This coming Sunday and the next I will be skipping church in order to listen to Angela Hewitt play the Well-Tempered Clavier - 1 Book per Sunday (her recordings of the Preludes and Fugues are now available at a bargain price). But I have decided that it is OK to miss church for Bach, because Archbishop of Canterbury says so:
"I think it was Iris Murdoch who said of Bach's music that it arrogantly demands our contemplation, that's to say it doesn't just allow itself to be background music, it doesn't let you sit back. And there's something in that because performing Bach is, I think, inexorably a matter of spiritual attention. It does demand a kind of selflessness, it does demand a kind of intentness, it does things to you. The passions involve you, they don't just let you sit back, you have to take part, you have to become an 'I' in the story, but even very brief pieces change you, they unpredictably lead you into territories where you felt you hadn't chosen to go. So, it's very difficult to know how you would characterise Bach as a religious composer, he's not just a composer who sets religious texts, he's a composer who sees all his music as a kind of spiritual exercise. And although performers and listeners may not share his own confessional convictions, I think it's very difficult to listen to Bach without that sense that we are being invited to change your life."