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Forte: Masterpieces fire the imagination

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Denise Dillenbeck, Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster.

The Yakima Symphony season of musical masterpieces is well underway. Some of the world’s most beautiful music appears on our programs this year. This has gotten me thinking about my personal connection to great works of art. One of the first I encountered was Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin from his Partita No. 2 in D Minor.

I first learned Bach’s Chaconne when I was a teenager. I remember spelling the chords out on a piano keyboard when I didn’t yet have the skill to play them on the violin. The music is of such amazing quality that every facet of it can be admired and studied separately without losing any of its beauty and wonder. I could sit and plunk out simple chords as a young girl at the piano, and the depth and perfection of the harmony alone was enough to fill me with joy and astonishment.

I have come back to the piece through the years, and each time I’ve found layers of previously undiscovered beauty in its design. It doesn’t matter how much experience I log in practicing it — it always has more in store for me. I think this may be the hallmark of a masterpiece.

How many things can we say this about? So many stories and songs of our childhoods wind up being valued mostly because of nostalgia as we get older, not because they have new things to teach us.

Sadly, this is even true of many relationships; some simply cannot stand the test of time, and even some of our deepest and most hopeful commitments become skins we shed and leave behind as we grow out of them. The ones that stay vital and relevant as we travel through the years can meet us where we are, and yet beckon us forward into the future.

Masterpieces make great companions. They help us reflect on our history while they inspire us to develop our imaginations. They offer solace while also challenging us. If we’re willing to open the doorways they present, there is no limit to where they may take us.

• Denise Dillenbeck is Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster. Learn more about her and her role at

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