November 7, 2016

new-logo-350Brighton Early Music Festival



As Bach’s final great work shows, his understanding of reason, ‘science’ and mathematics was profound and his religious conviction equally deep. Bach’s brilliant, exuberant handling of his strikingly original theme shows both his scientific understanding of how notes fit together with mathematical precision, and how the unfolding of the counterpoint can seem entirely natural; as he would no doubt have said, ‘God-given’.

balliol-940x600Richard Boothby along with celebrated viol consort Fretwork introduced this ‘unfinished’ work. Boothby went into great –almost forensic- detail to explain the inner workings not just of the music and it’s astonishingly intricate methodology, including the use of clues left in Bach’s obituary, analysis of his handwriting and the teasing out and highlighting of themes and particular musical items of interest, whilst this was fascinating (and seriously interesting)  I wasn’t prepared for an in-depth lecture of musical theory and parsing historical forensic analysis of the genius of Bach and found it highly distracting for the music to be broken up with such (very) long periods of explanation. I wasn’t the only person finding it difficult to concentrate. I pity the lay person who had just popped along for an hour or so of brilliant music.  Although there was a suggesting on the programme that we would treated to a scholarly reduction and explanation of how the ‘new ending’ had been devised this was far far too much detail  deconstructing each separate contrapunctus.

gothic-web-940x600When they played – as you would expect – Fretwork were superb and we were instantly plunged into the perfect, sublime brilliance of the music and this elegant consort’s majestic handling of the music of Bach. Fretwork are celebrated for their attitude and poise with Bach and their commitment to presenting the works of the baroque in novel and innovative ways and the quality of their music this afternoon was utterly superb, it’s just a pity that Boothby’s rather bumbling, but endlessly charming lecture dimminished the intensity and flow of the music. With such large space between each of the contrapuntal it was impossible to enjoy the flow and contrast of the piece as whole. I gave up.

The Ralli Hall is a lovely venue, one I’d not enjoyed before and the acoustic is just right for this complex and precise music.  As Bach himself said ‘I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.’ It’s a pity that Boothby proved that the Devil is in the detail.

BREMF continues to provide an interesting  programme of music and the quality and breadth of this year’s festival is a delight.

Fretwork are

Asako Morikawa
Reiko Ichise
Sam Stadlen
Emily Ashton
Richard Boothby

For full details of this concert see the website here. To see the remaining concerts of the Brighton Early Music Festival check out their website here, where you can also book tickets for the remaining concerts.

You can buy Fretworks lauded rendition of The Art of Fugue here, and I would recommend adding it to your Bach collection if you don’t know it. They are idiosyncratically perfect, just like Bach himself.

Learn more about the wonderful Fretwork here.

Sun 6 Nov, 2.30pm

Ralli Hall