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The invention, devotion and beauty that are at the heart of J.S. Bach’s more than 209 sacred cantatas continue to be a source of deep inspiration and consolation to believers and non-believers alike. For this concert of three of his acknowledged masterpieces: Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot (BWV 39), Komm, du Süße Todesstunde (BWV 161) and Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (BWV 12), Ensemble Les Boreades join four of Europe’s greatest soloists specializing in Bach for one-to-a-part performances in the intimate surroundings of Christ Church Cathedral.
“No present-day singer understands German sacred music of the 17th century better than the soprano Dorothée Mields and, unsurprisingly therefore, no one sings it better.” – International Record Review
To view/download this programme, please click here.
This concert is generously supported by Mark De Silva, Matthew White & Catherine Webster, Meredith & Pat Cashion, and David McMurtry
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750):
Komm, du süsse Todesstunde BWV 161
for alto, tenor, chorus, two recorders, strings and basso continuo
(Cantata for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity – Weimar, 1716)
Johann Sebastian Bach:
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen BWV 12
for alto, tenor, chorus, trumpet, oboe, bassoon, strings and basso continuo
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784):
Concerto in D major F. 41
for harpsichord, strings and basso continuo
Johann Sebastian Bach:
Brich dem hungrigen dein Brot BWV 39
for soprano, alto, bass, chorus, two recorders, two oboes, strings and basso continuo
(Cantata for the First Sunday after Trinity – Leipzig, 1726)
EMV’s long-time Artistic Director, José Verstappen, recently donated almost the entirety of his impressive collection of vinyl recordings to the society as a gift. In helping him pack up this varied musical treasure chest, it struck me that he was relatively unemotional about a process that I would have found stressful. That was, until he noticed my hungry eyes on his “Complete Collection of the Sacred Cantatas of J.S. Bach” led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt. The significance of this particular collection in my own life made the almost feral look on his face impossible to misunderstand. There was no way I was walking out the door with this part of his collection in my hands.
In addition to the audio recordings, each of the more than 200 cantatas included in the collection came with programme notes, texts and translations as well as the full score of every work printed on extra large, “LP box” sized paper. As excited as I am by the wonders of online resources like allofbach.com, the memory of the slower, luxurious process of taking out an LP randomly from a span of albums on a shelf, setting it up on the turntable, searching out a large enough, empty desk in the library, opening up the score broadly with two hands, and then listening to something new and extraordinary, played by artists imbued with the spirit of discovery, makes me feel like I am still nineteen. It was like being given a passport to travel to the moon.
This was a ground-breaking and iconic project that introduced me (and a much wider world of music lovers) to the sounds not just of period instruments but to the seemingly inexhaustible wonders of Bach’s rarely performed but reliably brilliant sacred cantatas. It is significant that since the first complete set of recordings was finished, this seemingly insurmountable task, involving roughly 60 CDS worth of material, has been repeated by several other ensembles and prominent musical leaders including Masaaki Suzuki, John Eliot Gardiner, Ton Koopman and Helmuth Rilling. What I love about the first recordings by Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, however, is that their curiosity and iconoclastic challenge of performance conventions are somehow forever captured in the sound. The odd squeak and imperfection do not hide the obvious creative energy and risk-taking involved. After almost 50 years these performances still hold up against all the versions that came after. José can be forgiven for holding these ones back.
Though we now have multiple recordings of each of Bach’s cantatas to choose from, there is still nothing like hearing them performed live. I cannot imagine a Bach Festival in which we did not make an effort to share at least a few of these underperformed jewels.
The first two works on the programme are “early cantatas” written when Bach was in his twenties working at the Weimar Court. Like many of the works written during this fruitful period, they stand out for their vivid word painting and imagination.
Cantata BWV 161, Komm, du süße Todesstunde (Come, Sweet Hour of Death), was written in 1716, and like some of the Funeral Cantatas we heard last year, explores the idea of death as salvation from earthly suffering and as a path to everlasting union with Jesus. In the embracing and affirmative opening alto aria, the poet Salomon Franck creates a surprising metaphor comparing death with honey in the mouth of a lion. By scoring this aria for recorders, Bach supports this unlikely comparison and transforms the horror of death into consoling and sensual sweetness. Throughout this first aria, the passion chorale (O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden/ O Sacred Head Now Wounded) appears in the background as a subtle reminder of Christ having made the same journey into the jaws of death on our behalf. The tenor aria is one of the most beautiful and hopeful in the tenor repertoire and uses a simple, hypnotically repeating semi-tone device in the melody that emphasizes the second syllable of the word Verlangen (longing) to demonstrate the believer’s desire for ecstatic union with Christ in death. The following alto recitative and chorus also use the recorders to brilliant effect. Listen in particular for the sound of “death bells” evoked by the use of the recorders and pizzicato on open strings setting the text “So schlage doch, du letzter Stundenschlag!/ Therefore strike, O final hour.” An earlier cantata by Melchior Hoffman, “Schlage Doch Gewünste Stunde/ Haste to strike, oh longed for hour “, using an almost identical text, employs an actual treble bell sounding over pizzicato strings to create a similar effect of a clock ticking in the final seconds before the final death knell is rung.
As with BWV 161, Bach composed the music of Cantata BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing) to poetry by Salomon Franck. It opens with a dark sinfonia featuring the oboe, which transitions into one of the most effective four-part choruses Bach ever wrote. It plays dramatically on a sighing motif echoed in voice after voice creating sharp dissonances. Significantly, he later used this material as the model for the “Crucifixus” section of the Credo in his B Minor Mass. The only recitative, “Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen/ We must enter the Kingdom of God through much sorrow”, is written in C minor for alto and with an unmistakeably sorrowful tone. The last line, however, is a full ascending C major scale, subtly but clearly asserting that the Kingdom of God offers hope to the believer. The alto aria, “Kreuz und Krone sind verbunden/ Cross and crown are bound together” is Bach’s first extended aria for oboe and marks the beginning of a long relationship between the oboe and alto voice in his sacred vocal works. In the second aria, “Ich folge Christo nach/ I follow after Christ” the simple upward scale, as in the alto recitative, illustrates the upward direction of heaven. Towards the end, the steps are expanded to more than an octave, finally reaching Heaven, at which point the bass singer, continuo section and, ostensibly, the believer, are finally in unison. The last aria is for tenor and is accompanied by the chorale melody “Jesu Meine Freude/ Jesus my Joy” played by trumpet. The chorale “Was Gott tut, daß ist wohlgetan/ What God does is well done” ends the cantata and also features an obligato part written for the trumpet.
Cantata BWV 39, Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot (“Give the hungry ones thy bread”) was written much later than the first two cantatas on the programme as part of Bach’s third Leipzig cantata cycle. It was first performed on June 23, 1726 and is written on the simple theme of sharing what we have with those who have less. Many scholars believe that a subsequent performance in 1732 was a response to the ignoble plight of Austrian Protestants who were expelled from Salzburg, hence its nickname the “Refugee cantata”. The text of the cantata is taken from a 1704 collection of libretti written by the Duke Ernst Ludwig von Sachsen-Meiningen, and it follows a symmetrical structure of seven movements unlike the looser structure of the Weimar cantatas. Typical of the later cantatas, the highlight of this work is arguably the first chorus. While it is difficult to pin down exactly what Bach is getting at with the staccato notes from the recorders, oboes and strings, this effect creates an atmosphere of sparseness and longing similar to the opening chorus of the Trauer Ode and well-aligned with the Old Testament text encouraging us to share what we have for the promise of a reward in heaven. Though there are countless details to point out in the following three recitatives and arias, one particularly touching moment is in the alto aria accompanied by violin and oboe in which the text communicates the idea of sowing on earth those seeds that will be harvested in Heaven. On the word streuet (scatter) the melody pours fourth in melismas that create an unmistakeable musical gesture of scattering.
I hope that these performances provide you with the inspiration to pick up your own copy of the complete cantatas. These works bear repeated listening, invariably revealing more layers of craft, beauty, and meaning every time you hear them.
— Notes by Matthew White, June 2019 —
Francis Colpron, music director
Recorder and traverso player Francis Colpron is recognized as one of the most talented musicians of his generation. During the past three decades, the public, critics, and cultural authorities have acclaimed his abilities to innovate as an artist and performer. In 1991, he founded the ensemble Les Boréades de Montréal, of which he is the artistic director, and which puts on a very successful annual concert series in Montreal, performs in North America and Europe, and records on the ATMA Classique label.
Les Boréades has performed with world-renowned artists such as Hervé Niquet, director of the Concert Spirituel de Paris; Skip Sempé, harpsichordist and director of Capriccio Stravagante; violinists Manfred Kraemer and Adrian Butterfield; harpsichordist Alexander Weimann; conductor Eric Milnes; cornettist William Dongois; recorder player Stefano Bagliano; as well as with tenor Charles Daniels, and Canadian singers Matthew White, Karina Gauvin, and Laura Pudwell.
On stage, Francis Colpron, with Les Boréades, has explored the theatrical and musical worlds of the 17th and 18th centuries in shows such as Acis et Galatée (2015), La belle danse (2013), Tabarinades (2010), and Molière en Musique (2008). He has also acted in theatrical productions for young people such as Garde-Robe(2007) and La nuit de la Patate (2016). Noteworthy collaborators with Francis Colpron have included the directors Joël da Sylva and Jean-François Gagnon, and the actors Carl Béchard and Sophie Faucher.
Francis Colpron was associate flutist with Trinity Consort of Portland from 2000 to 2009. He has been a guest soloist with groups such as Apollo’s Fire of Cleveland, the Edmonton Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Opera Atelier, Thirteen Strings, the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, Les Violons du Roy, the Nova Scotia Orchestra, and L’Harmonie des Saisons. As well as teaching at the Université de Montréal, he is frequently invited to share his experience as a teacher at well known summer music camps such as Amherst in the United States, CAMMAC in Quebec, and Boxwood in Nova Scotia. His discography consists of more than 40 recordings.
Les Boréades de Montréal
Founded by Francis Colpron in 1991, Les Boréades focuses on early music. The ensemble has chosen an interpretative approach in keeping with the spirit of the Baroque era, by adhering to the rules of performance practice of the past and playing on period instruments. Critics and audiences alike in Canada and abroad have been unanimous in hailing the group’s energy and spontaneity as well as its theatrical, expressive and elegant playing, indicative of a unique flair for Baroque aesthetics.
The group has received many grants from the Québec and Canada governments and has toured extensively in Canada and abroad, taking part in several renowned festivals. The musicians also performed at the Frick Collection of New-York, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Vancouver Festival, Musikfest Bremen and at the Alter Musik Regensburg.
Les Boréades has performed with world-renowned artists such as Hervé Niquet, director of the Concert Spirituel de Paris; Skip Sempé, harpsichordist and director of Capriccio Stravagante; violinists Manfred Kraemer and Adrian Butterfield; harpsichordist Alexander Weimann; conductor Eric Milnes; cornettist William Dongois; recorder player Stefano Bagliano; as well as with tenor Charles Daniels, and Canadian singers Matthew White, Karina Gauvin. The ensemble Les Boréades owns a solid discography of 25 titles, on the Atma Classique label, which are distributed around the world.
Dorothee Mields, soprano
Dorothee Mields is one of the leading interpreters of 17th- and 18th-century music and is beloved by audiences and critics alike for her unique timbre and moving interpretations.
She appears regularly with the Collegium Vocale Gent, Netherlands Bach Society, L’Orfeo Barockorchester, Freiburger Barockorchester, RIAS Kammerchor, Bach Collegium Japan, Orchestra of the 18th Century, Lautten Compagney Berlin, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Toronto, The English Concert and Klangforum Wien under conductors such as Stefan Asbury, Beat Furrer, Michi Gaigg, Paul Goodwin, Philippe Herreweghe, Emilio Pomàrico, Hans-Christoph Rademann, Andreas Spering, Masaaki Suzuki and Jos van Veldhoven.
Dorothee Mields is a welcome guest at international festivals, including the Leipzig Bach Festival, Suntory Music Foundation Summer Festival in Japan, Boston Early Music Festival, Flanders Festival, Wiener Festwochen, the Handel Festival in Halle, Musikfestspiele Potsdam, Styriarte Graz, Niedersächsische Musiktage, Musikfest Bremen, Mainzer Musiksommer and Mosel Musikfest.
She is a devoted chamber musician and offers a range of highly interesting projects such as “Lord Nelson at the river Nile” (music by Haydn and contemporaries dealing with the battles of Lord Nelson), “White as Lillies was her Face” with songs by John Dowland combined with texts by Heinrich Heine, “Mort exquise, mort parfumée” with French impressionistic compositions, “Duft und Wahnsinn” (fragrance and lunacy) together with Hille Perl, viola da gamba, and Lee Santana, lute, as well as “Birds” with flutist Stefan Temmingh.
A steadily growing discography with several award-winning recordings documents her artistic achievements. “Inspired by Song” and “Birds” with Stefan Temmingh, “Handel” with Hille Perl, Monteverdi “La dolce vita” with the Lautten Compagney Berlin and Wolfgang Katschner (all DHM), Bach “Kantaten für Solo-Sopran” with L’Orfeo Barockorchester and Michi Gaigg and Boccherini Stabat mater with the Salagon Quartett (both Carus) have been especially well received.
In 2018/19, Dorothee Mields is artist in residence at the Heinrich-Schütz-Musikfest. Further upcoming highlights include appearances in Japan with the RIAS Kammerchor, at the Wigmore Hall with The English Concert, with Seattle Symphony, and at the Internationale Orgelwoche Nürnberg, as well as tours with Collegium Vocale Gent, Freiburger Barockorchester, Gli Angeli Genève and Holland Baroque.
Alex Potter, alto
My mother always sang to me when I was a small child, which is why I began to sing. Her voice for me was intensely bound together with emotion, which will always remain with me. As a cathedral chorister, this emotional basis became intertwined with a fascination for text and symbolism in music, expanded upon and deepened during studies in Oxford and Basel. Remaining faithful to these origins over nearly twenty years in the profession, I continue to develop as a singer, musician and human, changed and enriched by the joy and sadness which life brings.
Nowadays you are most likely to hear me somewhere with Bach, although I also love to sing other music. When not performing, you will find me at home with my family, reading something geeky, wasting time on the internet, or cooking. Sharing and exchanging with other people, be it music, food, or conversation, is one of the great pleasures of life.
Samuel Boden, tenor
Having originally trained and worked as a chef, British tenor Samuel Boden changed his career path and studied singing under John Wakefield at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. He received numerous awards including the Ricordi Opera Prize and the Derek Butler London Prize as well as awards from the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, the Samling Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Throughout college and after leaving in 2008, he worked extensively in the UK and internationally with many leading ensembles, including Ex Cathedra, The Gabrieli Consort, The Sixteen and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He has since become increasingly in demand as a soloist, which has led to a variety of experience, both on the concert platform and on the opera stage, performing music from a wide range of styles and eras. This ranges from Roman laments and Elizabethan lute songs, through to West Side Story for the 50th Anniversary World Tour – however, his grounding in choral music has contributed to his deeper involvement with, and love for, early music, and he has performed operas and concerts of this repertoire extensively at home and abroad. Early opera engagements include The Fairy Queen for Theater St Gallen and Glyndebourne; Anfinomo The Return of Ulysses for English National Opera at the Young Vic; The Indian Queen at Opéra Théâtre de Métropole, Metz and the title role of Cavalli L’Ormindo for the Royal Opera/Shakespeare’s Globe collaboration in their inaugural season at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Samuel’s love of languages, most notably French, has led to an interest in French Baroque. As a high light lyric tenor, he has been exploring the “Haute Contre” repertoire and enjoys a busy schedule of such performances. This repertoire has included the title role in Charpentier Actéon for Opéra de Dijon and Opéra de Lille / Emanuelle Haïm; Hippolyte Hippolyte et Aricie with Ensemble Pygmalion / Raphäel Pichon, and Abaris Les Boréadeswith Les Musiciens du Louvre / Marc Minkowski at the Aix en Provence festival.
On the concert platform Samuel has appeared with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for Zemlinsky with John Storgards, Argento with Giancarlo Guerro and Carl Rütti with Stephen Jackson; Stravinsky with Sakari Oramo at The Proms; the Hallé Orchestra / Robert Howarth for Messiah; the Royal Northern Sinfonia / Thomas Zehetmair for Mozart and Britten; the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Curnyn – Handel; the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra / Howarth; the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra / Emmanuelle Haïm for Rameau and Purcell; Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra / Nicholas Kraemer with Bach and Handel; The Monteverdi Choir / John Eliot Gardiner for Bach; Collegium Vocale Gent / Philippe Herreweghe with Lassus, Monteverdi and Purcell; Le Concert d’Astrée / Haïm for Monteverdi and Charpentier and Ex Cathedra / Jeffrey Skidmore – Bach, Carissimi, Charpentier.
In current recital programmes Samuel performs lute song repertoire with Paula Chateaueuf and Britten, Fauré, Debussy and Hahn with Iris Torossian, harp. Samuel’s growing discography encompasses works by Monteverdi, Charpentier, Daniel Purcell, Rameau, Bach alongside Tansy Davies and Alec Roth on Hyperion, Erato, Archiv, OAE Released, Nimbus, Resonus Classics, NMC and Signum.
Amongst his recent and forthcoming engagements are Bach with the Rotterdam Philharmonic / Natalie Stutzmann, the title role Rameau Pigmalion with Pinchgut Opera Sydney, Telemaco Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria at The Round House for the Royal Opera House and creating a role in George Benjamin’s Lessons in love and violence at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden followed by performances in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Lyon and Paris.
Outside of his performance life, Samuel is an extreme sports enthusiast and enjoys snowboarding, rock climbing and downhill mountain biking.
Matthew Brook, bass-baritone
Matthew Brook has appeared widely as a soloist, and has worked extensively with conductors such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Richard Hickox, Sir Charles Mackerras, Harry Christophers, Christophe Rousset, Paul McCreesh and Sir Mark Elder, and many ensembles including the Philharmonia, LSO, the St Petersburg Philharmonic,the RPO, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the English Baroque Soloists, the Gabrieli Consort & Players, the Sixteen, the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Orchestre National de Lille.
Recent and future highlights include Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Dido and Aeneas with the Handel and Haydn Society, Bach’s St John Passion with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Haydn’s Creation with the City of Birmingham
Symphony Orchestra, Bach’s Magnificat and Brahms’ Triumphlied with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Il Re di Scozia Ariodante with the Staatstheater Stuttgart and on tour with the English Concert, Bach’s B minor Mass at the Al Bustan Festival in Beirut and with Les Violons du Roy in Québec, Fauré’s Requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozart’s Requiem with the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw, a tour of Bach cantatas with the Monteverdi Choir and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and with the Nederlandse Bachvereniging and Early Music Vancouver, a tour of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and with Gli Angeli Genève, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at Festival St Denis, and the roles of Herod and Father in Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis.
Mark Edwards, harpsichord
First prize winner in the 2012 Musica Antiqua Bruges International Harpsichord Competition, Canadian harpsichordist and organist Mark Edwards is recognized for his captivating performances, bringing the listener “to new and unpredictable regions, using all of the resources of his instrument, […] of his virtuosity, and of his imagination” (La Libre Belgique). Since 2016, he is Assistant Professor of Harpsichord at Oberlin Conservatory.
He has given solo recitals at a number of prominent festival and concert series. He has had concerto performances with a number of award-winning ensembles, including Ensemble Caprice (Canada) and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He is also an active chamber musician.
His début solo CD, Orpheus Descending, was released in 2017 on the early-music.com label and was reviewed warmly. Passaggi (ATMA 2013), his CD with the Canadian recorder player Vincent Lauzer, was nominated for an ADISQ award.
In addition to his success in Bruges, Mark has distinguished himself as a prizewinner in a number of important competitions, including the 2012 Jurow International Harpsichord Competition, the 2011 Concours d’orgue de Québec, and the 2008 Rodland Organ Competition. He is the recipient of academic grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he earned his Bachelor of Music with highest distinction, and completed graduate degrees at McGill University and the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. His former teachers include Robert Hill, William Porter, Hank Knox, and David Higgs. In 2021, he received a PhD from Leiden University after successfully defending his dissertation titled “Moving Early Music: Improvisation and the Work-Concept in Seventeenth-Century French Keyboard Performance.”