Date: 15 Mar 1995 10:13:51 EDT
Message-ID: <95Mar15101351.$TC08357@IH.USA.Com>
From: (Matanya Ophee)
Subject: Re: Parkening cheating?
Lines: 163

| To:             news@ih (
| From:           mail@ih ( Baker) {}
| Subject:        Parkening cheating?
| Date sent:      13-Mar-95 21:31:03 -0800
| Originally to:  /wg33/sub/

|  I spent years trying to play that piece at that tempo, fortunately Goran 
| Sollchers recording eventually saved me the effort! I heard that the 
| engineer sped up the sounds cool, but i dont think its real. I 
| also heard that his chaconne was learned and recorded incrementally. 

Now that the cat is out of the bag, here is the Parkening story I
mentioned here a couple of months ago:

Back in the late sixties, when we were much younger, much better
looking and could play the guitar pretty damn well and living in
New York City, Edgard Dana and myself decided to form a guitar
duo. Ida Presti just died, and the guitar duo idea was in the
air. In preparation, I set out to make a rather large number of
arrangements for our duo. The Prelude, Fugue and Variation Op. 18
by Cesar Franck, the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, and a few Bach
pieces. The Dana-Ophee Duo never really got off the ground as both 
Edgard and I moved a lot in those days, and in different directions. 
He went back to Israel, I went up to Boston.

When I started Editions Orphe'e in 1978, my duo arrangements were
first on the list. I thought they were pretty good, and so was
told by several guitarists I had the chance to read them through
with. The Franck, published in 1981, became an international
best-seller. It's been recorded several times, performed by
numerous duos, and ripped off more than once. My arrangement of
the Sinfonia from the Cantata No. 29 by J.S. Bach, also published
in 1981, fared quite well, but perhaps had not become as well
known as the Franck arrangement. However, the very first order I
received for it, came from a guitarist living in Bozman Montana
whose name I never heard before, or since. I actually tried to
call the fellow to congratulate him personally on his good taste
for being the first buyer of the edition, but there was no such
listing in the Bozman, MT phone directory. As Kurt Vonnegut used
to say: So It Goes.

One year later, I chanced upon the Sacred Music for Guitar LP by
Christopher Parkening. (EMI Angel No. DS-37335). This is a
religious artifact in which the performer dedicates the entire
proceedings to "Glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," as go a
Personal Note by Parkening at the beginning of the liner notes. A
man's religion is his own affair, and far be it for me to
belittle, or even to scoff at someone else's feelings. I do feel
a bit embarrassed when confronted by personal religious outbursts
in public, because I feel that such matters are better left alone
between the person and his or her God. It's also ok to share such
things in mutual fellowship, but it is not OK to impose these
things on unwary outsiders who may or may not share the same
religion. Anyway, it is my problem, and not Parkening's. What
_is_ my problem is that directly or indirectly, the glorification
of the deity has been somewhat diluted in the very first
selection on the record, a piece purported to be J.S. Bach's
_Sinfonia_ from the Cantata No. 29 but isn't. What was recorded
was a transcription of the Prelude from the third violin partita
in E Major, BWV 1006. The way it has been allowed into this
recording, was by the application to it of the sub-title of the
Cantata No. 29. This one is titled the Rahtswal Kantata, composed
by Bach for the dedication of the local town-hall and the sub-
title says: "Wir danken Dir Gott", (We Thank Thee, Lord.)

The liner notes, by one Patrick Russ, state that the same work was
adopted by Bach for many different instruments, a true statement
on the surface. What Mr. P.R. does not tell us, is that in
adopting the work for the Cantata, where it is played by organ
and orchestra, not only did Bach change the key from E to D
Major, but also re-wrote entire sections within the piece and added 
to the original music, here played by the organist's right hand, a 
complex polyphonic accompaniment by the left hand and the orchestra. 
To assign the Cantata's subtitle to a violin or a lute piece written
years before, something Bach himself had not seen fit to do, is
to re-write history to fit the needs of the P.R. man and if Mr.
Parkening was party to this, and I fail to see how it was
possible for him not to know about it, he is guilty of violating
the Fourth Commandment which says: Thy shalt not take the name of
the Lord in vain. 

Now, if the LP was given away as a free offering to the faithful,
I can accept that a minor alteration of historical truth cannot
be such a bad thing. But this record was not a free offering. It
was a commercial venture, sold by EMI in record stores (I bought
my copy at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge) on which they paid, it
stands to reason, good royalties to Mr. Parkening. That kind of
distortion of history is just as reprehensible as a straight
theft or deception. You tell me what law of Christian morality is
broken by this.

So far, this may seem like much ado about nothing. But bear with
me for a moment. As you recall, we said above the violin version
played by Parkening is in E Major. On _listening_ to the record,
when placed on a well calibrated turntable, the music _sounds_ in
F Major, one semi-tone higher. It takes Parkening 3:35 (three
minutes and thirty-five seconds) to rip through the piece (that's
157 beats per minute). By all accounts, an astounding piece of
digital pyrotechnics, a true virtuoso playing on the highest
level. To place this in perspective, we note that the majority of
guitarists who play this, usually take from 4:30 to 5:00 full
minutes to play it. I once timed Barrueco in concert at 4:20,
(that's 128 beats per second) and he is not by any means
technically feeble. The only guitarist in my record collection
that plays this faster than Parkening is Yamashita (Crown
Classics CRCC-7001-2) at 3:22, which is about the same as Wendy
Carlos (in the days she was still known as Walter Carlos)
performance on the Switched-On Bach record (Columbia MS 7194)
which clocks in at 3:20.

I would like to believe that Parkening told us the truth when he
said that he played the piece in E Major. Now if it sounds in F,
there is only one explanation: the recording engineer speeded it
up by about 6%, so as to fit that much more music on the vinyl.
Did Parkening condone this action, which effectively portrays him
in a virtuosic guise to which he is not entitled? we have no way
of knowing and for the sake of argument, I would like to give him
the benefit of the doubt. For the moment. He cannot be held
responsible for technical modifications of his playing which may
have taken place without his knowledge or authorization.

A short time later, Jim Sherry published Parkening's Bach album,
in which this piece is featured. We can discuss at great length
what parts of this transcriptions are taken from others that were
available at the time and which are original. One item though, is
most certainly a Parkening original. This is the direction at the
beginning of the Prelude to place a capo on the first fret. No
explanation for this is given anywhere in the album and we have
no idea why. The clear impression, in any edition of the sort by
a leading performer, is that this is the way he prefers to play
the piece. When you place a capo on the first fret in a piece in
E Major, it sounds in F Major. Right? In other words, in so many
words, Parkening tells us that on his Sacred Music LP, he did
play the piece in F Major, and he did in fact play it at 3:35. Do
you believe this?

I, for one, do not. And the reason is another recording by
Parkening, appearing in 1985. This one is a tape I bought in Los
Angeles (EMI ANGEL 40s-37343), in which the same piece, the
Sinfonia from the Cantata No. 29, is played by Parkening, this
time with orchestral accompaniment. This is a really problematic
recording, where the guitar and the orchestra seldom match each
other in speed or articulation, to the point that one gets the
impression that both tracks were recorded separately and put
together by the recording engineer. The whole concoction is in E
Major, and it shows Parkening in his true colors. It takes 4:55
to complete (that's 112 beats per minute.) Besides the issue of
taking a Bach orchestral piece in D Major and transposing it to E
so as to suit a soloist, without mentioning the fact, there is a
good question in my mind if the actual guitar track on both
recording is not, God Forbid, the very same recording. When
slowing down the earlier recording so that it sounds in E, the
articulations of the entire piece sound to me identical in both
the LP and the tape. With today's technology, it is possible to
prove or disprove the point with absolute precision. I do not
possess the necessary equipment, and I do have better things to
occupy my time with. However, enough shenanigans have been
already committed here, even without this technical
investigation. Please allow me my skepticism, any time the name
of Christopher Parkening is mentioned. 

Matanya Ophee