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Research: Dancing Bach on the organ

Dancing Bach on the organ

In 2017 a simple but essential change marked the difference between my old and new way of playing Bach: inspired by my former teacher Rudi van Straten I started making upward movements from my lower stomach on strong beats.This literally gives a "gut" feeling which compensates for over activity in the brain and the heart. It results in:

- dancelike movements, also regarding the wrists
- an improved breathing
- looking in front me of me or slightly upward, without a particular focus, instead of looking at the the manuals. 
This is how I interprete observations on Bach playing the organ made by contemporaries of his. It also relat to the tradition of blind organists throughout the ages, beginning with Franceso Landini in the 14the century.
- considerably less finger and foot substitions
- a complete reduction of guttural noises (the notorious "accompaniment" of in particular exciting passages).

I practise at home with the digitalized sound of historical organs to prepare for recordings on some of the most beautiful instruments in Europe. The project —which may last about ten years— will be continually documented with writings and videos on the Internet. As Bach's music surpasses the boundaries of the instruments which he knew several types of organs will be used, for instance the Callinet-organ in the Church of the Cordeliers in Lons-le-Saunier (France), made between 1842 and 1844. This instrument represents a transition between the esthetics of the 18th and the 19th century. 


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Four basic emotions 

I concentrate on four states of mind which are essential for both Bach's music and human life in general: joy, rage, suffering and longing. These emotions have been naturally related to dance throughout the ages.

1. JOY

Joy is at the basis of everything. In 1802 Forkel, Bach's first biographer, wrote about the organ sonatas: "One can not say enough of their beauty". I imagine Bach playing such a sonata and listeners associating the music with paradise.



2. RAGE 

Rage is a powerful source of creativity, which can be transformed in several ways to serve a performance. Regarding Bach I consider it as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit leading to the majesty and grandeur of, for instance, a toccata. This does not imply any form of ponderosity; on the contrary, lightness and souplesse are always the starting-point. 

3 and 4. SUFFERING AND LONGING

Suffering and longing are at the heart of Bach's music and can not be separated from each other, for instance in the performance of a profound choral prelude.

The project is also is about going beyond professionalism and re-discovering a lost naivity. A naivity that is both simple and efficient.

Dancing Bach on the Organ  is dedicated to the memory of violinist and composer Claire Delbos, Messiaen's first wife, who tragically spent the last fifteen years of her life in a psychiatric institute.


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