Interview: Jacques Bailhé

Jacques Bailhé is a fantastic composer and musician, creating music for several genres, including classical and jazz. He recently incorporated a Bach piece into his new single, Farewell My Love, and his ingenuity really captured my heart. Find out more about this fascinating musician below!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a single titled Farewell My Love. What can you tell us about the track?

There are a number of respected solo piano arrangements of Bach’s fantastic Chaconne from his Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin, but when I heard Itzhak Perlman’s stunning violin performance, I was moved to tears by the furies and passions of this music. There are no tempo indications or much else to guide performance written in Bach’s autograph score—really just the notes. But when I started to play those notes, I couldn’t help imagining a story based on accounts of his return from a trip to find his first wife, Maria Barbara Bach, had died just a few days before and was buried, apparently in an unmarked grave. It’s been suggested that Bach wrote the piece to commemorate her death, but that’s a theory more widely held among musicians than scholars—maybe because the portraits of Bach we typically see depict a dour old man.

But when he wrote the piece, he was thirty-five and lived the life of a full-blooded, passionate man. Just a few years earlier, he had been jailed for insolence when he barked at his employer’s criticisms of his music. He ate and drank heartily, fathered seven children with Maria, and loved to dance with her in the local Biergarten. I’ve tried to capture all of that in my arrangement for solo piano, imagining him standing beside her grave as he said goodbye to Maria, and she to him. Because it’s very difficult to play, I also wrote a second arrangement for two pianos with four hands, one player assuming the character of Bach, the other of Maria.

How has the reception to Farewell My Love been so far, and where can the song be purchased?

I was afraid I’d be harshly criticised for the many liberties I take with his score, but I felt translating the sonorities in the solo violin score to piano needed them to express the emotions in the music and the story I was imagining. Luckily, reviewers have responded very favourably and apparently understand what I was trying to do.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

My next release comes later this month. It’s an original piece titled Deseos Secretos for romantic, Spanish style acoustic guitar, electric guitar, percussion and bass.

Are there any plans to release an album or EP anytime soon?

I hope to finish my album of pieces for piano later this year.

You’ve had a really interesting life, including playing bass for Big Lost, producing music for TV/film and chanting prayers as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. How do you balance it all? Do you have any other projects on the go?

Balance? My life is anything but! I typically work on two or three pieces at the same time, purposely in widely different genres to try to avoid getting in a rut. They influence each other as I go. You may hear jazz influences in the rhythms and sonorities in Farewell My Love.

Do you have anything else exciting coming up this year?

For the rest of this year, I’m in ‘the woodshed,’ as they say. I have a lot of music I’m trying to finish.

Farewell My Love is based on the music of composer Bach. What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

The jazz band Snarky Puppy, pianist Hiromi, and a steady diet of Beethoven and the boys, Miles Davis’s early work, Pop and interesting “ethnic” tracks from around the world.

You’re from Los Angeles. What is the local music scene like at the moment?

Absolutely smokin’! Beside the steady torrent of all kinds of music, works for cinema pour out and I find them to be some of most fascinating orchestral music written today.

Do you have any tour dates lined up for the UK?

The last live dates I played were in 2009. Seems eons ago. I’ve just been so consumed with composition. It’s my bliss.

Any last words for the fans?

Endless thanks to all around the world for listening and your heartfelt mail and comments. They inspire me.