MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Bach Passions

If you haven’t yet experienced the Peter Sellars staging of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, I can’t recommend it highly enough — and the Berliner Philharmoniker production with Simon Rattle is currently available to view for free (until Monday) at the Digital Concert Hall.

Meanwhile, Bach’s St. John Passion will be performed by John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists. It can be viewed for a fee of 9.90 Euros on a Deutsche Grammophon Stage stream from the historic Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, starting at 3pm CET on Good Friday, 2 April.

Remarks Gardiner: “I look forward to this performance for DG Stage of Bach’s St John Passion. “I recorded the piece for the first time for Archiv Produktion back in 1986 and it remains truly special to me. Bach conceived the piece as much as an act of worship as a work of religious art. Almost 300 years after it was heard for the first time, it continues to move listeners of all faiths and none.”

And here’s a performance from 2019 of the 1725 version of the St. John Passion (available for the next 48 hours) from Solomon’s Knot: recorded live at the Nikolaikirche, Bachfest Leipzig, on 19 June 2019. Dramatization by John La Bouchardière.

Filed under: Bach, music news

Happy Birthday, J.S. Bach!

Byron Schenkman & Friends presents an homage to the Thomaskirche Cantor with Happy Birthday, J.S. Bach! This concert features Joshua Romatowski on flute, Ingrid Matthews on violin, Caroline Nicolas on viol, and Byron Schenkman on harpsichord.

In addition to works by J.S. Bach, this program includes music composed around the time of his birth by Isabella Leonarda and Johann Kaspar Kerll.

 This is a free digital concert and will be streamed at 7:00pm PST on Sunday, March 21, 2021; it will remain available at Byron Schenkman & Friends and on BS&F’s YouTube channel.

The video link above is to BS&F’s February concert, Piano Songs & Fantasies, which offered a remarkable program of Mozart, Teresa Carreño, Florence Price, Johannes Brahms, Margaret Bonds, Hale Smith, and Franz Schubert.

PROGRAM:

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in D major, BWV 1028, for viol and harpsichord
Johann Kaspar Kerll: Passacaglia for harpsichord
Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita in A minor, BWV 1013, for flute
Isabella Leonarda: Sonata, op. 16, no. 12, for violin and continuo
Johann Sebastian Bach: Adagio Cantabile in G major, BWV 1019a, for violin and harpsichord

Filed under: Bach, Byron Schenkman

Mahan Esfahani Today in Recital

Happening today at 2pm EST from 92Y.
The concert stream will be available to ticket buyers (just $10) for one full week from the time of broadcast. View it live, or at your convenience.

The program:
Selected Three-Part Inventions (Sinfonias), BWV 787-801
French Suite No. 3. In D Minor, BWV 812
Partita No. 6 in E Minor, BWV 827
Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971

Filed under: Bach, harpsichord, Mahan Esfahani

A Prismatic Program from the Danish String Quartet

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Currently touring the West Coast, the Danish String Quartet paid a visit recently. I now get what the fuss is about. Here’s my review for Strings:

The Danish String Quartet‘s contribution to the Beethoven 250 celebrations this season includes a tripartite North American tour. As part of the fall segment of this tour, which is currently underway, the Scandinavian foursome made a recent stop in Seattle. On offer was the first of the Beethoven-themed programs they are presenting under the project name PRISM. The performance launched this season’s International Chamber Music series at the Meany Center for the Performing Arts of the University of Washington.

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Filed under: Bach, Beethoven, chamber music, Danish String Quartet, review, Shostakovich, string quartet, Strings

Bach by Candlelight

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Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Ayana Tsuji (winner of the 2016 first prize), Matt Haimovitz, and Kim Kashkashian at Maison symphonique (Concours musical international de Montréal)

Filed under: Bach, photography

St. Matthew Passion: Free Access at Digital Concert Hall

The Berlin Philharmonic is making its 2013 video of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the Peter Sellars staging available for free until Monday.

The St. John Passion is similarly available until Monday.

From the Berlin Philharmonic’s program guide for St. Matthew Passion:

“Not all musicians believe in God, but they all believe in Johann Sebastian Bach,” said Mauricio Kagel, who grappled intensely with the life of the cantor at St. Thomas’s Church, plagued by bureaucratic city fathers and unmotivated Latin pupils, when he composed his own Passion. The term “Passion” is inextricably linked with the name “Bach”, first and foremost due to his St. Matthew Passion, already a work of superlatives in terms of its external dimensions.

That’s because the oratorio of the suffering and death of Christ, which in Bach’s lifetime eclipsed anything conceivable in the field of music, consists of no fewer than 68 individual movements (formerly counted as 78), which include, among others, the monumental opening chorus, the chorale setting “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünden groß” and the epic final chorus.

Already in the first version of the work from 1727 an extensive double choir setting of choir and orchestra is also required: the impressive stereophonic effects have lost none of their fascinating impact. (Bach himself demonstrably dared at a 1736 performance to separate the ensembles completely, enabling the real-spatial differentiation of the dialogue between the two vocal-instrumental ensembles.)

Starting off a week of festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie, Sir Simon Rattle conducts Bach’s greatest passion music, together with the Rundfunkchor Berlin, boys from the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and a top-class ensemble of soloists. It is a work you can become addicted to, a work in which you can always discover something new even if you have listened to it repeatedly. This concert is also a feast for the eyes: as in April 2010, the St. Matthew Passion is performed in Peter Sellars’ unforgettable staging.

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Filed under: Bach, Berlin Philharmonic, Peter Sellars

John Harbison Comes to Seattle

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If you’re in Seattle over the next few days, don’t miss the chance to experience John Harbison in person, who will perform at the keyboard with his wife, violinist Mary Harbison at Octave 9 tonight. AND Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony give the West Coast premiere on Thursday and Saturday of Harbison’s new work for organ and orchestra What Do We Make of Bach?. The program also includes a Stokowski Bach transcription and the last of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies.

For more background on John Harbison, here’s my profile for a recent edition of Strings magazine:

Filed under: American music, Bach, John Harbison, Seattle Symphony

Poetry and Politics: Sir András Schiff Does Double Duty with Seattle Symphony

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Sir András Schiff © Nadia F. Romanini

Sir András Schiff began a remarkable weekend of music with his appearance as guest conductor of the Seattle Symphony. My review:

For a long time, Seattle audiences have made clear their admiration for the artistry of Sir András Schiff whenever he comes into town for solo recitals – including one occasion 17 years ago, when his Bösendorfer had an unfortunate encounter with black ice while being transported across the continent and a replacement had to be found at the last minute.

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Filed under: András Schiff, Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, review, Seattle Symphony

Turning the Page: Happy New Year 2019

Here’s one way to start the New Year: with this remarkable interpretation of Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier by Samuil Feinberg. The opening Prelude and Fugue in C major in particular sounds like a fresh start, yet already shadowed by experience.

Filed under: Bach, miscellaneous

A Weekend at Tippet Rise

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Jeffrey Kahane playing the “Goldberg” Variations. Credit: photo is by Emily Rund, courtesy of Tippet Rise Art Center

My report for Musical America on my recent trip to the Tippet Rise Art Center for a weekend of chamber music, sculpture, and nature has now been posted. PDF version here: Tippet Rise-pdf-07.30.18_MusicalAmerica

FISHTAIL, Montana–Lots of music festivals beckon with the prospect of a temporary retreat from the mundane. Tippet Rise Art Center takes this to a remarkable extreme, thanks to its geography. Located on a 10,260-acre working ranch in rural south-central Montana, Tippet Rise requires nothing less than a pilgrimage just to take in one of the musical weekends of this year’s summer festival season, spread over eight weeks between July and September.

Filed under: Bach, John Luther Adams, Musical America, pianists, review, travel

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