Monday, January 26, 2009

Music Monday - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

It's not a big anniversary year for J.S. Bach this year (though 2010 is the 300th birthday of lesser-known son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach), but I've been playing and listening to some of The Well-Tempered Clavier the past couple of weeks, and am wondering what else I might want to listen to of Bach, Sr.'s music. I've always liked Baroque music, and finally, as an adult, seem to have acquired enough patience to learn a fugue or two on the keyboard. As a teenager, I played the Inventions and some of the Preludes, but only ever started a fugue (most of which have three to five distinct parts, often playing simultaneously), and never finished it. Right now I'm working on the C Major Fugue (BWV 846) and the C Minor Prelude and Fugue (BWV 847) (might as well start at the beginning). I think I played three of Bach's violin concerti as a young violinist, and went on to work on Partita No. 3 for unaccompanied violin as a grad. student. Perhaps I've found the patience needed for the rest of the sonatas and partitas, too, but I doubt it--they are extremely challenging.

Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Bach's, and his (Mendelssohn's) Magnificat seems especially influenced by the Baroque composer's music. It would be fun to listen to both Mendelssohn's and Bach's Magnificats sequentially see what similarities there might be.

Bach wrote so very much music it's hard to pick a few favorites out of the bunch. But my favorite recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier is, hands-down, Glenn Gould's. Here is the C Minor fugue I'm currently working on (at about half the speed Gould plays it):

And every violinist knows "The Bach Double," or Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, the first movement played here as I first remember hearing it, by Isaac Stern and Itzahk Perlman:

One choral work of Bach's that I haven't sung but would love to is the secular canata nicknamed, "The Coffee Cantata," performed here by The Academy of Ancient Music under the direction of Christopher Hogwood, with soloists Emma Kirkby and David Thomas:


Barb said...

I downloaded "Ei! Wie Schmeckt Der Coffee Susse ( BWV 211 -"Coffee Cantata"]" a few weeks ago for DH the coffee addict. Thruthfully, it was actually for me, since I LOVE Emma Kirkby. Isn't it such a fun little piece. I'd love to sing it. The cover of that CD is so strange and hideous, that it is cool.

Barb said...

And here are the words translated:

Bach: Kaffee-Kantate 'Sweigt stille, plaudert nicht' BWV 211
The father is concerned about the daughter's (Lieschen's) consumption of coffee and reproaches her for her vice. Lieschen gives vent to her
'Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süsse,
Lieblicher als tausend Küsse,
Milder als Muskatenwein.
Coffee, Coffee muss ich haben;
Und wenn jemand mich will laben,
Ach, so schenkt mir Coffee ein!'
('des Tages - dreimal mein Schälchen Coffee trinken darf...')
Alas! the sweet taste of coffee
Is lovelier than a thousand kisses
And milder than muscatel wine.
I simply must have coffee,and to put me in a good frame of mind,
just pour me out some coffee !
(... to drink my three cups of coffee daily...)
(Archiv; stereo 2533269)
In addition to the sacred cantatas, Bach composed around 50 secular ('profane') cantatas, one of the
famous being the Kaffee-Kantate (BWV 211). This was first performed in Leipzig, probably in 1734. Coffee-houses were 'allowed' in Leipzig from the end of the 17th century.