Bothered By Too Much Bach
OUR barren bucolic lives were recently enriched by the appearance of a classical-music radio station which regales us 24 hours with cultural generosity, and probably doesn't make any money, although it has more friends than apple pie.
My constant connubial companion recently telephoned the studio to thank the management for favoring us, and in the conversation with the receptionist-ostiary she suggested that perhaps they leaned a trifle heavily on Johann Sebastian Bach. There was, we noticed, a consequential easing off on that gentleman's prolific production, but in a few days the Bach-ing resumed.
My wife's attitude toward Herr Bach's so-called music is not without reason.
It was in 1966 that we realized our ambition to spend some time "on the continent," and with methodical and leisurely stages we came at last to the Free Hanseatic State of Bremen where good fortune led us to the Hotel Bremer Hospiz and a discerning clerk led us to Room No. 1.
As usual when approaching a German hotel, I suggested staying overnight, but with the understanding we might stay longer if we found something in the vicinity to detain us. We promptly fell in love with Bremen - it remains our favorite city - and made the clerk happy by staying two weeks and later returning for one more.
The hotel had an excellent dining room, and at our first supper there we fell in with a French couple who were having trouble with the fair-haired Fraulein. They had no German, and she had no French. They wanted cups of hot chocolate, and she kept bringing them bars of Suchard. We were able to bring the Franco-Prussian confrontation to a peaceful end, and thus enjoyed the evening with a gentleman (and his wife) who was an authority on stained glass - church glass.
He had been brought from Chartres by the Bremer city government to study the situation with the glass in the great Cathedral of St. Peter, and to advise as to its restoration and preservation. This couple had Room No. 2, and he was to look at the cathedral the next morning.
We, also, visited the cathedral the next morning, having now a curiosity, but we did not connect with the Frenchman there. We did, however, admire the structure and inspect its glass. Dating from the 12th century in Romanesque style, the "Dom" is really but one of the city's attractions that captivated us. By it sits the 15th-century Rathaus, with its folksy statue of the city musicians and the protection of Friend Roland.
We decided to spend the weekend and attend Sunday services in the cathedral. But we didn't see the glass expert from Chartres and his lady again. We never heard what he decided about St. Peter's stained glass.
We gathered the Sunday worship was Lutheran - in Germany the visitor can easily tell the persuasion by the bust of Martin Luther in the front vestibule, or the lack of it. The minister officiated from a high crow's-nest of a pulpit so that eyeing him was a strain on the neck muscles. While we didn't understand one word of his homily, we much admired his impeccable diction. He was magnificent on the umlauts, and said things like "noch nicht," so he stirred the emotions. But the cathedral's pipe organ "sen t" us. Wunderbar!
On the way out, after the benediction, we saw a notice that on the following Thursday there would be a public organ recital, free to the public, by the professor of music at the University of Berlin. We told our hotel clerk we would remain through Thursday.
Bremen has plenty to occupy the visitor. We went to the port and visited the "model room," where toymakers have reproduced a miniature waterfront, and so on. And Thursday we went to the organ concert.
Alas, the entire program was a succession of tedious Bach suites, such as the things he wrote to exercise his wife's fingers as he taught her the clavichord. About as musical as the balance of a wheelbarrow. A whole evening of dee-dee-dee-dee-dee Bach? I felt no. After enough was many times enough, I leaned to whisper, "At the end of this one, let's go!" The piece ended. We rose, and the entire churchful of organ lovers rose and left with us. So it is possible to get too much Bach.