(From John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach?)
“At our first duo rehearsal—Bach’s B-
Minor Sonata was what we played—I already knew
This young woman interested me.
We borrowed a room (where was it?)
With a harpsichord (whose?)
And with few words began the sonata.
As this unfolded—recognition, confirmation,
Accord, consternation. Above all,
The marking of a common center.
She had told me Bach was her favorite composer,
Her home site, but by the end of the first movement,
I knew that in her case, this was not just
Devotion to the music, its spirit, its
Generosity, but a trust in it,
A willingness to let it speak.
What I heard at the same time, in that
First movement, is the loneliness that often inhabits
The undertone of a great master’s work—
The habitation of a realm so rarely visited,
With so little company, to find that secret
In music, the performer needs an inner life,
A kind of solitary experience. I sensed a person
For whom art costs too much, for whom
The sharing of that intense experience
With others is often painful and risky.
I knew what that might be like!
I sensed joy, possibility, danger,
A fulcrum. A magnet. A talisman…
We began the second movement.”