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A collection of six chorale preludes paired with their chorale harmonizations. The title ‘Schübler Chorales’ derives from the engraver and publisher Johann Georg Schübler, who is named on the title page. All six are for an organ with two manuals and pedal, at least five of them transcribed from movements in Bach’s cantatas.
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“Sechs Choräle von verschiedener Art”
– THIS PERFORMANCE WILL HAVE NO INTERVAL –
Prelude in E Minor, BWV 548a
Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 646
Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 649
Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter BWV 650
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme BWV 645
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 647
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, BWV 648
Fugue in E minor, BWV 548b
“For as long as there is naught to confute us other than the mere possibility of the existence of better organists and keyboard players, we cannot be reproached if we are bold enough to persist in the claim that our Bach was the most prodigious organist and keyboard player that there has ever been. It may be that this or that famous man has accomplished much in polyphony on these instruments, but was he for that reason as expert – with hands and feet together – as Bach was? Whosoever had the pleasure of hearing him and others, being not otherwise disposed by prejudice, will agree that this doubt is not unfounded. And whosoever looks at Bach’s pieces for the organ and the keyboard, which he himself, as is universally known, performed with the greatest perfection, will likewise have nothing to say in contradiction of the above statement.”
– J.S. Bach’s Obituary prepared by C.P.E. Bach and J.F. Agricola
During his lifetime, J.S. Bach was renowned, above all else, for his organ playing. The music on this afternoon’s programme represents some of his greatest accomplishments in keyboard composition. Though written in Leipzig, where his duties no longer involved regular performance on the organ, the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 548 is arguably his most compositionally ambitious and technically demanding work. The fugue is often nicknamed “The Wedge” on account of its remarkable subject whose notes leap to ever-widening intervals in the manner of a wedge.
Perhaps it was the monumental style of his late preludes and fugues that spurred Johann Adolf Scheibe to sharply criticize Bach in a review published in the journal Der critische Musikus in 1737. Scheibe, a close friend of Telemann and avid proponent of the song-like melodies and simple accompaniments of the gallant style, wrote that Bach “by his bombastic and intricate procedures deprived [his pieces] of naturalness and obscured their beauty by an excess of art.” The review initiated an eight-year polemical exchange between Scheibe and Bach’s supporters, who argued in favour of his contrapuntal approach to composition and pointed out that Bach’s cantatas proved his mastery also of the fashionable gallant style. Scheibe eventually apologized in 1745.
A few years later, Bach hired a master engraver, his former student Johann Georg Schübler, to prepare a beautiful print of “Six Chorales of Various Kinds”, all note-for-note organ transcriptions of cantata movements in the gallant style. Each setting prominently features the chorale tune in long notes, accompanied by figuration in the other voices that paints some aspect of the chorale text – leaps of joy in “Wachet auf,” and running figures in “Wo soll ich fliehen,” for instance. Now commonly known as the Schübler Chorales, these pieces have become some of Bach’s best-loved organ works. His adaptation of the chamber music idiom for organ set the trajectory for the next generation organ composers, many of whom numbered among the more than 80 private students he mentored during his lifetime.
– Christina Hutten
Christina Hutten, organ
Organist and harpsichordist Christina Hutten has presented recitals in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She performs regularly with Pacific Baroque Orchestra and has appeared as concerto soloist with the Okanagan Symphony, the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, and the Arizona State University Chamber Orchestra. Christina is also an enthusiastic teacher. She coaches and coordinates the early music ensembles at the University of British Columbia and has given masterclasses and workshops at institutions including the Victoria Baroque Summer Program, Brandon University, the University of Manitoba, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada’s National Music Centre in Calgary, and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. Funded by a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, she pursued historical keyboard studies in Europe with Francesco Cera, François Espinasse, and Bernard Winsemius. She participated in the Britten-Pears Programme, led by Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin, for which she was awarded the Loewen Prize. Christina obtained a master’s degree in Organ Performance from Arizona State University under the direction of Kimberly Marshall and an Advanced Certificate in Harpsichord Performance from the University of Toronto, where she studied with Charlotte Nediger. She is now a doctoral candidate in musicology at UBC.
Kathleen Allan, soprano
Kathleen Allan is the incoming Artistic Director and Conductor of the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto and is the Artistic Director of Canzona, Winnipeg’s professional Baroque choir. Originally from St. John’s, NL, Ms. Allan is in high demand as a conductor, composer and clinician and is equally comfortable working in early, contemporary, and symphonic repertoire. Until 2019, Ms. Allan served as the Director of Choral Studies and Associate Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra at the Vancouver Academy of Music and was the Associate Conductor of the Vancouver Bach Choir. She was the 2016 recipient of the Sir Ernest MacMillan Prize in Choral Conducting which accompanied her role as Apprentice Conductor of the National Youth Choir of Canada. In 2015, Ms. Allan made her Asian debut conducting Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Japan. She is a founding co-Artistic Director of Arkora, an electric vocal chamber consort dedicated to blurring lines between the music of our time and masterworks from the ancient repertoire.
Her compositions have been commissioned, performed and recorded by ensembles throughout the Americas and Europe and have been featured at two World Symposiums on Choral Music. Her collaboration with Labrador youth choir Ullugiagâtsuk was featured at the National Arts Centre Canada Day celebrations on July 1, 2017. She is published by Boosey and Hawkes, Cypress Choral Music, and is a MusicSpoke composer. Also an accomplished soprano, she has appeared as a soloist with the National Broadcast Orchestra, Berkshire Choral Festival, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In addition to freelancing regularly in Canada and the US, she has performed with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Early Music Vancouver, the Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Vienna), Clarion Choir (New York City), Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Atlanta), and the Yale Schola Cantorum. She holds a degree in composition from the University of British Columbia and a master’s degree in conducting from Yale University.
Liz Hamel, alto
Liz Hamel loves to sing and is grateful to have a varied career in music. Liz has appeared with Vancouver New Music, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Burney Ensemble, Standing Wave, Kawasha’s Krew (Elizabeth Liddle), La Cetra (Ray Nurse), Elektra Women’s Choir, and Early Music Vancouver. She has been member of Accentus Chamber Choir (Paris), the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and musica intima. Liz has performed as a recorder player with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Burney ensemble, the CBC Radio Orchestra, and Festival Vancouver. Ms. Hamel is active as a recorder coach and was a long-time faculty member of the Vancouver Early Music Summer Programme and the WCAMS summer camp. She has worked as a recording producer for musica intima (two Juno nominations and a Western Canada Music Award), Elektra, the Burney Ensemble, Mark Takashi MacGregor, and Paolo Bortelussi. Liz holds a B.N. (Dalhousie), B. Mus. (UBC) and an M.A. and M.Div. (Vancouver School of Theology). She is an Anglican priest and lives in Vancouver with her husband Keith.
Ian Bannerman, tenor
Ian Bannerman attended The University of British Columbia, studying voice performance under Roelof Oostwoud and J. Patrick Raftery. Ian’s interest in choral music sparked at a young age encouraged by his mother, an elementary school music teacher. His choral experiences in his home town of London, Ontario include serving as Assistant Artistic Director for Conspirato Chamber Singers, headlining for the Daejon Choral Festival in South Korea with Six Vocal Ensemble and Vocado, and nearly a decade singing with the Amabile Boys and Men’s Choirs.
At UBC, Ian performed with the University Singers, UBC Chamber Choir, and UBC Men’s Choir. While living in Vancouver for the past four years, Ian has worked with various ensembles including musica intima, Phoenix Chamber Choir and the Vancouver Cantata Singers. Ian is very excited for his first season with the Vancouver Chamber Choir!
Steven Bélanger, baritone
An accomplished clarinetist as well as a singer, baritone Steven Bélanger is a graduate of Queen’s University (BMus, BA) and McGill University (MMus). He has performed with ensembles of all sizes and genres across Canada including the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM), Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec, Opéra de Montréal, VivaVoce and the Canadian Chamber Choir. He has also appeared as soloist with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM), the McGill Baroque Orchestra, Voix Libres, Le Choeur du Vieux-Montreal, Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal, the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, the Queen’s University Symphony Orchestra, the Quinte Symphony and the Grand River Chorus.
Recent solo engagements include Opera After Hours’ debut production of Dido and Aeneas, a German Baroque programme with the Victoria Baroque Players, Christmas in Bach’s Leipzig with the Early Music Society of the Islands under the direction of Jeanne Lamon, and Carmina Burana with the Prince George Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming engagements include the lead role in a concert presentation of Lloyd Burritt’s new opera, Miracle Flight 571.
Steven has appeared at music festivals across North America including the Montreal Baroque Festival, the Festival international de Lanaudière, the Montreal/New Music International Festival, Festival Vancouver, the Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival in New Brunswick and the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Mexico. He has participated in over a dozen recordings for such labels as Decca, ATMA, Naxos and Centrediscs, and has recorded music for television as well as for Cirque du Soleil. Of particular note is the Naxos Early Music recording The Complete Magnificats of Pierre de la Rue which was awarded the “Choc du mois” by Le Monde de la musique in France.
A passionate devotee of early music, Steven was thrilled to be invited to participate in the National Theatre School of Canada’s 2001 production of Sabina Berman’s Molière, playing the role of Jean-Baptiste Lully as well as providing musical accompaniment on period instruments. An equal interest in new music has also led him to take part in a workshop on contemporary vocal music at Domaine Forget under the direction of Rachid Safir.
Locally, Steven has performed with Early Music Vancouver, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, the Erato Ensemble and the Laudate Singers. He is also a founding member of Stellaria, Vancouver’s new professional vocal ensemble devoted to the music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.