5 Moments to Fall in Love With Bach


Jul 8, 2023

Listen to all the moods from the grand master of Western classical music: consoling, rousing, peaceful, passionate.

Angie Wang

In the past we’ve chosen the five minutes or so we would play to make our friends fall in love with classical music, piano, opera, cello, Mozart, 21st-century composers, violin, Baroque music, sopranos, Beethoven, flute, string quartets, tenors, Brahms, choral music, percussion, symphonies, Stravinsky, trumpet and Maria Callas.

The closing movement of Bach’s “Ascension Oratorio” ingeniously combines two musical moods whose interplay reveals a profound truth about this composer’s spiritual outlook. The choir’s soprano line intones a melancholy hymn tune in B Minor, the text yearning for a better future. The orchestra, however, furnishes a rollicking backdrop — mostly in D Major — with swirling sequences of exuberant syncopation. Joy overwhelmingly triumphs, no question about that. Yet sad longing is not totally eclipsed.

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Bach’s six cello suites are not just intimate explorations of that instrument, but also profound meditations on existence and aspiration. When he set out to write these pieces, around 1720, he had few models; the cello was still a relatively new instrument, largely relegated to background roles in ensembles. In this recording of the third suite by Anner Bylsma, who championed period instruments, Bach’s sense of adventure and discovery radiates from each phrase.



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