Richard Wagner once said of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music: “That made me what I am. My unending melody is predestined in it.”

In Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Wagner demonstrated to post- Tristansceptics his mastery of traditional musical forms. Sonorous chorales, a fugally-inspired toccata, an unforgettable quintet and counterpoint worthy of Bach all feature in this magnificent score celebrating the marriage of inspiration and tradition.

Kasper Holten’s production of  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Photo © Clive Barda, courtesy of The Royal Opera House

Incredibly, Bach’s major works had been ignored and forgotten until Mendelssohn presented the St Matthew Passion in Leipzig in 1829. The neglect of Bach for at least 50 years was symptomatic of a much wider problem. During the 18th century, the Austro-German ruling classes had been indifferent to (Lutheran) German culture and were inclined to rubbish anything that was not neo-classical and French or Italian inspired. The Holy Roman...