Musical Giants on Bach and his B Minor Mass


Ludwig von Beethoven, who kept a picture of Bach on his cluttered desk, once famously joked that the composer, whose name means 'brook" in German should instead have been named Meer ("sea") —for his "endlessly inexhaustible wealth of musical ideas."

The prolific Italian composer Giacchino Rossini acknowledged Beethoven as a "prodigy of mankind." But Bach, he said, was "a miracle of God.”

Frédéric Chopin compared Bach to an astronomer who, "with the help of ciphers (secret codes), discovers the most wonderful stars.” And the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that "all modern music owes everything to Bach.”

More recently, ACO's Tom Crawford wrote about the orchestra's memorable performance of the B Minor Mass in 2014: "An aura of a sixth dimension mysteriously enveloped the musicians and audience in what became the most spiritual performance of my life. Bach's greatest work, composed by the greatest of composers, drew forth every voice of my being."

Of all of Bach's works, his soaring B Minor Mass explores the inextricable bond between musical genius and spirituality. In 1998, just before the great American conductor Robert Shaw would perform the work, he wrote:

"...that extra seats have had to be added [to the hall] attests to the unique position that Bach's Mass in B Minor holds in the hearts and minds of [people] of all faiths—and no faith at all—except perhaps in the oneness of humankind with the universe, and the responsibility of human life to seek beauty and to do good."

Seek beauty and do good. There are plenty of seats at Alice Tully Hall— and each seat is a good one. Please join us to experience the sublime beauty of this monumental work!

Carolyn Swartz, ACO Communications

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