Steinitz Bach Players
Pioneering a new sound world
Having introduced the clarino (natural) trumpet, the cornet, the sackbut, and the baroque flute into the chamber orchestra in the early 1960s, Paul Steinitz then set about using them when possible in performances of Schütz and Bach alongside the modern ones in other sections of the orchestra. The results paved the way for listeners to begin to enter this new sound world in Bach performances and for a whole generation of chamber orchestras to experiment and use period instruments comprehensively in the UK by the 1980s. Although controversial at the start, the stylistic approach advocated has since been accepted. In the beginning heightening the dance element in Bach’s music, lightening the upbeats, brisker tempi and adding appropriate ornamentation were all novel and stimulated new thinking. A new approach to the art of playing secco recitatives, especially in the Bach Passions, also enabled the works to be seen and heard in a new light - above all enhancing the enjoyment and appreciation of them by audiences.
Flexibility in direction
Today, there is no permanent director or conductor, which provides flexibility and brings a stimulating variety of contemporary interpreters to the concert platform. It also enables the orchestra to work with a wide range of musical personalities. These have included Timothy Brown with his English Voices and Choir of Clare College Chapel Cambridge in London and Bruges, Anthony Robson, Simon Standage, and world Bach authority Gustav Leonhardt. In 1994 Steinitz Bach Players appeared with the Thomanerchor Leipzig in four performances of Bach’s 1725 version of Johannes-Passion on the choir’s UK debut tour, which the London Bach Society promoted. It was the first time since the 18th century that the Thomanerchor had sung a Bach Passion with an orchestra of period instruments. The conductor was the present Thomaskantor Georg-Christoph Biller, whose predecessor in the 18th century was none other than J S Bach himself. At present Steinitz Bach Players is doing a period of work directed by Anthony Robson.
Steinitz Bach Players has been able to play a pivotal role in the annual Bach Festival, appearing in concerts that are either self-directed or with a guest conductor. With its folio of achievement well stocked, the SBP continues to share with its audiences some of the best-loved Bach works as well as some lesser known gems from his treasury, whether performed in the sophisticated concert hall, the village church or in a sponsor’s board room!
The annual diary might look something like this:
- Appearing with the Chantry Singers in Bach’s Mass in B minor at their Bath Bach Festival (2010);
- resident orchestra at the London Bach Society’s Bachfest in Bach cantata concerts (Wigmore Hall 2008, St. Bartholomew-the-Gt 2009, 2010, St John’s Smith Square 2011);
- the LBS biennial Bach Singers Prize (The Finals in 2006, 2008, 2010);
- in recital at the National Portrait Gallery (2008, 2010),
- Bachfest-Youthbridge Dance to Bach Projects (2006, 2007, 2008)
- Anthony Minghella’ s celebrated play “Cigarettes and Chocolates” - movements from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (2008)
Philippa Brownsword is our Orchestra Manager, bringing a wealth of experience to the role. She is also Concerts Manager at the SBP’s public performances. Philippa joined our Bachfest management team initially in 1994 and moved on to become the orchestra’s manager in 2001. Among other commitments, Philippa is also Orchestra Manager of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Views from the Stalls:
The Pioneering Launch of Steinitz Bach Players (SBP):
“The main object in forming this orchestra is to introduce a type of string-playing more in line with eighteenth century style than that used by players of today in music of the period, and in this way a better balance with wind will be obtained (clarini, recorders and ‘baroque’ trombones have been used in LBS concerts for some time). Inevitably changes will be gradual, and at first the main objects will be to phrase in a lighter manner and to reduce vibrato and attack. Eventually too, all the players will use the older type of bow.” – The Times, 1968
BBC Invitation Concert broadcast:
“Tonight we hope to give to this early music (Schütz) the characteristic lightness and gracefulness which properly belong to it by using old-style bows and a different style of bowing. The double bass will be replaced by its predecessor the violone, and reconstructions of the small ‘baroque trombone’ will be substituted for the modern instruments.” – Radio Times, 1969
“The SBP played with grace, wit and style making a splendid start to the Festival.” – Early Music Magazine
Steinitz Bach Players’ appearance as part of a Bach Festival Weekend with the Chantry Singers and all star cast:
“Bath Abbey was full to overflowing… The Cantata 31, Der Himmel lacht!, written for Easter Sunday, reflects the unusually lavish set-up Bach had at his disposal at the court of Weimar. Strings, oboes, trumpets and timpani proclaimed the resurrection with a glowing sound” – The Guardian
On Brandenburg 4:
“It was nice to see a number of players finding little things to smile about in a work as well known as this – such apparent enjoyment is appreciated by audiences.” – Early Music Review