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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Musical Interlude

(For politics, please scroll down)

J.S. Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in A-moll BWV 1065 [Minor] is a glorious piece:


  1. WOWZIR, is that GOOD. And, as a fellow pianist, as is FT, I know you both would understand when I say that as beautiful as that is, and proficient as the harpsichordist is, the TIMING blew my mind; I tend to get a little faster when I play things like this and I could slightly hear an intentional sudden and very subtle slowdown, but, in general? EXCELLENT.
    Thanks for this...I just loved it. Bravo, Herr Bach!
    I love me a good concerto! :-)

  2. I'm sorry I wrote a lengthy comment praising the precision of the ensemble among four different harpsichordists (very difficult to maintain, as I know from experience) and suddenly it disappeared. That hasn't happened in a very long time.

    At any ate, Bach never wrote any bad pieces. This one, however, sounds as though it might have been written by Vivaldi. Bach did occasionally transcribe Vivaldi's work for solo organ or harpsichord ensemble. NOT "plagiarism." It was done all the time in the 17th and 18th centuries, and usually the composer whose work was transcribed felt honored.

    The extreme egocentrism, acquisitiveness and possessiveness we must live with today had not yet come into play, although professional jealousy did exist.

    At any rate, the pulsing energy and sense of ceaseless forward motion so characteristic of "fast movements" during the Baroque period is shown here in abundance.

    A pleasant change from contemplating Doom and Gloom, I must say.

    1. How do they manage to keep four harpsichords in tune.

      I've seen performances where they did some minor tuning between movements.
      More extensive beween full pieces.

    2. FT...I almost wrote that it sounded more like Mozart but Vivaldi is a better choice and your background on that fascinated me. It's a bit more 'melodic' than some of Bach.
      Thanks for that information.

    3. Harpsichords are far less stable than the modern piano, Ducky, because the strings are framed in WOOD, which constantly expands and contracts more noticeably than iron.

      I studied harpsichord with Albert Fuller of the Juilliard for two years, and gave some Baroque chamber music concerts at NYU with the Waverley Consort and at Park Avenue Methodist Church.

      I had loved the instrument since I first heard it over the radio in early childhood, but never wanted to own one, because the idea of having to tune it at least two or three times a week, all by myself, was more of a chore than I cared to take on.

      Besides, the piano literature is far more comprehensive, and piano was my first love anyway.

      As a Parish Organist, I found most of Bach's harpsichord and clavichord pieces were eminently well suited to play on the organ, and to be frank sounded bloody marvelous. I thanked God every Sunday for the Well-Tempered Clavier. Some movements from the Mozart Piano Sonatas also sounded very well on the organ with a few discrete modifications where I felt the need to add pedal parts.

      I loved the organ from toddlerhood too, and played my first church service at age twelve.

      Music has been the great love of my life.

    4. Bach used lots of melodies -- may of them very old folk tunes ––, Z, but he wove them into dense, complex contrapuntal textures, which might make them hard to hear as "melody." With counterpoint all parts usually have equal significance, so your ear must jump from alto to bass to tenor to soprano to bass to alto, etc.

      As you probably know from your work with the church, in a Bach Cantata the vocal solo, be it soprano, alto tenor or bass, is really another part of the orchestral accompaniment albeit with text added.

      Wagner does something very similar in his Music Dramas. He uses the singers as an integral part of the orchestral parts. Often the most easily identifiable ''melodies'' appear in the ORCHESTRA while the Tenor or Soprano is singing a COUNTER MELODY or an ACCOMPANIMENT.

      The deeper one goes into the study of serious music, the more fascinating it becomes.

  3. I'm particularly fond of harpsichord music.

    1. Me too –– especially when it's performed by Wanda Landowska. Albert Schweitzer, who was a great Bach Scholar and an important organist in Europe before he went to Lambarene as a medical missionary, is reported to have said, "Wanda Landowska plays the harpsichord better than anyone ELSE plays ANYTHING."

      I'm inclined to agree with Schweitzer. The work Landowska did in the 1930's at the peak of her powers has never been surpassed –– namely her recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations, his Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and his Italian Concerto.

      I doubt if anyone will ever be able to equal the immense creativity, expressive power and sheer brilliance of her interpretations of these great works. Those recordings have been a great inspiration to me for more than fifty five years.


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