Autumn and Johann Sebastian Bach

As soon as the first leaves of Autumn flame into colour and begin wafting to the ground, I get an itch to listen to Johann Sebastian Bach.

There is something about Autumn and Bach that just go together, like the wafer and the creamy centre of an Oreo cookie. Take them apart and they’re yummy, but together … they’re fabulous!

I don’t know where this all started. Maybe it was that, in September, summer holidays over, it was time to get back to school and piano lessons. Back into choosing and preparing pieces for the next spring’s Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) piano exams. For those of you not well versed in RCM graded piano books and exams, let me explain: Every exam required one piece each to be prepared from List A, List B, List C, and in later grades, List D.

List A consisted of music pieces written during the Baroque period. And that’s where J.S. Bach fits. Naturally, the piano teacher would list the List A piece first in my music notebook, and I, being the strict item-follower I am, would study this piece first every time I sat down to practice.

I have always gravitated to Bach’s music. There is something so ordered, so mathematical, so solid and trustworthy in his music. He never lets me down. Most, if not all, of his piano pieces end on the tonic. We are not left hanging somewhere in limbo – a state of uncertainty where there is no freedom to let go of the breath you’ve been holding. There’s a solid Amen at the end. And by that I mean The End. Fine.

Does anybody else remember those short television episodes that played in the 60’s and 70’s? I don’t even know what the show was called, but the story was about a mouse – a real mouse. This little mouse traveled in a real, tiny boat down a tiny stream. In the background a harpsichord played J.S. Bach. As a girl, I was transfixed by those little vignettes. Maybe that’s where my great love for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach began.

For me, Winter, Spring, and Summer are straight forward seasons. Winter means snow, hockey, mitts and scarves, hot chocolate and fireplaces. Spring has one theme: spring forth! Summer brings warmth and more time for friends and fun.

But Fall!

As in Bach’s music, there is so much happening in Fall. Intricacies we are not even aware of. One day is warm, the next chilly. Whole trees will burst out in colour while their brothers right next to them hang on to green. Evenings, like Bach, are crisp, and foster clear- headedness and renewed thinking, rejuvenated and remolded ideas. There is laid-back urgency in the air. I feel I can achieve anything in the Fall.

Normally I listen to J.S. Bach’s piano works, but this year I happened on to some history on his cantatas:

– Between the years 1723-1729, Bach composed one cantata for every regular and occasional church service in the year. This is at least one cantata a week! More than 52 cantatas a year!! Considering the shortest cantata I could find online is 28 minutes long, this is beyond amazing.

– Of the 350 cantatas he composed, only 209 have survived. The rest were sold off in bulk to be used as paper to wrap meat, fish, and cheese. Insert horror-faced emoji here.

 

I’m gaining a new appreciation for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. Maybe you will too as you sit by your fireplace or take a walk, music in earbuds, on a crisp Autumn evening.

 

Have a listen and enjoy:

Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 847, Anthony Newman, Harpsichord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYw7UgO2usI

 

Canada’s own Glenn Gould plays the same Prelude in C minor on Piano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkg0aQxsKlU

 

Cantata: Magnificat in D major, BWV 243

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38TS7EOGo9A

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Autumn and Johann Sebastian Bach

  1. Bach wrote a cantata a week for a year? Maybe that’s the musical prodigy’s equivalent to a blog post a week for a year! For him, it came naturally. How sad that so many were lost, though.

    1. A blog post a week? Hmmm … somehow I don’t think that would match up to a whole cantata. Maybe a short story or novelette a week? That seems more amazing to me. Haha.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Joy! I really enjoyed listening to the Youtube videos- who knew where Ode to Joy came from! LOL Well, I didn’t, anyhow….
    Autumn is my favourite season, when we actually have autumn. It has been so beautiful this year.
    I don’t remember that little mouse, though- I am curious.

    1. Oh that little mouse. I’m hoping somebody will remember that show and tell me the name of it. I have searched the internet for children’s shows from the 60’s and 70’s and just can’t find it.
      Thank you for visiting here, Kathy, and for commenting too.

  3. Joy, You set my heart aflutter. Your post sets out so beautifully together two of my absolute favourites … Autumn and J.S. Bach. A perfect combination, I must agree. Although I never saw that before.

    I, too, remember the piano lessons with the RCT exams and the great fun of working with my piano instructor to select the piano pieces we’d be studying from each list.

    I don’t know the exact time when I fell in love with Bach’s music. Perhaps it wasn’t an exact moment but rather a gradual falling in love with it over the years. I tended to gravitate to the Baroque era with Bach as my ultimate favourite.

    How sad to think some of his beautiful music was once used to wrap up fish or cheese … talk about elevating the mundane with the ‘divine’.

    Thanks for a gorgeous post, Joy!
    Brenda xox

  4. I love Bach too for his ordered sense. It was easy to memorize but challenging too with his left hand so busy! I will have to put on some Bach and celebrate fall. What a great pairing. Thanks Joy!

    1. Oh yes, that left hand was always so tricky! I often wondered if left-handed people found it easier than I did. Thanks for visiting, Pam.

  5. I think I recall that mouse floating down the stream. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the vignette but do have an image of it in my mind. Was it a British production maybe? Solid endings, or ‘amens’ do leave one feeling secure and satisfied for sure!

    1. I think it was a British production, and I’ve googled all the British tv shows from the 60’s and 70’s but couldn’t find it. That mouse floating down the stream is so clear in my mind … I hope I come across it again.

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