Preview: Bach Week Festival’s 50th Season Starts on Friday

Chicago’s Bach Week Festival kicks off its golden jubilee 50th season this Friday with a series of subscription and free concerts spread over three weeks in Evanston and north Chicago. While the concerts highlight the wonderful music of Johann Sebastian Bach, they also offer music by several other composers, many of whom were Bach’s contemporaries.

The opening concert features instrumental and vocal music. After an Overture by Georg Phillipe Teleman, the program turns to songs and arias by three women spanning three centuries. First will be Angelus ad pastores ait, by Rafaella Aleotti, who composed for a convent in Italy in the early 17th century.  

Next will be Gebet in der Christnacht by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, the sister of Felix Mendelssohn. They were active in music’s romantic era in the 19th century. This will be followed by Cessate tympana by Maria Xaveria Peruchona, who was an Italian nun from the late 17th century.

Closing the first night are two vocal pieces by Bach. First, a Motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225, and Cantata 41: Jesu, nun sei gepreiset. Anderson Chapel, North Park University, 5159 N Spaulding Ave, Friday, April 28, 7:30pm.

Two days later is a free concert featuring music by Bach’s predecessors and contemporaries, Dieterich Buxtehude and François Couperin. All Saints Church, 4550 N Hermitage Ave, Sunday, April 30, 6pm.

After a one week break, the festival returns with a program of instrumental and vocal music. This includes Desiree Ruhstrat performing the magical Violin Partita No. 3 for solo violin in E-Major. The program also features music by Barbara Strozzi, Antonio Vivaldi, and Silvius Leopold Weiss. Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Friday, May 12, 7:30pm.

Sergei Babayan. Photo by Marco Borggreve.

The festival wraps up with Armenian pianist Sergei Babayan performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. His performances last year of the Well-Tempered Clavier and Busoni’s piano transcription of the Chaconne, which concludes Partita No. 2 for solo violin, were amazing. Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Sunday, May 14, 3pm.

Tickets are Adults $35, seniors $25, students $15. More information and tickets may be purchased here.

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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. Member of the Music Critics Association of North America.