A dialogue between Jean-Sebastien Bach and the Noh theater.

This concert-performance is a meeting between the Well-tempered Clavier of J. S. in essential apparitions, and thus offers to the public a rare opportunity to enter into the intimacy and fascinating variety of this great art form. Four masks, two masks of men and two masks of women, are worn by the same actor and interchanged on stage. Certain moments of the choreography are danced without mask, with or without the fan, at times with a sword, all of which allows us to grasp the great unity of Noh figures and to admire its powerful elegance. Thanks to the absence or quasi-absence of costumes, it is possible to perceive the subtleties of a most complex corporal science, otherwise hidden. Our programme also offers to music-lovers the pleasure to hear the Preludes and Fugues from the second Welltempered Clavier of J. S. Bach, which within this unique and audacious context appear to us anew and reveal an unexpected theatrical and emotional power.


Foreword by Masato Matsuura:

Noh is a theatrical art of song and dance, founded in Japan in the XIVth century. As with all the Japanese arts of that time, it is strongly influenced by Zen. It was originally founded on Sangaku, a popular art, and assimilated several other elements: Shinto, Taoism, Renga (poems recited by several participants), and other folk arts. Noh developed, transformed, and continued to be refined during the Edo period (XVIIth to XIXth centuries). Today however its elements are firmly structured and defined. This art form, having thus arrived at a culminating end-point in its development, consequently risks a state of stagnation, a museum piece lacking relevance or a coherent context. It is believed that the archetype of Noh, Sangaku came from India through China around the VIth century. One of the art’s greatest founders, Zeami, writes himself that Noh comes from India. At that time the basis of Japanese culture flourished as Tenpyo Bunka (Tenpyo culture), where Hellenistic influences are to be recognized. In fact Japan, at the far end of the silk road, certainly assimilated this culture within its own foundations. It would seem natural therefore that Greek traces are to be found in Noh, in particular in the use of masks, costume and dance. Baroque music in its development in Europe was of course also born of Greek culture, the mother of all Western culture. I believe that these two arts, which developed almost at the same time in very distant countries are like cousins who share the same archaic memory. Thus to dance to works by J. S. Bach would seem to me quite natural. Personally, I feel as if I were rediscovering a brother I had not seen since his birth. And this is a great joy to be shared with the public, a joy I would never find in the usual world of Noh. Two brothers born in different countries and growing up without ever knowing each other. Today, thanks to the development of civilization, they can meet and interact. I believe this to be a cultural pleasure made possible through history. The Noh dancer is like a medium: he embodies the energies of the plays, that is, the energy of words, and he leads the public into an abstract world, into other dimensions. In this performance our intention is to incarnate the music of Bach in order to present another spirit of this music through the presence of the body. Pleasure is not only to listen to music, but also to see music. It is perhaps that which we are all searching for. Noh is an art of encounters.

Foreword by Frédérick Haas:

A few years ago we tempted, together with Masato Matsuura, the adventure of presenting Biber’s Rosary with Noh theatre. This brought the most perfect answer to the many difficulties of presenting, in the context of a modern concert, a work which was not conceived for that purpose. An answer complex, refined, difficult, perhaps austere, yet powerful and compelling. The female characters of Noh were presented in relationship to the themes of the Rosary. Ever since, I have dreamt of a programme which might present the vast variety of Noh repertoire, a programme which would be constructed towards that very purpose: that variety which is also the variety of affects and theatricality of so-called baroque music. Moreover, as Masato Matsuura is not only an exceptional Noh actor, but also the master of an impressive palette of secular techniques which he succeeds to weave into his unique personal research, sword dances and some simple movements issued from Noh make us instinctively understand that the fan is a sword, and that the sword itself does not seek death alone, that the elegance of male dancing – whether they be samurai, or seventeenth century Occidentals, princes, peasants or priests – is that of men preparing themselves for battle and war, a war which is firstly a struggle with oneself, and with the limits one wishes to expand. After our Rosary of Biber, the Western audience, enchanted, wished to know more about Noh, the Noh of which one hears but never sees. With Noh-Bach, Masato Matsuura allows us to discover its very essence. Essence, because Noh theatre consists also of a choir, instruments, singers, accessories, temple-like décors, the most complex conditions – and one must bear both great knowledge and great audacity to present its dance, isolated and bare. Noh of a young woman, Noh of a young warrior, almost a child, Noh of women possessed by jealousy, Noh of a ghost turned into a demon who returns and speaks: this vast humanity is all present in the music of J. S. Bach, and we trust this will aid its intimate theatricality, both impetuous and fervent, light and sweet, to be revealed. Bach imposes himself most naturally as the unique author for the music of this encounter: on account of all it represents and truly is, particularly in the fascinating second book of Well-tempered Clavier: music rich, dense, mysterious and complex, well known to us all. However it is not music intended for concert: it cries out to be “mise en scène”. It is thus the perfect meeting place of Japanese theatre.

Technical requirements:

- Stage
Breadth: 6m
Depth: 4,5m
- A space for dance (of smooth wood or appropriate dance surface): 4,5 x 4,5 m
- one vertical mirror (with a height of minimum 1m)
- two light /candle -holders with a height of ca. 1,5 m, bearing if possible a candle, if not, an electric one
- a stick /rod , 2 meter long
- a harpsichord with 2 keyboards, of good quality
- a piano stool
- stage lighten G