I sat down to listen to the music for this post shortly after watching a re-run of the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998). Initially, that felt like plumbing both ends of the cultural spectrum, but reflecting on this, I could think of many other films which were way further along the line from another set of J S Bach’s Concertos, following on from the Brandenburg Concertos of the last post.
This prompts all sorts of questions and potential debates. Lovers of the Coen Brothers’ work may well argue that they are at the same end of the spectrum as Bach. And what spectrum are we talking about anyway? I have already touched on the idea of ‘best and worst’ vs ‘like and dislike’ in a previous post.
It’s wonderful that we have access to such a wide and rich variety of things to entertain us, while throwing in a bit of challenge, provoking our thoughts, and inspiring us along the way. So, back to Bach. Consider please the following set of works:
- Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord, strings and basso continuo (bc) in A minor (BWV 1044)
- Concerto for oboe, violin, strings and bc in D minor (BWV 1060)
- Concerto for oboe d’amore, strings and bc in A major (BWV 1055)
- Concerto for 2 violins, strings and bc in D minor (BWV 1043)
These works have a checkered history. Bach was well known for writing music first for particular instruments, and then re-arranging it for other instruments. In the case of these pieces, some probably started life as works for harpischord solos, and ended up as violin leads. Others had the opposite journey. For our purposes, it does not really matter. We have the benefit of beautiful music to listen to. In my view, these works, with their thicker scoring, provide more depth than the Brandenburg Concertos and therefore make for a more satifying listen. I also relish the added atmosphere provided by the minor keys. It brings ever more complexity, hints at darker corners within the music and reminds us that not everything in life is bright and straightforward. Perhaps there are more links between the Coen Brothers and Bach than I first thought.