November 22, 2004

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)


Some while back, I was musing here about what I called the "Bach state of mind," that combination of internal and external influences that periodically gives me sufficient musical lucidity to play Bach's keyboard music with some degree of success, where I otherwise would stumble all over exactly the same pieces in helpless incompetence. (Lest you think I'm getting too pretentious with all this, I recollect that the metaphor I used in that earlier post was of Bones McCoy being able to put Spock's brain back in his head after putting on that Alien Hat of Knowledge thingy. Sometimes I feel the same way. "Why of course! A child could do it!" Other times, I feel just like the alien chick who said, "Brain, brain and brain! What is brain?" )

I've never really sat down and tried to analyze exactly what provokes these periodic outbursts, although the onset of fall seems to have some connection with it. The cool, wet, gloomy days are conducive to melancholy, which in turn, is conducive to contemplation and introspection. (Mr. Outer Life had a very good essay about this the other day, btw. I, too, believe that to be melancholic does not mean one has a problem.) And I think there is a further connection between these and the particular kind of musical sense necessary in order to properly understand and play Bach's music. Anyway, that's my theory, which is mine, and I'm sticking to it.

I've been playing a lot of Bach lately, most particularly some of his partitas in French style. My favorite is the first, in B flat major. I've taken an especial fancy to the allemande, and have always enjoyed the gigue, which is relatively easy to play if you don't mind hand crossings. The sixth in E minor is also very good, featuring a very stormy toccata.

This is first class Baroque music and some of the best keyboard material Bach ever wrote. When I'm actually able to play it, I feel I am really engaging in High Art, something grown up and serious, representing the outer edges of Man's achievement. I've learned not to try and force it when I'm not in the right mood. But that makes me all the more appreciative when I am, and I'm determined to enjoy it while it lasts.

Oh, speaking of Baroque music, for the prelude at Church this past Sunday, we got the "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Handel's Solomon, as performed by the organist and two trumpeters. Frankly, they butchered it. So I went home and played it myself to get the bad taste out of my ears, as it were. I have a book of contemporary transcriptions for keyboard of Handel's various oratorical overtures and instrumental interludes. (Apparently, they were quite the money-makers in Handel's own day.) Unfortunately, the publishers (Dover) saw fit to reproduce the original hand-penned scores, rather than transposing the pages into modern print. Makes it very difficult to read sometimes.

Posted by Robert at November 22, 2004 02:16 PM | TrackBack

Bach does remind me of the Fall season. Thank you for reminding me. I hate this season unless I have the stimuli to handle it. Bach is helping.

Posted by: William Hall at November 22, 2004 08:02 PM
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