Tag: Luciano Pavarotti

18: Bach, Gounod and Ave Maria

I am not exactly a huge fan of classical music (and certainly not a big expert) but over the years a picked up various pieces that I love. I don’t know how to analyze classical music like the experts do and, in fact, I am fine this way, I just want to listen and enjoy. So, here are some pieces that have a common thread.

We start with Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Prelude in C major, BWV 846. Simple and beautiful. Here is one example by Hélène Grimaud. I love how she starts very soft and almost sort of hesitant and evolves as it progresses and becomes more and more powerful and expressive.

Another beautiful interpretation (IMHO) is by Tzvi Erez. I think his is the best interpretation, using beautiful nuances in volume and tempo. To me, it just feels right and perfect.

Now let’s take a 90 degree turn. Procol Harum incorporated Bach’s prelude in their song Repent Walpurgis. I love this piece even without the Bach component.

The Prelude is really simple and sounds like a progression of chords. I guess it tempted other musicians to use it as the accompaniment for lead melodies. The excellent Israeli musician, Shlomo Gronich, translated into Hebrew the poem “I Won’t Let You Go!” by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and wrote a melody for it that superimposes beautifully on Bach’s Prelude.

There is, of course, a much more famous such combination – the poem Ave Maria with the beautiful melody by Gounod. Here is a version I like for a cello by Julian Lloyd Webber:

And adding the lyrics and the non-Ave but great Maria Callas:

And a bit less orthodox and buttoned-up, the voice magician Bobby McFerrin and his audience:

When you hear this beautiful melody by Gounot, you realize that Bach’s prelude is not really essential here (although it no doubt adds beauty). Indeed there are many performances of Gounod’s version without the Prelude accompaniment. In this performance by Pavarotti, the Prelude is much less pronounced and you have to listen really carefully to notice it.

Taking the Prelude completely away, the Israeli singer of international fame, Noa, wrote and sang her own Ave Maria pleading.

There are so many more variations and combination. We haven’t even started talking about Schubert’s Ave Maria… I will leave it to you to suggest.