Saturday, 15 June 2013

Bach and Handel

From Eisenach, where Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685, to Halle where Georg Friedrich Händel (as he then was) was born in the same year, is only around 170 kilometres as the crow flies; when I drove from one to the other a couple of years ago, it took around two hours. Their music is as different as chalk and cheese, with Handel embracing the new, Italianate style of uncluttered melody and accompaniment and Bach looking backwards to a world of complex polyphony. I find it remarkable that two such people could have been born in the same area within six weeks of each other (Handel was the elder, and he and Bach had quite different adult lives and never met) and that, 328 years after their births, their music is still alive, well, popular and played regularly all over the world.

I grew up with the music of Bach and Handel and have a large collection of recordings (and violin music) of both. This evening I put on a 1990 recording (Philippe Herreweghe) of three Bach cantatas. It is music that is simply eternal, and completely satisfying. It is rich, it is varied, it announces from the very first notes that a great composer is at the helm. Both Bach and Handel were prolific composers (they had to be to earn money to make ends meet). We are all lucky to have such a treasure house of great music; I confidently predict that, in 328 years time, my successors will still be listening to Bach cantatas and Handel operas with enormous satisfaction.

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