Steinitz Bach Players
Orchestra Manager: Philippa Brownsword
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Steinitz Bach Players celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2018
Portrait of an orchestra – There’s more to this band than meets the eye….
Recent  Press:
” The Steinitz Bach Players brought a wealth of experience and virtuosity to this music and each section made its own special contribution, strings and continuo, woodwind and brass, including a remarkable natural horn in the bass solo Quoniam. The playing was majestic in its quality and inherent sympathy with the changing moods of the music”.  – This is Bath – Mass in B minor at Bath Bach Festival.
Our beginnings…
Paul Steinitz founded SBP in 1968 in order to enhance modern Bach scholarship in ‘live’ performances and move into the next stage of his long term artistic plan to get back to Bach in its original form by hand-picking the players from among those sympathetic to his musical priorities.  This meant using instruments and musical forces with which the composer would have been familiar.  In many respects he was ahead of his time. Using period instruments meant the listener entering a new sound world and Paul began to pursuade them along this path in 1962, when he introduced the natural (clarino) trumpet  into the chamber orchestra at a performance of Bach’s Magnificat in D at the City of London Festival. Below is the portrait by Elias Haussmann of Bach’s trumpeter, Gottfried Reicha holding his clarino trumpet. Replicas of this were played in the LBS 1962 concert and formed part of the Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Music to mark the Society’s 70th anniversary.  More period instruments were introduced  later including the baroque flute, cornett and Sackbutt.  The violone was added to the continuo section from 1969.
Bach's trumpeter Gottfried Reicha holding his clarino trumpet
The SBP  provides a fully professional orchestra for the London Bach Society. Its original founder members were all sympathetic to Paul Steinitz’s ideals. They were the violinist Alan Loveday, oboist Tess Miller, trumpeter Michael Laird, violist Duncan Druce, cellist Jennifer Ward Clarke and violone/viola da gamba Adam Skeaping. Since foundation a wealth of distinguished specialist players has graced the orchestra’s concert platform, with the creation of opportunity for newcomers to enter the profession via the SBP an active policy. Notable debutantes on the period instrument include the recorder player and baroque flautist Rachel Beckett and the baroque oboist and director Anthony Robson.

Pioneering a new sound world

Having introduced the clarino (natural) trumpet, the cornett, the sackbut and the baroque flute into the chamber orchestra from 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 Bach’s music to be seen in a new light and heard as it might have originally sounded in Bach’s time. Above all the aim was to enhance the enjoyment and appreciation by audiences of what is complex music.

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 Anthony Robson, Simon Standage, world Bach authority the late Gustav Leonhardt, John Butt and one of today’s rising stars, the violinist Jane Gordon. In October 2017 founder-director of Tenebrae, Nigel Short, will direct the SBP in a programme specially commissioned to mark 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation to include motets by Bach, Schütz and Max Reger.

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. The choir and orchestra performed in London (Guildhall, city of London and Westminster Abbey), King’s College Chapel Cambridge, Birmingham Town Hall and Wells Cathedral.  It was the first time since the 18th century that the Thomaner had sung a Bach Passion with an orchestra of period instruments. The conductor was Thomaskantor Georg-Christoph Biller, the first to be appointed in the united Germany and whose predecessor in the 18th century was none other than J S Bach himself.

SBP today

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 contain concerts and recitals like the following:

  • 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, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016);
  • the LBS biennial Bach Singers Prize (The Finals in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015);
  • in recital at the National Portrait Gallery
  • 18-30 Bach Club launch concert
  • Bachfest-Youthbridge Dance to Bach Projects
  • Anthony Minghella’ s celebrated play “Cigarettes and Chocolates” - movements from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
  • LBS 70th Anniversary celebrations 2016

Orchestra Manager

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


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