Hi everyone, I guess I'm now approved to be in this group, just in time for a discussion about my favorite composer ever!
I think the unaccompanied cello suites are great, too. It's been a while since I've listened to them or played them (more accurately, tried to play them), but I never get tired of them.
My favorite piece of instrumental music is The Art of the Fugue. I remember a time in college when I listened to it continuously over and over again for a few months. I bet I would like it even if it were realized by an ensemble of kazoos (I wouldn't be surprised if people have done this -- I've never heard such a performance myself, but I would love to).
St. Luke's--I hadn't heard Fournier's interpretation of the cello suites before. This may necessitate a trip to the i-tunes store! Lucky you to hear Yo-yo ma play the complete Bach suites. I heard him play two of them in a concert last year, and I just loved his performance of them.
Yes, I am in Chicago, where I am incredibly spoiled by having really inexpensive student ticket access to concerts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is certainly the finest orchestra I've ever had the privilege to hear live, and as you say holds its own with the top in the country (though I've never been to Cleveland to make a direct comparison ) . I also regularly subscribe to a 10 concert Sunday matinee series of solo piano concerts at the CSO--hence the Pollini concert. Due to my privileged student status I can afford a seat on the keyboard side three rows from the stage, so I've gotten to hear some of the best current pianists at about the same distance from the piano that those hearing Chopin at a drawing room salon might have enjoyed (and discovered that Alfred Brendal occasionally winks at blondes in the audience ).
Free passes to Severence Hall concerts don't sound half bad either. Must be nice having a friend in the chorus. Who's Cleveland's principle conductor these days? Chicago just got Haitink in last year, who seems to be working out pretty well thus far, with Pierre Boulez as conductor emeritus. Don't think anyone can get the brass sounding just the way Barenboim did, though (we still have a great brass section all the same). Which neatly reminds me of the last time I heard Barenboim playing an all Bach program, which included parts of the Art of the Fugue and a lot of the Well Tempered Clavier, and in turn segues back to our main topic of discussion.
Bluevictim--Glad to hear we have another Bach fan. I'm with you regarding Art of the Fugue, though I'm a tad sceptical about those kazoos. Your post inspired me to try a few bars on the harmonica, and I didn't much like what I heard. It did make me think I should try a bit of that piece on the piano, though. I generally find Bach enormously difficult, but I think I could do a reasonable job with contrapunctus I. How hard can it be? Heck, this guy was only a year or so older than I am now when this video was made :
I think it's fascinating to compare the video above with him playing the same piece later in life (another reason to love youtube):
Didn't know you played the cello, Blue. I just started lessons a few months ago and am learning to appreciate the difficulties, and very physical challenges of dealing with the instrument. "Appreciate" is, however, the right word. I love everything about my new instrument! How long have you been playing for? Do you keep it up?
Janine--Glad you enjoyed the clips of the opening cello suite I put up. It is, indeed, interesting to compare different interpretations of the same work. It reminds us how much music is a living art.
Thanks for those clips of Glenn Gould playing Art of the Fugue, Petrarch's Love! Youtube is great, but it's a little annoying to me that the sound is delayed (am I the only one?). I haven't heard Art of Fugue on harmonica before, but how bad can it be?
Sorry for being misleading -- I don't play cello. I used to play some of the cello suites on guitar. I used to (yes, I'm emphasizing "used to") be able to play things like the unaccompanied cello suites and unaccompanied violin sonatas well enough for me to enjoy doing it. For pieces like Art of Fugue I can usually only manage two or three voices.
I hope you're having fun learning the cello! Maybe someday we'll meet and we can play something from the Art of the Fugue together with guitar and cello.
Hi Blue--That's funny that you have a sound delay with Youtube. I don't generally have that problem, though sometimes it skips a bit, in which case I push pause and wait until the whole video has fully loaded, which seems to solve the problem.
Since we've been talking about how to interpret Bach and the Art of the Fugue, I thought everyone might find this clip of Glenn Gould talking about that piece interesting:
The cello suites must sound pretty great on the guitar. I think it will be some time before I'm good enough to tackle them on the cello, but I'm hoping to get to some super easy Bach in a few months' time. There's an outside chance I may be dragging the cello up to Yosemite next August on my family's annual visit. If I do, you and I should totally meet up at the base of El Cap and have a cello/guitar jam session! Speaking of which, I've got to go now and get said cello in tune for my lesson this afternoon.
Thanks for the clip of that discussion; it was very interesting to hear some of Gould's thoughts, especially on the last fugue. The last fugue (the one with Bach's name) is an endless source of fascination for me. It's my favorite fugue of the whole work. It is the most technically ambitious piece in all of the Art of the Fugue, and it is also the most personal piece. I always view its incompleteness as a source of immortality -- not only will the Art of the Fugue always be reinterpreted, but it will also be continually recomposed.
I would love to have a cello/guitar jam session at Yosemite! We should totally do this!
Petrarch, thanks for the two Glenn Gould links to youtube. He is amazing - interesting how the two sound so different; one can see the development. A friend made me a DVD of his Goldberg Variations and he is so incredible. I actually liked these two videos you provided best. The last one was wonderful.
Wow, lucky you - having access to be able to attend all those live concerts. I am so envious. It is great you get *winked* at, too. Nice to be so close to hear the piano. I love piano myself.
Great idea - meeting up in Yosemite. That is just like meeting in heaven to me. I loved going there. Will you sit at the site overlooking, or in the valley area, of Half Dome? That would be too unbelievable. You would certainly draw an audience.
Petrach... The Yo Yo Ma/Bach Cello Suites was certainly a marvelous concert. Still... Fournier is definitely worth looking into. I personally find his version to be the best. I love Ma's first recording of the suites, but I'm looking forward to another recording where he brings all that maturity can bring to bear.
Chicago still has the great brass section, eh? I had long heard that they were especially known for such. Cleveland has been known mostly for their strings and wind section. I don't think we've ever had a conductor to match Szell... although Loren Mazell and Christoph von Dohnányi were formidable... but so was Solti... to put it mildly. The current conductor is Franz Welser-Möst. Certainly not as well-known as Haitink... but still it might be noted that even Pierre Boulez (who regularly conducts the Cleveland Orchestra as a guest conductor) has nothing but the highest praise. My own favorites for recording, however, are almost exclusively British or German or Italian: Karajan, Böhm, John Eliot Gardiner, Sir John Barbirolli, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Otto Klemperer, Tullio Serafin, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, etc...
St. Luke's--Succumbed to temptation (and the very reasonable i-tunes price) and go the Fournier version. I put it on a few minutes ago, am now part way through the second suite...and am in heaven. What a great recommendation. I think Ma was my favorite interpreter of this piece before, but I think Fournier may have to take up that postion now. This is just glorious. I agree with you that it would be exciting to hear a more mature Yo YO Ma recording of the Bach cello suites.
Yes, the Chicago brass section is still formidable, though the whole orchestra is really exceptionally top notch. Now that you mention it, I had heard of Welser-Möst, but hadn't connected him with Cleveland.
Bluevictim: I would love to have a cello/guitar jam session at Yosemite! We should totally do this!
We totally should. I'll put a pencil mark on my calendar for next August: possible cello/guitar jam session in Yosemite.
Janine: You would certainly draw an audience.
Hadn't thought of that. They might be a very disappointed audience with regard to the cello part (though I suppose my amateur cello technique might be nicely masked by the calls of the jays and the squirrels), but maybe Blue's mean guitar technique will save us from shame.
The piano tuner just arrived, so gotta take a break from both listening to and posting about Bach for a spell...
Don't worry, Petrarch's Love, my guitar "technique" would certainly save you from shame.
Every couple of months the question about the validity of reading poetry... or literature in general... seems to pop up on this site. My opinion remains consistent. I will be the first to admit that the original text is to be preferred on nearly all accounts. The reality, however, is that this is not always a possibility. Unless we have not only the time to become fluent in a broad array of other languages (and to such an extent that the various colloquialisms and archaisms will be grasped) then we must either limit ourselves to reading literature of our native language (which I find an unacceptable alternative) or we must turn to translations. As Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a marvelous translator, stated in the introduction to his landmark translation, The Early Italian Poets:
"The lifeblood of... translation is this- that a good poem shall not be turned into a bad one. The only true motive for putting poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh nation, as far as possible, with one more possession of beauty. Poetry not being an exact science, literality of rendering is altogether secondary to this chief end. I say literality- not fidelity, which is by no means the same thing."
Unquestionably something is lost in translation. If the translation is good, however, something is gained as well. Perhaps the best analogy that I can think of with regard to translation is that of transcription in music. A work of music is composed for a specific instrument. That instrument has a vocabulary... certain abilities and limitations. When that piece of music is transcribed for another instrument... or group of instruments there is something lost. At times even certain notes are changed in order to suite the vocabulary of the new instrument(s). If the translation is done well, hopefully the music survives largely intact. Hopefully if a translation is done well, the music of the poetry will also survive.
Interestingly enough... the first version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue may be the most familiar, but there are a good number of musicologists who now suggest that the second version... for violin... was actually the "original".
Then there is Stokowski's version... well known to any and all who saw Disney's original Fantasia. What of other transcriptions? Mussorgski's Pictures at an Exhibition comes immediately to mind. How many are even familiar with the "original" piece?
Most, I would venture, are more aware of this transcription: