Bach, better than ever

March 2, 2009 at 8:07 pm (Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Music)

Last night’s Bach Concert Series performance was quite simply the best I’ve been to since I first started attending last November.

Cantata 29, the featured work, got us off to a rousing start with the  joyful and buoyant Sinfonia. Here is the original version, with organ and chamber orchestra:

And here it is transcribed for solo organ and played by one of France’s greatest living musicians, Jean Guillou:

The entire cantata is exquisitely beautiful. The chorus and chamber players, led by T. Herbert Dimmock, were superb as usual. In addition, we heard first class solo work by tenor John Weber, mezzo-soprano Elspeth Franks, and soprano Jennifer Young.


Jennifer Young

Elspeth Franks

Elspeth Franks

T. Herbert Dimmock

T. Herbert Dimmock

We were then treated to an Chorale Prelude by Dietrich Buxtehude; the first of two organ solos on the program. To my delight, I found a three part tribute to Buxtehude on Youtube. Here’s the first video segment:

Click here to view Part Two and Part Three.

The hymn – which we all stood and sang in unison – was ” My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker” by J. Kugelmann. We were accompanied by Christ Church’s mighty Andover 114. It felt as though the entire building – no, the entire world – was alive with music!

Jonathan Parker then performed Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor (Dorian). By that point, I felt that I would gladly sit and listen to that incredible instrument play all day, in that sacred space, a church that was built in 1957  but looks as though it were built in 1557, in some German principality.



The sight of Martin Luther himself striding down the center aisle would not seem out of place (or time).

Next, the Chamber Choir of the Friends School of Baltimore took to the stage. They began their portion of the program with “Ich will den Namen Gottes Loben” from Cantata 142. The program notes informed us that although this work is attributed to Bach, it is most likely by Johann Kuhnau. Whoever the composer was, the piece is lovely:

Next we heard “Bist du bei mir,” from the second Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. This particular arrangement by Jon Washburn called for the chorus to provide a humming accompaniment for a soprano solo. The sound they produced was achingly beautiful, the overall effect being greatly enhanced by guest soloist Rebecca Rossello’s superb vocalizing.

Here it is, sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson:

(And yes – by this time I was sorely lamenting my lack of knowledge of  the German language!)

The program concluded with “Sicut locutus est” from Bach’s Magnificat. Here is a performance led by one of Europe’s most venerable conductors, Nikolaus Harnoncourt:

I have enjoyed all the “Bach in Baltimore” concerts that I’ve attended this year, but my friend Emma and I both agreed: yesterday they outdid themselves!


  1. Jackie said,

    I’m one of the singers, and I’m delighted you enjoyed our Bach Concert Series concert in April.. I thought I would alert your readers that the next Bach Concert Series concert performance will be this Sunday, May 3, of Bach’s masterpiece, B Minor Mass. Each season we have only one ticketed concert (of one of Bach’s larger works, to help raise funds to offset the production costs of the rest of the free concert season. Tickets are available on our website or at the door.

  2. Bach is back! « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] is the custom at  these concerts, we the audience were invited to join in the singing of the hymn, which in this case was, […]

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