Friday, August 17, 2012

Open Goldberg Variations: Kimiko Ishizaka makes a great public domain recording

Kimiko Ishizaka has released a free, public domain recording of the goldberg variations.  They are good.  Also, she is German and a powerlifter (honest!).

Download or listen now:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Dramatic Delay or Excessive Phrasing

I tend to like my Bach "dry".

One of my pet peeves is what I refer to as "Dramatic Delay". This is where the musician holds a note longer than is specified in the score to somehow build tension, drama, or something in the music. Based on my years of piano, I think it stems from music teachers encouraging their students to "interpret" or "feel" the music. In some musical settings (like when listening to music I don't care for anyway), I really don't mind. But when you start messing with Bach, you're messing with counterpoint (explicit or implied) and so you are making a mess of one voice while trying to emphasize the other. IMHO, Bach (and most pre-romantic era music) should be played with strict timing and no undo emphasis on one voice over another. Bach is great, in part, because every voice is interesting. So, I find it highly ironic that while a musician thinks they are doing Bach a favor by getting all dramatic with one phrase, they have inadvertently maligned the other voice or (typically) voices.

Here are some examples. Right now I only have midi recordings to give an example of a recording with strict timing, but I'll get more as I get time. [I'm sure the musicians who provide the dramatic delay examples are fine musicians, despite this perceived flaw]:

Prelude to the 1st Cello Suite
Goldberg Variations (Variation 4)
Not saying Joshua Bell isn't awesome; the photo just fit the message.
The "Dramatic Delay" is right up there with the "Musician's Swoon", where the musician (typically a first chair or soloist) feels compelled to sway, shake, contort as they play--no, feel--no, become--the music. My music teachers encouraged this and no, I never gave in, at least in a detectable way. I'm not saying that some bodily and even facial movements are not appropriate, but I really think Bach would have pulled his saber on his first chair student if they acted the way some musicians do.

For those I've offended, I sincerely apologize.  I realize I'm in the minority on these two points.  I acknowledge that you are likely way more proficient in music than I am.  Also, if you are making money with your instrument (or teaching your instrument), you should probably keep doing whatever you are doing!  Just know that some of us prefer a little more reserve in manner and interpretation.