Breaking Bach: Baroque Treasures Lovingly Recast
The Princeton University Glee Club and Chamber Choir will perform Saturday, December 5 at 7:30PM at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. Directed by Gabriel Crouch, this esteemed ensemble, which has become such a historic staple of the Princeton music community, will present an original program titled “Breaking Bach”—Baroque Treasures Recast. The evening will commence with Knut Nystedt’s mesmeric reimagination of a Bach chorale - Immortal Bach - before offering Ferruccio Busoni’s famous piano transcription of Bach’s D minor Chaconne, performed by pianist Paul von Autenried ’16 and accompanied by the Chamber Choir singing the chorales which scholars have identified woven in to Bach’s score. Venturing into the twentieth century and beyond, the concert will also feature Dominick DiOrio’s newly commissioned Chronos Suite for choir and baroque orchestra, as well as Jan Sandström’s ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’, before concluding with one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s great Christmas-themed Cantatas - Gloria in excelsis Deo BWV 191.
J.S. Bach is often revered as the father of western classical music—a genius who knows no equal. Yet this profound respect can coat his music with an almost untouchable sanctity, and cause music of the Baroque to seem heavy in its totality. By “breaking” Bach, the Glee Club pays tribute to the master in a most refreshing way, reminding us that this music at its core is innovative, novel, and infinite in the possibilities lying within its intricate structure. Nystedt’s Immortal Bach, for example, extends and overlaps the consecutive harmonies of Bach’s chorale Komm, süsser Tod (Come, sweet Death); the result, as musicologist Vladimir Morosan notes, is one in which “Bach’s ‘immortality’ is symbolized by making his music literally ‘time-less’. In the process, his simple chorale setting is elevated into something far more profound, allowing us to catch a little glimpse, however fleeting, of eternity.” This meditation on time will be enriched by DiOrio’s new Chronos Suite, a setting for baroque orchestra and choir of three 17th-century musings on temporality by John Milton, George Herbert, and Sir Walter Raleigh, respectively. In lifting material from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for this work, DiOrio sheds a timeless light on both the literature and the music of the baroque era. Sandström offers a much more blatant take on this concept, wreaking havoc on an old hymn tune by disassembling the chorale into fragments. Yet while messing with the baroque in such a way might seem to be an emblem of a modern age eager to push forward, this program will prompt us to recall the great tradition lying behind every composition and music’s deep capacity to incorporate the past as it looks ahead to the future. Indeed, Bach’s Cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo itself derives from an incomplete Mass which he composed more than a decade earlier, and which would itself eventually become the Gloria of the Mass in B minor (which the Glee Club will perform in April of 2016).