Last night, my wife and I celebrated New Year’s Eve by attending a joyous concert of Baroque music — Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Rameau — given by the BERKSHIRE BACH SOCIETY at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It was glorious: the soloists were enthusiastic and warm, the music danced through the very lovely hall. (And, as an aside, no one’s cellphone went off in 150 minutes of music.)
On the program was BWV 1043, Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, by our Johann. When it began, I leaned forward happily and thought “I know this!” And this morning, I can offer the evidence: two recordings for the Swing label by Eddie South and Stephane Grappelli, violins; Django Reinhardt, guitar.
(November 23, 1937) Interpretation swing sur le premier movement du concerto en re mineur du J.S. Bach.
(November 25, 1937) Improvisation swing du concert en re mineur du J. S. Bach.
And their delightful variations in swing.
Notice that this one begins with Eddie South quoting MAHOGANY HALL STOMP:
and the second side gives the introduction to Django:
Those recordings aren’t blasphemies: they honor the spirit of Bach — melodic invention, rhythmic energy, and good-humored swing.
Thanks to the unparalleled violin scholar Anthony Barnett for his wise assistance. See his astonishing work (books, CDs, archives) here. He has created imperishable scholarship on Stuff Smith, Eddie South, Henry Crowder, and Juice Wilson among others; his “ABFable” CDs offer music by a young Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Nance, Jimmie Blanton, Ben Webster, Al Casey, Ray Perry, Ginger Smock, Helen Ward, Rex Stewart, Jonah Jones, Joe Bushkin, Jo Jones, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Clyde Hart, Al Tinney — treasures.
Here, just because it is accurate, endearing, and hilarious, is violinist Rob Flax “unboxing” the Stuff Smith materials issued by Anthony:
So much Stuff indeed!
Since this is the first post of a new year, let me amplify my usual closing. May 2023 by a wonderful year for all who read this blog and those who don’t, musicians profiled here, their partners, families, and pets. Writing this blog (fifteen year this February) brings me joy: I wish you all the same and more, in whatever flavors and colors you love most, your heart’s desire and the best surprises.
May your happiness increase!