Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday to Bach

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My life has been a mess this week, and I haven’t had time to post here at all. I even missed writing about Bach’s birthday, though I did mark the occasion by listening with delight to a recording of the Goldberg Variations. And today I played three fugues on my newly-tuned piano. And tonight I rehearse Bach with CONCORA, in preparation for our all-Bach presentation with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra on Sunday.

I subscribe to the Writer’s Almanac, an interesting free email service from American Public Media. (More info here: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org). On March 21, Bach’s birthday, the daily Writer’s Almanac newsletter featured an essay about Bach, including this anecdote:

“He was difficult to work with. He criticized the choir, he took prolonged absences from his job, and once he got in a fight with a bassoonist, in which Bach called the bassoonist something that has been translated as ‘nanny-goat bassoonist’ or ‘bassoonist breaking wind after eating a green onion.’ He took a leave of absence from a job in the town of Arnstadt — he asked for a month and stayed for three more — to visit another part of Germany and see the composer and organist Dietrich Buxtehude. … His employers were relieved to have him back because he was so talented, but they weren't too happy that he was three months late, nor with the musical innovations he had picked up, inspired by Buxtehude. The Church Council held a meeting and informed him: ‘Complaints have been made to the Consistorium that you now accompany the hymns with surprising variations and irrelevant ornaments which obliterate the melody and confuse the congregation. If you desire to introduce a theme against the melody, you must go on with it and not immediately fly off to another.’”
Ha, if they only knew!


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