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Bach — Mixed Or Straight-up

Posted by acdtest on December 22, 2003

Bach — Mixed Or Straight-up

eblogger Greg Hlatky of A Dog’s Life writes referring to this piece of mine:

Speaking about Bach and transcriptions of his music, A. C. Douglas refers to, “… the grotesquely bloated ones for full orchestra done by Leopold Stokowski.”

*Ahem*. This may get me tarred, feathered and ridden out of Taste Town on a rail, but I actually like grotesquely bloated orchestral transcriptions of Bach’s keyboard works. One of the glories of Bach is the almost infinite plasticity of his music. When the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 can be performed by tap-dancers and still be instantly recognizable, we’re talking about some remarkably versatile music.

No tar and feathering from me on this count. As I wrote in my above referenced piece:

First, Bach’s keyboard works (including those for organ) seem to survive, even thrive, under all manner of transcription. So superb are their construction that their fundamental musical aesthetic is not diminished one iota even when subjected to transcriptions as outré as those done for Wendy Carlos’s synthesizer, and Ward Swingle’s Swingle Singers. Or when subjected to the somewhat less outré but nevertheless Romantically excessive transcriptions for piano by Ferruccio Busoni, and even the grotesquely bloated ones for full orchestra done by Leopold Stokowski. In all these, Bach emerges unsullied and triumphant — always. [emphasis added]

Bach, mixed or straight-up, is Bach — always and forever.

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