Lately, we heard two performances of J.S. Bach works, a violin concerto and the St. Matthew Passion. The concerto was particularly interesting, because it was followed by the Beethoven fourth symphony and it suddenly became clear to me what distinguished Bach’s works from most other composers.
The Beethoven was lovely, warm and human with a wide range of emotions. So was the Bach, but the perspective was different. However exalted and striving, the Beethoven was recognizably of the here and now and dominated by human feelings.
In contrast, the Bach seemed to hold all emotion in suspension. Everything was there, joy, sorrow, anger, regret, but resolved into something different, some Olympian detachment that saw the whole of life at once without out fear or regrets.