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Ornamentation in the ABRSM edition of The Well-Tempered Clavier

Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier Piano Diploma Ornamentation ABRSM edition Donald Francis Tovey

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#1 Matthew46

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Posted 03 July 2015 - 11:58

I'm hoping to take my DipABRSM piano exam this December and so I've been learning the Bach Prelude and Fugue in F minor (BWV 857) from Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier. I'm using the ABRSM's own edition, as suggested on the diploma syllabus's repertoire list – however, I'm having a little trouble interpreting the suggested ornamentation given at the rear of the book, and just wondered if anyone could offer any advice for the Prelude, please?

Although I understand the ornaments suggested in the Commentary text by Donald Francis Tovey, I'm a little confused by the way the alternative suggestions in the Performance Notes section are notated. Both my teacher and I had a look for a sort of 'key' to interpreting the way they're written out, but we couldn't find one.

Does the single line that the notes are positioned around indicate the principal note, so that, for example, trill [a] would begin on the note above? But, if so, this is where it's left me slightly puzzled: the example given for [d] shows both trill notes above the line, suggesting trilling between the D flat and C in the left hand. The only problem is, this sounds lovely until the very last note of the bar (a D flat in the right hand), when it creates a horrible dissonance – but maybe that's just to my ear...

Could I also just ask what the symbol means at the end of examples [a], [b] and [c], please? It's a sort of trill with a flick at the end. Is this just the equivalent of an 'etc.', meaning to carry on with the music as written?

Hope this makes some – or any! – sense, and thanks in advance for any help.


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#2 jch48

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Posted 04 July 2015 - 16:42

I hate to see an unanswered post.

 

I have an older AB edition and it does not label anything (a), (b), ©, (d) so I can't be specific without bar numbers.

 

I would say that Tovey's remarks now fall into the category of 'historical' and more recent scholarship may lead to a different interpretation of ornaments etc or one could say tastes and expectations have changed.

 

As a principle, ornaments often start on the most dissonant note. I haven't counted or investigated scientifically, but my sense is that this is usually the upper note.

 

finally, why not listen to some recordings.


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#3 fsharpminor

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Posted 04 July 2015 - 17:25

In studying the (Prelude and) Fugue of Book 2 No 14 (LRSM Syllabus) with Vovka Ashkenazy last year, he was adamant that the mordent should always start right on the beat, I was doing some before the beat.  So  one on say,C#  is C#-D-C#  


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#4 agricola

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Posted 04 July 2015 - 18:34

My AB edition is the old one too, but just to respond to the point about the line used in the realisation, this represents whichever note in the ornament is actually on a line.  So for example if you had an upper mordent on middle C = DCDC then the note on the line would be middle C.  If the principal note was B a semitone lower (CBCB) the note on the line would still be middle C.

 

Since the whole point of Baroque ornaments was to show the individual's taste and originality I would interpret with a reasonable amount of freedom.  The main thing is to play something (literally) graceful.


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#5 Matthew46

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 13:26

My AB edition is the old one too, but just to respond to the point about the line used in the realisation, this represents whichever note in the ornament is actually on a line.  So for example if you had an upper mordent on middle C = DCDC then the note on the line would be middle C.  If the principal note was B a semitone lower (CBCB) the note on the line would still be middle C.

 

Since the whole point of Baroque ornaments was to show the individual's taste and originality I would interpret with a reasonable amount of freedom.  The main thing is to play something (literally) graceful.


Ah, thanks so much – I feel very dense for not having realised that before! The trill that I was confused by, which showed both notes playing above the line, now makes perfect sense.

Thanks to everyone for your advice on trills generally.

It was good to find out that the ornaments can be fairly freely interpreted, as I'd been wondering how strictly I need to adhere to things like the number of alternations. (My piano teacher had mentioned that much of it comes down to the tempo that you take the piece at.)

To be honest, I much prefer Richard Jones's alternative suggestions to Donald Francis Tovey's, so I'll bear in mind that Tovey's are perhaps more to be studied out of interest rather than used for playing. It was interesting that, when I'd tried listening to a few different pianists' recordings, each one treated the ornaments so differently – which I suppose comes back to not being too rigid about the interpretation!


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#6 Hildegard

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 13:38

Don't forget that Tovey prepared that edition nearly a century ago (it was first published by the ABRSM in 1924). Bach scholarship has advanced enormously since then and, while Tovey offered perceptive insights, Richard Jones's suggestions reflect modern understanding much more accurately.


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#7 Matthew46

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 19:42

Don't forget that Tovey prepared that edition nearly a century ago (it was first published by the ABRSM in 1924). Bach scholarship has advanced enormously since then and, while Tovey offered perceptive insights, Richard Jones's suggestions reflect modern understanding much more accurately.


Apologies for not having replied to say thanks for your advice. I must confess that I hadn't realised the Tovey commentary was quite so old!


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