The ear of the beholder


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.

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2 Responses to The ear of the beholder

  1. weekeef says:

    Have I just become a project?

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