Amaneceres

Todo esto ha cambiado fuertemente nuestro horario de sueño. Mucho más temprano todo: colapso nocturno, despertar. Abdul siempre nos despierta a las 4:30 o 5:00, pero ahora es mucho más común no limitarme a darle la comida a esa hora sino despertar y mirar el amanecer.

Se convierte todo en un tema de percibir luz, hojas frecuentemente trémulas, ires y venires de especies de aves, saltos de frecuencia vitales, sombras extendidas y refractadas, tálamos mentales y sueños esparcidos.

Y ese momento de dolor compartido al despertar – y preguntarse por un segundo a dónde va todo esto – antes de arrancar un nuevo día de cursos en zoom o meet, de escrituras al viento, de seminarios online, de intento de guiar a quienes tal vez ya se saben guiar, e intentos de andar hacia adelante a pesar de la sensación brutal de ausencia de futuro (o de peligro en este).

Notas de voces internas (como las de ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639) parecen dar claves…

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Alex Ross has written a lot on Twentieth Century music, on contemporary issues, on music reception. In a recent piece for The New Yorker, The Book of Bach, he elaborates on what musicologist Gerd Rienäcker has described as Bach’s “consciousness of catastrophe”.

In his cantatas, in his Mass in B Minor (of which the excerpt here, Cum Sancto Spiritu, in a version of Bach Collegium Japan conducted by Masaaki Suzukii, accompanied me while driving from the countryside last night – played loudly, it can be as exhilarating and moving as it gets in the whole of music), in his St. Matthew Passion or St. John Passion, he has somehow captured in a timeless way our common experience as human beings in front of the arbitrariness of nature, in front of the strength of the elements.

I highly recommend this writing by Alex Ross on Bach. After reading it yesterday, I have (re- and re-re)heard several cantatas and the whole Mass in B Minor.

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You have surely heard many versions of Bach’s Cello Suite in D minor, No 2. But perhaps not by Thoralf Thedéen. His way of playing it leaves me always wanting some more, always wondering and dreaming. His bow technique, clear and full of nuances seldom heard on modern cello, seems to owe to the period instrument movement – but in a somewhat clearer, richer, more flexible way.

If you know the Rostropovich, or the Yo Yo Ma, or the Casals (or the Pierre Fournier) versions, you may find here some apparent coolness, some seeming lack of pathos. But bear with Thedéen. His clarity is its own reward. You may hear inflections, turning points, bass lines that in the (also wonderful) other performances are sometimes blurred, sometimes hidden.

Oh – but at times Thedéen actually lets the drama explode. His apparent coolness makes it all the more brutal.

Listen to the Prelude of the Second Cello Suite here. Listen to the explosive crescendo towards the last third. Listen to the last chords.

Midnight in Bogotá, facing some buildings and the mountains, in the cold, trying to write an essay long overdue. Music galore. Somehow this Prelude gives me an incredible sense of reflecting the intimacy felt in this silent city (silent at this hour), with some windows with neighbors talking or reading, Sunday night – and the unseen (at this darkness) presence of the Andes behind.

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The Art of Transcription.

The discussion is endless, just as for the Art of Translation. One may go at infinity discussing Liszt’s transcriptions of entire Beethoven symphonies to one or two pianos, or transcriptions of Beethoven of his own works (the Violin Concerto transcribed to piano by B himself as a way to vent his anger at someone else’s bad transcription – in a move somehow reminiscent of Cervantes’ second part of Quixote).

In 1985, for the Third Centennial of Bach’s birth, a Russian violinist, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, transcribed the Goldberg Variations (originally for keyboard) for a trio of violin, viola and cello.

(Oh, of course, I remember Javier quoting Artem and other Russians on how somehow translations into Russian are usually better than originals 🙂 —- this may be another instance of this…)

The result, while (of course) never replacing the original, is an amazing feat. The voice leading is made somehow clearer in some passages by the timbres of the three instruments.

Enjoy here the fourth variation, at the hands of Julian Rachlin (violin), Nobuko Imai (viola) and Mischa Maisky (violoncello).