It’s hard to believe that our first concert of 2019 is nearly here - and what a lovely event it promises to be!
We are very lucky to be performing with Nicolette Moonen and her talented Baroque Ensemble, which will include trumpets, as well as woodwind and strings.
Nicolette is a renowned Baroque violinist and the artistic director of The Bach Players. She teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London and has performed with most of the country’s leading period instrument ensembles. Our March concert will be a wonderful opportunity to hear and experience the rich music of J.S. Bach and Jan Dismas Zelenka expertly played on period instruments. The combined expertise and sensitivity of Richard Roddis and Nicolette Moonen brings the music to life, adding nuance, emotion and depth - all of which promises to make a memorable concert!
Our two main pieces are Bach’s Ascension Oratorio and Zelenka’s Missa Gratias agimus tibi. Zelenka and Bach did meet and held each other in high esteem. Born in 1679, Zelenka (referred to as Bach’s Catholic counterpart) was a Czech Baroque composer whose instrument was the bass viol (violone). In 1709 he served Baron von Johann Hubert von Hartig and had access to his extensive music library. He then became a player in the royal orchestra at Dresden in 1710 and remained here until his death in 1745. He was a very highly paid, and respected, musician who created beautiful sacred music for the Catholic court church. He occupied the position of Kapellmeister for several years (in an unofficial capacity) following the death of Johann David Heinichen. This position was subsequently given to the composer Johann Adolf Hasse in 1731. Zelenka held the official position of church composer from 1734, a position that J.S. Bach also held from 1736 after composing a mass for the Dresden court which eventually persuaded Augustus III to give him this title. Leipzig and Dresden were both in the Electorate of Saxony at this time.
As far as is known, Zelenka composed 249 works, including over 20 masses, oratorios, requiems, litanies and some purely instrumental pieces. He was very aware of different types of music from around Europe and could effectively compose using many musical styles, such as fugues, operatic arias, dances and folk music. The Missa Gratias agimus tibi (1730) is very enjoyable to perform, full of contrapuntal elaborateness, harmonic surprises and long phrases reflecting a variety of musical and emotional ideas. There is rich variety throughout the piece, ranging from florid, exciting passages to more intense, slower, atmospheric parts.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) is now considered to be one of the greatest and most prolific composers ever, in addition to being a virtuoso organist, keyboard player and talented violinist. In 1723 he became the Thomaskantor at the St Thomas Church (Lutheran) in Leipzig - a position he held until his death. The beautiful Ascension Oratorio (also known as Lobet Gott in Seinen Reichen BMV 11, or Himmelfahrts-Oratorium was probably composed (and definitely performed) in 1735 for the service for Ascension. Chorales, biblical sources and free poetry are used for the text and the structure comprises 11 movements in 2 parts, showing symmetry around a central chorale (written by Johann Rist). It is richly scored for 4 voice parts, trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings, continuo and flauti traversi. Some sections were newly composed and some based on earlier compositions. A festive, joyous and reflective piece, full of musical variety and intensity, it opens with a dancelike chorus and finishes with an impressive chorale fantasia, expressing the longing for the day of union with Jesus in Heaven.
If you would like to hear these lovely works, please join us on Saturday 16th March at Beeston Parish Church, Nottingham, NG9 1GA, at 7.30pm. Ticket details are on our website or please ring Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236.
We look forward to seeing you!