A new DVD has been released of The Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle, Mark Padmore, Camilla Tilling and Thomas Quasthoff along with several choirs, performing a semi-staged production of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
Sellars is known for staging operas in unusual venues, from Handel's Orlando in space to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in a luxury New York apartment. He's collaborated with John Adams and Kaija Saariaho. And who could forget his role as Dr. Ohara in the TV series Miami Vice.
Posted at 5:11 PM on May 1, 2012
by Emily Reese
Filed under: Johann Sebastian Bach
I was preparing for an interview and, naturally, I got pulled into that Internet vortex — listening to recordings and watching videos of Johann Sebastian Bach's Cello Suites.
There are dozens of videos. Dozens and dozens and dozens.
In the classical music world, we frequently hear the term "interpreter" thrown around — as in, the performer is a wonderful interpreter of Beethoven Piano Sonatas or that conductor is a brilliant interpreter when it comes to Mahler's symphonies.
Same goes for Bach, of course. There are a load of questions facing performers of Baroque music, not least of which is this: to romanticize, or not?
Since this is a blog, and blogs inherently spew personal opinions, I'm here to say something.
Don't romanticize it.
It's not how I want my Bach. I want it more like this:
Less like this:
First of all, I adore Pablo Casals. The first recordings I bought of the Cello Suites? Played by Casals.
The difference between the two here is subtle. Casals most certainly performs the Prelude with more rubato (like a relaxation of time, or liberty with the tempo of the piece) than Rostropovich. But to me, that subtle rubato destroys the momentum of the line.
I think of it like this: rubato is a bit like a drunk person trying to walk straight. There is no measured rhythm to their steps as they navigate the path ahead. I prefer to think of Bach, and virtually all of Baroque music, as a nice walk in your most comfortable shoes. It's second nature. There is no anguished thought behind your steps. You just GO.
The simplicity and journey of the individual line... how that line creates the impression of more than what's there on its own — this is what I find beautiful in Bach's music.
So, while Casals manipulates time to create his version of the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, Rostropovich rather spices up his performance by concentrating on dynamics. There isn't even a dynamic marking on the original manuscript, so even Rostropovich is adding elements absent from the written page.
I don't pretend to know exactly how J.S. Bach wanted his cello suites performed. I just know that when it comes to Bach, I want my coffee black.
For an easier distinction between rubato and, well, not rubato, watch MIscha Maisky perform the Prelude, then go back and listen to Rostropovich.
This is a fascinating visualization of the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suites.
I like how it shows the chordal and melodic structure in a whole different way; the musical line forming the broken chords and flowing into the melody is quite beautiful visually as well as musically.
Here is a video of the entire visualization:
If you have a recent web browser, you can also use the interactive visualization (written using the HTML5 Canvas for the web developers among you). The developer also has written a blog post describing the visualization.
This Thursday through Saturday (Oct. 13-15), The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is exploring selections from J.S. Bach's The Art of the Fugue.
From their site:
This season, for the first time in the orchestra's history, the SPCO presents Bach's Art of Fugue, the monumental cycle of fugues and canons left unfinished at the composer's death. The first of two programs, this concert honors The Art of Fugue as the epitome of musical craft by prefacing it with Mendelssohn's Sinfonia No. 12, and Leon Kirchner's Music for 12, a masterpiece of the twentieth-century repertoire.
Here, Patrick Castillo, Director of Artistic Planning, discusses Art of Fugue.
Ticket information and details are available on the SPCO site.
Broadcasts of our extensive Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra recordings can be heard Monday nights at 8 p.m. on Classical MPR stations and webstream.
I grew up playing the 'cello.
And as anyone who has spent any time playing the 'cello, I played the Bach 'Cello Suites.
Maybe more than any other group of pieces in the world, these 6 pieces are in my ears, fingers, and psyche.
But never, not ever, have I dreamed of playing those pieces like this.
Make sure to pay special attention at 3:21. THAT is something I did (and still do) dream of doing.
"Who's the greatest classical composer of them all?" asks Rob Hubbard of the Pioneer Press. If you agree that it's the guy celebrating a birthday Saturday with 324 candles on his cake, then put your walking shoes on (or maybe a pair of roller-blades) and do the 'Saint Paul Bach Crawl' for a whole series of concerts down Summit Avenue this Bach birthday.
Here's more from Rob's piece in the Press.
What did J. S. Bach's own face really look like? Read about a new reconstruction here.
Fugue (fyoog) n.
1. Music An imitative polyphonic composition in which a theme or themes are stated successively in all of the voices of the contrapuntal structure.
2. Psychiatry A pathological amnesiac condition during which one is apparently conscious of one's actions but has no recollection of them after returning to a normal state.
Which of these applies to Britney Spears? Well, both, sort of. While attending a "Mother of the Year" awards party (I think that's what it was) in Las Vegas New Years' Eve, Britney may have passed out. She's denying it, but it's been hard to tell exactly what constitutes a "normal state" for her to return to.
But what does Britney have to do with "fuguing?" (Steady!) Well, one of her early hits, "Oops, I did it again!" turns out to be the perfect teaching tool for showing how to write a fugue. A 25 year-old named Danny Pi has done a brilliant job making music theory fun in this video on You Tube.
Britney, by the way, is going to have to start doing it again (coming out with some hits, that is) pretty soon, or word is that her record label might dump her. Her biggest fan site already has.
Posted at 10:40 AM on November 14, 2006
by Don Lee
Filed under: Johann Sebastian Bach
You may have read the news that former members of the band Procol Harum are fighting over authorship of the organ melody in their 1967 hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." You have to wonder about the grounds for the claim, since the tune obviously owes its existence to Bach's "Air on a G String"--a theme from his Orchestral Suite No. 3. The "theft" from Bach has been openly admitted by Gary Brooker, the Procol Harum member now earning royalties for the "Whiter Shade" music.
The news got me thinking about other Bach-to-rock conversions, and one came immediately to mind: "A Lover's Concerto" by the Toys (1965). But in Googling to confirm my long-held assumption, I learned here that the Toys' echt source was one Christian Petzold, not Bach after all.
Now I'm stuck. I can't think of any other examples of Bach making it to the Top 40. No doubt there's a Web site out there that lists numerous instances, but that's too easy. It's more fun to riffle through the mental catalogue. If you'd like to help, post a comment below.