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Bach: re-imaginings

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 Jen
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What is it about the music of J.S.Bach that makes it so amenable to reinterpretation?  Is any composer transcribed or re-imagined more than Bach?   His music seems to transcend the instruments for which it was written - as though it has a life of its own - but why?

Perhaps these questions are impossible to answer, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And which are your favourite re-imaginings?


   
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As I said in the good old days of the old community page, Bach is the ultimate musicsmith, while Handel is the absolute master of setting libretti / words to music.

Bach was a revolutionary (and a visionary ) of his time, alas earning his due acclaim posthumously. His mastery of harmonics, music motifs and counterpoint, his prolific output in all genres, both secular and religious, his perfecting of the fugue (I think it's safe to claim that almost all of us readily associate his name with the word more than any other composer), his many contributions to the musical inventiveness of the age, especially those that paved the way to modern equal temperament (and ultimately the modern piano)..., and much much more, all prove what a true genius he was!

I think his music is so majestic and rich, so lyrical yet so intellectual (mathematically ingenious?!) that generation after generation still find him ripe for reinterpretation and adaptation. It has a true universal quality that transcends both the limitations of its time and the instruments it was originally written for, as you pointed out. 

 

Personally, I like John Williams' transcriptions of Bach for the guitar: it's still sincerely Bach, yet it has this delicious "je ne sais quoi" flavor to it!

Here's an example, or rather example(s) 😂:

https://app.idagio.com/albums/aa792c44-d558-4f8d-9e07-5f1b0802c11d


   
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(@dinah)
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Also, @Jen, I adore the 4th chorale of Bach's BWV 140 cantata, easily one of the most beautiful melodies he ever wrote! 

Here's a beautiful version for the piano:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/24440925

And another equally beautiful version for two harps:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/24188897

 

While these still preserve the essence of the original, they have a somewhat modern appeal, dare I say: they sound a little dreamy, even though they're religious in origin?! Can one of them serve as a soothing and calming piece to listen to after a long and arduous day?! 

 

 


   
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 Jen
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Posted by: @dinah

Also, @Jen, I adore the 4th chorale of Bach's BWV 140 cantata, easily one of the most beautiful melodies he ever wrote! 

Well, now you’ve set me a challenge Dinah, to decide which of Bach’s melodies I find to be the most beautiful!  I’m intrigued by your choice of the chorale from Cantata 140, though, and have often wondered why it’s so popular.  Of all Bach’s melodies, it (and the chorale from Cantata 147) is perhaps the one I like the least 🤷🏻‍♀️.

It’s great that our tastes can be so similar and so different, and the lively conversations that follow 😊

I agree about Bach’s music being timeless.  Could it ever sound old-fashioned or irrelevant?

Bach’s music is extraordinary on so many fronts, but still I question what it is that essentially frees it to transcend both time and performance? If I’m going to plump for one thing, I’d suggest it’s the strong bass lines (even when they are merely implied), that underpin the chromatic twists and turns in Bach’s wonderful harmonies.  That for me settles the sense of tonality in western music, it sets the scene for the disruption of tonality in the 20th century, and underlines why we return to tonality over and over.

Or perhaps it is something else?

 


   
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Posted by: @jen

Could it ever sound old-fashioned or irrelevant?

NEVER!! Not in a million years!

 

Posted by: @jen

I’d suggest it’s the strong bass lines (even when they are merely implied), that underpin the chromatic twists and turns in Bach’s wonderful harmonies.

 

I think you've put your finger on one important reason, here. Bach's music is wonderfully harmonious, even though (or maybe as a result of?!) it's being highly formally structured and mathematically precise, as all Baroque music generally is. Maybe that's one reason of its appeal?! 


   
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 Jen
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On re-imaginings, I’m very fond of this album, Brad Mehldau’s responses to a few of the Preludes and Fugues from the 48:

After Bach — Brad Mehldau

Of transcriptions: there’s the delightful recent release of 3 of the Cello Suites arranged for bass clarinet, which we discussed on the forum of old. There’s something about the reflective nature of these suites that sits so perfectly on the cello, I couldn’t imagine they would work on any other instrument. But this recording has changed my mind, it’s different, but in it’s own way just as lovely:

J.S. Bach: 3 Cello Suites (Arr. J. Ranz for Bass Clarinet) | Stream on IDAGIO

And my guilty secret: an arrangement of the D minor keyboard concerto for Jazz Trio.  There are so many Jazz versions of Bach, but I can’t resist breaking into dancing to this one 😂:

Concerto No. 1, BWV 1052, D minor: I. Allegro — Thomas Gabriel Trio


   
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 Jen
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Oh, that’s a new way for the links to appear.  I wonder what happened? 😆


   
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 Jen
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Listening to the Bourrée from the E minor Lute Sonata (thanks Dinah for the link to the guitar transcription) reminds me of the question of whether this work inspired the Beatles’ song Blackbird.  I’d heard Paul McCartney had often said that it did, and I love Blackbird, but could never quite hear the link.  All is explained here:

Was "Blackbird" Inspired by J. S. Bach's Bourrée in E Minor BWV 996?

So Bach is re-imagined, and further re-imagined in unexpected ways!

Blackbird — The Beatles

 

 


   
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Posted by: @jen

And my guilty secret: an arrangement of the D minor keyboard concerto for Jazz Trio. 

Wow !

Bach and jazz!

You know what, that's a great idea 🤔

I'm listening to the Thomas Gabriel album right now, it quite lovely. Thanks @Jen.

 


   
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@Jen

The 4th track of the Thomas Gabriel album is the variation of the chorale you don't like 🤣

Now, you have to give it a second chance! It's destiny @Jen, you can't fight destiny 🤣🤪

 

N. B. Now I have some good music to add to my list of "music while you work", a topic broached in an earlier @capriccio post! 


   
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 Jen
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I always fast forward over that track 😂


   
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@jen 😂😂😂

You're incorrigible. 

At least I tried 🤷‍♀️🤪


   
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