Preview: Bach Week Festival 2019 Opens this Weekend

Pianist Sergei Balaban will perform on Sunday. Photo by Christian Steiner.

The 46th annual Bach Week Festival kicks off with two concerts this Friday evening featuring several soloists and the Bach Week Festival Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Richard Webster, performing a wide ranging program of chamber and orchestral music. The Bach Week Festival has brought the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his baroque contemporaries to the North Shore since 1974. In addition to music by Bach, concerts will include music by baroque-era composers George Philipp Telemann, Antonio Soler, and Antonio Vivaldi, as well as works by later composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Wilhelm Friedrich Rust. This year’s festival has been organized in collaboration with the Music Institute of Chicago and will feature several current students and alumnae from the Institute.

The main concert Friday night, at 7:30 pm, will open with Jason Moy, a Chicago native and faculty member of DePaul University, performing Fandango, a work for solo harpsichord by Soler, a Spanish composer known primarily for keyboard sonatas. Moy will then be joined by another Chicago native, Anna Steinhoff, for Bach’s Sonata for Harpsichord and Viola de Gamba, BWV 1027. The viola de gamba is a lower ranged stringed instrument rarely heard since it was largely superseded by the cello after Bach’s day. The opening concert will also feature Dutch soprano and Chicago resident Josefine Stoppelenburg as soloist on the Bach cantata, O Holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit, BWV 210, with the Festival orchestra, conducted by Richard Webster. It will conclude with Vivaldi’s Concerto in F-major for brass, winds, and strings.

Dutch Soprano and Chicago resident Josefien Stoppelenburg will be soloist in a Bach cantata on Friday evening. Photo by Basvan Oort.

The second concert Friday night, at 10:00 pm, will be chamber music in a candlelight setting. Institute faculty member Joel Spears on lute and DePaul faculty member Kiyoe Matsuura on violin will perform pieces by Bach, Haydn, and Rust, a rarely performed composer who was taught by Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedmann Bach. The $25 ticket to the later concert includes gourmet chocolates and a glass of champagne. Both concerts take place at Nichols Auditorium, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

At Sunday’s concert, pianist Sergei Babayan will continue his effort to perform all of Bach’s concerti for solo keyboard spanning several Bach Week Festivals. This year he will be performing the 3rd keyboard concerto in D-major, BWV 1054, with Webster conducting a combination of the Bach Festival Chamber Orchestra and students from the Music Institute of Chicago Academy Orchestra. Babayan will also be performing several of Bach’s solo keboard pieces.

The Festival and Academy orchestras will also join forces for Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in d-minor, BWV 1043, with Institute alumnae Laura Park and Rebecca Benjamin playing the violins and Academy Orchestra’s conductor James Setapen taking the baton. This will be followed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra flutist Jennifer Gunn and the Festival Orchestra by itself performing Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in b-minor, BWV 1067, with Webster conducting. Sunday, April 26, Nichols Auditorium, Evanston, 3:00 pm.

Richard conducts the Festival Orchestra and performs a Bach tocatta and fugue on the organ. Photo courtesy of Bach Week Festival.

Bach Week Festival 2019 ends on Friday, May 3, with a concert highlighting Bach’s organ and vocal music at the Anderson Chapel of North Park University. Webster will step off the podium and onto the organ bench for a performance of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in b-minor, BWV 544. The program also includes vocal motets and cantatas with solo performances by Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts and tenor Ryan Townsend Strand. Recorder specialist Lisette Kielson will be performing Telemann’s Suite in a-minor for recorder and strings. 5149 N. Spaulding Ave., Chicago, 7:30 pm.

Tickets for the three main concerts: $50 for VIP seating; $40 adults; $25 seniors; and $15 students. Subscriptions to the main concerts are $100 for VIP seating; $80 adults; $60 seniors, and $25 students. All tickets for the Friday night chamber concert are $25. Check out Bach Week tickets.

Louis Harris
Louis Harris

A lover of music his whole life, Louis Harris has written extensively from the early days of punk and alternative rock. More recently he has focused on classical music, especially chamber ensembles. He has reviewed concerts, festivals, and recordings and has interviewed composers and performers. He has paid special attention to Chicago’s rich and robust contemporary art music scene. He occasionally writes poetry and has a published novel to his credit, 32 Variations on a Theme by Basil II in the Key of Washington, DC. He now lives on the north side of Chicago, which he considers to be the greatest city in the country, if not the world. Member of the Music Critics Association of North America.