Grave of JS Bach – always adorned with flowers
Thursday, March 21, 2019
March 21 marks the 334 anniversary of the birth of JS Bach. Since his birthday aligns with the onset of Spring, it’s natural to associate his music with blooms, warmer climes, and general optimism. Bach’s music is like a bright mix of florals in a well-planned garden: complex and layered, yet no matter how many elements are in place – be it many notes or instruments, everything comes together in one cohesive package.
JS Bach wrote everything – works for keyboard, solo strings, choirs, oratorios, and chamber ensembles (who doesn’t love the Brandenburg Concertos?). What always blew my mind about Bach was his enormous output of work vs. the actual quality of the work, which remained consistently at the genius level.
I was lucky – with two university choir friends of mine, Dave and Derrick – we made a pilgrimage to Bach’s grave when we were university students. We bought flowers and everything, laid them down on the plaque at the altar, where his remains were buried. My beloved theory teacher, Professor James Schell, asked me to pass on a message: “Before thy throne, my God, I stand”, the name of one of Bach’s famous chorales. It was a great day.
The Brandenburg Concertos are some of the best works for Baroque orchestra. Six in total, the Brandenburg Concertos were dedicated to Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, a military officer with societal status. He showed great interest in Bach’s music, and Bach dedicated these brilliant works to him. The various combinations of instruments in the Concertos was considered daring in Bach’s day, and even now, there’s an edge to them. One of my favourites is the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major. The first movement is a cheerful introduction; the second movement, Adagio (slow), is a violin solo, which would have been improvised by either the violinist or harpsichordist; then we launch into a super invigorating finale, marked Allegro (quick and lively). This fabulous section sounds like sparkling river streams flowing through a meadow on a sunny day.
Tafelmusik recorded video of this work in two links posted below.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major.
1st and 2nd movements:
The finale, the 3rd movement:
To visit the Tafelmusik site, please click here.
Tafelmusik is performing JS Bach’s monumental St. Matthew Passion March 22 – 24 with the legendary Masaaki Suzuki guest conducting. It may be sold out – check here to confirm.
JS Bach was born March 21 in Eisenach, Germany, and died July 28, 1750, in Leipzig.