My Bach-mania continues. I cannot get enough of ol’ Johann Sebastian. Sometimes I just sit here in the twilight listening to Sheep May Safely Graze and shedding a few gentle tears at the fleeting beauty of our days.
You know who Bach really loved? Vivaldi, that’s who. Surfing my local PBS channel and literally Knitting to This, I caught an episode of “Now Hear This” in which violinist Scott Yoo wanders around Italy, telling the story and playing the music of Vivaldi, specifically the famous Four Seasons violin concertos.
I nearly dropped my knitting and shouted “WHAT” when I learned that Vivaldi was almost forgotten, except in quotes and transcriptions by later composers. His work was thought largely to be lost until one day in the 1920s, when a priest walked into a library with a trove of manuscripts he was looking to sell. If the librarian hadn’t been a music lover, the manuscripts likely would have been sold off piecemeal and lost for good. Instead they are scrupulously maintained, together, in Turin.
Isn’t life amazing? What else have we lost, or nearly? It must be so much it doesn’t bear thinking about.
I really loved this episode, especially the part where Yoo visits a violin maker, who talks about how it took 5 generations of accumulated knowledge to produce Stradivarius, a chain of craftsmanship that was fatally interrupted by Napoleon’s wars. They are trying to rebuild that knowledge again. Contemporary luthiers know that they will not see the full fruit of their labors in their own lifetime. Isn’t that beautiful?
Also: who knew that playing a violin in a meadow would get it all out of wack? Keep your lutes indoors, people!
“Now Hear This” airs on PBS channels and streams on PBS Passport and Amazon Prime.