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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.

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‘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.‘

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

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Milton Court Concert Hall