Review: Late Night Bach \ James McVinnie \ Spitalfields Festival

James McVinnie’s 45 minutes of Bach as part of the Spitalfields Festival this week was a sensitively curated selection from Books 1 and 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier presented as a complete sequence without interruption.

In the dimly-lit Shoreditch Church interior (complete with its own resident cat), Vinnie’s prompt and energetic interpretation of Bach’s seminal work created a nourishing and reinvigorating experience.

Moving too. This in part down to the meditative qualities of Bach’s composition, but also to the energy that had been present in the church during the earlier event.

Here was an aspect of Spitalfields’ distinctive approach reinforced: a serendipitous personal experience borne out of one concert following another – a sort of meta-experience. Read my previous review for a bit of background.

It helped that James had been explicit at the top of the programme, asking us to resist applauding. An intensely intimate feeling inside the church resulted, bringing us closer to performer in the process.

What transpired for me was a rather dark series of realisations, the top line being that I have ben living day-to-day for the past five months with a low-level but constant sense of anger.

Some of that anger is evident (to me at least) in the subject matter which has inspired some of the posts on Thoroughly Good in recent weeks.

But going further (during the Prelude & Fugue in B minor BWV 869) was a really unexpected insight – the anger was borne out of fear.

And when I started to ask myself what exactly I thought I was fearful of, so the list started to populate itself with all manner of things, some consequences of a dramatic shift in my personal circumstances, others more global, universal and distinctly out of my control.

That a performance of something as so exquisite as music by Bach brought this about will come as no surprise at all to most. That’s what Bach’s music does. It’s not so much something you stick on in the background, as something you submit to on the basis that you’ll make something done to you.

To experience it in such an intimate setting where the connection is made not just with the performer but other members of the audience too made this a very special experience.

Late Night Bach was part of Spitalfields Music Festival 2017. It runs until 10 December.

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