Classical music blog, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, keyboard music, music, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, Well Tempered Clavier

Me, My Neighbors and J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach

I spent two full nights with J.S.B., recording at ungodly hours, deleting a lion’s share of playings, worrying about my neighbors’ patience threshold. With a “runner’s high,” equivalent of being in the zone, I just couldn’t let go of the momentum, as tenants beside me were trying to get some sleep.


Four adjacent apartments in our Berkeley complex have paper thin walls, so sound travels right through them, and while I’m separated from one tenant by a vast laundry room, the fellow to my right, takes the brunt of my repetitions.

Happily, in his the Love Thy Neighbor spirit, he insists that my nocturnal and pre-dawn recording sessions are fine with him. After all, in a heart-BEAT, he can retreat to his second-story bedroom and don a pair of ear plugs.

I’m lucky that he and others make sacrifices so I can pump out a few videos and post them on You Tube.

Historically, this wasn’t always the case. At age 6, the neighbor living below us, in a 14-story building, banged on the ceiling, (if that was possible) when I played my two-note Diller-Quaille “Ding-Dong” song. And when I bumped into him in the elevator, he’d yell, “Shadd-up!” communicating loud and clear that I was a gargantuan annoyance! Miraculously, I had the fortitude to return to practicing each day.

Decades later, I’m thankfully free of disapproving neighbors as I make baby-step advances through Bach’s Prelude in F minor, BWV 881, from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2.

One of my adult students is doing the same.


Questions cropped up immediately.

Was the Prelude a lament with its F minor framing? Should it logically be played at a funereal tempo because of its doleful sighs of descending thirds? (I thought of Handel’s Messiah and the sorrowful lines, “He was Despised and Rejected” set to a falling motif)

After parceling out three separate voices, setting fingering, and analyzing motivic and harmonic relationships, I decided to check Richter and Barenboim’s readings on You Tube to widen my perspective.

Barenboim played more slowly and sorrowfully, while Richter adopted a brisker tempo. So where did I fit on the temporal spectrum?

My first impression:

Second one:

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