A Day With Bach and Bratwurst at Career Builder, and Cats That Glow in the Dark

All I can say is that it’s about time. We have three cats, who pee and scratch inappropriately, so the least they can do is glow in the dark, by way of recompense. It’s about time that scientists found a way to accomplish this. What took them so long?

I gave a Bach seminar yesterday for a company called Career Builder. They have a program that features presentations on a wide array of topics drawn from arts and sciences, designed to inspire and stimulate their employees, and I was engaged to present “The Virtuosic and the Spiritual in the Music of J.S. Bach”. The people at Career Builder were most cordial, and the the catering they brought in thoughtfully consisted of German specialties, perfect for a cold December afternoon devoted to Bach. Now that’s attention to detail for you! I was terrified lest they provided box lunches with a turkey avocado roll up and pasta salad-that would have been catastrophic. 

Bach anticipates certain works by Mozart (the c minor mass, for instance) as well as Romantic composers such as Chopin and Liszt in that he finds a nexus (notice how quickly I adopt iconic words drawn from cubicle culture) between the virtuoso and the spiritual dimensions; there is a synergy in a piece such as the Christmas Oratorio created by festive seasonal joy expressed in exultantly prodigious musical exertions. Consider, for example, the alto’s uncommonly long held note on the word “schlafe” -here Bach represents the inertia of sleep most beautifully, the long note is a metaphor, a sort of melodic inertia.

If I criticize this oratorio at all, it is only by comparing it with the Matthew Passion, written several years earlier. It seems to me that the passion easily transcends confessional boundaries in a way the Christmas piece does not, perhaps because suffering and death is something we all inevitably experience, whereas delight in the promise of a redeemer has a more restrictive appeal. I need to close now, the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday radio broadcast is about to commence. Here are some recommended performances of the Christmas Oratorio.  (click on the words Christmas Oratorio)