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Bach, and My Friend Edward Aldwell

music miscellany Mar 31, 2014

Today we celebrate the 329th birthday of a musical giant: Johann Sebastian Bach.

I have always had an affinity for Bach’s music. It speaks to me in its order and its beauty, its complexity and its elegance.

And I love playing Bach’s music, although I remember struggling, as a young piano student, to play without using the pedal. (Ah, the irony – I’m stuck with seven pedals now.)

When I was a Curtis student, I was privileged to have theory classes with pianist Edward Aldwell. After my student days, we became friends and colleagues. He was a great friend, one of those who was gifted at keeping in touch with people, and his wry sense of humor was legend.

But more to the point, he could play Bach’s music like no one else.

Perhaps it was because he understood it so well. The clarity and insight he gave us fortunate students at Curtis into the master’s music astounded many who thought we knew it all, in the way young people often do.

But when he started to play in class, by way of example, we knew we were in the presence of something unique and special. His playing was Bach in what one could imagine Bach’s voice to be. He conveyed the counterpoint with such transparency that you wondered why you had never heard it before. The music was alive and it was complete. And when Ed finished playing, the room was silent with profound admiration and respect. Then the applause started.

On this birthday of Bach’s, I invite you to listen to some of Ed’s recordings. There aren’t nearly enough recordings, but the ones we have are spectacular. I hope you may discover what I found: amazing music that lives and breathes 329 years after its creator was born.

NOTE: My favorite recording is Ed’s recording of the Goldberg Variations (this is hard to find), but his French Suites are remarkable and his recordings of the Well Tempered Clavier are must-haves for any music student.

Happy Birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

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