A Moment of Bach

A Moment of Bach

Welcome to A Moment of Bach, where we take our favorite moments from J. S Bach's vast output—just a minute's worth or even a few seconds—and show you why we think they are remarkable. Join hosts Alex Guebert and Christian Guebert for weekly moments! Check wherever podcasts are available and subscribe for upcoming episodes. Our recording samples are provided by the Netherlands Bach Society. Their monumental All of Bach project (to perform and record all of the works of J. S. Bach) serves as source material for our episodes. https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/allofbach Artwork by Sydney LaCom


June 10, 2024 25 mins

A textbook "moment" of Bach -- in a charming setting of the three verses of the German song "O Lamb of God, Most Holy," suddenly near the end of the third verse Bach finally heeds the text and shows us the strange despair we are praying for mercy to avoid. He employs several musical devices in this sudden moment: a change in meter, a suggestion of a distant tonality, and a barrage of harsh chromaticism (notes outside of the key).


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One of Bach's most famous works, and one of the greatest melodies of all time -- this comes to us by way of an almost impossibly good performance/recording by the Netherlands Bach Society.  By having the first violin part played by a section rather than a solo, they give Bach's wandering melody more purpose than it has in the famous version for solo violin, "Air on the G String", which is actually a re-arrangement of this original ...

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May 27, 2024 23 mins

Did Bach write this? Many think not. It's brilliant nonetheless! 

We get into a talk about aspects of this motet which would or would not be hallmarks of Johann Sebastian.

BWV 230 as performed by the Netherlands Bach Society

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This delightful jig closes out our miniseries on Brandenburg 6.  Here we speak about the third movement's jumpy beats. and how these rhythmic anticipations give the whole piece a bouncy energy.  Bach, the expert violist among so many other things, gives the two viola parts the most intricate material, playing off each other and passing along the musical line.  Yet, in the ritornellos, he always doubles them, allowing for a rich, sw...

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Welcome back to our yearly miniseries on the Brandenburg Concertos of J. S. Bach! This is part two of three. Today we look at the languid and luscious slow movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 6.

Music is (often) a setup of expectations, and then the satisfying fulfillment of those expectations OR the clever subversion of those expectations. Bach is especially good at this principle. We focus first on the unusual written-out cello ...

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Welcome to our yearly miniseries on the Brandenburg Concertos of J. S. Bach!  Here we jump into Brandenburg 6, delighting in the weirdness that results when Bach decides to omit violins, preferring a dark, low sound of violas, violas de gamba, cello, and violone.  This brings us to some more examples across Bach's oeuvre, as well as some others by Brahms, Bruce Broughton, and John Williams.  As any creative person knows, setting li...

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Today we return to the 7th of the Goldberg Variations, the "Canary Jig." We discuss that peculiar name, and then we get into some smaller moments. Soaring flares up the keyboard, surprising altered tones, and crunchy grace notes are all over. Pushing forward into the ending, a high note leads us to the finish. We discuss why the contour of the hands makes this ending so satisfying.

Goldberg var. no. 7 as performed by Jean Rondeau f...

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Just after Good Shepherd Sunday, we settle in to this comforting pastorale.  Not the famous opening movement -- no, this is another beautiful sicilienne-type dance, a bass aria, in which Bach gives a masterclass on melodic writing in just 5 seconds of music.  Melodic shape, sequence, pedal point, and effective parallel motion in triads -- these are all showcased in the first few measures.  Then, Alex points out his favorite moment,...

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In our second look at the monumental Goldberg Variations, Christian selects the beginning of the sprightly and innocent "gigue" (jig), a particular dance set here for an interplay between two hands. The jaunty rhythm of the dance is rather uneven; this leads us into a discussion about how music is naturally not even in this way (and when it is, it's too square). We discuss the Goldberg bass line which underpins the whole sequence o...

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Just as the three wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the young Christ, so also this trio brings their soprano voice, viola da gamba, and theorbo (a lute variant) as musical gifts.... and we, the listeners, are the ones who are lucky enough to receive these gifts.  Here we discover the plain serenity of this original hymn tune by Bach, set to simple accompaniment, and paired with a tender Christmas text...

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The Mass in B minor is a well which never runs dry; we return to it year after year, and this time to celebrate Easter Monday we jump into the splendid "Sanctus" section. Christian uses the fugue subject on the text "Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria ejus" (heaven and earth are full of thy glory) to describe one of the best text paintings in history. This blossoming motif doesn't just leap to heaven and fall to earth; it then covers...

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Here we do a full "Bach-n-talk" runthrough of the famous "O Mensch, bewein" chorale fantasia which ends the first half of the St. Matthew Passion, which happens to end on Alex's favorite moment.  Join us as we unpack a moment of mode mixture here, at the choir's closing cadence.  The borrowed minor modality gives the necessary spice to give a more complex flavor to the otherwise light and airy music.  But don't be fooled, listener,...

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Welcome to a moment of something different for once! 

We take a momentary diversion from our regular programming to give you a "moment of Vivaldi."

In Shunske Sato and the Netherlands Bach Society's rendition of Vivaldi's "Winter" of the "Four Seasons," Sato stuns with innovative solo violin timbres which embody the icy cold themes of the season. We don't normally hear such sounds when we hear baroque music whatsoever!

Christian fo...

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In this gem of a sonata, played on an original instrument, Bach hides the simplest musical theme in plain sight: one note.  Alex looks at the end of movement 3, where Bach gives a pedal point E to the viola da gamba, asking for over 30 seconds of one sustained note on this instrument.  Simple, yes, but perfectly aligned with the notes around it.  It's just another gem in the sea of jewels that is Bach's oeuvre.

Performance of this ...

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At the beginning of our podcast seasons, we always look at a new part of BWV 61. This week Christian chooses an unusual bass trill from the sparkling tenor recitative. For this moment Bach opens up the narrating voice and enters a half-aria section so that the singer can repeat the words "You come and let your light shine with full blessing." The lilting cello and bright harpsichord offer repeated "shines" in this section, which co...

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Welcome to Season 4!  Thanks so much to all our listeners!  

Today we give thanks -- not just for all of you wonderful listeners, but for Bach's creativity in the opening chorus of this cantata, which he based on the classic Lutheran chorale "Now Thank We All Our God".  We explore the origin of the poetry by Martin Rinckart, a man who, like Job from the Old Testament, lost everything dear to him, but still remained faithful -- and ...

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In this bonus episode, we have a chat with soprano Emily Wood, a featured soloist in the recent concert performance of BWV 147 at Alex's church.  We hear about Emily's personal experience singing this wonderfully challenging solo which is nestled in the very heart of this cantata; we also reflect on the whole 10-movement masterpiece.

Audio recordings of BWV 147 in this episode are from the recording of this concert, at St. John's L...

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Listeners!  Thank you for 100,000 episode downloads!

It's Bachtoberfest, which means we talk about a silly piece by Bach -- this year's is a little parable about a tobacco pipe.  We also read some of your comments and suggestions, we drink some Hefeweizen, and we talk about our plans for season 4, coming in 2024.

TWO MORE BONUS EPISODES are on their way soon -- a blooper reel for season 3, and a post-concert interview with soprano ...

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Composer and guitarist Giovanni Piacentini joins us today with guitar in hand and an enthusiasm to share with us one of Bach's most surprising moments. 

Bach's "Prelude, Fugue and Allegro" is designated for lute or harpsichord. Classical guitarists have long enjoyed the work, which is successfully adapted to the guitar. Near the end of the prelude, Bach takes us down an unexpected path, then gives us a thoroughly strange chord -- G...

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September 25, 2023 21 mins

Today we take a suggestion from listener Dave, and dive into the wonderfully rich "Trauerode", which was written for the funeral of a princess. Bach put some extra effort into the instrumentation and orchestration.  Here we have an aria with not just one complex obligatto instrument line, but three separate obligatto instrument lines (flute, oboe, violas da gamba), all with different material and different timbres.

"Laß, Fürstin, l...

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