Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, J. S. Bach! 21 March, 1685

The Prelude from Bach's English Suite No. 2

I remember this piece from one of the many disturbing scenes in Schindler's List. As German soldiers are storming a Jewish apartment building in the Warsaw ghetto, and with total chaos and terror reigning in the background, one soldier quietly and nonchalantly sits down at a piano (that belongs to someone being thrown out, obviously) and begins playing this beautiful piece. Such beauty amidst all the horror. Classic Spielberg, I suppose.

On listening to Bach, Hermann Hesse wrote:

And now it comes. With majestic free deportment Master Bach enters his temple, does grateful homage to God, rises from worship and, following the text of a hymn, happily falls into his reverent Sunday mood. But hardly has he made a start and cleared some space for himself than he begins to drive his harmonies deeper, interlace melody with melody, harmony with harmony in animated polyphony; he reinforces and lifts and rounds out his edifice of notes far above the church into a starry space full of nobly perfect systems as though God had gone to sleep and handed over to him His staff and mantle. He makes lightening play from towering clouds and throws open serene sunny spaces, he triumphantly guides forth planets and suns, he rests relaxed at high noon and at the proper hour elicits the cool showers of evening. And he ends in splendor and power like the setting sun and, as he falls silent, leaves the world full of glory and of soul.

~ Old Music (1913)


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