On Saturday 12 April, Maya Homburger and Barry Guy gave a duo concert at St Johns Downshire Hill, playing music by Biber, Kurtag, and by Barry Guy himself. This was the first of what we have projected as an annual series of invitation concerts: the first had been the harpsichord recital by Gustav Leonhardt at St Johns in 2012, which sadly never happened. We were pleased to see that the audience contained quite diverse elements: our Hampstead regulars, some jazz and new music people, old friends and colleagues of Maya and Barry. Their applause was rapturous.
For concerts worldwide, apart from the UK, we are very pleased to announce that we are now represented by Toccata Music Management.
From this month our CDs are being distributed in the UK and in continental Europe by Codaex.
Some of what we do with our concerts in London and Norwich is expressed and illustrated in this article on the Kentish Towner website.
Giving in to the pressures of modern life, we have signed up with Facebook. News items will inevitably get posted there, as well as on Twitter. But we want to use this website as a place for less ephemeral information.
Stephen Malinowski has recently made this visual animation of our recording of Mozarts arrangement for string quartet of J.S. Bachs fugue from the Well-tempered Clavier II, no. 5 in D major. The recording can be found on our first CD, Bach arranging and arranged.
At 7.30 pm on Thursday 19 April we are giving a memorial concert for Gustav Leonhardt at St Jamess Church, Piccadilly. Music will include pieces by Henry Purcell, Louis Couperin, Johann Pachelbel, and J.S. Bach. We will play with our large group, including singers Rachel Elliott, Sally Bruce-Payne, James Gilchrist, and Matthew Brook. There will be spoken contributions from a number of people who knew and worked with Gustav Leonhardt. Full details will be announced here soon.
Gustav Leonhardt died in Amsterdam on 16 January. Among the many obituaries and tributes, we noticed especially Skip Sempés recollections of studying with him.
Gustav Leonhardt gave what he has said was his last concert last Monday evening at the Théâtre du Bouffes du Nord in Paris. All seats were taken, and some people sat on cushions on the floor in this ideal space (it has no platform for performers). This was a harpsichord recital, with pieces by Christian Ritter, Henry Purcell, Johann Pachelbel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Böhm, Jean-Henry dAnglebert, and Jacques Duphly. For an encore Leonhardt played one of Bachs Goldberg Variations. Among the engagements that he has had to cancel is the concert planned at St Johns Downshire Hill for 28 April. In due course we will announce a replacement event for this date. (Photograph by Robin Kinross)
We are very pleased to announce that Gustav Leonhardt has accepted our invitation to play at St Johns Downshire Hill next year, on Saturday 28 April. It will be a chance to hear a master playing in our home church. The intimate, noble interior of St Johns, and its splendid acoustics, make it an entirely appropriate venue. He will give a recital of music of his choice, mainly from the seventeenth century in Europe. Gustav Leonhardt most definitely needs no introduction, but we can add a footnote to his curriculum vitae – that, with his wife Marie Leonhardt-Amsler, he is a patron of The Bach Players. Tickets for this concert, and for all our concerts in 2012, will go on sale early in the new year.
Our forthcoming concerts in Norwich are included in the new Music in Norwich booklet: a venture that we are happy to support. You can download the booklet as a pdf file from the Music in Norwich website.
We have had some nice reviews for the new CD, including a discussion on BBC Radio 3s CD Review (14 May) between Andrew McGregor and Jan Smaczy (beautifully judged performances, he said), a review by Simon Heighes in International Record Review given here, and our first French-language review: at Muse Baroque.
We played our Italy versus France programme at St Cecilas Hall in Edinburgh last Saturday – and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Georgian Concert Society. Unfortunately Jakob Lindberg, suffering from bad flu, could not be with us; but every seat in the hall was taken. (Left to right: Nicolette, Foskien, Alison, Rachel S, Rachel I, Silas)
Finished copies of our newest CD, Italy versus France, are now with our publisher and we are preparing for its official UK release at the end of March. Meanwhile, advance copies will be on sale at our concerts this month and next.
This Saturday (18th) at 11.55 GMT our Nun komm! is disc of the week on BBC Radio 3s CD Review.
Cheers! And greetings to all our friends and listeners!
Our new CD, Nun komm! has been awarded the accolade of an outstanding release by International Record Review in its November issue. Perhaps the most pleasing thing is that Marc Rochester, the IRR critic, is able to articulate just what we are doing. See his review on our reviews page.
In anticipation of our next concerts in Norwich and London, we are posting these two clips from private recordings made at concerts in which two of the cantatas to be heard in November were played.
The first extract is the opening movement of Widerstehe doch der Sünde. This has some extra poignancy for us: these are the first minutes of the first Bach Players concert in London, 25 May 1997 at St Johns Wood Parish Church. The singer is Sally Bruce-Payne, who will sing the piece again this November in Hampstead.
The second extract is the opening movement of Christ lag in Todesbanden, recorded on Friday 5 March 2004 at St Jamess Piccadilly in London. The singers here are Gillian Keith (soprano), Hilary Summers (alto), Charles Daniel (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass).
Full personnel of both concerts is given in our archive pages.
You can follow us, not for hourly updates, but just for occasional news, here: http://twitter.com/bachplayers
A picture from last months In Tune appearance is now posted here.
On Tuesday 13 July, at about 18.00 hours, we are appearing on BBC Radio 3s In Tune to talk about and play some music from the Italy versus France concerts later that week.
As from this month our CDs are being distributed to the trade in the UK and Ireland by Harmonia Mundi UK. We are very glad to be joining this good company. It will mean that the CDs will be sold in the bricks and mortar and internet shops here. We will continue to sell them at concerts and they will continue to be available from the website of our publisher, Hyphen Press Music. The next steps will be trade distributors on the European continent.
We are now able to sell tickets for our London concerts online: here.
Bach Players in rehearsal for their concert at the Octagon Chapel, Norwich.
For a review of the concert, go to the Bright Cecilia Forum.
In their concert at St Johns Downshire Hill, Hampstead, on Saturday 28 November – the day before Advent Sunday – The Bach Players present a programme built around the Advent cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Now come, Saviour of the Gentiles). Like so many of Bachs cantatas, this thrilling work packs an extraordinary range of content into a short sequence of movements. The concerts other cantata, In allen meinen Taten (In all that I do) forms a musical partner to Nun komm in its use of the French overture form. The overture theme is continued in a suite by a predecessor of Bach, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach. The choral melody of In allen meinen Taten is that of the beautiful and famous Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen, which will be sung a capella by The Bach Players four singers.
It is now two years since The Bach Players started their series at St Johns Downshire Hill. The group is self-organized and plays without a conductor. It is made up of leading British and Continental-European Baroque musicians, who have packed international schedules. Almost all of them took part in Sir John Eliot Gardiners Bach Cantata Project of 2000.
Why do they choose to play in a local church, rather than Kings Place or the Wigmore Hall? It is indeed a matter of deliberate choice. The Bach Players core repertoire of sacred music demands to be played in a church. But further, St Johns is one of the best venues in London acoustically. Its comfortable, intimate seating is superior to that of any of the Central-London halls.
Putting on its own concerts allows the group autonomy in the content of what it does, and also in how the evening is run. Before the concert and in the interval, drinks are served and there is a chance to buy the groups CDs. You will probably see a friend or neighbour whom you havent bumped into for a while. The Bach Players concerts at St Johns are, in the words of one critic, like a gathering of friends, on which the audience eavesdrops: an atmosphere that produces consistent outstandingly musical performances.
In the days following this concert, at St Michaels Church, Highgate, The Bach Players will record their third CD, Nun komm! which will be made up of pieces from this concert. This will be released in 2010 by another autonomous, local enterprise: Hyphen Press Music.
As a taster for the concerts in Norwich and London later this month, we are posting this clip from a private recording made at our performance of Nun komm der heiden Heiland, BWV 61, at St Johns Wood Parish Church, London NW8, on 28 November 1999. This is the opening chorus of the cantata, sung and played by Rachel Elliott, Sally Bruce-Payne, Mark Padmore, Thomas Guthrie, Nicolette Moonen, Rodolfo Richter, Jane Rogers, Trevor Jones, Richard Campbell, Elizabeth Bradley, Nicholas Parle.
We presented the new CD to subscribers at a launch party last month in (as our subscription letter promised) a place of architectural interest in North London – the bulding where our publisher works.
For some time we have wanted to find a promoter to share the concerts that we do in London. After talking with our friends at The King of Hearts in Norwich, we are glad to announce that – from this autumn – we will be playing our London programmes also in Norwich. Our concerts this autumn reflect the arrangement. The September concert for chamber pieces will be at The King of Hearts itself, while the November Bach cantata concert will take place at the Octagon Chapel in Norwich, maintaining our practice of playing this music in churches, and also allowing for a larger audience. We look forward very much to this new venture.
We have been chosen for inclusion in the 2010–2011 Concert Promoters Network Brochure. This is a scheme that allows promoters and artists to construct tours, and thus bring down costs to each promoter. For more, go here
Bach Players in rehearsal for their concert at the Beverley Early Music Festival. At the concert itself the nave of the church was full: about 600 people.
Reviews of the CD have been appearing. So far the most detailed has been by Nicholas Anderson in International Record Review. Here is what he wrote about the Pergolesi/Bach recording:
The performance is a delight from start to finish. All too often this music is spoilt by the uneven results and almost invariable rivalry stemming from the partnership of a soprano with a counter-tenor. Neither Rachel Elliott nor Sally Bruce-Payne is over-assertive or over-eager to take centre stage, much preferring to preserve the penitential context of the piece and the ethereal beauty of the music. Both voices strike my ears as about ideal as you could get. Their lightly articulated phrasing, stylish decoration and, where occasion requires, even partnership are a constant delight. Indeed, I find their sublime duet Denn du willst kein Opfer haben outstandingly sensitive in matters of expression and here, as throughout, they are accompanied by gently complementary string playing.
In short, no rival version that I have heard on disc, and there are several, matches this one. Well-judged tempos and an ideal recorded sound set the seal on a particularly satisfying issue. To hell with the credit crunch, go and buy it, at once.