From January 24-27, the American Bach Soloists subscription series begins with Bach’s Magnificat, an all-Bach program featuring the always popular Magnificat BWV 243, the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor BWV 1067, the secular cantata Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! BWV 214, and the sacred cantata Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir BWV 130. This program will be a thrilling testimony to the composer’s genius for musical expression in different genres.
The January concerts mark the beginning of a (near) all-Bach subscription series that continues with Bach’s Hercules February 21-24 and Bach’s Legacy April 25-28. With a few weeks and months to go until those concerts, there are many ways to prepare for the ABS Bach extravaganza of 2014.
For those who would like to supplement their musical experiences with reading materials about this remarkable artist (or stuff the stockings of the Bach-lovers you know), we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the new Bach books of 2013.
It has been a great year for new books about Bach! Conductor John Eliot Gardiner’s first book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Knopf: 672 pages, $35), will be released next week. Gardiner grew up in a home with one of the two known original portraits of Bach hanging on the wall (the E.G. Haussmann portrait, 1748). He has also established a remarkable career performing the composer’s music and researching his life. The book, which weaves together the author’s biography along with that of Bach, offers many insights for readers, especially those interested in masterworks such as the Mass in B Minor and two Passion settings (instrumental works are not covered to the same degree).
Another recent work is Paul Elie’s Reinventing Bach (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 512 pages, $17). At heart, an appreciation of Bach and his music, the book might also be called a celebration. Elie guides the reader through Bach’s extraordinary music with an emphasis on how recordings and performance practice have contributed to and affected how we listen.
If mysteries or thrillers are more to your liking, consider Steve Schach’s Old Bach is Come (Wandering in the Words Press: 222 pages), a historical novel about a plot to assassinate Frederick the Great during Bach’s visit to the Prussian Court.
For the scholarly reader, Bach Perspectives 9: J. S. Bach and His German Contemporaries (Univ. of Illinois Press: 168 pages, $54) will be released toward the end of the year. This latest volume in the series will include articles by Alison Dunlop, Wolfgang Hirschmann, Michael Maul, Andrew Talle, and Steven Zohn.
A slightly older, yet indispensible, work is The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents (W.W. Norton and Co. $24.95, 607 pages). This resource’s in-depth chronology, lists of works, and numerous letters from the Master illuminate both his works and his day-to-day life. Fascinating reading and surprisingly entertaining!
The music of J.S. Bach certainly does not require extra study time to be enjoyed in live performance. With tickets to ABS’s 2014 concerts in hand, you already have what is most essential! Purchasing tickets for any of the concerts or subscribing to all three is easy. You may purchase tickets online at americanbach.org or call the ABS office at 415-621-7900. Whether armed with readings, recordings, scores, and/or open ears, being there when the musicians of ABS take the stage is what is most important—it is going to be a great season!