Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

The Bbc's Bachfest


Nick Bennett
 Share

Recommended Posts

I thought it would be too much but it isn't - it's wonderful!

 

The Beethoven week was too much - but it's so much more difficult to become sated with Bach than Beethoven. I've barely turned Radio 3 off since Friday.

 

This morning there was a serious discussion about organ stops! Sandy Burnett was the presenter. I believe I have heard him say he is an organist himself.

 

I have to admit that whilst I know the keyboard music pretty well, I didn't know the cantatas at all - nor the oratorios and masses. I predict my CD collection will be expanding soon!

 

Is everyone else listening avidly?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought it would be too much but it isn't - it's wonderful!

 

I have to admit that whilst I know the keyboard music pretty well, I didn't know the cantatas at all - nor the oratorios and masses. I predict my CD collection will be expanding soon!

 

Is everyone else listening avidly?

 

=========================

 

It's easy to talk in superlatives, but what strikes me about the BBC marathon, is the fact that they have not chosen the strictly "purist school" of contemporary Bach scholarship, but have included Keyboard Suites played on piano, Busoni arrangements of organ-works, the annoying recordings of Glenn Gould which pick out the small bits and miss the big picture, and so on.

 

In a way, it has been a Cook's Tour of Bach interpretation and some wonderful spoken dialogue in the form of Bach scholarship; especially that from Ton Koopman, who really has made Bach a very special study indeed.

 

Of course, the finest of all Bach writing is to be found and heard in the Cantatas, Oratorios and the B-Minor Mass. I feel sure that Nick Benett will be walking on air long after the last notes have faded away!

 

I am fortunate in that I work through the nights, and have thus been able to enjoy the nightly broadcasts almost uninterrupted.

 

However, one thing has struck me very forcibly, and this is the changing nature of "interpretation."

 

Equally, it has struck me that certain interpretations are just so good as to seem as fresh to-day as they did 30 or 40 years ago.

 

Of particular merit must be the superlative harpsichord recordings of Bach made by Kenneth Gilbert, which I believe came out in the late 70's or early 80's....what a joy they are.

 

Out of the woodwork came the David Oistrach (Sp?) version of the Double Violin Concerto.......refined, aristocratic and un-rushed; perhaps demonstrating an approach to Bach which many fail to understand or fully appreciate.

 

Hans Fagius impressed me at the organ, as did Ton Koopman's refreshing ornamentation, which I feel sure is thoroughly well researched and entirely within the spirit of the music and the age.

 

Jaques Loosier has come as a refreshing blast from the past, but what a pity that Florence Foster Jenkins never recorded Bach!! All that counterpoint and religion, a good belly-laugh would have been nice.

 

Perhaps the most disappointing recording, was that from an Italian orchestra, who seemed to delight in racing through a Brandenburg Concerto with a conductor trained in the Lully school of stick-thumping pomposity. This was supposed to be a "fresh approach," but there wasn't a hint of aristrocratic elegance or restraint; every player merely concerned with the next bar, which they thumped out joyfully as if it were a pop-song.

 

A mixed-bag certainly, and ample food for thought. This is Radio 3 at its' very best!

 

Oh yes! What a joy to hear, for the very first time, a gut strung harpsichord; none of which survive from Bach's day, but which have been re-created as best the makers know how from the descriptions left. What a lovely sound!

 

This has definitely been worth the licence fee.

 

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Licence fee? You have televisions?

 

Yes, the interpretation thing is interesting. I thought Karl Richter's interpretations seemed less dated than other performances from the same period. Not all the performances have been completely up to scratch either - there was one on Monday evening where a bass soloist seemed to be having the utmost difficulty pitching the notes.

 

I find I react against arias featuring semi-quaver runs in the solo part - the ones with lots of ho-ho-ho-ho ho-ho-ho-ho ho-ho-ho-ho going on. Is it just a particular way of performing these that I don't like - can they be performed more legato to eliminate the ho-ho-ho-ing? Do these runs only occur in the later cantatas? I haven't noticed it in the early ones, though my listening hasn't been systematic enough to discern a pattern.

 

Cantata 10, Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, blew me away - especially suddenly recognising source of the Schubler chorale (I knew these were all adaptations of cantata movements but had never before heard the original versions) with the chorale theme played by an oboe and the accompaniment woven around it by the singers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of ho ho ho ings can cause nodules on the vocal chords. It is not recommended (ruins the voice) and I, too, don't find it that attractive.

 

I, too have been discovering the - until now largely unknown to me - cantatas. I think there are some "Bach potboilers" - but that still means they are beautifully crafted pieces of music by any other standard. Some are on another plane altogether: the first movement of Ich habe genug - the bass solo - is simply sublime and I stayed in the car (my usual spot for listening to Radio 3) in the car park until it was complete.

 

How did people's Toccatas and Fugues go on Sunday? I played mine at the end of our church the carol service and nobody in the packed congregation stirred. There were a few murmurings after a minute or so but everyone sat still and silence descended on the congregation until the end, until they broke out in sustained applause. I wasn't expecting this and I found this impromptu recital to 350 didn't help the nerves but was delighted at the same time. It certainly brought that music to people who might otherwise not have bothered and raising the profile of Bach's organ music in that manner made it a worthwhile exercise to me.

 

Any other stories?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

How wonderfully ironic that the Royal Academy's Bach concert this afternoon should conclude with Ein’ feste Burg - A Safe Stronghold Sure. Where was it from? - Brixton Prison!

How lowering for those clutching hacksaws but undoubtedly reassuring for the general population.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How wonderfully ironic that the Royal Academy's Bach concert this afternoon should conclude with Ein’ feste Burg - A Safe Stronghold Sure. Where was it from? - Brixton Prison!

How lowering for those clutching hacksaws but undoubtedly reassuring for the general population.

 

Yes, it was a rather bizarre choice given the location. They even had to produce a special translation so as to avoid reminding the inmates of their predicament.

 

It was very moving, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering Bach is the number 1 topic for people interested in organs, I wondered how long it would take before a message was posted about the BBC Bach series. I mentioned it in my post on Quintadena, on the 13th December, and also mentioned Karl Richter. But it did not stir any correspondance. People are too busy designing 10 stop organs? And there were no comments about how Wayne Marshall interprets the D min Toccata either?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering Bach is the number 1 topic for people interested in organs, I wondered how long it would take before a message was posted about the BBC Bach series. I mentioned it in my post on Quintadena, on the 13th December, and also mentioned Karl Richter. But it did not stir any correspondance. People are too busy designing 10 stop organs? And there were no comments about how Wayne Marshall interprets the D min Toccata either?

 

====================

 

 

Actually, we were too busy listening to Bach, or at least getting ready to listen to Bach.

 

Karl Richter I always rated very highly as a Bach performer, but I was told by a German organist that Richter lost interest in his later life!

 

Wayne Marshall I haven't heard, but I'd love to hear him improvise a jazz version of the D-minor, which isn't Bach of course.....so the scholars tell us.

 

Another moment inspired me in the Bach-fest.

 

Who heard some of the wonderful MOOG synthesiser recordings of the Brandenburgs?

 

They really are classic recordings, and add to the music rather than subtract from it. There's hope for us yet in this digital age.

 

This afternoon (Thursday) we were treated to a magnificent performance of something or other, played on the Schnitger of St.Martin's, Groningen in the Netherlands. I heard this organ live last year, and it really is utterly fabulous. The recording captured the sound unusually well.

 

I think that this is one of those few organs where I would like to die at the console.

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was bowled over by the great A minor organ Prelude and Fugue played by Simon Preston....absolutely flawless throughout and so VERY musical.

 

I'm delighted that the great-ly misunderstood P.D.Q.Bach made a welcome appearence in the form of the "Grossest Fugue." I had no idea that P.D.Q.Bach knew Beethoven, and listened to his themes standing outside the house as Beethoven bashed away at the piano. Apparently, P.D.Q. would then rush away and write fugues on the subjects.

 

What a miracle that this "interesting" werk was found inside a coffee percolator, acting as a filter, but how sad that an exact interpretation is profoundly difficult, due to the fact that some of the ingrained coffee grains are indistinguishable from the notes. This may explain some of the more fascinating harmonies in the work.

 

Still, the P.D.Q. was a whole lot better than the grunts and groans of Glenn Gould, and at least we heard the big idea rather than the minute detail of the errant coffee granules!

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did anyone else hear Cantata 146 this lunchtime with the organ obbligato in the Sinfonia (aka the first movement of the D minor harpsichord concerto) played on J. L. Krebs's old instrument in Altenburg castle? Wow! Nothing apologetic here: for once the solo organ was allowed to be the King of Instruments. What a sound! What a performance! I was completely gobsmacked.

 

If you missed it, it's no.63 on Radio 3's "Listen Again", about 50 minutes into the programme.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did anyone else hear Cantata 146 this lunchtime with the organ obbligato in the Sinfonia (aka the first movement of the D minor harpsichord concerto) played on J. L. Krebs's old instrument in Altenburg castle? Wow! Nothing apologetic here: for once the solo organ was allowed to be the King of Instruments. What a sound! What a performance! I was completely gobsmacked.

 

If you missed it, it's no.63 on Radio 3's "Listen Again", about 50 minutes into the programme.

 

I have it on CD - bloomin' marvellous - assuming you mean the Gardiner recording?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Actually, the whole set (they're not all out yet) are very very good. I have Vols 1, 8 & 14, 24. I can't find fault with any of them. Simply beautiful. The other one I recommend is the Andreas Scholl recording (Harmonia Mundi, I think) of the Bach Cantatas for Solo Alto.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The other one I recommend is the Andreas Scholl recording (Harmonia Mundi, I think) of the Bach Cantatas for Solo Alto.
Now there's a voice to die for. I might be interested in this too, but what sort of speed does he take the first movement of Wiederstehe doch der Sünde? I'm still looking for my ideal performance of this. Gardiner is too fast and mannered for my liking, but the old Thurston Dart/Helen Watts version is too slow and indulgent. What I want is something gentle, but flowing.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Barry Oakley
I thought it would be too much but it isn't - it's wonderful!

 

The Beethoven week was too much - but it's so much more difficult to become sated with Bach than Beethoven.  I've barely turned Radio 3 off since Friday.

 

This morning there was a serious discussion about organ stops!  Sandy Burnett was the presenter.  I believe I have heard him say he is an organist himself.

 

I have to admit that whilst I know the keyboard music pretty well, I didn't know the cantatas at all - nor the oratorios and masses.  I predict my CD collection will be expanding soon!

 

Is everyone else listening avidly?

 

Sorry, Nick, I've had it up to my neck with the Bachfest - enough to last me a lifetime. And to all those of similar mind I wish them a speedy relief from all their sufferings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now there's a voice to die for. I might be interested in this too, but what sort of speed does he take the first movement of Wiederstehe doch der Sünde? I'm still looking for my ideal performance of this. Gardiner is too fast and mannered for my liking, but the old Thurston Dart/Helen Watts version is too slow and indulgent. What I want is something gentle, but flowing.

 

Right in the middle of the two, tempo wise. Sort of sit back and let it flow over you. Get it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, it's all over, and what a treat it was; impossible though it may have been to take it all in or listen to the entire thing.

 

As a personal final thought, I wonder how many people noticed just what a major part the performers and conductors of England and the Netherlands played in the choice of music?

 

I think that speaks volumes about the quality of music-making to be heard in each.

 

Well done the Beeb!

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, Nick, I've had it up to my neck with the Bachfest - enough to last me a lifetime. And to all those of similar mind I wish them a speedy relief from all their sufferings.

 

I know what you mean - I didn't enjoy the week of Beethoven in the summer, and if, as I suspect, we get a week of Mozart next year I shall have to give it a miss. In general I don't think these weeks of a single composer are a good idea. It's just that Bach does it for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...