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HIPster Wars - News from the Bach Front - Communiqué 40,
This review is from: Bach: French Suites (Audio CD)
Father Melchizedek OP, the High Priest of Period Practice, was busy excavating the ruins of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Assisting him in this cause was Cato, his trusty man-servant. Mind you, the latter was doing all the physical labour whereas the cleric was sitting under an umbrella, lemonade in hand, and breezily scrutinising whatever artefacts were unearthed by the spade of his minion.
"Observe, dear Cato, the remains of this ancient banjo from the court of Ashurbanipal. Clearly the Assyrians were deeply enamoured of the so-called French pitch at 396HZ. In itself, it is another argument against the syrup of Karajanism."
The phone rang. With deference, Cato passed it to his master.
"Hello, you are speaking with Father Melchizedek OP!" the cleric declared daintily. "Have lute, will travel!"
"Preacher, my name is Mrs Hewitt. We live in Ottawa. Our daughter Angela is possessed! We need an exorcist!"
"Possessed? How so?"
"She is speaking Latin, Aramaic and neo-Babylonian!"
"Don't think anything of it - she's probably precocious!"
"Errr, she is also climbing around on the ceiling and vomiting green ooze on all and sundry!"
"She probably wants to become a gymnast and has a cold at the moment!"
"Her head can rotate 360 degrees on her neck!"
"More proof that she wants to become a gymnast and has the flexibility to do so! Madame, there is no cause for concern!"
"She is playing Bach on a piano!"
Father Melchizedek rose to his feet, electrified: "Good heavens, woman: your daughter is possessed and the devil's name is Legion! I will be there presently!" The cleric terminated the call and turned to his trusty man-servant.
"Cato," he squawked. "Warm up the Silver Hornet!"
Twelve hours later, suitcase in hand, Father Melchizedek stood underneath a street-lamp as he glared at the residence in question. One of its windows was open, allowing a column of light to spear his way. Someone was playing Bach on a piano. It was the lovely Allemande of the E Flat French Suite. Its sisters soon followed. After a short pause, the preludes for W F Bach were surveyed.
Most listeners would say this was highly accomplished and poetic playing. The pianist was not afraid of the beast at her disposal; indeed, with élan she joyfully exploited her instument's power and expressivity in pursuit of an exalted conception. Her articulation, dynamics and palette were phenomenal. The pianist was deeply alive to the dance-element of these works and their courtly nature. Her ornamentations were always acute and tasteful. The polyphony rang true and clear - not once was it swamped by the melodic line. The drama of the great D Minor suite was unerringly conveyed - and more than usual, the listener was conscious of the elation of Johann Sebastian Bach as he created these luminous, life-affirming works. The preludes written for Wilhelm Friederich emerged as stronger, more vital works than normal. In short, the recital was the complete opposite of Bach as a dusty lesson in algebra. Radiance and splendour, wit and depth: it was all here. True, the pianist lacked the bounce and aggression of Glenn Gould in these works but was no worse off for that. The sound was marvellously clear and transparent.
But this was wasted on the cleric - all Father Melchizedek could hear was a Black Mass on a Steinway. After donning his pectoral cross, he checked his armoury: a copy of the Art of the Fugue by Davitt Moroney - check; a vial of holy water - check; and a rapid-fire recorder with a nasal tone - check.
Having girded his loins, it was time for battle. Without so much as a knock on the door, Father Melchizedek burst into the house and screeched out in falsetto:
"I command you, unclean spirit of Karajan-ism, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the power invested in me by St David of Munrow, that you tell me your name! I command you, moreover, to obey me to the last clipped phrase, I who am the High Priest of Period Practice despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this score of Johann Sebastian Bach, the person at the keyboard or any bystanders. I cast you forth, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from the Hell of High Romanticism and all your fell companions; in the name of pitch at 410HZ!"
The piano fell silent. Holding his pectoral cross in front of him, Father Melchizedek strode down the hallway and into the music-room. Much to his surprise, there was no Steinway. In fact, the room was empty other than some Bose speakers that were attached to the high ceiling.
"How very odd," the cleric mused to himself.
All of a sudden, the door behind him slammed shut. Roller-shutters sealed off the windows. The lights were dimmed.
"Father Melchizedek," an old husky voice with a thick German accent croaked over the speakers, "how nice of you to drop by. We're very fond of you at Universal Imports. Indeed, I staged my death back in 1989 in preparation for this very moment! I would to take this opportunity to play some of my old records to you! You're not going anywhere, are you?"
Bach: Mass in B minor