155 Days With Bach and Me

All Bach, All the Time…Everything Johann Composed

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Day Thirty One: Keyboard Works, Part Two (CD 2-8)

August 27th, 2011 · No Comments · BWV 822, BWV 923, BWV 946, BWV 949, BWV 951, BWV 951a, BWV 959, BWV 966, BWV 967, BWV 993, CD 2-8, Christiane Wuyts, Glenn Gould, Henri Hemsch, Jacques Goermans, Keyboard Works Part Two, Leonard Bernstein, Yngwie Malmsteen

Bach Edition 31Another CD of very old, miscellaneous Bach compositions, once again performed by Christiane Wuyts, a Belgium-born harpsichord known particularly for her performances of Bach’s music, as well as for her use of period instruments. The two harpsichords she’s playing on this CD were made by Henri Hemsch (1754) and Jacques Goermans (1774).

BWV 923 (“Praeludium in B minor”) is a corker of a piece of music, with waves of notes coming at the listener like waves against the beach. That’s what this composition sounded like — waves. It must have been a beeyatch to play. (But not nearly so as the last 20 seconds or so of BWV 993 — “Capriccio in E major.” Wow. Metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen would love to get his hands on that run of notes.)

This CD is less remarkable than Part One. In fact, these compositions tend to sound like noise — especially BWV 951 (“Fuge in B minor”). It goes on and on and on with nary a distinguishing note to be heard among them.

BWV 822 (“Suite in G minor”) features some interesting sounds, almost like the harpsichordist is muffling the strings while striking (actually, plucking) them. It sounded like muting the strings on a guitar.

We watched a documentary about pianist Glenn Gould today. It was called Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould. It was utterly fascinating.

One of the things that caught my attention was when Glenn Gould performed the First Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms in such a dramatically different way from what Brahms intended that conductor Leonard Bernstein felt the need to warn the audience before their performance. The Wikipedia entry for this can be found here. Gould said of his own playing that he sometimes likes to tinker with the tempi and re-interpret the pieces to get people in the audience to sit up and take notice of what’s being played.

I often think about Glenn Gould’s approach to Classical music (especially Bach) when I listen to these recordings by Brilliant Classics. Period instruments are cool. But we no longer live in the very early 1700s. I like to hear performers re-interpret the music, using contemporary instruments. It makes the compositions sound fresh and accessible.

Another piece today that stood out — but not because of what it was; rather, for what it sounded like — was BWV 966 (“Keyboard Sonata in C major”). Some of the upper register notes reminded me of one of my favorite CDs — Patrick Ball’s From a Distant Time, a terrific collection of Celtic harp music.

The compositions on today’s CD are:
BWV 923
BWV 951
BWV 951a
BWV 822
BWV 966
BWV 993
BWV 996
BWV 946
BWV 967
BWV 949
BWV 959
I’m going to assume these pieces — as on Keyboard Works, Part One — are very old and their dates of composition are not altogether certain. So I don’t know how old Bach was when he composed all of these pieces.


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