Lucid Culture


Bach Has Been Reformed!

That’s right. Good old Johann Sebastian has finally discovered syncopation, dynamics and standard tuning! And it’s rumored that he’s become an atheist. OK, enough of that joke.

Bach ReformedRob Moose alternating between tenor guitar and mandolin, accompanied by violinist Dana Lyn – played last night at Barbes and earned a roaring ovation from a surprisingly full house, especially for an early show. This isn’t the latest scheme to market classical music to a rock crowd: it’s new interpretations of Bach that breathe fresh energy into the music while remaining impressively true to its original passion and intensity. Both players have a smooth, legato style, a unique approach that works because they make the music fluid without actually swinging it.

The emotion in Bach is not in the rhythm: done right, it’s metronomic and mechanical. But as anyone in the Bach cult (it’s hard to think of a real Bach fan who isn’t completely hardcore about it) is aware, the melodies span the entire spectrum of human emotion, from the subtle to the extreme. Tonight’s show alternated between wistfulness and ebullience, as the duo ran through almost an hour’s worth of their own arrangements of several pieces including the Partita in D Minor for Violin, an E Major cello piece that they’d transposed to G (it works better that way on guitar, without all the open strings that have to be muted), and a six-part cello sonata.

Moose is also an occasional composer, and the two played an air that he’d written a couple of years ago, whose slightly nostalgic feel (with some indie rock chords snuck in for extra volume) fit perfectly with the rest of the program. Lyn, who plays a lot of Irish music, played one of her own pieces (“127 bars,” noted Moose) that started very Celtic, then took a striking detour with a somewhat drastic tempo change and a lot of eerie dissonance before getting all pretty and upbeat again. They closed with a jig and a bourree, Moose playing from memory, very impressively. The two didn’t completely nail every single change: “Check out this really cool intro!” Moose encouraged the audience, as he’d missed his cue seconds before. But the passion and fun of the performance far overshadowed any slight imperfection.

“We decided to talk to the audience tonight,” revealed Moose. “All this Bach just makes us more introverted.” Throughout the show, they shared amusing, off-the-cuff insights into how this piece or that was especially difficult, or interesting, and why. Lyn told a long joke with a limerick whose punchline involves screwing up the limerick. And she screwed it up even further, which actually made it even funnier. Bach Reformed will dispel any ill-founded notions you might hold after being subjected to NPR fund drives or WQXR’s programming for the entirety of December: in their hands, Bach is all about the fun (and the dance: remember, that’s what jigs and bourrees are for). Whether you’re hardcore, or just discovering how beautiful and intense Bach’s music is, you should see these guys sometime.


April 9, 2008 - Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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