113: J.S. Bach, ‘Prelude to Suite #2 for Unaccompanied Cello’ (Casals)

Yom Kippur is when we Jews face up to the way we lead our lives. The cantor uses the liturgy to break open our hearts and try to pry open God’s. But if there were going to be a secular soundtrack, it would have to be Bach’s Cello Suites.

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084: Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude & Fugue No 16 in B-flat Minor (Tatiana Nikolaeva)

My personal journey from “Petula Clark sings Robert Johnson” to J.S. Bach to Dmitri Shostakovich.
Searching? Bad Navigation? Simple twist of fate?

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077: J.S. Bach, ‘The Art of The Fugue’ (The Emerson Quartet, ‘Contrapunctus 9’)

My knowledge of classical music is patchier than an Iowa quilt. But my wife still harbors delusions that I’ll grow up some day, and in her mind listening to Bach is a more dignified and mature activity than listening to The Beach Boys. Well, a lot of people with highly-refined musical sensibilities don’t really understand Brian Wilson, but the opposite is the opposite, I believe. Anyone – even a corner-boy drug dealer from West Baltimore, who takes a moment to pause and listen to “The Art of the Fugue” by Johann Sebastian Bach – must grasp that he is standing before a grandeur and beauty rare in the course of our ordinary lives. Like standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon. Like gazing at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Like hearing your grandchild say “I love you, Poppa.” Those moments in which we transcend the traffic-jam that is our life.

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005: Glenn Gould, Toccata in Cm (J.S. Bach)

Performing artist too often walk through the score/play the notes/read the lines—rather than bringing to life what lies beneath. And it all goes right past my ear. The alternative is 100%, full-time, total engagément. Play no note, speak no line, dance no step, until you understand why it has to be. That kind of intensity is crazy, and it’s what I love in Glenn Gould’s performance of Bach’s Toccatas.

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