Allegro, for Dummies

September 24, 2008

I have made it a personal goal to familiarize myself with (and cultivate an educated appreciation for) the works of J.S. Bach.  Now part of this goal — appreciating Bach on some level — isn’t really hard for me at all.  The stuff sounds great.  The relatively limited exposure I’ve had to Bach in the past has been enough for me to find the mathematical aspects of his works intriguing and appealing.  So I’ve always “liked” listening to Bach.  But an educated appreciation?  I think that’s going to be a tall order.  There are so many layers of complexity here.  I’m gonna be at this for a while.

I recently purchased the Brandenburg Concertos, performed by the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields & Sir Neville Marriner.   I’ve listened through the whole collection several times, but honestly — I’ve only really absorbed a small part of it.  These britches are a bit too big for me, but I’m trying to grow into them.

So far my favorite movement is Concerto No. III in G, BWV 1048: I. Allegro.  (Heh — I don’t even know what all that means, but I’m sure it points y’all to the right movement.)  Now I’m no expert on Bach (duh), but I swear the man must have been Trinitarian to the bone.  The concerto itself has 3 movements, and the theme (motif?) of the 1st movement is a little 3-note job.  And the movement consists of this 3 note theme being tossed around between 3 (whaddya call em?) voices.  But the way it’s tossed around is absolutely amazing.  The internal tension, mutual support of the voices, the perfect artful blending of apparently incompatible forces — it’s like a window into the internal workings of the Godhead.  A little 6 minute sermon on Trinitarian theology.

Oh, and then there’s that surprise didn’t-expect-it-right-there-did-ya glorious resolution of the whole mess near the end of the movement.  The movement gets as tense and dark and messed up as it gets, and you’re thinking, “Okay, it’s going to take a while to work itself back out of this hole,” but just then it pops right up out of the grave in full splendor, surprising everybody, because it wasn’t suppsed to happen then.  We didn’t expect it there.  I guess that’s how resurrections work, right?  The audacity!  Fantastic.