Yesterday we drove over to the Brooklin Inn to listen to a performance by BOOM — the Baroque Orchestra of Maine.
Heidi Powell, on baroque violin, and Max Treitler, on baroque cello, performed two sonatas by Georg Freidrich Handel and two familiar pieces by Archangelo Corelli, and Ms. Powell also performed a beautiful solo piece, the Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, that I had never heard before. The concert took place in one of the central rooms of the Brooklin Inn with an audience of about 40 people — the kind of intimate, up close and personal setting that was the normal performance venue when baroque music was the prevailing music of the day back in the early 1700s. It was a wonderful performance of my favorite genre of classical music, which Ms. Powell and Mr. Treitler made even better by providing some interesting commentary to introduce each piece, talking about the differences between baroque instruments and their modern counterparts — and even answering a question from the audience. I should add that, after the BOOM performance, we had a very fine dinner thanks to the Brooklin Inn kitchen.
It’s pretty cool that this part of Maine has its own baroque orchestra — but then again this area is full of surprises and interesting things to discover, and there are lot of people out there who have a passion for classical music generally and baroque music in particular. When I thanked Ms. Powell after her performance and asked whether there was a BOOM website where we could make a contribution toward future performances, she said there wasn’t one, but we could send an old-fashioned letter and she’d let us know about future performances via postcards. It’s an example of the kind of old-school, off-the-grid approach to the modern world that you often find in this area — well-suited to a group that performs vintage music with authentic instruments.
Today is Johann Sebastian Bach’s 328th birthday. He was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, in what is now Germany. Today, Sirius XM marked the occasion by playing all Bach, all the time, on the Symphony Hall channel, and it made my commutes to and from work delightful indeed.
It isn’t difficult for Sirius to program all Bach for a 24-hour period, because Johann Sebastian was astonishingly prolific. He wrote hymns, church music, concertos, cello suites, cantatas, and organ music, among other pieces. He also was an accomplished organist who also played the harpsichord, the violin, and the viola. His works helped to define the distinctive baroque style of music that prevailed in the early 1700s. Interestingly, Bach’s works apparently fell out of favor after his death, and his compositions did not become highly regarded until the early 1800s. Now, of course, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in history, and his music is a staple of every classical radio station around the globe.
I love Bach’s pieces, and my iPod is filled with dozens of his compositions. His works are so rich and expressive of a mood that it makes me wish I had met him to see whether his personality matched his music. Bach’s compositions are vast and intricate, but at its core there is a certain radiating peacefulness. If you’ve had a tough day and want to unwind and calm down, Bach is a good choice. You can quickly get lost in his complex, intertwining melodies and the serenity that comes from well-ordered music that suggests a well-ordered world.
I like clockwork. We have a bunch of old clocks, pocket watches, and wall clocks in our home, and I treasure every one.
I love the intricacy of the clocks. I love the brass fittings, the old glass, the differently sized gears, and the precisely calibrated, finely polished pieces of machinery that allow you to accurately account for time if you just keep the clock wound properly. I imagine the clockmaker and watchmaker sitting at a cluttered desk, wearing some kind of magnifying glasses, scrupulously putting the pieces together and carefully tightening the screws.
Whenever I see an old clock, I think of baroque music. The intricacy and precision of Bach and Boccherini and Albinoni seem well suited to provide the soundtrack for clockwork.