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Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the great musicians who lived and composed in the Baroque era. Baroque music emerged in Europe beginning around 1600. The powerful Catholic Church had encouraged the movement to promote more a spiritual and traditional music than had been popular during the Late Renaissance period.

Born in 1685 and raised in the small village of Thuringia, located in central Germany, Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig in 1750. He lived his life in a relatively small geographical region within the bounds of Hamburg and Lübeck in the north, not beyond Carlsbad south, and from Dresden in the east, not farther wet than Kassel. Bach led a difficult life rife with tragedy beginning with the death of both parents as a nine year old. He and his first wife, Maria Barbara, lost eight of twelve children born to them between 1723 and 1737. Of the remaining four, one suffered a severe mental disability.

A heart breaking event led to what many consider the greatest piece of music ever written. After a five-day travel, he returned home to find Maria Barbara dead and buried. It is the belief of the author, shared by others, Bach wrote the Chaconne in memorium. The music speaks intensely of love, death, anguish, anger, and fear. It ultimately resolves to acceptance. The powerful sensation of truth one gets from hearing the music is clear and unavoidable.

Analysis Of The Chaconne by Tim Smith

D.M.A. Professor of Music Theory, Northern Arizona University, author “The Canons and Fugues of J. S. Bach The Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier.

“Unlike passacaglia, which repeats a literal bass, the chaconne repeats a harmony. This harmony may employ considerable variation in the bass--including changes of contour, mode, or key. If NASA had asked me what music to send with Voyager II, I would have chosen the Chaconne from Bach's D-Minor Partita for solo violin. Here's why. First, the chaconne represents economy of means out of which humans have an incredible capacity for elaboration and variation. If, after four years of college, you can speak on a topic for fifteen minutes without running out of ideas, you will have succeeded in your education. Bach's chaconne also succeeds.

Bach expounds upon this for nearly fifteen minutes without repeating himself and without losing our attention! Second, this chaconne is a technical piece illustrating not only the ingenuity and perfection of tools (violin), but also the capacity of the human body to use them in skillful ways. This work is the most difficult piece of music of all time and on any instrument. It requires incredible musicianship as well as technical mastery of the violin. Third, and most important, the chaconne is a feelingful work that explores the full range of human emotions. It is as if, in spite of economical means and technical wizardry, Bach still gets under our skins and into our hearts.

Upon reflection, we can see that Johann Sebastian has set out, in this chaconne to do something that requires not only skill, but also courage--a single player on a non-chording instrument, outlining a short progression nearly seventy times without running out of ideas and without being a bore. Hello! In the hands of a lesser composer the attempt would have been audacious if not arrogant. The work begins in minor. About one half of the way through it mutates to major, and then, back to minor. Listen for changes of texture and tessitura as well.”

©1996 Timothy A. Smith

To listen to the Chaconne Performed By Guitarist Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey, Click Here

A sure Candidate for the BOOK SENSE book of the year award.

© 2005-2006 Joseph Mastroianni


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