Bach und die Romantik – Bach and the Age of Romanticism
14 - 23 May 2004

My day at Bachfest: 20 May 2004

It was the Ascension Day, a public holiday in Germany, and most shops and libraries were closed. From 9:30 at the Thomaskirche, there was a special liturgical service of Bach’s time. I wanted to attend this event very much, but due to my other commitments I had to stay away from the Bachfest until evening. Still I was able to attend three evening concerts.

No.37 Vocal Concert at Nikolaikirche, 17:00

This was a day with Chiara Banachini, who were to appear twice – with Ensemble 415 at 5 pm and again at 8 pm with two other performers in a smaller ensemble setting. It was a brave thing to do at the music festival of this high standing.


J.S. Bach: Cantata "Widerstehe doch der Sünde", BWV 54
J.S. Bach: Concerto for two violins, strings and continuo, BWV 1043
Vivaldi: Nisi Dominus, RV 608

Michael Chance, alto
Eva Borhi, violin
Ensemble 41
Direction and Violin: Chiara Banachini

Chance receiving flowers after the concert
  BWV 54 – My first impression was a positive one --- firm and well articulated continuo section, providing a stable accompaniment. String ensemble was also reasonably clear. But the unevenness in the solo vocal line (sung by Michael Chance) soon became apparent, which put a large question mark in my mind. In mvt.1 aria, Chance had some problem with long-held notes at high register and leaps, lacking expression and direction. He was much better in mvt.2: he sung with clear diction and colourful word painting. In mvt 3, however, his technique was a little shaky, esp. with 3rd leaps. His singing was nonetheless expressive singing although his high register needed a little more sense of security.

BWV 1043 – In Vivace, violin solos were disappointing, for they were not technically reliable. With frequent intonation problems, the ensemble lacked strong leadership. In Largo ma non tanto, violin solos were settled gradually but I thought they were still not at their best. In Allegro, many untidy moments were still apparent, which was further marred by imprecise tuning and poor intonation.

With Vivaldi, things were not much better: it seemed that the performers were together only at the cadences; monotonous and rough edges were everywhere. Mvt.1 opened well, but melisma line was out of tune, esp. with 3rd leaps. Mvts.2-3 were beautifully shaped and characterised. In mvt.7, there were excellent dialogues between viola d’amore and alto, beautifully shaped melody and colour. In mvt.8 melisma was again out of tune; orchestra was monotonous as well. With mvt.9 the orchestra sprung up from obscurity, and performed with clear definition. Chance also shined in fast scale passages.

The encore was “Erbarme dich” from St Matthew Passion: Michael Chance was brilliant, and although he struggled with high register, he sang with conviction. This emotional excitement was severely dampened by the violinist’s rhythm problem – it was a bowing problem (esp. up-bow was taken carelessly adding nonsensical accent).

No.38: Choir and Orchestra concert at Gewandhaus, Großer Saal, 20:00


W.A. Mozart: Adagio und Fuge c-Moll, KV 546
J.S. Bach: Kantate „Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich“, BWV 150
J. Brahms: Sinfonie Nr. 4 e-Moll, op. 98

Chorsolisten, Dresdner Kammerchor, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Leitung: Paavo Järvi

The concert opened with Mozart’s fugue. With a huge dynamic range being explored, it reminded me of the Romantic interpretation. It was an interesting attempt, but was not wholly convincing.

For me BWV 150 was the main item of the concert. The choir was tight and pleasant ensemble (mvts.2 and 6), but not the soloists. The soprano solo (mvt.3 aria) was particularly disappointing, lacking support and no meaning of words was properly communicated to the audience. In mvt.5 terzet, both cello and bassoon were competent but vocalists were again unreliable.

After the interval, we were entertained the rich sound world of Brahms’s 4th Symphony. From where we sat, the sound of two horns came directly, whereas the double-bass was particularly weak. There were some small ensemble problems and interpretative vacuum in Finale, but as a whole, it was a well-engaged ensemble.
Mozart setting

Bach setting

No.41: Late evening concert in Altes Rathaus, 22:30

Bonporti's facsimile used in the performance
  This was Chiara Banchini’s 2nd appearance today. This concert was advertised as „Inventionen von Bonporti in Bachs Handschrift“, and I looked forward to this very much. However, it turned out that the performance was not based on Bach’s manuscript copy, but the facsimile edition of Bonporti, which I found out by looking at the score left on the music stand.


Francesco Antonio Bonporti: Invenzione B-flat major, op.10, no.5
Francesco Antonio Bonporti: Invenzione C minor, op.10, no.6
J.S. Bach: Sonata in G major, BWV 1021
Francesco Antonio Bonporti: Invenzione G minor, op.10, no.4

Chiara Banchini, violin
Gaetano Nasello, cello
Andrea Marchiol, harpsichord

Although the programme lacked the promised feature, I thought it was an interesting programme. As happened, Chiara Banchini did not shine on this occasion either: she should have tried more boldly to communicate with other players. Particularly with Bach, she failed to furnish her playing with clear articulation, and the sense of drama was somewhat absent.  
Bonporti evening


The part I liked was Gaetano Nasello’s playing. He was most impressive in the way he brought out characters from his part and communicated with others. He sometimes played rough, but his energetic and dynamic playing provided much needed liveliness to the otherwise sober performance. The concert flowed better in the last piece.

Yo Tomita

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