An extraordinary thing happened in last night’s Bach Collegium Japan concert: an accident. Five minutes into the heat of the opening Brandenburg Concerto No. 5’s first movement Allegro, a loud snap could be heard from the stage amidst the sound of music. One of the strings of Ryo Terakado’s violin was probably broken. He continued to play on the rest of the violin without a glitch. When Maasaki Suzuki, leading the ensemble from his harpsichord, enteredthe frenzy of an extraordinary cadenza, Terakado calmly walked off, adjusted his violin backstage, and retuned at the beginning of the second movement Affettuoso to the approving applause of the audience.
In this age of near perfect technologies and techniques, an accident is indeed extraordinary – and marvelous. Reading great violin teacher Samuel Applebum’s intimate interviews with great string artists The Way They Play, one reads many accidents happening to these greatest of violinists, cellists and violists. Great pianists or singers of the past were also prone to mistakes, which hardly ever happen to young virtuosos today. But it is exactly at the unexpected moments of accidents, we witness true music-making.
Not only the word “Baroque” refers to the ideal of dynamic opposition in art, it itself is a dynamically oppositional concept. For lazy listeners today who treat “classical music” – which shall be more properly referred to as “modern music” – as background music, “baroque music” might evoke a stylish convention favoring proportion and harmony of the whole. But for an attentive listener, it is exactly the opposite: “baroque” is about individual risk-taking, about improvisation, about an ideal external to music but contingent to immediate concerns of the person. Such is the case particularly to Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, which is considered the origin of solo keyboard concerto with its fanatic ending of the first movement in solo cadenza and with a strong undertone of uncertainty and discordance beautifully accentuated by Bach Collegium Japan.
The concert also includes Bach’s Oboe d’amore Concerto in A major, BWV 1055R and Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079. It ends with a perfect rendition of one of Bach’ earlier cantatas, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My heart swims in blood), BWV 199 with soprano Joanne Lunn.