Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Bach Week Festival 2014: An Overview
41st Annual Bach Week Festival Slated
for Evanston April 25, Chicago May 2
Concert Series Includes Four Bach Works
That Are New to the Festival
Soloists to include (in order of appearance):
Sergei Babayan, piano
Adam Levin, guitar
William Watson, tenor
Christopher Martin, trumpet
Renée-Paule Gauthier, violin
Roger Chase and Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff,violas
Nina Heebink, mezzo-soprano
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Collaboration with North Park University
brings beloved concert series to Chicago
for second Year
The 41st annual edition of the Chicago area’s Bach Week Festival will offer four different concerts of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music in Evanston and Chicago, April 25 to May 4, 2014, featuring soloists of international stature and several Bach compositions that have never been performed at the venerable music series.
Richard Webster will conduct the Bach Week Festival Orchestra and Chorus, with the North Park University Chamber Singers. Webster, who performed at Evanston’s inaugural Bach Week Festival in 1974, has been music director since 1975.
"Even I was surprised by how many of J. S. Bach's works have never been heard at Bach Week, even after 40 consecutive concert seasons," Webster says.
This year’s festival continues a partnership forged last season between Bach Week and Chicago’s North Park University School of Music.
"Our collaboration with North Park harkens back to Bach's own musical world," Webster says. "For example, professional musicians and students performed together at Bach's legendary weekly concert series at Zimmermann's coffee house in Leipzig, Germany."
Keyboard Concertos with Sergei Babayan
The festival gets underway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, with a back-by-popular-demand appearance by pianist Sergei Babayan, an artist in residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music. At his festival debut in 2013, the charismatic Russian-trained Armenian-born pianist impressed audiences, critics, and fellow musicians with his bracing and sensitively nuanced playing.
The pianist and the orchestra will perform three of Bach’s keyboard concertos, the Concerto in A Major, BWV 1055; and two that are new to Bach Week: the Concerto in D Major, BWV 1054; and Concerto in G Minor, BWV 1058.
New York Times critic Allan Kozinn noted Babayan's "extraordinary technique" and "his ability to play densely harmonized works with an illuminating transparency." When Babayan played a modern Steinway grand in Mozart's Piano Concert No. 24 with Cleveland period-instrument ensemble Apollo's Fire, Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg marveled at the "glorious results." The pianist "scaled his playing to complement the orchestra's lean elegance,"Rosenberg wrote. "Babayan paid keen attention to Mozart's dramatic needs, shaping phrases with urgent or tender subtlety and gauging dynamics to heighten the music's changing qualities."
Babayan is teacher and mentor to the prize-winning young Russian piano phenomenon Daniil Trifonov, whose performances have attracted sold-out crowds and critical acclaim across the country. Trifonov chose to attend the Cleveland Institute of Music expressly to study with Babayan.
Tenor William Watson, an internationally noted Bach interpreter, will be soloist with the Bach Week Festival Chorus and Orchestra in Bach’s sacred Cantata “Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht” (I pitiful man, I
slave to sin), BWV 55, a reflection on man's sinfulness and God's mercy.
Watson has sung major Bach roles with Music of the Baroque, Bach Society of St. Louis, Oratorio Society of New York (Carnegie Hall), and the Noord Nederland Orkest (Holland). Other concert appearances include the Carmel Bach Festival and Boston Baroque, as well as the Chicago Symphony with Sir Georg Solti conducting, the St. Louis Symphony with Leonard Slatkin, the Rochester Philharmonic with Mark Elder, the Milwaukee Symphony with Lukas Foss, and the Montreal Symphony with Charles Dutoit. He can be heard on the London Records "St. Matthew Passion," BWV 244, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti.
The festival's opening concert is sponsored in part by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Chicago.
Candlelight Concert with Guitarist Adam Levin
Adam Levin, who was raised in north suburban Lake Bluff, Ill., will present a solo Candlelight Concert titled “Bach, Variations, and Witches” in the Nichols Hall lobby at 10 p.m.
Levin’s program will include late Renaissance composer Girolamo Frescobaldi’s “Aria Con Variazioni detta la Frescobalda”; J. S. Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004; and two 21st-century works: Ricardo Llorca’s Baroque-inspired “Handeliana,” consisting of variations on a theme by G. F. Handel; and Eduardo Morales-Caso’s Suite “Il Sogno Delle Streghe” (Witches’ Dream).
"With these works we hear the compositional lineage from Frescobaldi to Bach and then we leap into the future," Levin says. The recital "spans a large period of history and rich and diverse compositional languages."
He says the "extremely lyrical" Frescobaldi piece was originally written for harpsichord and "later masterfully transcribed by Andrés Segovia in the key of E minor for solo guitar." The Bach Chaconne "demands a thorough technical command of the guitar and an even more assiduous study of the piece to respect Bach’s intentions and give a convincing performance."
Levin commissioned Llorca to write "Handeliana" for him in 2011, one of 30 new works Levin commissioned during his residency in Spain as a Fulbright Scholar.
Morales-Caso's contemporary work is a "stark contrast to the music performed earlier in the program and thematically places the heavenly and divinely inspired works by Frescobaldi, Bach and Llorca alongside a more brutish and witch-inspired piece."
Chicago Concerts at North Park University
The festival will head to Chicago in early May for a two-concert series at North Park University’s Anderson Chapel, 5149 N. Spaulding Ave.
Christopher Martin, principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and North Park University organist Margaret Martin will play Bach’s Concerto in D Major, BWV 972, which has never been heard at the festival. In this version, the orchestral score has been transcribed for organ.
The Violin Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1023; Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051; and Cantata “Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust” (Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul), BWV 170, will round out the program.
Canadian violinist Renée-Paule Gauthier, an instructor on North Park's music faculty, will make her Bach Week Festival debut in the Sonata, BWV 1023. A graduate of the University of Montreal and Eastman School of Music, she was concertmaster of the New World Symphony Orchestra, a member of the first violin section of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada, and assistant concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic. She is founder and artistic director of the Rendez-vous Musical de Laterrière chamber music festival in Quebec province and principal second violin with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and Northwest Indiana Symphony.
The unusually scored, sumptuous-sounding Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 features low string instruments and harpsichord, with no violins. Bach gives the limelight to a pair of violas. Viola soloists are Roger Chase and Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff.
Chase is making his Bach Week Festival debut. Born in London, he made his debut with the English Chamber Orchestra in 1979, and in 1987 he appeared as a soloist at a Promenade Concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London. He has since played as a soloist or chamber musician in major cities throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. He's been a been a member of the Nash Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Esterhazy Baryton Trio, Quartet of London, Hausmusik, and the London Chamber Orchestra. He is a faculty member at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts.
Lasareff-Mironoff, director of chamber music and viola instructor at North Park, has performed with Chicago's Lyric Opera and Grant Park Orchestras, as well as with Music of the Baroque. She has also been principal violist of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Opera Theater Orchestra, and other ensembles. She holds a master of music degree and performer's certificate from Northwestern University.
Nina Heebink. She has appeared as a soloist with Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Music of the Baroque, the University of Chicago Presents Contempo series, DuPage Opera, Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Elgin Choral Union, North Shore Choral Society, The Crossing at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” and Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Season Finale: Mass in G Major, Cello Suite, and More
The series-finale concert at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, at North Park will include yet another work new to the festival, Bach’s Mass in G Major, BWV 236.
Katinka Kleijn will play the unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011.
Other Bach fare will include the Orchestral Suite No. 3, BWV 1068; and Cantata “Nun is das Heil und die Kraft” (Now is come salvation and strength), BWV 50, scored for double chorus and orchestra.
The North Park University Chamber Singers will join forces with the Festival Chorus for the G-Major Mass and Cantata.
Tickets and Information
Single tickets for each of the festival’s three main concerts are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students with ID. All tickets for the April 25 Candlelight Concert are $20. Festival subscriptions for the three main concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. Tickets are available at www.bachweek.org or by calling 800-838-3006.
Bach Week is one of the Midwest’s premiere Baroque music festivals. The event enlists musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, and other top-tier ensembles, while featuring some of the Chicago area’s finest instrumental and vocal soloists and distinguished guest artists from out of town.