HIPsters? No, not what you’re thinking, but a word – I’m rather proud(?) of it – that I’ve coined myself. HIPsters are people who favour Historically Informed Performance (aka ‘authentic’ performance or period performance). Notice the inverted commas around the word ‘authentic’. They’re there because, as critics of the term point out, before the invention of the wax cylinder, […]


  In case you didn’t know (and I certainly didn’t) batophobia is fear of sky-scrapers. If you suffer from that particular perfectly sensible irrational terror, don’t ever, ever, ever come to Kuala Lumpur – the place is chock-a-block with the bloody things! There are a few architectural remnants of the old colonial days: the British […]

One of the most perfect works of music?

In the header image of this blog (‘signed’ portraits of Bach and Wagner) you can see that the older composer is holding a piece of paper, unsurprisingly this turns out to be manuscript paper; even closer inspection (see below) reveals that it contains the music of the six part triple canon BWV1076. The middle voice (circled […]

Sweet sorrow

‘When Bach writes of sorrow, it never crushes us. Perhaps because there is no trace of bitterness. ’ Wanda Landowska ‘Contemplative’, ‘remotely beautiful’, ‘a calm and floating unearthliness’ – descriptions of the f# Prelude from Book 2 vie with one another in a futile attempt to capture an emotional world that exists in music, and only in music. And […]

Answers from the Amazon

This week it’s the turn of the brilliant G Prelude and Fugue from Book II. Here’s the exposition of the fugue: The articulations (staccatos, mezzo-staccatos, slurs, tenutos, etc.) are, of course, mine and serve to illustrate some of the sort of decisions (other than tempo) that interpreters have to make when approaching these pieces. The […]

Upside down and twice as slow

We are, I hope, by now getting familiar with fugue-speak – ‘statements’, ‘answers’ (real or tonal), ‘episodes’, ‘inversions’, ‘strettos’ (or ‘i’ if you prefer) and so on, are all grist to our mill. So the time has come, I reckon, to examine that most recondite of fugues in that most recondite of keys, No. 8 in d-sharp. It’s […]