Leah Hollingsworth hears the innovative performance of Bach at the Isaac Stern Auditorium in New York’s Carnegie Hall on 17 February 2024 


An inspiring evening with Amanda Gorman and Jan Vogler. Photo: Chris Lee

What do a brilliant young poet of today and a brilliant composer of four hundred years ago have in common? More than you would think – as I discovered at Carnegie Hall, where Amanda Gorman and Jan Vogler presented an unforgettable and stimulating evening, combining recitations of Gorman’s poetry interspersed with movements from Bach’s Solo Cello Suites. While there didn’t seem to be a direct relationship in terms of content, the clarity and rhythmic intensity of Gorman’s diction correlated directly with Vogler’s sense of articulation and bow use in the Bach. This was especially notable in the Prelude of the G major Suite, while the Allemande from that suite seemed inspired after Gorman’s reading of ‘An Ode We Owe’. He performed the C minor Suite scordatura as written, and the Prelude began so fast I couldn’t catch my breath or sink into the darkness of the key, although the fugue was quite stately and better paced. The Sarabande was truly beautiful and as I listened to Gorman’s ‘New Day’s Lyric’ that followed, it struck me that her smart wordplay was not dissimilar to Bach’s academic fugues – both artists masterful in their approach to form and nuance.

After the interval came Bach’s C major Suite: the Prelude was faster and less introspective than I would have liked, the Sarabande also seeming rushed, perhaps in response to Gorman’s almost breathless recitation of her infamous ‘The Hill We Climb’. The encore was the jewel of the evening – Gorman recited ‘What We Carried’ (again) while Vogler played the G major Prelude – this was true chamber music, the cellist masterfully timing tops of chords and phrases to match her breaths.