An early morning in Vienna – what a gift! The city was already on the move, but the serenity of a peaceful night still lingered over little streets north and east of the Stephansdom. I had woken up early and could spare an hour between breakfast and my appointment at the United Nations to stroll around, to spend a moment or two inside the dome, accompanied by my good friend Johannes Brahms. Over my iPhone I listened to the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Riccardo Chailly performing Brahm’s Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. The opening reminded my of a short prayer, later the first movement features waltz-like elements – Good morning, Vienna!
Bach – that’s not just a composer’s name. It’s a whole dynasty of excellent musicians! We have already met Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons. Today we will explore a work written by Johann Bernard Bach, a cousin of Johann Sebastian. He was born in Erfurt in 1676 and died just a year before his famous cousin, in 1749. Johann Bernard Bach held the position as organist in Erfurt from 1695 on and moved into a similar position in Eisenach in 1703, where he was appointed as a court harpsichordist and later as the Kapellmeister of the court’s orchestra.
A month ago we experienced our first severe thunderstorm of the year. We saw it coming from afar. We saw the lightning illuminating distant clouds. It was dead silent. It was dark except for the occasional stroke of light at the horizon. Then came the growling, slow, persistent, menacing. Tension was mounting. Then came the wind. Gusts, triggered by the approaching rain. Time to duck for cover. I was outside until the first rain drops fell, to witness this natural phenomenon that fascinates since I was a child. I used to observe thunderstorms with my father from the terrace on. One of these father-son moments…
Whenever I go for a walk in the woods, I bring back at least a couple of pictures I label “natural beauty”. The grass above grows on an Alpine mountain in Austria and it struck me by its symmetry, its delicate aspect and its actual robustness. The afternoon sun’s reflection on its polished straws gave it a kind of shimmering halo – truly beautiful. These attributes match a work written by Franz Schubert towards the end of his career, in December 1827, eleven months before his death: the Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major, Op. 159 D. 934.