What temperament do our colleagues here favour for BWV 988, in general?
The highly chromatic Variation 25 seems to demand something rather particular, but I can’t decide what. All I can say is that it is unbearable in Vallotti. [It’s not for nothing there is a group on Facebook called Anti-Vallotti.]
Le 02/01/2023 11:07, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :
What temperament do our colleagues here favour for BWV 988, in general.
The highly chromatic Variation 25 seems to demand something rather
particular, but I can’t decide what. All I can say is that it is
unbearable in Vallotti. [It’s not for nothing there is a group on
Facebook called Anti-Vallotti.]
Thoughts, practice, experience?
I would use something like Neidhardt Dorf (1724 ) / Kleine Stadt (1732).
But then I’d add that I don’t really believe in the notion of a good
temperament for a given work. A good temperment has to be good for all
the music of the period in question - and I think this is the case for
the one I mention. In other words, if you ask the same question for
another BWV, I’d give the same answer.
But in this case, usually BWV is big enough to occupy a whole concert or CD recording on it’s own, a rather special case. In which case it is pertinent to ask what a good temperament for that one work is. I am not asking about a good temperament - there are many, but very specifically a good temperament for an hour of G major and some G minor with some heavy chromaticism by Bach.
Excellent your observation “I don’t really believe …”, Dennis.
Very well put: I am tired of discussing this against so many who advocate “super specialised” temperaments. What happens when you play in a recital different works, or even works by different composers? Are you going to retune the keyboard and re-fret the gamba viols in the interval? Not to speak of the poor violinists with their left hand positions!
(Note: sorry to disagree with you in this respect, Andrew: there are many more arguments for supporting Dennis’s observation. Just too long to copy them here …)
Le 02/01/2023 13:27, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :
But in this case, usually BWV is big enough to occupy a whole concert
or CD recording on it’s own, a rather special case. In which case it
is pertinent to ask what a good temperament for that one work is. I am
not asking about a good temperament - there are many, but very
specifically a good temperament for an hour of G major and some G
minor with some heavy chromaticism by Bach.
I realize that, Andrew. But then, following such a reasoning, what’s to
prevent you, if you’re recording the WTC, from retuning the instrument
for each P&F, choosing a “good” temperament for each key? Nothing, since
you’re probably spending several days doing so, with a technician who
will be adjusting the tuning anyway between two pieces. Except it would
be going against the very notion of a “well-tempered” instrument. So I’d
also choose a well-tempered tuning for the Goldbergs.
I think that that comparison is quite a weak one, since the whole point of the WTC is to showcase the variety and ability of playing in all of the keys, tuning playing an important role- so important in fact that he put it in the title of the pieces (that’s another thing: these are all separate pieces, or at least more so that the Goldbergs).
BWV 988, on the other hand, plays with one idea, making the whole piece more unified. If one were to, as you said, tune all of the P&Fs in different temperaments, the more appropriate comparison would be tuning every variation to its own temperament. Of course that would be silly, because the composer (in my opinion at least) intended to showcase all of this motivic development in one key: the key of g (whether it’s minor or major is of secondary importance, especially in the baroque where it’s somewhat customary to end with a picardy cadence).
The point of the Goldbergs is, after all, variation, not tuning. Thus, one can have more freedom when preparing a temperament, which only needs to work in the few keys that the piece is in. The rest is up to the taste of the performer.
OK, to be clear and simplify. Let’s say concert, not recording studio, and only the full BWV 988 - a common concert program. Apart from the Neidhardt suggestion (excellent idea), nobody else has actually said what temperament they in fact use. I am very interested to hear, and open to ideas.
Say you are going to sit down and perform this. How are you going to tune the instrument? I think it’s fairly obvious of course well tempering, but what I am asking is what do people favour?
Because surely the didactic purpose of WTC is to demonstrate that one tuning (Lehman aside) can be used for all keys? No? Isn’t that the point of well tempering? Well I suppose it is possible that Bach meant a different tuning/well tempering for each prelude and fugue, but I think that is adding an unnecessary idea (and therefore goes against Ockham by multiplying entities) for which I do not believe there is any historical evidence.
Just want to point out that if Bach expected that the WTC would be
played most of the time on a fretted clavichord, then “Well-Tempered
Clavier” would refer to a physical instrument, not just a tuning.
In other words, don’t try this on your mean-tone clavichord.
I find your reasoning persuasive, but maybe I am missing something in the general temperament issue. I mean, here is what I understand.
a temperament is a negotiation between “ideal” intervals and a 12-note keyboard, with its necessity of modulations, chromaticisms, many tonalities and so on.
The differences of character between tonalities is only a side effect - a welcome one! - of that negotiation, not a purpose per-se.
If both points are correct, I guess one could choose a best temperament for what he is playing, provided that a) he is playing only one piece; and b) that piece doesn’t require negotiation (movements in different tonalities).
The WTC does require a negotiation both on practical grounds (you just can’t retune at each pair) and on theoretical ground (WTC is precisely done to demonstrate tonalities and a well - or good - overall temperament. On the other hand, BWV is a particular case which doesn’t require a negotation.
I’d say, maybe too simplistic, that if there is a temperament in which the G major works better, one could just use it.
Sure there isn’t any other piece of music with the same characteristics (long enough for a whole concert, everything in the same tonality).
Once I was thinking of a tonality-based program, everything in e minor because some of my preferred Scarlatti sonatas are in e minor. If such a program would to be performed, it would have the same characteristics of the Goldbergs.
I understand my reasoning must be flawed in some point, but where?
Sure, I overlooked that. Sure the Art of the Fugue could have a “dedicated” temperament or a tweaking of a temperament.
However my point was: how often does a recital or a CD deal with one single composition or multiple compositions in the same key?
Am I correct in recalling that the instrument upon which The Art of the Fugue was composed was the mind of J.S. Bach, transcribed no paper by one of his children? In which case we’d need to know the temperament of Bach’s mind?
No. The original manuscript is 1742 and quite complete (it’s published in an edition by John O’Donnell by Lyrebird Music). The final version is a bit of a mess and (though P. Dirksen disagrees) seems to have been cobbled together by the sons as a means of generating revenue, which is evinced by the later addition of the final chorale prelude, perhaps altruistically given AMB’s financial straits.
Supposition aside, the existence of a manuscript version scuppers this premise.
not quite fair - CPE (and Altenberg?) put together the ‘final’ version
in order that they’d have something to sell. The printer had been paid
already. They put in the Chorale Prelude as CPE said) to compensate for
the lack of a complete concluding fugue).
In other words, they were trying to make the best of a bad situation. I
think it only sold something like 30 copies, though.
I do think that the prelude was added in the second imprint to make the publication more attractive. I don’t know about privileges in Germany though I suspect there was a European model. I do know that in mid-18th-century France, a privilège du roy cost as much as 1,500 livres. Publishing was not a cheap affair.
As I said, Dirksen demurs on my thought that AoF was cobbled together by the Bach sons and titling of their additions suggests they hadn’t a clue about its contents. Moreover, if one was to conjecture, it is possible that the canons etc. were far from the plan.
This brings us to the question of whether or not AoF was absolute music. If it was, then the inclusions of the ephemera would be quite acceptable. Bach was a constant reviser, so there is the possibility that these extra pieces were to be part of a grander sequence.
However, that is nonsense: we have a picture of a jobbing musician working on a score he’d finished two decades before his death that fulfils a romantic ideal. There was no Netflix them and he was probably doodling!
It doesn’t really matter, though. It’s damned good stuff!