Bath, Somerset, England
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Bachfest is a classic. Sounds of Bach come to Bath
The ancient baths that lent this city its name have for centuries drawn visitors here to Somerset, in South West England. Archaeological evidence suggests that when the Romans first built a temple over the bubbling natural hot springs here between 60-70 CE, they may have been adapting a previous centre of worship by ancient Celts. In any case, the Romans built up a complex of bathhouses over the course of 300 years or so, until the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410. The baths gradually fell into disrepair, but were rebuilt several times, culminating in the elaborate 18th-century bathhouses that still stand today.
Designed by the father-and-son team of John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger, the luxurious baths made Bath a fashionable spa town by the late 1700s. English high society also came to Bath for the grand Georgian architecture, including the huge ring of ornate townhouses called the Circus, which the elder Wood designed to mimic both the Roman Colosseum and the circular arrangement of standing stones at Stonehenge. (The architect believed that Bath had been a centre of ancient Druid culture, so his buildings’ round arrangement paid tribute to that famous Druidic monument.)
With its captivating history and spectacular architecture, it’s no wonder that Bath has long cultivated a lively arts scene. The city hosts short theatre, literary, and music festivals at various times throughout the year, generally outside the busy summertime festival season. Today brings the opening of Bachfest, which runs through this weekend. The program includes several performances of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as others by his Baroque contemporaries.