Bach Conundrum

I listen to CBC Radio 2 from time to time. I used to listen a lot more often, but many long-time listeners can guess why I don’t listen to Radio 2 much anymore.

There are two things that happen all the time on Radio 2. The first is that Radio 2 never plays solo harpsichord music. It plays transcriptions for piano, guitar, and, for all I know, caliope. However, it appears that playing harpsichord music on Radio 2 is against policy. Possibly it is against the law in Canada to play a harpsichord in a solo or featured way.

The other thing is more insidious. Much of the time, the music of J. S. Bach is played in transcriptions, sometimes quite unusual transcriptions. This is often accompanied by the presenter telling us that Bach was the greatest of Western composers. Of course, the strong implication is that Bach was a terrible arranger, and hence we should never play things as he arranged them. Recently, on Shift, Tom Allen justified playing the four harpsichord concerto in a three-guitar arrangement by reminding us that the four harpsichord concerto is itself an arrangement. The fact that we are more likely to hear the Vivaldi original or any number of arrangements by any number of other people than the one the World’s Greatest Composer made speaks for itself.

About bumbletonian

Musician, Flautist, Composer, Writer, Gardener.
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