Bach To The Future

One day last week, when I had been reading a piece about how The Grateful Dead are inspiring rock musicians today, I received an e mail from an old friend. Steve Bewick is a radio presenter of a weekly jazz programme, Hot Biscuits, in the UK. He often carries news we send him of live music events here on the island and as a regular visitor to us knows that we enjoy a plethora of live classical music events here on the island. His e mail included a link to a podcast speaking about how the music of Bach, even today, still influences the current jazz scene.

Given that I knew that in two days time my wife, Dee, and I would be taking a late afternoon boat ride along the east coast of Lanzarote, to a concert recital by two violins and a piano that would include several Bach pieces, I immediately listened to the You Tube programme delivered by Rick Beato.

The podcaster said at the start of his communication that he has been wanting to talk about Bach for a long time. There are a number of reasons why he hadn’t got round to it until now, but he said the main reason was that, although there is so much to say about Bach, he simply didn’t know what to call the talk. He has actually called it What Makes Bach Great? He doesn’t mean that title in a trite way but feels it opens a door that might explain why Bach and the music he created 300 years ago still relevant today.

He reminded us that Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 and died in 1750

During that time, says Beatto, Bach left a legacy that historians and musicians would be delving into for centuries still to come. His limitless musical explorations expressed the order of the physical and biological universe in exquisite mathematical precision and detail..

I claim no retention of Bach’s life or his genius, but I think I know in some way what Mr. Beato means by that. When Bach’s music was recorded on synthesiser in the late nineteen sixties / early seventies it took his music to new listeners and youngsters who at the time might well have also been listening to pop chart music. On these recordings a sufficient number of young people bought into Bach’s rhythms and melodies that for a few brief months of the twentieth century saw Bach became a bon fide rock star.

The concert we went to see only two days after listening to this broadcast included music from Bach, Beethoven and Beriot and was to be performed by two musicians we have previously featured on these pages.

After a leisurely boat ride we enjoyed a two hour relaxation and meal in the calm atmosphere at La Valeta, a mere hop skip and jump from disembarkation. The views stretch right across the moorings of the harbour and out to the sea beyond the harbour wall. Look the other way, however, and your gaze takes you to the large, beautiful housing clinging to the cliff side from top to sea level.

We like the way they break the eggs here for their signature dish and their apple tart and ice-cream is the best we have found on the island. The waiters are never obtrusive but seem to appear just when you want them to. The complimentary honey rum after a meal is a great way to finish a meal and is, for us, a sign that it is time to leave and take the fifty metre walk beside the harbour and up the slight hill towards town and the Fondeadero theare where the concert is to take place.

We arrived with fifteen minutes to spare and took what seemed to be the last two seats still unoccupied, so the performers were already guaranteed a full house.

Perhaps this was not surprising because one of the violinists is a much loved player here on Laanzarote. Iya Zhmaeva Nikolaeva, violin, was born in Volgograd, Russia in 1975, where she began her violin studies at the age of 6.  She continued in 1995 at the Gnessin Higher School of Music in Moscow, under the direction of professor-graduate V.O.  Rabei.  Once she finished her studies in 2000, she completed a postgraduate degree as a violinist-soloist with the same teacher.
In 1982 she was awarded the 2nd Prize at the “Young Volgograd Violin Virtuosos” Competition.
In 1992 she was awarded 1st Prize at the “City of Volgograd” Violin Competition.
Between 1993 and 2002 she has worked in different orchestras and musical groups in Moscow.
Since 2003, she has performed in different concerts as a soloist and with different groups on the Island of Lanzarote.

In the years 2017-2020 she gave different concerts in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Dresden, Tenerife, Lanzarote with the “Lanzarote Ensemble” formation.

We have featured Iya and her music on several occasions on these pages over the past few years including an interview with her in which she spoke of her pride in the fact that her then young teenage son had just started studies at the music conservatoire in Arrecife, which has sent many fine musicians out into the world.

That little boy she spoke of so lovingly is now a musician of confidence and a style of his own.

We had seen him play only only a fortnight or so ago and reported him here in our review of a concert by Coral In Dulci Jubilo. He was in support role on the evening but was brought back by the audience for an encore.

We did not realise at the time that he was the young son Iya had spoken of all those years ago when we interviewed her. Now here he is, playing in duet for with his mother and supported on piano by somebody else very important to this story.

Javier Díaz González, (piano) was born in La Laguna, province of Tenerife, on October 27, 1972.

He began his musical studies at the Las Palmas Superior Conservatory of Music, specializing in piano, where he received classes with teachers Esperanz Estades and Maria Luisa Alonso.  He finished his studies at the conservatory specializing in piano, and obtaining two more specialties in musical language and chamber music, with the best grades.

 He took postgraduate piano courses, working with teachers and concert pianists in France, Carmen Martínez, Denise Pascal and Pierre Reach.

Currently, after this teaching, he is starting to work in Lanzarote as a teacher of piano, chamber music, harmony, auditory education, and complementary work at the Insular Center for Musical Teaching, where he has been teaching for 24 years.

He has also performed numerous concerts, playing as a soloist, and especially in chamber music concerts, collaborating with different instrumental specials.

Tonight he was supporting a mother and her student son in a concert that was of consummate musicality rather than slick showmanship, that kept this full-house audience enchanted and engrossed.

The Bach section actually served to what the podcast, recommended by Steve Bewick, had alluded to. There were so many melodious asides that drifted away slightly before returning to the fold, in a similar way that occurs in jazz.

The Beethoven allegro and adagio were gorgeous: full and rich

I cannot say I had previously heard of the composer C de Beriot, but after tonight I will definitely find out more. His ballet piece was full of graceful twists and leaps, but it was his beautiful Spanish Airs that spoke so much of Lanzarote and the Canary Islands too, that was so perfect for this evening.

There was a deserved encore, of course, with Iya and her son Diego giving us a sparkling duet.

Much as I love these classical concerts, it is modern folk music that I most love. So, although I left the theatre whistling some of what he had heard tonight, I next found myself whistling past the graveyeard as they say, as the texi driver back to Puerto Calero relived his role in the car chases in the film The French Connectio,

After picking up our own car I drove back at a safer pace, down the slow road home, whistling , for some, reason, Paul Simon’s Mother And Child Re-Union.

And that set me thinking, in all the three hundred years of Bach’s music and the hundreds and thousands of recitals has there ever actually been another instance of a mother and child playing this music together in public?

This might well have been a unique occasion, here on Lanzarote.

Thank you all three musicians for another wonderful free concert.

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