I ignored Bach’s birthday three weeks ago which, in retrospect, was an egregious sin for a blog dedicated in part to His Guyness, J.S. Bach. And this is the time of year when Bach himself would have been thinking about sin, what with Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter near at hand, so that makes me feel all the more guilty.
So I just checked my Bach news feed to see if there was any new Bach news, which there wasn’t, really. The one item that referenced “Bach” was about modest beach houses in New Zealand that are apparently called baches (plural) or a bach (singular) – who knew? But true to form, the headline made a pun on the word Bach: “Life’s a Bach.”
No composer’s name, with the possible exception of Handel, is subjected to as many puns as is Bach’s, and frankly, I think it’s been good for his reputation, which would otherwise be (justifiably) on the serious side. Here are a selection:
Bach to Basics
Bach to the Future
Bring ’em Bach alive
Get off my Bach!
I’ll be Bach
WNYC and WQXR in NYC have a Bach pun generator that produced these:
What’s up, Bach?
We got your Bach.
His Bach is worse than his bite.
Bach around the clock.
Clever, to be sure, but not cosmic. For cosmic, especially as Easter approaches, you have to go to the source, to His Guyness himself, and a work that doesn’t get performed very frequently: the Easter Oratorio. Bach’s Easter Oratorio started out as an Easter cantata written in 1725, acquired its “oratorio” name in a 1735 revision, and gained a chorus (expanded from an existing duet) in a third revision in the 1740s.
This is one of the pieces on my bucket list – one of the pieces I’d like to perform before I die – though I will not be able to improve on this superb recording by my favorite Bach conductor Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale. (For aficianados of period instrument virtuosity, this YouTube video is a great chance to see baroque oboe god Marcel Ponseele strut his stuff.) All the singers and orchestra members are great, too.
I’ve now linked three times to the same recording, an indication of how much I want you to listen to it. Do yourself – and me – a favor and give a listen. This is the kind of music making that fills me indescribable joy.