Virtual Bach

While I hoped to go to Tafelmusik’s presentation of the Bach B-minor Mass Thursday night in Massey Hall it was not to be. I was still testing positive for COVID.

Instead Friday night I chose to watch a live concert on my computer. The online version will be available until next Friday if you have the same idea as me (for further info).

It was a bit surreal. The guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki, the four soloists (Joanne Lunn soprano; Tim Mead countertenor; Thomas Hobbs, tenor; Jonathon Adams, baritone), the orchestra, and the Tafelmusik chamber choir came out on the Massey Hall stage: or so I assumed watching the view on my laptop. We never got a view into the hall, which would confirm the location: although I’m pretty sure they’re telling the truth.

There was no applause from the audience although the performers applauded one another afterwards. While this was arguably a perfect performance, it was still not quite right, because I was not in the audience (ha, there was no one there…). I was unable to watch from inside the hall. It took me a few minutes to get accustomed to this medium, that is so perfect as to seem unreal.

The camera work is amazing, giving you intimate glimpses of soloists, choristers and players.

Masaaki Suzuki (photo: Marco Borggreve)

The acoustic in this virtual version is pristine, which for me means it’s not quite right. I want to hear the sounds of coughs and chairs adjusting, the evidence of people performing and listening, the interchange between performers and the community of listeners. In this medium the listener (me) is effectively silent.

A lot of that is missing, making this near to perfect. I’m sure that’s how many people will prefer it.

Soprano Joanne Lunn

And there’s no danger of catching or sharing a virus in this artificial venue.

While I have now (as of Friday) tested negative on the antigen test, I still feel safer for having stayed at home.

And I can revisit Suzuki’s interpretation again until next Friday.

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