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Why is Bach better?

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Some years back colleague and I were listening to a Bach violin concerto on the radio. After a while my colleague said, “You know, there are a thousand Baroque violin concertos. Why is it that this one is just…better?”

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote sonatas, concertos, suites, preludes and fugues, overtures, oratorios, and cantatas—music in all the major forms of the Baroque era, with the exception of opera. But Bach himself didn’t invent any of the forms he used. He used the forms he inherited, but he transformed them – with a kind of fearless creativity… with passion, and expressive genius. “It was not given to [Bach’s predecessors] to quicken the forms with the spirit,” wrote Albert Schweitzer. “If all their struggles toward the ideal were not to be in vain, a greater man had to come… Bach is thus a terminal point. Nothing comes from him; everything merely leads up to him.”

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.