I don’t like Bach.
That’s Johann Sebastian, not Catherine.
This is a heinous admission for somebody with aspirations as a singer and musician, but old JSB just doesn’t do it for me. I realised this while listening to the B minor Mass. It’s an incredible piece of music and part of the standard choral repertoire. I was privileged to sing it in concert three years ago, and it was a fantastic event. But I remember it for reasons other than the music. So, when listening to it again, I had no real memory of it and no sense of anticipation. That’s not like me at all. Once I know a song or a work it sticks with me for a long time.
I think the problem is that I spent so much of those three months just getting to grips with the complexity of the music, that I never had time to find the emotion in it. I grin with joy at the second movement of Beethoven’s 9th. I shiver at the sheer power of the Rex Tremendae in Mozart’s Requiem, and I get a lump in the throat during Elgar’s Nimrod Variation. The final page turn in Vaughan Williams’ G minor Mass has actually made me cry on more than one occasion.
But I can’t think of anything by Bach that really does that. There’s a wee violin piece I’ve been whistling for the past 30 years. And there’s the excellent backing music for Jet Set Willy* in the mid 1980s. But that’s it.
I’m not saying that Bach is over-rated and that his enormous catalogue of music is rubbish. It’s not. The man was undoubtedly a genius. But sometimes, even for Bach, less is more.
*To be clear, Jet Set Willy was an addictive little sprite-based platform game for the Commodore 64, not any other form of activity involving a joystick and some repetitive wrist action.