Monday, March 30, 2009

Choir singing

Members of the Uppsala Cathedral´s boys choir

Yesterday I went to hear one of the greatest works ever written, or so they say, the Vespers for Blessed Virgin Mary (1610) by Monteverdi. It was performed in the cathedral by the resident choirs, soloists and a broad line-up of instruments. Being there some forty-five minutes before the show, I managed to grab a seat on the third bench. The acoustics are rather unfavourable, so either you sit right up front or you´ll lose everything but the broad strokes, delivered in a blurry murmur.
Despite a weak choir, or so it sounded, the music was presented quite decently with many well-played and sung chords. I was not familiar with this work and tried to consume it as much as I could. But the audience´s experience is very different from the performer´s. As a performer, you have had months of preparation getting to know the music, finding your favourite parts and letting it mature within you. As a listener, you only get the end result, and must be much more absorbant, devoting more mental energy to the spectacle. A chorist can be pretty numb-minded through many rehearsals, but will still have a good sensation of the music´s essence on concert day. So, it is a short-cut to the inner circle. Requires more manual labour, though.
That´s enough ranting for now...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bach Gem

There are some pieces by J. S. Bach that make me happy. Quite a lot of them actually. And then there are some that move me, and make me surrender unconditionally. It is hard to describe what they have, that gives them an added level of impact. But I can identify at least one of their qualities: 
Taking a concept further than expected. 
I think you know what I mean by this. For instance with Bach, when a musical idea; rythmic, melodic or otherwise, is presented various times in an ever-changing way, you are normally hinted by the composition of how far that presentation will stretch. And then, Bach takes it yet another step, in disregard of the rules that have been so carefully defined until then, sometimes even breaking out of the tonality.

The beauty of this, and perhaps of all music that we like, is that it communicates something. A bond is made between you and the composer´s mind. He´s talking to you in a language you didn´t know existed, but that you understand perfectly.

Like in this piece. Toccata in f# minor, Adagio (BWV 910) (played by yours truly)

My apologies to any Bach purists out there who (by all right) get upset by the liberties I´ve taken when I´ve isolated this adagio from the toccata it is found inside of.