Bach Ten Little Pieces


Bach

Series about classical music. James May shows his sensitive side as he confesses his love for the music of JS Bach, with musical accompaniment from organist Wayne Marshall.


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Transcript


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In the middle of all the music we listen to,

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sometimes there is one band, one singer,

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one composer that cuts through.

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One musical voice that seems to be speaking just to us.

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MUSIC: Toccata And Fugue In D Minor by JS Bach

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When I was about six years old,

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my dad bought a new record player

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and it came with a free record.

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It was an album of organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach,

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and I must have listened to it hundreds of times.

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To be honest, it was the only record we had for a while.

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And I sort of fell in love with it.

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I went on to learn the piano and the flute and the saxophone

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and, eventually, the harpsichord.

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I studied music at university, and I suppose, today,

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I can't really imagine my life

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without a classical music soundtrack.

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And that's all down to a free Bach record.

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MUSIC CONTINUES

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This piece is probably one of Bach's most famous.

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It was written about 1706 and he, of course,

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would not have known that it would eventually be used in gaming or...

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RINGTONE PLAYS

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..or as a ringtone.

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Or, indeed, as a form of shorthand meaning something

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well spooky's about to happen.

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That's probably for the best.

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It's called Toccata And Fugue In D Minor,

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and it's a piece of two parts.

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The first part, the toccata,

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is basically an opportunity for the musician to show off a bit.

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To grab everyone's attention.

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To get them ready for this amazing ride ahead.

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Hold on a minute.

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I reckon the orchestra's itching for a go now.

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MUSIC CONTINUES

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That was a section of the toccata,

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but now, we come to part two -

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the fugue.

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Do you mind if I have a go?

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Yeah, sure. Be my guest, please.

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Cheers.

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A fugue is like a sort of perfect musical pattern.

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Bach would start off with a fairly straightforward,

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simple little melody...

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Like that one, and then he might repeat it higher up.

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Or maybe lower.

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And then he might turn it upside down,

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break it up into fragments and so on.

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But, gradually, this incredible piece of music emerges.

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Bach's brain could work out these patterns better than

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any brain before or since.

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Apparently, he could improvise this stuff.

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He could make it up as he went along.

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But, remarkably, this never created chaos,

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it just created incredible, beautiful music.

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And, in fact, the word fugue means flight in Italian,

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and that's what this music seems to do to me.

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It does take flight. It takes off on a journey,

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an incredible one,

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and it's a different journey every single time you listen to it.

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That's what's so amazing about it.

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MUSIC CONTINUES

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James May shows his sensitive side as he confesses his love for the music of JS Bach, with musical accompaniment from organist Wayne Marshall. The BBC Philharmonic play extracts from Bach's Toccata and Fugue, conducted by Alpesh Chauhan.


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