Once a person asked J.S. Bach how it was possible to get such sound from the organ. Bach told the person, “All one has to do is touch the right keys at the right time, and the instrument practically plays itself.” Well, I guess so!
I once saw a made for tv (perhaps HBO) movie about JS Bach for young people. It focused on the time Bach was actually under house arrest to prevent him from leaving a post for another job. In the movie, it showed Bach sitting at a keyboard while he composed. I knew right away that the author of the script didn’t do enough research. Bach didn’t take on a lot of students, but the ones he did take on he told in no uncertain terms NOT to compose while sitting at the keyboard. He referred to people who did that as “Knights of the Keyboard,” and he didn’t mean it in a good way. He told his students that improvisation is the heart of muscianship, and that if you can improvise on the keyboard, you should be able to improvise on paper just as easily. Once again, well, I guess so!
Listen for a very improvisational work for the organ by Bach on this Sunday’s “Toccata” at 6 pm. Also featured, piano music by Richard Strauss and a piano concerto by American composer William Schuman. Hope you can join me!