Monday, 11 September 2017

In Praise of Bach and Handel

1685. Georg Friedrich Händel was born in Halle (23rd February). Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach (21st March). Between Halle and Eisenach (as the bird flies) is 150 kilometres, or less. Both composers became famous, but neither met the other. Their music, like their subsequent careers, is chalk and cheese. 330 years after the birth of both of them, here I am listening with pleasure and admiration to their very different music. A few years ago, I made a pilgrimage to Eisenach (Bach's first house) and to Halle (Handel's first house). I stood before the church where Bach was baptised. I listened to the organ in Halle on which Handel first learned to play. I doubt whether 2017's Rap artists will still be listened to in 330 years time.

Bach, Handel and I go back a long way – to the very early 1950s when I began to listen to music, encouraged by my mother, father and elder sisters. More than 60 years later, I am still immersed regularly in the music of Handel and Bach. They must have had a secret formula to have enabled them to write music that has lasted such a long, long time. And music that can be played – and enjoyed – in so many different ways and with so many different musical forces and performing styles.

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