J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3: Fill your Soul with Joy!

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OH, THE JOY! The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the greatest ways to lift up your soul from any doldrums or just to drip-feed your soul with beauty and mellifluousness. His 3rd Orchestral Suite (first known score is from 1730) is full of life and movement. One part of it (the so-called “Air on a G-string”) is well-known to so many from TV advertisements, film documentaries, etc., yet very few know this music in its whole context.

This version is being played on instruments of Bach’s time period (or exact copies) and in the style and tempi of the time, which gives the music a glorious authenticity. Personally, I cannot tolerate listening to Bach played on modern instruments. One of the most wonderful developments in the world of music in the last century has been the rediscovery of period instruments and period playing-technique. This was pioneered in the 1960s with Nicolas Harnoncourt in Vienna with his Musicus Concentus Vien and David Munro with the Early Music Consort in the UK, and was then developed during the 1970s and 1980s by Reinhard Goebel with the Musica Antiqua Köln, Christopher Hogwood with the Academy of Ancient Music and Trevor Pinnock with his English Concert. Now, in the wake of this “early music revival” movement, there are a great many orchestras all over the world which have brought baroque and classical music to life with period instruments and style. Even with early 20th century music, there is a big difference between the instruments of that period and the present day. Recently, I heard a stunning performance of “The Planets Suite” (1915) by Gustav Holst on instruments of that time (the New Queens Hall Orchestra). It makes such a difference, and I love authenticity.

This Italian ensemble, Ensemble Zafiro (with its husband and wife team conducting and on first violin) presents a super live performance here from Milland-Brixen, halfway between Innsbruck and Venice in the southern Tyrol of Italy. If there wasn’t a static camera on this performance, you would see close-ups of little old timpani drums, valveless brass trumpets, gorgeous all-wood oboes and bassoon, a fretted bass viol (similar size to a double-bass), while all the stringed instruments have gut strings rather than metal (with no individual fine tuning screws on the strings) and the cello is held between the legs with no spike. The tempi are much faster (as they would have been in the composer’s day), and the playing is more crisp and with very little vibrato, except as ornamentation. It all produces a pure sound close to what those in Bach’s time would have heard in their own ears.

Please click on the image above and enjoy this vibrant music from nearly 300 years ago!

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