It has been another one of those frenetic weeks, with an early run on Saturday morning to get up to London to play for a wedding, and then a couple of full days of engagements on Sunday and Monday before heading home, but it has still been a period full of music and music-making. I also found the time to meet up with a former colleague on Sunday and we discussed her latest project, a biography of one of Mahler’s daughters, and the unlikely revelation that, once upon a time, Anna Mahler had lived on the same street as my friend.
I once went to a lecture by Brian Sewell in which he talked about highways, byways and panoramas in art history, and, clealy, that notion has stayed with me. The panoramas were what we might call the coincidences and overlappings of history, such as the knowledge that Zelenka stayed with Bach prior to the latter’s writing of the St. John Passion, and this notion of biographer and subject having been part of the history of the same street was, if distant, another one of those delightful encounters across history.
For all the music I am making at the moment I have to confess that writing has been a little on the back burner as a result. I have acquired some excellent material for the cantata, which I shall rip apart and put back into shape at some point, and am also adding orchestration to the symphony in fits and starts, but it still feels as though I have not quite settled back into the rhythm of current life. It will get more busy before it calms down, as well, for the Christmas adverts have already started, which means services, inadvertent double-bookings and the like, all those glorious things I had forgotten from the before time.
I need also to mention that I am finding it hard to get to sleep sometimes, for the inner workings of the Mass in B minor tend to appear in my mind at that point and flit around, asking me to work out what they are doing. There are some particular moments in the Pleni sunt caeli which clearly fascinate my subconscious, especially one bar which I am convinced is incorrect in the Bärenreiter score, but which is distinctly blurry in the manuscript. If the correct reading is what I think it is then Bach really is pushing the boundaries of acceptable writing to its very limit, and it would seem that this is precisely what he needs to do, for the tricky moment occurs in the part that he needed to add to the existing material.
I love moments like these, those dabbings on paper which show a mind working around a problem, and I have spotted others in Bach’s work as well, such as a single note in the finale of the 5th Brandenburg Concerto which, for all the world, looks like a mistake but which, after careful consideration, is actually a precise and human decision based on the demands of a particular moment. Whenever there is something that looks like a misprint in a score one needs to go digging, for while some are obvious errors, others are insights into the minds of those who committed that calligraphy to paper.