'Mr. Bach Comes to Town': In Manhattan and Philadelphia, New York Collegium Presents JSB's Audition Pieces for Leipzig

Classic Arts News   'Mr. Bach Comes to Town': In Manhattan and Philadelphia, New York Collegium Presents JSB's Audition Pieces for Leipzig
In February of 1723, the 38-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach traveled to Leipzig to audition for the post of Kantor at the St. Thomas Church and School, the city's most important musical position. It was a very good career move: he got the job, of course, and remained in it for the rest of his life. While he may not always have been happy there, the result for us has been an incomparable wealth of sacred music.

The two cantatas Bach performed for the Leipzig town councilors on that long-ago winter's day form the centerpiece of the New York Collegium's final program this season, performed tonight in Manhattan and tomorrow in Philadelphia.

"Leipzig 1723: Mr. Bach Comes to Town," conducted by Collegium music director Andrew Parrott, features the two audition works, Jesu nahm zu sich die Zw‹lfe (BWV 22) and Du wahrer Gott und Davis Sohn (BWV 23), along with the cantata the new Thomaskantor presented in his first Sunday on the job: Die Elenden soll essen (BWV 75).

The soloists make up what the Collegium is calling "a veritable Bach dream team" built up over the past few years (and these ears, having followed the group all along, are inclined to agree): soprano Emily van Evera, alto Kirsten Sollek, tenor Marc Molomot and bass Curtis Streetman. And the chorus will be — those same four singers. For two decades, Parrott has been one of the leading exponents, in both performance and scholarly debate, of the theory that Bach intended his chorus lines to be sung by soloists (except where explicitly indicated otherwise). And his Bach performances with the Collegium are as expert demonstrations of the theory in practice as one is likely to hear within, oh, a couple thousand miles of the East Coast.

The New York Collegium performs "Leipzig 1723: Mr. Bach Comes to Town" tonight at 8 p.m. at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer at Lexington and East 66th Streets in Manhattan. (Professor Michael Marissen gives a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.) Tomorrow, the Collegium gives the same program to open the Bach Festival of Philadelphia, at 8 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity just off Rittenhouse Square.

The Bach Festival offers more than a dozen additional concerts over the next week, among them pianist Simone Dinnerstein in the Goldberg Variations, Inna Nassidze playing the Cello Suites, Norway's Bergen Barokk performing Telemann cantatas, the "Renaissance band" Piffaro and guest vocalists in music of Orlando di Lasso, and Michael Stairs at the new Cooper Memorial Organ in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall. More information is available at www.bach-fest.org.

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