Bach and his Competitors

CHRISTOPHER SMITH King of Hearts, Norwich


> King of Hearts, Norwich

This attractive recital was based on a paradox. Nowadays everyone agrees with Ian Collins that JS Bach is tops. But in Germany in the 18th century, many thought he was an old fuddy-duddy. Though he was universally admired as an organist, his compositions for other instruments and for singers seemed over elaborate. His tetchiness also caused endless offence too. Besides, there were plenty of other musicians to pick from and Phoenix Rising's programme showed just how much pleasure they could give. The four movements of a sonata by Fasch put Sarah Saunders' vigorous oboe next to Lina Soderholz's more restrained baroque violin. Formal musical devices were elegantly employed in a Canonic Trio by Graupner. Greater musical complexity was on show in two movements from Bach's First Cello Suite, played by Ingrid Vilarnau.

Similar contrasts could be heard in vocal music.

Telemann went for simplicity and clarity of melody, whether setting a religious text or a drinking song. Bach's solo cantata for the third Sunday before Lent risked making demands on listeners as well as performers. That, of course, is why Bach has relegated his competitors to the second division.

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