08 February 2012

Bach "boring and banal"...Prof Ebenezer

Uncle Ebenezer - the bosom friend of Dingo, Mousie and Sonnet - is not, I discovered to my surprise, a lover of Bach's music.

The other night he was holding forth on the subject of what he called Johan Sebastian's "interminable Preludes, Fugues and Cantatas" and although I don't personally agree with him, his remarks were so interesting and unconventional that it seemed to me that they deserved a wider audience - if only because they make a great talking point if nothing else!

 "I don't mind telling you, Dingo, that if the truth is told, Bach was the most mechanical and uninspired composer that ever put quill to paper. Apart from a few exceptions (like the first movement of his D minor keyboard concerto - which I expect he pinched from someone else!), most of his stuff is boring, repetitive and written to a pre-conceived formula that is as predictable as it is banal. The old fogey" he added,his eyes twinkling, "was nothing but a cumbersome old-fashioned musical sausage machine which once it was started nobody knew how to switch off. No wonder he wasn't thought much of when he was alive! I mean to say, his stuff just goes on and on and on ad infinitum!. It's like the European Debt crisis and just about as interesting too!"
Dingo gave a gasp of disbelief. He couldn't believe his ears!
"Utter rubbish! " he exclaimed heatedly. "Bach is considered by those who know anything about the subject at all to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, composer of all time!"
Ebenezer chuckled.
"That's because no-one dare say otherwise! It's the same with Shakespeare. Both are vastly over-rated. It's just another case of the Emperor's Clothes! George the Third hit the nail right on the head when he said: 'Was there ever such stuff as a great part of Shakespeare? Only one mustn't say so! Is there not sad stuff? What? What?'. It's the same with Bach! It's mostly all very sad stuff! What? What? What?"
Mousie, sensing another Big Family Row, looked from one to the other and furiously nibbled a piece of cheese. "I just know I'm going to have another nightmare tonight!" he murmured apprehensively.
"But", protested Dingo, frowning at Ebenezer, "you must admit that there's  nothing to compare with his organ works - absolutely nothing!
Look at his great Prelude and Fugue in D major for example - it's fantastic! I LOVE playing that on a big cathedral organ  - 'cept the pedal part is a bit tricky for a small dog like me 'specially when my nails need cutting! But even though I say it myself I'm a pretty good organ grinder! I think I'll make a recording of it some time just to show everyone how it should be done! My Bach's much better than my bite!" he added with a laugh.
Ebenezer looked at him scornfully: "I would say myself that your bite's MUCH better than your Bach! Don't forget I heard you play once. You're just like most of today's organists: always full organ - fortissimo and everything presto con fuoco from start to finish. Mein Gott!" he exclaimed "it's like being inside a giant cement mixer!"
"Well, I can think of something much worse" said Dingo with an impish smile.
"O! What's that?" asked Ebenezer.
"Toscanini conducting Mozart!".
Now it so happens that Ebenezer reveres Toscanini and he practically has a fit if anyone dares to criticise his great idol in any way whatsoever. Dingo, of course, knew this very well and that's why he said it. He carefully edged towards the door.
"What?" roared Ebenezer jumping up. "You hound of hell - I'll..."

But as it looked as if things were going to get a bit nasty, I, like Mousie, decided it was time we were not there. Besides it was late and as Master William so aptly put it: "The deep of night is crept upon our talk and nature must obey necessity"! Thank goodness for bed!
PS: Dingo did a drawing recently of the church where he sometimes plays his favourite bits and pieces. He thought you might like to see it!
What a show-off he is!



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