Has so apparently unexceptional an act as playing Bach in a more or less traditional way now taken on an exceptional, indeed an oppositional, character? Of course, Bach is now played everywhere; along with Mozart and Beethoven, his music attracts both audiences and critics. And yet there is hardly any music today that is approached by the most talented performers with greater trepidation and anxiety. I have become more aware than ever of this curious phenomenon in the course of my work as artistic director of the Waterloo Music Festival in New Jersey, where for the past three summers we have begun each of our chamber music concerts with glorious but little performed music by Bach. In my concert program notes this past summer, I attempted to discuss the situation in contemporary Bach performance. What follows is drawn from these notes.


In 1989, Johann Sebastian Bach once again began each of...


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