Four years ago, on October 16, 2013, Choral Arts and the Bach Festival of Philadelphia, inspired and led by the new bold vision of our artistic director Matthew Glandorf, launched the Bach At Seven series. Introduced on the heels of Choral Arts' big 30th Anniversary season, the idea of the monthly series represented a radical departure from traditional perceptions of what a choir concert format should be.
Although some board members were skeptical about the practicality of such innovation -- because it presented seemingly serious artistic, marketing and attendance challenges -- "the idea's time has come," as David Patrick Stearns wrote in his review for the Philadelphia Inquirer that month.
Ahead of the 2017-2018 season of so many anniversaries for our organization and for the world, Artistic Director Matt Glandorf talks Early music, his love for organ, the Reformation, and what it means to be a good conductor.
Q: You are a highly regarded organist. Please tell us about your studies at The Curtis Institute of Music.
MG: I always had so many different musical interests. I had played the organ during my formative years, and I suppose the organ is, next to choirs, my first love. However, I also thought I might want to compose for Musical Theater.
When I moved back to US from Germany I simply wanted to take organ lessons. I went to audition for John Weaver who invited me to attend The Curtis Institute of Music. So, at age 16, I moved to Philadelphia and began my studies. The best part was being surrounded by such high level musicians. I learned so much about chamber music, opera and piano repertoire, and got the first rate training for the orchestra.
Did you know that not all of Bach's surviving cantata scores are easily accessible or usable?
This season, Choral Arts ran into a problem finding a few pieces of sheet music when artistic director Matt Glandorf programmed a few surviving “obscure” Bach cantatas to be featured in the “1734-1735: Season in the Life of J.S. Bach” series. In particular, scores for cantatas BWV 207a and BWV215 were not easy to find.
The biggest issue, however, was finding a performer-friendly score for BWV 36b Die Freude reget sich (Now gladness doth arise), scheduled to be sung on October 26, 2016. Such score simply did not exist.
Interview with Professor Ellen T. Charry
Ahead of her appearance as a guest speaker on April 26, 2017 as part of the "1734-1735: A Season in the Life of J.S. Bach" series.
Q: The theology behind Bach’s music has come through in so many different ways, and we know it played a large role in his daily life. How does the formal principle of the Reformation“sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide” (scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone) come through in Bach’s choral music? What impact does it have on the emotion of his music?
By Leon Schelhase
For all musicians J.S. Bach and the keyboard are synonymous. Bach’s genius and vision have long stood as a test to every performer in a showcase of sensitivity, knowledge and musical command. The instruments he wrote for were nothing like the modern piano, and although it is common knowledge, we still have few players and audiences that are masters of Bach’s keyboard instruments. The organ aside, the harpsichord and clavichord are only now being regarded as equals to the piano. Of course, when we think of Bach’s keyboard music we are referring to great pieces of music for a solo keyboard instrument. The “Goldbergs”, the “48”, “Brandenburg 5” or the “Partitias” come to mind. However, the keyboard in Bach’s time most typically served the music in a different manner, that of accompaniment.
by Matthew Glandorf
In order to talk about the so-called “Historically Informed Performance Practice” movement that began roughly in the second half of the 20th century, we need to go back to the mid 19th century and before. Music, like fashion or film, has been in constant demand, with style and tastes changing quite rapidly.
In the Renaissance and early Baroque periods, the notion of performing music that was more than 20 years old was virtually unheard of (with a few notable exceptions). However, with the Romantic era in full swing, it was a performance of the J.S. Bach St. Matthew Passion (March 11, 1829) by the young Felix Mendelssohn that changed the course of public performance.
This New Years’ Eve, I have the honor of performing the evangelist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Choral Arts Philadelphia, under the direction of Matthew Glandorf. I am thrilled to take on this role, and I am grateful to Matt and Choral Arts for this opportunity. This will be my first performance of one of the crown jewels of tenor repertoire.
For a young tenor, learning the evangelist roles from Bach’s major vocal works is a rite of passage. The endeavor of preparing an evangelist role is one full of tradition and lineage. Both of my teachers, James Taylor and Kurt Hansen, are first-rate evangelists and storytellers. When we consider their teachers, then those teachers’ teachers, and so on, we come to a startling realization: only about six generations of evangelists separate today’s young singers from Bach’s own original tenor. The result is a sort of oral history passed down from Bach’s time which still informs how we portray the evangelist today.
Three questions to artistic director - ahead of the encore performance of j.s. bach "christmas oratorio"