Sunday, March 31, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in G sharp minor BWV 887 – Chiara Massini

Sorry this week’s Early Music Sunday post is late & short—I’ve been dealing with a nasty cold all week, & am just now starting to feel marginally like a member of the human race again.

This month’s featured artist has been harpsichordist Chiara Massini, & each Sunday post has brought you her performance of one of the 48 sets of preludes & fugues that make up Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. While I’d intended to go a bit more in depth in these posts, circumstances conspired against me. But the music is the main thing, & I know you will enjoy today's selection. If you’d like to learn more about Massini, all her relevant information is given in the four previous posts, which can be found here.

Hope you have a lovely Sunday.

Image of Chiara Massini links to its source at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



I met a superhero
while I was in a bind.
He was really super strong
and very super kind.

He said he had two super kids
and a lovely super wife.
And they had a super dog
to complete their super life.

He told me all about
the super things he’d done.
He’d saved the world
five hundred times…
once using just his thumb.

For hours, while I dangled,
he spun his super tales.
I listened to his bragging;
turning minnows into whales.

It seemed he’d rescued everyone
that ever had been in peril.
He’d been honored in a thousand towns
for being such a hero.

He said he was the real deal,
and not a super fake.
But he couldn’t save me right away
because he was on a break.

Barbie Angell
© 2012

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in Eb Flat Major, BWV 876 – Chiara Massini

A happy Sunday, friends. I have some wonderful music for you today—& a very short post to accompany it.

My life is busy these days, & I haven’t been able to put the time into the blog or the whole blogging process that I used to. Still, I continue to be happy that Robert Frost’s Banjo exists & that people still enjoying visiting it!

If you’ve been following along Sundays in March, you know that I’m featuring the music of Chiara Massini, a remarkably gifted harpsichordist, & specifically focusing on her performances from the set of 48 Bach preludes & fugues that we call The Well-Tempered Clavier.  Today’s selection is from the second set of 24 (each book of the two sets, which were published 20 years apart, feature a prelude & fugue set in each major & minor key.)

I enjoy Ms Massini’s playing a great deal, & you can hear more of her on her fine YouTube channel, as well as follow her on Facebook—though the latter page is in Italian—still, it does keep you up to date on her new videos. Finally, Chiara Massini has two albums available at CDBaby.

Hope you enjoy this splendid music & that you have a lovely Sunday.

Photo of Chiara Massini’s harpsichord links to its source at

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Photo of the Week 3/23/13

Cherry Blossoms & Camellias
N. Failing Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Wednesday 3/20/13

It's rare that a photo of the week is in "portrait" orientation, but this was the best shot I took with my new iPhone 4, & I didn't have a chance to get out with my regular camera. Of course, the iPhone 4 isn't new in the technological sense, but it's a huge upgrade over what I had!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"tanka chain for the spring equinox"

tanka chain for the spring equinox 
portland, oregon

weeping cherry unfurls a
blossom umbrella above the playground
the sky can’t make up its mind

finite or infinite or placid pond
pink blooms broken along the walkway

a side street’s camellias open generous
hands perplexing the breeze
a bicycle passing them by without comment

a hat blown down the sidewalk
change arriving in a whisper and a gust

yoshino’s coruscate white & abrupt
a memory overtakes you 
traffic’s red shift as the stoplight changes

a back lot white Buick swathed in mold
and the garden gate’s gray boards stand open

two magnolias gesture, their
fingers perfection cupping gray air
a half moon in afternoon for all that

surge of interstate traffic on I-5
the Failing Street bridge spans a handful of sky

A.K. Barkley
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Blossoming cherry trees-anonymous artist; from 1615 until 1868
Gold, ink, and tint on paper

public domain

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Prelude and Fugue in D minor BWV 875 – Chiara Massini

Last week I promised a short post for Early Music Sunday & then went on a bit at length about Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier & the question of enharmonic notes in meantone & well temperaments. But today’s post really will be short!

Our featured artist on Early Music Sundays in March is harpsichord player Chiara Massini. While Massini performs a diverse selection of harpsichord literature, she has made many recordings of Bach pieces, so I’m featuring her performance of various preludes & fugues from the collection of 48 by Bach now called The Well-Tempered Clavier. Today’s selection comes from Book 2, the later collection that was compiled in 1742, 20 years after the original Das Wohltemperierte Klavier.  Since the second compilation, like the first, takes us through all 24 major & minor keys, we again find ourselves in D minor.

Chiara Massini’s playing is a real delight. I invite you to visit her website as well as her fine YouTube channel, where you can hear a much wider range of her work than we can cover in five Sundays!


Image links to its source on

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“as a bird longs for land”

as a bird longs for land
over the endless waters
so my heart turns
and turns again
seeking south

(for north
is never true)

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons.
"Noah sends off a dove from the ark." Miniature on vellum; from Aegidius of Roya's "Compendium historiae universalis" of Southern Netherlands (manuscript "Den Haag, MMW, 10 A 21")C. 1450-1460

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prelude and Fugue in D minor BWV 851 – Chiara Massini

It’s late Saturday evening—& as we all know, with the time change it’s later even than it seems. As a result, I will make the Early Music Sunday post brief.

Our featured artist on Sunday this month is harpsichordist Chiara Massini, & the videos will feature her performances of five preludes & fugues from Bach’s masterpiece The Well-Tempered Clavier, which as it now exists is made up of two collections Bach compiled 20 years apart, with the Well-Tempered Clavier (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier) being compiled in 1722, & a book Bach called Twenty-Four Preludes & Fugues compiled in 1742. These collections are now considered book one & book two of the overall collection of 48 preludes & fugues—in other words, in each book one prelude & fugue in all 24 major & minor keys. 

Bach wasn’t the first composer to create a sequence of works that traveled through all keys, though his was early, coming at a time when tuning was shifting from a system we call meantone temperament to what is called well temperament, itself a precursor of the standard equal temperament used by modern Classical orchestras—not to mention midi & a high percentage of western musicians.

The problem well-temperament was trying to address had to do especially with a quirk in the meantone system. If you’ve ever taken piano lessons, you probably recall that the black notes can have more than one name—so the black note directly to the right of a C can be called C sharp or D flat. On a modern piano, the tones are identical, & that is the convention in western music overall; we call them "enharmonic" tones. However, that isn’t the case in all tuning systems, including meantone, in which it especially affected the enharmonic keys D sharp & E flat & also G sharp & A flat. Thus, to avoid dissonant intervals, one would need to retune a keyboard instrument when changing keys, especially in going from keys with several sharps to keys with flats. Well temperament addressed this issue, as displayed by Bach’s work—interestingly, the eighth prelude & fugue set in book one has the prelude written E flat minor, while the fugue is in D sharp minor, highlighting this.

Today, however, we just have regular old D minor, but played beautifully by Chiara Massini!

Image of Chiara Massini (with tuning wrench) links to its source at

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Photo of the Week 3/9/13

Mural at the Albina Yard
N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon
Thursday 3/7/13

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“Wrong Genre”

Wrong Genre

The ride back home was dark and lonely,
It started cold.
The hood on his coat helped a little
but it blocked his side vision,
He pushed it off as soon as the car warmed up.
He’d forgotten to wave when he pulled out of the  driveway
and the thought of her waiting at the window
watching him go without so much as a glance
depressed him.
He wanted to call to apologize
but didn’t, and this depressed him more.
Then he thought,
Hey, this is the beginning of a short story
not a poem.
This depressed him even more.
He knew he’d never write the short story.

Carmen Leone
© 2012

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Unter den Linden mit Blick auf das Brandenburger Tor, 1920er Jahre": Lesser Ury, c. 1920, public domain

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in C minor BWV 847 – Chiara Massini

A happy Sunday to you friends! I have a fun series lined up for Early Music Sunday in March, & I feel sure you’re going to enjoy it.

If you search on YouTube, especially along lines that stray from the pop & rock hegemony, you can make some marvelous discoveries—in many ways, most of the content on this blog as it’s been configured for the past year or two has been predicated on that. You can find in abundance artists like Jordi Savall, who is a major figure in a relatively obscure field; or you can find someone like harpsichordist Chiara Massini, an artist who’s much better known in her native Italy & elsewhere on the European continent than in the United States, but is overall an up & coming performer who’s making good use of social media to increase her exposure.

Of course, simply being active in social media is one thing; in Ms Massini’s case, however, she has the talent & the chops (if one can use that term in describing the technique of a harpsichordist!) to back it up. Her playing sparkles with delight & expressiveness. I know that some commentators on YouTube (often not the most savory group of people, nor a group always with the best of intentions) have criticized her use of rubato in playing Bach, but while I am no expert, the music sounds beautiful to me. & I’m reminded of an injunction I saw years ago in a piano instruction book as part of an introduction to a Bach piece. It noted something like “Bach is always musical, & should always be played as such.” Indeed, it seems to me that Bach’s music is not some mathematical problem waiting to be solved, but glorious music. It is expressed in complexity, but I know no aesthetic rules that state complex art forms should be shorn of expression.

There’s not a lot of English language information about Chiara Massini, but I’ll try to relay the major points during the five Sundays of March. Each Sunday I’ll feature her playing a Prelude & Fugue from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (& will also write about this master work.) For now, I can tell you that Chiara Massini has a website, which includes an English version, as well as versions in Italian & German. In addition, you can find her on Facebook, though most of these posts are in Italian, & she has a very active YouTube channel (if you want to read ahead so to speak!) Finally, her recordings are available both on iTunes & CDBaby.

Hope you enjoy this splendid music!


Image links to its source at

Saturday, March 2, 2013