Q: Unlike in 1974, when Bach Week started, the Chicago area has many more offerings in early and Baroque music. Why is Bach Week still essential?
A: As important as the music is, I think what makes it extra special is the sense of occasion. A whole gathering of people who love J.S. Bach! It's like a pilgrimage each spring: heading to Evanston with like-minded souls--and reveling in Bach. I love it!
Q: Can you talk about your long relationship with Bach's music and why your enthusiasm never wanes?
A: The older I get—and I’m getting pretty old!—the more I love Bach. He speaks to me in a more complete way than any other composer. Bach’s music appeals to me because it’s beautiful, of course. But it also appeals to me on a logical level—the sheer genius of the construction. And Bach’s music appeals to me on a spiritual level. I think those four-line German/Lutheran/Bach chorales are hard-wired in my soul. They were used in some of his most complex works as “anchors”—points of familiarity for the congregation. And they have that effect on me to this day.
Q: What excites you about this year's Bach Week programs?
A: There are several cantatas in all of the concerts. The 200 religious cantatas of Bach contain such musical and spiritual riches! Beautiful arias and duets for the soloists. The exciting opening choruses and those sturdy chorales. They’re the best.The very first work on the first concert, Cantata 106, is one of my favorites. I’m really looking forward to hearing the Bach Festival Chorus plus Bella Voce! Great soloists, too. Then, to hear violinist Desirée Ruhstrat and pianist Matthew Hagle as soloists—they are the cherries atop the sundae! I can’t wait for the festival to start—except for the fact that my talks aren’t finished yet!