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Chaconne - understanding it for the first time makes one humble


Peter K-G
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The Chaconne is such a spiritual journey for listener and player. It gives the sense of being its own world with an inexhaustible amount of complexity and detail, a lot like Dante’s Divine Comedy.

I believe it was Albert Spalding’s mother who said that the Chaconne “builds cathedrals in the mind.”

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Since ppl are not going to be made humble, I'll show this before it turns into favorite Chaconnes instead.

A little example of his skill as a compose.   just a little example..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yfHY22Ew1c

 

Also humbling, entire S & P played at once.  And not just one time, but I think he took it on tour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVEbsM2wr6U

 

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 I was listening to a radio show called “fresh air“ and the guest was the man who runs the band on “the late show“. I don’t remember his name and I don’t like his music at all, but the interviewer was asking him about his inspiration is and he mentioned Bach very prominently and shared a quote that I will use forever. 

“Bach is the best at doin’ a thing in the entire history of doin’ a thing.”

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1 hour ago, Bill Merkel said:

^I heard the same show on the way to work.  What it was really about was trying to get ppl to watch Stepehen Colbert.

I have no interest in Stephen Colbert, and even less in the music of Thelonius Monk or this band leader( can’t remember his name and I don’t feel like I’m missing out)

But I am delighted that the greatness of Bach is obvious to everyone who has ears.

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Back some time ago, a violinist gave a recital of the Bach Partita 2, all movements, including the Chaconne.

The first 4 movements were a smarmy indulgence in "look at me," with lots of extraneous body movements, rubato. The player seemed to be displaying themself more than the music.

Then the player got to the Chaconne and a transformation occurred.  The extraneous body movements disappeared along with the rubato, and the player just stood there, playing what Bach wanted, nothing more.  The player's Chaconne was mesmerizing and completely swept you away.  The Chaconne made an honest musician out of that performer instead of the self-indulgent performer of the first 4 movements.  The Chaconne is too hard and mentally demanding to play any other way.

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7 hours ago, matesic said:

Philip - I heard the Chaconne played live on the radio last week and felt like shrieking "stop this!". Thanks for restoring my faith.

Listening even to the beginning of the version by Leonid Kogan, I checked for another version - by Hillary Hahn - to confirm that Bach really wrote all those notes that seemed to me to be badly out of tune.

If a well-played Chaconne can make a naive person like myself react in this way, that a badly played one could lead one to feel like 'shrieking "stop this!"' is not implausible.

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On 9/29/2018 at 1:43 PM, Bill Merkel said:

Also humbling, entire S & P played at once.  And not just one time, but I think he took it on tour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVEbsM2wr6U

Yes he did.  The video is the second concert of two that he did at the Cook Recital Hall at Michigan State Univ on two very cold January nights two or three years ago.  The first night, which I attended, he offered an intermission half way through, but the second night he went non-stop.  All from memory, of course.  I think the two concerts at MSU were about the 4th and 5th on the tour. 

 

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1 hour ago, Quadibloc said:

Listening even to the beginning of the version by Leonid Kogan, I checked for another version - by Hillary Hahn - to confirm that Bach really wrote all those notes that seemed to me to be badly out of tune.

It isn't out of tune.  You could have two notes perfectly in tune a half step apart and if you don't know how to savor it, you might react like it was out of tune :)  Same with an augmented 4th or a major 7th...

You should dig up a harmonic analysis of this; I'm sure there are many.  Actually I think that would be more interesting to you with your background than playing or making.  It's a lot more like coding than athletic training or woodworking are... 

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To my ears that's an in-tune piano although it may not be playing exactly the same notes as an in-tune violin. The question was raised in another recent thread, what degree of adjustment needs to be made to violin pitch when double stops are played and how this varies according to the double stop interval and the harmonic context? Above my play grade to be sure, but I think the differences are noticeable to listener and player.

I think it may also be true that our tolerance for slightly out of tune notes played one at a time (+/- x cents) is greater than for notes played in chords

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12 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

It isn't out of tune.  You could have two notes perfectly in tune a half step apart and if you don't know how to savor it, you might react like it was out of tune :) 

Oh, yes. Since I noted two peformances confirmed that there was no error on the first performer's part, it should have been clear that I was commenting on my own musical naivete rather than criticizing the first performer.

However, subsequent to that post, I listened to the same few notes at the beginning from a performance on the piano - the one now shown as a video on this thread - and one on a guitar. They sounded in tune to my naive ears.

And so did a violin performance by Itzhak Perlman.

But I also learned a bit more about the piece. Brahms praised it by noting that if, somehow, he could have composed something like that, the emotional intensity would have driven him mad.

Well, there is a theory - which I suspect has some substance - that Bach composed this piece subsequent to the death of his first wife. So powerful emotion, so powerful that it might almost drive one mad, was indeed associated with it.

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I thought the opening (at least) of the piano version sounded bombastic.  I'm afraid to listen to the massed cello version, suspecting that it might be like those orchestrations of Bach organ works.  But what a wonderful piece of music it is!  I first encountered it in a classical guitar transcription by Segovia, back before I switched to violin.  My guitar teacher, when he gave it to me to work on nearly 50 years ago, said "there's enough music in this one piece for a whole lifetime." 

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One thing that makes the OP version and the Bach-Busoni version sound bombastic is that they don't play the first measure (and other iterations of this phrase) correctly.  The eighth note following the dotted quarter should be lighter--that's what Bach actually wrote there.  If you play the whole chord again (#1, below), you clobber us over the head.  Bach's version is better, more of a dance music texture (instead of a funeral march)...

IMG_4635.thumb.jpg.b29fabfc13fc6f4ae73fd85eda3f840a.jpg

I do #2, above, as I think that's what Bach had in mind.  I think people who seek to "correct" this piece by supplying the "missing" voices Bach couldn't put in there because of the limitations of the violin entirely miss the aesthetic point here.  Bach could indeed have written it as in #1, above, but he didn't.  So that apparently isn't what he wanted.

I also have heard the theory that this piece is somehow an expression of grief over the death of Bach's first wife.  I don't buy it--yeah, it's intense, but we don't need a romanticized psychological reading that is entirely anachronistic to explain this piece.

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42 minutes ago, palousian said:

One thing that makes the OP version and the Bach-Busoni version sound bombastic is that they don't play the first measure (and other iterations of this phrase) correctly.  The eighth note following the dotted quarter should be lighter--that's what Bach actually wrote there.  If you play the whole chord again (#1, below), you clobber us over the head.  Bach's version is better, more of a dance music texture (instead of a funeral march)...

IMG_4635.thumb.jpg.b29fabfc13fc6f4ae73fd85eda3f840a.jpg

I do #2, above, as I think that's what Bach had in mind.  I think people who seek to "correct" this piece by supplying the "missing" voices Bach couldn't put in there because of the limitations of the violin entirely miss the aesthetic point here.  Bach could indeed have written it as in #1, above, but he didn't.  So that apparently isn't what he wanted.

I also have heard the theory that this piece is somehow an expression of grief over the death of Bach's first wife.  I don't buy it--yeah, it's intense, but we don't need a romanticized psychological reading that is entirely anachronistic to explain this piece.

This is good.  It seems like there are no end of attempts to take absolute music and make it programatic in one way or another.  And, as for the out-of-tuneness attributed to the piano recording, it's probably an equal temperament issue.  A violinist adjusts the double and triple stops to sound right but this obviously can't be done on a piano.

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