Original Performance of Bach's 6th Sinfonia in E Major

in #classical-musiclast year

Hello everyone! This whole period of quarantine really has sucked in a lot of regards, but one of the good things that has come of it is a lot more time to practice piano.

Pixabay.com: Licensed in the Public Domain
FYI: I picked this picture because it is similar to what I think of when I hear the piece.

Today, I have decided to post my progress with Bach's 6th sinfonia. This piece is special for me because it is the first contrupuntal piece I have played with more than 2 voices. This creates more responsibilities in regards to independent articulations, dynamics, and overall projection amongst the 3 voices. It also means that the hands have to sometimes do two voices rather than just one in each hand.

Because this corona virus really has put a damper on everyone's mood, I decided to make a video with pictures of some of the memories I cherish most in it in order to remind everyone about how much those moments really do mean in the grand scheme of things. Though my friends or family might not read this, I want to say that I am thankful for each and every one of them. They have always supported me. Time may go, and communities too, but they have always had my back. I am thankful for every memory! Here is my performance of Bach's 6th sinfonia:

Brief Analysis

I highlighted the piece's subject material in blue. This subject consists of a major scale ascending 6 notes followed by a small figure for the last beat. These articulations where given to me by my teacher, and what is important is that they should be consistent every time the subject material (or a portion of it) is played. The subject material is passed between the voices.

Notice in measure 4 the hemiola used with the last two beats of the subject material sequenced in the bass, and fourth species counterpoint in the Alto and Soprano; specifically a chain of 2-3 suspensions. When my theory class was learning about fourth species counterpoint, I brought this piece in as an example. Fourth species counterpoint is unique as a species because it allows there to be dissonance on a strong beat by preparing it as a consonance a beat earlier, and holding it. It was because of the tendency of suspensions to be slurred to their resolution that it is best to slur the entire alto part (since it is a chain of suspensions and resolutions), and each soprano note is articulated because it comes on the new strong beat in the hemiola.

In measure 11, we are introduced to a new type of material (though I still believe that it is almost an extension of the small figure in the subject material). I highlighted it in a different shade of blue to acknowledge the similarity. It is because of this similarity that it is articulated similarly.

In measure 17, we first experience an inverted version of the subject material (though it is not a literal inversion), I think the idea is still conveyed that it is mimicing a literal inversion. This purple figure shows up more throughout the remainder of the piece. At times, Bach even puts the inverted figure (though non-literal) on top of the original subject.

Here is a complete version of the sheet music with my color coding:

Other Performances

So I wanted to talk about two of the other performances which I have found on YouTube:

This performance by Laurent Penalva is the first to show up when you search for the piece on YouTube. Overall, I am quite impressed by his use of ornaments. He (or the version he's using) adds a lot of ornaments, and I do feel that they all enhance the piece. I also enjoy the tempo he uses! It is much more laid-back than the tempos of most of the performances of this piece which I have heard. While his tempo does work for the piece, I was deliberate in my tempo, and it is because I enjoy a moderately fast tempo a little bit more. The only complaint I have is that it sounds like he is using the sustain pedal, and I don't think pedal works very well with this piece at all. Since it is mainly quick scalar motion, I think that pedal only adds confusion by creating unnecessary dissonances. Overall, I like this performance the most.

The other performance which I will talk about is by Glenn Gould. I have never questioned or doubted Gould's virtuosity as a pianist; I would be lucky if I got to his level by the time I am 90, but one thing which always annoys me is when a virtuosic pianist feels the need to shove their skill in my face. Especially in a piece that does not call for it. I think the only way to describe Gould's performances of the Inventions and Sinfonia (at least that I have heard) is attempts at showing off with pieces that aren't meant to show off. Every single performance is much to fast, and sounds much more like a robot than a virtuousic pianist. I had hoped that Gould's interpretation would highlight the compositionally genius aspects of such pieces. Instead, he seems to want to show off his skill as a pianist. I will never doubt that he had skill and talent. I am usually impressed by his performances. But his interpretations of the inventions and sinfonia (that I have heard) are a bit of a let down.


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Thank you for the slide show. Even without the music it would have been uplifting. But the music was also uplifting.
Your father must be very proud.

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