BBC Proms' Bach Day resurrects massive orchestral transcriptions alongside period-performance finery
It was Bach Day at the Proms yesterday, all captured on audio and available for free streaming until next weekend.
The programme that most interested me was conductor Andrew Litton leading the day's final concert, made up of orchestral transcriptions of some of J.S. Bach's best-known works, supplemented by two new commissions.
The concert opens with Leopold Stokowski's incredibly ponderous reimagining of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. I can't stand it, because, even though Litton does the best he can, the orchestration kills the essential life in the music.
It's too bad we only get to hear the beginning and end of a Bach orchestral suite arranged by Henry Wood, because these two movements, which follow the Stokowski, are full of light and life.
There is much more to hear, including a Proms premiere from the underappreciated Percy Grainger and William Walton's The Wise Virgins ballet score, all inspired by Bach.
If you feel like cleansing your palate between the two halves of the concert, you can listen to John Eliot Gardiner's rollicking readings (the opening of the horn-happy No. 1 sounds like a downtown traffic jam) of the Brandenburg Concertos with the English Baroque Soloists from earlier in the day.
The fantastic website includes extensive downloadable notes.