Sunday, December 17, 2017

Project 366 - Bach Gets my GOAT

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

Baseball fans will argue until they are blue in the face about everything and anything. Was this player “Safe” or “Our”? Was that ball “Fair” or “Foul”? Who was the better pitcher: Steve Carlton or Tom Seaver? 

Everybody has their GOAT - “Greatest of All Time”. Honus Wagner? Ty Cobb? Babe Ruth? Is that before or after the Colour Barrier was broken? Was that before or after games were played at night? Do “Steroid era” players get considered?

To me, the GOAT was Willie Mays. He could do everything – he could hit, he could run, he could play the field… Everybody remembers that catch at the Polo Grounds during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. I wasn’t born yet, but I saw the footage. Nobody will ever remember Vic Wertz – the guy who thought he hit it out of Mays’ reach – but he’s viewed today as a goat of a different kind…

Baseball fans aren’t the only ones to debate things, as we humanoids are an argumentative bunch! The GOAT argument is something that transcends baseball and gets into every human endeavor, and the parameters that make somebody ”great” are always open to interpretation. 

Although it may not be a fair question to ask, who is – in your mind – the GOAT among Classical Music luminaries – composers, performers…

Not easy…

The reason why it isn’t easy is because the playing field isn’t level. Going back to baseball for a minute, the game has evolved a lot over 100-plus years, athletes are bigger and stronger, the parameters of play have changed – whether the pitcher’s mound was at this or that height, whether seasons had this many or that many games, whether or not teams travelled from coast to coast. I mean, it’s hard to come up with ways of compensating for these factors when players played under different conditions.

I will readily admit that my heart has swung over the years, and I have to cop out and grant the title to two composers, one of which is featured with some time capsules n today's installment.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and organist. The most important member of the Bach family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments as a composer that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position.

His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways.

The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV; lit. Bach-Works-Catalogue) is a catalogue of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach first published in 1950, edited by Wolfgang Schmieder. 1126 compositions were assigned a BWV number in the 20th century. More compositions were added to the catalogue in the 21st century. The Anhang (Anh.; Annex) of the BWV lists over 200 lost, doubtful and spurious compositions. I have selected time capsules that exemplify specific portions of the catalogue.

  • 1-524  - Vocal Works (Cantatas, motets, masses and other sung works, both secular and sacred.)

Listener Guide #134 and 135  - Mass in B Minor. It has been suggested that Bach intended the completed Mass in B minor for performance at the dedication of the new Hofkirche in Dresden, which was begun in 1738 and was nearing completion by the late 1740s. However, the building was not completed until 1751, and Bach's death in July, 1750 prevented his Mass from being submitted for use at the dedication; the first documented complete performance took place in 1859. (Once Upon the Internet #45 - March 8, 2016)
L/G 134 - (Kyrie & Gloria)
L/G 135 - (Credo, Sanctur, Agnus Dei)
  • 525-771  ·             Organ Works
Listener Guide #136  - J.S. Bach "en España". Organist Michael Reckling, who frequented the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation of Marbella was impressed with the location’s acoustics, and he took upon himself to engage Monsignor Rodrigo Bocanegra (at that time pastor of the Church) in 1970 to support this initiative. The ambitious project would yield the first large tracker organ and one of the most important instruments built in Spain in the 20th Century: the Organo Del Sol Mayor. The fine construction was carried out between 1971 and 1975 by the master organ builders Gabriel Blancafort and Joan Capella from Collbató, at their workshop near Barcelona. (Once Upon the Internet #35 - March 17, 2015)

(Also, Listener Guide #8)

  • 772-994 - Keyboard Works

Listener Guide #137 and 138  - Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (Book I). Composed about 20 years apart, the two sets of 24 preludes and Fugues that constitute the two books of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier didn’t start off as one huge collection of 48 works – in fact, the set of “24 Preludes and Fugues” composed in 1742 were not issued as a “sequel” to the original WTC of 1722. Musicologists have, however, come to combine the two sets, as they are both in the same mould – exploiting the concept that many more composers (from Chopin to moist recently François Dompierre) have followed, that of creating a set of works written in every major and minor key.Featured today is the fist book of 24 preludes and fugues. I propose you consider the first 12 as L/G 137, and the last 12 as L/G 138.(Once Upon the Internet #18 - October 13, 2013)

  • 995-1040  - Chamber  and  Solo Instrumental Works (includes duos, trios and works for solo lutem violin, cello and flute)
Listener Guide #139  - Three Bach Cello Suites Bach's cello suites stand out because of the paradox they represent; they are simple yet complex, they achieve the effect of implied three- to four-voice contrapuntal and polyphonic music in a single musical line. As formulaic compositions, they follow the usual Baroque musical suite make-up, each movement based around a baroque dance type. The cello suites are structured in six movements each: prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande, two minuets or two bourrées or two gavottes, and a final gigue. (Once Upon the Internet #51 - October 18, 2016)

(Also, Listener Guide #96 and 114)

  • 1041-1071 - Concertos and Orchestral Suites

Listener Guide #140  - J.S. Bach Violin Concertos. Bach’s violin concertos are quite few – there are the three recognized concertos (BWV 1041, 1042 and 1043), a “triple concerto” (for violin, flute and harpsichord), and a host of reconstructed or fragmentary works. Our montage dips into both the “straight up” and the “reconstructed” concertos. (ITYWLTMT Montage #125 - October 4, 2013)

Listener Guide #141  - Edwin Fischer (1886 -1960) Edwin Fischer was the first pianist to make a complete recording of Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier which he commenced in 1933. Perhaps the best adumbration of Fischer’s musical outlook is his recording of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue recorded in 1931. Also featured are all the . The listener guide features his recording of three of concertos for keyboard with his Chamber Orchestra. (ITYWLTMT Montage #266 - December 8, 2017)

Listener Guide #142 and 143  - Brandenburg Perspectives. A showcase of six of Bach’s greatest orchestral works with some filler as a segue into perspective, about how certain interpretations and choices by the artists involved (or even by the composer himself) provide an at times curious insight on the term “flavour of the day”. (ITYWLTMT Montages Nos. 83 and 84 - December 2012)

L/G # 142 (Concertos 4 -6)

L/G 143 (Concertos 1-3) 

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