Kaneez Munjee is a singer, writer, and editor. She holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Stanford University, and specializes in late 17th- and early 18th-century French music.
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“The beauty of this program lies in the contrast between the simple and the complex,” says Artistic Director Paul Flight. The simple element is the Lutheran hymn tunes that underlie nearly all this music. The Society will sing a few hymns in traditional Lutheran settings, though most of the program will reflect the complex element — these tunes woven into intricate counterpoint and often decorated with breathtaking ornamentation. “One can only marvel at the skills of the North German composers Schütz, Schein, Scheidt, and Praetorius,” Flight adds, “as they develop every musical possibility inherent in the tune.”
Praetorius is the featured composer on the program. Audiences will hear his unique settings of such familiar tunes as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme; Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland; and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, as well as his less familiar Magnificat super Ut re mi fa sol la, based on the simple melodic motive of six ascending notes of the scale. The offerings from the other composers feature antiphonal writing. Schein’s Aus tiefer Not is a complex canon for two voices with continuo, while Scheidt’s version of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland and Duo Seraphim and Schütz’ setting of Psalm 128 are for double choir, showing the influences of the Venetian polychoral tradition.
It has been many years since the California Bach Society presented an all-German Christmas (or Advent) concert, as it has been focusing recently on Italian and French offerings, to enthusiastic acclaim. The German Lutheran settings offered this season are unique and moving, says Flight, in part because they present a “heartfelt, pietistic poetry,” layered with a new interest in an expressive musical language that prized word painting and heightened emotions.
For fans of either the 17th century or the German musical tradition, this program is a perfect fit. For listeners who do not know this tradition, this concert promises to open wide the doors of a rich musical world. And for anyone who simply wants to hear classic choral music of the season sung with adept passion, this is a concert not to be missed.More about California Bach Society »
The San Francisco Bach Choir began its 73rd season last weekend with a concert titled “Before Bach: A Family Portrait,” paying homage to Johann Sebastian’s musical predecessors. As the program notes explained, Sebastian himself was interested in his genealogy, and in 1735 drew up a family tree dating back to the 1500s, which is the most reliable document we have today on the entire Bach family. Sebastian also collected and performed pieces by his family members, which is likely the reason that most of those works survive today.
The Cantabile Chorale has a new sound. Some aspects of this hold great promise, while other aspects suggest areas that could do with some ironing out. Friday night's concert at St. Gregory Nyssa in San Francisco, titled "Bach, Beatles, and Beyond," demonstrated this ably.