A New Master of the Queen’s Music

Judith Weir is appointed Master of the Queen’s Music

Judith Weir, the new Master of the Queen's Music

Judith Weir, the new Master of the Queen’s Music

The appointment of the composer Judith Weir CBE as Master of the Queen’s Music in succession to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is announced today. She is the first female to hold this historic position. Many congratulations and good wishes. For more information visit www.musicsalesclassical.com.

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Sir John Tavener’s Service of Thanksgiving

Sir John Tavener’s Service of Thanksgiving

A Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Work of the composer Sir John Tavener took place on 11 June in the splendour and spiritual atmosphere of Westminster Abbey.  The congregation was a mix of specially invited guests,  musical colleagues and audience followers.

HRH The Prince of Wales, a personal friend of the composer, attended in a private capacity.

The Address was given by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Bible Readings were delivered by Simon Russell Beale and Sir Magdi Yacoub, and Tavener’s eldest daughter Theodora read a moving piece her father wrote specially for his three children. The music was provided by the Choir of Westminster Abbey directed by James O’Donnell, the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton, soloists Nicholas Daniel, Stephen Isserlis, Thomas Gould and the soprano Patricia Rozario.

Among the invited guests was Mrs Margaret Steinitz who also represented the London Bach Society. The late Dr. Paul Steinitz with the London Bach Society choir (1947-1989) gave the first professional public performance of a Tavener work, his Three Holy Sonnets of John Donne, on 20 July 1964 in the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield fifty years ago. The composer was just 20. There followed a lifelong friendship and musical association with the significant musical figure that is the late John Tavener.

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Trusteeship of the London Bach Society

Trusteeship of the London Bach Society

One of the objectives of the London Bach Society’s Strategic Plan for the development of the Society in the run-up to the 70th anniversary in November 2016 is the appointment of four new Trustees to complement the team, bringing the total serving to nine.

Full details are published in a pdf that can be downloaded from the “About Us” pages.  Scroll down to  Governance & Contact  (See Navigation). 

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Paul Steinitz Memorial

Paul Steinitz Memorial

We have received enquiries as to whether there is a public memorial to our founder, the Bach scholar and conductor Dr Paul Steinitz (1909-1988). 

Paul’s memorial is in the Cloister of London’s oldest church, the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield, London EC 1. Dr Steinitz was Director of Music at this historic church from 1949-1961 and many of the London Bach Society’s pioneering Bach concerts were presented there during his lifetime, including annual performances of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion.

The Memorial was unveiled by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of London on 18 April 1991 at a concert of Bach Cantatas for the 1st and 2nd Sundays after Easter.

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Easter listening and a great nomination

Easter Listening

Here’s our recommended pick of Bach works to listen to this Eastertide:

  • Good Friday – Matthäus-Passion
  • Easter Sunday – Cantata “Christ lag in Todesbanden” BWV4
  • Easter Monday – Cantata “Bleib’ bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” BWV 6
  • Easter Tuesday – Cantata “Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiβ” BWV 134

Mahan Esfahani nomination

Mahan thrilled LBS audience on 21 March

Mahan thrilled LBS audience on 21 March

It has just been announced that harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has been nominated for an RPS Award in the Instrumentalists Category. The awards are promoted by the Royal Philharmonic Society. The winners will be announced on 13 May 2014 at the annual RPS Awards dinner at the Dorchester Hotel, London.  MS

Happy Easter!

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Bach’s Cantata for Palm Sunday

Bach’s Cantata “Himmelskönig, sei willkommen ” (Welcome, King of Heaven)

Bach provided Cantata BWV 182 for performance on Palm Sunday 25 March 1714, just a few weeks after his appointment as Kapellmeister by Duke Wilhelm Ernst at the Court at Weimar. Bach had already been serving as composer and chamber musician, having arrived in the city in 1708. So this new appointment represented promotion for Bach, with the requirement to provide cantatas for the weekly services at the Himmelsburg (Heaven’s Castle).

Bach’s appointment in  March 1714 would have come during Lent when no cantatas were usually sung during the Services, exception being Cantata BWV 54 for solo alto, strings and basso continuo that probably pre-dates 1714 and which was performed at Weimar on 24 March 1715, the Third Sunday in Lent. So we can safely assume that “Himmelskönig, sei willkommen” would have been the first cantata provided by Bach in his ‘elevated’ post.  It is scored for alto, tenor and bass soloists; soprano, alto, tenor and bass chorus,  recorder, solo violin, violin I, viola I & II, ‘cello I &  II, bass, and organ continuo.  25 March is also the Feast of the Annunciation, so in 1714 BWV 182 would have served both this and the Palm Sunday liturgy.

The text is based upon the Gospel for the Day: St. Matthew 21, vv 1-9 and was probably provided by Salomo Franck, although there is a question mark here.

300 years later, Palm Sunday falls on 13 April 2014.

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John Shirley-Quirk CBE 1931-2014

John Shirley-Quirk CBE

A member of the ‘golden’ generation of British singers of the 1960s and 1970s, we mourn the loss today of the distinguished bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk who died on 7 April aged 82.

John was a very fine Bach singer, whose performances of the composer’s solo cantatas were as eagerly awaited as his interpretations of the role of  Christus and of the arias in the two great Passions.  John Shirley-Quirk graced our platform on many occasions in memorable accounts of the St. Matthew Passion directed by Paul Steinitz alongside some of the stellar names to stride the world’s stage at that time: Peter Pears, John Carol Case, Heather Harper, Janet Baker, Robert Tear and John Shirley-Quirk – our cast for the annual St. Matthew at St. Andrew’s Holborn  in March 1965.  MS

 

 

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Passiontide Bach around the UK

Bach Passions around the UK and at Leipzig

Performances of Bach’s Passions have formed part of our Lenten and  Passiontide musical fare since the 19th century. This is when the revival of interest in Bach’s music as a whole began here in the UK.

The revival was first driven by Samuel Wesley with Bach’s keyboard works  and then later enhanced by William Sterndale Bennett, whose own ground-breaking performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on 6 April 1854 in the famous Hanover Square Rooms using a controversial English translation by Helen Johnston, was inspired by Mendelssohn’s at Berlin (1829) and at Leipzig (1841).  The performance may have been far away from the style of performances we offer today but Sterndale Bennett’s was a notable landmark. 160 years later, the Bach Passion tradition continues here with performances across the UK that range from the large-scale to the very intimate. What unites them all is the commitment every participant – singers, players and audiences – will bring to each one.

At Leipzig there are performances too, significantly at the Thomaskirche where Bach’s remains are buried in the Chancel.  This year there are two performances of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244. These are on 17th April-Holy Thursday (Gründonnerstag)  at 7.00pm and on 18th April – Good Friday (Karfreitag) at 7.00pm. Any tickets left can be obtained from +44 341 1270 280 (Gewandhaus Box Office)

To find out about a Bach Passion performance near you visit www.concert-diary.com or www.bachtrack.com

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Petition to rebuild Bach’s House at Weimar

The Bachhaus at Weimar

Bach’s time serving at the Court at Weimar was very significant.  He was employed briefly in a fairly servile capacity in 1703, but later returned as organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar in July 1708 and was promoted to Kapellmeister in 1714. During this nine-year stint (ended 1717) flowed organ works including the Orgelbüchlein, concertos and cantatas, setting the tone for his composing career fostered later at Cöthen (1717-1723)  and Leipzig (1723-1750).

Newly married to Maria Barbara in October 1707, by the time the Bachs arrived at Weimar in July 1708  the first child was already on the way, a daughter born in December that year.  Among the six children born to the Bachs between 1708 and 1717 – of which four survived – were composer/performer sons Wilhelm Friedemann (1710) and Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714). They all lived in the family lodgings in the town.

In the era of the DDR (pre-1989), these lodgings were destroyed, presumably to make way for the car park now on site.  The DDR had applied similar draconian measures at Leipzig in 1968 when the order was given to raze to the ground the famous University church – the Paulinerkirche -  to make way for a new science block at the University. In recent years, the facade of this church has been incorporated in a refurbishment of the University and can be seen in Leipzig’s Augustusplatz

25 years on from the Fall of the Berlin Wall, there is now a movement at Weimar to have Bach’s lodgings restored and give greater recognition to the significant years the composer spent in the city. For more information about this ambitious project, how to donate and to keep up to date with its progress visit www.bachhausweimar.de.   MS

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Bachfest Leipzig 2014

“The True Art” (“Die wahre Art”)

More music by CPE Bach can be enjoyed at this year’s Leipzig Bachfest. Works across a whole range of genres are featured alongside music by J S Bach in some of the best settings ever.

The series runs from 13-22 June and details can be found on www.bach-leipzig.de     Scroll down the Home Page and click on Programm & Tickets. This page also gives booking details.

 

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