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April 16 concert at First UMC Pittsburgh, featuring major
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Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor by J. S. Bach (1685-1750)


















 This week on the blog:    Friday, March 15, 2019
     the blog also publishes on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Go here to read those.

 

Beethoven the Control Freak


 













I entitled my lecture yesterday "Beethoven the Obsessive" but a blunter, more contemporary approach might have been the title above.

Last week Kristen and I went on one of our Frank Lloyd Wright tours. We've been on several, and as it happened, were on vacation in a part of Florida near to the campus of Florida Southern University, which happened to be the architect's one opportunity to pretty nearly design an entire city, or, at least a dozen buildings on a single college campus.

To say Frank Lloyd Wright, probably the world's most famous architect, wanted things his way is an understatement. He didn't just design the building, he designed the furniture to go in the building. And he placed it where he wanted it to go. Woe unto you if you moved the furniture and he found out.

Another thing you weren't allowed to do was to buy and install your own light fixtures. If the room got dark before five it was because he had designed it that way. He put windows in the parts of the house that he wanted you to use when he wanted you to use them. Kitchens (which he dismissively referred to as "work space") were small and only for making sandwiches and getting out of there. He didn't like basements, and he didn't do garages. Cars were made for carports. Natural lighting was the way to go. Don't get him started on air conditioning.



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Having recently turned my attention to some of the organ works of our dear Johann Sebastian Bach I thought I would seek counsel in order to improve my approach to these venerable works.  It was nice of him to leave behind some advice for the playing of the organ, particularly since he was such an avowed master of the instrument (his contemporaries heaped praise on him from all sides) and since he himself ought to be a recognized authority for the playing of his own works. I don't think he will mind if I share his wisdom with you:

"[with regard to playing the organ] There is nothing to it. You simply strike the right notes at the right time, and the instrument plays itself."

That's it. That's his glorious advice. And I think he might still be getting royalties for it.

Still, when a great master says something,...


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....A great many of these arguments, pro and con, cluster around one basic assumption. Just as I wrote when I discussed the possible Bach authorship of the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, if one holds a high opinion of these pieces, one tends to assume they must have been written by the great Bach. If one is less enthusiastic about the pieces, it is easy to assign them to some lesser light of the Baroque era.
Who Really Wrote the 8 Little Preludes and Fugues?

(an investigative blog series)



part one . part two . part three
part four . part five . part six



...And now another word
from our friend,
Mr. Bach


People have been wondering for a long time what they can do to become not just better pianists or organists, but how they can become great. Because, after all, why settle for anything that won't get us worshipped by throngs of adoring fans, right? And who knows the secret alchemy to greatness better than our own Johann Sebastian Bach, possibly the greatest composer who ever lived, and certainly a great organist and harpsichord player as well. So let's ask him. Let's shove a microphone right up in his face as he's leaving St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, and see what he thinks it takes to become great. Are you just born with it? Do you need some special diet or workout, or can you pay some guru five installments of 88.95 for the secret so that you, too, can be the one everybody is talking about. Oh Mr. Bach...?


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