Joy For J.S.: Simone Dinnerstein & Xuefei Yang

Revisiting one of our special evenings in the WGBH Fraser Performance Studio we called “Sonatas and Partitas” featuring pianist Simone Dinnerstein and Xuefei Yang, one of the first Chinese guitarists to play in the West….

 

 

 

 

C.P.E. Bach IV: Magnificat

One of the pieces by Carl Philipp Emmanuel that has never fallen out of favor in his native Germany is his Magnificat in D Major, a work that perhaps deliberately shares the same name – and even key signature – as one of J.S. Bach’s most famous choral works. It was composed in 1749, just a year before the death of Bach the father.

And there is some supposition that the C.P.E. wrote this expansive work originally as an audition piece to succeed J.S. as the Cantor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.   “Originally,” that is, because despite writing this Magnificat at an early age C.P.E. Bach revived this piece on several occasions during his career…and, like his father, recycled a lot of the movements into other sacred works of his.

Regardless, it stands as one of C.P.E. Bach’s greatest works – with many touches that suggest that the son learned well from his father…starting with the sound of the joyous natural trumpets at the opening of the piece. But you’ll also hear suggestions of the great choral works yet to come by Haydn and Mozart.  And how’s this for a little piece of history, courtesy of music scholar Jason B. Grant, who happens to be working on publishing the complete works of C.P.E. Bach this tricentennial year:

That C.P.E. Bach thought highly of his Magnificat is shown by his including it in a concert of 1786, a program which included the Credo of his father’s B Minor Mass, portions of Handel’s Messiah, and his own double-choir “Heilig.” Although it was a work from much earlier in his career, Bach clearly valued the Magnificat as a composition that could stand alongside not only his later Hamburg works, but also the great choral masterpieces of the previous generation

Check out these three sections in a very spirited performance by Czech-based Visegrad Baroque Orchestra, (“Barbara Maria Willi founded in 2006 Visegrad Baroque Orchestra in order to engage in collaborative work most talented musicians in Visegrad countries: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic”) and the Ars Brunensis Chorus,

C.P.E. Bach III: A Double Concerto at the Crossroads….

There are all kinds of terms to describe the period of history in between the Baroque era of Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, and the dawning of the so-called “Classical Era” personified by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.   “Rococo,”  “Style Galant,”  or to get really German-geeky about it, Emfindsamer Stil:

A musical aesthetic associated with north Germany during the middle of the 18th century, and embodied in what was called the ‘Empfindsamer Stil’. Its aims were to achieve an intimate, sensitive and subjective expression; gentle tears of melancholy were one of its most desired responses.

The above is taken from a surprisingly entertaining site I discovered called Musical Inclinations –  “an online resource examining the differences between the pre-classical and classical style.”

Or you could just listen to this wonderful example of a C.P.E. Bach concerto that sits at this crossroads of history: A Double Concerto for the new-fangled fortepiano, and the old-fangled harpsichord.   And, as it turns out, the very last of the 50-odd concertos he composed between 1733 and 1788.  And, as pianist Danny Driver mused in the NPR story the other day, “It’s literally, from the very first movement, one bar piano, one bar harpsichord, a little bit of orchestra, then something else. The exchange of ideas is so quick….it’s not postmodern, but it almost feels postmodern in the sense that there’s this sort of collation of different ideas and different feelings all sort of rolled into one. I think it’s of today as it was of its time.”

 

 

Hallelujah Handel!

A 329th birthday nod to Georg Friedrich from our WGBH Fraser Performance Studio, featuring the baroque ensembles Sarasa  and Les Sirènes performing “Per abbattere il rigore,” from the two-soprano cantata Aminta e Fillide, HWV 83. Be amazed at the matched voices of sopranos Kristen Watson and Kathryn Mueller!

Other performers:
Beth Wenstrom – violin
Adriane Post – violin
Timothy Merton – cello
Charles Sherman — harpsichord

The whole – excellent – studio session with Cathy Fuller can be found here. Or just click on the link below:

Drive Time Live

Saras and Les Sirenes

Happy New Year!

Soprano Courtney Huffman and baritone Andrew Garland in Bach's wonderful "Coffee Cantata."
Soprano Courtney Huffman and baritone Andrew Garland in Bach’s wonderful “Coffee Cantata.”

A grand time had by all with Boston Baroque and conductor Martin Pearlman, ushering in 2014 with a live all-Bach concert at Sanders Theatre we’re sharing live with the nation via PRI.  Hard to believe that it’s my last radio production for the foreseeable future, so had to snap some “stage-side” shows to mark the occasion.    The audio for the entire program may be found below, thanks to the wizardry of online producer (and broadcast co-host) Brian McCreath, engineer Antonio Oliart Ros, and producer Alan McLellan.  Thanks, friends….let’s hope this great tradition continues!

Violinist Christina Day Martinson and recorder player Aldo Abreu are the soloists with Martin Pearlman leading Boston Baroque
Violinist Christina Day Martinson and recorder players Christopher Krueger and Aldo Abreu are the soloists in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 with Martin Pearlman leading Boston Baroque

 

Bows for conductor and soloists...

Post-Brandenburg bows for conductor and soloists …

WCRB's Cathy Fuller chats live with Martin Pearlman

WCRB’s Cathy Fuller chats live with Martin Pearlman

Academy Award Followup: Jian Wang = John Wayne

Jian Wang - From Mao to MozartAfter Sunday’s posting about my non-viewing of the Academy Awards (and judging by the low-ratings scorecard, I had plenty of company!), once I got to the concert I realized/remembered three more factoids that made the whole music – movies link with Jian Wang even more even more apropos:

*It could be argured that Jian owes his entire career to the silver screen. It was a film, after all, that introduced the West to Jain Wang — as a ten-year old budding cellist who appears while the credits roll at the tail-end of the 1981 Isaac Stern documentary From Mao to Mozart. Continuing the previous theme, an Oscar winner, natch. (You can see the YouTube Video of the last 10 mins or so of the movie either by clicking on Jian’s picture above or here). And what happened after that? This from an interview Wang gave to Strings magazine:

Sau-Wing Lam, a music enthusiast who had left China in 1948 and built up a large and prosperous business in the U.S., saw From Mao to Mozart and was fascinated by the young cellist. Through the director of the Shanghai Conservatory, an old schoolmate, he made inquiries about the boy and learned of his exceptional promise. Lam then wrote to China’s Minister of Culture, proposing to help Wang further his studies in America……

*So when Jian Wang (pronounced “zhan WHONG”) eventually made to America, his Juilliard classmates gave him an American nickname: “John Wayne.”

*And as Wang racks up glowing reviews for his interpretations of the Bach Cello Suites, (and I considered it a real treat to hear him play these life in a room before an audience of about 100 people), he credits…(wait for it)……a terrific French film about the life of Baroque composer Marin Marais and his teacher Saint Colombe for changing his approach to playing Baroque music in general, and Bach in particular.

In the beginning I tried to play the [cello] suites like songs, to make them pretty. But by my mid-20s, they became about more than just being beautiful – also about what we hope to be in this world but can’t. At least for me, it was a view into another spiritual world. After that, I started liking the way I played them better, and then I noticed that other people did too.

I would say one of the triggers was the movie Tous les Matins du Monde. The scene that touched me greatly was when Saint Colombe sits down and begins playing, thinking about his wife who had just died. The simplicity of the music, the organic feeling of it, brought tears to my eyes. From then on, I listened to a lot of Baroque music. I find it very much like Chinese poetry. You know, some concertos are like novels, with fascinating, fantastic stories. You get an entirely different feeling when you read a 20-character poem in Chinese. In those four lines, with five characters per line, you have a mini-universe, so dense and yet so simple. It makes you feel that the world is much more logical.

Click here to read the entire interview with Jian Wang, who’s playing the Bach cello suites tonight at the new Harman Center in Downtown DC.

And here for more on the great soundtrack recorded by Jordi Savall that sparked the worldwide Marin Marais craze. Okay, that’s a stretch. But I do remember the haunting Bells of St. Genevieve got a fair amount of airplay after the move came out in ’92….

Soundtrack - Tous les matins du monde