Bach to the Future Poster

“Bach to the Future”

Saturday 27 June 2015
St James' Priory, Bristol

Christopher Finch - Conductor
Nigel Nash - Piano

Concert Order

Vytautes Miškinis (b.1954) O Sacrum Convivium
JS Bach (1685-1750) Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 675 (Nigel Nash: organ)
Knut Nystedt (1915-2014) Immortal Bach
JS Bach Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BMV 230
JS Bach Prelude & Fugue in A minor, BWV 895 (Nigel Nash: organ)
John Rutter (b.1945) Hymn to the Creator of Light
JS Bach Fugue in F from Pastorale, BWV 590 (Nigel Nash: organ)
William Harris (1883-1973) Bring us, O Lord God
Jeremy Woodside (b. 1989) Cantate Domino (Soloist: Richard Griffith, tenor )
James MacMillan (b.1959) O Radiant Dawn
James MacMillan Miserere (Soloists: Helen Cooper, soprano ; Heidi Couper, soprano )
JS Bach Fuürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BMV228
JS Bach Concerto in C, BWV 984 (Nigel Nash: organ)
Marco Galvani (b.1994) Alleluja, Confitemini Domino
Thomas Harris Faire is the Heaven

An Introduction to the Programme by Christopher Finch

Bach to the Future is more than just a pun-laden concert title; it can be seen to encapsulate many of the core objectives and ambitions of Bristol Bach Choir. On the surface, it demonstrates this choir's commitment to the performance of the works of JS Bach and his contemporaries alongside masterpieces of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. More philosophically, it speaks of my wish as Music Director to produce vivid and vibrant performances of works by master composers of every era and genre. It also reflects my commitment to present all music in a way that resonates with contemporary society and aspires to engage the next generation - both as performers and future music-loving audience members.

Let me move now to a brief introduction to this evening's programme . . .

We began this season with J S Bach's Magnificat, his majestic setting of the Canticle of Mary and we conclude with two of his great motets as well as examples of some of his lesser-known organ music performed by our ever-excellent accompanist, Nigel Nash. Bach's Motets have been described as “some of Bach's most perfect and hypnotic compositions. Through their extraordinary complexity and density, they require exceptional virtuosity and sensitivity of all the performers.” A worthy challenge for any choir! However Bach's endless invention, heavenly counterpoint and sincere and striking interpretation of the biblical texts, have provided the required inspiration for our performance of these perennial masterpieces.

The twentieth century is represented by two English composers whose music is steeped in the traditions of the Anglican Church. Williams H Harris (1883-1973), like most cathedral organists of his generation, wrote much music for liturgical use by the choral foundations who employed him. His monumental Faire is the heaven manages to transcend pure functionality, evoking a vivid and serene representation of heavenly glory. Written for the same resources and on a similar scale, is the lesser known Bring us O Lord God. It shares the same luxuriant harmonic palate but demonstrates a more varied dramatic scope.

John Rutter (b.1945) is recognised the world over as a skilled composer of accessible, melodious and well-crafted choral music. Any who question the limits of his compositional skill will be confounded by Hymn to the Creator of Light, written for the dedication of the Howells memorial window in Gloucester Cathedral. The use of chromatic and iridescent harmonies is reminiscent of Howells, is inspired and stands it apart from the majority of Rutter's oeuvre.

Scotland's James Macmillan (b.1959), Norway'sKnut Nystedt (1915-2014) and Lithuania's Vytautas Miškinis (b.1954) are musical colossi in their native countries. Each of them has established an international reputation for the individuality of their compositions and for their wider contribution to the furtherance of their national musical and cultural identity. All three composers are unified by their grounding in music of a former era; influences that are particularly apparent in their works to be performed this evening.

The penitential Psalm 53 was most famously set to music by Allegri in a timeless composition of beauty and prayerful repentance. In MacMillan's setting of the same Miserere text, the central chant section, so reminiscent of the structure of the Allegri, separates the intensely dramatic and anguished opening from the serenely beautiful conclusion.

Nystedt's concept for Immortal Bach exhibits mesmerising simplicity but is hauntingly beautiful in its realisation. Utilising just one verse of Bach Chorale Komme süßer Tod, Nystedt instructs the five choirs to sing at different tempi, thus challenging the audience to listen with ‘new ears and imagination’ .

Miškinis' setting of the ancient O Sacrum Convivium text unifies the simplicity of a melody inspired by plainchant with the harmonic style that has become de rigueur in contemporary choral music.

Finally in this evening's programme, we are delighted to introduce works by two fledgling composers making considerable waves in the musical world. The New Zealander,Jeremy Woodside (b.1989) is currently organ scholar at Westminster Abbey having recently completed his Masters in Organ Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. His music has recently won international acclaim and has works published by the RSCM.

Marco Galvani (b.1994) is currently a student at The Queen's College, University of Oxford, studying composition with Professor Robert Saxton, having previously studied for three years with Emily Howard at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music. He is a former student of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain composer's course and has recently been commissioned by The Choir of the Queen's College, Oxford, Sansara, The Choir of Mary Magdalen, Oxford and the Edington International Choral Festival 2015.

Christopher Finch

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