Nigel Kennedy Claims other Musicians Don’t Do Justice to Bach
Fresh off a performance of solo Bach at Royal Albert Hall, British violinist Nigel Kennedy is making headlines again. While still on the subject of Bach, the attention has turned to Kennedy’s opinions on his colleagues’ performances rather than reviews of his own. In the program notes for that same concert, the performer wrote that other musicians are failing to live up to the standard of complexity and beauty in Bach’s music. Rather than music with an emotional core, Kennedy hears soulless playing that he attributes to the growing popularity of period performance groups.
Accusing musicians of lacking passion and fire, Kennedy explained that “specialists” who call their music “authentic” are “unbelievably arrogant” because the “so-called authentic” interpretations use period instruments and would make composers “unbelievably blinkered.”
“Specialists are pushing Bach into a ghetto, which leaves many people feeling that Bach’s music is merely mathematical and technical. I see it as my job to try to keep Bach in the mainstream and present his music with, rather than without, its emotional core,” wrote Kennedy.
Adding to his already incendiary remarks, Kennedy claimed that Yehudi Menuhin was the best interpreter of Bach and hearing merely a few notes from his former teacher was worth more than any performance from a living violinist. Michael Garvey, the chief executive of the Academy of Ancient Muisc, disagreed, saying that his orchestra has “delivered amazingly passionate performances of [Baroque music] because we’ve understood how it should be performed.”
Is there a hard but honest truth to these critiques? Or should period performance ensembles lead the way in the modern musician’s approach to Bach? Comment below!
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