musical excerpt: fuga from Bach’s sonata no. 2 in a minor

Bach can be one of the most difficult musical giants to grapple with. His works go beyond those of many other composers’ in their demands on mental acuity and musical finesse, and it’s no secret that many students struggle to find an appreciation for Bach, particularly when Baroque aesthetics and conventions seem so far removed from the modern world. For some, a love for Bach has to develop slowly over a longer time, with accumulated exposure to the expressiveness of his musical lines and the grand purity of his harmonies–and the growing realization of how deeply his music is steeped in the vibrant colors of his society, of dance or church or court.

When I first heard some of Bach’s Sonata No. 2 for solo violin, it amazed me to hear how the swoop of a single melodic line could shimmer with so much harmonic vibrancy and progression. And when there is more than one note!…As a pianist, it’s a little thrilling to hear a fugue played on an instrument with only four strings.

Arthur Grumiaux – Bach Sonata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003 (II. Fuga)

Some words of other composers on Bach:

Beethoven (in a letter to his publisher): “That you are going to publish Sebastian Bach’s works is something which does good to my heart, which beats in love of the great and lofty art of this ancestral father of harmony.”

Brahms (on the chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor): “On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”

Schumann: “Bach is my daily bread; he nourishes me and gives me new ideas–I think Beethoven said, ‘We are all children compared to him.'”

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