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 that he also 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 sung during the Services, so we can safely assume that “Himmelskönig, sei willkommen” would have been the first provided as part of his new 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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Celebrating CPE Bach’s 300th on J S Bach’s Birthday

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2014 LBS PRESS RELEASE (1) 21 MARCH 

The latest edition of our journal Bach Notes is now published, in full colour!  Download a copy from the Bach Notes page

Celebrating Bach’s Birthday and CPE Bach’s 300th                                                 Friday 21 March 2014, 7.30pm,  St. John’s Smith Square.

Mahan Esfahani joins Jane Gordon (dir) and Steinitz Bach Players in a programme of solos and concertos

Mahan Esfahani plays Js and CPE Bach

Mahan Esfahani plays solos and concertos JS and CPE Bach

Jane Gordon guest leading Steinitz Bach Players

Jane Gordon guest directing Steinitz Bach Players

About Mahan’s recent recording of the Six Württemberg Sonatas by CPE Bach released by Hyperion, the author and music critic Jessica Duchen wrote…

“Mahan Esfahani here plays six fine early sonatas, delivered with glitter and glamour on the harpsichord.  His intelligence, flair and freshness make the music leap off the page into powerful life.  There’s a conviction here that demands recognition of the rebel Bach’s still underrated genius.”

Come and hear one of these magnificent Sonatas played by Mahan at the concert. CDs on sale too….how can you miss it!

Tickets: £28.00, £22.00, £18.00, £12. Booking open.Telephone 020 7222 1061 or online www.sjss.org.uk

For full programme  navigate to  Bachfest 2014 plus 

Special Note: LBSMembers/ Bach Friends can book their tickets direct with LBS  – Call 01883 717372 – and are invited for drinks.

  • To become an LBS  Bach Friend navigate to the Bach Friends page

Special: In 2014 St John’s Smith Square will mark the 300th anniversary of the laying of its first corner stone.

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Sir John Tavener 28 January 1944 – 12 November 2013

Sir John Tavener working at home in Dorset

Sir John Tavener working at home in Dorset

Sir John Tavener

John Tavener became one of the London Bach Society’s Honorary Patrons at the time of our Golden Jubilee when he opened the 1996 Bachfest series. Therefore  it was with considerable sadness that we learned of his death on 12 November 2013 at the age of 69.  In reality we were lucky that he was among us for this long, for he suffered ill health for most of his life , something he bore with great stoicism,  refusing to let it dim his creative spirit right to the very end.

When someone of John’s eminence and musical importance passes away, all who knew him will have their own treasured memories to recall; many pages will be written and tributes rightly and generously made. To these we add ours as we have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing John Tavener from the very beginning of his composing career; his Father and Aunt were both LBS members for some years too.

As the detailed Obituary in the Daily Telegraph rightly states, John’s first professional performance was given by Paul Steinitz and the London Bach Society choir on 20 July 1964 in the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield.  It came about in a familiar fashion. John came to one of our concerts in the early 1960s (having attended our UK première of Stravinsky’s Canticum Sacrum in 1956 when he was 12 years old) armed with a score to interest Paul in giving a performance of his latest creation.  Paul read it through, was excited by it and immediately programmed the first performance; the work John’s Three Holy Sonnets of John Donne. He was just 20 years old.     One of our original choir members now an LBS Bach Friend recalls the rehearsals “I recall that my first impression of “The Three Holy Sonnets” was that it was a rather aggressive work.  Then JohnTavener came to a rehearsal.  He entered the room. A giant of a man with long flowing locks.  He sat on a table with his feet on a chair and illustrated what he was seeking from us.  It was quite gentle, calm.  So very different to my first impression of the piece.”

Thus began Paul’s friendship and musical collaboration with one of the finest ever composers of our age, a siginficant musical figure, someone who could divide opinion as well as unite it, surprise the listener..certainly..even horrify perhaps. One is never indifferent to a Tavener work!

“Bach Society strikes gold”  The Times, March 1968

As part of a series to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the choir, we commissioned his magnificent “Introit for the Feast of  St. John Damascene” in 1968. The work takes its inspiration from the overwhelming opening few bars of Bach’s Mass in B minor and John provided an overwhelming piece to match! It requires (among other resources) a high soprano and high horn, the choir to stamp and (if I remember rightly) to shout as Tavener’s treatment of Bach’s music is revealed…that is until the last page when we hear JSB’s original..not sung by the choir but played quietly by the orchestra…a typical piece of Tavener invention and a homage no doubt. After the performance in London’s  new Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Feast Day itself 27 March 1968, the Times headlined “Bach Society strikes gold”.  We gave a further performance in the QEH in November 1976. Both enjoyed John’s unique participation and his presence at rehearsals.

As Tavener’s career continued to develop, we continued to present his music throughout the 70s (navigate to LBS Commissions & New Work) and at our 60th anniversary celebration in 2007 I invited the Choir of Clare College Chapel Cambridge to perform his beautiful and moving anthem  “The Lamb” in the church where Paul’s  friendship and collaboration with John Tavener began – The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great.  At the time John was in intensive care, having suffered a heart attack.

In tribute

What musical treasures John has given us  all ! Like countless others, we are privileged to have known him and worked with him. There will now be an added dimension to the Tavener 70th birthday concerts already planned for worldwide no doubt for 2014.

RIP and thank you dear friend. We think of Maryanna, Theodora, Sofia and Orlando today. The Greek Orthodox Funeral Service took place on Thursday 28 November in Winchester Cathedral. A truly memorable Tavener occasion and a very fitting tribute.

Margaret Steinitz

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LBS Bach Singers Prize…and the winner is

LBS 4th Bach Singers Prize

The winner of the LBS 4th Bach Singers Prize is Nick Pritchard tenor

More about the winner and other finalists will be posted on a special page..watch this space!

Fabulous evening….

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LBS BACH SINGERS PRIZE – THE FINALISTS

LBS Bach Singers Prize Semi Final Results

We are able to announce that the following singers have got through to the Final of the Competition: -

  • Esther Brazil mezzo soprano
  • Anna Harvey mezzo soprano
  • Alexandra Kidgell soprano
  • Nick Pritchard  tenor

The Final takes place on Friday 8 November at 7.00pm in St. George’s Church Hanover Square London W1. Tickets are £15.00 and £12.00 (Students Free) on sale at the door from 6.30pm

 

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