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Just for fun, I listened to some of Bach's cello suites today and I must admit they're better than kale.

The recording I chose is from 1936 with Pablo Casals as cellist.

Casals was the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th Century. Some consider him the preeminent cellist of all time.

Casals had a special relationship with the Bach suites. He discovered them when he was 13 and studied them for 12 years before performing them in public at the age of 25.

He is said to have played and practiced them everyday for the rest of his life--he died at age 96. They were his spiritual discipline and joy.

This spiritual aspect is present as we listen to Casals play Bach. There is no way to put it into words except to say that there is a sense of the holy in this music.

Comments
2

oh i don't know about that...properly prepared Kale is mighty tasty

thx for the music hun ;-s)

yikes ...with u i see i'm going to have to brush up on my French

April 28, 2011

Garrett,

My son made almost the same comments you did after he recently attended a performance of the Bach B-Minor Mass at the San Francisco Symphony. I rushed to Bach's defense. I told him that I agreed that most Baroque and Rococo music is mostly "ear-wash," that is to say very pleasant and worthy but without the touch of greatness. However, I am convinced that Bach sits at the very top of the Western classical musical heritage.

First, let's look at Bach's "Passion According to St. Matthew." I have been a huge fan of opera since I was a teenager, more than forty years ago. However, after listening to so much great opera, and other classical music all these years, I am still not convinced that there is any operatic work greater than Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Here is the opening chorus of the St. Matthew passion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_LLFf...

Like all vocal works, it is necessary to know the text being sung: Come, ye daughters, share my mourning, See ye --- whom? --- the bridegroom there, See him --- how? --- just like a lamb!

O Lamb of God, unspotted
Upon the cross's branch slaughtered,
...
Have mercy on us, O Jesus!

Here is an awe-inspiring Mezzo-Soprano aria, originally I think written for a castrato: Erbarme dich, mein Gott - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBeXF_...

Have mercy Lord, My God, because of this my weeping! Look thou here, Heart and eyes now weep for thee Bitterly.

Here is a chorus that always gives me the shivers. It is sung five times in the Matthew Passion, with variations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UasmivVYfPA

O head of blood and wounding, Of pain and scorn so full, O Head, for spite now fettered Beneath a crown of thorns, ...

I suppose it all comes down to the question of whether the St. Matthew Passion is a greater work than Tristan und Isolde. It is a difficult call, but I think it is, especially when you factor in that Bach was necessarily writing in a less complex musical style.

You say you detect a transcendent, spiritual aspect in Bach's Cello Suites. And I would absolutely agree. But did you ever listen to Bach's even greater Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001-1006)? These are some of the most amazing musical pieces I have ever heard. Here is the Fugue from Sonata #1, played by Henryk Szeryng (masterpieces such as this must be performed by a virtuoso, or not at all. Just like all great opera.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjSG2S...

This sounds like several violinists playing a fugue against each other, but it is one man, and one violin. Here is another excerpt, played by Isaac Stern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vfMADWKFsM&feature=related

The "Big Three" of Western Music is usually said to be Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. But as a big fan of opera, like me, don't you agree that Wagner not only equaled Beethoven, but went well beyond him?

  Robert Sheaffer
May 20, 2011

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