Friday, May 2, 2008

Bach: Violin Concertos

This week I listened to one of our all-time favorite CDs, a recording of three of Bach's most famous violin concertos. It reminded me of my favorite Bach story:

It dates from college. My roomate in those days was a capable piano player, and at college he took organ lessons and became quite a gifted organ player.

Once during his senior year, he was practicing in the University's chapel, pounding away at Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. A young freshman kid walked into the chapel, came up to him, and in a fit of wanting to show how cultured he was, he asked, "is this BWV 565?"

"Yes, it is. But dude, don't call it that. Nobody calls it that." I think he also muttered under his breath, "you dweeb" as the kid slunk away.

And therein lies a lesson (I guess). Don't bother to try to show off--it only makes you sound like a tool.
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David and Igor Oistrach, violins
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Violin Concerto in A minor (BWV 1041)
Violin Concerto in E major (BWV 1042)
Violin Concerto in D minor "Double Concerto" (BWV 1043)
Deutsche Grammophon, 1962

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Today's disc is a heavy rotation favorite in our home, and we've probably listened to it hundreds of times over the years. A couple of comments:

1) These are some of Bach's most well-known works and they are a privilege to listen to. I was unable to find an exact match of the disc in our collection, but I've found two excellent substitutions that you can consider, with links here and below (once again, if you purchase products at Amazon via links on my site, I will receive a small affiliate fee--think of it as my tip jar):

First is a Deutsche Grammophon disc of BWV 1041, 1042 and 1043 with violinist Hillary Hahn.

Second is a complete collection of Bach Concertos from Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert Orchestra on five CDs. This collection is well-regarded (take a look at the feedback comments), and is available for a surprisingly reasonable price.

2) Another brief comment on how pointless classical music snobbery is: on my disc, there's a bonus concerto of Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Harpsichord in A minor. I used to look down my nose at Vivaldi, thinking of him as the kind of composer that silly freshman girls would play while they studied in their dorm rooms (under their posters of Monet's Water Lilies of course). And then, I actually spent some time listening to his works and I found out I was missing out on some truly exceptional music. Once again, not unlike my initial and ridiculous trumpet-centric view on Mozart, I find there's something to appreciate in almost all major classical music composers.

Oh, and of course I grew to like Monet too. Although I haven't bought any posters. Yet.



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