Tuesday, July 11, 2006

21st-Century Bach

Yesterday evening was luminously blue outside. There had been artichoke hearts, olives, feta cheese, sardines, roast woodsmoked salmon, and pork pie to pick at for dinner, over which was passed a bottle of rather juicy wine.

My dad, and our mutual friend Thea, aren’t as enthusiastic about organ music as I am. I doubt they’d buy an organ CD between them. But when coffee was poured and dessert picked from between the teeth, they sat down willingly enough to 10 minutes of a DVD I’d bought earlier in the day — and came away wanting another 10.

I bought it on a whim. A year ago or more, I’d seen a 10-minute programme on BBC2, late at night. An organist was playing a couple of short pieces by Bach on a superbly-decorated instrument a few hundred years old.

The camerawork was dazzling. Views inside the instrument, from locations only a pencil could fit into. Hand-carved stopknobs, seen in closeup, with their names on parchment above them — written, again by hand, in 17th-century script. Views from inside the building, the camera so high and moving so freely and unobstructed that it must have been floating.

No, I told myself. They don’t have floating cameras. But they did. Attached to helium balloons and allowed to float where they would.

Four DVDs of these programmes, in 2 sets, have just been released. The sound is rich and clear Dolby 5.1. The playing is friendly and talkative, and the instruments are superb. So far, only a small amount of Bach’s total output for organ has been broadcast, but there will be another series this year, and yet more DVDs to enjoy the following year. And so on, and so on, until it’s done.

The series is called 21st-Century Bach, and no individual programme is longer than about 10 minutes. Each is, as I’ve noted, refreshing and interesting to anyone who can even hum along, a rich morsel of utter inventiveness from beginning to end. I was a pig, and watched them all. Time to do so again. Please buy this.

tags: [] [] [] [] [] [] []

No comments: