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).


6 thoughts on “Chaconne #16 – Chamber Music Conference August 15, 2013”

  1. 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. 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!!

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