Friday Afternoon Musical Interlude

May 20th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Sure, I like budget debates, wage trends, occupational projections as much as—probably more than—the next guy, but come Friday afternoons at On the Economy we’re going to get into some music.

Classical, jazz, funky—I love it all. But I think it makes sense to start with what IMHO is one of the greatest compositions ever composed: The Italian Concerto by JS Bach.

The density of the harmonies, all that counterpoint…it’s like this amazing discussion between a group of musical geniuses all saying different things at once that somehow come together to create a beauty that I could never describe.

The best performance of this—and I’ve heard them all—is by Alicia de Larrocha, but I couldn’t find that online anywhere. If you like this sort of thing and you haven’t heard her recording of it, I envy you. You’re in for one of life’s great moments.

Here’s Glenn Gould playing the last movement. He maybe rushes through it a bit, but it’s a fiery and intense performance.


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11 comments in reply to "Friday Afternoon Musical Interlude"

  1. chris says:

    You might be wrong about Obama’s finance team and his/its
    horrible performance with the national economy, but you are right about Bach’s Italian Concerto and Alicia de Larrocha. Good first pick for your friday musicales.

    But I’ll be looking forward to a discussion about neoliberalism, the shared economic policy of both our corrupt political parties and how, in order to protect the wealthy from their foolish, unregulated speculations, it’s designed to enslave the middle and working classes with the debt of our too-big-to-fail criminal Wall Street institutions .

  2. Mitchell Freedman says:

    A beautiful piece by Bach–and I love Gould’s superfast playing of it!

    Mr. Bernstein, I have long been a reader of your work, and was so excited by your entering the Obama administration in 2008. I was then that much more disappointed when B. Hoover Obama listened to the odious Rubin-Summers-Geithner axis instead of you.

    You have now escaped the House of the Financiers and Politically Tone-Deaf, and I second your Friday music interlude.

    For next week, may I propose Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”:

    Or perhaps, Gentle Giant’s modern classic, “On Reflection”:

  3. Stephan says:

    Hmmm … the Video doesn’t work for readers outside the USA. Here’s an alternative Video: Glenn Gould Moments-Recording Italian Concerto At the end there’s this cool habit of Gould: conducting himself with one hand while playing with the other hand.

  4. Richard Green says:

    I prefer the later version over the earlier; but for Gould’s Goldbergs I like the earlier better than the later (although both are great).

  5. Lloyd Cibulka says:


    Really like your blog, a welcome addition to the online discussion of things economic.

    Re the Alicia de Larrocha rendition of Italian Concerto – has some CDs of hers, and the Italian Concerto is available as an MP3 download as well.

  6. Joe K says:

    Wow, je suis impressioner! (sic? sorry a little rusty). Anyhow, great music is great music, regardless of the genre and I’m looking forward to your future selections.

  7. Howard Schrader says:

    Agree about the Gould, but disagree about de Larrocha. More importantly, I’m very pleased with the arrival of this blog. I hope you will find it possible to engage with some of your commentators.

  8. Jackson says:

    Jared: Great choice.

    Look no further than Alicia’s extraordinary take on the second movement of the Italian. According to music ed, the piano is a percussion instrument. The player hits a key; the key (how do I say this?) using a lever provokes a hammer to swing up and (here’s where the percussion comes in) hit the string.

    The magical thing with Alicia in her second movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto: You actually never hear the hammer hit the string. Instead, it’s like an musical “ommm” breaking out.

    I found her technique on that old London label recording so stupifying I’ve never quite recovered from it.


    • jared bernstein says:

      I know…I know…all of which poses the challenge of what to go with next. But I think I’ve got it…stay tuned.

  9. paul wolfson says:

    Jared: The Italian Concerto is over-rated (IMHO). Check out the Bach-Marcello piece (BWV 974) instead. I can only find the adagio/2nd movement on youtube, but here you go:

    Yeah, it’s not all Bach, but, …

  10. paul wolfson says:

    Ah, I should have paged down further. Here’s Gould performing it:

    Not sure yet if it’s the whole thing, but at least it starts at the 1st movement. Given that it’s Gould, the length suggests to me that it is complete.