Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B Major, BWV 868, Diego Ares

In a recent video clip for the Netherlands Bach Society, the Spanish-born harpsichordist Diego Ares discusses his lifelong relationship with the music of J.S. Bach: He is a wonderful life’s companion. You couldn’t wish for a better one. He is there when you are happy and also when you’re sad. He can comfort you when you are sad and he can lift your spirit. He is a great source of peace. A sense …

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Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 4 in A Minor: A Rich Potpourri

The twelve Concerto Grossi (Op. 6) composed by Handel in the autumn of 1739 offer a rich potpourri of musical forms. These orchestral suites (“large concertos”) are a collection of stately French overtures, fugues, vibrant Baroque dances, and repurposed opera arias. They pay homage to a genre that was developed by Arcangelo Corelli in the 1680s. Handel wrote the Concerto Grossi, Op. 6 as an added attraction for performances of his oratorios at London’s Lincoln’s …

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Bach’s Flute Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1034: Quicksilver Virtuosity

Mystery surrounds the exact origin of J.S. Bach’s Flute Sonata in E minor, BWV 1034. It was probably written around 1723 when Bach was employed as Capellmeister for Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Other evidence suggests that it could have been composed slightly later in Leipzig, perhaps for one of the Collegium Musicum concerts at the coffee house, Café Zimmermann. Regardless, the work’s technical demands suggest that it was intended for a musician …

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Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 5 in D Major: “Arise! Arise!”

The tuneful Voice, was heard from high, Arise! Arise! Arise ye more than dead! – John Dryden (A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day) Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 5 begins with a joyful musical “call to order.” A celebratory fanfare in the solo violin seems to be the “tuneful voice” from John Dryden’s 1687 poem, urging us to “arise!” In fact, the first, second, and sixth movements of this Concerto Grosso …

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Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day”: “From Harmony, from Heavenly Harmony”

Sunday marks Saint Cecilia’s Feast Day on the Roman Catholic calendar. Saint Cecilia, one of the most famous martyrs of the early church, is the patron of music and musicians. Her spirit is celebrated in George Frederich Handel’s cantata, Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, which was first performed on November 22, 1739 at London’s Theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The cantata’s text is a setting of a 1687 poem by John Dryden based on the …

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Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541: Bright and Sunny

J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541 springs to life with a leaping upward triad. This simple motivic cell unleashes a playful, dancing musical line which opens the door to torrents of sparkling and boldly-spirited virtuosity. Filled with an infectious sense of joy and exuberance, BWV 541 is a sunny companion to the music we heard in a post that I published earlier this year, J.S. Bach and the Joy of …

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Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Continuo in E Minor, Rachel Podger

Sparks fly in the exhilarating Preludio which opens J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023. The solo violin unleashes a bold and virtuosic toccata over a mighty E pedal tone in the continuo bass. In many of Bach’s other sonatas, the violin enters into a supporting role with the harpsichord. Here, amid a torrent of bariolage (the alternation of notes on adjacent strings to outline chords), it moves squarely into the spotlight. The Adagio …

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