Music Message for August 30, 2020 from Danny
(If you do not see the music icons/links within this post, please click on the Aug. 30, 2020 title/link above.)
Two-Part Invention in C Major by J.S. Bach and Prelude in D Major by Louis Couperin
For this week, I have another Bach piece I’d like to offer in continuation from last week. This is the Two-Part Invention in C Major, which many of you probably will have heard before (especially if you ever took piano lessons). The Two and Three-Part Inventions of Bach are short little pieces often studied by young people. What you might not realize about these pieces, though, is that graduate students in music school sometimes also spend a fair amount of time practicing these pieces. (I certainly did.) The inventions seem like simple pieces for most music majors, but, especially if you’re a pianist who is now learning to play the harpsichord, there is often a good bit of time to be spent on these little pieces just to get a good sound. A good touch and a wider palette of articulations take many hours to develop, and these pieces are a great vehicle for that. (Just a quick note–the term “articulation”—if you’re not used to “articulation” as a music term, it just means the amount of duration that a given note value is sounded, whether full or partial—a smooth legato or a short staccato.)
And because I haven’t posted any harpsichord music before this week, I thought I would also offer a particularly favorite harpsichord piece that I like to play here in my apartment. I’m playing on my reproduction virginal (a type of small harpsichord) built by Allan Winkler (one of the few prominent harpsichord makers of today). This is the Prelude in D Major by Louis Couperin, a late seventeenth-century French court harpsichordist and uncle to another harpsichord composer—Francois Couperin, whom you might have heard of—he is much more popular today than his uncle is. All of the preludes to Louis Couperin’s sets of pieces are written in an unmeasured style—meaning that none of the rhythms or note values are specified in the score—they are all improvised by the performer. Only the pitches and the order that the notes are played in is what is provided by the composer. (Unmeasured preludes were definitely another thing I spent a lot of time getting used to in graduate school). Anyway, thanks very much for listening, everyone! And I’ll be sure to get back to normal and do a piece with a hymn tune in it for the music message next week. Best to you guys!