Saturday, 7 November 2015

Variatio 19. a 1 Clav

Sir John arrives at better answers by closely scrutinising the work. He discovers a wealth of hitherto unseen invention and ingenuity. But in the end, he finds, it comes down to an act of faith. Other composers, among them Monteverdi, Beethoven and Mozart, have achieved greatness in various ways, “but it is Bach…who gives us the voice of God—in human form.”

This business about Bach's music expressing the voice of
God, or the divine structure of the Universe? I'm out. Much as I would love it to be true - imagine how cool it would be to hear God talk - the contemporary argument for such hyperbole comes mostly from the number of religious works he composed. This goes against Jamie James' assertion that the words don't matter that much - not the best source, I admit, but I can sing rude words over the top of Figaro without making it a celebration of playground humour. 

Okay, this is a rather lovely  transcription of The Goldbergs for guitar. Have a listen. As always, the aria is the best part, because once Bach gets to work, it's the usual busy baroque business. If this is God, sounds like the One Above All likes to gossip on the telephone.

Bach's status as a composer is largely the result of a hagiography written at the start of the Romantic era, and the subsequent enthusiasm for 'the genius'. Bach, who worked really hard (his job allowed him to slap out a new tune every week), became an archetype of the genius for a country (Germany) that liked genius. 

None of this really demeans Bach's actual compositions, but it has made approaching the Goldberg Variations a proper pain. Time to strip away the theology, and see what is left.

Time for another bit of YouTube Bach: a quick warning though. The video footage that accompanies this version of Variation 19 is.. well, I'd say its use is inappropriate and sexist. The p0em's worth a listen, though.


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