The music of Johann Sebastian Bach played an important role in Thomas Bernhard’s writing. His novel, ”The Loser” (1983), which focuses on three ambitious pianists, deals intensely with Glenn Gould who, according to Bernhard, erased his personality and became an ‘art machine’. In “Old Masters” (1985) a music academic talks incessantly about the music of Brahms, Bach, Schubert, Wagner, and Mozart, as well as (classical) music as a comforting ‘survival strategy’. Bernhard’s artistic writing style, his purposeful use of repetition and cascading sentences, can be compared to the mathematical precision of Bach’s compositions. The virtuosity of the “Second Partita in D Minor for solo violin” (1717–23) is a challenge for any violinist. The concluding chaconne, which goes beyond the scope of the rest of the work, unfolds as a free variation on top of a multi-measure repeating bass figure. This movement comprises thirty-two variations, with ten in a major key in its middle.
George van Dam (*1964) is a violinist and composer. He lives and works in Brussels. Van Dam is co-founder of the contemporary music ensemble “Ictus”.