August 2006 Convention
Pittsburgh, PA

Dancing Reciting, Reciting and Praying to the Allemande of Bach’s Partita in A Minor

August 12, 2006

In his presentation on circular breathing, Robert Dick cited as an inappropriate application the playing of the Allemande from Bach’s Partita in A minor for solo flute. We all agree the Allemande is a mystery to fathom, fiendishly elusive in structure (even when we take the time to try to parse it by chords) and uncomfortable to perform due to the irregularity of motives and phrases. And, definitely not improved by circular breathing as a means to “eliminate” the problem of where to take breaths. Intuition is inadequate; analysis exasperatingly unproductive.

Enter the venerable Betty Bang Mather who, after stating the problem, had a dozen couples dancing the allemande while her former student and co-author, flutist Elizabeth Sadilek, performed on a modern flute.

Testimony to the validity of the subject and to the authority of presenter Mather, elder Walfrid Kujala was as engrossed as the rest of the class, enthusiastically seated in the front row and participating fully in the dancing. Few under 35 were spotted in the audience. Teachers who cherish the contributions of the elders in our company must help our high school and collegiate generation know to seek the knowledge these professors hold.

A subtext of this class illuminated the journey of an experienced flutist-scholar discovering poetry behind music. The Allemande probably is intended for flute, and the oddities in phrase structure were convincingly explained by comparisons with Psalms 19 and 27. Sure, Mather published her findings, and this reporter owns the little book...but how much more satisfying it was to hear the excitement of discovery as related live and demonstrated by this passionate, intelligent, and charming professor.

—Ginny Atherton