Bach, Bach, Bach – there is no end to it! Can you imagine that 350 years after the birth of this composer, artists from all walks of life still feel inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach? He seems to be everywhere, and every classical musician’s reference point. Before Bach, it would seem, there was nothing, and after him… well, there is Madonna. It’s unsettling in a way, and still I could not live comfortably without Bach’s music. What an achievement for a human being who certainly did not believe a minute that his music would transcend his death. And he was right about this presumption since some 100 years had to pass before Felix Mendelssohn would rekindle the Bach fervour when he performed Bach’s Passion according to St Matthew.
The Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Basso Continuo in D minor (BWV 1043) is one of the first pieces composed by Bach that I got to know. Since then my Bach fervour has reached such an intensity that I have no less than three recordings of this specific piece: one by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Julia Fischer and Alexander Sitkovetsky, one by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Hilary Hahn, and one by the The English Concert, Simon Standage and Elizabeth Wilcock.
About giving pleasure
I will neither compare the three recordings, nor rank them, because honestly, there is nothing I could assess with my limited insight into performance techniques. Bach and the masters who perform Bach reduce me to a very humble enthusiast. The more I read about his music, the less I seem to know about it. As with many other Bach concerts, it is unclear when the composer wrote the score. While he stayed in Köthen? Or after his move to Leipzig when he started to perform with the Collegium Musicum? It doesn’t matter. This music is to be enjoyed, deeply enjoyed. It was written to give pleasure and not to feed academic debates.
While working on this text I listened to all three recordings, one after the other, twice or three times. And after listening to the same concerto for nine times in a little over two hours, I still was not tired or bored, no, much to the contrary. The piece has a perfect balance between uplifting, emotionally intense parts and calm moments, alike to a prayer. Bach the church musician is never very far. Faith in its multiple facets – sorrow, joy, adulation, humbleness – is reflected even in Bach’s non-liturgical music.
Isn’t it striking that Bach’s music with its never missing link to God is deeply moving people whatever their creed is? There must be something in Bach’s music that transcends a specific religion, a specific cultural context. The Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Basso Continuo in D minor certainly is a case in point for music that transcended Bach’s space and time.
© Charles Thibo