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Emily Grossman

May 15, 2005 at 7:22 AM

“It sounds like a mad scientist at work in here.” George peeked his head though the crack in the door to check on me before heading out fishing. If he only knew how fitting his description was of my latest project. I’ve tucked this little experiment back in the studio with nary a word to anyone--until now--of its nature.

You see, I’ve just learned my first Bach fugue.

If anyone else had been involved, they may have said that it couldn’t be done, that it shouldn’t be done, that Bach fugues were difficult, sacred, and only to be handled by expert fingers under tight scrutiny of knowledgeable tutelage. True, true, but I’m now 30 years old, with no teacher in sight, and nothing better to do. Why not make an attempt at a life-long dream and see what happens?

The thought first occurred to me a couple of months ago, mulling around with Bach late one night. Just a year ago, I couldn’t play double stops to save my life, so a fugue was completely out of reach. They didn’t look enjoyable, just wearisome, with all those chords and overlapping melodies. I’d take a stab every once in a while just for kicks. The single lines of melodic arpeggios weren’t terribly difficult, and the sound of the notes was entrancing, the way each note fit into the next to create unity and the idea of pure harmony. After spending the winter running though Trott’s “Melodious Double Stops”, something new began to make its way into my fingers. Double stops--they weren’t so difficult after all! Then, that one evening in March, I picked at the G minor fugue, and a creative spark ignited. I had to have this piece all for myself!

I temporarily sold my soul to the devotion of this one piece, logging hours and hours of picking and scratching, hoping no one would notice the cacophony that sometimes resulted from misplaced fingers and incorrect bow placement. I told no one of my ambition for fear that it might not turn out after all, that my words would sound boastful and unsupported by actual ability.

But here I am tonight to say that yes, I can play the G minor fugue, as well as I can play anything else that I play (for whatever that’s worth). It’s not quite ready for a public unveiling, but I wasn’t learning it for them, anyhow.

I’d like to thank:
--George for wiping away inhibitions about Bach-indulgence.
--My Accompanist for not being there for my upcoming student recital and funneling my efforts toward something unaccompanied.
--Simon Fischer, for his two amazing books Basics, and Practice.
--Carl Flesch, for being a teacher to an orphan like me.
--My high school teacher, for her “Six Sonatas and Partitas” book that I haven’t returned yet.
--All the people at this discussion board who have ever emphasized relaxing.
--Henryk Szeryng, for his sparkling example of what actually is possible when voicing a fugue.
--My running hobby, for providing stamina.
--My upstairs neighbor, for being included in the late-night insanity sessions and still speaking to me.
--Most of all, Bach, for writing music that is unequalled in any way. This is the main reason I play the violin.

From deborah mitchell
Posted on May 15, 2005 at 8:11 AM
Congratulations, Emily!

You are an inspiration to us all.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 16, 2005 at 12:06 AM
Congratulations, Emily. That's a very difficult piece to play, and I'm sure you played it beautifully.

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