The annual Sunday Baroque Bach Birthday Bash will be broadcast on Sunday, March 18. Although I don’t usually overtly observe birthdays of composers on Sunday Baroque, I have produced an all-Bach edition of Sunday Baroque every March since I originated the program more than 30 years ago. That’s because Johann Sebastian Bach is different. Many musicians refer to Bach as an inspiration, even musicians known for non-classical genres (as well as poets, artists, scientists and others), so his legacy has special significance. His reputation is well known enough to make its way into popular culture, such as that classic scene in the ’70s-’80s television show M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye advises Radar on how to impress a woman by saying, “Ahhh, Bach!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYSG8AQO3tw
When I’m crafting the Bach Birthday Bash every year, I seek out different angles in which to frame Bach’s music and present it in contexts that illustrate the master composer’s continued relevance all these centuries after his lifetime. This year on the Bach Birthday Bash you will hear selections from outstanding recent recordings by top performers of Bach’s music, as well as some of the composer’s familiar favorites, and selections that have been adapted for unusual instruments by contemporary performers. The featured musicians revere Bach’s music and legacy, and they approach it with their greatest technical expertise, sense of authenticity and profound reverence. Every year, the Bach Birthday Bash is my way of honoring that legacy and introducing listeners to what Bach means to musicians, including myself.
With the allotted time, we can only scratch the surface of such an extraordinary genius, so I hope the program will be an “appetizer” that provides an entertaining listening experience and inspires you to seek out more on your own. After listening, I hope you’ll also want to say “Ahhhh, Bach” and have many wonderful ways to explain why!