Monday Aphorism: On Discovering Bach

The mother of the fledgling organist – the student of my partner in music – exclaimed in some musing wonderment: did Bach compose much for the violin, too…she supposed. I giggled, the awed knot inside my deepest self giggled too, and I said, simply, “yes, quite a bit.”

Details, she didn’t want. I supposed she had realized, finally, that in her son’s playing of Bach, something of import might be happening; finally, after many years of experiencing Bach, but not within any realization.

Right now, preparing to perform a Bach Trio (D minor) with flute and organ, I am struggling to discover the whole of the music written-in to that composition. This trio, like the violin-keyboard sonatas, a sort of aberration from what is ordinarily Bach. Each change of string a new voice written in counterpoint to the flute: this sonata, of-a-piece in many ways.

Some 18 years ago a friend wondered if I could play the unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas, and I responded that I thought (was certain: lolling in my unpracticed, pre-humbled days) I could play any Baroque pieces.

What surprise, what ignorance, what pleasure to discover these masterpieces inspired my beginning to restudy the violin. Now, imagining my competency to play some of them (!?); imagining at last performing a few movements, Bach is at once thrilling and tough. The strength, the memory, the knowledge and confidence necessary to play them, makes them good practice for so many other techniques, for hearing chords, for…everything musical.

Maybe that mother will learn, too, to study Bach, to study with Bach, to hear, to feel all the sounds and voices and timbres resonating on this earth, calling out the spirits of our gods of music so we may hear them and they us…

(Currently playing-at the unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas – far, far to go…!)