> Interpreting bach Badura-Skoda [KM]: Book Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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BOOK REVIEW

INTERPRETING BACH AT THE KEYBOARD

Paul Badura-Skoda
Translated from the German by Alfred Clayton
Oxford University Press, 1990
573 pages
ISBN 0-19-816576-5


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Paul Badura-Skoda is a well-known pianist, fortepianist and harpsichordist. He has recorded many discs of music by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, and has also recorded Bach’s partitas. This book is a presentation of the issues involved in performing and interpreting Bach’s keyboard music. Badura-Skoda draws on his 40 years of experience playing Bach, as well as a great deal of research by himself and others.

There are many issues around Bach’s keyboard music, beginning with the age-old question of which instrument to play it on: harpsichord or piano (or clavichord, or fortepiano, or lute-harpsichord…). Badura-Skoda shows himself to not be a fundamentalist in this matter, but presents both sides of the arguments about this and other performance practice issues.

This book is essentially written for musicians or students of Bach’s music, and examines closely such elements as tempo, articulation, dynamics and technique, with many musical examples. The second part of the book - more than half of it - looks at the questions of ornamentation, certainly one of the most controversial and complex issues surrounding baroque music.

While many chapters of this book are impervious to those who are not performers of keyboard music, some of them are quite accessible to the average listener. The discussion of tempo in Bach’s music is especially enlightening, as Badura-Skoda talks about some 18th century barrel-rolls, that give ideas of just how the music was played, and other indications of what "authentic" tempi may be. The chapter that discusses instruments is another accessible part of the book, as the author gives a clear presentation of the different types of instruments that Bach used, and how they each give different colors to the music.

The long section on ornamentation is essentially of interest to musicians only, but those who are seeking a comprehensive discussion of this issue will find this book to be invaluable. Badura-Skoda looks at each type of ornament used in Bach’s music and discusses how they should be played.

While much of this book is for musicians, and especially those who play keyboard instruments, non-musicians interested in Bach’s keyboard music will find some interesting material as well. This is a must for anyone who does play Bach’s music, and will certainly interest other lovers of his music who want to know more about the way it is played.

Kirk McElhearn


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