Baroque music in 415 Hz: Buxtehude & his potential son-in-law Bach
Bechyně, Czech Republic, Thursday 15 - Sunday 25 July 2021
For 30 years, the historic monastery of Bechyně has been the venue for an annual summer school devoted to early music. This course has two aspects: a joint programme in which all singers and instrumentalists participate: cantatas by Buxtehude and the young Bach, and a programme of small chamber ensembles for singers and period instrument players
Jeroen van Bergeijk: "The ideal spending of a holiday : ten days of hard work in a monastery, immersed in music, with a fine group of music lovers"
The mornings are dedicated to small ensembles. Everyone is part of two different pre-arranged ensembles, both of which are equally covered with coaching. The ensembles work at least half of the time under intensive supervision of the teachers. The ensembles present themselves in an internal concert at the end of the course. This year the focus is on German music, but this is optional for chamber music. Feel free if you prefer to play or sing English, French or Italian music in the small ensemble program.
Frederiek Muller: "A delicious combination of beautiful surroundings, nice people, formidable musical coaching and outstanding players and singers!"
All formations from quartet upward are possible, with perhaps a few trios. The ensemble formations are already announced in April or May, so that you can prepare yourself at home. Within the possibilities of the course, wishes for works and formations are taken into account. The course is open to individual participants and existing ensembles. There is also time for occasional combinations in the evenings.
Lea Schuiling: "Nice of course, doing a piece like this for choir, soloists and orchestra. But the chamber music is really an asset! Singers and instrumentalists, one to a part, with coaching by all teachers ... Something you rarely get the opportunity to do! And when the teachers sometimes contradict each other, .. well, .. that gives space"
Buxtehude and the young Bach
It is no exaggeration to state that Bach could never have composed his cantatas without the excellent predecessors he had. As a young man Bach walked 800 km to hear the works of his older colleague Buxtehude. The cantatas of Buxtehude have an essential simplicity: understated, elegant and therefore all the more beautiful. Just like Bach, Buxtehude often used texts from multiple sources for his cantatas, and we can also hear in his cantatas the transition from the early 17th-century practice of alternating strings and voices to much richer and more varied textures. Bach's early cantatas are Choralkonzerte (choral concerts) in a very similar style. They often start with an instrumental sinfonia. The difference is that Bach makes very conscious use of wind instruments to vary the orchestral colours. The texts for his early cantatas are mostly derived from the Bible and hymns. Bach did not yet use forms that are characteristic of his later cantatas, such as recitatives and arias with newly-written, often Pietist poetry. There is also a clear relationship between Bach's early cantatas and the works of Buxtehude and Pachelbel. Christ lag in Todes Banden BWV 4 shows similarities with a composition by Johann Pachelbel based on the same Easter chorale. There is no evidence that Bach and Pachelbel met, but Bach grew up in Thuringia at the time Pachelbel was active in the same region, and Bach's older brother and teacher, Johann Christoph Bach, studied with Pachelbel in Erfurt. Another work by Pachelbel seems to be cited in the early Bach cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich BWV 150.
For the course we make a choice from the cantatas of Buxtehude, such as Fürwahr, er trug unsere Krankheit BuxWV 31 and Jesu, meines Lebens Leben BuxWV 62. Sections from the Membra Jesu nostri BuxWV 75 are certainly also worth considering. Johann Sebastian Bach’s early cantatas Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir BWV 131 with beautiful oboe and bassoon soli, and Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus) BWV 106 with recorders and viola da gambas, will certainly appear on the music stands. In addition, works by older relatives of Bach, such as Johann Michael and Johann Christoph Bach, will be considered for the program. They were very interesting composers who have made a major contribution to the 17th-century style. This also applies to masters such as Johann Pachelbel, Nicolaus Bruhns and Franz Tunder.
Everyone plays and sings in the cantatas. The vocal soli will be divided among the singers; all singers together form the choir. Obviously, baroque string players will have a lot of interesting parts. Viola da gambas can perfectly play the often double middle voices. Alongside their specific solo parts the wind players play in the orchestra wherever possible. The definitive choice of cantatas will depend on the singer and orchestra formation we will get. For example, when we get baroque trumpets, trombones, and natural horns, a whole new world of practicable works opens up.
Soprano in action
There is room for up to 20 experienced singers. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:
- You are a good sight reader and able to study parts independently
- You are experienced with ensembles for early music in small ensembles (quartet, quintet)
- You have a trained voice suitable for ensemble and solo singing
- You are interested in historical performance practice, tuning systems and ornamentation
The maximum instrumental group size is 20. For instruments we can place baroque strings, viola da gamba, traverso/recorder, baroque oboe, baroque bassoon, harpsichord/organ, theorbo; period instruments only, tuning pitch 415 Hz.
To qualify you must meet the following requirements:
- You are used to playing period instruments. Modern string players are welcome, but are required to fit their instrument with gut strings and play with a baroque bow. It is possible to borrow baroque bows via La Pellegrina.
- You are experienced in playing in small ensembles.
Staffan Rudner: "I think it was great that the tutors also took part in the music as players. Marco Vitale in particular, who dared to play the baroque oboe despite not being professional on that instrument"
- Thursday 16 July: arrival in Bechyně, course opening with dinner at 18:00 h, first rehearsal in the evening
- Tuesday 21 July: 'free day'
- Wednesday evening: tutors' concert in the refectory
- Thursday evening: participants' chamber music concert
- Saturday evening 25 July: cantata concert at the monastery church
- Sunday morning 26 July: departure after breakfast
Annelies Jans: "Each morning two rehearsals, each afternoon two rehearsals, and what we do on our free evenings? Right, make music as much as possible...!"
- 8:00 breakfast
- 9:30-12:30 rehearsals in small ensembles
- 13:00 lunch
- 14:30 group rehearsals: choir, orchestra, soloists
- 15:45 tea break
- 16:15 tutti rehearsal
- 18:00 drinks & dinner
- Evening off, enough time for playing more chamber music. Sometimes special sessions such as lectures about the music and a vocal workshop for all
Staffan Rudner: "The tutors were able to adapt to the potential of all of us. After the course a new energy has come to our practicing and playing at home."
A delicious meal at Penzion Elektra
Read more about Bechyně, the place where the course will be held:
Roeland Gerritsen: "To make music on a high level (with qualified teachers AND students) at a unique location in Europe in a fantastic atmosphere, I can heartily recommend this to anyone"
The tutors giving a toast to a successful concert
As soon as the registration is open, so from December 1, you can register by using the registration form and paying the deposit of EUR 250 (which of course will be refunded in case you cannot be placed).
Frederiek Muller: "So wonderful that it is already music from the first moment!"