Lesson #277: On Bach and (not) Albinoni

Pandora might be my favourite thing ever to be invented because it allows me to play music with the same eclectic mix as my iPod a. without draining my battery and b. with a bit more variety that allows me to hear things I wouldn’t normally because I don’t own them.

I was listening to Pandora just now and it started playing me the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, which until now I have never heard. Because I have a general aversion to baroque. As a rule, it’s too predictable for me. Baroque pieces all seem to end with the same chord progression and then you’re just kind of left going, “oh, it’s over.” I present Pachelbel’s Canon in D as example. There are certainly exceptions to this rule. Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor* and Chaconne for Violin (the final movement of Partida No. 2 in D Minor)** are both excellent pieces of music. But mostly, it leaves me cold.

Every so often, Pandora gets it right by getting it wrong and this is one of those cases. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Chaconne mixed with what is usually called Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor despite the fact that Albinoni didn’t write it. Oddly enough, it’s a neo-baroque piece that I love. Ignoring the history of the composition of the piece, which though odd and kind of awesome, is not something I don’t already know*** and, more, the amazing story of Vedran Smajlovic and his use of it in Sarajevo during the war, what’s important here is that Bach ripped himself off and then Remo Giazotto, who actually composed the Albinoni’s Adagio, ripped him off. So listening to a lesser known Bach piece is an incredibly odd experience.

This isn’t actually research so much as it is (excuse the pun) playing to the things filed away in my head, but it’s what you get because that’s what interests me today. There’s research coming tomorrow. I’m going to get to the whole Indo-European language thing, I promise!

And yes, it does seem that I like my baroque in minor keys…including the Scarlatti piece in C minor I’m working on on the piano at the moment.

Also, randomly, Pandora has just informed me that Modest Mussorgsky, who composed my very favourite piece of music ever, died as a result of his alcoholism. It doesn’t add, “well, he was Russian and an artist, after all.”****

*Which is a fantastic piece to run to.

**A piece that is at the heart of one of the most interesting (and tragic) articles to come out in recent years on the social value of classical music, a Washington Post article about virtuoso Joshua Bell playing in the DC Metro.

***Though this is apparently not common knowledge because even Lawyer (Former) Housemate was surprised to learn this when I mentioned it to her in passing a few months back.

****Lest you think I’m mocking Mussorgsky, the Russians and/or alcoholism, this was the time of the bohemians. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that any particular artist/musician/writer in Europe at that time died of some form of overindulgence or another.

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