If I had to nominate a piece of music to emulate Alan Yentob’s fMRI scan experience, I wonder if Andreas Scholl‘s performance of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater would do the trick. I bought it at random in the Music Discount Centre CD shop near St Paul’s many years ago and could not stop listening to it — a complete accident, and something so arch I would have run a mile in the opposite direction if you’d suggested that I’d be forever captivated by the purity of this counter-tenor voice.

Well, to keep ploughing a furrow of recycling BBC programmes, here is a link (valid for about six days) to a show from Tuesday on Radio 3 where Scholl was interviewed (about 15 mins in), proving the virtue of my wall-to-wall listening to Radio 3 the past two months.

For students of corporate hubris (like me) it’s always interesting to hear experts in their particular field — let alone a virtuoso of the highest standing — explain how they tackle performance. When it is mastering the Erbarme Dich within the Bach St Matthew Passion, we should all sit up and pay attention:-

Scholl: Whenever you open your mouth and try to do justice to this piece, it is only possible with 100% heart, soul, body, technique. Everything needs to come together in that moment.

Sean Rafferty (Presenter): And a degree of humility, I think.

Scholl: Absolutely. The right perspective I would say. You should not walk out in a sense as if you composed the Matthew Passion or like the greatest moment will be me singing the Erbarme Dich. That’s vanity and that will destroy the piece. But also it will not help to walk out and thinking: ‘Mr Bach, I am not worthy of singing your music’. Because if you open your mouth you better are worthy to do that, better are good enough. So you either think you can do it then you give it everything. But if you have doubts that you can really bring justice to this piece then you should not sing it. It’s all or nothing with Bach, I would say.

So, it’s crucial to be neither too confident nor too humble. Well, Andreas Scholl may not be everyone’s bag, and I dare anyone to tell me the Pergolesi is better. I will stop now as I am at the very limit of my musical knowledge.

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