A musical offering

Maestro_240

 

This evening, I attended a performance of A Musical Offering by JS Bach (opus BWV 1079) at the Royal College of Music in Kensington. Each of the sections of this work was introduced by the conductor, Joe Parks, who explained what was musically interesting about them.

The whole piece is based on a theme composed by King Frederick II of Prussia. He gave it to Bach on the 7th of May 1747, and challenged the composer to do something interesting with it. A Musical Offering is what Bach did with the King’s theme. I am no musician, so can hardly explain the compositional procedures with which Bach exploited the King’s somewhat dull theme. For example, in one of the sections improvisations on the theme are played with musicians simultaneously playing the modified theme both forwards and in reverse. In another section, the theme is improvised in a range of different keys. In brief, this piece by Bach is both intriguing and challenging for musicians. Although this aspect of the music is lost on me, my enjoyment of the work was not impaired.

What fascinates me is that a piece of music so full of compositional twists and turns is a delight to hear. Bach has not only satisfied his desires to hone his compositinal technique in this piece, but also he has created a work that is highly satisfying to the listener.

Great music like great paintings reach into the the inner subconscious of the listener or viewer and thereby evoke an almost visceral sensation of joy. It does not matter that the music is full of compositional magic or the painting might be impressionistic or abstract because the great artist knows how to produce a work that reaches those hidden parts of the body that evoke feelings we call emotion. Without doubt, A Musical Offering did that for me.

A brief glimpse of the past

PANZ

 

“… and set off after the cab. He dismissed it by Panzer’s Delicatessen on Bayswater Road…

So, wrote Frederick Forsyth in his novel The Fourth Protocol

If you look for Panzers today, you will not find it in Bayswater. There is a Panzer’s delicatessen in St Johns Wood, but it is not the same firm.

The shop was on Bayswater, facing the Czech Embassy, between Linden Gardensand Claricarde Gardens.  Panzers was still in business in 1985. It closed sometime after that (before 1993). 

A couple of days ago, I noticed that the shop front of a recently closed branch of  the wine retailer Oddbins was being renovated. The sign board above the display window had been removed, revealing some old tiling. Barely discernable on the tiling were three letters ‘PAN’, these being the first three letters of ‘Panzers’. For a brief time, the remains of the now long-gone delicatessen mentioned by Frederick Forsyth may be seen by passers  by. Soon, it will either be removed or covered up.

This long lost shop also appears in another well-known novel, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. She wrote:

She painted until one and then drove me down to Kensington for lunch … 

… She took me to a little Italian place for lunch, down near where she and Leo live, called Panzer’s Pasta and Pizza …”

A photograph taken in the 1970s shows that there were two Panzers close to each other in Bayswater (see: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/notting-hill-gate-the-other-high-street/). I have posted a detail from it. The branch, whose sign was partially revealed recently is marked with a red arrow. The other branch, which I suspect was the one in Helene Hanff’s book, is marked with a yellow arrow:

PANZERS