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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 Reasoning while singing
Reasoning while singing PDF Print E-mail
by Marina Verzoletto

«He decided to introduce in his performances a great variety, and each composition played by him seemed to be a dialogue». The biographer Forkel, thanks to the testimony of sons and students of the Cantor, gives us the impossible curiosity of discovering how Johann Sebastian Bach played. He was a virtuoso of keyboard instruments, but also strings were in his skills. Also when he did not write to perform his scores personally, but to entrust them to Linigke or Lünecke, or Abel, cellists from Cöthen around 1720, Bach knew perfectly how his scores sounded, while he composed them. He knew how his Suite for unaccompanied cello should have sounded under the horsehairs held by sapient fingers. He literally heard the unprecedented: indeed never had a composer seriously considered the potentials of the plebeian instrument, of those strings «as big as boat chords» – mocked by a French historian of the time, fan of the noble viola da gamba. For cello Bach invents from scratch an entire expressive universe. He chooses the form of the suite of dances without going far from its usual scheme: allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue, preceded by a prelude and with a couple of Galanterien (minuets or bourrées or gavottes) alternated between the third and fourth dance. But the apparent repetitiveness of the scheme is eluded by the impressive variety of the realizations. Each movement is an argument with clear ideas and explained with keen richness of melodic figures conceived in the many identities of different registers. From low notes, with long resonance that create a pedal effect, similar to an organ in the Prelude of the Fourth Suite, to the warm cantabile that often and easily charms the listener, loosened up in arpeggios, expanded in ample arches or liquid arabesques, projected in dance steps. While singing, Bach reasons: he develops his mysterious logics, demonstrating how it is possible to write polyphonic music without ever playing two notes simultaneously. It is a synthetic writing, so perfect that the listener, consciously or unconsciously depending on his musical culture, imagines the missing notes but without feeling a lack. The almost provocative example of this acoustic illusiveness is the fugue presented in the Prelude of the Fifth Suite; but the climax of synthetic writing is the Sarabande of the same Suite: eight measures, forty notes altogether in the first part, sixty – eight notes, twelve measures in the second. Great economy of means, broken and ample lines draw with few traits all of the harmonic path, as the gesture of a sovereign that creates the universe in one instant.