Quotes about Johann Sebastian Bach
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We come after. We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day's work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that his ear is gross, is cant. In what way does this knowledge bear on literature and society, on the hope, grown almost axiomatic from the time of Plato to that of Matthew Arnold, that culture is a humanizing force, that the energies of spirit are transferable to those of conduct?
The author's conviction on this day of New Year is that music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music; but this must not be taken as implying that all good music is dance music or all poetry lyric. Bach and Mozart are never too far from physical movement.
It's a huge Carthusian monastery, stuck down between rocks and sea, where you may imagine me, without white gloves or hair curling, as pale as ever, in a cell with such doors as Paris never had for gates. The cell is the shape of a tall coffin, with an enormous dusty vaulting, a small window... Bach, my scrawls and waste paper - silence - you could scream - there would still be silence. Indeed, I write to you from a strange place.
When we come to understand architecture as the essential nature of all harmonious structure we will see that it is the architecture of music that inspired Bach and Beethoven, the architecture of painting that is inspiring Picasso as it inspired Velasquez, that it is the architecture of life itself that is the inspiration of the great poets and philosophers.
If an artist may say nothing except what he has invented by his own sole efforts, it stands to reason he will be poor in ideas. If he could take what he wants wherever he could find it, as Euripides and Dante and Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Bach were free, his larder would always be full, and his cookery might be worth tasting.
First Shakespeare sonnets seem meaningless; first Bach fugues, a bore; first differential equations, sheer torture. But training changes the nature of our spiritual experiences. In due course, contact with an obscurely beautiful poem, an elaborate piece of counterpoint or of mathematical reasoning, causes us to feel direct intuitions of beauty and significance. It is the same in the moral world.
Let's take a look at the 25th variation of the second part. Here Bach meets us in his highest and deepest personal and human form: it's like in the Art of Fugue in the unfinished fugue No. 20, where Bach confronts us with his personal signature. It was he himself, who, after he had been occupied during his whole life with symbols, with numbers, with the mastering of structural and formal problems and renewals, now he saw himself confronted with a personal view into mirror. He now shows us a human being in his whole conception of life. The composer of Come, oh sweet death now is confessing, Oh sweet death, how bitter is your prickle.
I myself represent the style of a Bach who was a human being with all his heights and depths, who knew life very well. My Bach is the experience of my playing the whole literature; and filling the different voices with their own life, vitality, vividness; it's the independent speaking-until-singing of the different voices; and lastly it's a balance between pianistic virtuosity and something chamber-music-like.