Every Bach lover has their favorite moment, their desert island piece; BWV 20 is, for me, the pinnacle of Bach's achievement as a poet of sound. The very first time I heard the piece I was physically overwhelmed in a way I had never felt before – the music and the nexus with the powerful text was FRIGHTENING. I had visions of Dali's melting clocks during the macabre opening chorus; the hellish scene of the final duet was almost unendurable.

But the memory I want to share is even more chilling than my first impressions of the piece. The ensemble was preparing to record this cantata in September 2001, and we had a rehearsal scheduled for the 11th. Craig would not consider cancelling the rehearsal, despite the events unfolding on that horrific day. It felt like some weird dream to be in the sanctuary making music while the nation was under attack and the danger was still unclear; as the powerful, terrifying opening chorus unfolded I found the Dali clocks replaced in my mind by the vivid and immediate images of the towers crumbling. To this day the cantata is inextricably connected to that national tragedy in my mind.

Pamela Dellal
Bach Institute Co-Director, Mezzo-soprano