The Steinitz Bach Players & soloists
‘Out of Conflict…the Peace’ is the broad title of this year’s annual Bachfest devised and presented by the London Bach Society. For all that this festival marks the anniversaries of both the Thirty Years War and the Armistice – and, perhaps, looks wryly at our current political relationship with Europe – this final concert was one of celebration. It is fifty years* since Paul Steinitz founded the London Bach Society [*thanks Margaret for a correction – actually 72 years, the LBS founded on 7 Nov 1946] and the concert celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ensemble that bears his name, the Steinitz Bach Players. Much of the credit for the longevity of the Society and its work may be taken by Margaret, Paul Steinitz’s widow, who has done so much to carry the Society’s torch and who welcomed us all at the interval.
Johann Sebastian’s Bach’s music is not simply indestructible, but alive. Like all great music it requires good, imaginative and invested performances to make it speak afresh. Tonight’s ensemble, directed by Rodolfo Richter, made a conspicuous commitment to find interest and argument in sound, phrasing and ensemble. The double concerto BWV 1043, in which Richter was partnered as soloist with Jane Gordon, was perhaps the sharpest case-in-point, with the marginally distinct tone colours of the two violinists making their dialogue all the more rhetorical, and the tutti rubato stretching and breathing like one. The subsequent Brandenburg concerto no. 1 BWV 1046 was presented as a tableaux painted in glorious, vivid colours, especially in the horns and Anthony Robson’s charismatic oboe.
The concert was bookended with a pair of sacred cantatas. BWVs 60 & 151 broadly move from Lutheran rumination (BWV 60 ends with the almost psychedelic funeral chorale Es ist genug) to celebration in the midst of Christmas. Again, the singers teased plenty of character from the music and text of their parts, and the whole was gilded with Rachel Beckett’s memorable obbligato flute in the opening aria of the second cantata.
On leaving the concert I walked past a London Bach Society banner, which bears the slogan ‘Onwards and Outwards’. The direct appeal of this music in a performance such as tonight’s puts purpose behind words such as these. We congratulate the Society on fifty years of performing J. S. Bach’s music and look forward to many more.
The next Bach Vespers with St. Anne’s Lutheran Church in the City will be on Reformation Sunday, the final Sunday in October. It’s a year on from the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation and this fact lends itself to the character of J. S. Bach’s cantata BWV 115, Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, a reflective cantata that exhorts the listener to wait patiently – a bit like the driver of this car, the Lord Mayor of London’s official vehicle, waiting outside the Mansion House.
As usual we will be performing a selection of other music by J. S. Bach and his contemporaries alongside the cantata in the service, which is free to attend on 28 October at 6.30pm. Read more about Bach Vespers here.
We’re very pleased to return to The Dutch Church London on 14 October at 3pm. This popular Sunday afternoon event features a talk from a celebrity speaker and a performance of a Bach cantata. This time we’re performing cantata BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, whose first chorus is famously the model for the Crucifixus of Bach’s great masterwork, the B Minor Mass. We are also delighted to learn that the speaker will be the Dutch Ambassador to the UK, Simon Smits. The service also features works by Bach played on the organ.
We’re returning for more Bach Vespers this Autumn with a performance of JS Bach cantata Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden BWV 47 on 23 September at 6.30pm (the usual time – and indeed the usual place of St. Mary-at-Hill Church off Eastcheap, for St. Anne’s Lutheran congregation).
We’re really pleased to be joined by two singers formerly of the Genesis Sixteen programme. Countertenor Tristram Cooke is a member of the choir of Westminster Abbey and a familiar face to the Bach Vespers series. He will also perform Schütz’s Ich danke dem Herrn von ganzem Herzen SWV 284. You can read more about Tristram at his website, here. Equally, we’re delighted to welcome tenor Oscar Golden-Lee, performing with us for the first time.
We find ourselves privileged and a little proud to have been asked to close this year’s Stoke Newington Early Music Festival. On 17 July we will travel north across London to perform a programme of German Baroque Masterworks at the Old Church, Stoke Newington at 8pm. The programme is
- Bach Cantata 132 (Aria 1st movement)
- Schütz 3 soprano pieces with ensemble
- Instrumental pieces by Johann Janitsch and Dietrich Buxtehude
- Buxtehude 2 soprano pieces
- Bach Complete Cantata BWV 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
Soprano Emily Atkinson is the solo soprano and the ensemble is directed from the leader’s violin by Hazel Brooks. Tickets are available from Eventbrite. Visit stokenewingtonearlymusic.org.uk for full details. See you there!