J. S. Bach’s 325th Birthday

Halevai (would that it were so). Exactly 325 years ago, on March 21, 1685, in the German city of Eisenach, Johann Sebastian Bach was born. His body may have died, but his music is more alive than ever.

In honor of the day, here is Itzhak Perlman performing (YouTube video split up in two parts) the Chaconne from the Partita for Solo Violin in D minor, BWV 1004. A “chaconne” is roughly the more stylized classical equivalent of what jazz, rock, and metal soloist often do: spin out ideas over a repeated bass line. (If the bass line moves to voices other than the bass, the piece is called a passacaglia, of which Bach wrote a marvelous example for organ.) Violinist Nigel Kennedy, not without reason, refers to the composer as “Jazz Bach”.

The theme Bach ‘riffs’ on is very basic, and the limitations of solo violin playing (especially with a modern bow) mean many things have to be hinted at rather than played. Yet, this piece manages to not bore the listener for one second. And Perlman has enough technique that he can squeeze an emotional performance out of this “Mount Everest of solo violin music”.

Enjoy!

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