Did Bach really mean that?
Deceptive notation in baroque keyboard music
by Colin Booth

Praise for Did Bach really mean that?

“The book is absolutely first class: Very learned yet imaginative and totally approachable. So much to learn from it, and so much to admire. Congratulations. I have already recommended it to several keyboard players.”
Sir Roger Norrington
For pianists: “The author’s research is overwhelming. Provided the reader is prepared to roll up his or her sleeves, this book gives the performer a wealth of information in a practical and non-didactic way, which will benefit all keyboard-players — pianists included.”
Stephen Kovacevich
For organists: “This book is a ‘must read’ for all musicians. Booth writes with a rare combination of learning and intuitiveness, practical insight and a clarity of reasoned argument that can only inspire. His elegant prose and apposite illustration make it a joy to read.”
David Titterington
For harpsichordists: “Colin Booth’s guide to deceptive notation will be invaluable. The book’s countless musical examples, drawn from an unexpectedly wide range of sources, are examined step by step for any vital message they may hide beneath their bland surface. This is a book that will tidily fill an almost unnoticed gap between ordinary, moderately informed teaching of Baroque music, and those studies aimed at the already expert.”
Colin Tilney
“I thought that I might find it too academic for me but I am enjoying it and am enthralled by all the fascinating examples. What a huge amount of research he has put into it.”
K. Williams
“Colin Booth has come up with a magnificent text, illuminated by a multitude of useful musical examples...
Booth’s book is ...massively useful, and what I like about his writing is his all-embracing and non-dogmatic approach to this subject and its individual aspects. Take any point of contention with the piece you are studying, look up the easily found relevant section in this book, and your mind will be opened to the fluid nature of notation, introduced to references and statements which provide clues towards interpretation, and offered intelligent ways in which such music can be performed in a way defensible against criticisms of lack of authenticity.”
Those who know Booth’s playing will also know that it is exuberant, and that he is capable of extracting considerable emotion from even the most unpromising material; not for him the academic playing of a Ralph Kirkpatrick. He is not unusual in that now (though he would have been regarded as cavalier forty years ago) but he is unusual in being able to articulate his rationale for it. His approach, as set out in this book, is based on two constructs: first, that in the baroque period, notation of music was still undeveloped and like seventeenth century spelling, inconsistent; secondly that most composers were driven by expediency, and in particular by the need to simplify and shorten the labour of notation and of the subsequent task of the engraver. Developing those contexts, Booth takes us through eight chapters of detailed, beginning with the way in which the sound of a single note might be notated, through the problems inherent in notating triplets and ‘swung’ rhythms, and on to the notation and playing of ornaments. As Booth shows us, all is not as it seems. But better than that, all is not as complicated as it seems, with the consequence that much of this music emerges as technically easier than might at first be thought.
The book is attractively produced between hard covers and is physically robust enough to last a lifetime. The text is annotated, but only lightly, making it accessible to the general reader as well as providing a valuable resource for the serious scholar or practitioner.
Peter Mole, British Clavichord Society
“Did Bach really mean that?” It is a catchy title. The subtitle is “Deceptive Notation in Baroque Keyboard Music.”
It is an extensive investigation and commentary on the meaning behind the written conventions that a composer employs to convey the lengths of notes. Via symbols upon the page, the player alchemically communicates music. A difficult enough task at any time, and one that has promoted some innovative experiments in notation in the twentieth century involving intricate, graphic scores, but Colin Booth has set out to extrapolate the meanings behind notation as it was used nearly 3 centuries ago. He writes in his introduction, “...just as the meanings of many words and phrases (particularly in the spoken word) change over time, in the same way a different cultural context has altered the meanings, or removed the underlying significance of, some musical notation.”
No less than two hundred and eighty-one musical examples illustrate his desire to encourage the player to become more flexible and, in fact, more musical. Here he has the enormous advantage of being a harpsichordist worth listening to on the concert platform, and therefore one who literally practises what he preaches; for this reason, I would encourage the reader to buy some of his recordings as well as his book.
Penelope Cave, Sounding Board