© 2024 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

Rock & Roll Rewind: "Bach" and Roll?

Bach holds a guitar

c d kaplan is a lifelong rock & roller. He’s got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.

And now for something completely different.

How a love for gut bucket rock & roll, the back beat, but a willingness to move beyond, can lead down rabbit holes resonant and satisfying.

My fascination started with the Founding Fathers. The architect Little Richard. The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis. The Fat Man Fats Domino. Johnny B. Goode. And the most primal Bo Diddley.

Top 40 Radio — rock, rock, rock & roll radio — was actually more inclusive than we sensed in those early days of the 50s and early 60s. A typical list of weekly hits would include not only US Bonds “Quarter To Three” but Lawrence Welk’s “Yellow Bird.”

Not only crooner Al Martino’s “Here In My Heart” but also country keyboard legend Floyd Cramer’s “San Antonio Rose.” Not only Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ In My Heart” but the Chordettes “Never on a Sunday.”

Then led by Dylan and the Beatles, after suffering through an era of Fabian, the genre expanded beyond all boundaries, becoming Rock. The classical underpinnings of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Electric Light Orchestra, and the truly operatic Queen.

Ian Anderson’s flute. John Luc Ponty’s violin. The madrigal-ish stylings of Fotheringay. Ravi Shankar. Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

And so I moved beyond Chuck Berry.

And, yes it’s twu it’s twu, I would go to the Louisville Orchestra when my parents weren’t using their tickets. Saw Stravinsky lead LO at Louisville Gardens. After hating big band jazz in my youth, savoring Count Basie Orchestra at a U of L Homecoming dance.

While I remain a rock & roller, my appreciation for how other tuneage can soothe the soul has led me down many paths.

Which brings me to last Friday and . . . “Goldberg Variations” the brilliant work of an 18th century song writer by the name of Johann Sebastian Bach.

I was introduced to the piano masterwork a score of years ago by the Film Babe, who had Glenn Gould’s iconic recordings. Having taken piano lessons, and still once in awhile diddling about on the 88s, I appreciate the excellence it takes to play such works of art.

I hadn’t really thought about the song cycle much in recent times. But there was an interview in the NYT last week with Víkingur Ólafsson, whose recent recording of the work is considered a superlative interpretation.

So I listened to some of Ólafsson’s rendition. Which is I’m advised more in line with what Bach wrote than Gould’s. GG, it is said, ignored some of the creator's notations. I went back and checked him out again also.

Gould’s take is more forceful, energetic, emphatic, personal. More contemporary. While Ólafsson’s is softer, sweeter, more elegant and contemplative. Old school. At least to my unsophisticated ears.

Here’s what I am certain of. It was a good musical day.

My rock & roll heart was full.

Observer of the Passing Scene: Pop Culture and Sports. Writer. Film Critic. Curmudgeon. Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal fan.

Can we count on your support?

Louisville Public Media depends on donations from members – generous people like you – for the majority of our funding. You can help make the next story possible with a donation of $10 or $20. We'll put your gift to work providing news and music for our diverse community.