We have a pond outside the barn we are renting, and two days ago, in blissful warmth, I witnessed a truly amusing spectacle. It involved a couple of ducks.
For fear of frightening them away, I did not dare approach close enough to capture it on film. For a full five minutes, two of them, side by side and just inches apart, were dipping their beaks below the water and providing a display of perfectly synchronised feeding, their backs erect and feet flapping together. Each time they emerged together at exactly the same time, before simultaneously resuming their coordinated display.
’A poor life this if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’
It was a scene of purest innocence. Mesmerising and joyful in its playfulness. A reminder that with all the anger around us, there are simple things on standby to lighten the mood and bring a smile.
Music can do this, too. I was tempted to share an angry passage with you today, but I will hold fire on The Rite of Spring for a little longer. It’s fabulous, dramatic, and outrageous; but it will not fulfill the much-needed escapist category.
For that we need the trusted hand of Bach. In particular, his Six Brandenburg Concertos. And, even more particularly, his third (and shortest).
If you’ve ever wondered where the title came from, it’s the dedicatee: Bach presented them to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt in around 1720. (Pub quiz trivia fact number 1.)
Number 3 is my favourite, not because of its brevity or familiarity, but because of its unalloyed optimism. It has three movements, the outer two separated by a couple of chords which go by the grandiose definition of a ‘Phrygian half-cadence’. (Pub quiz trivia number 2.) It’s best described as the sort of phrase you would set to ‘Amen’. Here it acts as a moment to pause and take breath before one last assault of exuberance.
This recording gets the brief right. You have to remember that there were no conductors at the time of Bach and these pieces were led by one of the players, in this case the blond guy third left. Eye contact is therefore essential and you do not need to be a body language expert to see how much these players are enjoying their task, some, perhaps, more than others, resulting in this exhilarating performance.
And perfect synchronicity, too.
So take time out today, spare yourself ten minutes by clicking on the image below for a palliative as good as any.