Christmas with Bach

The Christmas Market at Leipzig

The Christmas Market in the Markt Platz and in front of the Old Town Hall. The Thomaskirche and Nikolaikiche are just five minutes’ walk away.

A Leipzig Advent & Christmas with Bach

The Advent season at Leipzig provided Bach with a brief respite from the pressure to provide new music on a weekly basis and some much needed space to prepare for the busy Christmas period to come. 

Traditionally in the Lutheran Church there was little or no music during this special period in the Church Year in order to encourage reflection and preparation for Christmas. However we still have four Advent cantatas to enjoy: BWV 61, BWV 62, BWV 36 and BWV 132.  Cantatas BWV 61 (Advent I) and BWV 132 (Advent IV) date from Bach’s tenure at Weimar (1708-1717); BWV 62 (Advent II) and BWV 36 (Advent I) are Leipzig works.

1723

Bach’s arrival on the Leipzig scene in 1723 sparked an outpouring of music over the succeeding years that would be hard to rival and for his first Advent & Christmas in post he obviously wanted to make a bit of a splash. For Advent Sunday (28 Nov, 1723) Bach re-produced his Weimar Cantata “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” BWV 61, which is based on Luther’s hymn. No further music was performed from then until Christmas Day.

Once again for the three-day church celebrations in 1723, Bach produced magnificent music for his new Leipzig congregation.

  • Christmas Day, a festive cantata that probably dates from Weimar c.1713 “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag” BWV 63 with its four trumpets to herald Christ’s arrival and Bach’s first setting of the Magnificat  composed in E flat BWV 243a, with four additional interpolations appropriate to the season.
  • The Second Day of Christmas, Cantata “Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes” BWV 40
  • The Third Day of Christmas, Cantata “Sehet, welche eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget” BWV 64

Wouldn’t you like to have been there?

If you are planning your Advent & Christmas Bach this year, we suggest the following sources and venues might be a good starting point: -

Please accept our compliments for the festive season to come and our good wishes for an exciting New Year full of Bach’s music.

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LBS – Latest

Tabea Debus & Oliver Pooley at LBS Bach Club, November 2016

Tabea Debus & Oliver Pooley at LBS Bach Club, November 2016

Our 26th Bachfest has been completed…now we are on to 2017

Another vintage year in the company of Bach! With Steinitz Bach Players (SBP) at the helm, the 26th LBS Bachfest “Introducing Mr. Bach!” featured four concerts that not only reflected Bach in every possible mood and featured one of today’s most innovative chamber groups – The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments –  but also reinforced the underlying priorities and purpose of the London Bach Society in its 70th Anniversary year going forward.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable series. Warm tributes were paid to our late founder and there was some truly wonderful singing and playing by a rich assembly of musicians.  We should like to say a very warm thank you to all our donors, Bach Friends and supporters, for without them we should not be able to bring such wonderful artists to our platform.

If you are not yet a Bach Friend, why not make it this year to help us make things happen?  You can become a supporter from as little as £50. Go to our Bach Friends’ page for more details and an online donor payment facility.

LBS Exhibit

Visit the LBS Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London NW1 - on display until 28 February 2017

Bachfest 2017 (c.29 October-12 November)

Planning for Bachfest 2017 is already underway, the programme for which will be announced in the spring/summer. Among the programmes we shall be featuring the 6th Bach Singers Prize competition with associated events, the Bach Club and some specials that reflect the Luther 500th anniversary year.

- a new chapter has opened for LBS.  Come and join us.

Bach Notes

Click on the link to download your copy of Bach Notes  2016 BACH NOTES Autumn Edition  The next edition will be published in September 2017, an upgraded format, 8 pages, full colour. Bi-monthly editions of e-Bach Notes will be emailed to those on our emailing lists. To join those lists simply email your details to lbs@lonbachsoc.demon.co.uk.

Exploring our website

The pages are regularly updated, so we invite you to take a moment to visit or re-visit the various pages throughout the year.   Please note that any articles that are posted on our website may not be reproduced without the express permission of the London Bach Society.

 

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Bach Singers Prize 2017 – latest news

Bach Singers Prize Update

The LBS Bach Singers Prize is presented every two years, so the next one is due in the autumn 2017. The competition is open to postgraduate singers, either still studying or at the beginning of their careers, in the age range 21-32 years at the date of the Final (November 2017).   If you wish to receive advance information please email us by clicking on the icon below or emails us lbs@lonbachsoc.demon.co.uk and we shall add your details to our email list

Our 2015 Finalists’ reaction to The Competition ” …we were all saying how brilliant it is for those of us who love singing Bach to have a platform to perform music we love in such a wonderful setting with a brilliant orchestra.”

Make your pledge

Would you like to be one of our Prize Donors?  The total Prize fund to be raised is £4,000. Help us to make a difference to a young singer’s career by supporting the Prizes to be won.  Click on the link to download how to make your pledge. BACHFEST 2017 SINGERS PRIZE PLEDGES

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ALAN LOVEDAY violinist

From the leader's chair

From the leader’s chair

Alan Loveday (1928-2016)

The death has been announced of the violinist Alan Loveday, aged 88.  Alan was one of the most gifted violinists of his generation and an early exponent of period style playing. No one could fail to be anything other than deeply moved by his performances of key Bach obbligatos played on his ‘little fiddle’ and his recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Academy of St. Martins directed by (Sir) Neville Marriner (pictured above) made in the early 1970s serves as a benchmark for many to this day.

A New Zealander by birth, Alan Loveday’s place in the history of the London Bach Society is as a founder-member-leader of Steinitz Bach Players in 1968, along with oboist Tess Miller, trumpeter Michael Laird, violist Duncan Druce, cellist Jennifer Ward Clarke and violone/viola da gambist Adam Skeaping. His leadership and performances with the orchestra in its crucial early years raising listeners’ awareness of how Bach might have heard his music and had it performed were manifested most significantly in his exquisite playing of the violin obbligato in the aria “Erbarme dich Gott…” (St. Matthew Passion Part 2) sung by Janet Baker at the annual Lenten presentations directed by Paul Steinitz in the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great.  In later years Alan’s performance of one of the Bach solo violin Partitas at a Steinitz/ LBS Bach cantata concert reduced a packed QEH on London’s South Bank to tears of joy and high emotion…with Paul sitting on the concert platform alongside the other instrumentalists eager not to miss a single note.

A key player in our orchestra’s early development, we remember Alan Loveday with much gratitude. Margaret Steinitz

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Bach scholar Peter Williams (1937-2016)

Professor Peter Williams (1937-2016)

The death has been announced of the British Bach scholar Professor Peter Williams aged 78.  One of the most respected writers on Bach over the past half-century, Peter Williams was a former Professor and Dean of Music at the University of Edinburgh and Emeritus Arts and Sciences Professor of Music at Duke University, North Carolina. There will be many an organist today brought up on Williams’ three volumes “The Organ Music of J S Bach”  published between 1981-1984 where, among other thought-provoking statements, he dared to suggest that the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565 was not by Bach.  He was also a close friend of one of the world’s most respected and gifted interpreters of Bach’s organ works,  Dr. Peter Hurford, regularly attending the St. Albans Organ Festival  & Competition founded by Hurford in 1963. 

Always fascinated by every aspect and joining our frustrations that so little in the way of letters and documents have survived that give us greater knowledge of Bach’s life and work, Williams became author-turned-detective, using segments of the Bach Obituary to delve deeper and in the process to offer further insight that moved away from the deferential and towards the more human. It was this that inspired Williams’ biography of the composer “The Life of Bach” published in 2004 expanded to “J S Bach: A Life in Music” published in 2007, these two volumes a culmination perhaps of his own life’s work from which many across the globe have benefitted. While Bach scholarship is continually being advanced, Williams’ books will remain a significant reference point for all students of the composer and form part of the legacy of expertise and knowledge handed on to new generations.

Peter Williams’ books are published by Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org.  Visit our Books page for information on a new Bach book by Professor Williams published after his death.   Margaret Steinitz

 

 

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Sir Peter Maxwell Davies 1934-2016

 Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)

Another very sad loss. Composer, conductor and educator, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies passed away on 14 March 2016 aged 81. He had been ill for sometime, yet showed his typical courage and determination to continue to work until the end.
Sir Peter was a true pioneer, imaginative, creative, controversial, challenging in the musical demands he made on his singers and players. He was the original enfant terrible. His iconic group Fires of London (formerly the Pierrot Players) rolled back the boundaries of contemporary music and the live concert experience in the 60s/70s, touring the world with their staged performances of, among other instrumental and theatre works, Max’s (as he was fondly known)  Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot that set the seal on his composing career ahead. Audiences came to know the group simply as ”The Fires” and they  attracted some stellar instrumentalists to make sense of the very complex Maxwell Davies scores – Jennifer Ward Clarke, Duncan Druce, Judith Pearce, Stephen Pruslin and Alan Hacker among them, the group ably managed by the late Louise Honeyman. Any new Davies world première was anticipated with alacrity for its potential to be controversial and since those days they have never provoked indifference.

Our own contribution was to give the first London performance of Maxwell Davies Veni Sancte Spiritus at the  South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in  November 1972, which BBC recorded, and which was given with the composer present.

Latterly Sir Peter has continued to champion the importance of high quality musical education, a lifelong commitment of his, when it is not only financial cuts that threaten, but the very inclusion of music as an integral part of the curriculum… and he did not mince his words on this, cuts to arts funding in general and other Davies priorities either!  At least he is no longer suffering and his music will surely live on.   Rest in peace. Margaret Steinitz (Artistic Director, LBS)

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Steinitz Scholarship in Musicology

Steinitz Scholarship in Musicology

A Steinitz Scholarship in Musicology has been set up at the University of Huddersfield to reflect and recognise the work of  Dr Paul Steinitz in the study and performance of the music of J S Bach and founder of the London Bach Society, and the work of his son, Professor Richard Steinitz, expert on the music of Ligeti in particular and founder of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Further information may be found by clicking on the link www.hud.ac.uk/research/music/

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Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)

 

Nikolaus Harnoncourt at Barbican with Margaret Steinitz and Sir Nicholas Kenyon

Nikolaus Harnoncourt at Barbican with Margaret Steinitz and Sir Nicholas Kenyon

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)

The death has been announced of the distinguished Austrian conductor and chamber musician Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He was 86.  Harnoncourt was a pioneer of period style performance, especially of the music of Bach, and the last of the remaining  great 20th century Bach interpreters who rolled back the boundaries and gave us the composer’s treasury of vocal church music in its original form . The complete Bach cantatas recording project (Telefunken 1970-1991) he shared with the Dutch harpsichordist and conductor Gustav Leonhardt remains one of the most important and historic ever on disc, opening our ears to the emerging new sound world at the time, not only of the period instruments themselves, but of period style performance in its fullest sense. Nearly a quarter of a century later these recordings still cut the mustard and inform the listener.

When Paul Steinitz was planning the last phase of the London Bach Society’s own public cycle of Bach’s cantatas in the mid-1980s, Harnoncourt was invited to be one of the Patrons of the special Appeal launched to complete our project and he accepted with alacrity. The warm encouragement that accompanied this was typical of the man, a genuine servant of music.  By his side was his devoted wife and accomplished violinist Alice to whom he was married for over 60 years;  his daughter is the celebrated mezzo soprano Elisabeth von Magnus.

There will be many tributes made from across the world, reflecting the breadth of musical interests Harnoncourt pursued. Ours is one of sincere gratitude for his dedication to the music of Bach, a true kindred spirit. Margaret Steinitz

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The Sterndale Bennett Inheritance

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) 

The events to mark the 200th anniversary of William Sterndale Bennett continue this week and next at the Royal Academy of Music where he served as Principal from 1866-1875. Sterndale Bennett was a key player in the 19th century British Bach revival, but also had musical interests over a wide area and his friendships with Mendelssohn, Schumann and others greatly influenced his life and work.

  • Thursday 26 February, 2.30pm-4.30pm & 6.00pm-7.30pm, The Museum Piano Gallery, RAM. The event is entitled “Sterndale Bennett, Mendelssohn and Piatti: Cello and Piano” – a two-part seminar by cellist Jap ter Haar and pianist Dr Olivia Sham.
  • Monday 29 February, 6.00pm-7.30pm, Museum Piano Gallery, RAM. This event is entitled “William Sterndale Bennett: Student, Professor and Principal.”  Janet Snowman (RAM Curator or Art and Iconography) and Dr Olivia Sham will explore Bennett’s role at the Royal Academy of Music in discussion with his great-great-grandson Barry Sterndale Bennett.
  • Tuesday 1 March, 6.00pm-7.30pm, The Museum Piano Gallery, RAM. This event is entitled  “Victorian Virtuosity: Sterndale Bennett and Romantic Pianism”. Dr Olivia Sham will lead this Seminar which will include performances on the 19th century pianos in the Museum. Admission is free and no ticket is required.

As part of the London Bach Society’s 70th Anniversary this year, LBS has designated a page on this website about Bennett’s role in the 19th century British Bach revival. Go to http://www.bachlive.co.uk/london-bach-society-70th-anniversary-in-2016/william-sterndale-bennett-1816-1875/

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