Only Bach can bust the stress

Only Bach can bust the stress


norman lebrecht

May 18, 2018

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

In times of stress I reach for Bach in the raw, one instrument, one pair of hands. I’m choosy who I listen to when the nerves are frayed. The immortal interpretations – Gould in the Goldbergs, Milstein in the Sonatas and Partitas – are too profound, too perfect, to afford prompt and gentle relief. Two new releases are just what the soul doctor ordered….

Read on here.

And here.



  • David says:

    Within the past few years both Isabelle Faust and Christine Busch have released outstanding sets of the sonatas and partitas; the latter, especially, serves me well when I need something to calm my nerves. Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s 2008 Art of Fugue for DG has something of the same deeply consolatory quality.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    “Gould in the Goldbergs, Milstein in the Sonatas and Partitas – are too profound, too perfect, to afford prompt and gentle relief”


    Maybe I have just the thing for you:

    Tuned to A = 432, no less

  • Deborah Mawer says:

    ==In times of stress I reach for Bach

    There’s a great John Eliot Gardiner interview where he says pretty much the same thing. He said you don’t get the same solace from Mozart, and certainly not from Mahler.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      For times of grief, I listen Mahler. When I need to feel grounded, it is Mozart. But I too could not survive without daily Bach…

    • Patricia says:

      Read John Eliot Gardiner’s book on Bach – he explains it all and more. Literate, educated, un-fussy and amusing. You’ll like it.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Everyone is different. – you can’t apply the subjective with a trowel. For me, Mahler can be very cathartic.

    • Patricia says:

      Mahler takes far too long to make his point(s). Not every little fragment requires further exploration. GIve me the 18th Century any time.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Reading NL’s short review disrupted my Elisabeth Leonskaja day (got only as far as her Schubert Trout Quintet with the Alban Berg). But in a happy way. Peter Hill’s new Goldbergs is a delight from start to finish and one of the finest, centered, well played and heartfelt I have heard. A great accomplishment. I am, of course, already familiar with his Bach output which is all around superb. But the man outdid himself with this one.

  • Jack says:

    “Only Back can bust the stress”


  • Patricia says:

    I prefer Bach on the harpsichord – the modern piano with its iron frame is too resonant: players seem to think they have to play like a mouse. Harpsichord, fortepiano- both fill the bill beautifullly. But I always prefer to hear music performed on instruments the composer would recognize. You wouldn’t play Stravinsky on an 18th Century violin with gut strings. At least, I wouldn’t.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      I imagine many players in Sravinsky’s prime still played on gut strings. I think anything can be played on gut strings and sound very good.

      • Patricia says:

        The gut strings – which I’m sure Stravinsky had heard or was familiar with – would have played at a lower key. Composers have keys in mind when they write a piece- I can’t imagine FIrebird, or even Dumbarton Oaks (a favorite of mine and I have been to Dumbarton Oaks in D.C.) played on gut. The music is meant to be played on steel.

        • Ruben Greenberg says:

          Patricia: Is it not possible to play gut strings at A-440? I’m not a string player, so I wouldn’t know. I imagine the pitch is liable to go down fast on gut.

          • Patricia says:

            A-440 is the usual pitch for gut strings. But that is lower than usual orchestral concert pitch. That is how Baroque players tuned their strings.Concert pitch rose over the centuries and of course, steel strings replaced gut. The ‘period instrument’ crowd happily changed that: gut strings, wooden flutes, valveless trumpets – and older keyboard instruments with wooden, not iron frames. It makes a much more convincing sound, one which composers would have recognized – although we can not listen with 18th-century ears! We have heard Stravinsky and Bartok. But we can appareciate the difference in sound. It personally speaks to me emotionally as well as musically. And emotion is one of the prime components of music. Even Plato had worked this out. And the return to the smaller, 18-th century orchestras, different seating arrangements for each piece, with the conductor – who was often the composer – as part of the orchestra, playing the harpsichord or violin – made so much difference.

          • Patricia says:

            Yes, gut sound decays faster and is more difficult to master. But to my ears, it is a softer sound, although different conductors prefer brighter or warmer sounds. And it can of course be done on gut – they did it for centuries!

      • Patricia says:

        I doubt it. The music just doesn’t call for it and hadn’t for some decades, as performance practice, style,etc changed.

      • Patricia says:

        Also, steel strings produce a different sound, don’t lose their pitch as quickly, don’t respond to atmospheric conditions as quickly – and are easier to play. We now have choices. And given all the period bands now, which are part of the ‘traditional’ concert repertory, we can suit the band to the music.

  • dorset richard says:

    which town is pictured ?

  • Patricia says:

    Also, let me say that I love period music on the instruments of the period – something the composers would have recognized. And different instruments mean different playing techniques and styles. You have to relearn for each period, each style.

  • Patricia says:

    My heart, however, belongs to Handel (and Boyce, Arne )and the other musicians of 18-century London. And to CPE Bach, possibly the most original and unique of JSB’s kindern.