Bach Cello Suites, and Other Pieces of Music, as Great Companions

Winifred Massey, 16, practices before a music competition in Dublin, April 2, 2019. (Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters)

Many years ago, I attended a concert that included the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 of Bach. The friend sitting next to me leaned over and said, “You remember the definition of an intellectual: ‘someone who can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.’ Well, I find it impossible to hear the last movement of this concerto without thinking of William F. Buckley Jr.”

As you remember, WFB used this music as the theme to his television show, Firing Line. (Come to think of it, the title of the show and the music don’t really go together, but that is a contradiction to be happily ignored.)

The Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and this story, figure in the new episode of my Music for a While. Go here. The title of the episode is “Great Are Companions Such as These.” Why?

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s (a New York group) has a video series called “Bach at Home.” In this series, a veteran cellist plays a movement from one of the six cello suites. I remark that cellists live with these suites all life long — through good times, bad times, times of any sort. The suites must be especially important, especially valuable, in bad times, or trying times.

“Great are companions such as these.” That is a line from a hymn.

Of course, it applies not only to Bach cello suites but also to any number of other pieces — some of which I play on Music for a While. Again, here.

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