An Exploration of J. S. Bach’s Creative Beginnings
and Our Experience of His Music
“I have had to work hard: Anyone who works just
as hard will get just as far.” J.S. Bach
So why have there not been more “Bachs” around? What were the special ingredients that enabled Sebastian to turn himself into “Bach”?
Based on the most recent scholarship
we will look at the milieu that fostered young Sebastian’s development
and the struggle of his early years to promote his artistic expression.
We will see how his beginnings as a composer unfold within a few years
into amazing accomplishments that clearly bear the “Bach” signature.
Along the way we will ask how Sebastian acquired the
basics of polyphonic composing by absorbing the musical traditions he inherited.
We will listen to pieces by composers that Sebastian was exposed to early
on as well as those that he used for study. Peeking over his shoulders
we will try to learn how Sebastian mastered fugue writing in his teenage
years. Participating in Sebastian’s autodidactic “apprenticeship”
will help us deepen our listening experience of compositions that are otherwise
not easily accessible.
Tracing Sebastian’s musical development we will hear
a performance of some of his first keyboard compositions - pieces that
traditional Bach scholars tended to keep under wraps or branded as inauthentic
- as well as compositions that are regarded as early masterworks.
We will pinpoint the breakthrough-features in those compositions which
signify that Bach is coming into his own.
Noting that Bach’s life was overshadowed from early
on by traumatic events and that he mustered astonishing resilience and
unbroken creativity throughout his life, we will explore the possible psychological
sources of resilience and creativity in his childhood.
Other topics covered in the retreat:
About the Retreat Leaders:
Sara Botwinick MS, MFT, is a psychotherapist and an independent scholar who
has published in the field of trauma studies and conducted workshops for mental health professionals on the impact of trauma and trauma recovery. A Bach fan since her early teens, she became intrigued with the question of how Bach coped with the traumatic events of his life and was able to nurture his own creativity. Most recently, she presented a paper at the 2004 Biennial Meeting of the American Bach Society at Rutgers University New Brunswick. An extended version of this paper has recently appeared under the title, "From Ohrdruf to Mulhausen: A Subversive Reading of J. S. Bach's Relationship to Authority" in BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Insitutute, Vol XXXV, No.2 (2004).
For more information please email Sara Botwinick at email@example.com or call her at 215-473-4502.
Dmitry Borisovsky is a pianist and harpsichordist. He graduated from the Novosibirsk Academy of Music in 1985. Dmitry taught piano at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music and is presently on the staff of Nelly Berman School of Music in Haverford, PA. Since 1988 he has been performing piano duo with his wife, Olga. Together they appeared in concerts in Russia, Israel, Switzerland, Germany and the United States. Dmitry "discovered" Bach at age 11 when he found a frayed copy of the French Suites in a second hand book store. Even though his teacher discouraged him from playing them he doted over them and secretly practiced them. This experience grew into a lifelong passion for Bach's music.