Playing Baroque music on the piano: 'authentic' or 'pianistic'?

A day ago @mipiano posted a performance of a Sonata by Domenico Scarlatti, played on the piano, with both a piano sound and an harpsichord sound (read her post and listen to the music here: https://peakd.com/hive-193816/@mipiano/cuauccln)

As the piano was 'invented' near the end of the Baroque era, most of the keyboard music composed by Baroque composers, was not written with the sound the modern piano in mind, but rather with the harpsichord or clavichord. That does not mean that Baroque music should not be played on the piano. But it does raise the question of how one should or could play Baroque music on the piano.

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There is no digital border between Baroque music and the stylistical periods that followed it. And there is no digital border between music for harpsichord music and piano music. Bach knew of the existance of the first versions of the pianoforte (as it was called in the early days). Scarlatti, in his later years, worked at the court of Princess Maria Barbara, who owned several pianofortes when she died in 1758. So he must have known the sound of this new instrument as well.

Now, if you play Baroque music on the piano, should you play it as if you were playing a harpsichord, or should you play as if it were a composition that was intentionally writen for the piano? There is, of course, no right or wrong here. It is all a question of personal taste. @mipiano plays here rendition of Scarlatti's sonata with the overal style of Baroque music on a harpsichord in mind. Her post made me think: if one would treat Baroque music as music specifically written for the piano, what would be the result?

So, I took a prelude from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, that lends itself very well for a pianistic treatment, I think. I play it with ample use of the piano pedal. And I don't hesitate to add extra notes, or to double the bass notes where I see (hear) fit. And, as if it were a composition written by Chopin or Liszt, I even play the very lowest b flat the piano has, at the end. So wrong, stylistically, yet so right for playing the piano.

The recording was (perhaps: too) quickly done. So, it is more a proof of concept than a well rehearsed performance. What do you think? Play Baroque music on the piano like it were of Romantic piece, or play it more in line with the 'authentic' performance practice?

(When playing I realised I had forgotten to put on my glasses; hence the somewhat unconventional posture: I had to lean forward just to be able to read the music....)



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Ow, wow, a post of mine that inspired you to make this SUPER great one!
What else would be better for a Saturday afternoon (evening) ?

We agreed and disagreed in some points, and it is so good to see you made this response, stating firmly your point of view! Love your move!

I was strictly taught that style has to remain in the limits of the requirements! I suppose you too. During the 14 years of focused music education, hundred and hundred pieces that were absorbed, learned, performed, forgotten and remembered, all had to follow some rules and served to purpose. Bring quality sound, improve technique, phrasing, coordination, balance, style... learn to think, to control to imagine... and you know, although for example Glenn Gould was considered as a great mind, a weird man and even a weirder musician, but a great one without doubts, if someone tried to play like he, or having similar ideas while playing Bach, well, it was not always received well by the teachers. I guess they had to look after their reputation among the academic elite, so allowing a student to play in an inappropriate way would not be good for them. Once you have your degree, you can do whatever you want and search for your own style, that was the conclusion.

So, as answer to your question, how to play Bach, as authentic as possible or pianistic as possible, there is no one right answer. Yeah, you know it too. Probably it depends also on the argument you can show, so the audience can me more or less convinced in what you are doing here. But how would we even know the way Bach performed his music? No audio records!

While I am listening to your performance now for the second time (correction, it was already the thirds time in total), I must say, you convince me. This Johann Sebastian guy was pretty ahead of his time with the harmonic structure of course and other features too, I would even like here to hear more bass line, but at the same time the subtle melodic line is what I also see so appropriate. So, should we go further? Imagine, you as Busoni, and writing your arrangement for the king or the instruments (you see, I am fine with the title of queen for the piano :D ) Full, powerful bass line, in Busoni or Franck romantic style!!

What do you say?

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Yeah, if I had played it like this for my piano lessons years ago, my teacher would have been livid...
Nevertheless, I think it works quite well.

Now to play this 'wrongly' on the organ? That's truly a bit schizophrenic: the organ is after all Bachs instrument so what would be wrong if I played it on the organ? The answer is of course: if I played it on a non-Baroque organ, for example a French Romantic one. Totally different sound than a Baroque instrument, totally wrong for Bach's music. Intruiging is that I now hesitate to do that. I had no problems to play this piece in not correct style on the piano. The training to play it in correct style on the organ however is not so easily overcome... 😯

I'll try it nevertheless. Perhaps not this piece, I doubt it would work wel on the organ. But there are more than enough there preludes to chose from in the Wel Tempered Claviere.

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(Edited)

This same piece on the organ, as if it were a Romantic French composition. Not a too powerfull bassline though, just a lot of foundation stops like flutes and strings: https://peakd.com/hive-193816/@primalamusica/playing-bach-on-the-organ-as-if-he-were-a-romantic-composer

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Ohohoho, how great you did another post, too, cool, and I just realised that I didnt respond to your comment here, well, will do it here in this one.

haha, had a lot of laughter on calling that schizophrenic 🤣

The training to play it in correct style on the organ however is not so easily overcome...

I see that you already knew how to overcome this "just correct style on the organ" matter :)

I am going to listen to your organ version now, see you there soon

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Oh, now I'm curious about the other part!

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