The phenomenon that is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is rediscovered by every generation and never seems to go stale; ironically, in his own day, Bach was considered an undoubted master but somewhat old-fashioned, stuffy, and too complicated; some listeners preferred the compositions of his four composer sons, who were more in tune with the times, it seems. Yet, outside the circle of committed classical music lovers, barely a recognizable tune of the sons survives, while those of the grand old man are perpetually imprinted on cultural consciousness – who isn’t thrilled by the opening notes of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor?
Ever since the 20 year-old Felix Mendelssohn revived the fading fortunes Bach with a performance of St. Matthew Passion in 1829, it has mainly been youth that have transmogrified Bach for the sensibilities of their contemporaries: the melody of the “other” famous Ave Maria (not the one by Franz Schubert) was superimposed by the young Charles Gounod upon the “Prelude #1” from the Well-Tempered Clavier 137 years after Bach wrote it. In my own formative years I heard the Swingle Singers scatting instrumental notes, Walter Carlos playing “Switched-on Bach” on the newfangled Moog Synthesizer (his subsequent sex-change operation a surprising footnote to the themes of counterpoint and transposition); and Moe Koffman’s jazz renditions on CBC Radio, to name just a few. At the same time standard Bach interpreters like E. Power Biggs were just as popular, while the likes of Glenn Gould (piano) and Andrés Segovia (guitar) played them straight, but on instruments we hadn’t heard seriously play Bach before.
This collection opens with a gentle tribute to Ian Andersen of the rock group Jethro Tull, who in 1969 brought the “Bourée” from the Lute Suite #1 out of utter and terminal obscurity.
The ubiquitous “Air” from the Orchestral Suite #3 in D” owes it particular fame to the unforgettable opening bass line, but I shall forever remember a minister guffawing after he misheard the title as “Hair on a G String.”
In the “Little” Organ Fugue in G Minor (here transcribed into C Minor to accommodate the range limitations of the flute) Bach not only manages an awe-inspiring display of contrapuntal technique, but does in with one of his most memorable melodies.
The “Adagio” from the Sonata in G Minor, like the “Air,” features soaring, suspended flute notes over moving lines below.
The delightful Minuet in G from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, is of doubtful authenticity but nevertheless retains the inestimable privilege of being associated with the name of the great master more than its probable author, Christian Petzold. Moe Koffman jazzed up the “Two Bourées” from the Cello Suite #3, and I’ve always heard them with percussion in my mind, which was realized in this recording.
The Badinerie is the finale from the Suite #2 in B Minor, a perpetual orchestral audition piece heard as far as Antarctica (see Viviana Guzman’s YouTube video). It is one of the great James Galway’s encore pieces, which he introduces as “perhaps not Bach’s greatest hit, but certainly his fastest one.” In the 21st century it emanates from pockets and pocketbooks as a cellphone ringtone played insanely faster than any flutist can.
The sublime Sonata in B Minor is in the key Bach associated closely with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many years in my youth I refused to approach this masterpiece, as being too holy and exalted to be marred by my musical immaturity. I don’t know that even now I’ve approached its essence, and I offer my rendition of this deeply joyous work with humility and a double dollop of trepidation.
This album was recorded in Siguatepeque, Honduras during the month of March 2012. The title Bach-anudo! is a play on Spanish interjection “macanudo!” meaning “wonderful!” which has previously lent itself to a cigar brand and an Argentinian comic strip.
Notes by Géza Farkas
released March 21, 2012
Flutes: Géza Farkas
Keyboards: Paul Kertész
Bass: Előre Felvett
Percussion: Nabil Pavón
Recording Engineer: Nabil Pavón
Photography: Alba Cristina Valladares de Farkas