Categories - Concerts

Beloved past president of Dallas Bach Society passes

It is with sadness that the Dallas Bach Society shares the news that our beloved past president Bill Booziotis passed away last week.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at Communities Foundation of Texas.

http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/arts/headlines/20160513-lamster-bill-booziotis-was-an-architect-for-the-ages.ece

The “Goldberg” Variations

The Dallas Bach Society
7 May 2016

J.S. Bach – Klavierübung Teil IV: “The Goldberg Variations” BWV 988
James Richman, Harpsichord

About the Program:

The Air with Diverse Variations which make up the fourth and final section of Bach’s encyclopedic Klavierübung are widely conceded to be his ultimate keyboard work. None of his other works exploit the harpsichord so perfectly, and this is one case where the piano fails most thoroughly at providing either the distinctive coloration which is at the heart of the piece, or the technical means for its realization. While the variations are indeed “profound”, complicated, and in general “learned”, as the 18th century would have put it, they are also a work of enormous lyricism and sensual beauty, as well as great playfulness.

The most interesting development in modern times concerning the Bach repertoire is surely the discovery in the early 1970’s of Bach’s own annotated copy of the printed edition of the Goldberg Variations. Appearing in one of three piles of music sold to settle the estate of a music professor in Alsace in the 1930’s, this first edition with its red ink markings was widely known, and sat on the music desk of its owner Prof. Paul Blümenroeder for over forty years before he took it to be rebound. Then a page containing fourteen canons on the Goldberg bass line in an all too familiar hand fell out of the tattered leather binding, and when the red- ink corrections in the printed copy were examined more closely, they too were found to be Bach’s own.

In addition to correcting various wrong notes, Bach clarifies our understanding of the work with his annotations in this copy, which of course became immediately the unique source for the work. He adds Adagio to the famous 25th “Black Pearl” variation, which was no surprise, although the verification of the disputed appogiaturas which smooth out the dramatic jumps in its opening were probably a disappointment to those looking for the equivalent of verismo drama in eighteenth-century keyboard music. The 7th variation is now officially a tempo di giga, and in general there are numerous ornaments which were omitted in the printed version, or perhaps added by Bach later – most striking of all are the appogiaturas in virtually every bar of the 26th variation, which was already so florid that no one today would have ever dreamed of enriching it further.

Finally, it seems that the lovely story related by Spitta about Count Keyserling and his goblet with a hundred louis d’or must suffer serious doubt. Aside from the obvious fact that a printed score would surely have borne a dedication in recognition of such a fabulous commission, we are now faced with the discovery that Goldberg the harpsichordist, who supposedly lulled the count to sleep with this work, was baptized in 1727, which would have made him twelve or thirteen when it was composed and fourteen when it was published. It may be quite true that he played Keyserling to sleep with this music, but it is far more likely to have been in the late 1740’s at the earliest and, sadly, probably from a copy purchased for a very much less princely sum.

Bach’s Saint John Passion program

19 March 2016 8:00 p.m. at Church of the Incarnation

The Dallas Bach Society
James Richman, Artistic Director

THE PASSION ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
BWV 245 (LEIPZIG 1723)

Dann Coakwell, Evangelist
David Grogan, Jesus
Nicholas Garza, Servus
Audrey Brown, Ancilla
Charles Moore, Pilatus
Jason Awbrey, Petrus
Claire Daniels, Soprano
Agnes Vojtko, Alto
Nicholas Garza, Tenor
Patrick Gnage, Bass

About the Program:

To herald his arrival in Leipzig in 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a dramatic setting of the story of Christ’s final hours which he called his Johannes-Passion, or Passion According to Saint John. No doubt anxious to establish from the outset his complete mastery of church music, he made the work an outpouring of human emotions surrounding the sacred story, depicting in lively settings the voice of Christ, the message of the Evangelist, as well as the human feelings of the chorus, who from time to time represent the pious Christian congregation, the forces of the Roman Empire, and the angry crowd of Jews desperate to have Christ crucified.

This multiplicity of roles for the chorus is entirely in keeping with he practice in Baroque opera, where the chorus as a rule took on whatever identity of massed characters was called for, turning from courtiers to soldiers, peasants, or exotic nations, without so much as a costume change! The illustration of character and emotion took precedence, and standard stage dress would be altered usually by no more than a character symbol held by each chorister. As Bach wrote no opera, having made the decision to devote himself to the perfection of church music, his two great passions in effect represent this genre for us in his complete works. It is in these compositions that his most telling examples of Baroque characterization are found, and they are indeed powerful.

The obvious problem with such dramatic works was that everyone already knew the story, and how it would end. Thus the elements of suspense and surprise are not available, and indeed Bach opens the second half of Saint John with a Chorale which tells virtually the entire plot in a few bars. It is a sign of his consummate power as a composer that it matters not at all that we know what will happen, as his illustration of it in sound is so moving that it draws our attention in and of itself.

Bach uses the devices of the opera to teach this holy lesson, with the addition of the unusual character of the apostle himself telling the story, as in the Bible. This role of the Evangelist, however, derives directly from the “Mercury” characters in other operas, always a high tenor, a messenger telling us a narrative, only here made into the most important character aside from Jesus himself. Jesus is represented by the bass voice, in keeping with the Baroque norm for all gods, sorcerers and the like (through Mozart’s Sarastro in the Magic Flute), but especially meaningful for Bach as the fundamental bass, from which grows all music like an overtone series. When the bass is missing in Bach, and the high overtone chromatics dominate, we are usually far from the Lord!

The arias are also employed as in opera, taking time out from the action to give us a picture of the state of mind and emotions of the solo singer, here representing a member of the Christian people. In Saint John, these are mostly contemplative on the part of various Christian people affected by aspects of the story, and range from the naive apostle singing “I follow you with joyous steps” with the sound of innocent flutes, to the extremely sad “It is fulfilled” when the death of Jesus is at hand, accompanied by a mournful solo gamba. In the end, however, Bach transcends opera to produce a moving rendition of Biblical Truth, confined by no particular form, but rather using every possible means to transmit the Word in music.

About the Artists:

DANN COAKWELL, Evangelist, tenor, is sought after as a performer of Bach, Handel, and their contemporaries, who specializes in J.S. Bach’s Evangelist and the tenor roles of Benjamin Britten. He can be heard as a soloist on the Grammy-winning Conspirare: The Sacred Spirit of Russia, 2014 (Harmonia Mundi) and Grammy-nominated Conspirare: A Company of Voices, 2009. Coakwell has performed as a soloist internationally and nationally under such acclaimed conductors as Helmuth Rilling, Masaaki Suzuki, William Christie, Nicholas McGegan, Matthew Halls, John Scott, and Craig Hella Johnson. Coakwell has performed multiple times in New York’s Carnegie Hall, and he made his Lincoln Center New York solo debuts at both Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall to critical acclaim in 2014. He has appeared as a soloist with organizations such as Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart in Germany, Bach Collegium Japan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco, Oregon Bach Festival, and Conspirare.

DAVID GROGAN, Christus, bass, has performed extensively throughout the southwest, having appeared as a soloist with Dallas-Fort Worth area arts groups such as the Fort Worth Symphony, Dallas Bach Society, Plano Civic Chorus, Denton Bach Society, Texas Baroque Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Singers, Texas Camerata, Fort Worth Baroque Society, and several Texas universities. Recent performances include the Handel’s Messiah with Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in NYC, Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Mountainside Baroque in Maryland, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Bass Hall in Fort Worth, TX. The Dallas Morning News hailed Dr. Grogan as the “perfect Christus” after a performance of the Saint Matthew Passion with the Dallas Bach Society. The Albuquerque Tribune, in reference to a performance of Messiah with the New Mexico Symphony, said, “David Grogan had all the range and power required of the part, sounding like the voice of doom in “The people that walked in darkness” and the light of revelation in “The trumpet shall sound.” A performance of Elijah had critics praising his ability to “move easily from stentorian declamation to lyrical aria.” Another critic said that he “….brought an impressive vocal power to the lead role of Elijah, and his rich emotive gift set the level for the other chief performers.” The Dallas Morning News said “His meaty bass shook the heavens and the earth and sounded the trumpet with imposing conviction.”

CLAIRE DANIELS, soprano, is equally at home performing as a soloist, chamber musician, and choral singer. At the 2014 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, she performed with Arethusa Musica in the Young Performer’s Festival, Battle of the Early Bands, and the Fringe. Recently relocated to Dallas, she was soon asked to join the Orpheus Chamber Singers. She has also performed with Ensemble VIII, Texas Early Music Project, ¡Sacabuche!, Bloomington Bach Cantata Project, the University of Texas Chamber Singers, Concentus, Pro Arte Singers, and also portrayed the role of Cupid in John Blow’s Venus and Adonis with the Indiana University Baroque Orchestra. She was a featured soloist on Glad Tidings of Great Joy, a Christmas special aired by Public Radio International. While pursuing a master’s degree in early music performance from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, she studied with Paul Elliott and Mary Ann Hart. She received her undergraduate degree in Choral Music Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

AGNES VOJTKO, Hungarian mezzo-soprano, has established herself as a versatile and genuine artist both on the operatic and concert stage. Currently she is teaching at Southwestern University while frequently engaged as a concert soloist. Recent appearances include Mahler’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with American Bach Soloists, Mass in B Minor and St. Matthew Passion with Dallas Bach Society and concerts with Houston Baroque. Last June she performed Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (Schoenberg version) at UC Davis. Agnes has appeared with Austin Lyric Opera, Opera in the Heights and in Hungary with Ars Classica Chamber Opera and Budapest Chamber Opera. After she completed a bachelor’s degree at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, she moved to the United States as a Fulbright fellow to attend The University of Texas at Austin, where she obtained the Doctor of Musical Arts degree under the guidance of Darlene Wiley.

NICHOLAS GARZA, tenor, studied at University of Texas at Arlington as a Vocal Performance major with Jing Ling-Tam and David Grogan. Originally from Harlingen, Texas, Nicholas was a four-year Texas All-State Mixed Choir member, an Outstanding Soloist for Texas State Solo Ensemble, and a Competition winner in Classical Voice/Tenor at the 2010 NFAA YoungARTS. He has performed with Mountainside Baroque in Maryland as the Tenor soloist for the Telemann oratorio Der Tod Jesu and also was alto soloist for the Big Moose Bach Festival in New Hampshire. He worked with noted singer and conductor Simon Carrington as a singing fellow at the 2011 and 2012 Norfolk Chamber Music Festival of Yale University. He performs with many professional groups around the Metroplex including the Dallas Bach Society, Orpheus Chamber Singers, Orchestra of New Spain, the Fort Worth Opera Chorus and Christ the King Catholic Church. He has been called a “stand-out soloist” by the Dallas Morning News and has been hailed for his “appealing tenor, sinewy in the lower register, sweetly soft-edged on high.”

PATRICK J. GNAGE, baritone, studied voice at the Eastman School of Music and holds two degrees in Voice Performance and Literature. Mr. Gnage has been featured as soloist in all of the major oratorios of J.S. Bach, as well as the oratorios and choral works of Handel, Monteverdi, Carissimi, Mozart, Vaughan Williams, and Duruflé, performing with such ensembles as The Publick Musick, Orchestra of New Spain, Rochester Bach Festival Chorus, Concert Royal and the Dallas Bach Society. A new addition to his repertoire this season is the role of Jesus in Bob Chilcott’s version of the St John Passion, heard at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas. Patrick also appears on recordings released by Naxos American Classics and Sonabilis.

Le Mozart Noir: Historical Background

Joseph Bologne, known as the Chevalier de St. Georges, was born in 1745, the son of a French planter in the West Indies and an African servant. Taken to Paris at age seven by his father to be educated, he became an excellent violinist and a swordsman of the highest caliber, and was a noted personality in Paris for a long time. Having been a star student starting at age thirteen at the Academie royale polytechnique des armes et de l’equitation, he defeated at the age of seventeen the head of a rival academy, thus making his reputation. On the other hand, we know nothing precise about his musical education, although it is clear he must have studied the violin assiduously. In 1764, the composer Antonio Lolli composed two violin concertos for him, and in 1766 the renowned Francois-Joseph Gossec dedicated a set of six Trios to him, so clearly his talents were developed early and blossomed alongside his military prowess.

When his father returned to Guadaloupe in 1764 after the Seven Years War, he left Joseph and his mother well set up in Paris with a large annuity. When he graduated the Academie royale in 1766 he was made a Gendarme du roi and a Chevalier, took his father’s Saint-Georges (actually the name of one of his plantations settled on him when he was made a Gentleman of the King’s Chamber in 1757), and thenceforth was known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

In 1769 he joined Gossec’s newly-formed orchestra Le concert des amateurs, and by 1771 was the concertmaster. The following year he performed his first two concertos, with Gossec conducting, to great applause. In the following eight years, he composed three sets of six string quartets (the first such composed in France), fourteen violin concertos, two symphonies, eight sinfonia concertantes, followed by six operas comiques, a truly prodigious amount of music considering the extent of his other activities. In 1773 Gossec took over the troubled Concert spirituel, and named the Chevalier as his successor at the Amateurs. In less than two years under his direction, this orchestra became the most disciplined group in Paris since Lully’s time, with a reputation all over Europe. Queen Marie-Antoinette attended their concerts at the Palais de Soubise, and as she sometimes appeared without warning, the musicians took to wearing court attire at all times. As a contemporary source reported: “Dressed in rich velvet or damask with gold or silver braid and fine lace on their cuffs and collars and with their parade swords and plumed hats placed next to them on their benches, the combined effect was as pleasing to the eye as it was flattering to the ear.”

When his father, who had returned to Guadaloupe, died in 1774, the annuity he had bestowed on the Chevalier was assigned to his legitimate half-sister, and he had to cease donating his services to the Amateurs, who commenced paying him generously, based on how the orchestra had become the largest and most prestigious ensemble in Europe.

In 1781, the Amateurs were disbanded for financial reasons, but the Chevalier appealed to his friend and fencing partner the Duke of Chartres, who had recently united the Masonic organizations in France, and the Duke revived the orchestra as part of la Loge Olympique, an exclusive Freemason lodge. As Le Concert Olympique, it performed in the grand salon of the Palais Royal, with essentially the same musicians. In 1785 the Count D’Ogny, grandmaster of the lodge and member of the cello section, authorized the Chevalier to commission a set of symphonies from Franz Josef Haydn, his Paris Symphonies, which were premiered in a large hall with the Chevalier conducting before the large public interested in Haydn’s work. The Chevalier also negotiated with Haydn for his commission, which was quite generous, and included an extra sum for residuals – normally composers got nothing once their pieces were out in the world.

The one instance where racial discrimination affected the career of the Chevalier occurred when his name was put forward by a “consortium of capitalists” (according to Baron Grimm) to take over the trouble Academie royal de musique (the Paris Opera). It seems that three of the sopranos, perhaps alarmed by the discipline the Chevalier imposed on his ensembles, petitioned the Queen to the effect that they could not be expected to take direction from a black man. The Chevalier immediately withdrew his name from consideration to avoid embarrassing the Queen, but the fallout from the affair led Louis XVI to take back the institution from the city of Paris (it had been given to the city by Louis XIV almost a century before), and led the Queen to have her musicales in the privacy of her chambers at Versailles, where the audience was her private circle and only a few musicians were invited to play. She probably played piano with the Chevalier playing the violin in his sonatas.

In 1785 the Duke of Orleans died, and the Chevalier’s friend the Duke of Chartres acceded to this title. With his old circle unable to help him, the Chevalier was once again saved by his friend, who set him up in an apartment in the Palais Royal, where he inevitably was drawn into the plots to make France a constitutional monarchy under the Duke, a path seen by the Orleanist side as the only way to avoid a bloody revolution. The story of the Chevalier becomes very complicated politically at this point, as he became an important player, sent to London, and eventually returning to France to lead what became known as the Legion Saint-Georges, the regiment of blacks fighting for the Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, starting in 1792.

Joseph Boulogne

Dallas Bach Society’s new balletic work Le Mozart Noir: the Untold Story

Dallas Bach Society (DBS) announces a new ballet, Le Mozart Noir: The Untold Story, to premiere February 26-27, 2016, 8:00pm, at the Montgomery Arts Theater of The Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSVA).

DBS_CBD LeMozartNoir Marketing Photo_3

Le Mozart Noir, adored by women, was a consumate musician and conductor, master swordsman, and fighter during the French Revolution

Dallas Bach Society presents Le Mozart Noir in collaboration with Contemporary Ballet Dallas (CBD) in a special evening on the life and times of the illustrious Joseph Boulogne. The concert features live music, including both period music led by DBS Director James Richman and original composition by Mark Landson of Open Classical. Valerie Tabor of CBD is chief choreographer, while period social dance has been restaged by New York Baroque Dance Company Director Catherine Turocy. Consulting for the project is Haitian dance expert Marcea Daiter.

Artistic Director James Richman says, “Though the story is individual to the Chevalier, the ballet explores in vignettes the universal struggle to find oneself. It is a story we can all appreciate.” This unique evening, funded by a grant from the Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund of TACA, will be performed on February 26-27, 2016 at the BTHSPVA in their fabulous Montgomery Arts Theater.

The Chevalier’s life story and work are rich indeed, but not often written about in the books. Later famously known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Boulogne was the son of a French planter of the nobility in the Caribbean and a woman of African heritage. The Chevalier’s talent and intelligence led to his advancement, where he was an important musical figure. He became a champion fencer, skillful equestrian, virtuoso violinist, and conductor of the leading symphony in Paris in the 18th century. The Chevalier was composing contemporaneous with Mozart and became known as Le Mozart Noir among the French bourgeoisie. He conducted the premieres of Franz Josef Haydn’s Paris Symphonies with his Orchestre de la Loge Olympique. Women swooned for his exotic features and superb talent. During the French Revolution, he became a colonel of the Legion St. Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe, fighting on the side of the Republic.

Tickets are currently on sale to the general public at http://www.dallasbach.org.

About the Dallas Bach Society
The Dallas Bach Society was formed in 1982 to promote and encourage instrumental, choral, vocal, operatic, chamber, and keyboard music composed before 1800 through live performances in Dallas and its vicinity. Since its founding, the Society has been the city’s primary resource for early music performances by professional musicians. Instrumentalists perform on replicas of instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Chorus is trained in the vocal style and performance practice of the period. National and international soloists specializing in the interpretation of Baroque join musicians to present the highest level of choral, chamber, and orchestral productions each season. The Dallas Bach Society’s season consists of ten traditional concerts and more intimate chamber concerts are offered in private homes. The Dallas Bach Society is a member of the Association of Professional Vocal Ensembles, The Neue Bach Gesellschaft, and was a founding member of Early Music America. Learn more at dallasbach.org

About Contemporary Ballet Dallas
Contemporary Ballet Dallas, CBD, is a unique dance company for a unique city and was founded in 2000 by SMU dance alumnae. CBD performs a diverse repertoire of modern, ballet, and jazz influenced works that inspire the North Texas community. The company’s progressive, diverse & contemporary style combines with a variety of musical genres, in turn, engaging a broader audience. Utilizing professional dancers and recent college graduates, concerts are billed for the everyday man, as well as dance enthusiasts interested in a full spectrum of dance styles. CBD has received favorable reviews from dance critics throughout the area and continues to be recognized throughout the local dance scene. CBD provides a platform for emerging artists to set works at no cost to them, performs at local community performances and art festivals, serves as entertainment for charity events, and continues to present community outreach programs to underserved students through our Chance to Dance educational initiatives. Learn more at http://www.contemporaryballetdallas.com

About Catherine Turocy of New York Baroque Dance Company
Catherine Turocy, recognized as one of today’s leading choreographer, re-constructors and stage directors in 17th and 18th century period performance, has over 60 Baroque operas to her credit. She co-founded New York Baroque Dance Company in 1976 and continues as the Artistic Director today. She has been decorated by the French Republic as a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters. She received the prestigious BESSIE Award in New York City for sustained achievement in choreography as well as the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence. NEA International Exchange Fellowships supported extended visits where she lived in London and Paris, conducting research and interacting with other artists. Ms. Turocy began her studies of historical dance as a freshman with Dr. Shirley Wynne at Ohio State University where she graduated magna cum laude. A founding member of the Society for Dance History Scholars, she has lectured on period performance practices around the world. As a writer she has contributed chapters to dance history text books, articles to Opera News, Early Music America and Dance Magazine, many which have been translated into French, German, Japanese and Korean. Learn more at http://www.nybaroquedance.org

About Marcea Daiter
Ms. Daiter is a choreographer, performing artist, dance educator and artistic director of New York-based dance theater company Kaleidoscope of Kultures DanceTheater. She is currently an Adjunct Instructor in the Dance Education Program at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, teaching African Dance and Intercultural Studies. Ms. Daiter received an M.F.A. degree in Dance from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 1992 and her B.A. degree in Sociology from Loyola University of Chicago in 1975. Her field-study trips to Africa, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti – and nationally at the Katherine Dunham Institute of Intercultural Studies (1995-2006) and Jacob’s Pillow (1996/1999) – have influenced her methodology. Ms. Daiter is a licensed Teacher of Dance in New York State and has taught contemporary (modern/jazz), classical ballet, and Afro-Caribbean for the New York City Department of Education public school system (5th-12th grade), Borough of Manhattan City College, City College, Long Island University, Hofstra University, and Movement for Actors in the Graduate Acting Department at Tisch School of the Arts. She is certified to teach the Zena Rommett Floor Barre Technique, the Method and Mat work of Joseph Pilates, and the technique of Katherine Dunham. Learn more at http:// steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/dance

About Mark Landson
Based in Dallas, TX, Mark Landson’s passion is in the ongoing flourishing community of supporters, fans, and performers which has enabled the organization Open Classical to fulfill its mission of putting classical music into the heart of everyday popular culture. A lifetime commitment to classical music combined with an entrepreneurial drive, Mark has brought a dream to life with Open Classical. His vision is to provide an opportunity for musicians to hone their skills while simultaneously creating a new experience for fans and performers. His creativity, leadership and love for story-telling is central to the spirit of the organization. Mr. Landson attended Eastman School of Music and works as composer and violinist at Neo Camerata. Learn more at http://www.openclassical.org

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Contact Information
Hillary Coyle
The Dallas Bach Society
http://www.dallasbach.org
682.325.2224

Bach Favorites on New Year’s Eve program

31 December, 2015 at 7:00 pm – Church of the Incarnation

 

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH on NEW YEAR’S EVE

 

Cantata 150: Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich

 

 

Ouverture #2 in B Minor for Flute and Strings

 

Cantata 55: Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht

Aria (Soprano): Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely graze) (Cantata 208)

Duet (Soprano, Alto): Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten (Cantata 78)

Chorale: Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, joy of man’s desiring) (Cantata 147)

The Dallas Bach Society wishes one and all a Happy and prosperous New Year!

About the Program:

This evening’s program features a variety of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works including both vocal and instrumental music. The opening piece, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich is an early cantata which for a time was considered a dubious work. More recently it has been finally accepted as authentic, with a date of composition around 1707, making it one of the very earliest cantatas extant. There has even been speculation that the final ciaccona, resembling a work of Buxtehude’s, might mark this work as a tombeau or remembrance piece dedicated to the memory of the great North German composer Dietrich Buxtehude, organist at Lübeck, where Bach walked 200 miles to visit the great man and indeed overstayed the leave he had permission for, being so anxious to drink up every possible idea and experience from his trip.

In any event, the cantata numbered as 150 by the original Bach Gesellschaft edition published in 1884 is clearly grounded in earlier, seventeenth-century, works and has little in common with the form of the Leipzig series of cantatas from the 1720’s. There is no chorale, and indeed there is no obvious occasion in the church calendar for the work, making it in ogni tempo as is said of pieces that are good for any time. It starts with an introductory Sinfonia which was set off as a separate movement by the BG, but is really just an introduction to the first, fugal choral movement, whose downward chromatic scale is a typical Baroque statement of grief. This is followed by a number of episodic sections, each on a different phrase of the text, much in the earlier style. Unusual also, but typical of Bach, is the chorus with an upward scale on the words “Leite mich” (lead me), forming a “Leiter” (ladder) from the bass through all four parts into the two violins. There is also a trio movement featuring an obligato bassoon, again cleverly worked out, as well as the aforementioned chaconne, a final plea to God to help us keep striving.

The Ouverture #2 for Flute and Strings is the second of four pieces ofter referred to as Bach’s Orchestral Suites, but which Bach himself called Ouvertüren. This is truly a better description, as a Baroque suite is normally composed of an Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue, with extra “optional” dances like minuets and gavottes, and possibly a prelude of some sort. Indeed, in his harpsichord Partitas, which were published as a kind of “Last Word” on the Suite form, Bach includes just about every possible “optional” dance and prelude, along with the variations on the allemande, courante, etc. as they were to be found in his day. Nowhere, however, does the basic underlying structure of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue go away, even though he is consciously exploring every possible variant of the form.

The answer is to be found precisely in the Baroque Overture form! Opera (and oratorio) overtures were more than just the two-part form consisting of a slower introduction, often with dotted rhythms giving rise to the “French Overture” definition, and the faster, usually fugal second section. Sometimes this was the extent of the Overture, but a quick glance at Handel’s opera overtures, for instance, reveals many examples of extra, seemingly random, dance movements added in, perhaps to allow more patrons to find their seats. In Il Pastor Fido, for instance, there is a rondeau in concerto grosso form with double reed concertino, followed by a bourrée. The record for extra movements is held by the overture to Rodrigo, where the usual slow-fast overture movement is succeeded by a gigue, a sarabande, matelot, menuet, bourrée, a second bourrée, a second minuet, and finally a passacaglia. Only then does the opera get underway!

This is the form Bach is imitating with his collection of seemingly unconnected movements following the overture movement. Again, there is no allemande or courante, so no traditional suite, but Bach provides a typical collection for this kind of overture, with a pair of rather unusual movements in the polonaise and the badinerie, a kind of gossipy conversation. The featured flute has several extended solos, although sometimes it simply joins the string group, providing an unusual and pleasing timbre.

Cantata 55 is for a solo tenor, although it does have a chorale at the end. It was written in 1726 for Trinity Time, in which period Bach wrote cantatas featuring all four solo voices in the six available cantata “slots”. It is also interesting that all of the other Bach cantatas for solo tenor have in the end turned out not to be by Bach – these include Cantata 160, which turns out to be by Telemann, Cantata 189, by Melchior Hoffmann, as well as Cantata 53 also by Hoffmann. Our cantata consists of two arias and two recitatives, plus the chorus finale; the flute plays an important part in both, with an especially virtuosic obligato line in the second aria. The text once again speaks of a man who is a “slave to sin” and must find his way, imploring God’s mercy.

Our finale this evening consists of three famous vocal works, which will surely be familiar to all, and with which we bid farewell to a fruitful year 2015, with hopes and prayers that 2016 will be similarly blessed.

German Baroque Christmas 19 December 2015

Saturday Evening, December 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm – Church of the Incarnation

THE DALLAS BACH SOCIETY

James Richman, Artistic Director

A GERMAN BAROQUE CHRISTMAS

With

Anna Fredericka Popova, Soprano; Sarah Daniels, Alto; Randall Umstead, Peter Tiggelaar, Tenors; Brandon Gibson, Patrick Gnage, Basses

Cantata 62: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, for the First Sunday in Advent – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Cantata: Das ist je gewisslich wahr, for the Third Sunday in Advent – Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Motet: Uns ist ein Kind geboren – Johann Ludwig Bach (1677-1731)

INTERMISSION

Cantata: Uns ist ein Kind geboren, for the First Sunday in Advent – Telemann

Cantata 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, for the 27th Sunday after Trinity – Bach

About the Program:

German Baroque music is an interesting mix of native traditions and the influx of the “new” from Italy and France. As the eighteenth century progressed, the older style with its less sophisticated ways was found more and more wanting – things got to the point where Quantz wrote in his Versuch (1752) that German music couldn’t be said to have a style of its own, but made up for it by importing the best from Italy and France and making something new and unique out of the synthesis. While we certainly would object to this analysis today, it does at least explain the relative oblivion to which Sebastian Bach was relegated. It seems likely that the similar desire to jettison the demotic and solid German language for the more worldly and subtle French as a court language was evident in the rush to adopt foreign music, which was seen as more enlightened, gracious, and forward-looking.

By reaching back into the native German tradition, enriched to be sure by borrowings from abroad but robust and sensitive in its own right, we find a great deal of glorious music, not the least of whichistheoeuvreofBachandhismanyrelatives. Thisevening’sconcertfocusesonthemusic written for the Advent and Christmas seasons in this style, and represents the kind of selection which might have been enjoyed by a concertgoer then, had there been the kind of concert evenings availablethatweenjoytoday! TheonlylimitationingeneralisthefactthatthefeastofChristmas was nowhere near as important in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as it is today, and thus the amount of music composed for it was not particularly great, no more than for many other feasts, and of course far less than was made for the Easter season.

This evening’s program features two of the great Bach cantatas, plus other important Advent and Christmas music from the German Baroque, including a Telemann cantata which was falsely attributed to Sebastian Bach when the Bach-Gesellschaft edition was compiled in the 19th century, as well as a little genuine Telemann, and an interesting work by Johann Ludwig Bach, a cousin of Sebastian, who held his work in high esteem.

Nun komm der Heiden Heiland is a Lutheran hymn dating from the year 1524 which is the number one hymn of the liturgical year in Lutheran hymnals. Bach wrote this version (another setting is Cantata 61) for his second year in Leipzig in 1724, a period of intense creativity when Bach created a great number of weekly cantata settings for his new position at the Thomaskirche. It was given its first performance on the third of December of that year, the first Sunday of Advent being the only time in Advent when music was allowed in church in Leipzig. Later performances include 1736, when a violone (bass) part was added, after the Thomasschule had purchased an instrument at auction the year before.

Telemann composed his cantata Das ist je gewisslich wahr around 1720, and it is now catalogued as TWV 1:183. However, it gained renown for a while as “Bach’s Cantata 141” due to an incorrect attribution by the editors of the Bach-Gesellschaft, despite a copy in the hand of Johann Balthasar Koenig from 1723 which attributes the work to Telemann. The erroneous attribution persisted in some publications until rather recently, although the Bach-Gesellschaft moved it to the Appendix list of spurious works in the 1990’s. The point here is that the work, which is worth hearing, could have been mistaken for Bach to begin with – Telemann, after all, was a very prominent and talented composer who won the competition for General Music Director of the city of Hamburg in which Bach finished third.

Johann Ludwig Bach was a cousin of Johann Sebastian, whose work, while interesting in its own right, was apparently preserved primarily because of the connection. Indeed, one of his works was thought to be by Sebastian and was assigned a BWV number – just like our Telemann cantata! Born near Eisenach in 1677, Johann Ludwig spent most of his career in Meiningen, where he rose to the position of Kapellmeister. His son Samuel Anton was a student at Leipzig University alongside Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, and indeed studied music with Sebastian Bach himself. It is thus likely that Johann Sebastian and Johann Ludwig knew one another all their lives, having grown up together in the Eisenach area. The eleven known motets of Johann Ludwig come down to us from manuscripts in the possession of Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia, which probably stem from those made by Johann Sebastian for his own performances of his cousin’s works.

Telemann’s cantata Uns ist ein Kind geboren is indeed authentic, and shows Telemann in a folk music mode, especially in the first movement which we perform this evening. He wrote the work for Christmas in 1720, during the period when he was director of music in the city of Frankfurt. It is thought that the folk nature of the work dates from his time as Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann von Promnitz at his residence at Pless in Upper Silesia, and in Cracow, about whose “truly barbaric beauty” he was still talking about in his autobiography published in 1740.

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme has been one of the most renowned of the Bach cantatas since the works began to be performed again in the nineteenth century. The magnificent opening choral prelude, with trios of strings and oboes in opposition, to say nothing of the eleven (!) independent voices working together with apparent effortlessness, has pleased audiences with its brilliance at every hearing. The two trios between the “bridegroom” (Christ that comes) and “bride” (the wise virgins who have awaited Him) are a magnificent pair – one with violin, and one with oboe, one longing for fulfillment and the other enjoying it. The second chorale prelude at the center of the work with the cantus firmus in the tenor features one of Bach’s most memorable violin lines in decoration. The origin of this marvelous Advent music is the accident of the church calendar which made for a 27th Sunday after Trinity exactly once in Bach’s life, in 1731. This provided an extra week’s grace before the silence of Advent, which Bach exploited in this memorable work.

Soloist highlight: Soprano Anna Fredericka Popova

An interview with soprano Anna Fredericka Popova, who appears next week with the Dallas Bach Society Wednesday, 9 December at the Meyerson. And don’t miss the 19 December German Baroque Christmas concert, also with soloist Popova!

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Thank you for speaking with us!

Can you tell me about your educational and professional background? Who was an important influence in your musical career?

My musical education began in my Mother’s womb. That sounds a bit weird, I know… but there is more and more research proving how much more children develop in the womb than we previously thought and that they gain quite a keen understanding about the world they are about to enter and the life they will lead. My beautiful, Dramatic Soprano Mother and Teacher received rave reviews for her emotional, electrifying and vivid depiction of Mimi in La Boheme that year and I was lucky enough to gain a true insider’s experience. Her performance was so intense and real that after a show on this tour, the conductor BURST into her dressing room with tears streaming down his face yelling “I hate you! NO ONE MAKES ME CRY!!!” At the time it was startling, of course, but what a compliment!! This was the beginning of my love affair with music and my first lesson as her student.. and what a fabulous journey lay ahead!
On my musical path I have had wonderful Teachers and Mentors. Though my early years were in Germany with Mom as she was singing, my formative years were spent in the heart of Southwest Louisiana in Lake Charles and DeRidder. I was surrounded by a rich, artistic culture and sang an immense variety of music like zydeco, blues, jazz, country, opera, lieder, folk, etc etc etc. My Family was definitely an influence, too. One of ten farm kids, my Mother grew up playing sax and singing with her siblings (though she was the only one brave enough to pursue it as a career!). And we still get together at the holidays and rambunctiously sing carols, country songs, hymns and more! Early Teachers like Cora McMillen and Kathy Comish saw my potential right when I moved to the US as an awkward little German girl and urged me to audition for national and local children’s choirs. There I learned the bliss and sensitivity of quality choral singing. Then Pam Gabriel LeBlanc continued that journey in my middle school years as I began doing Solo & Ensemble and learning roles in her musical theater productions – the first of which was a fabulous Spanish character named Senorita Juanita Fandango! Somehow it now makes sense that I sing and love Spanish Baroque music – haha! It was at this point that I also met Betty Ladas, a spunky southern song writer whose new musical “Chokin’ Out The Kudzu” was performed in Nashville last year by our incredible cast. She and Billie Columbaro, former judge and current acting professor in NYC,  were not only advocates but practically second mothers to me. Their vigor for life, pursuit of their dreams and downright sassy independence were an inspiration to me as a teenager and young performer. As I moved into a crazy high school career attending three schools in four years, Chris Miller was a huge influence. His choirs earned top scores at every level of competition and our 1st and 2nd chairs at District were nearly always that at All State, too.  It was such a blessing to be surrounded by passion, strong work ethic and nerdy, musical fun! And it was in his “Louisiana style” Show Choir (not like ours here in Texas with jazz hands and costumes, but more of a versatile rock n roll band in cool street clothes with six singers from his varsity choir) that I had the opportunity to stretch my wings performing pop, rock, jazz, blues and killer, a cappella BoyzIIMen type arrangements with these talented musicians. I got to Dallas by auditioning for the Arts Magnet on a whim while visiting. It was a long shot but I got in from out of state and Mom and I moved here as fast as we could!  My piano teacher, Gabriel Sanchez, saved my sanity that year.  His incredible mind and superb teaching kept me focused on my passion for music during a tough transition.
Soon after that I had the privilege of being under the direction of Brian Bentley and Constantina Tsolainou (who I actually met my freshman year in Louisiana All State years before!).  Brian and I were at Cathedral Guadalupe for 12 years together and I am eternally grateful for his beautiful heart and consummate musicianship. He shifted my understanding and love of the Catholic Liturgy and elevated the Cathedral Chorale to a place of high prayer and worship that was truly transforming for us and the congregation. His care of the powerful messages we are charged to convey as singers changed my perspective forever and has made me a more attentive and clear performer. My years with Constantina and the Arts District Chorale have been unforgettable and she is likely the most brilliant choral director I have ever had the honor to create with. What she pulls from us with her exuberant and positive spirit and incredible mind is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed or experienced.
My entry into early music came soon after that in my early twenties.  I had not sung much of it in the past but the style greatly intrigued me and I’ve been hooked ever since!  Grover Wilkins 3d has been an amazing catalyst for growth and new adventure in my career the last several years and was my first experience working with a professional Baroque ensemble.  He took a chance and hired me as a fast substitute to sing the role of Diana in a reading of a zarzuela that had not been performed since the 1700’s called “Las Nuevas Armas de Amor.” I had less than 2 weeks with the music(!), had not sung the style or in Castilian Spanish before and was scared out of my mind!  But with grit, a few tears and kind help from my lovely Mexican soprano counterparts, I learned it and later made my opera debut as “Jupiter” in the very same zarzuela when Grover’s dream of a fully fledged production came to fruition in 2013. Since then we’ve traveled the world together performing this rarely heard and gorgeous Spanish music. We will put on another such grand production by Nebra called “Iphigenia en Tracia” that opens Valentine’s Day 2016 in which I will portray Iphigenia. Tracye Bingham has been a strong Mentor and the best Sales Director I’ve ever worked with. Over the last 3 years she has helped develop my business mind and given me understanding of strength, stamina and leadership that has taken my corporate and musical careers to new heights. To watch her inspire our Team and lead us with such conviction and positive, passionate care has changed me forever and I’m so grateful for her presence in my life. And lastly, there is Jim Richman. What a mensch!  He brought me in to sing Maddalena in a “pre-Messiah” Handel work called “La Resurrezione” and since then his support and genuine kindness have been invaluable to me professionally and personally. It is a joy to work with him and the Dallas Bach Society and I look forward to many more wonderful years performing these great works!
What do you do to prepare for 3 hour concerts?
Oh, my…. so much! Preparation is constant. Everything from exercising my body to meditating and quieting my mind, from detailed coaching of the music to practicing phrasing on breaks in the storage closet at my corporate Sales job and so, so much more! The stamina is definitely a factor and is necessary to build up.  To be “on” constantly but to be sitting for 45 minutes at a time between pieces (like I do in Messiah as the other glorious soloists sing) is a very interesting thing to manage.  To keep the body awake and actively ready to sing while being still and poised is nearly a magic trick! haha! But I think the most interesting part of it all is preparing to be vulnerable, let go and just sing! That is the courageous part of performing people may not think about when enjoying a performance.  To open up a heart filled to the brim and shower the audience with love and the intense energy of these incredible works is just as exhilarating as it is exhausting. It is something I think about every time I perform. More recent research now shows how much energy we expend as singers and it’s equivalent to what a highly ranked NFL football player uses up.  Think about that… a top athlete. Most people likely don’t realize that this is the preparation we do as Artists. And though trying at times, part of what keeps us going, energized and ready to perform is you.  You, the audience, bring us such life and joy.. and to share our Art with you is a gift to us as much as it is a gift we offer you.
What about early music appeals to you as a musician?
It is so intricate and delightfully nerdy!  I mean that in the most wonderful way and think the excitement of creating ornaments and learning the details of the style are definitely part of what keeps me interested. The beautifully mellowed sound of period instruments and intimacy of a smaller ensemble and venue is also appealing. The most incredible experience I’ve had with early music was in Bolivia as a part of the International Renaissance and Baroque Festival with the Orchestra of New Spain.  Grover chose a glorious mass for us to perform – the manuscript of which was actually found in the walls of the mission church we performed it in. So here we are, 300 years later, taking this work back to it’s birthplace.  The most amazing part was that the mission churches were entirely made of wood – so the mellowed sounds of our period instruments spiraled and bounced around the warm tones of the dark wood columns and walls. It was pure magic! And the enormity of it all was not lost on us.  In joyful tears with a painfully full heart we were rushed like rock stars by the Bolivians who deeply appreciated this great work’s homecoming and our passionate performance honoring that moment.
Have you sung in the Meyerson as a soloist?
Yes.  My first time singing in the Meyerson was during my year at the Arts Magnet here in Dallas. I sang “Glitter and Be Gay” and said then and there “I’ll be back, Meyerson… give me some time.” And 2 years ago I got that opportunity when Jim Richman hired me as his Messiah soloist. That performance was actually my first Messiah solo experience and was so unbelievable!! I still think about it. To share the stage with such high caliber musicians and set fire to page after page of such a stunning work was almost too much! And we had a full house that year!! When the audience literally exploded with applause it was as intoxicating as it was humbling. I will admit that I burst into tears of gratitude for having experienced such effusive appreciation and for being given the opportunity to be there. I’m so excited to do it again this year!
What repertoire do you prefer to sing? What is it about it that transfixes you?
Oh, man… I prefer EVERYTHING! If I were to label myself as a singer it would be a “Studier of Styles” with an aching desire to learn them all.  Whether it’s the smoky, warm quality of blues or the crystal clear tones of Baroque, I want it… and I want to do it all as if it’s the only thing I sing. What I mean by that is if I’m singing jazz I want to sound and mimic the tones and qualities of a true jazz singer.  If I’m singing country or an Irish folk song I want you to believe me to the core! Part of my given gift and something I’ve nurtured deeply is an extreme joy of vocal versatility. I love to see what my instrument can do and more importantly how it can connect with you, our audience.  That’s the point, really – finding all the ways to connect. Whether it’s a High Mass at the Cathedral or 90’s R&B at The Library in the Melrose Hotel, I want to communicate with people in a way they understand.  It’s on us, the communicators, to be sure we’re understood. And I want to speak as many “vocal languages” before I leave this world as possible!
Any special recordings to enjoy of Handel?
So many good ones out there! But lately I listen over and over to the recording we made last year in New York with the late John Scott, the St.Thomas 5th Ave Men & Boys Choir and the Concert Royale.  WHAT an amazing concert!! To hear the young men (especially the boy sopranos!) sing those choruses is just… wow. If you ever get the opportunity to go enjoy a concert there, take it! You won’t regret it.
What should audiences look out for in this production?
Be ready to watch us set FIRE to the stage!!! (figuratively) And for you to leave uplifted and ready for Christmas!! This will be like no other Messiah you’ve experienced! Be ready for a high dose of Artistry from this ensemble.  Side effects may include feeling: pure joy, overwhelmingly beautiful sorrow, fiery passion, deep darkness, soaring spirits, triumphant certainty and utter bliss. I hope you enjoy it and can’t wait to see you there!

Messiah program notes

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm – Meyerson Symphony Center

THE DALLAS BACH SOCIETY

James Richman, Artistic Director

MESSIAH

A Sacred Oratorio
by George Frideric Handel
Words selected from Holy Scripture by Charles Jennens

Anna Fredericka Popova, Soprano | Nicholas Garza, Countertenor | Derek Chester, Tenor | Curtis Streetman, Bass

† In memoriam Jack Carney

 

About the Program:

Handel’s Messiah is called “A Grand Musical Entertainment” in the catalogue of the Charitable Musical Society of Dublin, where it is the most treasured entry, despite Handel’s description of it on the cover page of his manuscript as “An Oratorio.” The first perfor- mance was given in the city of Dublin on April 13, 1742, although the work was written in London in August/September of 1741. Charles Jennens, who provided the words, wrote a friend (on 10 July, 1741) “Handel says he will do nothing next winter, but I hope I shall perswade him to set another Scripture Collection I have made for him, & perform it for his own Benefit in Passion Week. I hope he will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the subject excells every other subject. The Subject is Messiah.” Handel must have indeed been inspired, as he seems to have composed Messiah in white heat directly upon receiving Jennens’s “Collection” – what is interesting is why he made no immediate plans for performance. Perhaps the idea that Handel gave the premiere in Dublin because he feared the reaction of the more strin- gent Protestant clergy of London may have some truth to it, but before long the work was beloved there and was given many a performance, including annual benefits for the Found- ling Hospital, Handel’s favorite charity. On the 25th anniversary of Handel’s death, in 1784, a grand Handel festival was organized in Westminster Abbey, which featured a total of 275 choristers and an orchestra of 250 players. The numerical notion of greatness only gathered momentum during the nineteenth century, leading up to an 1859 performance at the Crystal Palace under the baton of Sir Michael Costa which featured a total of 3,225 musicians. At this point a music critic by the name of George Bernard Shaw (writing under the pen name Corno di Bassetto) raised the salient point in response to the ever more gargantuan presentations of the work. “Why doesn’t somebody set up a thoroughly rehearsed and exhaustively studied performance of Messiah in St. James’s Hall with a chorus of twenty capable artists? Most of us would be glad to hear the work seriously performed once before we die.”

Informed by the “historically-informed performance movement,” this goal is now a reality, which is as it should be, for this was the greatest of men and of composers, whose facility and genius have rarely if ever been equaled. The full extent of his work, in the shadows until the last few decades, has now begun to be enjoyed, once again mostly because of the “movement.” Nowadays Handel is indeed known for more than Messiah and a few other oratorios and instrumental pieces, and the true extent of his universality is more and better felt in our time.

The thumbnail biography by Sir Charles Beecham, written for a post card of Handel’s portrait at the National Gallery, gives the idea most succinctly:

George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). Born in Halle and died in London, a naturalized Englishman. Greatest of the international composers, he wrote with equal success in the styles of France, Germany, Italy and England. His career, like his personality, was stormy and brilliant. The downfall of Italian opera led him to English oratorio and his masterpiece, Messiah. He loved pictures, and children, endowing liberally the Foundling Hospital. Afflicted with paralyses and blindness, he died wealthy and the idol of the nation. Buried in Westminster Abbey.

The connection of Handel’s oratorios with his operatic style is obvious, for while he did indeed change his focus after “the downfall of Italian opera” in London, he never aban- doned the dramatic sense that informed his operas, particularly the later ones where the seemingly endless stream of da capo arias gives way to greater variety in composition.

The structure of Messiah is quite operatic, and much of the work is easy to imagine staged. Handel begins with a most unusual overture, in the unheard of (for overtures) key of E minor, characterized in the various lists of affects at the time as a key of uncertainty and gloom, with relief possible but not obvious. Of course this is a drama where the story is known to everyone in advance, which leads to a different order of events than any opera would have, and indeed we find that the uncertainty in the overture is immediately dispelled with a tenor recitative in the key of E major, at once a special and brilliant tonali- ty, on the words “Comfort ye, my people” from the Book of Isaiah.

As “librettist,” Jennens pieces together verses from scripture which provide connection and movement not only from one aria or chorus to the next, but also in the grand scheme of the composition where the large divisions (corresponding to operatic acts) are united by theme and also provided with division into “scenes” by the connection and separation of Biblical quotations. The first “scene” in Part the First (Act One) thus consists of the recitative and aria for tenor and the first chorus, set to consecutive verses from Isaiah. The second “scene” is from Malachi, consisting of the stormy bass recitative Thus saith the Lord, followed by the aria But Who May Abide the Day of his Coming and the chorus And He Shall Purify the Sons of Levi. The third of these scenes is a pastiche of Isaiah vii, xl, and ix, ending with the proclamation of the birth of the Messiah. Then there is a brief instrumental interlude (pifa) which introduces the pastoral theme for the second part of “Act One” where the arrival of the newborn Jesus is portrayed in a scene which is easily imagined on stage – a soprano soloist appears along with angels placed in cloud machines while shep- herds sing “And peace on Earth” standing around the crèche on ground level. At the end of this miniature drama, the angel chorus Glory to God ends with the disappearance of the staged angels as the orchestra evanesces into nothingness. Only the soprano soloist remains, to sing Rejoice Greatly (Book of Zachariah), joined then by the Alto for He Shall Feed his Flock, leading to the choral Finale His Yoke is Easy. By this time the tonal center has shifted to Bb Major for the close of the “Act”, which is as far away from the opening key of E Minor as is possible in Western music.

These final pieces introduce another characteristic of Jennens’s genius, which is the juxta- position of the promise of the Messiah found in the Old Testament with the actual arrival of the Messiah in the New. Here this is illustrated with verses from Isaiah xxxv and Matthew xi. It is more than a little astonishing that well over half the text for Messiah is in fact from the Old Testament! The most stunning use of this device will come in Part the Third in the chorus Since by Man Came Death, where alternating sections of slow, dark, a capella singing from Old Testament texts alternate with brilliant choral sections with orchestra on the subject of the Messiah’s appearance from the New, just as the Old Testament figures usually found on the gloomy north sides of the eastward-facing great cathedrals contrast with the sunny brilliance of the New Testament windows and sculpture found on the southern walls.

That there was probably no intermission per se after Part the First is indicated by the progression from Bb to G minor at the beginning of Part the Second, and then to Eb for the great aria He was despised. (There is a symmetry with Part the Third if one considers Parts One and Two together, as both start in E and conclude in D.) In any event, Part the Second is divided similarly to Part the First into two great sections – the first telling the story of the human suffering of Christ, interestingly set to words entirely from the Old Testament after the brief operatic entry music (not an overture) Behold the Lamb of God from Saint John; and the second celebrating His divine aspect suffusing the world and causing torment to the wicked with a virtual crescendo of glorious righteousness: Why do the Nations so Furious- ly Rage Together?, Let us Break Their Bonds Asunder, He That Dwelleth in Heaven Shall Laugh Them to Scorn, Thou Shalt Break Them Like a Potter’s Vessel, Hallelujah!

Part the Third, the shortest, deals with the End of Days and the Last Trumpet, again combining the Messiah’s assurance of everlasting life (I Know that my Redeemer Liveth, once again in the magical key of E Major) with the promise of death overcome (The Trumpet Shall Sound and Death, Where is Thy Sting). The great finale Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain contains a majestic Amen for which we find numerous counterpoint studies in Han- del’s notebooks, and which carries us majestically upwards as if in a great Baroque cathe- dral with a high oval of sky or paradise surrounded by swirling angels. And yet, at the very moment of triumph at the end of this signal composition, there is a surprising grand pause on an inverted dominant seventh chord begging for resolution, which seems to stop every- thing for supernatural reasons, exactly as when the fantastic forward energy of the Hallelu- jah Chorus comes to a crashing halt just before the end, at the height of its rapture. The Rev. Bishop Mark Herbener of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America points out to us that these two movements are the only pieces in Messiah with texts from the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, where indeed just before the end of the world there comes a great silence of half an hour. It appears that George Frederic Handel knew his Bible, and responded to it, on a very high level!

About the Dallas Bach Society and James Richman

Since its founding in 1982 the Dallas Bach Society has been the primary resource in the Southwest for Baroque and Classic music on original instruments. Under the musical direction of James Richman, the Society unites the finest vocalists and instrumentalists fromthe Metroplex, all over the United States, and from abroad, in lively and informed performances of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Couperin, Schütz and other period composers. Every season the Dallas Bach Society presents a full program of Baroque and Classic music on original instruments, featuring performances of favorites like Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Passions, Cantatas and Brandenburg Concertos, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as well as little known works of great music which would otherwise be heard only rarely, if at all. Significant recent performances include staged presentations of Monteverdi’s Ballo delle Ingrate and Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and the modern staged premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Zéphyre, both with the New York Baroque Dance Company; the Dublin and Mozart versions of Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Saint John Passion and Saint Matthew Passion, French cantatas with Bernard Deletré and Ann Monoyios from the Paris Opera, CPE Bach’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepia- no with fortepianist Christoph Hammer, and recordings for CD of Messiah and Bach solo cantatas. Our performance of Messiah was chosen for broadcast nationwide by Public Radio International in 2012. The Board of Directors has defined the mission of the Dallas Bach Society as follows: to present in public performances of the highest quality music composed before 1800, especially the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, to encourage the development of this musical repertoire in the Dallas area for both performers and audience, and to promote and encourage public education and awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the musical art of the Baroque and earlier periods in our own time. Funding for the DBS includes grants from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Texas Commission of the Arts, the Dallas Foundation, TACA, and private donations. The DBS is a member of the Association of Professional Vocal Ensembles, the Neue Bach Gesellschaft, and is a founding member of Early Music America.

James Richman, Artistic Director of the Dallas Bach Society, is a prominent harpsi- chordist and fortepianist, as well as one of today’s leading conductors of Baroque music and opera. The first musician since Leonard Bernstein to graduate Harvard, Juilliard, and the Curtis Institute of Music, James Richman studied conducting with Max Rudolf and Herbert Blomstedt, piano with Rosina Lhevinne and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, and harpsichord with Albert Fuller and Kenneth Gilbert. He holds a degree in the History of Science magna cum laude from Harvard College. A recipient of the prestigious United States-France Exchange Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, he was made a chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1995, in recognition of his contributions to the field of music. James Richman has been a prizewin- ner in four international competitions for early keyboard instruments, including first prize in the Bodky Competition of the Cambridge Society of Early Music, laureate of the Bruges Harpsichord Competition and bronze medal in the Paris Harpsichord Competition of the Festival Estival and in the First International Fortepiano Competition (Paris). In appearanc- es at the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Spoleto Festival USA, the E. Nakamichi Baroque Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival, as well as in regular series in New York, he has organized and conducted revivals of stage works by Handel, Gluck, Purcell, J.C. Bach, Monteverdi, and seven operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau. He has recorded for Nonesuch, Newport Classic, Centaur, Vox and New World records, and his live performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6 is featured on National Public Radio’s Bach CD, along with recordings of James Galway, Yo-Yo Ma and Christopher Hogwood. He is also Artis- tic Director of New York’s Concert Royal ensemble, which appears annually with the Choir of Men and Boys at Saint Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in the performances of Messiah and the great works of Bach and Purcell.

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