Bach: Johannes-Passion

J S Bach: Johannes-Passion
Collegium Vocale Gent, Philippe Herreweghe
Outhere/PHI LPH031. 2CDs 107’08

 

Cover of CD of Herreweghe Bach Johannes Passion

I can often predict the way in which a performance of the Johannes-Passion is going to develop by the manner in which the opening instrumental bars are performed. The texture appears simple. Swirling low strings underpinned by the repetitive pulse of continuo bass, with two oboes slowly intertwining dissonance-laden melodic lines above them. It is one of those passages of music that can be interpreted in many ways, resulting in differing moods ranging from sinister, threatening, mysterious, to gently calming. Continue reading

Laus Polyphoniae 2015 – Antwerp

Laus Polyphoniae – Antwerp

WP_20150825_19_32_43_ProThis year, Antwerp’s annual Laus Polyphoniae festival, now in its 22nd year, celebrated one it can claim as its own (at least for a period): the music copyist Petrus Alamire, creator of some of the most extraordinary music manuscripts in the decades around 1500. Born in Nuremburg, Alamire (a musical alias of Peter Imhof: A-la-mi-re)  soon moved to the Low Countries and quickly established himself as compiler of beautiful scores of music of Franco-Flemish composers, then at the peak of their importance. His clients included many of the crowned heads of Europe. His choirbooks contain more than 800 pieces, composed over a period of around 70 years, with the emphasis on masses, motets and chansons. Collectively they represent the development of the important Renaissance polyphonic style in the Low Countries and northern France. Continue reading

Bachfest Leipzig: 2015

Bachfest Leipzig
“So glorious you stand, dear city”
12-21 June 2015

WP_20150612_16_47_43_ProThe festival motto reflects the fact that 2015 is the millennium of the first documentary record of Leipzig, when the Bishop of Merseburg mentioned the town of “urbe libzi” in his chronicle in 1015. The phrase So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt! is taken from Bach’s cantata Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (BWV 119), written in 1723 in honour of the Leipzig city council, the ‘dear city’ clearly referring both to Jerusalem and Leipzig. It was performed by the Thomanerchor and the Händelfestspielorchester Halle at the opening concert of the festival (held, unusually, in the Nikolaikirche rather than the Thomaskirche, on 12 June, 5pm) where it followed Max Reger’s arrangement for organ of Bach’s Chromatische Fantasie und Fuge d-Moll, played by Stefan Kießling with commendable restraint.

Written within a few months of his arrival in Leipzig, Bach’s large scale Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (one of many such ‘Ratswahl’ cantatas Continue reading