Monday, 26 November 2018

Bach: De Occulta Philosophia

We have a Glossa record much desired to talk about here.
Second edition.
Taking it in my hand the first thing to glimpse at is the cover: the usual freaking officina_tresminutos artwork - it is kinda perfect in my view; why, how, why must, why it is horrendous and so on - could be a distinct topic to talk about. 

The music of Johann Sebastian Bach rarely makes me ecstatic or overjoyed, so do his writings but something extraordinary happened to happen here.

José Miguel Moreno, who is important for us anyway for he established Glossa publishing company with his bro in 1992, in a word, he had a courageous idea in 1998: he took Christ lag in Todesbanden choral cantata, BWV 1004 Chaconne in D-minor which had been written on violin, he also took his Baroque lute and sat down with Emma Kirkby soprano goddess and Carlos Mena tenor god and along the “between the lines” philosophy - which tries to decode the composer’s hidden extra message encoded between the line - they created/recorded track No. 1 bearing the innocent title “Chaconne-Tombeau from partita BWV 1004”.

Bach’s music, almost without exception, could be a starting point of puzzle-solving championships; it is no different here either; having a look at this BWV 4 cantata loads of curiosities come up. 

The choral is a hymn from the 12th century which Luther himself arranged first around 1529, it caught on as a Lutheran hymn from that time on, then Bach mathematized it a bit and he presented it as a church cantata in 1707; it’s the first among the cantatas like this, therefore, the original melody survived the operation almost like a Cantus Firmus.

The piece is a complete music drama with deeply high-brow lyrics; the number of stanzas is 7 plus the symphony, the last of the stanzas is truly a Tombeau which was written upon the death of the first wife, Maria Barbara; furthermore, serious tables are devoted to the complicated lines. If you take a deeper look into the numeric-tonal matches of the sonatas and partitas then really astonishing references unfold: references to names, the Holy Scripture and many other things. You have arrived at the borderline of numerology; obviously, if you talk about Bach then this must be called High Math.

The Maestro was 22 that time  -  his genius is beyond doubt.

Then you come to an understanding of the title as well; the reference is made to the occult philosophy of hiding and hidden things in a positive sense.

And the Chaconne in D-minor, according to Menuhin, is the greatest solo violin piece -although mention should have been made that Chaconne drew nice lines on the waters of Renaissance musicality already … yet, it’s an extremely extraordinary piece.

The amalgamated alloy became such that it made even the foundry men wonder what came out of the all sorts of stuff poured in. Some interaction/transformation/apprehension came to life among the three of them which elevates this music or the bases it was borne out of to a completely different level. The two singers’ voices and the lute anastomose into some synthesis which is far from resembling the origins.

In other words: something novel has been borne.
It’s kind of great I think.

The arrangement is the arrangement of the arrangement, yet, you can rarely hear a synthesis of harmony like this. That is, do you feel it more original then the starts? Perhaps not, for, following some twisted logics, the Protestant angularity ab ovo peculiar to Bach’s music is so much dissolved here that while listening to it innocently as an alien piece, you are likely to guess that the composer some other person from the South.

What was this dissolvent? 
Well, it is made up of several components, either like the high capacity airplane-fuel to increase the revolution of the turbines by gearing up the gas-temperature, or like the special organic acid mixtures to dissolve the most stubborn whacky calcic structures as well.

It’s the two singers’ voices that overwhelm me first on entering.
Do they resemble each other?

Absolutely not.

Emma Kirkby, English soprano, a specialist in Early Music, at least this voice was such 25 years ago, it’s not that much today. Her voice has a fine tone, her voice is clear but her affectation is no attraction for me when I listen exclusively to her, her vibratos pull into a slightly outdated and romanticising direction among today’s divas.

Carlos Mena, Spanish counter-tenor, totally the opposite: straightforward singing, a flashing aura with a thousand colours, a genuine scarcity, you can hardly one like him in the horizon. These two voices are elevated right to the upper floor by Moreno’s Baroque lute, or rather the ideology which construed this piece. A perfect 120 degree uniformity, genuine, stable like an a tripod no one knocks over.

If I was them I would have released this 15 minutes even in itself it’s so marvellous that it almost hits me.

As surplus extra the record includes Sonata BWV 1001 and Partita BWV 1004, too, arranged to lute, delightfully. Obviously, which one - the original violin or this lute version - is to your liking much depends on your taste; a violinist cannot be expected to vote for the lute nor can those falling in love with the original. 

Complexity and multiplicity offered conditions for successful arrangements even in Bach’s era.

The sound quality is spotless; it goes like this at Glossa, to tell about the role of the hi-fi is that just as the sound of the set improves the same you forget to skip the first counter-tenor-soprano phase and realise that it is the record itself...

It's a Bach’s music; it's an arrangement as well as his own amalgamated alloy - all this not prevent me from stating that:

This record is marvellous.

Highly recommended.

When you have had enough of it it’s worth progressing upwards, I mean, backwards in time and marvelling at Moreno plucking the vihuela melodies.
200 years back from here...

But what is that “vihuela”...???

I’m going to write about next time….

Translated: Kenesei Andrea


Thank you for the images.