I am back West after a couple of days in London, some work, some rehearsing, a concert and a funeral. It has been tiring both emotionally and physically, and I am not intending to do too much in the way of work today, but writing this blog just about gets in under the wire as something tentatively linked to my composing, so hopefully it will keep my conscience quiet until tomorrow.
I’ve been involved in some lovely music over the past few days, including a new discovery for me by Maurice Greene, some Mozart, Schubert…and Bach. The compass needle always comes back to that great man, however much time I may spend away exploring the works of other composers I love, and I will never begin to understand how a man so busy with other concerns could have turned out so vast a volume of music of such consistently high quality.
I realised over the weekend, though, that I will be involved in something very new to me in a few days time, for I will be performed the St. Matthew Passion and the St. John Passion on consecutive days. Part of me could only be happier if we were to perform the B minor Mass the day afterwards, but most of me is absolutely terrified, for performing either one of those great Passions demands the highest level of concentration from the continuo players who, unlike everybody else, do not get any time off at all. To perform them back-to-back is going to be a huge test, especially when the rehearsal time is added in.
And yet, being part of that wonderfully music, sitting in the midst of those fizzing lines, that gripping drama so eloquently expressed, is one of the most fulfilling of musical experiences. Hours of rehearsal and sore shoulders seem in the grand scheme of it a small price to pay.
Being in the middle of it all always takes me back to my favourite performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, when I was sitting right in the very middle of the orchestra, able to experience the joy of it all from the inside. There is much at stake in the works by Bach, however, especially in the recitatives which rely wholeheartedly on the continuo. It is in those movements that, fleetingly, I think of Gary Larson’s cartoon “Roger Screws Up“…and then I’m Bach in the room (sorry, couldn’t resist!).