Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Bane of Musicology

Apparently Bach performed his Saint John Passion four different times over the years in four different arrangements.  So if you are a HIPP group (historically informed performance practice) like the American Bach Soloists who performed the passion at the Davis Community Church, you are required to fool around with the arrangement.  One or more of Bach's four arrangements did not include my favorite bit--the glorious final chorale.  So guess which piece didn't make it into this performance?  Drat.

I'm used to original instruments by now.  In this group there was no theorbo and no harpsichord.  The continuo group consisted of a very small organ, a cello and a string bass.  The sound of the organ creates a very different effect from the harpsichord.  Would Bach have done it this way?  He was an organist, after all.  The constant presence of the organ makes for a much more consistent timbre than I am used to.

This was my first experience of the oboe da caccia, a strangely curved instrument that makes a lovely growling sound.  Does anyone besides Bach write for this?

The performance went by relatively quickly and smoothly under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas.  My favorite feature of Bach's passions is the interruption of the chorus into the otherwise sedate Biblical narrative.  These are always lively and fun, and the tiny outstanding chorus produced a surprisingly full tone.  The Evangelist was excellently sung by Aaron Sheehan.

They perform regularly in Davis if you are interested.  Next time Elizabeth Blumenstock will play a Vivaldi Concerto on the viola d'amore.

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