Sunday, January 7, 2007

Trancendental Bach

I plan to revisit the Bach Chaconne today. I have been inspired by Robert Greenberg's lectures on Bach and music in general offered by The Teaching Company. I was listening to the lecture series entitled "How to Listen to Great Music," when I got sidetracked at the Baroque era into going back to "Bach and the High Baroque" which I listened to previously. I learned all this stuff when I was in college, but a refresher course was long overdue. And I am learning new things, too.

For instance, I don't think I ever understood that the Chaconne theme on which all 64 variations are based is in the bass line and not the melody. Sometimes I get so involved with the technical aspects of playing a piece, and playing the violin itself, that I forget to look at the compositional structure. The ground bass figure is only four measures long. Today I want to see if I can see or hear where each variation begins.

That's what's so great about the study of music. There is always something new to learn and ponder. The violin has been a constant in my life since I was 12 years old (I am a late bloomer). There have been times (illness, vacations, etc.) when I didn't play for a few weeks, but otherwise, the violin has kept me company, cajoled me, frustrated me, and rewarded me daily for almost 50 years! Pretty incredible, huh? And I didn't even like the violin when I first started. Somehow it lured me in with its charms.

The Teaching Company offers courses on lots of different subjects. Besides the Greenberg lectures I have thoroughly enjoyed the series on Shakespeare by Peter Saccio, and the lectures on Voltaire by Alan Charles Kors. In fact anything that Prof. Kors cares to lecture about, I would love to listen to. His lectures on Newton in "Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition" are delightful!

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