A friend pointed this out to me a week or two ago: the Chromatic Fantasia/Fantasy in D Minor. It's spectacular. I'm not sure I would have recognized it as Bach if I hadn't known. Or, rather, I would have wondered if it was a Bach piece with which some more modern composer had taken a few liberties. Most of it is very Bach-like, but from time to time it sounds more "modern" to me, by which I must mean that it has harmonies which are more...chromatic, I guess?...than my ear expects from Bach. In any case, it's quite a ride.
Here's the performance she sent me--a live performance by Glenn Gould, which, since it's on video, is not only musically but visually unusual. By which I mean "odd." As she notes, he conducts with his left hand when it's otherwise idle.
And here's a vastly different performance by Wanda Landowska on harpsichord. You'll notice that the title says "Fantasia and Fugue." The work is BWV 903, and it does include both the fantasia and the fugue, but both these performances are of the fantasia only. I don't know why Landowska's is two minutes longer. It doesn't seem that much slower, overall, than Gould's. I haven't attempted a careful comparison but someone with a better ear might be able to point something out.
I love these old Landowska performances and have several of them (not this one) on LP. I think part of the reason I like them is somewhat extra-musical, having to do with the sound of the harpsichord itself, which for me has a slightly mysterious quality. I was going to add "antique," but that's superfluous.
Click here to hear part of it played by Jaco Pastorius (famous jazz bassist)--on electric bass. The track is three minutes long but only the first half or so is Bach, as far as I can tell--perhaps the second part has some relationship that I don't hear. It's an astonishing feat of dexterity. But as Johnson said of a dog walking on its hind legs: "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." It is of course done "well" in the technical sense, but it's not very musical.
Johnson, as you very likely know, made that remark of a woman's preaching. By mentioning it, I may seem to be advertising and agreeing with his jibe. But by not mentioning it, I might seem to be suppressing it to avoid offending feminists and perhaps women in general. I prefer to take the first risk, as the second seems overly timid.
The truth is that I don't know whether I agree with Johnson's general sentiment, shorn of his particular mean-but-funny comparison. I can recall offhand only one instance of hearing a woman preach. It was in a Methodist church, not so very many years ago, and there was something awkward about it, a feeling that the woman was out of her element. But maybe that was only her, or only me, though I think I recall that my mother didn't care much for her either. There certainly are women preachers in plenty in some Protestant denominations, and to that I would apply the tolerant appraisal I heard long ago from one of my mother's friends, who was then probably about the same age that I am now: "If it suits them, it suits me."
I feel that way about many things, and perhaps there should be more of them. It does not injure me if someone drives an ostentatiously expensive automobile. It's not like using "cliche" as an adjective. Or modifying the words of a hymn from "unless the Father calls him" to "unless the Father beckons." The image that puts into my mind is ludicrous and persistent. I am in fact injured by it.