Back to back Bach

How does the Arabian Passion According to J.S. Bach featuring Arab musicians, two jazz saxophonists, a string quartet and a Lebanese singer grab you? The Arabian Passion is the brainchild of Vladimir Ivanoff, who is the Bulgarian founder and music director of the culture straddling ensemble Sarband. Ivanoff sees parallels between the story of occupation and persecution in the Middle East in biblical times, as portrayed in Bach’s Saint Matthew and Saint John Passions, and the tensions in the Middle East today. The Arabian Passion is the result, a 're-interpretation' of sections from both Passions for Sarband, the Modern String Quartet and singer Fadia el-Hage.

Transcriptions, arrangements and improvisations of Bach's works have been around for a long time. Jazz pianist Jacques Loussier is famous for his Bach improvisations while Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale is just one of many rock tracks that lean heavily on the master. But the thought provoking Arabian Passion is probably as off the wall as they come - as you can judge in my latest adventure in Chance Radio.

On February 7th at 15.00h UK time on Future Radio (with a repeat at 1.00am the morning of Monday Feb 8 for North American readers) I am playing five sections from Bach's Saint Matthew and Saint John Passions in performances by the King's College Choir, Cambridge, and soloists and the Brandenburg Consort conducted by Stephen Cleobury back to back with Vladimir Ivanoff's Arabian re-interpretation of the same pieces. I don't think it's been done before, which I know is not a good reason for doing it. But it should make fascinating listening - Sarband's closing jazz meets Arabic instrumental re-interpretation of the chorale Jesus Ging Mit Seinen Jüngern from the Saint John Passion is a real killer. But don't take my word, catch Chance Music online on Feb 7 or listen to the podcast here. And if an Arabian Passion is not enough there is Beethoven re-envisaged here.

* Listen to a podcast of the programme here.

** Also featured On An Overgrown Path are Sarband's Pilgrim of the Soul and Sacred Bridges.

I bought the Arabian Passion online. Future Radio is Ofcom licensed and party to a PRS agreement. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


it sounds interesting, however, I don't think the theme of occupation and or persecution is the principle,er,thrust,if you will, of either of Meister Bach's works[nor of the original sources, but that is another path:)]Certainly worth a listen,sometimes they are beautiful{Part} sometimes, not{Tan Dun}
Pliable said…
TWD, I know what you mean. I don't think I misrepresented Vladimir Ivanoff's views, here are the quotes from the Sarband website -

In his Arabian Passion,Vladimir Ivanoff, musical director of Sarband, compares Jesus’ suffering and that of the colonized Middle East in the time of the New Testament with the current situation.

The Arabian Passion” is a musical plea for peace.

A plea nourished by the confidence which forms the basis of Bach’s passions: that one day all suffering will come to an end.

It is debatable as to whether the justification works, and, indeed, whether justification is needed. The Arabian Passion is a project which I have found myself returning to, which is why I'm taking the opportunity to share it.

I will be interested to hear what readers think of it.
Pliable said…
Future Radio are repeating the webcast at 1.00am UK time on Monday morning Feb 8 to allow North American listeners to hear it. A podcast will follow.

Thanks for this recommendation. It sounded promising enough to take a gamble, and I am now on my third listen, and am very impressed. What is it about Bach's music that lends itself so readily to such re-interpretations?

I think I amy have to play the Uri Caine Goldberg Variations next!
Pliable said…
All that you can do is to make - and publicise - the best and most passionately well-crafted programmes you can think of. Ratings have to be watched, but calmly and with a sense of proportion. You have to believe that if even one person is swayed, or inspired, or changed, or comforted, by a programme, then that programme has been worthwhile. - Libby Purves
JP said…
This is the third musical recommendation from your blog that I have followed up and I have been very glad that I did in each case. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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