Sunday, December 18, 2005


The BBC's Bachstravaganza has been quite a delight so far, and I'm looking forward to a long day of office listening tomorrow.

Neat thing heard today: this Hilliard Ensemble recording I was completely unaware of, in which the Ensemble and violinist Christopher Poppen put into practice the theories of musicologist Helga Thoene regarding the inclusion of chorale quotations in what we usually think of as 'abstract' Bach. The one BBC played was the famous Chaconne from the solo violin partitas, overlaid with the title chorale from "Christ Lag in Todesbanden." I haven't googled enough to have a good sense of the consensus about such things, but sweet Lutheran Jesus is it a haunting and provocative musical experience. Listening to the Chaconne deconstruct the chorale, and, from its most elemental bits, create a piece of such soaring originality, has the effect of a thrilling piece of conceptual art. We are suddenly drawn in close to Bach's ability to take so many fragments, music broken down like genes into composite chemicals, and reconstitute them into the sublime.

What's more, the immediate reaction is to note the gulf in expressionism, movement, etc. between the solemn, noble, chorale and the ecstatic Chaconne. What a wonder that these two things were created side by side in the same man's head.

No comments: