On Bach.

 

“It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day it is something new, fantastic and unbelievable. That is Bach, like nature, a miracle. Bach is the supreme genius of music… This man, who knows everything and feels everything, cannot write one note, however unimportant it may appear, which is anything but transcendent. He has reached the heart of every noble thought, and has done it in the most perfect way.”

Pablo Casals

The fondest of my childhood memories mostly resonate baroque of some kind, and Bach is always the undisputed background and ubiquitous presence in many a contemplation. My admiration for him has grown from early and archaic to fundamental and ascending throughout. Needless to say that the personages of Bergman, Böhm, Casals, Gould, (Karl) Richter and Tarkovsky have partaken in it.

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Thinking of the many delectable possibilities to bake, I landed on magnificent Pfefferkuchen and Lebkuchen recipes, and decided for them. In the midst of the making, part of the dough was used for the batter of its cake variation.

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Knowing of his undisputed love for coffee (BWV 211), I accompanied the treats with a strong brew. Alongside Richter’s 1968 Kantata recordings and Huchting’s and Gardiner’s books on Bach, in a mellow and confidential air celebrated him on his day.

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“It is, in short, music which observes neither end nor beginning, music with neither real climax nor real resolution, music which, like Baudelaire’s lovers, ‘rests lightly on the wings of the unchecked wind.’ It has, then, unity through intuitive perception, unity born of craft and scrutiny, mellowed by mastery achieved, and revealed to us here, as so rarely in art, in the vision of subconscious design exulting upon a pinnacle of potency.”

Glenn Gould on Bach’s Goldberg’s Variations (linear notes of his 1955 recording).

 

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