TORONTO BACH FESTIVAL A LABOUR OF LOVE FOR MUSICIAN AWESTRUCK BY COMPOSER’S POWERS

John Eliot Gardiner begins his magisterial book on the great 18th-century composer by writing: “Bach the musician is an unfathomable genius.” John Abberger agrees.

John Abberger
Toronto Bach Festival founder-director, oboist John Abberger at one of the venues, St. Barnabas Church, 361 Danforth Avenue. (STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR)

John Eliot Gardiner begins his magisterial book on the great 18th-century composer (subtitled Music in the Castle of Heaven) by writing: “Bach the musician is an unfathomable genius.” John Abberger agrees.

Does this make Tafelmusik’s principal oboist reluctant to perform the master’s music? Quite the contrary.

In fact, May 24-26 marks the fourth time in as many years that he has presided over the Toronto Bach Festival, a three-day event he founded at St. Barnabas Church on the Danforth, bravely devoted to fathoming the unfathomable.

“I’ve spent years trying to answer the question of what makes his music so moving,” the veteran oboist admits. “It’s universal. He crosses cultures and economic groups. People can be moved without knowing anything about music.

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