Tuesday 31 March 2020

The Music of Heaven

On this day in 1685 was born the composer I would now name as the greatest who ever lived – Johann Sebastian Bach.
I didn't always think that much of him. In my early years I knew him only from the various chorales incorporated into English hymns, from Myra Hess's transcription of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, an LP of the Brandenburg Concertos (played in the very un-Baroque style that was then the fashion), and the Two-Part Inventions, some of which I could once just about play. It was only later in life that I discovered the Cello Suites, the St Matthew Passion, the B Minor Mass, the Goldberg Variations, the D Minor Chaconne – each of which is, in a word, sublime. I believe now that Bach's music is the greatest musical tribute ever paid by man to God, and surely the closest to the music of Heaven.
To pick up on yesterday's theme – Musica Serena –  Bach created, among much else, music of wonderful serenity. Take this chorale, transcribed for piano by Busoni and here played by the great Murray Perahia –

And talking of serene music – yes, how about Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring? Here played as an encore by Angela Hewitt –

In this time of lockdown, lists of  'happy music' are appearing online, intended to lift our spirits. One list I saw features this Osanna from the B Minor Mass. Here it is, sung in the pre-fire Notre Dame de Paris – if you have spirits to lift...

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