Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to interpret Baroque Music on a piano

Approaching Baroque music with the right mindset.

In this video, Robert approaches the Baroque repertoire interpretation with practical comparisons using the harpsichord and piano as examples. With the right mindset, playing baroque music will sound authentic and beautiful.

Released on August 7, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin, here at with a viewer question. And I decided to play this on a harpsichord. Of course, the harpsichord was the predecessor to the piano, with its roots back to the 12th century. This is a replica of an instrument that was around in the early 1700s, the deluxe version with two manuals. There'll be other videos, by the way, featuring harpsichord, so stay tuned for those as well. But today's question is about Baroque music, specifically, why is it that in Baroque music, oftentimes eighth notes, quicker notes, are played long and yet quarter notes, which are longer notes, are played short in regards to phasing? We're going to cover that today.

All right, well the specific piece brought into question is the "Minuet in G", the famous "Minuet in G". And you notice, yes, having the long notes played short in terms of staccato, because the eighth notes are played connected, and then short on those notes. Well why would that be the case? Well, first of all, let me play that as equal phrasing, all the notes the same length. And let's hear what it sounds like. And I'm going to change the registration to make it a little bit more appropriate, taking off the four-foot rail. Won't be quite as loud, have a nice delicate character.

Now the question was, is it played that way to imitate the harpsichord? And to a large extent, the answer is yes, because you notice that even when I play the notes equally in terms of phrasing, the longer notes sound shorter because of the percussive nature of the harpsichord. But now I'm going to play this on the piano and show you the real reason, even beyond imitating the harpsichord, why it's musically correct to play those quarter notes shorter in regards to phrasing. Come on over to the piano now and join me.

So now I'm sitting in front of a concert grand. Boy, in Bach's dreams, he couldn't of imagined an instrument like this. Yes, the very earliest pianos were around during Bach's lifetime, but they were nothing like this instrument. But I'm going to go ahead and do the same thing I just did in the harpsichord. First I'm going to play it where I'm playing equal phrasing where all the notes are the same length, not rhythmically, but in terms of touch. That's one way of playing it. Now if I play those quarter notes, the second and third beat, play them staccato, it sounds like this. Now why would one play it that way? Well there is a very, very good reason that goes beyond just imitating the harpsichord. The minuet, after all, is a dance movement, and you want to feel the strength of the first beat. Indeed, those quarter notes occur on the second and third beats, the weak beats. Try to give it that sense of rhythmic vitality, something that could get up and dance to if you happened to live in the 18th century. You'd want to play the music so that you emphasize the first beat so everyone knows where to emphasize their dance motions. And yes, it also gives the music a lift and a lilt that you simply can't get any other way.

Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at Thanks for the great question, and I will see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Agustinus on February 10, 2014 @3:56 pm PST
...Thankyou Very Much..
It helped me absolutely....

If i may, what about Sara Band, G.F. Handel ?

How to play the piece on pianoforte?
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