155 Days With Bach and Me

All Bach, All the Time…Everything Johann Composed

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Day Thirty Three: Italian Concerto/French Overture (CD 2-10)

August 29th, 2011 · 3 Comments · 1720, 1735, Bach at 35, Bach at 50, BWV 831, BWV 903, BWV 971, CD 2-10, French Overture, Glenn Gould, Harpsichord, Italian Concerto, Italian Concerto in F major Allegro, John William Waterhouse, Miranda the Tempest, Pieter-Jan Belder

Bach Edition 33If it’s possible, the first composition on this CD is even more recognized (and loved) than the Brandenburg Concertos. It’s so Bach, so Baroque.

I know. I know. I’m making a big claim. But listen to it and you’ll see what I mean.

I refer, of course, to Italian Concerto in F major (BWV 971), movement one (“Allegro”), which sounds like this:

That piece on YouTube is even played on the harpsichord (which is what I’m listening to this morning — although from a different performer)…

…as opposed to, say, Glenn Gould’s version played on the piano:

Come on now. Admit it. You prefer Gould’s version, don’t you? Yeah. I thought so.

It’s not that Pieter-Jan Belder’s playing of the harpsichord (on today’s Brilliant Classics CD) is bad. It’s actually very good. But (and here it comes again) I prefer the sound of the piano. It’s more expressive than the harpsichord.

But I’ll buck up and keep listening to these Brilliant Classics performances because the recordings are first-rate and the musicians are extraordinary.

Here’s what Wikipedia entry on Wikipedia (there’s an entry on Wikipedia for just about everything, isn’t there?) says about the Italian Concerto:

The Italian Concerto, BWV 971, original title: Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto (Concerto after the Italian taste), published in 1735 as the first half of Clavier-Übung II (the second half being the French Overture) is a three-movement concerto for two-manual harpsichord solo composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Italian Concerto has become popular among Bach’s keyboard works, and has been widely recorded both on the harpsichord and the piano.

Another standout piece on today’s CD is Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue in D minor (BWV 903), movement one (“Fantasie”). There’s some really interesting playing there, with cascading notes that sound like a waterfall. Lots and lots of notes. Pieter-Jan plays this with a mastery even Helen Keller could hear. Let’s see if I can find this on YouTube so you know what I mean:

And, just to be fair, here’s Glenn Gould’s version:

All I can say is that page of music must have been black with notes.

The compositions on today’s CD are:
BWV 971 — 1735 (Bach was 50)
BWV 831 — 1735 (Bach was 50)
BWV 903 — 1720 (Bach was 35)

Incidentally, just to give you an idea about why I like doing these “Days With” explorations, on while I was searching YouTube to find a harpsichord performance of Fantasy & Fugue in D minor (BWV 903), movement one (“Fantasie”), I encountered someone who had posted a piano version using a particularly fetching painting. Here’s what I mean:

Bach Edition 33

The description of the YouTube clip says this:

Chromatic fantasia and fugue in D minor BWV 903, Fantasia
Rosalyn Tureck, piano.
Picture: Waterhouse (1849-1917), Miranda, the Tempest

That lead me to the Wikipedia entry for the English painter John William Waterhouse, an artist about whom I was not familiar. And that led me to this painting, titled “Miranda, the Tempest” (painted 1916):

Bach Edition 33

That’s haunting. I’m absolutely captivated by that painting.

And that’s why I love doing these “And Me” journeys. It’s often the serendipitous encounters along the way that make the daily routine worthwhile.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Mark Trigsted

    Totally agree! I love 971! Listened to it twice today! Once on the CD and then the Allegro here on Piano…. No comparison! The audio is so much cleaner on the CD but the piano just makes you feel good!! Haha

  • Bill

    Do you think I’m being too harsh on the harpsichord?

  • Mark Trigsted

    No – Not too harsh… But how many others have even attempted to listen to an hour STRAIGHT of Harpsichord??? It is really strange – I am not a musician I play acoustic guitar for friends and pleasure (like you) but sometimes the melodies capture me and the harpsichord doesn’t bother me… But God forbid if I if the melody is lost it truly is like nails on a chalkboard.

    Its like rappers purposely distorting the Beats – JUST SHOOT ME PLEASE!

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