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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2013 Singing along, reasoning all the time
Singing along, reasoning all the time PDF Print E-mail

“He decided to introduce in his performances a great variety, and each composition played by him seemed to be a dialog”. Bach’s biographer Forkel, calling on the testimony of sons and students of the Cantor, makes us curious to discover – however impossible it seems – exactly how Johann Sebastian Bach played. He was a virtuoso on the keyboard, but highly skilled with stringed instruments too. Even when he did not compose with a view to playing the music himself, but entrusted it to Linigke or Lünecke, or Abel, the court cellists at Köthen around 1720, Bach – with his gift of perfect pitch – knew exactly how his music would sound, while he composed it. He knew how his Suite for unaccompanied cello should sound under the bow in talented hands. He could literally hear what had never been heard before: no composer had ever seriously considered the potential of that grumbling, plebeian instrument, its strings “as big as the lines of a boat” mocked a French historian of the time, who preferred the noble viola da gamba.
For the cello Bach invents a whole universe of expression, out of nothing. The form is the suite of dances, without deviating far from its usual scheme: allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue, preceded by a prelude and with a couple of galanterien (minuets or bourées or gavottes) alternated between the third and fourth dances.He uses an impressive range of strategies to avoid the risk of repetitiveness. Each movement is a topic on its own, its clear ideas explained with subtlety and richness in melodic figures conceived in many different registers. From low notes, resonating at length to create a pedal effect like an organ, in the Prelude of the Fourth Suite, to the tense acute flourishes embellishing the Sesta, and the warm cantabile interludes that so charm the listener, dissolving in arpeggios, spreading into ample arches or liquid arabesques, or agile dance steps.
While he sings along, Bach is reasoning: he develops his mysterious logic, showing how one can write polyphonic music while hardly ever playing several notes together. His writing is so perfectly compact that the listener, consciously or unconsciously depending on his musical culture, mentally “fills in” the missing notes without having to really hear them. With great economy of means, broken, ample lines sketch out the whole of the harmonic space, like the gesture of a Master creating the universe in an instant.

Marina Verzoletto