Friday, December 09, 2005

What's all this about Bach?

Thought I'd better explain exactly what's going on, Bachwise, in this Fairest Isle, in order to make sense of previous post but also to alert listeners everywhere to the possibility of listening to it online.

Briefly, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting the complete works of J S Bach across all day every day from 16 to 25 December. This is what the website says:

BBC Radio 3 will be celebrating Christmas 2005 by broadcasting continuously over ten days the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The composer's entire surviving body of work will be performed by some of the world's greatest musicians including specially recorded performances by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Angela Hewitt, Philippe Herreweghe and Ton Koopman.

The Rt Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Terry Waite, Andrew Motion, Wynton Marsalis and Ian McEwan are among the many voices who will share their personal reflections on Bach and his music. Elvis Costello, Fiona Shaw, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Nitin Sawhney, Andrew Marr, Simon Russell Beale, Alan Rusbridger, Steve Reich, Nicholas Hytner, Jacques Loussier, Anthony Minghella, Alain de Botton, Siobhan Davies, Christopher Frayling, Professor Steve Jones, Armando Iannucci, William Orbit, Guy Chambers and Mark Morris will also share their thoughts on the composer.

There will be legendary historic recordings and modern day classic interpretations as well as a series of BBC chamber concerts from across the country given by leading interpreters of Bach's music from Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy and Russia. Musicians who will guide listeners through Bach's works include Emma Kirkby, Sigiswald Kuijken, Gustav Leonhardt, Andreas Scholl, Gillian Weir, Andrew Manze, András Schiff, Christopher Hogwood, Masaaki Suzuki, Sir Roger Norrington, Daniel Barenboim, Joanna McGregor and Ian Bostridge. They are joined by regular Radio 3 presenters including Sandy Burnett, Catherine Bott, Lucie Skeaping, Sean Rafferty, Petroc Trelawny and Rob Cowan.

If you go to their Bach website you can download the full schedule and find out lots more besides.

I think this is great. It should raise good old JSB's profile considerably and enrich a lot of lives. As a student, I was obliged to spend hours, days, weeks, listening to Bach cantatas for a compulsory 1st-year course on the Master - works that otherwise I might never have heard - and, whatever my views on that course/university generally, I remain deeply grateful for that opportunity. There is no greater Aladdin's cave in the history of music than the vast output of this glorious man. In the light of which, they should, really should, pronounce him right...but they can't. So what the heck, just listen to the music.