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Gods, Gurus, and the Search for the Holy Grail: Bach Recordings from 2018 | The Hudson Review

Two hundred sixty-eight years after the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the composer is a bigger celebrity than ever. Just this past year, the New York Times has run stories with titles such as A Pop-Up Shop that Offers Bach Preludes, Fugues and Condoms (November 23), Bach Was Far More Religious Than You Might Think (March 30), Strapping on His Cello for a 600-Mile Bach Pilgrimage (May 9), and Yo-Yo Ma Wants Bach to Save the World (September 28). 2018 also witnessed the release of several high-profile recordings, including Bach 333 (Deutsche Grammophon and Decca), the largest composer project in recording history, and Yo-Yo Mas third and purportedly last recording of the complete Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (Sony Classical). Alongside these were dozens of other recordings ranging from John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Consorts Magnificat and St. Matthew Passion to an interpretation of Bachs Ciaccona with Just Intonation by violinist Josh Modney on his album Engage (New Focus Recordings). The Bach of todayas portrayed in recordings, newspaper articles, books, and physical paraphernaliais as multifaceted as current tastes and fashions, contradictions be damned. He is at once the Fifth Evangelist; a passionate humanist; a cool-blooded scientist; a spiritual guru; a college roommate; a fellow garage band remixer. But amid the myriad faces of Bachism, I perceive certain family resemblances. I explore them here. Genius Incarnate: Human and Divine