Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brandenburg 5 in Bach-Lehman tuning

The following is a re-post.

Please click to listen before reading further. Today, w/s Brandenburg MIDI turned up a top-page (Google) result, the fifth Brandenburg concerto, in D major, ('[o]ne of the lushest and most thrilling pieces ever written'--quotations are from Wikipedia), by (Johann Sebastian) Bach, 'now regarded as the supreme composer of the Baroque [period, and] one of the greatest of all time', produced by Alan Kennington, moderately, clearly and with great unity on a (single) MIDI instrument, the harpsichord.

According to the artist, '[T]he performer needs to be able to bring out the music comprehensibly. When the music is at the right speed, it resonates in the listener. It generates a kind of excitement and pleasure... I believe that Baroque composers wanted their audience to feel pleasure... Bach was more interested in giving gentle pleasure[,] rather than a sudden rush of breathless excitement.'

For this very purpose I adjusted its tuning to Bach- Lehman 1722 temperament using Scala, whose 'motto is INVENIT ET PERFICIT which means, "it finds and perfects"'. The result? My friend M agrees that this is a:

much more beautiful, second movement (Affettuoso), in B minor.

For this, it is essential to use some good wave-table MIDI synthesizer software like Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth which is based on Roland wavetables.

The Creative SoundBlaster SoundFont Synth and the QuickTime Music Synthesizer (at least on PC's) somehow blot out temperaments' emotional content, and they make this listening comparison meaningless.

For comparison, the original:

equal-tempered version

I predict you shall be uncomfortable with it, now. As my friend M said, it seems 'like a terribly out of tune MIDI file'. Now we know it wasn't the MIDI system's fault.

Also available are the

first and third

movements (both Allegro) fully adjusted to Bach- Lehman 1722 tuning.

(I have emailed Alan U. Kennington, Ph.D., and he granted permission for this use. His website states, 'All original material on the web site is Copyright (C) 1999-2009, Alan U. Kennington. Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial reproduction of small portions of this material under the Artistic Licence, provided that this copyright notice is attached.')

Copyright (c) 2010 Mark D. Blackwell.

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