The German pianist Alexander Lonquich has a thriving career in Europe, as a soloist and also as a sought after partner in the string sonata repertoire. Unfortunately, his appearances in the United States have been few. Mr. Lonquich makes only his second solo appearance in New York at the 92nd street Y, Thursday, May 10.
Alexander Lonquich is known as a performer who likes to work with ideas, in this case he has chosen a program of piano music that looks at Schumann's dark world. Works that Schumann invested with the imagery of childhood, implying innocence, or natural guilelessness, but imbued with a darker undercurrent, channeled by Schumann's melancholy turns. Turns that later became an overt mental issue, which forced Schumann to commit himself to an asylum.
The program will feature solo and four-hand works written by Schumann for children and adults. In the four hand works his partner will be Cristina Barbuti. In addition, the final piece on the program will be a work written by Schumann's protégé and fellow traveler, Johannes Brahms. The Brahms work is a set of variations based on a theme written by Schumann while he was in the asylum. A few years after Schumann's death Brahms presented the set of variations to Clara Schumann as a token of friendship and esteem. Those looking for evidence of Brahms intentions (or just plain nosey) might notice that this a piano four-hand work, so it's meant to be played by two people sitting next to each other on the piano. Need I spell it out....
In the U.S. Mr. Lonquich is probably best know for his Mozart and other classical and early romantic era composers. He has also just finished a complete cycle of Beethoven violin sonatas with violinist Christian Tetzlaff, at Wigmore Hall in London, to huge reviews. When reading about Mr. Lonquich's work one is struck by the number of people impressed by his intelligent playing, but also by an intuitiveness that balances a direct, improvisatory sensibility, with deep personal communication. An intuitiveness then, that is the result of his singular approach to thinking about and playing music.
Mr. Lonquich and the Tokyo String Quartet, will continue the explore the chamber works of Schumann in a concert at the 92nd Street Y, on Saturday, May 12. Details
The 92nd Street Y: Masters of the Keyboard
Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y
May 10, at 8:00 pm
Alexander Lonquich, Piano and Cristina Barbuti, Piano
The Masters of the Keyboard performance has been cancelled because Ms. Barbuti was unable to secure her visa in time to arrive for the performance. Both artists agreed to cancel the performance because the program was carefully planned and conceived in partnership and to reorganize the repertoire did not seem artistically appropriate.
Symphony Space presents its annual free Wall-to-Wall Marathon extravaganza, on Saturday, May 19. Master Class in Bel Canto singing Renata Scotto — Members of the The New York City Opera & the NYCO Orchestra — Members of the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artists Program.
This year's Wall to Wall Opera celebrates the four-hundred year history of Western opera, from 1607 through the present. The all-day event offers a full and varied program of operatic works from Monteverdi to Bellini and Mozart to Bermel, performed by musicians and singers from throughout New York's artistic community. There is so much new Opera this spring, we may be reaching a stage of critical mass, where the conjunction of new and old finally creates an aesthetic impact on the public. We can still dream... (lights please).
Wall to Wall Opera will begin its overview with the birth of opera, Artek performing an excerpt from Monteverdi's 1607 Orfeo and will continue on through different periods, from Grand Opera to Modern Opera through out the afternoon and evening.
Highlights include a Master Class in Bel Canto singing with legendary soprano, Renata Scotto, well-known opera favorites and selections from of New York City Opera's 2007-08 season, performed by The New York City Opera Orchestra with a cast of more than a dozen young singers; an excerpt of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro by the Purchase Conservatory of Music award-winning Opera Program, a segment of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera by Mannes Opera; and a staged production of Eric Salzman's The Last True Words of Dutch Schultz.
The centerpiece of this season's Wall to Wall Marathon will be the Opera Matinee section, in the tradition of the great Saturday opera matinees, featuring the New York City Opera Orchestra conducted by Gerald Steichen, performing with various soloists—including singers who will be featured in the City Opera's 2007-2008 season, as well as members of the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artists Program. Excerpts will include works by Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Verdi, Handel, Puccini, Strauss, Bizet, and Stravinsky.
Starting at 8:00 more modern opera, including a some of the works performed at VOX 2007 (see below) in case you miss that.
WQXR will be broadcasting Wall-to-Wall Opera live from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. the day of the event. Excerpts of Wall-to-Wall Opera also will be broadcast as part of Symphony Space Live, a new public radio program being produced by Symphony Space that features original performances from its two theatres.
One important note, due to the popularity of the Wall to Wall events, at 4:30 the house will be cleared to allow patrons waiting on line to enter. So in effect there are to sessions, luckily both have their rewards. Check the schedule, the NYCO company will perform before and after the break.
The New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, May 1, Zankel Hall, at 7:30 pm. Frank Epstein, director, with Miriam Fried, violin soloist.
The ephemeral nature of commissioning contemporary music makes individual patrons a rare and valuable phenomenon in the music world. At a time when recognition and branding seem to be carrying the day, the idea that potential patrons might offer to fund commissions by major composers for the benefit of a student ensemble seems particularly out of the ordinary. That however is what Bradford and Dorothea Endicott did. They saw the value of adding repertoire to a growing segment of the new music world, and more interestingly, they eschewed high profile contemporary percussion ensembles to offer their patronage to the New England Conservatory with no strings attached.
Frank Epstein, a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chair of Brass and Percussion at NEC, and Director of the Percussion Ensemble, will lead the ensemble in a concert of three of the four current Endicott commissions, two in their New York premieres. The concert will conclude with two 20th Century masterpieces for percussion: Lou Harrison's Concerto for Violin and Percussion and Edgard Varèse's 1931 Ionization, the work that put the percussion ensemble on the map.
Thus far, six new works, all by American composers, are projected. The first four, works by Joan Tower, Gunther Schuller, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Xavier Rodriguez — have been completed. Unfortunitly, Schuller's Grand Concerto for Keyboards and Percussion, scored for an enormous instrumental ensemble, was simply too big to take on the road. However, James Levine and performers from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra will play the work next year in Zankel Hall. Joan Tower's DNA composed on 2003, was the first of Endicott's commissioned works, and has already had 50 performances since its premiere.
The two other commissioned works, by John Harbison and Fred Lerdahl, are expected at the end of 2007. When the series is complete, a recording of the complete set will be released on the Naxos label.
The New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall
May 1, at 7:30 pm
Frank Epstein, Conductor
Miriam Fried, violin
3 Commissions by Bradford and Dorothea Endicott
Joan Tower: DNA
Jennifer Higdon: Splendid Wood (New York Premiere)
Robert Xavier Rodríguez: El Día De Los Muertos (New York Premiere)
Lou Harrison: Concerto for Violin and Percussion (1940-59)
Edgard Varèse: Ionization (1931)
Speaking of critical mass, there is a lot of new music and ambitious programming in May.
The 6th Look & Listen Festival will take place at the Robert Miller and Betty Parsons Galleries, May 3, 4 and 5. The festival was created by composer David Gordon in 2002, the idea is to combine the creative energies of visual and aural art to give your eyes something to do while your ears are busy, synesthesia encouraged.
In a departure from other Look & Listen festivals, this year's features only contemporary works (previous festivals have been a mix of new and some 20th C. standards to loosen up the crowd), composers include: Don Byron, Mary Ellen Childs, Annie Gosfield∗, Paul Lansky, Fred Frith, Phillip Glass, Magnus Lindberg, Izzi Ramkissoon and John Zorn
Performers include Daedalus String Quartet, Flux Quartet, Ethel, So Percussion and the Eclipse Quartet among many others
Ambient compositions are also a part of each evening with works beginning at 7:30, performances begin at 8:00.
Robert Miller Gallery, May 3 & 4, at 8:00 pm
524 W. 26th St., NYC (between 10th and 11th Aves)
Betty Cuningham Gallery, May 5, at 8:00 pm
541 W. 25th St., NYC (between 10th and 11th Aves)
∗ In fact Anne Gosfield's work will be performed at Merkin Hall on May 3rd. In a special concert featuring her chamber music, as well as a performance by her band. The program will include the world premiere of a chamber concerto, and a piece for violin and satellite sounds.
EWA7 (which is taking on “cult classic” status) will be performed by Gosfield (sampler), Roger Kleier (electric guitar) and Ches Smith (drums).
Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center on May 3rd.
Grab It! The music of Jacob TV. A festival of dance, music, video, and intermedia work, May 2, 3 and 4 at the Whitney Branch at Altria.
Maybe the visual arts world's idea about new music? Anyway, a museum dedicated to American (visual) art is sponsoring a concert by the Dutch composer Jacob TV (Jacob Ter Veldhuis). Long an established composer in europe, Jacob TV's music varies from Pop/minimal modernity to oddly swinging music sampling.
Succinctly put by Music International:
Highly expressive and emotional, almost anti-intellectual music, clear of texture and architectural in form, highly organized and basically tonal, though betraying no inclination towards any neoclassical procedures. A kind of non repetitive minimalism, brooding and powerful.
Wednesday, May 2 — Friday, May 4
Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria
120 Park Avenue at 42nd Street
New Music New York will present 21st Century Shakespeare: Chamber Music Inspired by the Bard for the New Millennium on Tuesday May 1. Featuring music by established and rising American composers and well known international composers.
There is going to be a lot of Shakespeare this evening. Including New Music New York world premiere commissions by Sondra Clark, Steven Ebel, Scott Gendel, Stephen Gorbos, William George, William Holab, Gustav Hoyer, Marga Richter, Lou Warde.
As well as the world premiere of Marc Blitzstein's trio from A Winter's Tale, which was recently discovered at the Library of Congress.
20th & 21st century songs set to Shakespeare texts, including music by: David Amram, Tom Cipullo, F.R.C. Clarke, Jean Coulthard, Gerald Finzi, Lee Hoiby, Richard Hundley, Erich Korngold, Dorian Le Gallienne, Kenneth Leighton, Thomas Pasatieri, Kaija Sariaaho, Virgil Thomson , Michael Tippett, Ben Yarmolinsky
Tuesday May 1, starting at 8:00 pm
St. Peter's Church, Citicorp
54th and Lexington Avenue
And just to make sure that formalism is not entirely forgotten about — modernist classics, as well as a former modernist's classic will be presented by The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble and the Ostravská Banda, under conductor Petr Kotik, Conductor
Works by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Somei Satoh, R. Strauss (Metamorphosen), Earle Brown and Stefan Wolpe.
Monday, May 21, at 8:00 pm
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall
Canticum Novum Singers 200th Birthday Tribute to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Saturday May 5th 8:00 pm, at The Great Hall at The Cooper Union
Perhaps one of the most famous poems even today was written by a poet many people forget. In his day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the most famous poets in the world. His works were widely translated and outsold in England works by Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Some of his admirers included Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens and Charles Baudelaire. Longfellow's poetry was to his era as MTV and CNN is to ours. Known as the “Poet of the People” Longfellow was read by everyone, from scholars to farmers. His poetry was popular because it dealt with themes and characters that are still relevant today. Such themes as war, strength against adversity, triumph of right, racial prejudice, tolerance, freedom and humanity. Some of his characters include strong women, Indians, slaves, kings, God and common tradesmen. Many of his works include events and aspects of our nation's history. Many of the places immortalized in his poetry can still be visited today. Longfellow's work has inspired generations of writers, poets, animators and composers. Longfellow's poetry has inspired and been set to music by such composers as Franz Liszt, Sir Edward Elgar, Felix Mendelssohn, Charles Ives, David Del Tredici, Ned Rorem and Stephen Schwartz.
In a free pre-concert event (starting at 7:00 pm) begins with Longfellow's Great — Great Grandchildren recite some of his poetry. Followed with a a talk by Christoph Irmscher, the award winning author of Longfellow Redux, and a Q & A session with Stephen Schwartz.
The concert will include Longfellow's poetry set to music by composers Edward Elgar, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Pulitzer Prize winning composers Ned Rorem and David Del Tredici and Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz. Selections to include Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, Snowflakes, King Olaf (selections), The Golden Legend and Keramos.
200th Birthday Tribute to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Canticum Novum Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, Conductor
Melissa Fogarty, Soprano and Cristina L. Valdes, piano
Saturday May 5th at 8:00 pm (Pre-concert lecture at 7:00 pm free to ticket holders)
Tickets: $25 at door at 7:00 pm the night of the concert
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
30 Cooper Square at Astor Place
New York City Opera's VOX 2007: Showcasing American Composers — a showcase and a testing ground for composers and librettists — returns for its seventh season on May 12 and 13. Presented by Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU, VOX 2007 will feature readings/performances of twelve new or previously unperformed American operas by both emerging and established composers. All selections will be performed by City Opera artists and accompanied by its orchestra.
Among the participants: John Zorn, La machine de l'être, a ten-minute opera for solo soprano inspired by drawings by Antonin Artaud. Jenny Olivia Johnson with a new work, The Endings which will be performed with an accompanying video.
Also selected is Marc Lowenstein's The Fisher King, a jazz-inflected adaptation of the film about a half-crazed beggar on a mission to find the Holy Grail.
Within these two days of opera, on the evening of the 12th, is On the Edge, a consortium of four prominent New York new music organizations involved in developing new operas: Music-Theatre Group, Encompass New Opera Theatre, Center for Contemporary Opera, and American Opera Projects. On the Edge is a works-in-progress showcase, each organization will pressnt works that explore the many guises of opera/musical theater, integral accompaniment can be anything from orchestra to solo piano.
Admission to all VOX/On The Edge events are free and open to the public.
VOX: Showcasing American Composers, promotes the work of both emerging and established composers by presenting free of charge new, previously un-produced works in full orchestral readings by City Opera artists to an audience that includes opera producers, agents, publishers, and enthusiasts.
A record number of seventy works, roughly twice the amount of any previous year, were submitted to the VOX selection committee which is comprised of five full time City Opera staff from various disciplines of artistic, music and dramaturgical departments, including City Opera Music Director, George Manahan. Of those submitted, only twelve were chosen, including:
The only program of its kind in this country, VOX has taken young composers still in their training and presented them alongside mid-career luminaries like Michael John LaChiusa, Ezequiel Viñao and Joel Feigin, while Pulitzer Prize winners such as David Del Tredici, Bernard Rands and Lewis Spratlan, and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. The results have been astounding: to date, the festival has presented excerpts from 70 new operas with more than 30 going on to full productions with four at City Opera; the remainder have enjoyed world premieres at other opera companies including: Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera and Santa Fe Opera.
More information from NYCO. Composers! The VOX 2008 deadline is September 14, 2007: NYCO: VOX
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
New York University
May 12 & 13
“I have traveled a lot and met so many people,” says Ana Vidovic, the young virtuoso Croatian guitarist who will be performing in New York on April 20th.“ I've seen a lot of places that I probably wouldn't be able to see if I wasn't playing. I'm lucky to be able to do that.”
Indeed, Vidovic has come a long way from her small hometown of Karlovac, Croatia, where she began playing guitar at the age of 5 and gave her first public performance two years later. Now in her early twenties, Vidovic has already recorded five CDs, been featured in three documentaries, performed with international orchestras, and won competitions in England, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and New York. On April 20th, Vidovic will visit New York for a performance with the city's Classical Guitar Society, where she will perform music by baroque, contemporary, and classical masters.
Vidovic's first teacher was her older brother, Viktor, who at the age of 13 already had a performance career and was an inspiration to the young musician. Her first performance came at the tender age of 7 when her sibling mentor invited her to be a guest at one of his recitals.
“I was SOOOO nervous,” remembers Vidovic, who played a piece by Tarrega. “If you have heard my brother play, you would know how hard it would be to sit down next to him and play. He always played with such ease and musicality. That was a great experience that I will always remember.”
By the time she was 11, Vidovic was performing internationally and two years later she became the youngest person to study with Istvan Romer at the esteemed National Musical Academy in Zagreb. “Today I see what a huge influence that period had on me, ” says Vidovic. “He basically led me through the most crucial time of my development as a musician. He was very caring and supportive and I learned so much.”
Vidovic's studies continued at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, where she learned under the tutelage of Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco. Upon graduation in 2003, she had already begun to forge a distinguished career in the U.S. and abroad, including first prize in some of the most prestigious music competitions.
“Competitions are just one step to building a career,” says Vidovic. “They should not become a career. I have done some competitions in Europe and, looking back, I'm glad I did them. I think it is good to go out and meet young people of your age, talk to them and find your place among them. They taught me a lot of lessons. But music is not a sport. There are many talented people out there and they all deserve their place. I think it is impossible to judge who is a better player or who isn't.”
Vidovic's career continues to blossom with a new Mel Bay DVD featuring her in live performance and a new CD that will be released by NAXOS this year. She was also the subject of a film by the Croatian director, Petar Krelja, who has documented her life in the United States. She has even been teaching more, and enjoying the chance to pass on her knowledge to others.
“There are difficult times, but if you really, truly love something and you know it deep down in your heart, you will keep going and doing your best” says Vidovic with conviction. “There are some times that I wanted to do something else and forget about guitar, but I just love performing and at the end of the day, and it is all worth it.”
J. Andrew Dickenson
Ana Vidovic, Guitar
Part of the NYC Classical Guitar Society's Spring Concert Series
Christ and St. Stephen's Church
Friday, April 20th, at 8:00 pm
Works by Albeniz, Sor, F. Moreno Torroba, Manuel Ponce, Stjepan Sulek and A. Barrios Mangore
For tickets to this concert and and more information on their Spring Concert Series, visit: NYC Classical Guitar Society
For a full interview with Ana Vidovic, please visit: Urban Guitar
Last spring Miller Theatre started an innovative program to commit time and treasure to create the Pocket Concertos Project, a 3-year project to commission 12 composers to write 12 concertos. Called the Pocket Concertos for their size and ease of use, the series began in April of 2006, with the first four commissions. The second installment of four world premieres is April 14th at Miller Theatre, at 8:00 pm.
Miller Theatre calls the composers for the project a “diverse dozen” of today's leading composers, chosen to write concertos for soloist and small orchestra. Last year included Julia Wolfe's Accordion Concerto and Benedict Mason's Double Concerto for Bass and Tuba. This year's second installment of Pocket Concertos should prove equally provocative. It will feature world premieres by Anthony Davis, Sebastian Currier, Huang Ruo, and Charles Wuorinen, with world-class soloists, including, clarinetist J. D. Parran, pianist Emma Tahmizian, cellist Jian Wang, and violinist Jennifer Koh.
A three year contemporary music commissioning program would be special enough, but what makes the Pocket Concertos Project truly significant is the fact that the commissions are for small orchestra. In this contemporary music climate a little orchestra is a big deal. Last year's concert was stuffed to the legal gills, but for concert #2 (now as of April 10) seats are still available, but please call in advance.
Perspectives Ensemble, Brad Lubman, Conductor
Jennifer Koh, Violin • Jian Wang, Cello
J. D. Parran, Clarinet • Emma Tahmizian, Piano
Charles Wuorinen: Spin 5 (violin concerto)
Huang Ruo: People Mountain People Sea (cello concerto)
Anthony Davis: You Have the Right to Remain Silent (clarinet concerto)
Sebastian Currier: Piano Concerto
Tickets: $25.00; Students $15.00 with valid ID
Columbia University's Miller Theatre is located north of the Main Campus Gate
at 116th Street and Broadway on the Ground Floor of Dodge Hall.
Excerpts from last year's Classical Domain interview with Miller Theatre Executive Director George Steel on the creation of the Pocket Concerto Project.
Classical Domain: OK, so finally the Pocket Concertos — which came first: the idea to start a series of commissioned works from specific composers, or the desire to highlight a form, contemporary large-scale chamber work or concerti — that lead to the decision to commission the works?
George Steel: We have always commissioned pieces, they tend to be little pieces, and they are sort of brought up as projects arise. A performer will want to do a piece with a certain composer and they will ask us if we can commission the work.
One of the things I've noticed, so many new music concerts are “Pierrot + percussion“ ensembles, that is, the number of players Schönberg used for Pierrot lunaire; which consists of flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano plus the addition of a percussionist. The Pierrot ensemble has become the de-facto new music grouping for the 20th century.
People get together to play Pierrot and they need something else to play so somebody writes another piece. There are lots of pieces written for this kind of ensemble. But there is another kind of 20th Century ensemble, one that was also coined by Schönberg, the Chamber Symphony. Which is a “one of everything” ensemble. It's also called a Sinfonietta for want of a better word.
Part of our programming strategy here is to take groups that are Pierrot ensembles or smaller and say to them “you're going to play those Pierrot concerts anyway, we want to take you and help get you from playing your regular concerts to playing these big pieces you want to play but can't afford.” So we want to help pay for the extra fourteen player to get to twenty.
The pieces we found that people really stretched for were the Ligeti Piano Concerto, the John Adams Chamber Symphony, the Clarinet Concerto, pieces like that. They make a terrific impact on people, the players are excited to play them. The variety of sound and color for the composers is exciting. Audiences really respond to seeing a stage full of people, it's a really great instrumentation.
In other countries ensembles exist to play this music, the Ensemble Contemporain, The Ensemble Moderne, the London Symphonietta. So we were working with a couple of young groups that are working with this configuration. When we put together the Composer Portraits these are the kind of pieces I'm looking for, the fifteen to twenty player pieces that will make a big impact. In this case, we decided to make a commissioning project out of it, and we wrote down the names of composers we really wanted to work with. It did not take long before we had twelve pieces over three years.
CD: You're making a big commitment.
GS: It is a big commitment — not only are we paying these twelve commissions, we are also rehearsing these pieces adequately, so there are ample rehearsal schedules. A very expensive project.
CD: How did you chose the groups of composers for each year?
GS: We did shape the years to a degree for variety. There are composers from all walks of life, American and non-American, old — young, downtown — uptown. We wanted to keep cohesion in the programs, it also depends on who's available, they are busy composers.
GS: For the second year we'll have a Violin Concerto by Charles Wuorinen. Actually Jennifer Koh came to me and said. “I've got to have a violin concerto by Charles Wuorinen.” At the same time I saw Charles's Opera. I know Charles’ music very well, but I was not thinking about him as a composer for the project, until I heard saw the opera Haroun. The music is fantastic, the story's OK, the stageing's OK — but the music was amazing. That was two, three years ago. It's very theatrical, and of course Charles pretends to be this “above the fray” composer. He'd never write theater music, he writes music that's constructed, it's determined by pitch collections etc... etc... and it's total showman's music. Fantastic music, so I said I want that music.
Sebastian Currier is writing a piano concerto for Emma Tahmizian, to whom he was married actually, though not any more, he's writing a piano concerto for his ex-wife.
CD: I can't imagine what it will sound like...
GS: Yes I know, It'll be extra cruel. No, he asked to do it, they get along very well.
The Mass in b minor, Bach's very last composition, and his largest-scale work, one that has daunted and inspired musicians and listeners to this day. The Netherlands Bach Society, lead by Jos van Veldhoven performs the complete Mass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 18th at 8:00 pm.
What if you went to a performance of Bach's b minor Mass — and no one was on stage? If you are used to the large orchestras and choruses of the traditional Bach's b minor Mass, that might be your initial impression of the Netherlands Bach Society. A scaled down continuo, and four central singer/soloists, occasionally joined by two other singer per part, that's a vocal force of fifteen for Bach's choral masterpiece, better make that vocal masterpiece.
Jos van Veldhoven is one of the most well-known and respected conductors working on imaging and re-imaging early music performance today. He is among the researchers and performers who feel that Bach worked with few singers, perhaps one soloist to a part, and that soloist would sing the entire concert, sometimes backed up by another pair of singers per part.
For balance, it has to be said that this point of view has been part of the early music discussion for over 20 years; so to early music regulars, this is old news. Some conductors, notably Joshua Rifkin have suggested one and only one singer to a part — period. Other early music specialists have no trouble with a larger chorus arguing that Bach would have preferred a larger group — but one thing is clear with the pared down Bach serves the music as well or better in terms of the of vocal clarity and capturing the lines of Bach's complex polyphony.
Jos van Veldhoven has assembled a superb group of singers who have an intimate knowledge in the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. This is a group that did not just drop down from the opera house after a week of Verdi and Wagner, their vibrato-less voices blend beautifully with one another. The Baroque Orchestra of the Netherlands Bach Society is also a group made up of musicians each of whom has considerable individual reputations in the early music performance world, there is a modest swing and swagger to the ensemble.
The Netherlands Bach Society was formed in 1922, the present-day Netherlands Bach Society specialized in the performances of 17th and 18th century repertoire. Most of the concerts take place in the Netherlands; concert tours have also been made to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Norway, Japan, and the United States. About half of the yearly projects are conducted by artistic director Jos van Veldhoven. On other occasions, the Netherlands Bach Society has collaborated with prominent early music conductors such as Gustav Leonhardt, Paul McCreesh, Marcus Creed, and Masaaki Suzuki.
Jos van Veldhoven has been artistic director of The Netherlands Bach Society since 1983; and among the many conductors working with ideas of Bach's original intentions or practices, he is know for his devotion to the text as well as the score. In a field where examination is a priority this might seem a bit of a surprise, but listening to recent recordings by the Netherlands Bach Society one is struck by van Veldhoven's fluid handling of the score. He establishes a balance that allows for the instrumental and vocal soloists expressive range, while simultaneously keeping the focus on the words, which presumably, would have been Bach's intention as well.
The Netherlands Bach Society recorded performance of the b minor Mass is on Channel Classics Records 25007, a great sounding SACD/CD hybrid. There is a clip of a 2006 concert in Utrecht with voice-overs to give yourself a taste, but you'll have to navigate the site, they don't make it simple: Channel Classics. Please note the deluxe packaging.
The Netherlands Bach Society
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Metropolitan Museum of Art
April 18th, at 8:00 pm
Jos van Veldhoven, conductor
Dorothee Mields, soprano • Johannette Zomer, soprano
Matthew White, alto • Charles Daniels, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass
Bach: Mass in b Minor, BWV 232