Journey of 100

Chaconne #16 – Chamber Music Conference August 15, 2013

A private performance late in the evening for colleagues – long time collaborators and good friends –  here at the Bennington Chamber Music Conference.

It was a great pleasure to share this performance with friends with whom I have studied and performed many works of great – and not-so-great [smile] – musical significance.  As we began, I was not so sure that I would play the entire Partita (what I first had in mind), but decided to just start at the beginning and let it all flow as best as it would after almost two week of daily teaching and rehearsing.  The Chaconne is often played by itself, as a stand-alone work – yet I am coming to the firm conclusion that it is an integral part of the entire work (Partita in D Minor BWV 1004): better said, that the 4 opening movements based on old (in Bach’s time), known dance forms completely flow into the Chaconne, that the Chaconne is an organic emotional, musical and spiritual resolution to the questions raised in the previous movements – Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande and Gigue.  One of my colleagues pointed out that many musical elements in the Chaconne are foreshadowed in the dances, linking them together, and that those dances are part of the internal balance, so to speak, of the whole work.

I tested out – with apparent success – ideas that I have been working on in the studio – a few of them in brief: the opening (Allemande), a declamatory call for the attention of the Spirit and a reminder of the  Soul’s spiritual journey; an encapsulation of the struggles of Life (Corrente), deeply seated questions of Life’s meaning (Sarabande).  I also used the organizing principle of rhythmic drive and groove described below in the recent practice session.  They all apparently came clear to my listeners. In particular the rhythmic drive in the first part of the Chaconne set up great freedoms in the return of the theme in the concluding section (minor).

 

7 Comments

  1. Frank Daykin
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Thursday, August 15, 2013. Greenwall Auditorium, Bennington College. Between 9:45 and 10PM, start time. Dramatics personae: Shem Guibbory, violin; Audience: Armand Ambrosini, clarinet; Lew Paer, contrabass; Frank Daykin, piano.

    Bathed in a pool of light in the otherwise darkened hall, Shem shared, rather poured forth, the glories of not just “the Chaconne” but the whole D Minor Partita. He was playing a Violin. Relatively new to him, not his customary instrument. It was given to him by an older brother. From the first few test phrases, the instrument, bow, and player spoke and sang with clear, nearly human-singing sounds.

    The four courtly dance movements unfolded with perfect clarity and momentum, and without pedantic adherence to every repeat.

    Then “it,” the Chaconne. Some scholars assert that Bach was prompted to write it by the death of his first wife, Maria Barbara, and that in it he encoded certain death chorale symbols. No matter the origin, its universality needs no such specific program. It truly emerged as a “cathedral in tones” this night.

    The polyphonic separation was awesome. After the D Major central section, with its metaphorical ringing of bells, the return to D Minor, with a first-inversion Neapolitan triad, sounded even more spiritually bereft!

    Guibbory has embarked on this Chaconne journey with a “relaxed obsession” that is revealing much about the music to us, and much about the man/performer to himself. God bless Bach, Guibbory, and the Violin.

  2. Posted August 22, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Break a leg! Please say hello to Armand for me.

  3. Posted August 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Sorry all,the concert, and Armand and all was LAST week

  4. Lew Paer
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Dear Shem, I want to thank you, on so many levels, for inviting me to the sixteenth performance of your Journey of 100. Your playing, and your sound were so moving, and so inspirational. You played with such personal intensity, and stamina, and with such a deep command of the music. You made the polyphony, and color changes of this piece sound so completely natural, and so well thought out. I truly felt I could look deep into the music itself, and travel with it’s voices as you took us on a journey through the changes of spiritual outlook in each movement. I really thank you as well for envisioning this project, and through your commitment, I felt you giving of yourself, and telling us of your love of Bach that night. All the best!!

  5. Armand Ambrosini
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Shem,

    Thank you so very much for your sixteenth performance of the Bach at Benningthon College. The intimate setting, your meticulous attention to the details of its musical lines, the voicing, your overall technical mastery, and beautiful sound made the experience transcend the usual concert experience. Your performance demanded the listeners’ attention throughout, as you led each of us to deep, meaningful contemplations and the realm of the spiritual.

    It is a performance I will never forget. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOURSELF (AND BACH) IN SUCH A WONDERFULLY INTIMATE WAY!!!!

  6. Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks everyone for your Likes and your Ears

  7. Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Valuable info. Lucky me I found your website accidentally, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t took place in advance! I bookmarked it.


Chaconne practice session August 9, 2013

Explored a new approach to the theme – using a very strong rhythmic edge to the pulse, driven by the Bass voice: it produced a greater differentiation of the Bass voice from the upper voices as well as a very strong overall forward drive…have to get off the notes faster and yet make sure that they feel and sound as independent voices of an emotional weight equal to the Alto and Soprano….thinking of Forkel  on J.S. Bach: counterpoint = accumulated harmony – i.e. horizontal harmony to my way of thinking…works well with the dotted rhythm variations…emphasizes their French Overture style feeling…

2 Comments

  1. Armand Ambrosini
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Shem,

    Thank you so very much for your sixteenth performance of the Bach at Benningthon College. The intimate setting, your meticulous attention to the details of its musical lines, the voicing, your overall technical mastery, and beautiful sound made the experience transcend the usual concert experience. Your performance demanded the listeners’ attention throughout, as you led each of us to deep, meaningful contemplations and the realm of the spiritual.

    It is a performance I will never forget. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOURSELF (AND BACH) IN SUCH A WONDERFULLY INTIMATE WAY!!!!

  2. Lew Paer
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Dear Shem, I want to thank you, on so many levels, for inviting me to the sixteenth performance of your Journey of 100. Your playing, and your sound were so moving, and so inspirational. You played with such personal intensity, and stamina, and with such a deep command of the music. You made the polyphony, and color changes of this piece sound so completely natural, and so well thought out. I truly felt I could look deep into the music itself, and travel with it’s voices as you took us on a journey through the changes of spiritual outlook in each movement. I really thank you as well for envisioning this project, and through your commitment, I felt you giving of yourself, and telling us of your love of Bach that night. All the best!!


Chaconne #15 Music Party, Oneida Lake NY

July 28th, 2013 – performance around 12:30 pm.  The performance took place on Sunday afternoon of a chamber music weekend amidst wonderful readings and wonderful performances by many musicians from the Syracuse area.  Other than the first public performances this was the first time in the Journey series where I was playing for professional colleagues (as well as other musicians and music lovers).  I was gratified to find that not only did my ideas hold up in that situation, but they were felt to be compelling and were taken as valid.  I tried out a new understanding of pacing for the end, and it worked.  Still the opening theme and first two variations need to be much more organic.

8 Comments

  1. Posted July 28, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I’m there in spirit!

  2. Posted July 28, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Your performance is coming, Frank!!

    Shem Guibbory
    914.948.1256 h
    914.391.4418 m

  3. Posted July 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Break a leg!

  4. Eiko Hamada
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It was such a treat to be able to hear this performance on Sunday. I have never heard this Bach’s great piece played in such close small room before,
    and was overwhelmed by the intesity and the music I could feel from him.
    The environment was just perfect being in a small living room right by the
    beautiful Oneida Lake in Central New York. I took my 16 year old grand
    daughter visiting me from Japan for the summer. She plays the violin and belongs to a youth orchestra. To her delight, that Bach’s piece was her
    very favorite one. She even got the score and tried to go through, so
    she knew how difficult that piece was to play.
    I do not play the violin, so I do not know how difficult it was technically,
    but certainly that performance pulled and submergerd us all into the music
    he was creating. What I mean is that we could feel the music Shem feels from this piece. This piece is very known to be a great piece, but certainly without the help of this kind of performance, I can not appreciate
    the greatness of this piece. It was so different from what I hear from the
    CD. So thank you Shem for providing us such an opportunity.
    I am an amateur pianist who now, in my retirement life, has a passion in piano. There isn’t much hope for improving my technical skills but I can still try to play close to what the composer was intended to. Listening to great performance like this was very inspiring, as I could truely feel Bach’s music through you.

  5. rose
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I have heard this Chaconne before. But never like this. In the middle of musician friends. This music touched us all. As a shared experience. A fascinated group .. The incredible J.S. Bach work was offered to us in a simply “natural” way, as if this IS the way to play it. It flowed intensly , pouring over us. I don’t think we were “absorbing” it. The music stayed in the room to be kept as an everlasting memory.
    Thank you, Shem!

  6. George Coble
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Simultaneously exultant and melancholy.

    I would imagine that if, somewhere along the way, you were to tape your performances it would be most interesting to hear the evolutionary changes that occur between #15 and #100. Best wishes with your project….

  7. Allan Kolsky
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this moving, insightful performance in such a relaxed and intimate setting. This time around, you stood there in bare feet and shorts, with listeners huddled around you only 5-15 feet away. Throughout the small, packed space, people were listening so hard that you could hear a pin drop–it felt like we were eavesdropping on the practice room of a fine concert soloist.

    Thank you for letting us share in your exploration of this profound musical masterwork, and good luck on the rest of your “Journey of 100!”

  8. Jenna Weitzel
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Back when I had a cassette player in my car, I listened to my cassette tapes of Bach’s Sonatas & Partitas over and over, endlessly intrigued while on long trips. I even bought the music and made attempts to play less complicated sections. How precious it was on Sunday at Rose’s beautiful camp to experience a live performance of the Chaconne. The music hinted at resolving into an ending but then would change character and flow into yet another beautiful intriguing section and I would be so happy. When the music finally stopped, I held my breath hoping that it would again begin – never ending. Outside the windows the day was overcast above the lake; inside the wood paneled walls of the room seemed to embrace all of us together with the music of the violin, giving an almost surreal experience. Tears filled my eyes. Thank you.


Chaconne #14 – Private Concert NY NY

This performance was part of a larger program of chamber music at the home of two wonderful music lovers on the West Side.

I was bugged that I did not have time in our pre-performance rehearsal to run the opening a few times – but in fact it started out ok. Over the last month or so of *not* playing the piece (Wagner’s Ring operas and Handel Julius Ceasare at the MET) the independence, clarity and flow of the bass line in the theme and the first dotted-rhythm variations has taken shape.

The overall Arch of the work felt intact: kept the first section cadence in d minor from being too big and felt that the cadence in D major had it rightful peak – leaving me lots of room to unwind the energy and dynamic in the return to the minor. I also tried whipping the tempo back in the groove at mm149 and that seemed to work as well.

There were a number of fascinating comments from listeners afterwards that I hope will appear on this blog – comments about Divinity of Mathematics (Newton), and “…the human, spiritual tumblers aligning…” words to that effect.

6 Comments

  1. Andrew
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Pure mathematicians fall in two camps…those who believe they are discovering divine structures laid out by God and those (like myself) that believe that mathematics is a very human projection of humanity onto a limitless universe. When I heard Shem play the Chaconne last night I first became deeply meditative and then began to consider Bach’s almost timeless singular genius. The space and musical possibilities unlocked in the arches of the music were staggering and could well make one think of a full organ work, but ultimately to me the work signified the awesome power of human creation. Bach opened many doors for the first time. Shem’s playing was entrancing.

  2. Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    it is to bad that i missed it.

  3. Posted May 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Nancy commented on Shem Guibbory:

    An extraordinary composition played with remarkable artistry. At first I found myself moved literally to tears.Read more…

  4. Nancy
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    An extraordinary composition played with remarkable artistry. At first I found myself moved literally to tears. And as the playing progressed I was amazed at the patterns being spun, morphing beyond the repititions. As another audience member remarked, and I agreed, the music actually seemed edgy and modern. What a great treat to hear. Thanks for your virtuoso performance, which gave me a newly found respect for Bach.

  5. Charles Adelman
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Shem: Where to begin? With a paradox. How can the same work be both profoundly sad and incredibly joyous? How can it engender both tears and elation at the same time? I think it is because this towering work of genius communicates something essential about what it means to be human, about the human spirit. It makes us dream about the perfectibility of humanity, of what mankind is capable of achieving. I think I told you that hearing this music is like experiencing tumblers falling into place in a great celestial lock, or like perceiving the solution to a great equation of the universe. I do believe that the brain is prewired in some fundamental way, that there are networks of neurons that able to respond to the mathematical possibilities embodied in the frequencies of sound, that perhaps there is an unspoken language that we are evolving towards, and that we respond so deeply to works like the Chaconne because they express our deepest yearnings in that language that we may some day understand. What would happen if everyone on earth heard this music at the same time . . . .?

  6. shem
    Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Wow thank you everyone, for these beautiful words! I should add that in this performance I did feel successful, for the most part, in “emptying my mind” and allowing the music to “play me”, as it were…and your responses are encouraging to me: they suggest that the notion behind my Journey of 100 is truly meaningful. Sincerely, with appreciation for All,

    Shem


Chaconne #13 – LaGuardia High School for Music and Art

Good morning everyone! If all the technology is correct this will go out to all of you who are my Facebook friends – I hope you will take a minute and to read this and check out  my new website.

As part of my Journey of 100 performances of this amazing piece of music (Chaconne for Solo Violin) I am performing this morning at LaGuardia High School for Music and Art, a wonderful school in NYC where many many musicians and artists received their early training.

It is challenging to keep this performance project moving during recent weeks at the MET where we are in the midst of presenting a number of LONG and hard operas (e.g. an amazing rendering of Parsifal tonite, for example, at 6 PM) Daniele Gatti and a once-in-a-lifetime cast).  But WORTH every ounce of my sweat equity.

After today’s performance of the Bach at LaGuardia I will log in my performance comments here, and hopefully we will also read some of the reactions of the students as well.

 ****************

Well it was an *early* morning for me – rain and NYC traffic delays left me arriving right on time after parking – and with no time to warm up… it was wonderful to walk into a room with 100+ kids who were totally engaged and participated fully with me as I warmed up in front of them and performed the work.

I told them about what I was hoping to accomplish with this journey of 100 performances, in particular focussing on the development and perfection of a technique of playing Bach’s music with 2 and sometimes three clearly distinct voices.

Starting out with hands and arms cold, not warmed up, puts you in the position of having to sort of go with the flow of your body while at the same time seeking to “sink into” the music. Sometimes I can just empty my mind and then Spirit just takes over – but not this morning! None the less, judging from comments made live there from the students, I was successful in getting the music and the ideas across.

After I played one of the co-leaders of their orchestra got up and played the first page of the Chaconne. We worked together as I showed him ways to use his bow – without changing his fundamental approach – that would begin to develop his ability to create a distinctly clear Bass voice, and two varying upper voices – this instead of just playing chords. Clearly a very hard-working and devoted violinist, he was open, receptive and able to execute the fundamental ideas. His colleagues were thoroughly supportive, participatory and warm! They clearly love and admire him greatly, and it was easy to see why.

I am still hoping that some students will find their way to leave us some comments, because their reactions in the room were terrific.

My thanks to the Faculty and Administration of LaGuardia High School for Music and Art for making this event come together!

 

3 Comments

  1. Rose
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    it sounds like you are continually successful . this is still the most rewarding way to make music . give all the schools this special experience !
    congratulations

    of course I am human, never doubted it

  2. Paula Washington
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing the Bach Chaconne with the students and faculty of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts last Wednesday, February 27th. The students are still discussing their experience. Even though the audience was made up of instrumental music majors, the non-string players were amazed to learn of the possibilities of the violin. As some remarked, it sounded as if more than one violinist was playing. One piano major was astonished to learn that fugues could be played on a violin, even though he is learning violin as his minor instrument. I am sure that some of those whose eyes were opened had heard recordings of the Chaconne and just assumed that two or three people were playing. This underlines the importance of live performance!

    • sgwp_a1
      Posted March 4, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Thank you Paula, for your invitation and your comments – you are SO right!
      Shem