Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another Kind of Beauty, or, If It Ain't Baroque, Fix It

Warning: Rambling, self-indulgent post ahead - all about my personal taste in music. Feel free to detour to another blog.

I love Baroque music. Our small CD collection reads like a musical Who's Who of Italy and Germany in the 18th century: Corelli, Torelli, Gemigniani, Albinoni, Marcello, Manfredini, Locatelli, Vivaldi, Gabrieli, Schutz, Telemann, Heinichen, Quantz ... not to mention Purcell (almost the lone English representative - where are Byrd and Boyce?), various Bachs, and of course Handel. A lot of JS Bach and Handel. We even have a bit of Cuban and Mexican Baroque, though I see we're lacking in the French department.

Baroque music is pretty thin on the ground in our village, but luckily for us there is a university town within easy distance. ("An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles."  "And what is fifty miles of good road? ....Yes, I call it a very easy distance." Quick, name the book.)

Where there is a university there are usually musicians, and Madison is no exception. Of its many talented performers, there are some who not only love Baroque music, but are also kindly willing to share their gifts with the populace through a handful of concerts and lectures every fall, winter and spring.

All of this to say that on Sunday, after a beautiful bike ride, I was privileged to enjoy another kind of beauty: an afternoon concert by the Madison Bach Musicians. And oh, what a treat it was. The program featured music by various members of the Bach family, including a favourite oboe concerto by JS and a whimsical, rather cheeky concerto for harpsichord and pianoforte, with orchestra, by CPE.

The keyboard instruments used in the concert were locally built, and as lovely to look at as to hear. The pianoforte had an especially bright, sweet tone - much more pleasant, to my ear, than a modern piano. Many, if not all, of the other performers played on period instruments, which offer an entirely different (and usually mellower) sound than their modern counterparts.

A digression: One of the things I love about live music is watching the back-and-forth between the musicians. A Baroque concerto is a musical conversation, and in a live performance you can see the conversation happening.

Another digression (is anyone surprised?): I'm also fascinated by the changing roles of the various instruments - how the harpsichord continually tinkles away in the background, providing a sort of low running commentary to whatever the other instruments are doing, and occasionally jumping into prominence to lead the musical van. How one oboe can stand up to nine stringed instruments and still make itself heard. How the strings themselves can dominate the musical conversation, or merely punctuate it, or become completely self-effacing and recede into the background, depending on how they're played.

Many thanks to the Madison Bach Musicians for an afternoon of audial delight. I'm already looking forward to the Christmas concert.

(As I said, a rambling, self-indulgent post - and unlike a good concerto, rather unresolved. But I'm hungry, and it's time to ramble off to the kitchen and make the morning meal. I wonder what Bach ate for breakfast?)

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  1. What does one eat for "bachfast" and what music does one listen to during this most important meal of the day? Feel free to detour to the next comment. ;-)

  2. Oh, what a glorious posting! I was smiling the whole time of reading. You lucky people to be able to enjoy that kind of thing on a Sunday afternoon and to have a real harpsichord there too, just bliss. And a locally built pianoforte too!

  3. Sounds divine! I am a fan of the Classical period - especially Mozart (My son's middle name is Wolfgang, even!) - but I do like Baroque and Romantic music as well. I think it's high time for my husband and I to hire a babysitter and sneak off to London for a concert.

    Astri - you crack me up..."bachfast" hee hee

  4. And I thought no one would comment! Personally, Astri, I think JS might have eaten Bachon. Or an omelette, which, as everyone knows, can't be made without baroquen eggs. I could Handel either for breakfast any time.

    Toffeeapple - yes, we feel very lucky. The concerts are few and far between, but we enjoy them all the more for that.

    Bria - an excellent name to choose. (If I had ever had a son, Sebastian would have been one of his names. But no such luck.) By all means get thee to London. All those free organ recitals! And there's always something good on at St. Martin-in-the-Fields (I see 2 Mozart concerts this week alone). Oh, to be in England.

  5. Well, we probably won't get there this week...but soon. When I moved here the plan was that we'd go to London all the time to see symphonies and operas and go to galleries and museums (my husband said I could introduce him to some culture...hee hee) but life had other plans for us. Now that our son is two, though, we're going to start taking him to galleries and museums...and perhaps some children's concerts.

  6. Ha - bachon and baroquen eggs, very funny!

  7. It's from Pride and Prejudice, and I like some Baroque Music, particularly Handel and Teleman, but I prefer Mozart to anyone.

  8. Congrats to Mac n' Janet for successfully identifying the quote! :)

  9. You made me hear the music in my head. I love when you are self-indulgent, because the words themselves are like music. But you've crafted such an eloquent description here, I feel as though I've accompanied you!


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