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Today's rhaps is on ... The Unaccompanied Sonatas


J. S. Bach, Violin Sonata in G minor, 1720

I performed Bach's unaccompanied Sonata in G minor in the fall of 1974, in a recital of my Boston Symphony teacher's students. It was a crazy night and I don't remember much of what happened afterward, but the melancholy chords and legato notes remained consistently clear to me. They became a kind of theme for me in the decades after I left the conservatory, coming to life again whenever I picked up my violin.


When my fingers could no longer stretch to the quadruple chords cut two and two, nor yield the soulful tones with ease, I took voice lessons to continue expressing this magical language of symbols and sounds. When I did not have a teacher, Cecilia Bartoli the Queen of Baroque became my online tutor, coaxing the notes from me right through the music ether.


Today I was listening to Itzak Perlman playing the Partita in D minor, another one of the Unaccompanieds that I often played back in the violin days. The early movements, the Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue were like solo song & dance before the entire chorale comes out, warming up my fingers for the magnicent Chaconne.


Do I miss it? Yes and no.


Whatever musical muscle memory is left, these full-voiced melodies are never background muzak to me. They fill my ears and the room and the spacetime completely.


18 JULY 2022

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