Bags of Bran


J. S. Bach, Arvo Pärt, and a Recovering Philistine
November 4, 2011, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Biography

Just went and saw a performance by the Saint Paul Symphony Orchestra of Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Interspersed among the Bach movements were various choral works by Arvo Pärt, that Estonian master of saying only what needs to be said.

Now, as a recovering charismatic, yoosta-be evangelical, and bitter institutional fundamentalist, as well as a somewhat accomplished (and not quite recovered) bass guitarist, I can say that my musical sensibilities are about as neat and orderly as war-torn Serbia. I learned a lot tonight. I learned that some of Bach’s best stuff is significantly less accessible to the disordered palate than, say, the Brandenberg Concertos, which are nearly as light as Mozart. It is worth the considerable effort it takes to follow it, however. I also learned that in live performance situations, it is easiest for me to follow the cello, and I have to work much harder to follow the other voices.

Of Pärt’s works, my favorite hands down was “Magnificat.” I don’t know if Pärt would want a philistine like myself heaping superlatives on his work, but there is a connection between the text and the music that rings true. I was not familiar with “The Woman with the Alabaster Box” prior to this evening, but I will own a recording of it very soon.

My fellow sojourners at the concert could bear witness to this: the facility which hosted the concert had an enormous, beautiful pipe organ tantalizing us from the stage. Both Bach and Pärt (as the reader is likely well aware) have tremendous works written for the king of instruments, but it was never touched the whole evening. Awww….

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