This Monday marks the start of a new concert series by the American Bach Soloists featuring music written before 1750. It's the only professional series of its kind, says Jeff Hudson, who met with the group’s conductor and prepared this preview.
Friday, January 21, 2005
J.S. Bach wrote lots of purely instrumental music, much of it instantly familiar to millions of listeners. But if you talk with Jeffrey Thomas, who’s made a career of studying Bach, his opinion may surprise you.
“I’m often asked what my favorite works by Bach might be. . . and invariable, the ones that I begin to think of are his cantatas.”
Bach wrote hundreds of cantatas, with singing as their centerpiece. They’re not performed as often as the Brandenburg Concertos. But the cantatas are packed with powerful statements about life, both in this world and the hereafter.
“…In fact they were meant to be 20 minute, 25 minute dramas that would move the listener from one place to another….”
The cantatas make up a huge portion of Bach’s output, and Thomas maintains that you need to hear them in order to grasp the full measure of the composer’s talent.
“I think it’s the core of the repertory. And when you look at the larger works, for example the Mass in B Minor or even the Passions, much of those pieces was derived from existing cantatas.”
The cantatas were never intended for the big modern concert hall. Bach wrote them with the contemplative, candle-lit atmosphere of a church in mind.
Consequently, Monday’s concert won’t be at the Mondavi Center. Instead, it will be at Davis Community Church, which seats about 250 people.
Monday’s concert will feature four cantatas. Two more programs, with music by Bach and others, will follow in March and May. They will be period instrument performances, with recorders and gut strung violins, tuned in the Baroque manner – the kind of concerts that, until now, you’ve generally had to go to the Bay Area to hear. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ news.