on bach

LigockiThis past Saturday afternoon I played on the occasion of a memorial service for a violist friend of mine. His name was Scott Ligocki. He grew up in Seattle, went off to study at Curtis with Michael Tree, and returned to Seattle to begin an enormously successful teaching studio, and play principal viola with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, among many other things. One of those other things was teaching each summer at the Max Arnoff Viola Institute, which I co-founded with my viola teacher at the University of Puget Sound, Joyce Ramée, in 1990.

Scott was a person of remarkable depth. I don’t know anyone who really knew all of him (is that ever possible for anyone?), but his lifelong friend Terry Muir, who spoke Saturday, said that he certainly didn’t – even though he knew him perhaps better than anyone. I only really knew Scott through that one week a year when we’d basically see each other at meal times and in the green room backstage during faculty recitals. But he affected me in subtle ways that I’m only just now beginning to understand. Some of those realizations just came to me right before the service began. Kim Zabelle, a long-time friend of Scott’s, who organized much of the service for the family, came up and thanked me for coming up to play. She said that the Bach D minor Suite was “Scott’s piece, he played it all the time, whenever [Bach was called for].” And while I sat in the audience, listening to reminiscences of friends and colleagues, and watching the ineveitably devastating slideshow with music from his life, the rightness of the Bach D minor for Scott came into focus.

The Bach Cello Suites (appropriated by violists since, basically, forever) each have their own character. The G major is open, and freely, even naively happy. The C major is much the same, perhaps with even more exhuberance. The E-flat Major is more cerebral and intense. The C Minor is darkly translucent. And the epic D major is dark and light in equal measure, peppered with virtuosity. The D minor, the second of the six, however, is for me the suite of the introvert. It is deceptively simple from its outward appearance, but surpassingly deep. It is dark, pensive, flowing. It has moments of energy – particularly its quicksilver Courante – but even the ‘happiest’ of its movements, the concluding Gigue, pulls its punches, leaving room for tinges of melancholy amidst its charactaristic bounding gestures. And that, it seems, is much like Scott was, and is, to me. Scott had a wonderful sense of humor, but also had silent depths (reached through his many years of studying meditation) that anchored everything. He always seemed so considered in all that he did. Every conversation I had with him seemed meaningful, which is exceedingly rare. And special.

So, as I began to play the Allemande and Gigue from the D minor Suite this past Saturday, it all seemed to make perfect sense. And my awe and admiration for the genius and humanity of Johann Sebastian Bach grew again by leaps and bounds. In the words of one of my dear colleagues, “Bach KNEW”.

One Reply to “on bach”

  1. Damn, sorry to learn of Scott’s passing. Although i can’t say that i “knew” him, Scott did play for me in the US premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s “Canzona” for 4 violas back in Seattle (1994). Other than has fine performance, i remember him as being calm, collected & friendly. Please pass on my condolences to Kim Zabelle, as well – she was part of the same concert.

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