London Office 10a Soho Square

London W.1

Edited by


Telephone Gerrard 2136. 2137

Tele,rams Parmaxto. Rath. London


APRIL 1936

No. 155


The Bach Competition

The competition for the best essay on " What Bach gives me that other music does not" brought in a remarkably high level of entries from all over the world and from all kinds of people. I venture to doubt if a competition like this in a l i terary paper on, let us say, "What the poetry of Shelley gives me that other poetry does not give" could have brought by the same post an essay from a motion-picture advertisement-writer in Chicago sent by the 20th Century Express and Air Mail and another from a boy at Eton College, not to mention an admirable effort written in Italian from Milan, and an equally admirable effort from Holland written in English.

I have had the usual hard task of deciding on the winner, but finally I have decided to award the prize to Mr. W. Victor Maysey, of 389 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham 11, whose thoughtful and illuminating little essay is printed on another page. The runner-up is Mr. Humphrey Baker, of Cherry Wood, Woldinghan, Surrey, whose essay is also printed in full.

Will the winner, .Mr. Maysey, write to the London Editor and choose an album, and will Mr. Baker ask for any two records he would like as a consolation prize? I do not think I need comment on either of the winning essays: their easy exposition of the subject without waste of words is sufficiently obvious.

Mr. P. L. Gillingham of Oriel College, Oxford, sent a good essay which I should like to print in full, but I fear space forbids. One statement he made which I must contest was that "the two most profound expressions of religious conviction ever penned in music" are Handel's Messiah and Bach's Mass in B minor. I would agree that the B minor Mass is a profound expression of religious conviction, although as a musical expression of the liturgical and spiritual significance of the Mass i t does not seem to me worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as the sublime Masses of Palestrina, and I should have said that Aa

Bach's religious conviction was much more perfectly expressed in the St. Matthew's Passion. I suppose one must accept Handel's religious conviction, but I cannot discover in the Messiah any expression of it. I do not feel that if the Messiah were called "The Trojan War" or " Jupiter" we should feel the least inappropriateness in the music, which is surely the expression of eighteenth-century virility rather than of any peculiarly religious emotion or conviction. Of course, the words are so familiar to English people that i t may seem almost profane to assert that the Messiah could be called" Jupiter," but I am fairly positive that if the Me.ssiah \vere sung in an unknown language and heard for the first time not one listener in a hundred could recognise i t immediately as an expression of religious conviction.

Mr. A. Cramwinckel of 17 Kievitlaan, Eindhoven, Holland, sent a charming essay and, in a letter to me, he called my attention to " our marvellous oboe-player, Jaap Stotjin of The Hague," and begged the influence of THE GRAMOPHONE to persuade one of the big recording companies to have him record one of the great oboe concertos of Haydn or one of the oboe concertos of Handel. J aap Stotjin has made a few recordings for Columbia to accompany his wife Madame Stotjin-Molenaar, the soprano, in songs of Bach; but I do not recall that these records were ever issued in England. I think that Mr. Cramwinckel's suggestion is valuable, and I hope i t will catch the eye of one of the recording enthusiasts.

A delightful essay came from Miss Sylvia Barrett, of 37 Springfield Road, St. John's Wood, and she made one very good point when she said that Bach's music was like Wordsworth's poetry, "emotion recollected in tranquillity." She goes on to observe that even Mozart " has not taken time to think out his present mood and master the emotion." It is a good point, particularly in an essay on the exceptional appeal of Bach, but I thought Miss Barrett was inclined to spoil her argument when she went on to cite Tchaikovsky as "a composer who excels in the