Such is the elemental power of Bach’s music, both uniquely of its time and seemingly for all history, it is often hard to reconcile the conceptual genius with the practical reality of Bach’s 18th century music-making. Bach’s music remains technically some of the most challenging of the Baroque, and yet I have never doubted the quality of Bach’s ensemble, young though his charges were. I suspect Bach headed a virtuoso outfit, uniquely trained in his musical style and completely at ease with the complex rhetoric and theology of the time.
I have also long subscribed to the view that Bach’s music is undoubtedly vocal chamber music, performed one voice to a part in the organ lofts of St Thomas and St Nicholas. That said, this performance will explore a more traditional view of Bach, as oratorio, with small choir, at the request of the Festival. As with playing Bach on the piano, we should not allow a particular urge towards authenticity to blind us to other musical possibilities!