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4. Fanfare review

March 31, 2024

Peter Burwasser

STAIRWAY TO BACH • Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (org) • OUR 8.226920 (75:25)
THE DOORS Light My Fire. People Are Strange BACH Piece D’orgue. Bouree. Prelude in g. Fugue in g. Wachet Auf, Ruft uns die Stimme. Air SAVAGE ROSE The City Awakes LED ZEPPELIN Stairway to Heaven PINK FLOYD Shine on You Crazy Diamond QUEEN Bohemian Rhapsody PROCOL HARUM Homburg. A Whiter Shade of Pale

Rock bands riffing on classical music is nothing new. This enjoyable album reverses that
relationship, by taking well known rock anthems and reinterpreting them in the style of Bach.
Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen, who is the on the faculty of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, plays
his arrangements, mixed in with original Bach works, on the mighty four manual Marcussen and
Son instrument at the RDAM concert hall. Most of the pop material here comes from the
world of progressive rock, a genre I have always associated more with Wagnerian excess and
pomposity than the Baroque (Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven falls into this category), but
Mikkelsen makes the connection fluidly, particularly with the closing track, Procol
Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale, which is directly modelled on the Air form Bach’s Orchestral
Suite No. 3. There are a few patches where the rock tie-in is strained, especially where the
rhythms are bouncy and syncopated, such as The Door’s Light My Fire. Not that Bach
did not have his own bouncy moments, as in the Variation No. 7 from Goldberg, but it is not
music that would comfortably accompany a mosh pit party.
Mikkelsen’s general concept has its precedents; most of us remember Wendy Carlos’
Switched On Bach, and I would bet that most Fanfare readers are familiar with the delightful
and frequently brilliant NPR show Piano Puzzler, in which the pianist and composer Bruce
Adolphe imbeds a pop tune within a structure derived from a classical source (e.g., Irving
Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek married to a Mendelssohn Song Without Words). Mikkelsen’s approach
is closer to what Adolphe does than Carlos, as he quotes the Bach motifs that he imagines are
the source of the rock numbers. Interspersing the Bach originals enhances this concept. There is
nothing especially profound here, but it is fun and very well executed. Having grown up with a
younger brother who played drums in a garage band as a teenager and went on to acquire a
doctorate in composition, I can relate. Peter Burwasser

4 Stars: An enjoyable meeting of Bach and Pink Floyd on the organ.

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