I recently came upon this beautiful talk by András Schiff about J.S. Bach. It’s well worth the 33:33. (was that timing intentional?)
Here are some highlights for me:
“we need ruhe und stille (peace and quiet) to create music”
“there’s no more beautiful musical calligraphy than Bach’s, because you can see these wonderful waves like flowing water. He never writes a straight line, but only waves. And so you can imagine how this music flows along.”
Schiff plays an hour of Bach every morning. no need to practice technique. Everything he needs is in Bach: psychologically and spiritually, musically and emotionally and even purely physically. “To be able to start a day like this cleanses the soul.”
“In polyphonic music each voice is of equal value. It’s like a society in which everyone is equally important.”
“There is a blending of secular and sacred in Bach’s music. In his dancelike and playful secular music (Schiff spends a good deal of time talking about the delightful French Suites) Bach’s faith still shines through. Conversely, the Masses, Passions and Cantatas contain dancelike elements. The sacred and the secular coexist harmoniously.”
For Schiff, Bach was not only the greatest composer, but a great teacher. Starting with the inventions and working up to the preludes and fugues and later works, there is a definite pedagogical progression to his music. I would like to add that there is no better place to go to study composition and counterpoint.
Schiff’s voice is melodic. He’s beautiful to listen to.
Just for fun I have decided to return to practicing Bach daily in order to rediscover (and discover!) this fantastic music. Won’t you join me? I’m starting with the inventions and sinfonias. It’s incredible to return to those so many years after studying them. Particularly with the perspective of a jazz musician.