Super-Bowled Over by JSB   Leave a comment

While much of the U.S. watched the Big Game on February 6, my wife and I went to a special fund-raising concert for a choral group we sing in, Cantori Domino

There is no place I would rather have been.

And a rich feast of Bach’s vocal and instrumental chamber and solo music it was, including vocal solos and rarely heard duets, a charming early work for harpsichord, and the Cello Suite in D minor. One of the instrumentalists sang the echos from the (aptly named) Echo aria, obviously having a lot of fun, and ended with a look forward in time, with a trio sonata from the Tafelmusik by Telemann.

Ah yes, the Cello Suite in D minor (BWV 992) – the latter probably the best cello playing I’ve ever heard. You just never know when that is going to happen. And that’s why I’ll keep supporting live performance whenever I can.

I have rarely heard performances of this caliber – at the top of their field really “on their game” to such a degree.  And I’ve heard a lot of performances over the years – I’ve even played in quite a number.

But even if they hadn’t been so darn good, there is simply no substitute for live performance.

In a real-time performance the performers feed off, and take energy from, the audience and each other. It’s almost like they were dancing. And smiles all around.

CDs are wonderful. But they’re also too perfect! Every note is correct, the performers are perfectly balanced. That doesn’t happen in live performance, no matter how high-caliber the performers are.

Until very recently composers almost always wrote with live performance in mind. Unless a piece is written specifically for electronic media, live performance is the way virtually all music was meant to be heard.

(Here’s a personal aside: music with tape – whether alone or together with live performers – was fashionable 30-40 years ago. American composer Daniel Pinkham wrote his share of such pieces. But he told me in an interview for Clavier magazine that he quit, because he much preferred live performance, with all its imperfections, to something preserved one way on a recording, forever.)

This year’s Super Bowl is over. Bach goes on forever, and so does live performance!

(Oh, and they raised a nice sum, too. Bach would have appreciated that, as well.)

Posted February 9, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

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