Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bach Mystery Solved

A friend sent me an interesting Washington Post story from 2007 that I had not heard about before. Post reporters asked world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell to dress in street clothes and perform classical music in a busy Washington metro station during morning rush hour. Bell played his $3.5 million 1710 Stradivarius violin and performed pieces by Bach and others for 43 minutes. With very few exceptions, hardly anyone noticed, and he collected $32.17 from 27 people, most of whom dropped the money in his instrument case without stopping. Proving... I'm not exactly sure. That people don't appreciate beautiful music when they are rushing to get to work? Read the article and see for yourself. It includes several video clips.

I really liked the Bach piece that Bell was playing in the first video clip. It sounded familiar but I was confused by the article stating that his opening piece was "Chaconne" from J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 in D minor (it was, but the first video clip in the article was not his opening piece). I bought a violin performance of that Bach work on Amazon for 89 cents. Very nice, but not the right piece.

So I looked more closely at the article and found that he also performed a Bach "gavotte" and I searched my own music library for that term. Bingo! It was the "gavotte" from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major (BWV 1006), and I had it in a classical guitar performance by John Williams. Great! So I went back to Amazon and previewed a number of solo violin versions of this piece before buying one by Itzhak Perlman. Mystery solved, and $2.87 spent on three MP3 downloads (the third was the "Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra" from the film "The Red Violin," played by Joshua Bell - a red herring since this "chaconne" is a modern piece by composer John Corigliano, not Bach).

Update: The YouTube video above does feature the D minor Partita No. 2 that Bell both opened and closed with, and you can see at the very end the interaction with the one person who recognized Bell and listened to most of his closing piece.

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