Monday, September 12, 2005

About Bach

Bach's music seems so easy to appreciate on the surface, yet everytime I listen to his pieces another time, they never fail to reveal something new to me. Every single piece of Bach's music recorded by decent artists strikes deep into me emotionally and spiritually, especially his vocal music. Yes, the sacred cantatas consists of mostly sermons and teachings of Christ in another language which I don't learn, yet they affect me much like a good sermon does. This really is the magical quality in the music of this legendary composer. I know that I'll never regret my choice of specialising in Bach's music, even though it is the most taxing on my brain cells. There are just so much aspects to take care of to master his music, like his musical shape, phrasing, articulation, ornaments etc. Interpreting his music in the most faithful way is really the hardest as compared to interpreting music by other composers. I've spent weeks going to the arts library to study on every single aspect regarding this composer and his contemporaries for the whole day, yet I felt that it was never sufficient, probably due to the fact that much was lost over the centuries.

Yes, I do know that Bach's music is acceptable when played without much research on him, but such performances lack a certain important quality which brings his music to life. It really is easy to differentiate performers who really study Bach's music intently and faithfully with those who just play as if it's just another musical piece. It is the X factor which brings the music alive, with the audience being able to feel the quintessence of the music, exuding this magnificent godly quality, yet not void of the fragile humane quality so essential in all good music.

An authentic performance doesn't mean playing on period instruments at all. In fact, I've come across certain performances of Bach on modern instruments more honest than those on period instruments. Of course, some superficial effects of modern instruments will overpower the music sometimes, like the volume and quality of the sound, but the faithfulness of the performers to an authentic perfromance does shine through eventually...

There're just so many aspects of Bach's music regarding temperaments, interpretation, instruments, the connection between rhetoric and music, intrinsic value of his music etc to address and I doubt a whole life dedicated to his music will ever be sufficient.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And no doubt, Bach had glorifed God to the best of his abilities.

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