The upcoming 2014-15 ABS season will be one of ABS’s best yet. Extraordinary works by Handel and Vivaldi will be complimented by a rarely performed yet beautiful violoncello concerto by Neapolitan Baroque composer Leonardo Leo, and, of course, an outstanding representation of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Last year we highlighted some of the Bach-related publications of 2013, so it seemed like a good time to again review new publications that may be of interest or are related to the ABS season ahead. Below is a selection of new, recent, reissued, and essential items related to the master and his contemporaries.
Bach and his Times
Related to the study of Bach’s works, look for the paperback edition of Celia Applegate’s 2005 Bach in Berlin: Nation and Culture in Mendelssohn’s Revival of the St. Matthew Passion, which will be published this month. With ABS’s performances of the Passion coming up from Feb 27-Mar 2, this is an especially good time to look into Applegate’s work.
Scheduled for publication just after the turn of the New Year, Martha Feldman’s The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds, will be worth the wait. With works by Handel, Vivaldi, and Leo coming up in 2015, Feldman’s study will offer excellent background and context for the musical offerings of the subscription season. The notorious practice of castrating boys to prepare them for careers as singers had a profound impact on the music and culture of the Baroque era (though castrati continued as part of the musical scene on into the late nineteenth century).
Several new eBook-only options might be worth pursuing if you have a kindle or iPad and a long commute. Matthew Rye’s JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor looks at Bach’s ultimate masterwork and may offer insights for next summer’s performances of the Mass at the ABS Festival & Academy. Also,Philipp Spitta’s 1899 biography Johann Sebastian Bach: his work and influence on the music of Germany, 1685-1750 is available for kindle.
Don’t forget one of the good old, old ones: Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life, Art, and Work by Johann Nikolaus Forkel. This is, in fact, the very first biography of J.S. Bach written by an enthusiast who was born in 1749, the year before Bach’s death. As an eminent 18th Century musicologist, Forkel was acquainted with Bach’s sons and used his access to them while writing his life of the composer.
Handel, Vivaldi, and Leo
To get equipped for the other parts of the ABS season, there are some other readings that you might consider. Handel’s Acis and Galatea is based on a story from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Different translations of this timeless (and occasionally bawdy work) abound, but consider Charles Martins’s translation of Ovid, which includes an introduction by famed classics professor Bernard Knox. Vivaldi’s famed all-female ensemble at the Ospedale della Pietà is the subject of Barbara Quick’s imaginative work of historical fiction, Vivaldi’s Virgins. Biographical information about Leonardo Leo is not nearly as easy to find as an edition of Ovid. Perhaps the best introduction to this composer is to go right to the his music. Tafelmusik has an excellent CD featuring all 6 of Leo’s violoncello concerti with Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma as soloist and Jeanne Lamon conducting.