So it is goodbye to Leipzig after a jaunt to Köthen yesterday, and as I write this I am about one third of the way into a coach journey to Mühlhausen, which will be the scene of tonight’s concert. The organ yesterday was a little short of what I had hoped for given that I was playing two of Bach’s large scale works in the concert, but in these conditions you just have to knuckle down and get on with it.
Köthen is a lovely place, very pretty, but I think that I can understand why Bach, then still in his thirties, headed to the much more bustling Leipzig when the opportunity arose. Just to wander around the place, to enter the surviving churches and breathe in the atmosphere, is deeply satisfying.
Satisfying, of course, barely does justice to the calibre of Bach’s writing, and to sit in the middle of the choir while Singet fizzes past is one of the finest experiences there is for a musician. The complexity of those lines and the way that they interact so thrillingly is something that brings me joy every time I experience it.
On a good day I think I can work out a little of what might have been going on in Bach’s brain when he composed, but the freedom of some of his choices and the aplomb with which he carries them off is always a surprise. The rules may not necessarily be broken, but they are certainly stretched to something very close to breaking point.
Would that I could write that way, of course, or had a fraction of JSB’s imagination and talent. In the meantime I need to continue to learn what I can from his music and apply it to my writing as much as possible.