Bach on piano, and music memory
I recently listened to a recording of Bach harpsichord concertos on a piano. I usually don’t listen to this sort of thing, but decided to see what it was like. I found the piano in some cases overpowered the texture of the orchestra. It also tended to drown other instruments and seemed overall unbalanced. The slow movements were really well done though, and the piano and strings played well together. But somehow the concertos played on original instruments sound more satisfying. One because that’s how Bach created them. Two because articulations are much more clear on the harpsichord giving it more colours and more variety. I have heard fantastic renditions of the concertos on piano but have no idea who the pianist was. In the hands of a great pianist they can come alive. But for me, I like to hear the music the way it was written and on the instruments, it was written.
Now on to another topic. The last week or so, when I have sat down to play, even though not much later, I’d been testing my memory. I can still play pieces I learnt at the prep level. I can play at least one piece from each grade and could play more if I could remember what music I played and hear it again. For grade 6, I can play one complete piece and with a bit of polishing, another, and with hearing the third one, would be able to do that one too. All this to say, if the music is learnt properly you won’t forget it until much later, and it might not take as long to polish it. I memorise the music by first listening to a recording to get the overall picture of the music. While listening, I note where the themes, melodies and try to work out what form it’s in. Then I break the music into sections and try to make each section stand alone for easy learning. Then I start in one section and learn the notes, and the rest that goes with it. Then I try to polish that section then move to the next section. And so on until it’s learnt. Then I double check with recording and score together to make sure I’d learnt for correctly. Depending on the piece, I will break it down even more. For example, with the fugue in F minor by Bach, I learnt all the voices, the entrances of the voices first, then the episodes next. I also practised hands alone.