The paradox of Bach, the great consolidator, is that in his own time he was considered passé, yet to modern ears he sounds challenging, even experimental. Just as he and his Baroque contemporaries ‘borrowed’ material from other composers (and from themselves), the last few decades have seen Bach’s work increasingly plundered by rock groups, jazz musicians and dubstep collagists. I have no objection to this: it’s a measure of how Bach is still widely regarded as relevant and, whatever one might feel about these efforts, the originals abide, unharmed and unbowed.
Gene Pritsker’s piano concerto Reinventions and Daniel Schnyder’s Concerto Grosso toopART Reinventions process fragments of Bach’s material using various popular music styles, though predominantly jazz. It results in the kind of exuberant mélange of classical and non-classical elements that was popular in the ’60s, yet contrasts with the stern modernist approach of pioneering Third Stream efforts. In both works the ensemble playing is vivacious, punchy and commendably tight, and several soloists make engaging contributions, some parts of which are improvised although about 85 per cent of the music is prewritten. For me, though, it is Trapp’s brief, bluesy and exhilarating Snowman (often rather elegant, smeared guitar and all) that sticks in the memory.