Johann Sebastian Bach

Recent stories of vandalism and bomb threats against Jewish religious sites and organizations are part of a history of anti-Semitism. In music, one long-standing controversy involves a 200-year-old symphonic work composed by a giant of the classical music world.

Both musicians and classical fans adore Bach for much the same reasons—the German composer combined harmonic invention and melody to create lasting works of beauty. His music is also endlessly pliable, revealing new insight when played or heard on a variety of instruments. Recently I’ve been enjoying two new releases that don’t stray too far from the instruments of Bach’s time, but there are some key differences.

Derek Gripper was a musician with a problem. He'd been playing classical music since he was 6 years old — violin, then piano and finally guitar. He was poised for an international career as a classical guitarist. But he remembers going to the homeland of one of his favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

"It felt kind of strange," he says. "It felt strange to be in Germany playing Bach to them."

Claire Harbage / NPR

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DANIEL ZWERDLING, HOST:

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