Christ Church Cathedral
Artists: Jessica Korotkin, cello and director; Majka Demcak, violin; Elana Cooper, viola, & Diederik van Dijk, cello
While the concept of ‘parody’ is today associated with humour and satire, in the context of music composition, it refers to the creative process of recycling musical material. This program pays homage to Bach, showcasing an eclectic variety of Bach-inspired musical parodies. The concert includes works by J S Bach, Mozart, Gounod, and Korotkin.
You can read more about Jessica Korotkin and Bach Parodies in this article from Early Music America Magazine.
This concert is generously sponsored anonymously and by Delma Hemming
Susie Napper (b. 1949)
Cello Duet in C Major
Jessica Korotkin (b. 1994)
Cello Suite in E Minor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
String Trio no. 5, K 404a
Largo after J. S. Bach Largo, BWV 526
Fugue after J. S. Bach Fugue, BWV 526
Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
Arrangement by Jessica Korotkin
While the concept of “parody” is today associated with humour and satire, in the context of music composition it refers to the creative process of recycling musical material. Musical parodies exist in a variety of forms, including transcriptions, arrangements, reconstructions, and reinventions. This program features an eclectic assortment of Bach-inspired parodies from the classical period to today.
Bach left an incredible mark on our culture and has inspired artists of the past two and a half centuries to create a variety of innovative forms and expressions. Despite Bach’s posthumous fame, his music was relatively unknown until Felix Mendelssohn’s 1829 production of the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244. This performance was the first time that Bach had been performed for a large-scale audience. Mendelssohn’s enthusiasm for Bach and his teachings initiated the so-called Bach revival, without which the composer’s music might have permanently fallen into oblivion.
During Bach’s lifetime and for some time after his death, his music was considered old-fashioned compared to the emerging aesthetics of the Galant style. Because so few of his works were published at this time, the only musicians who knew of Bach’s music and teachings were his former students and colleagues. Through his correspondences with notable musicians in Bach’s circle, Dutch-born Austrian diplomat Gottfried van Swieten (1733-1803) obtained a collection of music by Bach and Handel. He became so enchanted with this music that he would host weekly salons in which Bach and Handel were performed in an intimate setting for an elite cohort of artists and aristocrats. One of the most enthusiastic spectators at these salons was none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1782-1791). He attended the house of Baron van Swieten every Sunday to both savour and study the music of Bach and Handel. This introduction to Bach’s music made a profound impact on Mozart’s musical taste and style. Trio no. V, K 404a (after BWV 527 & 1080) is one of Mozart’s six Bach fugue transcriptions for string trio. Mozart adds his own compositional flavour to these chamber works by adding newly composed preludes to pair with each fugue transcription. These transcriptions are part of the “Kaisersammlung,” a music collection owned by Emperor Franz II.
French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) may have been far removed from Bach and his teachings, yet he wrote one of the most famous Bach adaptations of all time. Some eighty years after Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was conceived of Gounod decided to use his prelude in C Major, BWV 846 as an accompaniment to what is now widely considered to be the most familiar “Ave Maria” melody. Mendelssohn introduced Gounod to Bach’s keyboard music in 1840. Upon hearing Bach’s prelude in C Major, Gounod was so inspired that he invented a melody to go along with the music. He published this work in 1853 under the title “Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach”. Although this piece was originally scored for violin and piano, he invited famous cello virtuoso Adrien-François Servais (1807-1866) to perform this work in 1854. He was so convinced by Servais’s interpretation of his music that he went on to publish a cello version with the violin part written down an octave.
The art of arranging and adapting music has existed for centuries, yet it is often looked down upon as a modern practice. The Canonic interdiction against arranging music did not yet exist in Bach’s day, and he often adapted his music for other settings. Parody compositions thrived in the baroque period, where composers often used a process of creative borrowing to produce large scale masterworks in relatively short periods of time. Cellist, gambist, and founder of the Montreal Baroque Festival Susie Napper (b. 1949) is both praised and admonished for her colourful and controversial arrangements of historical music. Described as a “rebel to the core”, her innovative work has initiated a new-wave historically informed performance practice music movement centered on creative expression and rhetorical meaning. In 2011 Napper joined artistic forces with her life partner Bruce Haynes to create, perform, and record six new Brandenburg Concertos. The artistic duo reverse-engineered Bach’s process of reorchestrating instrumental works into cantatas to transform Bach’s cantata material into Bach-like concerto movements. In an interview, Napper said that the project will be “a real sacrilege for some. People think of it as a serious deadly sin to abuse Bach’s music like this. I think it’ll be a lot of fun to hear!” In the wake of the global pandemic, Napper was determined to invent new Bach pieces to play. She composed the Cello Duet in C Major for Montréal’s Mini-Concerts Santé series– a city-wide initiative to offer free outdoor classical music concerts during the pandemic. This duet pairs Bach’s cello prelude in C Major, BWV 1009 with a newly composed accompanying bass line invented by Napper. She premiered this piece in the summer of 2021 alongside her McGill University cello student, Jessica Korotkin.
The Cello Suite in E Minor is one of six Bach-inspired suites written by featured artist, Jessica Korotkin (b. 1994). An avid subscriber to Napper’s new-wave historical performance philosophy, Korotkin moved to Montréal to pursue a doctorate from McGill University and embark on a journey of creating her own Bach-inspired works. If the past two centuries have come to understand performing, composing, and improvising as distinct musical competencies, the musicians of Bach’s time regarded them as overlapping and intertwined. Korotkin’s project explores the intersection between performance and composition, using historically informed methods to expand the solo cello repertoire. To construct these suites, she has drawn on Bach’s own method of parody writing to transform existing musical material into new pieces. Bach relied on a method of creative borrowing to create over a quarter of his compositions. Korotkin’s Suite in E Minor imitates the overall structure of Bach’s Suite in G Major, BWV 1007. The opening prelude borrows from Bach’s prelude in C Minor, BWV 847 with twists and turns expanding on the source material. The suite’s allemande is a close copy of the allemande from Bach’s violin partita in D Minor, BWV 1004 with several alterations made to account for idiomatic differences between the violin and the cello. The courante is an inspired invention based on rhythmic and melodic motives found in “Erschüttre dich nur nicht, verzagte Seele”, BWV 99. The sarabande draws subtly on “Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe”, BWV 77. Korotkin builds on the aria’s sarabande-like melodic features in her lyrical cello adaptation. The firstminuet parodies the opening line of “Murre nicht, Lieber Christ”, BWV 144 and the second minuet features newly composed music. This suite closes with a highly virtuosic gigue inspired by the theme of “Laß, Seele, kein Leiden”, BWV 186. This suite provides listeners and performers alike with a unique opportunity to hear a treasured historical style through the hands, pen, mind, and ears of a living performer-composer.
- Jessica Korotkin
Jessica Korotkin, cello
Montreal-based artist Jessica Korotkin is a passionate Baroque cellist, composer, and chamber musician known for her innovative and experimental approach to concert programming – often featuring original arrangements and compositions. She has performed and recorded with award-winning ensembles from Canada and the United States and has also appeared on the international stage at Bolivia’s XIII Festival Internacional de Música Renacentista y Barroca Americana as well as at Germany’s Internationale Bach Akademie Stuttgart.
Jessica combines her love for performing on gut strings with a keen enthusiasm for all genres and styles of music and is a founding member of the Ximenez Quartet, an ensemble dedicated to performing South American chamber music on period instruments. In 2019 she joined forces with The Broken Consort to create the baroque fusion album, Isle of Majesty. She recently cameoed in Canadian pop sensation Daniel Lavoie’s music video L’éternité, playing Baroque cello while dressed in period costume.
She holds degrees from the Peabody Institute and the Oberlin Conservatory. This year (2023) she graduated from McGill University with a Doctor of Music. While at McGill, Susie Napper advised her research-creation project of creating six new Bach-inspired cello suites. You can read more about this project in Early Music America’s online feature, Making a Parody of Bach, No Kidding.
Majka Demcak, violin
Surrey, BC-born Majka Demcak started her violin studies with teacher Sergei Olikhovski at the age of seven. In her time at university, Majka discovered Early and Baroque music, playing with the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme (BOMP). Through BOMP, she studied with Chloe Meyers, Alexander Weimann, and Kati Debretzeni in a masterclass. She has also participated in masterclasses with world-renowned musicians such as Midori, Rachel Barton-Pine, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Elizabeth Wallfish, Martin Beaver and Corey Cerovsek. During her studies at UBC, Majka excelled in orchestral performance under conductor Dr. Jonathan Girard, acting as concertmaster with the UBC Symphony Orchestra for many concerts.
In 2017 she was invited to play with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Currently, Majka is playing with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, the Surrey City Orchestra, and is freelancing around the lower mainland. In the future, she hopes to continue her studies in Baroque Performance.
Elana Cooper, viola
Currently based in The Netherlands, Elana Cooper performs on baroque violin, baroque viola, and modern violin. She has performed with ensembles in Europe (Holland Baroque, Dutch Baroque Orchestra, MA Academy in Bruges, Saintes Jeunes Orchestre de l’Abbaye in France), Canada (Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Vancouver Opera Orchestra), and the US (Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Bloomington Bach Cantata Project, Oregon Bach Festival Period Orchestra).
Elana holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from the University of British Columbia, where she studied with David Gillham. She also studied baroque violin with Chloe Meyers and Marc Destrubé in Vancouver as a recipient of the Early Music Vancouver Scholarship Programme. Elana studied baroque violin as a Master’s student at the Historical Performance Institute at Indiana University with Stanley Ritchie. In June 2023, Elana will complete her Masters degree in baroque violin at Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague as a student of Kati Debretzeni. Elana is looking forward to joining the Theresia Classical Orchestra and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Experience Academy in 2023.
Diederik van Dijk, cello
Diederik van Dijk is a Dutch-Canadian cellist with a broad range of musical activities and interests who is equally at home on the Baroque and the modern cello. Based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, he divides his time mostly between chamber music and orchestral playing. With a practice spanning four centuries of music history and crossing over into various genres, his musical life has taken him from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw to outdoor stages in Newfoundland; from performing internationally at major Early Music festivals to recording in Abbey Road Studios.
Diederik studied cello with Ian Hampton, Eric Wilson, and Marc Destrubé, and Baroque cello with Viola de Hoog, acquiring in the process a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Historical Instruments from the Utrecht Conservatory. He is a core member of Combattimento, the Van Swieten Society, and inter-arts ensemble Dark by Five and is frequently engaged as principal cellist with the Nieuwe Philharmonie Utrecht. In recent years he has also performed with the Orchestra of the 18th Century, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, the Metropole Orkest, Insomnio, Holland Opera, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.