Tonight, at 1 a.m. (EST), one of the year’s great musical events begins: the annual Bach Festival—now in its 40th year—broadcast on WKCR-FM (Columbia University). All Bach, all the time, until midnight New Year’s Eve. Hope, beauty, inspiration: they aren’t luxuries; they’re necessities.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Mass in B minor (excerpt, “Dona nobis pacem”); Berlin Philharmonic (Ton Koopman, cond.) with RIAS Chamber Choir (Justin Doyle, chorus master), live, Berlin, 10/28/17
Johann Sebastian Bach, Cello Suite No. 6 in D major; Mischa Maisky (cello), live
This piece, in over forty years of listening, has never—not once—let me down. And this performance, which I encountered last night, is among the strongest I’ve heard.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Suite No. 5 in C minor for Unaccompanied Cello
Mischa Maisky, live, 1991
Unable are the Loved to die
For Love is Immortality,
Nay, it is Deity –
Unable they that love – to die
For Love reforms Vitality
—Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), 951 (Franklin)
This I turned to late yesterday afternoon, amidst darkness and rain and news of a neighbor’s terminal illness. I’ve been living with this piece for forty-some years, and it has never let me down—never failed, whatever the circumstances, to make life seem lighter, brighter, more porous, more spacious. Never.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Suite No. 1 in G major for Unaccompanied Cello; Mischa Maisky, cello
The more kinds of music you love, the more chances you have to make wonderful discoveries, as happened yesterday when I heard this for the first time (Oberon Ensemble, Art Institute of Chicago).
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor; Martha Argerich (piano); Gidon Kremer (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola), Mischa Maisky (cello), 2001
You don’t hear the sound; you go into the sound—you and the sound become one.
—Seung Sahn, Only Don’t Know
These pieces—Bach’s cello suites—I’ve been listening to for over 40 years. I never tire of them. Never.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Suite No. 5 in C minor for Unaccompanied Cello, excerpt (Sarabande); Mischa Maisky, cello
WKCR-FM’s Bach Festival—one of my favorite musical events of the year—begins tonight at 9 p.m. (EST). It runs, continuously, until midnight New Year’s Eve. That a world so full of so much junk has room in it for this, too, amazes me.
You reach a certain age.
Waking up one morning, you hear news that’s both unsurprising and unbelievable: a Cubs radio broadcaster who’s been around forever died.
Later in the day you find yourself wondering: “When I die, what music should I have at the funeral?”
replay: a clip too good for just one day
If God plays a musical instrument, I bet it’s the cello.
Bach, Suite No. 5 in C minor for Unaccompanied Cello, 4th Movement (Sarabande)
Mstislav Rostropovich, live
Mischa Maisky, live
Want more of Bach’s cello music? Here.
(Originally posted on 10/21/10.)