The Well-Tempered February - Commentary #14
Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 852
Here it is - solid gold. 2'10" of pure heaven. I can't say I did this justice (and it was my 47th take), but this is the piece I would like to be played at my funeral. For any future grandchildren out there, you may as well use this recording - it took me all bloody day.
Bach is most intimate when he is most happy. In the solemn pieces like the "Crucifixus" in the B minor mass, there's no sense of a human being writing the notes that you're singing - they just come from time and space. But in pieces like the "Badinerie" in the 2nd Orchestral Suite, or the last movement of the Italian Concerto, or (especially) the gigue in the 1st Partita with the crossing hands, you get the sense that Bach might have been a fun person to know. There's a cascade in the middle of this when everything just stops, and the world whirls around you. This is the piece when the stars dance.
When I was a kid, I learned the flute. I never got very good - my audition for the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra was an accident waiting to happen, and it did - but I did love the Bach sonata for unaccompanied flute, and the aforementioned 2nd Suite, which is for flute and orchestra. The last movement, the "Badinerie," is described by Aldous Huxley in Point Counter Point:
"Pongileoni surpassed himself in the final Badinerie. Euclidean axioms made holiday with the formulae of elementary statics. Arithmetic held a wild saturnalian kermess; algebra cut capers. The music came to an end in an orgy of mathematical merry-making. There was applause."
So this is your Euclidean holiday.
Aldous Huxley, Music at Night (1931). Point Counter Point is 1928