Our building is temporarily closed, due to UK Government advice on Coronavirus/Covid-19. Find out more

Evening in the Palace of Reason

The Musical Offering

Mahan Esfahani leaning near hapsichord

May 1747: Frederick the Great, philosopher-king of Prussia, meets composer Johann Sebastian Bach – and challenges him to an unwinnable musical duel. Bach’s Musical Offering is the astonishing result.

In Evening in the Palace of Reason, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and author James R Gaines explore the story of Bach’s Musical Offering. And no question, it’s a powerful story – of timeless genius pitted against pure reason; of faith against Enlightenment; and two of the greatest figures of world history, king and musician, locked in philosophical combat.

James R Gaines, author of the bestselling account of their meeting, explains the human dimension, but the real miracle is Bach’s music. Performed by harpsichordist-without-limits Mahan Esfahani, it unlocks our weekend-long exploration of music’s most beautiful mind.

End-time to be announced nearer the event.

Download the programme

‘He’s unquestionably a player of great technical brilliance and musical intelligence, and there’s always the sense of that pioneering zeal in the way he plays the baroque repertoire.‘

Part of Inside Out

A year exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

Cocktails, concrete and tonnes of charm

Pop into the Martini Bar for a pre-performance tipple, with Happy Hour from 5-6pm


photo of satu vanska in barbican theatre

Barbican Sessions: Satu Vänskä


In an empty Theatre, Satu Vänskä, Principal Violinist of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, performs JS Bach's ‘Allemande’ from Partita II in D minor.

an orchestra playing classical music in the barbican hall in central london

Listen: Classical Music on Spotify

Follow our regularly updated Classical Music playlist for a sample of the music you'll hear across our programme. 

Milton Court Concert Hall