Segovia's Masterclass on the Chaconne!

Welcome to our new Discussion of the Week!

In light of our Month of J.S.Bach, I want to share an extremely interesting video that I've found on YouTube, Segovia's Masterclass on Bach's Chaconne with Brigitte Zaczek!

In this context I think it's interesting to discuss what are the main differences between Bach Performances Practices on the classical guitar, now and then!

  • What are you looking for when performing Bach?
  • Is there a right or wrong way when it comes to playing baroque music?

To counterbalance that, I'd like to share with you an excerpt of a masterclass with Rachel Podger, a distinct expert on historic performance Practice! Especially from 2:10 it get's extremely interesting as she's referring about general unwritten rules in performance practice.

Let me know what your takeaways are from both of these videos and share your favorite recordings or inspirations when performing music by J.S.Bach!

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    • Celeste
    • Celeste
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    A number of years ago I heard a local guitarist play the Chaconne, in concert. I didn't know the piece well, but I knew its reputation, and had played some Bach myself -- and something seemed profoundly wrong. It was fast, it sounded difficult (I knew that is IS difficult...) When I went home I searched for recordings to help me better understand the piece, and found Rafaella Smits version: It was like the sun rose, hearing her play it. Clear, profound, beautiful... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jcy7E4uHYK8

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Celeste Uh, I love the sonority of the lower tuning, I think it's tuned a whole step down, right? 

      Playing the Chaconne is a lifetime task,  I've started to work on it 10 years ago and will probably revisit this piece every now and then. I think there is a violinist who did recordings of that piece every ten years, which is a beautiful and unique way to create a musical auto biography 🧙‍♂️ 

      Are you currently practicing any Bach pieces? 💪

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    • Martin I learned and played the Chaconne (Segovia’s edition) in my teenager years. Have not revisited it in decades. If I were to relearn it, I would use the Carlo Marchione edition and watched Tonebase lessons on Chaconne by Carlo Marchione, Sanel Redzic, Vijay Gupta.  Abel Carlevaro’s arrangement and masterclass (Technique Analysis & Interpretation of J. S. Bach Chaconne) is also a great companion. There are also endless analyses & study aids on Chaconne on the internet. Of course, the violin score is a must for reference. 
       

      Is the violinist you mentioned the Odessa-born Nathan Milstein? Milstein & Henryk Szering have recorded the Bach Violin Sonatas & Partitas multiple times. I saw Milstein performed the Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005 in Pasadena (Los Angeles) when he was in his 80’s, one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended. 
       

      Bill

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      • Celeste
      • Celeste
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Martin I don't know the tuning Ms. Smits uses, only that it's her own transcription. I agree about the Chaconne; it's a piece I don't think I'll ever take on. I've learned the entire 1st Cello Suite and maintain the Prelude; I'm considering re-learning the rest of the Suite in a different edition though. I also play the Prelude to BWV998. Many years ago I played the Fugue and Allegro as well, but I don't know if I want to revisit those: the Fugue is monstrous! Not just in technical difficulty, but musically. I admire anyone who plays it well.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 yr ago
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      Bill Young I really don't remember! And I am soooo jealous, but also happy for you that you got to see such greats! I think the most important inputs on earlier music I had were regular masterclasses with Antony Spiri who was an assistant of Nicolaus Harnoncourt (with whom I did never have lessons with, but was fortunate to enough to passively attend some masterclasses in Cologne).

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 yr ago
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      Celeste I'd recommend to dip your toes into the Sarabande of BWV1004. it has a lot of the Chaconne's spirit! I plan to record some videos on the BWV998 for this Month's challenge as I have some wonderful fingerings by my former professor Joaquin Clerch for that! I did play the fugue once, but never brought it to a performance level!

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      • Celeste
      • Celeste
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Martin I'll look at BWV1004 for sure! The Sarabande from BWV1007 is also remarkably challenging musically! Re the Fugue: I still can't believe I actually performed it once. Now I'm in awe of anyone who can.

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  • I'll be very honest - both of these videos make me feel very inadequate, I simply don't understand what either of them are trying to get the student to do. When I play Bach, I'm still just struggling to try to get the notes out without crashing into the wall. These finer points of interpretation are obviously what separate the good musicians from the great musicians, but I feel like I'm just not there yet (and probably never will be). Maybe I'm just not in the right mindset right now.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 yr ago
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      Eric Phillips Oh, don't worry, I have had the exact same feelings in the majority of my masterclasses, haha! 

      Have you seen this video here? As soon as Jacob Collier and Herbie Hancock start to vibe with each other at around 9:20, they don't even use words anymore and I have no clue what's going on. They just blast out G-maj7th Triad over Super-lydian augmented Half-diminished Tetrachords and wisely nod and humming and having a good time and I am sitting there thinking "what the heck is going on" 🙈

      What I want to tell you with that is that hitting a wall is absolutely necessary sometimes, it's okay to take a step back, lay there and try to figure it out. Making music isn't a race, we're here to strive towards the beauty of these compositions, it's more about walking the way then to reach a non-existent top of a mountain!

       

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  • I have don't have any comments on Segovia's Masterclass other than:  I am a beginner.  I love to watch how she moves her fingers and love how Segovia's massive fingers can play with such grateful elegance! 

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 yr ago
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      Ricardo Leaños Oh absolutely! To me, it is interesting how guitaristic and romantic Segovia approaches the Chaconne, because back in these days people weren't so determined to play something correct or historically accurate. I think that's a natural process, first you discover something - Segovia premiered his milestone transcription in 1935 -  now it's other people's job to figure out the details for the guitar!

      Do you have a favorite Chaconne recording from recent years?

      Like 1
  • I started doing my homework to only find that whoever plays Chaconne, plays it well, and I immediately cannot let it go from my mind.  

    So far I've watched and listened to Olivia Chiang and TY Tengyue Zhang on YouTube.  If I were going to say who plays it better, I'd say Zhang because he seems to be fluid and he seems he feels Chaconne.  Both are excellent!!

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    • Jack Stewart
    • Retired
    • Jack_Stewart
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    I have mentioned this story elsewhere  but I'll repeat it here (being old I get to say the same thing over and over). I played rock guitar in my high school years. When I was about 20 I decided I was in a rut and decided to change music. I signed up with a teacher at a local music store that used to teach jazz. He told me he had changed to classical. I shrugged and said ok I'll do that. On. the way home I stopped at a record(!) store and bought a record of classical guitar to hear what I was going to learn. It was John Williams' Variations album. I remember hearing his playing of the Chaconne and thinking WOW! I am going to learn how to play that?!!!! Well, 50 years later I'm still thinking I am going to play that?!!!!

    Maybe someday. I briefly considered taking on the Chaconne for this challenge (at least starting it) but then I had a rare moment of clarity and thought 'What in the world am I thinking?'

    Maybe next Bach Challenge.

    I think Benjamin Verdery has a very good version of the Chaconne. The setting is a bit schmaltzy but his playing is wonderful.

    Petra Poláčková also has a wonderful recording.

    Paul Galbraith's version is very stately.

    I have heard some I don't care for (Eliot Fisk's seems harsh and rushed to me) but generally I am in awe of anyone who can perform it with grace.

    Like 1
    • Jack Stewart I like your story Jack...I have never tried neither "La Chaconne"...and I am not yet ready...neither...But may be in the future.😉.

      I can not imagine Eliot playing "La Chaconne"....too "electric" for such a piece....

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  • Nice story, Jack. Did you study at Paragon Music in Berkeley? I used to go to that store. 

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      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 yr ago
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      Bill Young I don't think I am familiar with Paragon Music. I never had lessons (on an ongoing basis) after my initial lessons in Dallas in 1970.

      I had an occasional masterclass, mostly in Seattle.

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