Bach recommendations for a beginner?

Christopher_M posted:
Eoink posted:

Brandenburgs to start I'd say, then the Cello or Violins,

Thanks Eoin, and I'm absolutely with you on your recommendations.

Chris

I am a little surprised at the nonchalance with which the Cello Suites or the Violin Sonatas und Partitas are recommended. I wonder if people really hears in Bach all there is, and reaches the end safe. Bach is a hugely misunderstood composer, especially for people who grew up with the notion of Hændel as the epitome of Baroque. Bach had no concern for the listener, he wrote for himself and his God, or for his large family of pupils. If one learns to read one of the graphic analyses Heinrich Schenker did of Bach's music, it'll be obvious that the complexity of his textures and structures makes his music a real trip for dedicated trippers.

I've heard Bach for decades. I still am speechless when I realize how for him no audience exists. No care is taken to help the listener, to go to him, to address him. Bach's music addresses its author and mathematics. With due respect for all who love his music, I suspect that they get 25% of what's in it. Bach's music is not relaxing, is not stimulating, it is just and only a constant challenge to other musicians. Bach was not composing for you, so are you sure you want to lose yourself into an unwelcoming universe?

If I wanted to discuss life, I wouldn't do it with a philosopher, I'd ask a whore, someone who's ready to give all of herself. I'd ask Schubert, Mozart. Beethoven, Bruckner. Even Strauß. But Bach seems to me always just a beautiful excuse not to dirt one's hands (and ears) in music's real fluids.

CD

Crompton Divided posted:
Christopher_M posted:
Eoink posted:

Brandenburgs to start I'd say, then the Cello or Violins,

Thanks Eoin, and I'm absolutely with you on your recommendations.

Chris

I am a little surprised at the nonchalance with which the Cello Suites or the Violin Sonatas und Partitas are recommended. I wonder if people really hears in Bach all there is, and reaches the end safe. Bach is a hugely misunderstood composer, especially for people who grew up with the notion of Hændel as the epitome of Baroque. Bach had no concern for the listener, he wrote for himself and his God, or for his large family of pupils. If one learns to read one of the graphic analyses Heinrich Schenker did of Bach's music, it'll be obvious that the complexity of his textures and structures makes his music a real trip for dedicated trippers.

I've heard Bach for decades. I still am speechless when I realize how for him no audience exists. No care is taken to help the listener, to go to him, to address him. Bach's music addresses its author and mathematics. With due respect for all who love his music, I suspect that they get 25% of what's in it. Bach's music is not relaxing, is not stimulating, it is just and only a constant challenge to other musicians. Bach was not composing for you, so are you sure you want to lose yourself into an unwelcoming universe?

If I wanted to discuss life, I wouldn't do it with a philosopher, I'd ask a whore, someone who's ready to give all of herself. I'd ask Schubert, Mozart. Beethoven, Bruckner. Even Strauß. But Bach seems to me always just a beautiful excuse not to dirt one's hands (and ears) in music's real fluids.

CD

You wrote: 'he wrote for himself and his God, or for his large family of pupils'.

You forget here that Bach was hired as 'Kapelmeister' or 'Cantor' in which role he had to write music. That was part of his contract. Surely he wanted to do this, but we should not forget that only in the second half of the 18th century people started to compose because the had an inner drive for it. Like Beethoven. The struggle of Mozart is also quite known, willing to write music not earning any money.

The beauty of Bach is that it is beautifully composed, but also people not understanding these compositions can enjoy it. This also counts for the Cello suites. On Good Friday we had a guy playing one of the Cello Suites in the service and this is really appreciated by the people.

But what I don't understand is that there is almost no mention of organmusic in this topic. organmusic is the key to understand Bach.

 

Monster posted:

Yes, Victoria Mullova is excellent in Bach in my opinion. Look for her recording of the sonatas and partitas for solo violin on the Onyx label. Very special. 

BB

Yep, after listening to dozens of Violin sonatas & partitas, I can confirm: Victoria Mullova is top!

Hi Paul,

Do you like Bach's piano music? Here I got some recommendations from my Bach library:

  1. BWV0806-811 English Suites - 1985 Ivo Pogorelić.  Ivo has an incredible technique and creates a gorgeous light sound
  2. BWV0812-817 French Suites - 2013 Murray Perahia. The French suites by Murray Perahia are very well played here. Wonderful sound
  3. BWV0825-830 Partitas - 2014 Igor Levit.  Igor Levit creates a beautiful sound on the Partitas
  4. BWV0846-869 Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil I 1722 - 1970 Sviatoslav Richter ++   This is hardcore Bach! The sound quality of this 1972 recording is poor, but Richter's interpretation is excellent. The last Prelude & Fuga BWV 869 sounds like a 'long winding road'  to heaven....
  5. BWV0988 Goldberg Variationen - 2000 Murray Perahia +  Very good
  6. BWV0988 Goldberg Variationen - 2004 Cédric Pescia ++  Excellent

 

If you are touched by BWV 869, then listen to this version from Yuri Egorov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV29KqTGdPE

Enjoy!

Ardbeg,

you are right, but the amount of music that Bach wrote 'under contract' is a small part of his whole output. When I said that he wrote for himself and for his God, I meant that it is my strong impression that he never thought of a secular audience, if I may call it so. My respect for Bach is huge, but I never could bring myself to love him. Because he didn't seem to love me. But when I listen to Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Bruckner, even that grand bourgeois Strauß, I know they had me in mind, as part of a general, hypothetical, future audience. They wrote for others. Bach didn't. He probably felt like if he was just ten fingers ruled by God.

But Bach is the Schoenberg of his time. He understood what harmony was becoming with the equal temperament, and saw what music would be in a century at least. He's the Schoenberg of his time much as Chopin is the Bach of his. Long live them all, those we love and those we don't, because they are the only alternative to this:

Best

CD

Well I have done it.  I have purchased all recommendations and have spent quite a few dollars.  Amazingly the Amazon purchases arrived in one piece.  eBay not so, though not too bad.   I have endless hours of a day to listen to music though am unable to do so because of family members watching TV in the lounge room and medical appointments.

Please feel reassured if you have mad a recommendation I have purchased it though have not listened to even 10%.

Tonight I gave Bach Cello Suites a go and enjoyed it more than the version on iTunes that I previewed.  Though after an hour or less I began to tire of it.  I am now listening to the Flute suites and am quite entertained with the melodies.  This is a keeper.  The Cello Suites will be too.  Though maybe after a few smokey peat whiskeys.

I have quite a lot of CDs to go through.  If you would like me to list them again I can do so though maybe tomorrow, or the next day.  I also purchased the Bach Ton Koopman Organ Works and will try and listen to a CD tomorrow.  Though I must say I am quite enthralled with the Flute playing from Bach Flute Sonatas, Andrea Oliva and Angela Hewitt.

I also have the complete works of Angela Hewitts CDs as well.  Well for another day.

To have a break from Bach I have a Otis Redding CD arriving in the mail next week.

To all who have responded and guided me.  Your responses have not gone unnoticed, especially by my wife : )

Thank you very much.

Paul.

Ardbeg10y posted:
Crompton Divided posted:
Christopher_M posted:
Eoink posted:

Brandenburgs to start I'd say, then the Cello or Violins,

Thanks Eoin, and I'm absolutely with you on your recommendations.

Chris

I am a little surprised at the nonchalance with which the Cello Suites or the Violin Sonatas und Partitas are recommended. I wonder if people really hears in Bach all there is, and reaches the end safe. Bach is a hugely misunderstood composer, especially for people who grew up with the notion of Hændel as the epitome of Baroque. Bach had no concern for the listener, he wrote for himself and his God, or for his large family of pupils. If one learns to read one of the graphic analyses Heinrich Schenker did of Bach's music, it'll be obvious that the complexity of his textures and structures makes his music a real trip for dedicated trippers.

I've heard Bach for decades. I still am speechless when I realize how for him no audience exists. No care is taken to help the listener, to go to him, to address him. Bach's music addresses its author and mathematics. With due respect for all who love his music, I suspect that they get 25% of what's in it. Bach's music is not relaxing, is not stimulating, it is just and only a constant challenge to other musicians. Bach was not composing for you, so are you sure you want to lose yourself into an unwelcoming universe?

If I wanted to discuss life, I wouldn't do it with a philosopher, I'd ask a whore, someone who's ready to give all of herself. I'd ask Schubert, Mozart. Beethoven, Bruckner. Even Strauß. But Bach seems to me always just a beautiful excuse not to dirt one's hands (and ears) in music's real fluids.

CD

You wrote: 'he wrote for himself and his God, or for his large family of pupils'.

You forget here that Bach was hired as 'Kapelmeister' or 'Cantor' in which role he had to write music. That was part of his contract. Surely he wanted to do this, but we should not forget that only in the second half of the 18th century people started to compose because the had an inner drive for it. Like Beethoven. The struggle of Mozart is also quite known, willing to write music not earning any money.

The beauty of Bach is that it is beautifully composed, but also people not understanding these compositions can enjoy it. This also counts for the Cello suites. On Good Friday we had a guy playing one of the Cello Suites in the service and this is really appreciated by the people.

But what I don't understand is that there is almost no mention of organmusic in this topic. organmusic is the key to understand Bach.

 

Ardbeg,

you are right, but the amount of music that Bach wrote 'under contract' is a small part of his whole output. When I said that he wrote for himself and for his God, I meant that it is my strong impression that he never thought of a secular audience, if I may call it so. My respect for Bach is huge, but I never could bring myself to love him. Because he didn't seem to love me. But when I listen to Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Bruckner, even that grand bourgeois Strauß, I know they had me in mind, as part of a general, hypothetical, future audience. They wrote for others. Bach didn't. He probably felt like if he was just ten fingers ruled by God.

But Bach is the Schoenberg of his time. He understood what harmony was becoming with the equal temperament, and sawwhat music would be in a century at least. He's the Schoenberg of his time much as Chopin is the Bach of his. Long live them all, those we love and those we don't, because they are the only alternative to this:

Interesting conversation.  I do not claim to understand Bach or any other composer so as to speak for them but I do relate to the points made.

I would respond though with some rather blunt ideas.  While I may agree that understanding Bach's music may appear to be intimidating if not near impossible for many (including myself) I think that it is a mistake to assume that since later composers may have evolved stylistically and that the emotion found in the music may be more accessible or apparent that in all cases it is magnitude of the depth of the music that should be of interest to us.  Whether Bach or Beethoven or Chopin or Rachmaninov or any great composer it takes real work and dedicated commitment to get below the surface of anything worthwhile.  One listen and a binary vote response of yah or nay to whether it is good or not is the fast food culture response of our day.

In regards to Bach, I will never forget my own piano teacher's words when he reminded me as a teenager that right now you can only learn the notes.  With continued effort and education you may begin to start understanding it more in depth after you are forty.  The point is not about a certain age but rather one of sweat, time, commitment and resilience.

To say that some composer is not accessible or was indeed not writing his music for us mere mortals is not entirely correct.  Effort applied ultimately will leading to new understanding.  No one will continue to put effort into something if they don't perceive the benefits of doing so to be greater than the cost of doing so.  I would imagine that most of the people here are only coming at this as interested listeners.  The time line for most part-time 'regular' individuals to say learn how to play say the Goldberg Variations may be years if not decades and maybe never.  Your work only begins after you have the technique to do so and have learnt the notes.  So yes, this is a lifetime endeavour.  As a listener, how much time are you willing to spend getting to know a piece?  Ten minutes?  Two hours?  Thousands of hours?  A lifetime?

From what I have read about Bach, either through others or through his own words, I would say that like any craftsman (especially that of a German craftsman) that his pride in his creations were no less palpable than one has pride in their own offspring.  I think he revelled in his cleverness and inventiveness and nothing would bring him more joy than to know that at least a small handful of people 'got it' as well.  He was also aware that he was setting the bar here and at a level that no one has actually surpassed to this day.  No where is this more evident than his own opening words to his Two-Part Inventions & Sinfonias and The Well-Tempered Klavier:

Forward to Two-Part Inventions & Sinfonias:
Honest method, by which the amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts correctly and well; and along with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style in playing and at the same time acquire a strong foretaste of composition.

Forward to The Well-Tempered Klavier:
The well-tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones, both as regards the tertiam majorem or Ut Re Mi [i.e., major] and tertiam minorem or Re Mi Fa [i.e., minor]. For the profit and use of the studious musical young, and also for the special diversion of those who are already skilful in this study, composed and made by Johann Sebastian Bach, for the time being Capellmeister and Director of the Chamber-music of the Prince of Anhalt-Cothen. In the year 1722.

So, I believe with all my heart and life's experience that Bach (and every composer of worth) was writing first for their own sake (expressing themself) but secondly they were also giving us a gift should we choose to accept it.  In some cases it is a straight-forward gift but mostly it is one of seeking and eventually you will find the true riches contained underneath.  This is not an easy task.

With regards to the organ music, yes, it is a great piece of the puzzle of who Bach is but really, it is just music played on specific type of keyboard.

Don't feel obligated to listen to a complete cello suites or violin suites etc.  Start with what you like.  This may be one suite or even one movement of a suite.  Maybe, just the fascination with the music is enough but if so inclined find out everything you can about a piece of music that moves you.  Musically, this may mean listening to this work dozens or even hundreds of times over months or years.  Listen to various interpretations until you find something that moves you and discover why etc.  Trust me.  I have more recordings than I could listen to in a lifetime but when you discover something you like (such as even one small movement of a larger piece) I can spends months just focused on that one little bit.  Maybe aim for quality rather than quantity? 

This may sound like work and might be tedious but I think you will either naturally move in one direction or the other.  Having 'a-ha' moments along the way will slowly infect you and reinforce some of the joy you are after and soon you won't recognize the person you were in the past leading up to your new enlightened state.

One last thought is to comment on authenticity.  Some will say that you cannot listen to (or play) the keyboard (klavier) music on a modern instrument today as this is sacrilege.  Different strokes for different folks, as always, but I speak for myself that once you begin to marvel at the harmony, the counterpoint, and all the inner workings of this miracle music you will have no ambition to follow such a narrow minded path.  This music will infect you at your deepest, innermost being and touch you in ways you cannot imagine.

Can you imagine sitting down and having a conversation with Bach or any other great composer?  This gift of music they left us is a diary that allows the conversation to begin.  At first you may just talk about the weather but ultimately you will form a very close and personal relationship where everything is shared.

Gigantor posted:

Well I have done it.  I have purchased all recommendations and have spent quite a few dollars.  Amazingly the Amazon purchases arrived in one piece.  eBay not so, though not too bad.   I have endless hours of a day to listen to music though am unable to do so because of family members watching TV in the lounge room and medical appointments.

Tonight I gave Bach Cello Suites a go and enjoyed it more than the version on iTunes that I previewed.  Though after an hour or less I began to tire of it.  I am now listening to the Flute suites and am quite entertained with the melodies.  This is a keeper.  The Cello Suites will be too.  Though maybe after a few smokey peat whiskeys.

**SNIP**

To all who have responded and guided me.  Your responses have not gone unnoticed, especially by my wife : )

Thank you very much.

Paul.

Paul, I'm glad you're enjoying the Bach, I hope you get much pleasure from all the discs you bought. 

Thank you Bert.  I have taken note of your recommendations.  Though for now I have so many CD's.  I think I will be pleasantly occupied until next Christmas (2019).  I have to start listening and stop purchasing.

Thank you for your recommendations.

Warm regards,

Paul.

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