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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Well, you have our permission to turn up the volume for this next story about Johann Sebastian Bach. Scholars have long debated what constitutes the proper tradition for performing his music. At the same time, others have thrown tradition out the window.

A recent release of Bach's music on accordion got music critic Tom Manoff thinking about the lighter side of Bach over the years.

TOM MANOFF: Bach always seemed to me the greatest of all composers. So when the Swingle Singers came along, the first really popular jazz Bach vocalists, I tried not to like them. But their snappy do-be-do-dahs were irresistible.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: People often say that Bach's music is timeless. Well, Wendy Carlos proved it with her futuristic "Switched-On Bach."

(Soundbite of song, "Two-Part Invention in F Major")

MANOFF: This is Bach's "Two-Part Invention in F Major" on the Moog synthesizer.

(Soundbite of song, "Two-Part Invention in F Major")

MANOFF: Bach also works especially well on guitar.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: This is the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet playing their arrangement of a movement from "The Brandenburg Concerto Number 6." The warmth and clarity of the guitar's plucked-string sound allows this music to seem relaxed and complicated at the same time.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: My interest this summer in the lighter side of Bach began with a new release from accordionist Richard Galliano.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: Bach's delightful "Suite in B Minor" is usually heard with flute and orchestra. But here, Galliano plays the solo part on the accordina, a smaller relative of the accordion, and takes the composer's high art into a cozy cafe.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: Some may consider all these light-hearted versions of Bach as a tarnish to his genius. I think the opposite is true. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is so great, so well-structured that it can exist in all kinds of styles, even styles which Bach could never have imagined.

And what would Bach think about all this? My guess is that he'd like it.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: That's our classical music critic Tom Manoff.

(Soundbite of music)

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