Preview: 49th Annual Bach Week Festival Starts This Sunday

The 49th annual Bach Week Festival will feature a series of concerts running three weeks in Chicago and Evanston starting this Sunday, April 24. Last year’s festival was my first opportunity to resume live, in-person music since the COVID-19 pandemic started a year earlier. What a joy it was! For social distancing purposes, last year’s audience was limited to a few invited guests, and face masks were required. The audience this year will not be limited, but face masks are required, as is proof of vaccine.

For the first time in Bach Week Festival’s history, Sunday’s concert Bach and Before will be on period instruments by a chamber ensemble put together for the occasion. This free concert in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood will highlight music by Bach and several composers he admired. In addition to Bach, the program includes music by Dieterich Buxtehude, Nicolaus Adam Strungk, Georg Böhm, and Johann Adam Reincken. This is also an opportunity to hear something by Johann Pachelbel other than his Canon; the program includes Partie IV,” from Musicalische Ergötzung. Sunday, April 24, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 4550 N. Hermitage Ave., 3pm. Free.

Pianist Sergei Babayan will perform Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier Book I on Tuesday, May 10, and Bach’s transcription of Brandenburg Concerto No 4 for keyboard and ensemble on Thursday, May 12. Photo by Marco Borggreve.

The following Friday, the festival turns to Bach’s vocal music with modern instruments, Bach: Sacred and Secular Masterworks. Bach Week Festival Chorus and Orchestra and North Park University Chamber Singers, conducted by long time Bach Week Musical Director Richard Webster, will perform choral works by Bach and his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Soloists will be Josefien Stoppelenberg, soprano; Lindsay Metzger, mezzo-soprano; Tyler Lee, tenor; and David Govertsen, bass-baritone. Friday, April 29, North Park University’s Anderson Chapel, 5159 N. Spaulding Ave., 7:30pm.

The scene shifts to Evanston where Armenian pianist Sergei Babayan will perform Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846–869. Tuesday, May 10, Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 7:30pm.

Two days later the festival wraps up with violin and keyboard concertos by J. S. Bach and a double-flute concerto by Baroque composer-flutist Johann Joachim Quantz. Flutists Jennifer Gunn and John Thorne will be performing Quantz’s Concerto for 2 Flutes in G Minor, QV 6:8. Violinist Desirée Ruhstrat solo in Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042. Pianist Babayan will return to the stage with Bach’s own arrangement for keyboard and chamber ensemble of his Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. Thursday, May 12, at Evanston’s Nichols Concert Hall, 7:30pm.

Musical Director Richard Webster will lead a concert of Sacred and Secular music on April 29. Photo courtesy of Bach Week Festival.

For the concerts on April 29, May 10, and May 12, single-ticket admission prices are $50 for VIP seating, $35 adult, $25 seniors, and $15 students. Subscriptions to the three ticketed concerts are $120 for VIP seating; $80 adult; $60 seniors; and $30 students with ID. Face masks and proof of vaccination status are required. Click here for ticketing information.

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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.