Building the Goldberg City with Bach

Lichtstudie. © Charles Thibo

Light and sound and the combination of the two have always fascinated me. Here lies the origin of this blog – tweets about a specific moment with a specific piece of music and a specific picture associated to both. But I am just an amateur. Meet the masters of sound and light, for instance the French artist Jean-Michel Jarre. I recall my fascination at the age of 15: Jarre composed electronic music and performed it with huge laser shows. And yesterday I have seen and heard the Luxembourg pianist Francesco Tristano performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) and building a towering digital city on a screen in the concert hall – projections of the music. 90 minutes of (de)light and great sound… and great fun for that prepared grand piano is one fantastic toy.

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The master architect’s counterpoint legacy

Infinity. © Charles Thibo

Composing a fugue – I imagine an architect building a tower. A tower with a solid base. I imagine a fearless architect putting one building block upon the next until the tower reaches a vertiginous height. I imagine an ambitious architect decorating the tower with elaborate artwork. The master architect of fugues was Johann Sebastian Bach. Nobody succeeded in building a higher tower, nobody devised more artful decorations without falling into the trap of cheap effects.

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Humble flowers blossoming in a Hamburg garden

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Supreme elegance marks Reincken’s music. © Charles Thibo

You, yes, you – this is your chance. Your chance to come up with a last-minute Christmas gift with a high probability to please both you and the person you will give it to if you’re in for Baroque music. A rarity, both from a recording perspective and from a historical point of view, a sublime example of composing. In 1687 the German composer Johann Adam Reincken wrote a set of six partitas that he called “Hortus musicus recentibus aliquod flosculis” (A musical garden of some recent flowers). It is the only piece of Reincken’s chamber music that has survived. It follows the standard structure of five movements: Sonata, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue.

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Baroque beauty transcending space and time

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Hope. © Charles Thibo

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.

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