When NASA launched the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977, it included a Golden Record featuring a sampling of music from Earth. One of the recording’s excerpts is J.S. Bach’s Gavotte en rondeaux from Partita No. 3 in E Major, performed by legendary Franco-Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986). Regarding the record, astronomer Carl Sagan said:
The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.
Voyager 1 continues to drift into the vast cosmic expanse. Yesterday it was 127.19 AU (1.903×1010 km) from Earth. In 40,000 years it will be within 1.6 lightyears of Gliese 445, a star in the constellation Camelopardalis, which flickers faintly in our northern sky.
Following up on last Friday’s post, The Elegant Artistry of Arthur Grumiaux, let’s listen to a few of Grumiaux’s exquisite Bach recordings.Partita No. 3 in E Major
We’ll start off with the Preludio and Gavotte en rondeaux from the E Major Partita. A Partita is an instrumental suite of Baroque dances. While some violinists take the Preludio at breakneck speed, Grumiaux’s noble and slightly slower interpretation allows every note to speak.
Concerto in A minor
Here is the complete Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041. Notice the sense of a heartbeat in the ostinato bass in the second movement. The final movement is a gigue:
Concerto for Two Violins
Herman Krebbers plays the second violin part in this 1978 recording with Les Solistes Romands and conductor Arpad Gerecz:
Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord
Here Grumiaux joins Christianne Jaccotte for Bach’s six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord: