The Aston Magna concert of July 27 in Saint James Place in Great Barrington featuring music of Johann Pachelbel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and Heitor Villa Lobos was a feast of beauty. The variety of works by these composers gave the ensemble and featured soloists opportunities to display their virtuosity and their admirable expressiveness. Aldo Abreu delighted the audience with brilliant skill in Vivaldi’s Concert for Sopranino Recorder in A minor. He and Christopher Krueger, also on recorder, were then featured in a performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, along with violinist Edson Scheid who commanded his solo part with tremendous skill and playfulness.
Saturday, June 16, 7:30 pm
7th Annual Paul Grunberg Memorial Bach Concert
Yehuda Hanani, cello
Emma Tahmizian, piano
All Bach Program: Viola da Gamba Sonatas, Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, French Suite.
Yehuda Hanani’s charismatic playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and reengagements throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia and his native Israel.
Tahmizian’s international career was launched when she won the grand prize at the1977 Robert Schuman International Competition. She went on to win prizes in the Tchaikovsky, Leeds, Van Cliburn and Montreal competitions. She tours throughout the US and Europe in a wide variety of appearances.
Something is happening with increasing frequency in Baroque performance practice these days. A kind of third way has emerged. It would be wrong to call it a half-way house; it’s something more like a suite of rooms each with its own individual slant. The poles are a die-hard kind of historical accuracy, rigid in its orthodoxy, and now pretty much a retro activity, or large opulent orchestras playing Baroque music, if they play it at all, with a 19th-century approach. What seems to be nascent these days is a kind of third way: modern orchestras, even large ones, performing with a much greater sense of tonal and rhetorical knowledge of 18th century style. Nikolaus Harnoncourt started this when he recorded the Beethoven symphonies with a modern orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but used brass instruments which were tricked out in the 18th century way. It has continued, nay flourished, in the 21st century, especially in the symphonies of Beethoven again, where its main defenders have been Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra and Paavo Järvi with the Chamber Orchestra of Bremen. These are players using the modern style but with a believable, not-manufactured Baroque sound. Most recently Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra have released a full set of Beethoven symphonies where something of this third way may be heard. These forces have also recorded the Bach Passions and the Brandenburg concertos with modern instruments, but sounding stylistically informed.
The Berkshire Bach Society pursued its lively and varied work of furthering the legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach in our region with a program focused on Bach the organist. This year’s programs have concentrated on different aspects, some rather unusual, of Bach’s multifarious activities and output. The first explored gypsy dances and improvisations and their influence on the music of Bach, Telemann, and others — of course of a secular nature. The second was a choral concert devoted to Bach’s music for the Thomanerschule in Leipzig. Of course the Brandenburgs didn’t fail to appear at New Year’s. Last week’s program, although it involved a well-known aspect of Bach’s work, his genius as a virtuoso and composer for the organ, brought out some elements we often tend to ignore: the zest, even mischief in his arrangements of Vivaldi concerti, and his sense of humor. One got more of an impression of Bach’s personality than one can find often in his best-known masterpieces.
Appending and interspersing selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book I with the Joplin and Nazareth works was a programmatic suggestion made by a friend of Mr. Rifkin. Thus, there are immediate segues from a Bach prelude or prelude-fugue pair to a (usually) same key Joplin/Nazareth piece.
Today many musicians feel it necessary to organize their programs around a theme. Themes can be programmatic (music of spring/summer…, war/peace, food, etc); they can focus on nationality and/or time-period (modern Polish music); a particular characteristic (Maurizio Pollini and the Juilliard Quartet once presented a program of nothing but very short pieces, including Webern’s Bagatelles and Chopin’s Preludes); a survey of a certain repertory (e.g. the complete Bartók string quartets); or actual musical themes (music based on “L’homme armé”). In fact almost anything can be made into a ‘theme.’ When all else fails, you can call a program “Music of Sorrow and Joy” (or “Lament and Celebration”—you get the idea). The theory is that a thematic title gives an audience additional food for thought, and perhaps offers cues of what to listen for; it may create a more active role for the normally passive listeners, or it may simply provide a catchy headline.