Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto Number 2 in E Major, BWV 1042 for violin

Bach wrote three concertos for solo violin–the A minor, the G minor and today’s entry, the E major.  Of the three, I like this one the best.  In Bach’s time, the concerto form for single instrument was relatively young, having been developed mostly by the Italian composers, especially Vivaldi. Bach studied the works of Vivaldi, even going so far as to transcribe some of his works for the keyboard.

The E Major concerto is a wonderfully upbeat piece that I had the pleasure of hearing live twice when my oldest daughter was taking violin lessons in her teens.  Her teacher’s more advanced students performed the first movement of this concerto at different recitals. It is quite an impressive, uplifting piece, light in an Italian way and not at all moody as the form would later become in the hands of Beethoven and Brahms. The first movement has a fast, almost jig-like rhythm which propels it along at an astounding pace. The second movement, an adagio, is stately and florid, yet dignified. The final passage goes back to the quick allegro pace, but with a hint of a thoughtful undercurrent.

In style and tone, it reminds me of one of the Brandenburg concertos. And since Bach borrowed from himself quite frequently, that makes perfect sense. It is one of Bach’s most accessible works, full of energy and life and deserves to be in anyone’s basic library of classical music.  It was fitting music for one of the sunniest parts of my life.

Bach Biography

Buy CDs or download MP3s of Bach’s Violin Concertos

My Life (Continued)

The summer of 1976 marked a huge psychological turning point for me, because it was the summer I turned 21.

In my white bread, lower middle class background there were few official rites of passage that were not religious. Getting your drivers license was one and turning 21 the other. Officially, I had already been an adult for three years: I could vote and be sent off for canon fodder in the next war. But in my state at least, the real door to adult hood would not open until you hit the age of 21. I’m talking of course of drinking age. Until I hit 21, I had to slip over the state line to Michigan (where the drinking age was 18) on weekends to buy beer and hang out in bars. Now I could drink in my own home town.

When I turned 21, on June 13, 1976 my girl friend, Linda, drove up from Indianapolis. I think my parents had gone away for the weekend or for their summer vacation and I relished being alone with her in a real house and not a dorm room. She and Thom Klem and another friend with whom I had started spending more time, Jerzy Strachen, went out to a small bar near Jerry’s house, called The Oaken Bucket to toast my manhood.

It was an odd evening. There was some friction between Jerzy and Thom. They had gone to high school together and roomed in the same dorm at Indiana University before Jerry quit school and returned to South Bend to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a journeyman insulator. Thom did not approve. He thought Jerry was wasting his talents. I think someone toasted me, and I remember thinking, “well, this is it?

Looking back at my attitude toward drugs and alcohol back then, I shudder. Though I had this driving urge to transform myself from the class clown into an intellectual, my preferred way of relaxing on the weekend–no, it wasn’t relaxation I sought, it was pure release–was to get drunk. The amazing thing is that no one ever told me different, save for one person. Of course, over the years seeing many people ruin their lives and the lives of their loved ones with drug addiction has caused me to temper my own drinking habits. But though I never became addicted to alcohol or drugs, it took me years to learn that I did not need them to relax or have fun or tap into my more creative side.

Jerzy and I started hanging out that summer. He initiated things. One day he called me up and asked if I’d like to go inner-tubing on the St. Joe River. I met him at Leaper Park and we drove up to the Michigan State line where we left one car and then drove back to the park. He pulled three inner-tubes from the back of his Fiat–one for each of us and a third for a cooler with beer. I was a little scared. I was a good swimmer and had often swam in the slow part of the river above the hydroelectric dam near my house. But few people ever swam in this part of the river-the current was too fast, and there was a lot of submerged debris. My father told me he had almost drowned as a youth in this part of river.

It was a hot summer day, and the water felt deliciously cool as we slipped in and the swift current pulled us out to the center. We seemed to hit it off, and as he told me about his life, I started to envy him. He seemed so worldly. Jerzy had excelled in French and had gone abroad to study in Aix-en-Provence. He had wispy strawberry blonde hair; he stood about 6 feet, and he had a charming manner. In France, he soon moved in with a girl who made jewelry. I floated along in awe of Jerzy, wondering why he had given it all up-broken up with the girl, moved back to the States, dropped out of school, and most of all how he could stand working with the other journeymen who did little else, according to him, but drink and play cards on the job and on the weekends party their brains out.

On another occasion, he and I drove to Bloomington for a visit. I stayed with Linda, and he with some other friends. We all met up on Sunday and had a little pick nick. We sat in a little park drinking wine, and eating slices of fresh green pepper and pieces of Gruyere cheese.

Everything Jerzy did seemed just so right–he could talk about French literature, cook up a wonderful meal with crab-stuffed pockets of phyllo dough, or pull a girl out onto the dance floor and whiz her around quite convincingly.

So this summer saw a number of changes in addition to the age hurdle. It was the first year that I started hanging out more with friends I had met at college and less with my old high school chums. My high school friends, Endicott and Tollar, were majoring in Math at Purdue University and I seemed to have fewer and fewer things in common with them. I felt more on the same wave length with Thom and Jerzy. Thom rarely was interested in going out drinking, and so I ended up calling up Jerzy more and more.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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