Day 18: Suite No. 3 in C major, Gigue

Botticelli’s Dante. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

I’m now halfway through the Bach 36 Project. I am slightly tempted to quote the beginning of Dante’s Inferno where he documents his arrival at the midway point of his life, but that would imply that I considered the E flat, C minor, and D major suites the inner circles of hell. Which I don’t (much).

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Day 17: Suite No. 3 in C major, Bourrées I & II

Children playing Suzuki cello. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

The C major Bourrées may be the most famous Bach cello movement. Or maybe it’s a tie with the G major Prelude. In any case, they’re the first Bach cello movements I ever played–only I played them on the violin, age 7. I was a violinist before I was a cellist (this is quite common among professional cellists, but it never seems to happen the other way around. Funny, that) and I encountered the Bourrées in an arrangement for violin and piano in G major in Suzuki Book 2. Or maybe it was Book 3, I can’t remember. So they’ve been with me for a long, long time now.

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Day 16: Suite No. 3 in C major, Sarabande

Deptford. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

The C major Sarabande has special sentimental meaning for me. I was hashing through it one day in my mid-teens when my much-loved great-aunt, who was visiting, came and sat down in the room where I was practising. When I stopped, she said quite casually “You can play that at my funeral.” I squirmed a bit, since I was uncomfortable talking about most serious subjects, but I didn’t forget the request.

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Day 15: Suite No. 3 in C major, Courante

Floor pattern for a danced courante. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

Owing to a dream featuring both an octopus and a crocodile, I woke up with a start at two in the morning and couldn’t sleep for another two hours. This caused me not to wake up until half past nine. Although I am temperamentally rather lazy, I dislike sleeping in, because I do my best work in the morning and I feel as if I’ve lost half the day if I don’t get up until ten. To add to this frustrating inconvenience, I woke up with a tension headache and a fierce case of the don’t-wannas.

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Day 14: Suite No. 3 in C major, Allemande

Herr und Frau Bach. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

I find myself suffering from a bit of writer’s block about the C major Allemande, so I will permit myself to digress a little bit by recounting some interesting facts about the Bach family which I have read in Christoph Wolff’s biography. Did you know that when J. S. Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke in 1721, he bought 264 quarts of Rhine wine to celebrate? (Assuming that the 18th-century German quart was anything like the modern American one, that’s a tremendous amount of wine.)

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Day 13: Suite No. 3 in C major, Prelude

There are a lot of these in Bach. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

Before I begin on the serious subject of the C major Prelude, I’m going to take a minute to feel mightily relieved that I’m now a third of the way through the Bach 36 project. I didn’t realize how much recording just one movement of Bach each day was going to kick my butt. I didn’t realize how much I was going to have to up my practice hours (this is undoubtedly a very fine thing) or just how long it would take to think up things to blog about and write them all down while waiting for the video to upload to YouTube.

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Day 12: Suite No. 2 in D minor, Gigue

Competitive Irish dancing. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

Today I was eager to inspire my playing with some more dance videos. The best video of a danced Baroque gigue that I could find on YouTube was this example from a music video by Il Giardino Armonico, where two ladies in period costume jump energetically about the room with sly expressions on their faces. Normally I try never to read the comments underneath YouTube videos, because in general they’re idiotic, but I couldn’t suppress a smile at the one about “pirate wenches.” 

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Day 11: Suite No. 2 in D minor, Menuets I & II

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

The D minor Menuets couldn’t be more different from each other. Menuet I, the minor-key one, has a densely chordal texture based partly on the harmonies that are spelled out in linear fashion in the Prelude. Menuet II, in the parallel major, is entirely free of double and triple stops, making it far more “horizontal” than its predecessor. Where Menuet I is austere and dignified, Menuet II appears to melt into a warm, graceful lyricism.

I don’t know why, but the D minor Menuets make me think of one of my favourite paintings,Two Nudes (Lovers) (1913) by Oskar Kokoschka.

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Day 10: Suite No. 2 in D minor, Sarabande

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

If the Allemande reminds me of Marin Marais and the Courante and Menuets remind me of Claudio Monteverdi, I think the D minor Sarabande reminds me of John Dowland. Though Bach might well have known Marais’ and Monteverdi’s music, I can’t find anything in my various Bach biographies to suggest that he knew Dowland’s. Still, the Sarabande always irresistibly brings to my mind Dowland’s Lachrimae Antiquae (better known as “Flow, my teares,” its lute song form) for consort of viols.

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