Remembering Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig, the German dramatic mezzo-soprano, has passed away. She was 93. Ludwig was one of the most significant and distinguished singers of the twentieth century “with a voice of exquisite richness and, when needed—breathtaking amplitude.” (Ted Libbey, NPR) She made her debut in Frankfurt at the age of 18, shortly after the Second World War. Her celebrated roles included Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, Leonora in Beethoven’s …

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Contrapunctus XIX: Berio Meets Bach

The Art of Fugue was one of J.S. Bach’s final monuments to musical posterity. Written during the last ten years of the composer’s life, the collection is made up of 14 fugues and four canons which develop from a single, sublimely simple musical subject. As the work unfolds, Bach moves from double, triple, and mirror fugues to a quadruple fugue in an increasingly complex and technically varied exploration of contrapuntal possibilities. The music …

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Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor: A Lost Score Reconstructed

No original manuscript exists for J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor. The lost score was reconstructed from Bach’s Concerto for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1060. According to musicologists, that work was almost certainly an arrangement of an earlier concerto in the same key for oboe and violin, dating from Bach’s years in Köthen (1717–1723). Heard in its likely original form, the Concerto unleashes a vibrant musical conversation. The violin and …

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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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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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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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