Bach: Never Like Anyone Else

There are purists who climb the walls when German Conductor-Organist-Harpsichordist Karl Richter performs Bach. They are the music scholars who haggle over the proper reading of a single phrase in a baroque score. To them, imagination—and Richter has plenty—is the ultimate transgression.

Then there are those who are not afraid of originality. They know, for example, that if the exact performance methods of the 18th century were applied today, the orchestral playing would be poorer and the wind and brass instruments more primitive. This second group represents an increasing majority, and its...

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