Recording Bach

Posted on January 31st, 2012 by

Recording Bach
Day 2 of recording the Sonatas and Partitas-February 13th. 
St John the Baptist Aldbury-a perfect acoustic for Bach (for me, anyway)
Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1698), Bow (Stephen Bristow 2010)
Recording Engineer-Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)

Aldbury Church in 1905

14th Feburary 2012: The Bach project has brought back the memories of when I began grappling with the material. It was the violinist and great teacher Beatrix Marr who introduced me to the G minor, when I was 10 years old. I would go to  stay with her in her medieval cottage in South Devon, and Bach was the centre of everything we did-along with hunting for neolithic stone tools in her vegetable garden… ‘Trix’, who had been a student of DC Dounis and Rowsby Wood, had had me work on the last movement in the most (at the time) ridiculously complicated way, with multiple bowings to internalise (now I understand) every possible overlayered sub-rhythm and implied extra harmony. I was grateful to her yesterday.

Bach Adagio BWV1001

31st January-Recording Bach. I spent today recording the C Major Solo Sonata.
Here are some outtakes-rough and unedited
Bach – C major Sonata BWV 1005
Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin Engineer-Jonathan Haskell Engineer
1-2-12:Note to self: Bach has been at the centre of my musical life since I was a child. Recording the first leg of the Sonatas and Partitas brought much of my history with these pieces to the fore. The people who have helped me find a way through these works tapped me on the shoulder, reminded me of by musical duty, assured me that they would be there on the path./Memories of first steps towards playing counterpoint on the violin emerged. My first rather public experiments were barefoot, straight from sailing or rock-pooling in the wonderful church of St Anthony-in-Meneage, athwart Gillan Creek. Our family holidays were there, and I fell in love with the straight, clear, acoustic of this church, which floods at the spring tide. This is the last completely candlelit church in England, so practising at the end of the day was visually beautiful, as the light from the south facing side aisle window, cast rippling patterns on the sisal matting and stone floor.  Recording in the wonderful church of St John the Baptist, Aldbury, I discovered that I was seeking out the sound of that formative acoustic, under the barrel roof of the nave, true to its name, a ship, upside down for winter and shelter. Walking to and from the church to record, is across a mile of fields from Tring Station, walking towards the Ashridge, accompanied, yesterday, by Long-Tailed-Tits, Magpies, and along a deer track. It struck me that this combination, of journeying and architecture, a parish path to an ancient church, the chance to walk in the quiet footsteps of my forebears, is my reason for playing Bach. /In the session, other voices. Teachers-a note on my over-marked copy  from the great Manoug Parikian-‘Peter, why do you find it so difficult?’-a fingering, which came to help me, or Louis Krasner demonstrating the most graceful triple-stopped voicing, glaring at me with the ferocious intensity of one who never stopped believing in connective power of art. For the Adagio, a half-remembered teenage conversation with a friend, who had played the work to Sandor Vegh. She told me that he had talked about a sunrise. I never met him, but that has helped, over the years. /Afterwards, the walk back to the station across starlit fields crisp with frost. A good beginning.