Sunday, December 11, 2011

Isabel Trautwein: Bach Ciaccona (In My Living Room)

Bach: Ciaccona (from Partita for Violin No.2)
Isabel Trautwein, violin.
At my home, Cleveland Heights.

Last year Heights Arts' 10th anniversary party had a silent auction where I bid on and won a performance by Cleveland Orchestra cellist Tanya Ell in my living room. This year, at one of the Heights Arts House Concerts, a similar silent auction included Cleveland Orchestra violinist Isabel Trautwein offering her services.

Based how much fun I had the first time I couldn't help but to aggressively bid again. With the privilege of placing the winning bid, tonight a small group of friends and acquaintances assembled in my living room to hear Ms. Trautwein play Bach's Ciaccona, the final movement from his Partita for Violin No. 2.

Before playing, Heights Arts Executive Director Peggy Spaeth provided background for the organization that ultimately made the event possible, and Ms. Trautwein provided a deliciously detailed background not only on the piece but on Bach's family (a line of well-respected church musicians) his life (as one to organize and save his family's music, and as one who travelled with his patron) and on the piece. It is said that Bach was traveling with his patron for six weeks and and upon his return he found that not only had his wife died in his absence, she was already buried. This clearly had a profound effect on the composer.

When the playing began it was almost overwhelming. The Ciaccona, to quote from Wikipedia, "This ciaccona is considered a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach's time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument." And Johannes Brahms is said to have written that "[o]n one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."

The Ciaccona runs 15 minutes, 256 measures, exceeding the combined running time of the preceeding movements in the partita.

After the music concluded there was a moment of brief, but absolute, silence before a guest exhaled a "Wow" and the applause erupted. In that 15 minutes of musical passion the rest of the world seemed to stop and when my conscious reappeared it is impossible not to acknowledge this as fantastic benefit to living in Cleveland: Not only do we have a world-class orchestra (and museum and performing arts and...) but the talented individuals that compose those institutions are passionate, engaged, and sociable.

A brief question and answer followed before we adjourned for a variety of foods (many deliciously prepared by Rachel), cheeses, an deserts -- not to mention wines flown in from Temecula, my hometown in Southern California -- and conversation lasting late in to the night.

It was a delightful evening and I hope to host another musical gathering  in the not too distant future.


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