The program will include Johann Sebastian Bach’s majestic Sonata No. 1 in G-Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1001, played by Philip Ficsor; Eugène Bozza’s Un jour d’été à la montagne for Four Flutes, with Mary Jo Hartle, Mark Sherwin, Laurel Schwartz and Karen Dutton; and solo piano pieces by Enrique Granados (Three Spanish Dances, Opus 37, The Maiden and the Nightingale), performed by Robert Else.
It’s no secret that I have long resisted efforts to name Bach God’s musical governor on Earth. This has less to do with Bach’s music, some of which I adore, than with the people who make a cult of Bach and make him the standard against which all compositions are measured. One composer, no matter how great, cannot legislate for the future.
Bach’s cantatas are my favorites of his works, followed by some of his liturgical settings. Among his instrumental works, I much prefer his Suites for Unaccompanied Cello and his Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin — one at a time, I hasten to add — to the concertos and so on.
The one Maestro Ficsor will play is an astonishing work, a masterpiece of the passionate austerity that was Bach’s specialty.
Bozza (1905-91) was a French composer and educator who was born in Nice and died in Valenciennes, where he spent virtually all of his professional career. He was particularly noted for his compositions for wind instruments. Don’t let his dates put you off; this flute quartet would have delighted Debussy’s grandmother.
With Granados (1867-1916), I must admit to a prejudice. I consider him the greatest Spanish composer after Vittoria (I prefer him to Vittoria, but I bow to the outraged purists who insist upon the primacy of the 16th century master).
Granados was a piano virtuoso, and his works for solo piano are both perfectly constructed and deeply moving. (Less well-known than they ought to be, many of his songs are astonishing and unique.) The Spanish Dances, Opus 37 have steadily gained on the Goyescas in popularity with contemporary audiences, and may even pull ahead while we sit in the Faulkner Gallery, listening to Else play them (especially if he has included “No. 5” on his schedule).