E is for Emotion
Extracts from interviews with Alan Rusbridger, Andrew Marr, Ian Bostridge and Simon Russell Beale, which will be broadcast on Radio 3 during 'A Bach Christmas'.
"The first time that Bach moved me to tears was after the birth of our first daughter. I went home from hospital and listened to the B minor mass, that exuberant, magnificent choral opening which is followed by a fugue with the orchestra and the choir - a five part fugue. I know a bit about fugues and maths because I did music O level which meant composing a lot of Bach fugues and learning all about the relationships between tonic and dominant and the separations and inversions. The Kyrie is an exercise in mathematics, that's what a fugue is but its so much more than that, it's fluid and fluent and entirely natural. "
" People always talk about Bach as being the ultimate intellectual and mathematical composer. I'm not musically trained but I find Bach mentally stimulating, he excites me. I can almost feel my brain getting hotter as I listen to Bach. Emotionally he means a lot to me too - I find Bach consoling, it's almost like meditation. I'll stop the car and listen to something out of the Goldberg Variations or the Well Tempered Clavier - he takes me to a different place. "
" I like to listen to Bach non-vocal music as a sort of grounding - maybe Martha Argerich playing a partita. It's got this incredible intellect and emotion. The way that something as intellectual as a fugue weaves together and plays itself out is one of the most extraordinary things in the music and moves me every time."
"Everyone always goes on about Bach's mathematical genius and logic and if you listen to things like the Goldberg Variations or the Musical Offering that is perhaps principally what you are listening to, but I've always found him an intensely emotional composer. The story-telling of the human pain and story of Peter in the Passion has always moved me.
I went through my life with those pieces close to me. Sitting in a room at university, a friend put on the famous recording of the St Matthew Passion with Peter Pears as the Evangelist. In the section where Peter denies Christ, the Evangelist goes right to the top of his range on the words 'he went out and wept' - that really hit home and I realised that this man was a highly emotional composer - I've always clung to that."
Simon Russell Beale