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Songs of the Season: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

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Some classical music with no obvious, overt connection to the holiday has nonetheless become associated with Christmas over the years—at least in the United States. Bach has a Christmas Oratorio, but his choral movement known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” also seems to have become something of a Christmas tune (as well as a popular piece for weddings).

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is the English title of the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. A transcription by the English pianist Myra Hess (1890–1965) was published in 1926 for piano solo and in 1934 for piano duet.[1] The British organist Peter Hurford made his organ transcription for the chorale movement as well. Today, it is often performed at wedding ceremonies slowly and reverently, in defiance of the effect suggested by Bach in his original scoring,[2] for voices with trumpet, oboes, strings, and continuo. Written during his first year in Leipzig, Germany, this chorale movement is one of Bach’s most enduring works. (via Wikipedia.)

It is, or at least can be, stately, beautiful, serious but also full of joy. You can see why people like it for occasions such as weddings and Christmas. The Windham Hill version is pretty much my favorite version as a “holiday” song:

David Qualey, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” – from A Winter’s Solstice

The numerous other versions available can vary greatly in appeal:

Sarah Brightman also included a version on her album, A Winter Symphony.

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , , ,

Song of the Day: Bach’s Cello Suites

Again, I am not one to not take a hint—and the hint was two different buskers playing Bach’s cello suites in the one day, so…

The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello. They were most likely composed during the period 1717–1723, when Bach served as a Kapellmeister in Cöthen… (via Wikipedia.)

Yo-Yo Ma – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 1. Prelude
Pablo Casals – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 6. Gigue (Vivace)
Mischa Maisky – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 6. Gigue (Vivace)

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Song of the Day: Glenn Gould plays Bach

Glenn Gould, “Aria” – from The Goldberg Variations (1981)

Variation 1
Variation 24

This album came out when I was a senior in high school, and it was the first classical recording I really fell in love with, and the first Bach. I’d been listening to classical music throughout my teenage years – but mostly predictable and accessible symphonic music – Holst’s “The Planets,” Beethoven symphonies and things from the movie Fantasia like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Night on Bald Mountain.” Gould’s recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” was something different – denser, more intellectual, prickly and demanding. And it changed my life – or at least the musical part of it.

I can still vividly recall listening to this record the year it came out. My stepfather had an excellent stereo system in the living room. In the late evening, I’d turn off the lights, and light a candle on the mantle next to the stereo, then put the record on and hurry to the couch before the playing began. I’d lie on the couch and listen as Gould’s playing danced and darted in the dim, flickering light.

A pause. This was of course a real record, vinyl, not a CD, so at the end of Side One, I’d have to get up to flip it over. It was like waking from a dream, when you get up briefly and then sink back into it.

When I listen to this recording now, as I do probably once a month, I often feel like I am back on that couch, lying in the candle light, falling in love with Bach all over again.

Filed under: Autobiography, Song of the Day, ,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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