i hiding

in the little corner and whispering to the walls a little secret: “bach’s mass in b minor is not for me, what’s wrong with me?”.  last night was the first in a long long time i drifted in a concert. when not drifting i was thinking the whole time i should have trusted my own judgment and attended the handel & haydn’s beethoven’s 5th instead.  i dislike this feeling where you’re at one place but wishing you were somewhere else.  but that says a whole lot about my relationship with bach’s mass in b minor. (i did escape jordan hall at intermission to try unsuccessfully to sneak in the unofficial way to symphony hall across the street to hear beethoven’s 5th).

but, i think i sort out why.  as a musically-uneducated person, i don’t know what to look for in bach’s mass. for any piece of music, the first crack is of course not very informative because everything is new to the ears.  there are certain things that keep calling me back in some pieces however. some examples are bach’s matthaeuspassion, pergolesi’s stabat mater, mozart’s mass in c-minor, tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, all of which i fall deeply in love with.  recently i’ve also fallen in love with beethoven’s fidelio (with nina stemme and jonas kaufmann).  things i don’t manage (yet) include bach’s cello sonatas, brahm’s ein deutcshes requiem, mahler’s 5th, various violin quartets…  but let’s get back to bach’s mass.  i figured out, at least for me, i need a big contrast at the start of a piece.  i talk a lot on this blog about conversations between instruments (voice included). what tunes my brain out is everything moving en masse (although i like this extract a lot, could it be just the various performers? tempo? why i hear more colors here?)

(i wasn’t the only one drifting, my friend was as well, and we were both wondering why we didn’t hear the first 2 soloists very well…).  i should even start out by confessing the whole week i was deeply sleep-deprived due to too much attempted (unsuccessful) dancing.

So the rest of the evening, i was really craving for beethoven’s 5th.  deep down, i think i was craving more for the sound of the baroque violins. unfortunately the timing wasn’t right so we didn’t manage symphony hall and ended up in the pho place next to it instead.  while we were chatting away, a violinist arrived with her 2 friends who were holding the program. I was lamenting (a bit too loud) to my friend “ahhhh, that’s the concert we didn’t manage”. she must have heard it and nicely turned to me and asked which one.  “This one you just played! we tried to sneak in but didn’t manage!” She looked a bit puzzled but her friends explained it was sold out (that wasn’t the reason for us though, it was more because the intermissions at the 2 concerts didn’t match so we missed the timing of sneaking in).  Then she asked if i was a musician, “no, but i’ve heard the Handel and Haydn group played before and and have truly enjoyed it”.  We got in a little bit of a chat and she suggested i should try to get ticket for sunday and that i won’t regret.  After that, we bid each other pleasant nights and parted ways, and my friend (and I) was so impressed how nice she (the violinist) was.  friend was amazed because from what she had heard, musicians play the same piece over and over again and tell other people they’re veeeery sick of it. i get the feeling the handel and haydn group is a very small group of highly motivated musicians who really enjoy what they are doing and are always exploring new music. anyhow, i’m just babbling in open space here because with all my indecisions (and such great news for the H&H society), their concerts are completely sold out except for 3 seats at $75/per.  so i’ll learn about rossini’s petite messe sollennen and miss beethoven’s 5th after all.  anyhow, let’s finish the rambling with this incredible 2011-2012 season program from the handel & Haydn society, i soooooooooo excited:

23/25-Sep-2011 Mozart piano concerto #22, Symphony #40
28/30-Oct-2011 Pergolesi Stabat Mater
2/3/4-Dec-2011 Handel Messiah
20/22-Jan-2012 Vivaldi The Four Season with Aisslinn Nosky
30-Mar-2012 and 1-Apr-2012: Bach St Mathew Passion
27/29-Apr-2012: Mozart Coronation with Rosemary Joshua

can’t wait.
mozart piano concerto #22:


About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

12 Responses to i hiding

  1. Did you exchange names? Mention to people that you have a music blog, see how they stay in the conversation.

    I’ve been meaning to catch the BBC3 program about the B Minor that Eyes linked to, but I can’t find it in their archives, must be already removed.

    You must let me know when you first hear Aisslinn Nosky, the H&H’s new concertmaster, in concert.

    • Eyesometric says:

      Yes. B mi Mass removed from iPlayer at 14.00 GMT today.

    • thả diều says:

      no i didn’t tell her my name nor my blog. perhaps i should.
      i sure will let u know. strangely, on fri on our way to jordan hall, we passed through a huuuuge crowd at symphony hall trying to get in. meanwhile, the queer-looking violinist (who i mentioned in my boston baroque post) was spotted with her violin walking AWAY from the hall at 7.57pm (concert at 8)! i so curious, did aisslinn nosky’s presence bumped her off? but that can’t be! she was one of the only 2 selected violinists at the last Boston Baroque concert… anyhoo, we were late for our concert so i didn’t stick around to investigate 🙂

    • I watched the violinist links in your post, and my gaydar stayed unactivated. As much as I’d like to think that all baroque violin virtuosas from Canada are queer, not only esthetic-wise, but Kinsey-scale-wise too, I don’t know if I can.

      But you saw the violinist live, so… I’ll defer to your queerdar.

      • thả diều says:

        no no, not her. my queerdar is not that broken ;-). it’s the _other_ violinist (i don’t have a pix of hers). I’d be veeery surprised if ms martinson is bumped off anything around here. i back from rossini’s mass, in very very high spirit, what a truly wonderful performance. will write about it after i get back from the next _six_ hours of attemped jive… (hope i survive…)
        i kind of agree with u below also about the correlation between performers and us falling asleep :-). but i off to _up_ and _down_ i go now…

  2. Eyesometric says:

    I bet you would be hard pushed to find anyone who loves the whole of this work. Perhaps we just need to take from it that which we do enjoy. When we book tickets for a performance who knows how we will be feeling by the time that arrives?

    • thả diều says:

      but i didn’t book tix until the morning of the concert :-). surely how we feel the day of the concert matters, but not so much for me. if the work/orchestra/singers are captivating (like my 26-hr journey la-vie + 4 hr waiting + 3 hr standing last apr to hear VK 1st time) i’m wiiide awake with all ears. i was just too spoiled (addicted?) with the baroque violins i think. if it’s the boston symphony orchestra playing beethoven 5th i wouldn’t be babbling like this. but back to b mi mass, it’s really i don’t manage it. at this point i think it’s no use over-analyzing. certain things trigger the right chemical reaction in the body and others don’t :-). i can tell you though i’ll buy tix for both days of bach matthaeuspassion and both days for pergolesi next year!

      ps- there’s also another point why i hesitated buying tix for H&H fri/today: they’re playing in symphony hall. if it were jordan hall (much smaller) i wouldn’t be debating. symphony hall is tricky and i was worried i wouldn’t be able to hear the baroque violins well…

    • You know, sometimes — actually, often, and probably most often — it’s their fault, not ours, that a performance puts us to sleep. We may not have critical capacity to analyze exactly why, but it’s still a fact.

  3. kristy says:

    Ohh, the cello concertos…Do give them another chance. That is some of my favorite music. True, you have to listen to them – (and, if you’re playing them, approach them) – differently than a lot of other pieces, but the harmony, structure, themes, I think are so good. Bach’s music is beautiful math. Then again, I’m prbably just giving away how type-a I am. 😉

    • thả diều says:

      hey Kristy! which cello concertos are you talking about? this performance was Bach Mass in b-minor. i think generally i’m not as big of a fan of the piece because it starts out with almost uniform singing across the entire chorus. But clearly some concertmaster can bring more contrast out of the chorus (like the YT clip in this post) than others (this performance which got me falling asleep…)

      So, u think Bach is math? i always thought Bach is church 😀 . and what’s type-a? alpha-female? 😉

      • Kristy says:

        ha. good lord, i meant give the cello SUITES a listen, not concertos. i will blame the late hour of my first comment on how many typos i managed to make.

        so, Bach is definitely church, (something I generally run from screaming) but that’s part of what drives the math portion of his music. well, maybe it’s more physics, but it’s everywhere. in the individual notes, he uses pitch and intonation calculations to his advantage, using lots of “perfect” (i.e., consonant) chords (4ths, 5ths, 6ths, octaves), and resolutions of dissonant chords (2nds, 3rds) into perfect chords, which gives so much of his music that wonderfully crunchy tension-release-of-tension experience. I.e., a consonant 5th has a pitch ratio of 3:2, which means that in the time the upper note makes 3 vibrations, the lower note makes two, which sounds really nice to our brains. And if you can resolve a chord with dissonance, which makes our brains temporarily go “ack!!” into a perfect chord, it makes for a great listening experience. Also, he uses chord structure to take advantage of overtones and harmonics. (i.e., if you play a perfect major 6th, another note will appear “out of thin air,” two octaves and a third above the notes physically being played. it sounds so subtle you almost have to taste it, rather than hear it). I’d be willing to bet that this has some sort of fractal effect, where the notes and sound waves build and build on each other, and while we may not be able to physically hear each individual note, it contributes a great deal to the timbre of the piece.
        I wonder if dogs hear music overtones differently than humans do. Anyway.
        Also check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach
        it’s a generic article but it references how crazy he was about his religion, and he structured his music to reflect this and the numbers reflected in the teachings of Lutheranism. 11 variations on a theme = 12 movements = 12 disciples of Jesus, etc.
        “On the largest level, the large-scale structure of some of his sacred vocal works is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning: for example, the overall form of the St Matthew Passion illustrates the liturgical and dramatic flow of the Easter story on a number of levels simultaneously; the text, keys and variations of instrumental and vocal forces used in the movements of the Ascension Oratorio Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11) may form a structure that resembles the cross.”


        Anyway, maybe Yo-Yo Ma would change your mind about Bach? This is one of my favorites.

        and for good measure since i cant resist, a quartet, another favorite…

      • thả diều says:

        ah! now i “got” it, though with a big headache :-D. Actually none of the things you said about chords makes much sense to me since i’m extremely uneducated when it comes to music. But I completely agree with “sounds really nice to our brains”. perhaps we can further discuss this over some nice meal soon ;-).

        Love that cello piece with YoYo Ma (i’ve heard it before, not sure where, with him playing also). Also love the quartet! Actually I love Bach! I actually listen to lots of his church music. Luckily it’s in German, which is something I can’t say about Handel and Church (and i loooove Handel too). my favorite Bach are the entire matthaeuspassion and this one:

        On that particular day, I think the performers were just somehow not enough to grab my attention, and I discovered it’s partly because of how his Mass in b-minor starts, which explains why i never catch on to it like other pieces.

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