So much of our exposure to music is a matter of serendipity. In college, I had a roommate who was an accomplished violinist. But for that, would I have heard (and grown to love) Bach’s music for solo violin? This is a piece he often practiced.
Bach, Chaconne in D minor for solo violin (Partita for Violin No. 2 [BWV 1004])/Nathan Milstein (violin), live (TV show)
To prepare for . . . [a friend’s funeral] service, I had been practicing the Chaconne every day—fussing over individual phrases, searching for better ways to string them together, and wondering about the very nature of the piece, at its core an old dance form that had been around for centuries. After the many times I had heard and played the Chaconne, I had hoped it would fall relatively easily into place by now, but it appeared to be taunting me. The more I worked, the more I saw; the more I saw, the further away it drifted from my grasp. Perhaps that is in the nature of every masterpiece. But more than that, the Chaconne seemed to exude shadows over its grandeur and artful design. Exactly what was hidden there I could not say, but I would lose myself for long stretches of time exploring the work’s repeating four-bar phrases, which rose and fell and marched solemnly forward in ever-changing patterns.
—Arnold Steinhardt, Violin Dreams (2006)