Ok, it's been forever since i wrote. My past month hasn't been spent very productively either. lol.

I have been practicing piano on a more regular basis. It's little more than trying to get my fingers moving in the right directions again, get a little speed back. My main reason for doing this is to help me in composition, so i can play through my parts a bit easier. I've also been practicing doing score reductions by sight, very slowly, to get a feel for things.

I don't have a great deal of piano music with me. most of it seems to have been lost in various moves, my parent's house being redone and subsequent storage of things, and my own disregard for piano music over the last six years or so. The only full "serious' pieces i have on hand are J.S. Bach's French Suites. I played the Menuet from Suite III long ago, so i thought, hey, why not?

The first thing i had to do was go back over my dance suite info. It's been way too long since i've thought about the dance suites and i really wanted to make sure i had an idea of the character of each movement. I did some light reading on the dance suite movements, a bit about the evolution to Bach's suites, and a little bit about the French Suites. after i did that, i went into practicing. at first i just kinda ran through things as quickly as i could, to just kind of get the idea under my fingers, feel where things went. i wasn't paying attention to strict time, i was noticing where the passages i would be working hardcore would be, and getting a general idea for fingering.

I'm now to the real practicing stage, going nice and slow. I take things in little chunks, starting at the beginning, and slowly add more. I think i'll try a different approach after that and go backwards from the end, just to hear it differently.

but this isn't what the blog's really about...

I was practicing the first movement of Suite III, an Allemande. I had worked out some of the phrasing issues early on, as it seemed pretty straight forward. I was practicing for correct pitches and rhythms, but, one thing was nagging me. I knew Allemande's are generally somewhat grave in character and not speedy pieces (leave that for the Menuet on Crack and the Gigue). I couldn't seem to figure out a good tempo for it. It definitely didn't want to be slow. So, i did something i rarely do

I pulled out some recordings.

I've said before, i'm not a fan of learning music from recordings. I like being informed of practices, of course, but i don't like being judged by "Glenn Gould's interpretation." But, i was struggling a bit since i'm out of practice and i'm not in lessons, so, listening to half dozen or so recordings to get a general feel would be good.

I hit up youtube first, hoping for Glenn Gould actually. lol. the first thing i got was a video of what appeared to be a 16 y/o male playing the first movement. The video was actually shot right before he played it at a recital...

and, well, it wasn't bad. But, he definitely played it too fast. and there was no phrasing. it was a speed fest. No nuance, just GO! i decided to read the comments and there were TONS of positive comments "You are so good. blah blah blah." One guy attacked him for "not doing all the ornamentation." Happily, the pianist answered in a great way "By 'missed' you mean omitted, right?
In that case, there are very few ornaments that Bach actually wrote in the score. Most are inserted by the editor who has done research on Bach. I used an urtext edition. Listen to multiples recordings of the piece and you'll hear that there's a lot of variation in ornaments."

good answer kid, and Bravo to fight the power. I didn't like your approach, personally, but i defend your right to play it that way! and good for you to back it up.

As for me, i listened to a half dozen more with speeds varying from Dirge-like to Gigue-like. I was more than a little surprised, actually. there's interpretation then there is "whoa, that's a lot of different opinions!" It was actually amazing to me that Glenn Gould's recording may have been the fastest. I mean he really blazes through the piece. and only has about 2 ornaments the whole time because of it. I'm not a big fan of Glenn Gould's interpretations of pieces, other than for the pure enjoyment of listening to an amazing pianist with a very unique perspective.

It was an interesting exercise, especially since i was focusing mainly on just getting tempo ideas. In the end, i'm going to go with a moderate tempo. someplace in the middle seems about right. now, if i could play the Gigue as fast as Gould, that'd be hott