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Niklas Sivelov / Blog

JS Bach

JS Bach I´m been playing a lot of Bach lately and there is plenty more coming up 2012 when I´m doing a series of Bach concerts at the Barge in NY. I was there earlier this year playing the whole WTC, The Brandenburg Concertos on the piano (which worked quite well, without pedal, or at least very sparse pedalling) and some Sonatas for violin and keyboard (once again: on the modern Steinway Grand) with the great Mark Peskanov of the violin. True pleasure!

Speaking of Bach and pleasures.. I had another pleasure to collaborate many times with Paul Myers, a famous producer of classical music, who worked with many many great musicians, among them the legendary Glenn Gould. Recently I sent Paul a recording from my Tivoli recital with WTC in July this summer to hear his thoughts, and here comes part of his answer where he talks about Glenn and his way of recording and his exprimental side of interpretation. I did find this intriuging since I myself like to do expriments and try different things while recording. For me this a great way to work since you can always do another take if you need, and this security makes me a bit adventourus regarding my interpretation. Of course, I did a very solid structure first, thus not loosing my inner compass. But I do like to combine months and years of preparation with a spontaneous approach facing the mics and the red light. For me it´s more like a green light, it says: go ahead, just do it..! Instead of saying stop! I want to point out that this is Pauls own opinions, nothing more, and he is, like myself a great fan of Glenn.. Paul writes: Anyway, the point of my previous message was to tell you how much I enjoyed the two Bach pieces: some of the best that I have heard for a long time, with all the best elements of Gould's playing and without his 'eccentricities', if I may put it that way. Of course, I admired Glenn (and I recorded Book 1 of the WTC), but he had a number of 'dangerous' failings. First, he had an extraordinary technique, together with a photographic memory, which meant that he could do just about anything he wanted without practice and without thinking about it. In other words, he could transmit the notes he 'saw' in his head to the keyboard. The danger was that he loved to play around with a piece and experiment as he went along. Then, he would listen to several playbacks (all of which were note-perfect) and splice them together because he thought it made them more 'interesting'. The results were always fascinating, but they were based on his off-the-cuff reaction and I had the feeling that if he played the piece the following day, it might be quite different. In other words, that infuriating D Minor Prelude might have sounded completely different if he had decided to record it again the next day! What Glenn left behind was always fascinating (perhaps with the exception of Mozart, which was pretty awful!) but his 'interpretations' are, as far as I am concerned, dangerous, because they depended only on the moment he did them. What makes them 'dangerous' is that they simply represented how he felt at that moment. I can remember, when we recorded two of the Partitas, that he played a Saraband vivacissimo, to see how it might sound. The dangerous part was that I had to persuade him not to use it in the final master! Perhaps the real problem was that Glenn died before his time. With today's technology, he could have put out digital recordings with half a dozen different interpretations of each piece. Technical difficulties were never a problem. In the old days of tape and vinyl, that would have been too expensive..

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