Countdown to the Festival: Saturday’s Events

As in most years, we’re offering two concurrent concerts on Saturday morning (and if music lovers are proximate, I suggest going to one the first weekend, and the other on the second Saturday).   One of the joys of the Festival is that it so often allows for concerts of varying intimacy, and the Saturday morning concerts this year are no exception.

Saturday Mornings, May 5 & & 12, 10:30 am –The Ifor Jones Memorial Chamber Music Concert
Eliot Fisk and the Bach Festival Orchestra

2012’s Festival marks the return of guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk to Bethlehem.  We’re quite delighted to have him, and his performance with the Bach Festival Orchestra promises to be a highlight of proceedings!  I wrote an article in the Bach Choir News about Eliot’s performance, which you may read here.  He’ll be performing a concerto by the early 19th century composer Mauro Guiliani with the orchestra, and a transcription of the Chaconne from the D-Minor Violin Partita by himself. Eliot is excited to be playing his own cadenza to the Guiliani, which shall be an added delight!  Bookending those pieces will be two of Bach’s Orchestral Suites, including the intimate B-Minor, with our beloved principal flautist, Robin Kani as soloist, and the majestic D-Major, with the joy of trumpets and timpani added to the mix.

Saturday Mornings, May 5 & & 12, 10:30 am, Peter Hall
Bach and the Art of Dance:  Charlotte Mattax-Moersch, Harpsichord

The Choir’s wonderful continuo payer, Charlotte Mattax-Moersch, will be offering the complete Partitas for keyboard at what promises to be a fantastic recital in the intimate setting of Peter Hall at Moravian College.  This small hall, complete with beautiful stained glass, is a wonderful space in which to hear harpsichord music, and Charlotte’s playing is sure to be offered with the zest and panache for which she is justly famous.  The Partitias were published as part of the Clavier-Übung I, the first collection of Bach’s music published under his own direction. They number six, in total, and are made up of movements with the titles of French dances.  The evocative title of Charlotte’s program  alludes to those dances, and, with a little imagination, one can easy envision the courtly dances that this music evokes.  Charlotte will be playing a harpsichord built by Bethlehem’s own Willard Martin, and this recital will be an absolute delight for listeners.

Saturday Afternoons, May 5 & 11, 2:30 pm
The Mass in B-Minor

At the heart of the Festival for 105 years stands Bach’s towering masterpiece, the Mass in B-Minor.  I remember well my first Festival, in the spring of 1989.  The audience was still putatively observing the convention of no applause until the end of the Mass, and I eagerly joined in.  What a profound musical journey, and what glorious music!  In Sir Nicholas Kenyon’s Faber Pocket Guide to Bach, he quotes the American composer Michael Torke, “Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?”  I’m not at all willing to commend that particular prescription, but as a figurative endorsement of the power of this music, I’m in utter agreement. The wonderful thing about the Festival is that attendees and performers alike are privileged to encounter this music every year.  This year, I’ll mark my 26th and 27th performances of the Mass with The Choir, and I’m as excited to for this year’s performances as I was for my first (and just a little bit less daunted – it’s mostly committed to memory at this point).   The Choir knows and loves this music, and it’s always an utter joy to share in such beauty with our devoted audience.

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