Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Elusive Beauty

That was no doubt the most special moment in my guitar practice for the past few weeks. I have been just focussing on one of the movements in Bach's BWV 1006a, the Gavotte en Rondeau in particuar and it is basically a Rondo with the structure ABACADAEA. Of course, for those who are familiar with the piece will not have any problem with recognising that subsidiary theme E is the climax of the whole movement. But I had a special revelation when I was studying the subsidiary theme D. Bach has wonderfully masked such intense emotions within this playful rondeau. After listening to all of my professional recordings, it was really only those who didn't play in the traditional détaché baroque style that brought the exquisite beauty of the section out. The intense heartaching sensation in the modulation to F# minor in that section really got my adrenalin in my body rushing. From my observation in the facsimile version, if Bach hadn't written extensive slurs in that portion, I suspect even lesser people would have discovered such a heartwrenching beauty. It isn't just playing according to Bach's phrasing but also due to the rich harmonic structure when the basses are deliberately sustained.

Goran Sollscher has managed to capture such this gem in her fullest glory, whereas for the other guitarists, the intensity of this emotion has been reduced significantly due to the lack of sustenance in the basses in that particular segment of the theme. As for the violin recordings, I'm baffled by the absence of the basses in just those few short bars. Yes, the basic mood of the theme was there, but I really thought that it is the basses in the few particular bars of the theme which brings the theme to a climax. Did Bach leave the basses out in the violin version of it due to technical constraints of the violins? Probably so, but I certainly gained so much by studying into the intricate musical details of this movement.


Hucbald said...

Bach is the ultimate model for perfect miniatures, and a surprising amount of his music transcribes well to the guitar. One thing you might consider is aquiring the Urtext editions of pieces of his you want to learn. The Urtext has only the most accurate scholarly agreed to notes, without any phrasing or fingerings. This will allow you to basically create your own transcription and discover the music afresh without any external influences or preconcieved ideas, except what you've gotten from listening of course.

Someone once said that "printed music is a roadmap for making music", meaning that interpretation is largely left to the performer. I subscribe to that notion, and I think it is one of the sublime features of music that it can be reinterpreted by different performers, and even by different stylistic schools of subsequent musical eras.

It pains me when critics of today dismiss interpretations of Bach by older masters like Casals or Segovia as "overly romantic" or whatever, because those masters let the music take them where they wanted it to and as such they represented their particular era, and I can simply find no fault with that approach. I doubt Bach would either. Personally, I like the idea of others finding things in my music I didn't think of.

Bach and I are both Lutherans, by the way: What's your denomination?

solitudex said...

Yes, Hucbald, I do see your point on using Urtext Editions. But when I study Urtext versions, which I would understand as versions which convert the original scores by the composer himself to modern notations, they often contain very much of the errors which are found in the original handwritten scores. And as for the phrasings, I thought it'd be essential to follow the phrasings which are written down by the composer himself and not simply just phrase the notes at my own discretion. Of course, if really, following the compoer's phrasings doesn't produce any significant results, then I'll just have to experiment myself. (I wouldn't have experienced such a revelation in this piece if I had just played according to my own phrasing)

I do see that there's a different definition of a performer between us. You are in favour of a performer creating his 'own transcription' and discover the music afresh. I would believe the role of a performer as being a transparent platform for the full beauty and emotional spectrum to transmit from the composer himself to the audience.

And I'm surprised that there's still a strong supporter of Segovia playing Bach. (I'll admit that I've never heard of Casals playing Bach, is he the cellist Pablo Casals?) I have no problem with him romanticising Bach, but it's just his style of playing, which isn't refined. So it's more of a style problem to me than an interpretation problem which he had.

Oh, I'm a Baptist. =)