Bach’s French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, Pierre Hantaï

In a previous post, we considered the mysterious and melancholy qualities of the key of B minor, especially in the music of J.S. Bach. Perhaps the most monumental example is the B Minor Mass, which Bach completed a year before his death. Something similar can be heard in Bach’s French Suite No. 3 for solo keyboard. The harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï suggests that Bach’s choice of B minor points to solemn music. Music of importance. …

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Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846: Pure and Well-Tempered

The Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846 opens the first book of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, dated 1722. It can be heard as a tantalizing musical invitation, throwing open the door to the collection’s endless adventures. The Well-Tempered Clavier moves through all twenty four major and minor keys. Bach wrote this music “for the use and profit of musical youth desirous of learning, as well as for the pastime of those already skilled …

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Bach’s Organ Sonata No. 6 in G Major: An Etude for All Time

Today, we regard the output of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) as a fundamental pillar of Western music. As with the works of Shakespeare, Bach’s music is eternally relevant in a way which transcends cultural trends or politics. Yet, there was a time when Bach’s place in the canon seemed less assured. In the years following J.S Bach’s death, his music fell out of stylistic favor, with its triumphant revival (courtesy of figures such …

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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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