J.S. Bach Appreciation Thread

mikeh-375

old school
I don’t subscribe to the idea of emotional ambiguity in Bach neither. I feel his is a refined expression, rarified if you like, or perhaps pure. It might be ambiguous out of context in a Marvel feature unless it is digetic because Iron man chills to Bach, but in the high art of absolute and text driven concert music, there is no doubting its profound emotional utterance, at least to me.
Btw, that B min. Mass is great, but it’s useless to dance to.:dancer:
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I wouldn't go too far with this idea of Bach being an "emotionally ambiguous" composer.
I hear what you're saying but it's always a matter of degree, so I stand by my view that Bach composed relatively "pure" music.

I sing in a choir every week and we perform quite a lot of Bach, so I've had a lot of time with what, for Bach, would be quite powerfully emotional, including the Passions and the Bm Mass

However, as I started off here, it's a matter of degree and intention. Compared to the sentimental pandering (I know that sounds mean but whatever) of much media music, Bach's material is less specific, even when it's emotional and powerful. It can be moving even if it's just an instrumental version of a cantata or some other vocal piece, but it's less emotionally specific than much of media music.

Put another way, a fair amount of film and other media music practically digs its elbow into the viewer's ribs, saying "see? it's a SAD scene; it's a HAPPY MOMENT" and so on. By no means all media music, but enough of it.

So what I'm getting at is that Bach doesn't point nearly so specifically to a canned emotion. It may elevate one's emotional experience, even create the feeling of joy or tragedy, but it goes about it in a totally different way than a good bit of what's on our screens today.

Again, not everyone does that in media. Michael Nyman has never done it as far as I am aware, and quite a bit of Tom Newman's and Philip Glass' music avoids that trap, and I'm sure I'm neglecting others as well.
 

Uncle Peter

Member
Bach had one of the greatest minds in the history of mankind. Period. Stunning. The more you dig the more is revealed. I think what you are referring to is that the "structural integrity" of the work is never compromised.
Hear, hear - I second that.

I made the pilgrimage last year and took the missus with me. I spent an afternoon in the Bach Museum and was struck by the intensity of his training from a young age. The exercises that his eldest brother set him were intense; numbers were scrawled everywhere and he solved many a musical puzzle (counterpoint exercises).

Obligatory picture..


The Bach dynasty of composers and musicians is well documented of course and it struck me that Johann Sebastian was really almost the product of an intense musical breeding experiment. Much like you breed sausage dogs.. ;D
That's not to take anything away from his immense work ethic and pure sublime talent. But that talent was seemingly written into his DNA by his forefathers/mothers, most of whom were involved in music in one way or another.

Also.. the zoo in Leipzig is fantastic.
 
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Rodney Money

On V.I. avoiding work.
I am going to share way too much, but in all honesty, I feel the need to do so in honor of Bach. I am the youngest of 4 children where I am 6 years younger than my sibling next to me in age, so when my mother passed away of cancer when I was only 10 years-old my siblings where basically almost grown at 16, 18, and 20 leaving me alone in the house when my father remarried when I turned 14. Without going into details although we are great now, my relationship with my stepmother growing up was estrange causing me to be very independent dreaming of the day I left home to major in music at college. My father had to travel for work sometimes weeks at a time, so to calm my mind, my growing internal “Quiet Anger,” and to find hope I would listen to Fredrick Fennel conducting the wind ensemble version of Bach’s “Fantasia in G” every night before resting my head to sleep.

In my senior year “Fantasia in G” just so happen to be among the choices of compositions we could choose for our final conducting exam. As I addressed the ensemble with my personal history of this piece they could tell that I was not even thinking of my final grade, but more focus on giving homage to Bach for giving me light out of the darkness. After class the piccolo player came up to me and said he could tell that I was passionate about this piece in the way that I was conducting, and he said because of that he and the rest of the ensemble felt compelled to play passionately also.

Not only fulfilling dreams while in college I met what I thought was the love of my life, but after 5 years of marriage and 10 years of being together my heart was broken after we devoiced. I’ve never said this before to anyone, but the night she left was the first time I ever thought about taking my own life. I mourned the death of my marriage by lying on the bed in the guest bedroom listening to Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral arrangement of “Chaconne.” Pausing the CD after the piece concluded, I looked up when Bach composed the work discovering it coincided with the death of Bach’s first wife, and I also found out that Bach later married his 2nd wife just under 2 years knowing that life must go on. The CD player just happened to be on shuffle at the time and Bach’s “Aria” or “Air on the G String” beautifully filled the room cleansing my heart of sorrow. Then, I heard a voice in my head saying, “Your wife is dead, move on, you have work to do,” and just under 2 short years later I met my 2nd wife just like Bach. When our daughter was born a few years later Liz asked me what I wanted to name the baby, and I said, “Aria."

Since I was a teenager, Bach and his music have been there for me teaching me composition, technique, pushing me to be a better musician, a better person, giving me hope, and literally saving my life freeing me from despair. I was asked just last week to be a featured guest artist, performing on flugelhorn and possibly cornet, in a series of performances. As the director asked me what I wanted to perform while being accompanied by pipe organ, a smile on my face answered, Bach’s “Fantasia in G.”
 

tmhuud

Brown Belt
That was an amazing story Rodney. Very heartfelt.

You have to remember that Bach and just about everyone living in those times was surrounded by death and dying all the time. And yet to think what the man accomplished in his lifetime is staggering. He fathered 20 children over his lifetime, and ONLY ten survived through to adulthood! To lose a child is one of the most horrific things a parent can endure, let alone TEN!

Even Bach's wife, Maria Barbara's death was sudden and unexpected. Bach was at the Carlsbad spa with Prince Leopold when she died. When Bach left Köthen, she was in perfectly good health but when he returned two months later, he literally walked into his house to find she was already BURIED.

I found the class I attended on Audible. I really recommend this if your into JSB. It is really about the human being and what it was like to be alive during those times. And the music that accompanies it is devine.

https://www.audible.com/search?searchNarrator=Professor+Robert+Greenberg

Its "Bach and the High Baroque".
 

MarcusD

Active Member
Bach's music will always be dear to my heart. Some of my earliest memories are of pretending to perform Toccata and Fugue on an old electric keyboard which my father randomley bought from a car boot sale (for those across the pond, its a yard sale in a field with lots of people also selling stuff). The keyboard had a selection of songs which it could play. Turned out that Bach was my favorite, yet I was not old enough to understand or know who composed it. When I was older, I heard the song again being played on the radio and from there found Bach again.
 

mikeh-375

old school
Marcus,
Speaking of the Toccata, my hands went into make-up at Pinewood Studios once and I had to wear a victorian shirt with frilly cuffs because they where the stunt hands for Captain Nemo in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' as he played the toccata on his big organ in the submarine (no, not a euphemism). I just fingered a dummy (no....NOT a euphemism..;)) err, keyboard to an existing recording whilst they filmed. As an aside, the director was Michael Anderson who did the Dam Busters among others. I had to practice the whole damn piece to be certain I wouldn't get caught out and in the end they just used, well you can guess what bit, for a few seconds...bloody films.
 

MarcusD

Active Member
Marcus,
Speaking of the Toccata, my hands went into make-up at Pinewood Studios once and I had to wear a victorian shirt with frilly cuffs because they where the stunt hands for Captain Nemo in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' as he played the toccata on his big organ in the submarine (no, not a euphemism). I just fingered a dummy (no....NOT a euphemism..;)) err, keyboard to an existing recording whilst they filmed. As an aside, the director was Michael Anderson who did the Dam Busters among others. I had to practice the whole damn piece to be certain I wouldn't get caught out and in the end they just used, well you can guess what bit, for a few seconds...bloody films.
:rofl: That's bloody brilliant! Typical thing to happen. You work so hard, spend ages stressing about perfecting a performance and then...
 
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