Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sons of the Father: I

In Japan saying you don't like Bach is, I'm told, a major faux pas.

There is a lot not to like in Bach, especially as the Bach in question usually bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real thing.  Bach has become the business of Bach, as manufactured by generations of bar-line-obsessed piano teachers who miss the point entirely.

Last night I played two Two-Part Inventions and two Three-Part Sinfonias for a mixed audience that included, in addition to this extraordinary Bach-disliking Japanese pianist, an entirely unschooled improvising singer/songwriter.  Each one in separate conversation noticed exactly the same thing about the Inventions--the very same thing:  namely, that they are not really pieces.  They do their thing and then, whoops, suddenly they end, but not a conventional ending.  It is as if time runs out, there is no more room on the page, and so, well, let's make a cadence.

I have been trying to imagine these pieces through the eyes of Bach's 13-year-old son, Wilhelm Friedemann, for whom they were written.  Games, surely; tricks to see what he catches and what he throws back in return. 

And here were these two listeners, one a former chamber music student, the other my daughter, catching and throwing back.  It made my day.