The main activity during the day at the Conservatory was the annual Public Colloquium. This year’s discussion covered instruments and how they have changed over the ages or progressed along differing lines in different regions. Organized by ABS faculty member Steven Lehning, this informative group of sessions included all members of the ABS faculty with the addition of harpsichord maker John Phillips. There wasn’t a chair to be had during the packed event and when it ended the conversations continued between the audience, faculty, and Academy participants. Surely many of those discussions continued on through dinner and up to the beginning of the concert.
After an exhilarating concert on Friday night with Bach’s Inspiration – Part I, a sense of expectation and excitement pervaded the atmosphere at the Conservatory all day and throughout the evening for when Part II would be presented. Another fantastic program of works, many of them rarely heard in live performances, was performed by the outstanding musicians of ABS. One work that made a splendid impression was Georg Melchior Hoffmann’s cantata Meine Seele rühmt und Preist. Tenor Derek Chester was the soloist and narrator of this exquisite work by one of Leipzig’s busiest musical figures in the days before Bach came to town.
Along with other amazing works by Reincken, Bruhns, and Buxtehude, the Saturday program had a generous helping of music by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach. The first work by Bach on the program, the trio sonata from “The Musical Offering,” was an exquisite example of challenging music performed with apparent ease and near-telepathic interconnection between the musicians. Next, Corey Jamason and William Sharp gave a wonderful performance of Amore traditore. Sharp, who has performed with ABS since the first concerts, gave an impassioned performance in what must be the most unusual text Bach ever set, while Corey Jamason astonished us all with his keyboard virtuosity in the final movement.
The Brandenburg concertos are some of Bach’s most familiar and beloved instrumental works and my own particular favorite is No. 2, and it was featured on last night’s program. To hear Baroque trumpet wizard John Thiessen perform the music in the first and third movements with such grace and authority was a great thrill to experience live after having become so acquainted with his indelible performance on the ABS recording of the piece. With the Brandenburgs, everyone is a soloist and last night the ABS band played with finish and style, all while clearly having a grand time. Great as the CD is, being in the audience for Brandenburg No. 2 is even better.
So Bach’s Inspiration over two nights was pretty amazing and … well, inspiring! Tonight we hear the culmination of all of his influences and professional experiences: the Mass in B Minor. It will also be the first Festival appearance of several of the fantastic musicians who have been working with ABS all week in the Academy. At present, a few tickets remain in the gallery for the event. If you don’t have a ticket, arrive early at the box office to get one; you won’t want to miss it (and next week’s performance is completely sold out).