Review: Bach Festival Opening Concert Features Sergei Babyan

Bach's Unfinished Fugue Bach's Unfinished Fugue

The opening concert at the magnificent and refurbished space of Salle Bourgie, which is part of the Musée des Beaux Arts, for the 10th edition of the Montreal Bach Festival, was a stunning performance by Sergei Babyan. Babyan took us backwards tracing the historical trajectory of classical music which ended the evening with a select few from the Baroque master’s repertoire.

Babyan started the evening with a subtle beginning of Arno Pärt’s Fur Alina. The lights in the old edifice of the church were somber and Pärt’s notes were wonderful company. Still reeling from the effects of the renowned Estonian’s melody, I was taken down a wild ride with a dynamic piece which included a repertoire of Vladimir Ryabov. Ryabov’s music was the only one I wasn’t familiar with and the rigor of it seemed jarring at first, but it slowly grew on me and was the perfect prelude to the romantic classics.

The first portion of the performance ended with the Polish master’s variations: including his Polonaise, Valse and Barcarolle. Chopin is one of my favorite composers of that period and the long wavy rhythms that he was masterfully known for, is beyond a doubt universal and exists in perpetuity. When they say music has this innate ability to draw you in, musicians like Chopin were masters of that craft.

The second half was a 60 minute, non-stop of Johann Bach’s the Goldberg Variations and Veranderungen BWV 988. As a recent convert to the classics, it was transcendental to say the least. I can’t help but throw this bit of critique of how I still feel the arts remain accessible only to a certain elite. If Bach and the others would have witnessed this classist dissemination of their work, not sure how happy this would make them,

The Bach festival continues all of this week, well into early next month at various spots in the city. For more information and tickets visit HERE