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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bach’s Music Lesson

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  Johann Sebastian Bach was no idle dilettante, penning music here and there when the elusive muse whispered in his ear. As cantor at Leipzig’s ThomasSchool, he was part of the state-supervised LutheranChurch bureaucracy of 18th-century Germany; his gifts as a composer were given form by the steady regimen of his official responsibilities.

  One of the prolific composer’s many tasks included writing music as tutorial material for aspiring keyboardists, starting with his own children. The trio of compositions performed by Murray Perahia on Bach Partitas 2, 3 & 4 (released by Sony Classics) were written between 1725 and 1730 and published at Bach’s own expense in a volume called “Keyboard Practice.” They were not dry, dust-cough exercises, but were engaging pieces of music, even as they encouraged eager fingers to run up and down the keys in search of the many permutations of his melodies.

  Perahia is considered one of the leading interpreters of Bach on modern piano, an instrument struggling to be born in the composer’s lifetime from the parentage of quieter instruments such as the harpsichord. The Grammy-winning Perahia brings sensitivity to Bach’s vision, a carefully nuanced empathy combined with prodigious technical ability.