Friday, January 4, 2013

We're All Going to Die....weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

It's been a rough couple of months for human civilization. It always is.

First, we were told that an ancient (and still living) people from South America had predicted the end of the world, which was conveniently going to happen RIGHT NOW! (O MY GOD!)

The funny thing about that was that right before the Mayan Apocalypse  a few people were on the radio saying that, really, the Mayans weren't predicting the end of the world, it was just the end of a major cycle of their calendar, the way the year 2000 was the end of a major cycle of ours. To which the major media responded: LALALA, WE CAN'T HEAR YOU! WE ARE TOO BUSY TELLING EVERYONE THE WORLD IS GOING TO END AND WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE! Have a nice day, and don't forget we are your number one source for news (and mindless panic)!

Then on the first of January those of us in the United States went over the Fiscal Cliff. At midnight, my wife and I held hands and screamed like we were going down a roller coaster. It was fun.

But it turns out we are still here, disaster averted (or at least deferred), and so I have another blog post to write. As I do, I can't help wondering what the major apocalyptic disaster for the month of February will be. Any ideas?

This being the part of the blog that deals with church music, I thought I'd trot out a fun little piece I played last year for Lent, when we are thinking more seriously about our mortality. It was written by a Mr. Georg Phillip Telemann, a contemporary of Bach, and it is based on the hymn, "All Men Must Die." I made a recording of it the morning I saw it for the first time, so what you are hearing is decidedly a first impression:

Telemann: Alle Menschen Mussen Sterben (first version)

I don't know what your ears heard, but for me, listening to it again after several months, it seemed pretty cheerful, even a bit silly. Now it is possible that Mr. Telemann had his theologian hat on, telling us all that we need not fear death because Christ died for our sins and we have a glorious eternity to look forward to (actually, Bach had ways of incorporating theological constructs into his music, but with Telemann I'm not so sure). And as for the sunny major key, the hymn tune came with that part supplied already and there wasn't much Herr Telemann could do about that. But the third part...well, there's were I may be culpable.

Telemann left absolutely no directions regarding organ registration, so the choice to play the whole thing on one single flute stop is my own. And he didn't say anything about the speed of the piece, which may be the deciding factor in how the piece goes down. I played it pretty briskly. Why, you may ask?

Well, it's hard to pin down. As I looked at the piece, I noticed all the repeated notes, and the little falling gestures, and it just looked so good-natured and slightly daffy that I played it that way.

About a week later, I repented. Still not having played it in church, I thought, well, maybe if I played it a bit slower it would have more gravitas. Maybe the first version was a bit too undignified, I thought. Which is a little odd for my usual tendencies, but we'll discuss that later. You'll note that version two is a minute-and-a-half longer than the first version. I wanted to make sure it had some heft, if not a long face.

Telemann: All Menschen Muss Sterben (second version)

By the time I had gotten around to Sunday, I think I inclined to the first tempo again. I'm curious which one you'd vote for.  Of the 48 Chorale Preludes of Telemann, this is one of my favorites. I can see why he was so popular with the people. Although, if you don't think religion ought to wear a smile...well, I played another piece of Mr. Telemann's for Lent, and a woman told me afterward that it reminded her of the alligators from the Disney movie "Peter Pan."

The Karlskirche in Vienna where I played a few of Mr. Telemann's creations. I found the noisy elevator at right, which every five minutes carried workers to the dome for restoration work on the artwork to inspire much devotion and sober contemplation.

1 comment:

  1. I prefer the second version. I think the slower tempo brings out the qualities of the piece better.


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