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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:03 pm 
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A flute figures in this video, so I hope the mods will let it pass. There are flaws (the actors aren't playing the instruments, and a modern flute is dubbed in), but the video is delightful to me because of the evocation of a sublime musical milieu and the contrast between the humble genius and the haughty yet kindly king. I wanted to share it with you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdmcabpiGYU


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 2:13 pm 
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I am reading that Frederick composed 121 flute sonatas, 4 flute concertos, as well as a symphony. This while creating Prussia through military conquests. He was an Enlightenment ruler, who believed in freedom of the press, opened judgeships to commoners, and, as absolute monarch, worked various reforms. He was also a homosexual, and pretty obviously so, which earned him some contempt--though he was much loved by the people. He died childless. The meeting with Bach did take place and Bach did play the new piano. Frederick liked to humiliate artistic guests and, when Bach didn't flinch from improvising a fugue on the difficult theme Frederick gave him, Frederick challenged him to play the fugue in six-voices. Bach, who knew what was going on, demurred and, several months later, sent Frederick a musical score doing so.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 2:40 pm 
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jim stone wrote:

A credible-looking embouchure, and breaths taken in the right places and with good timing. The posture and body dynamics are natural and fluteworthy, too; I could easily believe the actor happened to be an experienced fluter, and was actually playing his instrument. Usually fluting isn't treated with such detail, so I can forgive the fingering, which is not so off as to be a distraction. A job very well done, I should say.

Here's a painting by Adolph von Menzel a century after the fact, imagining the scene:

Image

Sublime indeed. Bach is at the keyboard, and Frederick at the flute. For some reason my attention is always drawn to the violinist in black standing at second from right, and to the lady with the possible neck problem. I take the fellow at third from left to be on the lookout for ninjas.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:02 pm 
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Yes, the detail is very good. Somebody really thought this through. I like Bach pausing to take off a ring before he begins to improvise on the harpsichord. The musicians saluting him after every one else has left the room. The young man who embraces him at the end is one of his sons (I forget which) who had become court harpsichordist and had several times invited his father to visit. I personally doubt that Bach was as humble a man as portrayed, though of course he must have been appropriately deferential in the king's presence. Apparently the score he later sent Fredrick ('A Musical Offering') was in part a coded entreaty to Frederick to become more religious. I am much moved by Bach's keyboard music, which seems to have been composed yesterday and never becomes dated. It sometimes seems to be God singing.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:21 pm 
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jim stone wrote:
I like Bach pausing to take off a ring before he begins to improvise on the harpsichord.

That was a nice touch that would have been all too easy to dispense with. In its way it was touching. The story is often in the details, not just the big picture.

jim stone wrote:
I am much moved by Bach's keyboard music, which seems to have been composed yesterday and never becomes dated. It sometimes seems to be God singing.

It's hard for me to imagine that his music could ever be thought of as dated, yet it was at one time. Distance, as they say, brings perspective. If I were to be asked who my favorite composer is, "J. S. Bach" would leap out of my mouth.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:25 pm 
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P.S. Thanks for posting the fine painting


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 5:22 pm 
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It is fine, isn't it. Technique and composition aside, every character is given its own subtly distinct personality with the exception, interestingly, of Bach himself. But I see that as showing a man wholly in service to his king, such that his office will be best executed free of peripheral concerns.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:03 pm 
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Thank you for sharing. Simply wonderful.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:48 pm 
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Kind words much appreciated. I was much taken by the video itself. Note the effective use
of long silences. The actor playing Frederick is very good at creating a difficult personality. Watching his face while Bach delivers the fugue, I see a proud man, passionately devoted to music, a fine talent, recognizing a composer much greater than he is.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 7:52 pm 
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I wonder if anyone will tell me the harpsichord piece Bach plays for Frederick.
I know I've heard it before but I can't place it.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:54 pm 
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I'm not sure I understand your question. All Bach plays in the youtube excerpt is the introductory part to the three-part fugue based on the theme (subject) Frederick has given him, i.e. the theme for The Musical Offering. It is a beautiful subject.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Musical_Offering


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:56 pm 
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Ah! thanks. Connected the dots.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:11 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
jim stone wrote:

Here's a painting by Adolph von Menzel a century after the fact, imagining the scene:

Image

Sublime indeed. Bach is at the keyboard, and Frederick at the flute. For some reason my attention is always drawn to the violinist in black standing at second from right, and to the lady with the possible neck problem. I take the fellow at third from left to be on the lookout for ninjas.


If memory from my teaching of music history is correct this painting is not of the visit of J. S. Bach, but rather a "normal" concert as described in other posts here. At the keyboard is Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach. Somewhere in the room, perhaps at the far left is Frederick's flute teacher J. J. Quantz, the greatest flutist of the era, and writer of a famous treatise on flute playing. I seem to recall that Frederick, though a fine amateur musician, sometimes had rhythm issues. Notice the leg raised as though counting time. Needless to say the other players watched carefully. It wouldn’t do to embarrass the king! In fairness, playing a concert of up to two hours nearly every day is quite a chore for any amateur, even one as skilled as Frederick.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:37 pm 
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Oh, dear. I may have misread my source, but I hope not: of course one would rather not blame oneself. Thanks for the correction, cboody. :)

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