University of California - San Diego - Regents' Lecture No. 2 (1966) - Part 3 of 3

LECTURE II - February 3, 1966

From the Rosalyn Tureck Collection,
Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University

[Part 1 | Part 2]

This is the kind of form that you read more about in textbooks — the suite form. The suite form, rather the dances in suite form are built in a simple way — you will read in the textbook — you start in the tonic and you move to the dominant and you end the first section in the dominant and that is a complete ending. Then you start the second section in the dominant and go on to the tonic and that is the form of the dance in a suite. The form is divided into two clear halves and this is the harmonic form but often the harmonic form becomes the idea of the form. What I am trying to say to you is that there are many forms in any piece of music worth the name that are going on all the time — revolving around each other and integrating all the time. And if you are a performer who has a realization of what music really is, your responsibility — and this is where the composer's intention comes in as far as I am concerned — yes we must read what we see and we must play what we see, but we must also understand what's going on. And the composer's intention is all this inner play in form. This is what is the real love of a composer; this is what makes him a composer; this is what makes the piece of music a work of art, not just something to be played.

And this is what I am dealing with all the time and this — I give away my secrets to you — is what is going on all the time in my playing. I am playing constantly simultaneously different kinds of forms, and of course one must do this in such a way that it becomes a whole; that they become a whole; that they become inevitable; that they make one contained impression. So. Now I will explain a little bit what goes on in this Allemande and perhaps you will see a little of what I am talking about. On the outside it is a nice simple, melodious piece (plays Allemande, C minor Partita, no. 2). Now I will bring out the top voice alone with the left hand, with the bass but I will just bring out that top voice as such so you can begin to hear the two voices. Then I'll bring out the bass (plays). Now we come to a little resolution midway between the first half — that is midway between the first section. Remember each dance form is divided into halves.

Now we are midway between the first half. Now what's going on (plays). That's an establishment of key. It's not just C (plays) It's an establishment of key. We have two Cs. (plays) One wouldn't have been enough. It wouldn't have been good enough for Bach to have written it this way. (plays) You see how poor that is — the poverty there. But here (plays). Now we know absolutely that is the bass; it is the root of the harmony; it is the key of the piece. Now we go on (plays) Does that sound familiar? It is this (plays). I'll go on (plays) That is where I stopped in the other voice. Now what is actually happening there. The main idea (plays) is that; the main motive we will say. It is immediately imitated in the lower voice (plays) but imitated so that it is on the exact notes an octave lower — on the same notes. Now if you were again — and I am using this extreme contrast — I mean everyone is not so naive as always to play the right hand as melody and the left hand as accompaniment — but I am using this as extreme contrast but based unfortunately on a very long-standing sort of thing (plays).

You'd never know what is going on there, what that structure is. Now that was not really meant to be concealed. It wouldn't have been written that way, if it were to hide under, behind the soprano. (plays) Now what I do is bring out the imitation but I do not pedantically force it into your consciousness. If I did then I would repeat the second one, and there is a second one. But it's there (plays) And another reason — if I broke it up too much, you wouldn't have a lovely long line. If I did this (plays) imitation (plays), imitation (plays), imitation (plays). You see. You wouldn't have any music. And I don't think Bach wanted that. So the whole phrase is a long one (plays) See that is the phrase. But since there is something so vital below it, it must be heard (plays). Now this entire long line — which is another reason. I cannot give you all the reasons, not in this kind of lecture — the entire long line is now imitated in the bass, the entire one (plays). Now the interest shifts again (plays) and, after all that activity of long line, notice the charm of what Bach does here rhythmically. Suddenly he breaks it up into long-valued notes. There's not much movement (plays) rest. (plays).

Now we go on (plays). He introduces a new rhythmic figure (plays) and immediately imitates in the bass (plays). Now for the first time we are back to the original opening motive (plays) and the imitation goes on in both voices (plays) both doing it (plays). Now listen to this top voice (plays). There's a building of tension (plays). Alright, now listen to this bass voice (plays). That is what the soprano is doing but it is in the bass and its ending the second half. Whereas what — When it occurs in the soprano, that ends the first half. So that the whole piece becomes a mirror of itself. Now this is a very interesting point and a very important point for the performer because when you understand that you have revealed to you the whole dynamic scheme of the piece, you know what to do with the "louds" and the "softs" and where to employ them and how. Now I play for you these second halves (plays).

That's the end of the first half where you have the long motive in the soprano (plays). Now I am not going to play for you the second half at this point. I am going to play this as the way I play it when I repeat. Because Bach has marked, and this is an old tradition, each half of a dance form is always marked with repeat marks, and this means that it should be repeated. This is part of the notation, and if you know how to read this notation, you know that it means repeat. It is not a matter of whether you think that your audience is going to be bored or not in hearing it a second time; and it is not a matter of that repeat means what it means today to us and that is duplication — repetition, repetition — today it means simply exactly the same thing over again.

Now here again is another aspect of what we have been calling ornamentation. When you understand what this really is in music, you realize that repeat marks didn't mean the same thing to people of the 17th and 18th centuries — and earlier centuries — that it does to us. It doesn't mean play the whole thing over again the same way. There is a reason, there is a meaning, there is a sense of form which occurs when you repeat which is non-existent if you don't repeat. That changes then the form of the whole. Now this becomes very important and it also then affects the way you play the whole piece. It affects sometimes your phrasing; it affects certainly your whole dynamic scheme; it affects your tempo. Now when I talk to you like this do you begin to see how this simple question of should it be piano or harpsichord — how that emphasis begins to recede a bit; that that is not the main burning question; that there are much larger issues involved.

Now I will play for you the second time when I repeat. And I don't bring out that upper voice; I bring out the lower voice. Instead of doing this (plays) I do this (plays). And where the first time I play it and bring out the soprano, I grow to the end; the second time I play it in bringing out the bass, I come down to the end. And when you realize how this is constructed harmonically and these relationships to each other, you hear harmonies that you never hear otherwise. For instance. Again the 19th century idea of rhythm is phrasing on the beat, not into the beat, this way (plays). Now again music wasn't written that way before the middle of the 18th century; it was constructed more into the beat. So that you composed in this (plays). You resolve the harmony and then go on (plays) and listen to the bass: If you played on the beat, it would be this (plays).

Now that is 19th century style; not whether you are romantic or not. I am not being very romantic one way or the other here; but that is 19th century style whether you think the structure on the beat or into the harmonic resolution. It's quite another way of thinking. It is a fundamental way of thinking; and this is what is important I think, not whether you feel music or whether you don't feel music and this means you are either 19th century or 20th century. This is what is happening in the music (plays bass). You see that makes sense. Now I play it again the 19th century way in the bass (plays). See how mechanical that gets, how rigid, how dull. And this is what Bach has suffered for 125 years and the wonder is that he has survived it. But you see this is the distinction between playing Bach in the 19th century style or in the enlightened 20th century style. That's the distinction. Not whether when you play a sarabande, you "feel" it and you show that you feel it, and you understand the harmonies, and it is something wonderful, and you are not ashamed to show it. That is not a matter of being romantic or not. This is where the problem lies. If you understand what is going on.

Now, realizing that, you see the mirror at the end of the Allemande and you see the whole thing is upside down so that Bach has written in the upper voice at the end (plays). If you play it, again, squarely on the beat, you get this (plays). I played that wrong 19th century — that ornament — I played it correct 18th century. I should have done it this way (plays). Yes? Alright. Then (plays) You see. The whole middle (?) changes, the whole center rhythmically changes, the whole harmonic direction changes, the whole melodic thing is completely out of the window. Now I will play just that section with both hands. The first time — let me tell you another of my secrets — the first time I play the first half, I bring out the soprano which is this (plays) and I grow to the end; the second time I bring out the bass and I diminish. Now I do that for a reason. It isn't a whim; it isn't a personal style; it isn't an effect to keep you interested. I do it because the second time it occurs, it occurs upside down and I play according to the structure and I follow what Bach has done. So that when Bach ends the piece in the first playing, he has this (plays) in the bass. I play that big just as I did the first time in the first playing in the same motive. And the second time I again break it down softer and softer to the end because of the top, so that my dynamics are a mirror also just as the structure is a mirror. You see I follow the way Bach wrote the music and I form my dynamics on that structure.

I see, of course, all sorts of writing about my playing — everything from A to Z — and of course now and then I think I am being understood. But I must say that this sort of thing I think I have never seen written about or expressed or perhaps even heard, and I mean by professional musicians — and that's why I have begun to talk. So. These dynamics then come right out of the structure of the music. Now let me show you something else that comes right out of the structure of the music in the Corrente. That's wrong — Courante, it's a French Courante. This is incorrect in this edition. This is written with very fast figurations around long-valued notes. This is the style of the French Courante. A Corrente is an Italian version of the same kind of dance and it is entirely different. It is a more even moving kind of figuration like this (plays) That sort of thing. Now this is the Courante (plays).

Alright. Now why do I play this this way. Where did I get those ideas from. Again these are not performer's ideas. I am not doing it because I think it is effective or that it will hold your interest. I know it does hold your interest but that's not the reason I am doing it. And I think perhaps it would not hold your interest all that much if it weren't based on much deeper reasons. You hear this fast-moving figure which is (plays). Now imitation (plays) etc. But around it are these long-valued notes — some are quarter notes and some are half notes and dotted half notes, so that you have different degrees of long notes — long, long, longer. And this fast moving figure is twirling around these pillars of long-valued notes, and that makes a most wonderful design. It is like flowers round a pillar — all different ones. And this sparkles around the sustained strong bass as rhythm.

Now that's where I get my idea for the way I interpret this. It's not a Tureck whim, or it isn't because I — I am not a reincarnation of Anna Magdalena as far as I know. It's just — when you begin to see it, it is so tangible, it is so real, so inescapable. Now this is what I consider reading the score and playing what is on the page. I don't — if I played with my eyes only correctly in the approved fashion, what I see on the page, I would play it this way (plays). Now that is what is printed. True. But what is it? But I think it is the performers' responsibility to play what the thing is, not just what he sees. Therefore when I know this florid figure is moving around those long-valued notes and moving in this fast way and this differentiated way in, rhythm — differentiated, whereas the others are not much differentiated — then I give it the play which it itself has. I am not putting play into it which it does not have. It is there. And that gives me the authority to play staccato because the staccato is actually written into the music. Again I do use quite a lot of detached touch and lots of staccato in Bach, but not one kind of staccato. I use dozens, maybe hundreds of different degrees of staccato in my Bach playing. And this is an example of one of the reasons why I do — the staccato is written into the music.

You have the long-valued notes (plays) Now that is obviously long, to be sustained through, and it establishes the harmony. It's very important there. Now this is written in — these are short-valued notes (plays). They are fast so they can be short. And if they are short, you can then hear the long-valued notes; you can then hear the harmony around which this motive is playing. And that harmony shifts. Although these are long-valued notes and there is one harmony sort of par bar, which is a rather long time for one harmony — usually harmonies change more often — so it is a slow-moving harmonic frame. But you have a very fast-moving play in the florid motive, and if you do that staccato, you hear these harmonies shining through. They are moving at their own pace in a very stately way and this motive is moving in a very impulsive, spontaneous, lively way and you can hear what we call appoggiatura — dissonances, this motive is creating all the time, on top of the strong clear consonant pillar of the harmony below it. And these are the reasons why I play staccato in this piece and why I play it as I do (plays)

I must show you one more thing. Here again the second half turns upside down — the whole second half turns upside down. Where we have in the opening, the motive (plays) goes up. In the second half it begins (plays) goes down. Now we have another very interesting and important counter-point against that in the tenor (plays) and then you have an imitation (plays) that goes up. Right? Now. When I play this second half and I play the first time louder and the next time I play it more softly, I wonder how many people in my audiences anywhere in the world have ever noticed what I am really doing there. And I am going to tell you. First time I bring out the soprano to show the immediate inversion — that's the technical term — the inversion of the beginning. That's a very important structural moment (plays) now imitation (plays) Now it rights itself (plays) It is going up again for the first time. Now that's important. Now when I play it the second time and I play it softer, I do the opposite (plays) bringing out the tenor. Why? Because after the first bar which has had the opening motive that I have told you about, we get the imitation of the tenor in the second bar in the soprano (plays). We not only get the imitation but we get the imitation in inversion because the tenor was going up and the soprano is coming down. Now all that is going on within these two bars that sound so and look rather simple. And this is why I plan my dynamic plan this way and the plan of which voices are going to come out and when they are going to come out.

Now you see how far we have gotten away from whether the right hand should come out or the left hand should come out. Now I'll play that second half for you with the repeats. (plays) I hope you are beginning to hear a little more what is going on and to realize perhaps a little more how — not how — eventually how — but that it is possible for performance to work right in with the way a piece of music is written in this deeper sense, in this structural sense. That performance, as I view it, grows out of the very structure itself. It isn't enough just to know a piece is a sonata and how a sonata is put together. Or that it is, let us say, a French Courante and you have two sections, etc. and there's a bit of inversion here and there. This is what I consider knowing a piece of music and this is what I consider getting to understand the composer's intention. And on that you can begin to build a performance. And building a performance is just as complicated and just as heartbreaking and just as hair-raising and, perhaps, eventually just as satisfying.