I promised 52 weeks. My little project could not end on any other note but Bach’s. His birthday is this Wednesday, so have a cupcake and listen to his sublime music!
The middle movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins has for me forever ruined his Air on the G String. This latter is a very reputable work, lovely, and excellent. But after the Concerto, it sounds so…lonely, as if something or someone was missing, as if a widow or widower was bravely carrying on in the absence of a beloved spouse.
There is simply no other work than Bach’s Concerto that better exemplifies a true marriage of equals. The two violin lines are so evenly matched and reciprocal, everything fits perfectly, and the beauty of their movements together present to us a seamless interchange in which all other supporting sounds fall away as if inconsequential.
The technique is called counterpoint, and it reached its apotheosis in the baroque era, particularly in the music of Bach. Two or more lines of music travel along, completely independent and completely interdependent: a marvelous miracle and mystery. For how is it possible to be so entirely centered and complete as an individual, and also eagerly, gratefully, dependent upon another for completion?
Counterpoint comes from the Latin for “point against point,” and it speaks to that independence, diversity, even tension of voices. When one line moves slowly, the other moves quickly (0:18-0:25), and then they reverse (0:51-1:02). While one moves down the scale, the other reaches up (1:14). They delightedly echo each other (2:10), and take turns leading, following, initiating, responding, no one voice ever dominating the other.
The piece winds along leisurely and methodic. In this Nigel Kennedy rendition, the two soloists allow a bit of vigorous climax action in two mirror passages (3:44, 4:59), both of which drop off quietly into sweet recapitulation.
It’s difficult to say any more about this work, because it almost defies analysis.
Like love, perhaps.
Here ends the first year of my musical offering. Thank you for your kind indulgence and good company. The blog will be on hiatus, but look for another 52 weeks beginning March 2013 – Prometto!