Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann in June , said about the ciaccona: On 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. Carl Reinecke transcribed the piece for piano duet. The earliest version for organ is by William Thomas Best.
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Or, listen to these renditions by an enterprising clarinetist and an equally ambitious saxophonist. Or how about this menacing arrangement for trumpet and orchestra and this lyrical performance by two cellos. There is truly an arrangement for everyone. Bach composed the chaconne sometime between and Historians speculate that Bach composed it after returning from a trip and found his wife and the mother of seven of his children Maria Barbara had died.
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. Such Romantic notions would never have occurred to a court composer who had trained in the late s as a Lutheran town organist.
Creating art then and there was not an act of personal expression but one of civic or religious service. Of course emotions could be depicted and messages delivered. And tries to leave out the middle. What I mean by this is that there are all kinds of mental, psychological dispositions from the opera that he totally shunned.
I mean, this is the bread and butter of the opera. He never went there. He had no interest in that. His music tries to express things like, awe. All kinds of sentiments a child can have, and an older person can have, but none of this sexual nonsense in the middle. And, so, in that sense, he thinks of death very differently from his own experience. He lost his parents before he was He lost both of his parents, and then he lost half of his children.
He lost 10 children. And, so, these are different, different times, different circumstances, and for us, it can be very surprising to see these reactions. You can tell from his music that his emotion is raw. It is so controlled, but it is so profound. This is a man who truly grieves. I know, it seems like a paradox. Listening to the chaconne is as rich and layered an experience as the story behind the music. You can listen to the entire chaconne in the embedded audio and download the recording for later listening.
She collected stories of human resilience and kindness in the classrooms of George Washington University — earning a degree in International Affairs with concentrations in the Middle East and Conflict Resolution — and over many cups of coffee in community movements, from nuclear nonproliferation, to interfaith dialogue, to compassionate communication.
Mariah worked as a program associate at the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network and lived in southern India for a spell as a documentary curator.
The Story Behind Bach’s Monumental Chaconne
Partita for Violin No. 2 (Bach)