Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bach's Violin Concerti

Since my last post I have been spending some time with Bach's Violin Concerti. So far, this music has taught me the importance of listening to a music work multiple times. This is especially true with Bach. There are some many things going on with those pieces that I think you would have to read a score or two in order to catch all the goodies.

I may have overdone it, however, because my ears are quite tired of listening to Bach. I go through phases of personal musical taste, and right now High Baroque isn't high on my list. I don't think this will affect my judgment of the recording, but, in case it does, or you don't agree, you can assume my attitude may be part of my problem.

The CD I have comes from the EMI Classics "Encore" collection, and features Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. I have another CD featuring the same works, with Hilary Hahn as the soloist, but I will cover that when I get to her set of recordings.

The reason there are two violinists for a recording of concerti is that one concerto is the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins (on which Zuckerman performs).

After having gone through Greenberg's course on the High Baroque I'm beginning to understand peoples' love of Bach, and have had a glimpse into the intricacy of Bach's music. There's just more there each time we listen. What's more, to really appreciated to have to sit and listen, not have it on while doing the laundry. Having someone like Greenberg point out the special parts on the pieces helps tremendously.

For example, in one of the concerti (perhaps in all of them) the main theme is played, and repeated, with the soloist and orchestra performing the theme. In the development section, the orchestra starts to play the theme when the solo violin interrupts to play an embellishment, then hands the music back to the orchestra, which picks up the theme from where it was at the time it was interrupted. After playing part of the theme, in comes the violinist again, and entire movements are played this way.

With the help of Greenberg I can at least hear some of the alchemy Bach has conjured up in these concerti (for some reason, Bach wrote only three violin concerti - is that right? someone correct me in the comments if need be). So I guess I'll be coming back to these again and again, as I hear more each time I listen. Isn't that a sign that a music is exceptional? Because you have to listen, rather than wash dishes, to really understand Bach,at least in some of his pieces, like these concerti.

Though I have more Bach to explore, I'm going to skip ahead to another composer for awhile. But I still have the Well Tempered Clavier to listen through, which is quite a lot of material. But, not to worry, I get back to Bach soon.