The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How and when did the idea of Johann Sebastian Bach: Slovakia 2005 originate?
Ján Juráš (JJ): This year's festival is the logical outcome of all the Bach activities we've organized up till now.
During Communism I used to prepare concerts of Bach's music in Prievoz's Evangelical Church with the cautious agreement of the local priest. You could forget about trying to hold (traditional) concerts! They had to take place within holy mass, without naming those taking part.
After the revolution I initiated a regular concert, Honouring Bach, held on the day of his birth, March 21, at Prievoz's Church. One of the special birthday concerts was when 10 leading Slovak organists played Bach's work for 316 minutes (5 hours 16 minutes). It was on the occasion of the 316th anniversary of his birth. In 2000 we joined the worldwide Bach Year festival and two years later I organized International Days of Organ Music - Visegrad 2002. Four organists, one from each of the Visegrad Four countries, performed Bach's works in each of the four capitals on March 21 of that year.
Of the regular happenings, I should mention the two years of Hommage á Bach concerts held in July with the Bratislava Chamber Soloists orchestra. This is another event we want to continue with in the future.
TSS: Have you come across a similar idea to the yearlong Bach festival abroad?
JJ: Bach festivals are very popular abroad and surprisingly, at least for me, especially in the US. However, I know of no such event that lasts the whole year and involves the whole country.
TSS: When will the next festival take place?
JJ: Every five years we plan to organize an official Bach festival. Those are the "round" anniversaries of his birth and death. (Bach was born in 1685 and died in 1750.)
Every year, though, we expand the programme of Bach concerts. In March there is Honouring Bach and in July Hommage á Bach. The Solamente naturali orchestra with choirs and soloists regularly perform his cantatas as well.
TSS: What is the appeal of Bach and his music for the listener of today?
JJ:The Bach audience ranges from grandold ladies dressed in formal gowns to teenagers dressed in jeans. And this is not only true of gimmicky concerts with special attractions, but also ordinary events. It means that Bach addresses and is relevant to all generations.
TSS: Why is Bach such a phenomenon?
JJ: Bach was simply a genius who has also transferred his spiritual and artistic message into the 21st century.
He inspired many popular artists, including The Beatles. He is admired by jazzmen and his works are considered the forerunner of jazz.
I have several recordings of the same Bach works performed by various musicians and the difference in interpretation is evident. Bach can even be performed on a comb if there's respect and humility for the original.
And one more thing: Bach didn't care about how his works would be played in the future. He composed his works for God. And that's why they are everlasting.
24. Jan 2005 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová