No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Michael Barrett

Continuing our quick survey of J.S. Bach, here is another cantata aria. It is really chamber music. The countertenor’s expressive part is underpinned by an incredible duet between the organ and oboe, creating a kind of trio sonata. The mastery of counterpoint is intimidating (at least for us performers), but the outcome is so joyful, it’s irresistible. The text? Well, it is about death, but the joy comes not from some promised afterlife, where, finally, everything will be tolerable. It is about living one’s life fully, so that when you reach the endgame you are ready, fulfilled, and feel that you have made some contribution that has been ultimately satisfying.




 |  Michael Barrett

Today let’s revisit Bach’s Cantata No.199. It’s a favorite of sopranos, for the obvious reason of the absolute beauty and gentleness of the central aria “Tief gebuckt und voller Reue”. In the best Lutheran tradition, the text addresses God, admitting guilt and weakness, but implores God to be patient. This beautiful performance is sung by Magdalena Kozena and conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.




 |  Michael Barrett

I’m surveying some of my favorite Bach this week. I won’t be able to make a dent in the 250 surviving Cantatas, Oratorios, Masses, or Passions, alas. It’s true that most of Bach’s vocal output is liturgical. There are exceptions: The Coffee Cantata, the Hunt Cantata, and this beauty found in Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook. Did she write it herself? One of her talented sons? Or was it a valentine from her husband that she wrote down in her musical journal?




 |  Michael Barrett

I’ve just completed a successful time at the 25th annual Moab Music Festival. It’s a big achievement which I am proud of. NYFOS is celebrating our 30th year starting next month, so this seems to be a big anniversary year for me. Moab and NYFOS have converged on many occasions, but never around the music of Bach. There are so many specialty groups now that specialize in early music, which includes Bach. At NYFOS I guess we feel that Bach is covered.




 |  Michael Barrett

Dave Frishberg has the most urbane sense in his songs. He writes about everyday things but somehow makes them oh so cool. I mean, what’s so great about your lawyer? If you have one, maybe you are having problems. And they are so expensive! But My Attorney Bernie makes me want to meet Bernie and hang with him. I guess there are terrific people to be found in any profession, which is what Mr. Frishberg seems to be celebrating.




 |  Michael Barrett

Summer is usually the time when love has the greatest opportunity to bloom. The soft evenings, the lingering twilight, the wonderful cuisine—fresh produce of every kind—all add up to an awakening of the senses. The collection of German folk poetry Des Knaben Wunderhorn is full of parables about war, love, betrayal, and fidelity. “Ablösung Im Sommer” is one of these.




 |  Michael Barrett

Summer is when we get the most sun. Most of us brown up a little, even without getting to the beach. The tomatoes and peaches are coming in, the breezes are warm, the city streets are less crowded, and life is full of pleasures we just can’t experience when it’s cold. To remind us how to hang on to that feeling throughout the year, here is Esperanza Spalding singing (and playing her bass in) “The Sunny Side of the Street”. She’s an amazingly gifted artist, and she’s got all the high notes and all the low notes in her arsenal.




 |  Michael Barrett

Summer is full of nature, and it’s the time we usually get out into it, and let our senses partake of the beauty, inhale smells, and feel warm breezes on our skin. Then there is the plucked flowers perspective. Death is imminent, but the rose lives on as an unworldly comfort to us still in nature. Here is the translation of the Berlioz’s “La Spectre de la Rose” from Nuits d’ete. And following the translation, the link to the song performed by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. She is the rose whose art visits me at night, and whose love and I can still feel in her voice.




 |  Michael Barrett

It’s really summer now. When August first rolls around, the end of summer is in sight. But, we still have a delicious month left before the kids (and many of the grown ups) go back to school, and back to their quotidian routines. But since we have a month, this week will be devoted to my personal musical associations with summer. I have lots, so this will be a wide ranging selection of songs.




 |  Michael Barrett

It’s been a Bach week, but I’m departing from my faith-based musical life for today. I’m feeling melancholy since spring is finally here. The Norwegians, after months of non-stop darkness and no sunshine, view the first day of spring as the saddest day of the year, since they can already sense the end of it, and the oncoming winter. But we (and they) still yearn for spring every year.