Bach would have been baffled and delighted to see a good handful of Japanese perform his music as well as he likely never heard in his own lifetime. Baffled that they were playing his music at all, baffled because they didn’t look like your usual Leipzig town folk, baffled that it sounded more or less like it did back then.
Pure conjecture, of course, but while at it, we should consider that he’d probably have preferred Stokowski’s way with his music – if only for novelty’s sake - not Masaaki Suzuki’s “authentic” approach with the Bach Collegium Japan as seen and heard at the Library of Congress last Friday.
J.S. Bach, Cantatas vol.30, Suzuki/BCJ
J.S. Bach, Orchestral Overtures, Suzuki/BCJ
Stephen Brookes, Bach Collegium Japan (Washington Post, March 27)
J.S. Bach, Cantatas vol.29, Suzuki/BCJ
The concert was certainly good enough not to need ‘salvaging’, per se, but a knock-out performance of the fifth Brandenburg Concerto – again with Ms. Maeda and her traverso – helped the evening to a satisfying, joyous end. Minor balance problems and continuous intonation problems aside (perhaps placing the flute center, in front of the harpsichord, would have helped?), this was less driven and more flexible than the suite and contained another reckless solo of Suzuki’s. No wonder the audience demanded an encore – which they got, in form of the Air from the D-major suite BWV 1068.