The search for the beauty of classical music is always a never-ending journey filled with fruitfully expanding experiences. One of those threads that keep recurring for me is the notion that I might contemplate the composer with the most brilliant and beauteous music. Shall I choose Mozart or Beethoven or beyond? Yet if I think of Johann Sebastian Bach, I think of Baroque, and believe that it is indeed a nice form filled with pleasing music; but somehow the thought somewhat fades. Yet it is Bach that set the standard, he invented some of the most beautiful music out there, and to listen to it live at Heinz Hall was a special treat, broadening my horizon and reviving the form.
Even Mozart near the end of his career tried to study and use aspects invented by Bach in his music (from “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” by Roland Tenschert). Mozart didn’t really get to study or hear the wealth of music from Bach before his road to genius was set forth, yet that’s the way it was back then, not too many were able to see or hear these compositions. Today it’s so easy to access so much music, its almost ironic.
It was a joy to watch Jeannette Sorrell conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and expertly play the beautifully adorned harpsichord that was before her. At first she would conduct facing the orchestra, intently conducting with pursed lips and determination in her eyes; then she would play the harpsichord standing up, and through it all she was always smiling, as if hearing and playing and conducting for the umpteenth time was just like the first. Later she would sit and play, especially for Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, the Allegro movements which must be very demanding. It’s said that Mozart composed a lot of notes, well I think that perhaps it is Bach that has scribed down quite a few more — rapid notes translated into her fingers ranging up and down the the dual sets of keyboards in an awesome display.
Using binoculars at a performance like this is indispensable, I could see the aspects of the harpsichord and the each of performer’s techniques on each of their respective instruments. I was able to see that this was a Willard Martin made in Pennsylvania like the one in the photo here…
Between concertos #1 and #3 Jeannette Sorrell indicated that “it is with great pleasure to work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; this showcase for the players is a rare event – a treat to listen to all six of the Brandenberg Concertos at once – I hope you enjoy the piece as much as we do.” Interesting the ‘as much as we do’ – it really did seem like all the musicians truly enjoyed the compositions, especially Jeannette Sorrell.
Later she indicated that Bach didn’t compose all of these concertos at the same time and it is probable that Bach himself never heard them together like this as they require different ensembles of instruments and musicians. She suggested that Bach, through the use of Baroque, wanted to affect the ideal, or move the emotion of the audience. Interesting, it does have that effect on me, yet when I think of his music, somehow I think the music seems mathematically perfectly composed, as if different threads are interwoven in a perfect amalgamation that affect our inner being in more than a metaphysical sense. So is it science or is an emotional affect? Whatever it is, it’s beautiful.
The final concerto was No 2. They saved that for last because it had the largest ensemble of musicians, and of course especially because of the trumpet, oboe, flute and violin, played by George Vosburgh, Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, Lorna McGhee and Noah Bendix-Balgley respectively. The trumpet just blows you away with its high tones and the amazing technique from Mr. Vosburgh, I can still hear it in my mind to this day.
My daughter attended the concert with me, here are a few of the things she wrote to me in the margins of my program, and of course they are in French, the language she is currently studying in school.
J’ai un question pour soi.