July 11, 2013

Midsummer Bach Playlist

By Michael Zwiebach

In honor of the huge Bach-fest going on in the Bay Area and its neighbor, Carmel, we’ve put together a mixtape of highlights of pieces you’ll be able to hear in live performance over the next month. Consider this mix an intro to Bach’s immense musical imagination.

  1. O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (O Eternity, you word of thunder), Cantata BWV 20, movement 1. Concentus Musicus Wien, Viennensis Choir, Nicholas Harnoncourt.
    The Carmel Bach Festival opens its mainstage concerts with this tremendous, dramatic piece for full orchestra and chorus.
  2. Concerto in A Minor for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord, BWV 1044, movement 1. Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebbel.
    The American Bach Soloists open their festival at the San Francisco Conservatory with this virtuosic work.
  3. Sarabande, from Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011. Yo-Yo Ma.
    A solo melody sustained at a length only a master like Bach could handle. Yo-Yo Ma played it as a tribute to the victims of 9/11, but you needn’t feel this as a tragic piece; it’s a meditation. The six cello suites are featured on two concerts at Music@Menlo this year, and Tanya Tomkins does lecture demonstrations on them at the American Bach Soloists festival.
  4. Sonata in C Minor for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1017, movement 4. Siebe Henstra, violin; Ryo Terakado, harpsichord.
    This piece, with the addition of a cello holding down the bassline, is featured on the “Trio Transformations” concert at Music@Menlo. Lively, but serious, it shows a different side of the key of C Minor
  5. Aria, “Ich habe genug” (I have enough), from Cantata 82 Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo soprano; Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith, director.
    This radiantly beautiful aria gets about as wonderful a performance here as it’s ever likely to get, but you should hear it live. And you can, on the Carmel Bach Festival’s “Transcendent Bach” program.
  6. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048, movement 3. Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin.
    The spirited interplay of this famous piece should really be sampled in an intimate hall, like the one at the Center for the Performing Arts, Menlo-Atherton, where it will be played by the Music@Menlo duffers.
  7. Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042, movement 3. Rachel Podger, violin; Academy of Ancient Music, Andrew Manze.
    You can’t have a Bach festival without one of the two violin concertos making an appearance. Both of them can be heard over the next four weeks.
  8. “Et resurrexit”, from the Credo, B Minor Mass. Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, conductor.
    This “cathedral in sound” is one of the summits of Bach’s art and by consensus one of the deepest, unfathomable works in the classical canon. The American Bach Soloists perform it every year, kind of as their signature piece.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.