--highly subjective, I thought--theory of the colors associated with various keys, which most Romantic composers subscribed to, I believe. D: yellow, bright, etc. C: white. Scientifically this makes little sense, except that on most instruments, certain keys feel different than others; e.g. in A major, most stringed instruments can use open strings (if they choose to) more often than in other keys, and flute music is often written in D (or B minor), which keys flutists tend to prefer. The topic even has a name, something like chromatic-something...(help me, people!)

About sharps and flats: when a sharp is used as an accidental, it is broadly understood that it is expected to resolve upwards, as though it were a leading-note; even if it doesn't do so right away, I believe that 'resolution'--even if there is no dissonance--is ultimately expected, either within a few notes, or with the assistance of another part, yes? The opposite is true with a flat; it is expected to behave as if it were a dominant seventh, and resolve downwards.

My question is this: I was given to understand that the upward tendency of a sharp--at least an accidental--was enhanced by a string player by making it _even sharper_. Is this generally true? And that a flat could be made more powerful by flattening it further. This is one of the first questions I asked Brad when he joined the list, in the context of unequal temperaments, and his answer was that as far as some of the mean-tone tunings were concerned, the sharps were actually slightly flatter than the
Pythagorean intervals demanded. I recognize that what string players do is different from what unequal temperament does, but what I don't see is the relation between them.

Perhaps the sharpening of sharps makes sense in the dynamical picture of a moving line of music, where the Pythagorean intervals makes sense in the static picture of "still" music, viewed as a neautiful progression of chords. I'm just improvising here.

>>> Bradley Lehman wrote (May 6, 2003) >>>
As for characteristics in equal temperament, there IS a theory going around (within the last ten years, mainly promulgated by a pair of people in Michigan) that the 12 equally-tempered notes each have a distinctive vowel color. They haven't proved it empirically. I do give it somecredence, as it aligns fairly well with my own perceptions (I can often hear if music is in sharps or flats, even when it's in equal temperament, due to the 'colors' I sense from it...not visual colors as such, but tonal brightness...it's hard to explain). But is that learned from listening to tonal music for many years and making associations? Or is it innate? That's what they haven't shown yet.

[from another message]
<< G# and Ab ARE different notes, and always have been, functionally (until atonal music came around). >>
< What makes them functionally different, as opposed to other enharmonics? >
Is this a rhetorical question or a serious question? Judging from your generally erudite postings, you DO understand functional harmony (dominant chords, subdominants, mediants, secondary dominants, diminished sevenths, etc.), do you not?

And were you paying attention when I patiently explained the functional difference between chromatic semitones and diatonic semitones?

< What has atonal music to do with any of this? (You're surely not referring to Schoenberg's and Webern's arrangements of Bach's music.) >

....[major snips]

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 13, 2003):
< Santu De Silva wrote: This [below] is a wonderful post; it contains some of the most interesting questions in music, namely the color and feel of keys—in the equal temperament context. There was a--highly subjective, I thought--theory of the colors associated with various keys, which most Romantic composers subscribed to, I believe. D: yellow, bright, etc. C: white. Scientifically this makes little sense, except that on most instruments, certain keys feel different than others; e.g. in A major, most stringed instruments can use open strings (if they choose to) more often than in other keys, and flute music is often written in D (or B minor), which keys flutists tend to prefer. The topic even has a name, something like chromatic-something...(help me, people!) >
Rita Steblin's dissertation was about this key-color business: see: http://www.urpress.com/1690.HTM
and: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1580460410/

I haven't seen this new 2nd edition yet, but I read the first one some years ago.

< About sharps and flats: when a sharp is used as an accidental, it is broadly understood that it is expected to resolve upwards, as though it were a leading-note; even if it doesn't do so right away, I believe that 'resolution'--even if there is no dissonance--is ultimately expected, either within a few notes, or with the assistance of another part, yes? The opposite is true with a flat; it is expected to behave as if it were a dominant seventh, and resolve downwards. <
Broadly speaking, that is correct.

< My question is this: I was given to understand that the upward tendency of a sharp--at least an accidental--was enhanced by a string player by making it even sharper. Is this generally true? And that a flat could be made more powerful by flattening it further. This is one of the first questions I asked Brad when he joined the list, in the context of unequal temperaments, and his answer was that as far as some of the mean-tone tunings were concerned, the sharps were actually slightly flatter than the Pythagorean intervals demanded. I recognize that what string players do is different from what unequal temperament does, but what I don't see is the relation between them.

Perhaps the sharpening of sharps makes sense in the dynamical picture of a moving line of music, where the Pythagorean intervals makes sense in the static picture of "still" music, viewed as a neautiful progression of chords. I'm just improvising here. >
The extra sharpening of the sharps definitely makes them less stable, at least...the farther out of tune they are (as major thirds or major sevenths against the bass of the current harmony), the more they "need" to resolve upward....

A pure major third is simply a 5:4 ratio. If the lower note is, say 440 cycles per second, the upper one would be 550. When these two notes are played together, their upper harmonics at 2200 coincide exactly and are reinforced. Also, the "difference tone" of 110 (two octaves below that lower note) becomes audible, and it too is in tune, exactly two octaves below 440. Net result: big-time resonance. (**)

A major third derived from Pythagorean tuning (a cycle of pure fifths) is much higher than that: 81:64. That's 556.875 Hz, if the lower note is 440. The lowest harmonic frequency those two notes would have in common is 35640 Hz....way, way up there. And the difference tone of 116.875 is out of tune: much too sharp to be heard as a decent two octaves below 440...just a nebulous and restless buzzing. No appreciable resonance here.

In 12-note equal temperament, that "major third" interval is (in the nearest rational approximation) 3259034:2586697, which is approximately 6064:4813. That's 554.3+ Hz. (There is no exact rational representation of this note, because equal temperament is based on fifths tempered by an irrational number: the twelfth root of 2.) No appreciable resonance here.

The simpler the ratio, with small integers, the more obvious it is that the interval is pure: the ear grabs it right away, picking up that added resonance of the reinforced harmonics and the difference tone. 81:64 is at least rational, although it's highly unstable; and you can draw your own conclusions about irrational intervals.

Does that help?

And see also my site that I mentioned earlier: http://how.to/tune

(**) An easy way to experience "difference tones": get two recorders (Blockfloeten) and play two notes that are exactly in tune as a perfect fifth, perfect fourth, or major third. That low buzzing that seems to be inside your head is the difference tone, as one frequency is subtracted from the other.

Check out the ending of Brahms' second symphony, the last few seconds, if you can find a performance in which the three trombone players really lock their triad into purity. D-F#-A, with the F# played exactly in tune with the D, that is, much lower than in equal temperament. Yowsa, what a thrilling and resonant sound! All three of those notes are overtone components of the D two octaves below the lowest notes, it all locks in, and three trombones sound like about eight players making a huge chord.


hpsi recordings in equal temperament

Bradley Lehman
wrote (May 8, 2003):
Someone asked me off-list: < Any ET harpsichord recordings we could use as a comparison to others? >
Walcha's recording of the WTC; Landowska in anything; George Malcolm in the Chromatic F&F.

Zev Bechler wrote (May 9, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] You mentioned >Walcha's recording of the WTC;< Would you know where I can get it ? Thank you,

Riccardo Nughes wrote (May 9, 2003):
[To Zev Bechler] Sorry for the intrusion :) AFIK the WTC books I&II by Walcha have been re-released on cd in Italy (2 x CD-set) and France (a 5 CD box featuring also Goldbergs and other works) only. For some reasons (to me totally unknown..) the Italian leg of Universal has published some cd-boxes (Beethoven symphonies by Karajan, Kubelik or Bernstein) not issued elsewhere. Here is a link to the French issue: http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004UT8G/
The Italian pressing was a limited edition and it's now OOP.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 9, 2003):
Bradley Lehman Walcha's recording of the WTC on CD? No idea, sorry; I have it in an LP set that I bought in 1984. It was recorded in 1973 and 1974.

Unless you're especially a Walcha fan, I'd recommend avoiding this set. Save your money and buy something else, almost anything else: this is (IMO) an extremely boring performance, and not only because of the temperament. Walcha doesn't put the music across with panache; he merely hits (and I mean "hits"!) the notes in a stiffly literal and metronomic manner. He has hardly any discernible phrasing, only a steady and featureless legato.

Plus he wasn't a harpsichordist: his touch is heavy onthe keys (lots of thumping), and he strikes all the notes exactly together instead of staggering them expressively, and his phrase endings often seem unintentionally and suddenly accented (as if he didn't know how to project dynamics on the harpsichord). That is, he doesn't play the instrument idiomatically, with grace and beauty and finesse; rather, he punches his way along, bang, bang, whack, whack, and the harpsichord might as well be a typewriter! When the music is especially difficult, he chooses ponderously slow tempos and plays cautiously.... (Did anybody ever tell Walcha that harpsichord music can sing? And speak? And dance?)

His instruments here are a 1640 Ruckers for book 1, and a 1755 Hemsch for book 2 (both original, and recently restored), and they look wonderful in the photos.

This set is perhaps an Urtext-lover's dream (**): original 17th/18th century harpsichords with good tone, clearly recorded, and just the notes as they appear on the page, with zero interpretation from the player and zero character from the temperament. I've listened to this set probably a dozen times (only) in the past 19 years; it's THAT boring. (I have one of the sides from Book 2 playing right now, to remind myself what it's like, and I can hardly stay in the room.) I probably sound like a crank for saying this, but I feel Walcha gives us all of the score and precious little of the music. Ugh.

The Duke was right: "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."

The instruments (original instruments, in this case) don't make music: people do.

(**) I have nothing against Urtext editions, of course.

Zev Bechler wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Dozen times ?? That boring ??
Anyway, so what do you make of his organ version ? I don't recall you ever expressed your opinion on that one.

Charles Francis wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have the Walcha WTK on CD, but unfortunately must agree with every word above. Save your money, get a MIDI-sequencer and you'll get almost the same performance. For a good Equal Tempered rendition on harpsichord, go for Moroney - he's anything but metrical. In fact, Brad has argued that he sounds like he's reading while playing, but to me he sounds like he's making up the music as he goes along. This difference of opinion is probably because Brad doesn't improvise much.

Zev Bechler wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Do you know where I can get this boring disc ? BTW, if I am not totally gaga, it was Brad who told us some time ago the same boredom symptom about Moroney.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (May 10, 2003):
Has someone read my previous message on this topic? It seems no :(
However the Walcha WTC is available from amazon.fr

Charles Francis wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Zev Bechler] My boring CD recording is "Le clavier Bien Tempéré" and is on Deutsche Grammophon Nr. 457 947-2 (Book I) and Nr. 457 950-2 (Book II). Both books are available from Amazon Germany's z-shops - I'm not too sure what z-shops are, mind! Here's the links:
http://s1.amazon.de/exec/varzea/ts/exchange-glance/Y04Y0322091Y2858890
http://s1.amazon.de/exec/varzea/ts/exchange-glance/Y01Y1106956Y7147712

You are correct about Brad and Moroney - sometimes he (Brad) displays impeccable taste, but after all no one is perfect ;-) Brad would probably prefer the more florid rendering of Ottavio Dantone (Book 1 Wer(c)kmeister, Book II Kirnberger) - a nice performance but ultimately lacking the depth of Moroney.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2003):
< Charles Francis wrote: (...): performance. For a good Equal Tempered rendition on harpsichord, go for Moroney - he's anything but metrical. In fact, Brad has argued that he sounds like he's reading while playing, but to me he sounds like he's making up the music as he goes along. This difference of opinion is probably because Brad doesn't improvise much. >
Charles, you must be joking (or misinformed...or just out to take potshots and be insulting?).

I improvise all the time. Why, just last night I played a concert at Montpelier (president James Madison's 18th century mansion, in central Virginia) where I improvised almost 100% of the program. Pieces are different every time I play them. If they're fully notated, I improvise new interpretive details, rhythmic points, and ornaments etc in almost every performance to suit the occasion; and if the pieces are only figured bass (or unfigured bass, as in last night's show), the whole thing is improvised. This is standard procedure. I get some of these gigs because my colleagues know I can improvise reliably and expressively.

Pshaw!

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2003):
Moroney

< Charles Francis wrote: (...): performance. For a good Equal Tempered rendition on harpsichord, go for Moroney - he's anything but metrical. In fact, Brad has argued that he sounds like he's reading while playing, (...) >
And, since you're misrepresenting me anyway, let's set this straight: I have not yet heard Moroney's recording of the WTC, nor am I eager to do so. I've heard his solo work in the Art of Fugue, French Suites, the Byrd pavans and galliards, a Purcell disc, and some French repertoire. None of those recorded performances have struck me as...um, how shall we say this nicely?...Moroney displaying much imagination beyond the written notes.

Moroney is a good editor: strong scholarly work for his printed editions. And that's how he sounds when he plays. Once he's established his clean text that puts all the notes out there, that's it. Clearly there are some people who enjoy this...um, restraint.

The establishment of a basic clean score is only the FIRST step in learning to play a piece!

Contnue of this part of the discussion was omitted.

Zev Bechler wrote (May 11, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks, Charles,

Charles Francis wrote (May 11, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Charles, you must be joking (or misinformed...or just out to take potshots and be insulting?). >
Just trying to explain why you don't rave about Moroney's WTK.

< I improvise all the time. Why, just last night I played a concert at Montpelier (president James Madison's 18th century mansion, in central Virginia) where I improvised almost 100% of the program. Pieces are different every time I play them. If they're fully notated, I improvise new interpretive details, rhythmic points, and ornaments etc in almost every performance to suit the occasion; and if the pieces are only figured bass (or unfigured bass, as in last night's show), the whole thing is improvised. This is standard procedure. I get some of these gigs because my colleagues know I can improvise reliably and expressively. >
One can question the purpose of playing the music of others. After all, no one uses other peoples words when they speak. One can certainly read a book for pleasure or study Churchill's speeches, but that is very different from reading them aloud - the prerogative of the actor.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] And for all those that live in the USA

The Prof. Helmut Walcha 5 CD set is available not only through amazon fr (france) BUT ALSO in amazon.com.

Just go to amazon.com, type his name Helmut Walcha and you will be able to pay in US DOLLARS and not in EUROS>

My personal taste is:

After the Anthoby Newman's recording of the WTC next is Walcha...

Just read his biography and see the great effort he made to memorize all this: it took him 15 YEARS. Yes his c.vitae it says so.I admire any person that studies Bach keyboard works with such intensity. Then go to amazon.com and read the REVIEWS of his recordings from people and none of them puts him so low as Dr Lehman does. May be you play them better Dr Lehman. Please do a 5 CD set so we can buy it and decide... And remember: from memory...

Zev Bechler wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] True words. I am with you.

You mention Walcha's autobiography -- was it ever translated into English? As to the US Amazon.com list I found there only the Goldberg but neitherthe 5-set nor the WTC.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Zeb Bechler] I will get back to you later one(sorry not time now) and give you the address of Walcha biography and also it has all his recordings available not only in USA europe but also Japan... His wife it says had to play each voice separete and he will emorize one by one...Amazing... Wait please tilll later on for the information and pictures of the great musician (peters edition did published in 1968 3 volumes of his compositions).

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Zev Bechler] see pls: http://my.dreamwiz.com/fischer/Walcha/walcha-e.htm
watch the capital letter on the first walcha and non on the second.

Zev Bechler wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] Thanks, I am waiting,

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Zev Bechler] I have it:Please copy all as i show you (also Walcha/walcha that is first time with capital letters second time without them.Recordings are also there: http://my.dreamwiz.com/fischer/Walcha/walcha-e.htm

Please let me know if all ok and your opinion...



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Last update: ýJuly 17, 2004 ý19:01:01