Shevek (shevek) wrote,

Bach Organ Recitals, courtesy of the BBC

"JS Bach's Lüneberg prelude and fugue in C is played on the organ of Johann Sebastien Bach Church, Arnstadt, Germany by York Minster's organist John Scott Whiteley." (BBC Link)

It wasn't very good. I appreciate many of the problems of playing on a fully mechanical church organ. However, the mediocrity of the performance went above and beyond what it is necessary to allow under the circumstances. The performance lacked both the precision and the continuity of timing necessary to perform the regular passages, and the interpretive freedom necessary to produce appropriate dynamics on an instrument with no touch-sensitive dynamic control in a large acoustic space. The performer rushed into the major forte chords with no thought for the gravity of the sound and the emphasis that various timings can place upon them. His technique seemed to cause him to lose some of the notes, or make them sound mistaken, as if he hit them on his way to somewhere else. There was so much that could have been done with that piece. The performer failed to do it.

He was reading the music. He had to turn pages. He was peering at the music through dark glasses!

Also, the titles were by Damian Hirst, and the BBC, or Damian Hirst, or someone in the production department saw fit to put music over the titles, both in and out. The last thing one wants after listening to a classical performance is some tinny sound effect over the credits. At least the BBC had the good sense to use silence for the credits of the 48 Preludes and Fugues.

The 48 preludes and fugues, the BBC's previous production of Bach, were on the whole good. We should have more performances like that on the BBC, and they should be previewed to by someone who really isn't afraid to listen to them all side by side and say which are better than others. There is a clear difference in performance standard between the various pianists on those recordings.

My next exploit is likely to be Pablo Casals' recording of the Bach Cello suites, to which I have listened briefly already. It seems that his timing is very idiomatic and personal, whereas the Yo Yo Ma performance with which I am more familiar is truer to the music without losing feeling or emphasis. I have also already noted one or two places where he appears to drop or understate the same note in a particular run. At least when he does it, it's just understated and doesn't sound as if he hit it by accident on his way somewhere else.

I admit that I am becoming exceptionally fussy and the more I listen to, the more particular I become. No comment about Marta Argerich and Rachmaninov.

I was once accused of performing Bach as if it was Jazz. I don't think that this is necessarily a bad thing. The accusation still amuses me. At least that style didn't cause the lamp to nearly fall off the piano.
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