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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Musical Interlude

(For politics, please scroll down)

For this weekend, enjoy Sonata For Viola da Gamba No. 3 In G Minor BWV 1029 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750):

The three movements of this sonata:

1. Vivace
2. Adagio 5:25
3. Allegro 11:06

Details about the instruments and this particular sonata HERE at Musical Musings.


  1. For several centuries most European people of middle and upper-class status were musically literate. Most learned to play at least one instrument, and most could sing passably well.

    In the Renaissance people would gather together sing polyphonic madrigals from printed part books just to entertain themselves. A bit later during the Baroque Era families and guests would join together and play music like this sonata from either printed or handwritten scores. The Germans very logically called it Hausmusik –– music to be performed in the home.

    Remember there were no recordings, no movies, no radio, no television, no computers, no automobiles, –– and certainly no iPhones and the like to DISTRACT people from fully developing their own talents and from confronting each other directly in everyday life.

    Only strolling minstrels, some repertory players, –– and, of course, the Church –– provided any kind of "enrichment" outside the home.

    The more "sophisticated," technologically advanced we've become, it seems, the farther and farther apart we've grown from warm human interrelationship.

    1. You might enjoy the street singing scenes in René Clair's, Under the Roofs of Paris.
      It stars Albert Préjean as a 1920's Parisian who ekes out a living selling sheet music for group street singing. I was quite surprised to find that was a popular recreation.

      It was also the first financially successful French sound film.

    2. FT,
      Back when I was growing up, even those who couldn't afford piano lessons had an upright piano sitting in their homes. So, children whose parents couldn't afford lessons at least learned to plink on the keys.

      Opportunities to attend concerts were very limited back then -- especially for those living in the rural suburbs and the back country.

      Today, the wonderful technology of YouTube, iPhones, iPads, and the like bring wonderful music to us so that we can enjoy and appreciate the classics.

      Instead of exploring the vast repertoire available, more and more people are playing around on Facebook and drowning themselves in trivia. Sad.

      I must say that many of the Chinese and Koreans who have immigrated here actively pursue playing either the piano or string instruments. These Asian children know a great deal about and appreciate the vast repertoire of classical Western music, but many other American children do no have a clue.

  2. Ducky, you've reminded me of STREETS of LONDON aka ST. MARTIN'S LANE, Charles Laughton's 1938 star turn as a busker with Vivien Leigh as his unlikely protégée and partner. I found it extremely touching.

    Laughton was one of our greatest actors. I've never seen him give a bad performance, and like so many well established "stars" of the past, he was able to portray a wide range of characters with great depth. I love his Rembrandt with Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lancaster. His Quasimodo opposite the young Maureen O'Hara is unforgettably poignant and affecting. I love him in The Canterville Ghost. His villainous Captain Bligh opposite Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian is brilliantly complex. I even love him in Jamaica Inn. The Big Clock with Ray Milland provides another great Laughton characterization of a tyrannical egomaniac, as does his portrayal of a cruel hanging judge in The Paradine Case. He even managed to portray to perfection a curmudgeonly Southern American senator –– a near-perfect replica of the late Sam Ervin – in Advise and Consent. And, of course, his lovably irascible trial attorney Sir Wilfred Robarts, accompanied by the delightfully hostile relationship he has with his nurse-attendant Miss Plimsoll played by Elsa Lanchester MADE Witness for the Prosecution the glorious treat it remains, even if one has seen if ten or fifteen times. Christie's much-touted convoluted plot pales in comparison to Laughton's Sir Wilfred.

    If René Clair's opus is available on YouTube, I'll be sure to watch it.

  3. AOW said,

    "Opportunities to attend concerts were very limited back then –– especially for those living in the rural suburbs and the back country."

    "Today, the wonderful technology of YouTube, iPhones, iPads, and the like bring wonderful music to us so that we can enjoy and appreciate the classics."

    I would agree that technology has made an enormously wide range of interpretations both current and historic of much of the great classical music literature readily available via YouTube, and that this is great boon –– to people like US.

    HOWEVER, I think the availability is largely WASTED on young people who are not directly involved with the study and practice of classical music.

    I doubt very much that I would have fallen so deeply in love with symphonic music, song recitals and the piano at such an early age if my parents hadn't been enlightened enough to drag me to Young Peoples concerts at Carnegie Hall and to matinees at the Metropolitan Opera.

    Our close proximity to New York City was tremendous asset, of course. The aura of GLAMOR and EXCITEMENT that always accompanied ANY trip into The City made all these trips a great adventure. We always took great pains to get all dressed up in our Sunday Best for these occasions, and we usually went to eat at exotic places like The Russian Tearoom next door to Carnegie Hall, or Rumplemeyer's in the Hotel St. Moritz not far away on Central Park South. Once in a while we'd go for cocktails and canapés at The Mermaid Room at the Park Central Hotel –– a great glamor spot in its day.

    None of those appealing "extras" hurt a bit in helping me develop my great love for classical music.

    I'm very much afraid that the easy availability of so much great stuff via electronic media has only served to CHEAPEN it, and make it LESS appealing to the uninitiated precisely BECAUSE the aura of aristocratic elegance in the old concert halls and opera houses, the tradition of dressing well and taking pride in one's appearance for the occasion, and all the wonderful food, etc. is completely MISSING when we sit in front of one of these infernal machines in sterile cubicles under fluorescent light, or –– WORSE –– carry it around in our hot little hands as we stroll around which makes paying the close attention great music deserves –– and MUST HAVE –– to be appreciated virtually impossible.

    if I had NOT been as privileged as I was to go to Carnegie Hall and the Met, and later to benefit from the magnificent musical education we received at my public high school –– before Rock 'n Roll took over the culture and before the public performance of great liturgical music was banned by the Supreme Court in the SICK-sties school –– I seriously doubt I would have spent my life as I have.

    I was very fortunate, and I am VERY grateful to have had so much, even though I never achieved the great success I had hoped to as a performer at the piano. I have no regrets, even so. The intense study of Music and Art has given me enough wonderful memories to last several lifetimes.

    I would wish the same for everyone, if only it were possible.

  4. You might want to listen over at Farmer's Letters to a VERY fine reinterpretation of the Sound of Silence by a small, exquisitely gifted a cappella men's group –– really a madrigal choir. The quality of their sound rivals that of The Kings Singers –– and I don't give compliments like that easily or often.

    What this young men's group achieves far exceeds the original version by Simon and Garfunkel; which seems flat and monotonous by comparison.


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