2016-17 Season

"Unfinished Business"

The 2015-16 season was our best yet, but (due to a January snowstorm) also our most hectic. We shuffled things around for our spring program, but could not get in all the repertoire we'd planned for the season. To that end, we find ourselves in the 2016-17 season attending to some "Unfinished Business."

And as it happens, this theme has a second meaning, as we are presenting certain works which could be thought of as Bach attending to some unfinished business of his own. Details are provided below.

William Penn Day Concert (instrumentalists only) 

Trio Sonata in G Major (BWV 1039) 
Flute Sonata in e minor (BWV 1034)
Violin Sonata in G Major (BWV 1021)
Trio Sonata #5 in C Major (BWV 529)

Old Court House, New Castle
Saturday, October 22, 2016     5:30 p.m.

The instrumentalists of IBC are delighted to perform at the historic Old Court House on the Green in Old New Castle as part of the annual William Penn Day festivities. For this program, we will include two trio sonatas, as well as a solo sonata for flute and a solo sonata for violin.

Bach wrote relatively little chamber music (as compared to his church music, for example), leaving only two full trio sonatas for instrumental combinations.  He also wrote six trio sonatas for organ, however, at least one movement of which he set for instruments in his cantata Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (BWV 76). It has become common to extend this practice by arranging other movements from these organ works to be played on various chamber combinations.  For this concert we have chosen to play Bach's Trio Sonata #5.  Originally written in C Major, it will be played here by violin, flute, and harpsichord in the key of D Major.  The instrumental \Trio Sonata in G Major (BWV 1039) appears to have originally been written for two flutes and continuo, and along with the trio sonata from the Musical Offering is the only confirmed instrumental trio sonata to come to us from Bach’s hand.

Bach’s Unfinished Business #1 

Trio Sonata #5 in C Major (BWV 529) 
Cantata: Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin (BWV 144)
Motet: Ich lasse dich nicht (BWV 159a)
Cantata: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 140)

Immanuel on the Green, New Castle
Sunday, November 20, 2016     4:00 p.m.

In his great "second cycle" of cantatas (written in 1724-25), Bach sought to write a complete year's worth of chorale cantatas. The church calendar being somewhat flexible (because Easter is a moveable feast and Sundays after that dependent upon the date of Easter), however, certain late Sundays in the liturgical year occur only occasionally (i.e., when Easter is especially early). Such is the case with the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity, which was only celebrated twice in Bach's time in Leipzig - in 1731 and 1742. The cantata Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 140) is often regarded as the greatest of his cantatas, written in 1731 for Trinity XXVII. Bach took the opportunity to return to the chorale cantata form for this work, which has been seen by many as Bach attending to unfinished business in fleshing out his cycle of chorale cantatas. Gilles Whitaker has said of this work "It is a cantata without weakness, without a dull bar, technically, emotionally and spiritually of the highest order."

For a concert in a previous season we sang the opening chorus of Cantata 144 as an encore. On this program, we attend to the unfinished business of presenting the complete cantata.  While it is seldom performed today, it contains beautiful arias, as well as a moral as relevant today as when Bach wrote the cantata - urging each of us to be content with what God has given us.

Because of the 2015 blizzard, we were unable to perform Bach's 8-voice motet Ich lasse dich nicht, which had been scheduled for last season. This program gives us the opportunity to also attend to that piece of unfinished business as well.

Finally, the players of IBC will perform one of Bach's trio sonatas. Originally for organ, the work here will be performed by Baroque violin, flute, and harpsichord.

Bach’s Unfinished Business #2

Mini-Cantata: Was willst du dich, betrüben (BWV 107)
Trio Sonata in G Major
 (BWV 1039) 
Mass in G Major (BWV 236)

Immanuel Church on the Green, New Castle
Saturday, February 25, 2017    7:00 p.m.

Around 1735 Bach wrote 4 "Lutheran Masses" (which contain only a Kyrie and a Gloria). There are several theories suggesting why he chose to do so at this late point in his career. Some suspect they were composed for performance in Dresden, where one of his sons was Kapellmeister. Others wonder if they might have been a hastily-assembled audition for an unknown position.

Whatever the case, these 4 Masses contain 24 movements, of which we can identify a pre-existing source for 22 (and there seems a likelihood the remaining 2 were taken from now-lost cantatas). Perhaps Bach reused these movements because time was pressing and he needed to write something quickly (not unlike Handel's use of chamber duets as the basis for some of his choruses in Messiah). But some scholars suggest a more positive motive. Due to the nature of cantatas, any given cantata's text would only fit in the calendar once a year.  But if the same music were used for movements of the Mass Ordinary, they could be performed at any Mass.  Was Bach selecting movements of which he was especially fond, and setting them to texts from the Ordinary so they could be performed more often?

These Masses have not always been popular with critics and writers; however, in the past few years performers have begun to give them a fresh look. The Mass in G Major uses movements from Cantatas 17, 79, 138, and 179, and contains some of Bach’s most unabashedly joyful music.

Finally, in yet another piece of unfinished business, we present a mini-cantata we had originally scheduled for last January, but haven't been able to do in New Castle yet, Bach’s lovely Was willst du dich, betrüben (BWV 107).

Bach from Advent to Easter

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 61)
Violin Sonata in e minor
 (BWV 1023) 
Organ works for Christmas, New Year’s,
Epiphany, and Lent

Christ lag in Todes Banden (BWV 4)

Wilmington Bach Festival
Old Town Hall
Market Street
Wilmington, Delaware
Friday, May 12, 2017    7:00 p.m.

The Immanuel Bach Consort is delighted to be performing the first program of the inaugural Wilmington Bach Festival!  For this concert, we decided to start at the beginning (of the church year, that is) by presenting Bach’s Advent cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland.  The program will end with Bach’s well-known Easter cantata Christ lag in Todes Banden, in a version seldom heard today. Between these cantatas will be brief organ works for the season of Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany, and Lent, thus filling the time from Advent to Easter.

In addition, Baroque violinist Sylvia Ahramjian will perform Bach’s Violin Sonata in e minor. The chamber organ being used for this performance was built by John Brombaugh, and is being used courtesy of the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware.

For ticket information and directions, visit the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware website at www.ccsde.org.

© Gary Harney 2016