The night I fell in love with J. S. Bach

I was 12, and my parents decided to change the carpet that covered the entire floor of our flat with a wooden floor. Because I had asthma, and carpets are not the best solution when your kid is allergic to dust.

Pianist Glenn Gould. Photo by Don Hunstein/Glenn Gould Foundation

First of all, I recall being literally shocked by that decision. The night they told me and my sister that we were going to have a new, nicer wooden floor instead of the carpet on which we used to play Lego, I burst into an epic meltdown. But, you know, autistics don’t really love this kind of sudden changes in their lives.

Anyway, to make a long story short, my parents tried to make it fun and announced that we were going to live like in a camping, all together on one side of our flat while workers were changing the floor on the other side.

We were spending our first week in the living room. It was a complete mess, our bedroom furniture was everywhere, we had no privacy, but somehow my mother really managed to transform that chaos into something cheerful. The “funniest” thing, however, was that my piano was put on the terrace, so every single day I amused my very patient neighbors with hours of scales, arpeggios and exercises…

Glenn Gould's chair
Glenn Gould’s chair replica, Salon du Meuble, Parigi 2007. Photo by Marco Andretta

It happened around midnight. I was sleeping when my mom woke me up. “Fabrizio, wake up, you must see this guy, this pianist…” she said. I sat on my bed, stared at the TV, and got caught.

A strange guy was playing a marvelous grand piano, surrounded by a string orchestra. The conductor, an older man who moved like a robot, on his right. The strange guy at the piano was sitting on a small chair, incredibly low, and was rotating with the music, and singing quietly but hearable.

The music was amazing. Immediately, I saw it in my mind, it was perfect. Clear geometric, colored shapes started moving in my mind together with the music, following its rhythm, its melody and harmonies. All those shapes moved neatly, they all found their place into what looked a perfect pattern in motion. The strange pianist, too, moved in a flawless circular way.  He was Glenn Gould playing Bach’s G minor concerto for keyboard and strings.

In that very moment, I knew that I needed to play that music, all Bach’s music. I felt the urge to be part of that sublime perfection. And I did it. The day after I run to the music bookstore and bought the two-part inventions. It was the beginning of a never-ending love story. Six years later, I built my first harpsichord and since then dedicated a huge part of my time to studying Bach and his contemporaries.

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