• Case Study on the use of Pedal in Bach’s Fugue no. 17 in Ab Major BVW 1

      Zohn, Steven David, 1966- (Temple University. Libraries, 2021)
      "Robert Schumann claims that “Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier should be a pianist’s bread and butter.” Whether the pianist is a young student, a teacher, or a performer, many musicians will agree with Schumann’s statement. Because so many play these pieces, there is much controversy on how to perform them, with not the least of the matters involving the use of the damper pedal or “finger pedal” on the modern piano. The damper pedal on a piano is controlled by the right foot, and finger pedaling is defined as keeping the fingers depressed in the keys for longer than written. Often, these two techniques are used in conjunction with each other to create a seamless legato and a thicker texture. Either way you decide to create legato and texture, there are two schools of thought: you should not use pedal because Bach did not include pedal indications (and it is additionally assumed these pieces were written for harpsichord, clavichord or organ), or you should use pedal and finger pedal to enhance what Bach has already written. So what do you do when you sit down to play a prelude or fugue from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier? Do you plant your right foot firmly on the floor underneath the piano bench so as not to allow yourself to fiddle with the pedal? Do you let your instincts tell you where to add pedal? Do you look for others who have already explored this topic? The bottom line is that these decisions should ultimately be up to the performer, though it is important to note that they should always be musically informed. Recordings can give performers an idea of when to let the right foot sneak onto the pedal and when to keep the music “dry.” There are many places to use pedal in Bach’s Fugue no. 17 in Ab Major from book 1 of the WTC, thus it is highly informative to see which musicians (specifically from 1965 to 2000, as this is the date range of the recordings) decide when to use or when not use the damper pedal or finger pedaling to help the music along."