The French Suites – Johann Sebastian

by richibi

though we listen to Bach today with the utmost
admiration – even reverence in my case, I would
in fact choose Bach over any other composer to
be with were I to be sequestered somewhere
for any extended length of time, the proverbial, 
for instance, desert island – he is nevertheless
not of our era, our epoch, he is of the earlier
Baroque Period, and you can hear it in the music, 
it’s quirky, intricate, and moment by moment
interesting, though never insistent, intemperate,
subversive, nor ever fragile, overtly emotional 
   
it’s great sponsor, and therefore influence, had
been the Church, but that was changing 
 
also the piano hadn’t been invented yet
 
 
the piano allowed for resonance in a note by way
of the sustain pedal, which allowed one to actually
raise a finger from the key and it would continue to
register, sustain a harmony even were other notes
presented 
 
the soft pedal controlled volume 
the harpsichord with no sustain pedal lost its
reverberation as soon as the key was released,
therefore only other notes could replace the
otherwise silence, which meant you didn’t waste
time before the next syllable in your statement 
 
with no soft pedal there was no variation in volume,
something I especially enjoy of a quiet ruminative
evening  
 
 
Andras Schiff delivers an enchanted evening of all
the French Suites, six of them with all their several
movements
 
a suite is a set of dances, menuets, gigues, gavottes,
courantes, and my favourite, sarabandes, don’t ask,
these are all of another order where they’d never
heard of a waltz yet, and you’ll prefer that I not
go there but glancingly  
 
Glenn Gould delivers the quintessential French
Suites, I think, though in two separate instalments,
volume 1, volume 2, with only for visuals a static,
though striking, picture of him 
 
you’ll note that he uses the sustain pedal sparingly,
suggesting faithfulness to the original harpsichord,
this also sheds light on the bare bones of the
composition, illustrating starkly Bach’s technical
wizardry, the mind behind the man, he makes
clear, is nothing short of magic 
 
and that goes for all of us
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
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