Monday, April 12, 2010

Welcome to Bach Week Blog: Here's a 2010 festival overview

This first blog post is meant to bring you up to date on festival details. Here's a press release we recently sent to the news media:


37th Annual Edition Offers Expanded Concert Schedule,
Rarely Performed Version of Bach’s ‘Magnificat’

EVANSTON, Ill., April 1, 2010 — A flourish of brass and organ music will launch the 37th annual Bach Week Festival in Evanston on Friday, April 23. The opening concert and those on Sunday, April 25, and Friday, April 30, will be devoted exclusively to the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach — with one notable exception.

Amid the back-to-back Bach programming will be the Chicago-area premiere on April 23 of the “Baroque Suite for Brass, Timpani and Organ,” written in 2003 by Richard Webster, the festival’s music director. Webster, who describes the work as “an homage to Bach,” played organ and harpsichord at the first Bach Week Festival in 1974 and has served as music director since 1975.

Another novel aspect of this year’s festival will be a performance of the rarely heard, original version of Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, with its four Christmas movements.

The festival’s three different concerts, staged over two weekends, represent an increase over last year’s two-concert format.

The nearly four-decade-old festival has become a musical rite of spring on the North Shore, providing Chicago-area Baroque music lovers with a rare opportunity to luxuriate in Bach’s music.

“Organ and Brass Spectacular”

The festival’s opening concert, titled “Organ and Brass Spectacular,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 23, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman Ave., Evanston. Among the concert’s stars will be the world-renowned St. Luke's Organ, built by Ernest M. Skinner in 1922 and later restored, by all accounts, to its original glory.

The concert promises to be an organ-ogler’s delight: video cameras will be trained on the keyboards and pedals, with images projected on a screen so the audience can follow the action. The program includes Bach works for solo organ, brass ensemble, and organ and brass together, plus Webster’s “Baroque Suite.”

The Bach pieces include transcriptions of two movements from Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio), BWV 248; Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major for organ, BWV 564; excerpts from “Die Kunst der Fuge” (“The Art of Fugue”) transcribed for brass; seven chorale preludes from the “Orgelbüchlein” ("Little Organ Book"); and the choral prelude “Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit” (“Before Your Throne I Now Appear”), BWV 668.

The “Vor deinen Thron” is dedicated to the memory of organist, composer, and teacher Paul Manz (1919-2009) and choral conductor and composer Richard Proulx (1937-2010), both of whom had deep connections to Chicago’s sacred music community.

The concert’s finale will be an audience sing-a-long to a brass and organ arrangement of Bach’s chorale tune “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (“A mighty fortress is our God”).

Performing will be Kevin Hartman, trumpet; Channing Philbrick, trumpet; Daniel Gingrich, French horn; Eric Millstein, timpani; and Richard Webster, organ.

A Cantata with ‘Heart’

The second concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 25, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Works will include Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Major, BWV 1042, with violin soloist Desirée Ruhstrat; Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, BWV 1047; and Cantata No. 147, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (“Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life”), with soprano Patrice Michaels, mezzo-soprano Emily Lodine, tenor William Watson, bass Douglas Anderson, and the Bach Week Festival Chorus. The cantata is the source of the popular and beloved chorale theme, “Jésu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

Festival Finale

The festival will conclude with a concert at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 30, at Nichols Concert Hall, offering Bach’s Overture No. 2 for Flute and Orchestra in B minor, BWV 1067, with flute soloist Anita Rieder; Concerto for Violin, Oboe, and Orchestra in C minor, BWV 1060, with soloists Judith Kulb, oboe; and Mathias Tacke, violin; and Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, with soloists Amy Conn, soprano; Nina Heebink, mezzo-soprano; William Watson, tenor; and Douglas Anderson, bass, and the Bach Week Festival Chorus.

Single ticket prices are $35 adult general admission, $25 seniors over 65, $20 students with ID, and $10 children under 12. Festival subscriptions are $85 for adults, $60 for seniors, $45 for students, and $30 for children. Tickets are available at or by calling (800) 595-4849.

Founded in 1974, the Bach Week Festival is the Midwest’s premiere Baroque music festival. The event enlists musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, and leading chamber ensembles, while featuring some of the Chicago area’s finest instrumental and vocal soloists.

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