Recently a nephew sent to the immediate family suggestions for Christmas gifts -- for himself. Actually I found the list helpful: no BMWs or neckties made it, thus ruling out one option I had been seriously considering.If anyone is making a similar list to email to loved ones, I happily recommend one item that is a stocking-stuffer and not a budget-breaker.Andrs Schiff has a splendid new recording of both books of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" -- an inexhaustible world of joy for the price of a seat in the Met's Family Circle (and no nose bleeds).The notes that accompany the recording say:

Things in The Well-Tempered Clavier always come in pairs, but pairs that, unlike butterfly wings, display an essential asymmetry, if an asymmetry that will sound inevitable, even natural.Prelude and fugue are gate and path. The gate leads to the path, allows us to sense the path beyond it. Striding the path, we remember the gate that allowed us through.

I appreciate the image. The gates are not uniform, and the paths open upon vistas as varied as a young person's yearnings or an old person's memories.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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