July 12, 2008

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

Regular readers may recall that for the past year and a half or so - in fact, since Dad died - I have had no real interest in playing any musick other than that of J.S. Bach. Listening to other composers, yes. But when it comes to sitting down and tickling the ivories myself? Nobody but ol' Johann Sebastian will do. (Make of that what you will, all you armchair trick-cyclists.)

One of my very favorites currently is the Gigue from Bach's Partita No. 4 in D-Major, BWV 828. Here is the opening theme (lifted from the Bach Choir of Bethlehem):


TBCoB has this to say about the dance:

"Partita IV (BWV 828) contains a giga unique in all of Baroque music–it is in 9/16, giving it two levels of tripleness below the beat (I-3-3). Handel wrote gigas in 24/16 and 12/16, and Kuhnau wrote one in 9/8, but only Bach, to our knowledge, uses 9/16 for a giga." (Little and Jenna, Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991], 162-163.)

This gigue has the most textual variety of all the movements in Partita IV. It begins monophonically, with a single "voice" introducing the fugue subject.

A three-voice fugue emerges, but because of the rests and long notes written into the subject, even when all three voices are sounding there are times where, for a fleeting moment, we hear only two parts. At other times, the two upper voices "back off," dropping to dotted-eighth note ‘chords’ (strictly speaking, these are not chords, since there are only two pitches sounding, but it creates a more chordal effect) while the left hand takes the lead with exciting passages of constant sixteenths.

So what does this translate into? Well, here's Glenn Gould serving it up:

Of course, I can't play it anywhere near this well or this fast. But there is something so immensely uplifting about even my own modest stumblings that by the time I hit that last lovely arpeggio, I feel like I'm floating a couple inches off the bench.

We're seriously hoping to be able to swing the purchase of a baby grand next spring to replace my poor old Kawai upright that after near 40 years' worth of being banged on by me is rapidly approaching the end of its useful life. I've promised myself that once this happens, I'm going to knock off my shameful practice of getting by with sight-reading and really sit down and start properly learning pieces like this one.

Posted by Robert at July 12, 2008 02:56 PM | TrackBack