December 14, 2011

Bach's works for unaccompanied violin

In my experience the average music lover is a reasonably open-minded person.  He may have Furtwangler Rules! tattooed on his chest, but still will agree (if grudgingly) that Toscanini and Szell each had something worthwhile to say in their performances of Beethoven's symphonies.  And what goes for Beethoven's symphonies, goes for Mozart's concertos, Schumann's piano music, and Wagner's operas.

Yet when it comes to Bach's works for unaccompanied violin, even middle-aged, bespectacled, balding men with advanced degrees in Accounting quickly turn purple of face and violent of heart at the mere suggestion that these works may be played differently from the one and only recording they have worshiped since their college days.  If you are old enough to have spent a serious amount of time in the classical wing of Tower Records on East 4-th Street, you might have overheard a brief exchange between two distinguished looking gentlemen loitering next to the "B"- labeled CD bin -- the exchange which quickly culminated in the loudly hissed

Fuck implied counterpoint! Fuck Baroque dance forms! And FUCK YOU, you fat fuck who can't understand that this music is about metaphysical depth and theological grandeur, and not about the anal-retentive articulation of double-dotted notes!

No wonder the sales clerks at Tower Classical kept a baseball bat under the counter (just to the right of the cash register) on the days when a new recording of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas was placed in the New Releases section...

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