Evanston’s Bach Week Festival


Evanston’s 46th annual Bach Week Festival will present concerts in Evanston and Chicago April 26 to May 3, 2019, featuring several Johann Sebastian Bach works never before heard at the festival; the return of pianist Sergei Babayan, praised by The New York Times for his “consummate technique and insight”; and a first-time collaboration with gifted pre-college musicians of the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago.

J. S. Bach works to be performed for the first time at Bach Week include the Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 544; celebratory wedding cantata “O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit,” BWV 210; and church cantata “Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens,” BWV 148, according to Richard Webster, Bach Week’s long-time music director and conductor. Webster performed in and helped organize Evanston’s inaugural Bach Week in 1974 and has been music director since 1975.

Other new programming twists, Webster says, include opening the festival with Spanish Baroque composer Antonio Soler’s fiery Fandango for harpsichord and including in the festival lineup, for variety and contrast, a concerto for woodwinds, brass, and strings by Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi and a well-known instrumental suite for recorder and strings by Bach’s German contemporary and rival, Georg Phillip Telemann.

Pianist Babayan will be soloist in Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054, accompanied by an ensemble of professional musicians of the Bach Week Festival Orchestra and string students from the Music Institute Academy.

Webster notes a historical precedent for the participation of pre-professional musicians. Many of Bach’s secular instrumental and vocal works received their premieres in concerts given by his Collegium Musicum, an ensemble of talented local university students, at Zimmermann’s coffee house in Leipzig, Germany.

Babayan is a Bach Week mainstay who is working his way through Bach’s complete solo keyboard concertos during return visits to the festival. Recently signed to the Deutsche Grammophon record label, Babayan received critics’ applause for recent concerts with his superstar pupil, pianist Daniil Trifonov, and his 2018 album “Prokofiev for Two” with pianist Martha Argerich. He teaches at The Juilliard School in New York and is artist-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Soloists making their Bach Week Festival debuts this season include violinists Laura Park and Rebecca Benjamin, both alumni of the Music Institute of Chicago Academy. They’ll play Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, accompanied by Academy students and festival orchestra members. Newcomer Ryan Townsend Strand, tenor, will sing the tenor aria and recitative in Bach’s Cantata BWV 148.

Also new to the festival is baroque violinist Kiyoe Matsuura, who, with lutenist Joel Spears, will present an intimate Candlelight Concert focused on J. S. Bach’s Suite for Violin and Continuo, BWV 1025, and its origins in a work for solo lute by German virtuoso lutenist and composer Silvius Leopold Weiss, who visited the Bach household.  

Among the festival’s returning soloists are Chicago Symphony Orchestra flutist and piccolo player Jennifer Gunn, who will play Bach’s Ouverture (Orchestral Suite) No. 2, BWV 1067; Judith Kulb, principal oboist with the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, and Lyric Opera Orchestra violinist John Macfarlane, who will be heard in Bach’s Concerto in C minor for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060R. Recorder virtuoso Lisette Kielson, an early music specialist and past president of the American Recorder Society, will solo in the Telemann suite. Two internationally acclaimed singers, Dutch soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg and British-born Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, both of whom live on Chicago’s North Shore, have solo roles in Bach cantatas.

The festival is a partnership between the Bach Week Festival and North Park University’s School of Music, Art, and Theatre.

The 2019 Bach Week Festival is supported by grants from the MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and Howard and Ursula Dubin Foundation.

A musical rite of spring on the North Shore since 1974, Bach Week is one of the Midwest’s premiere Baroque music festivals. The event enlists musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, and other top-tier ensembles, while featuring some of the Chicago area’s finest instrumental and vocal soloists and distinguished guest artists from out of town.

2019 Bach Week Festival Schedule

Friday, April 26, 7:30 p.m.
Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston
Opening Night : “Baroque Bouquet”

Antonio Soler: Fandango for harpsichord
J. S. Bach: Sonata in G Major for Harpsichord and Viola da Gamba, BWV 1027
J. S. Bach:  Concerto in C minor for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060R
J. S. Bach:  Cantata “O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit,” BWV 210
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in F Major, RV 569

Jason Moy, harpsichord
Anna Steinhoff, viola da gamba
Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano
John Macfarlane, violin
Judith Kulb, oboe
Bach Week Festival Chamber Orchestra
Richard Webster, conductor

Friday, April 26, 10 p.m.
Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston
Candlelight Concert: “Bach or Not Bach”

J.S. Bach’s Suite for Violin and Continuo, BWV 1025, plus Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cassation in C Major, Hob. III:6.

Joel Spears, lute
Kiyoe Matsuura, violin

Sunday, April 28, 3 p.m.
Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston
“Virtuoso Soloists”

J. S. Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043
J. S. Bach: Ouverture No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067
J. S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054

Sergei Babayan, piano
Jennifer Gunn, flute
Laura Park and Rebecca Benjamin, violins
Music Institute of Chicago Academy Orchestra
James Setapen, conductor
Bach Week Festival Orchestra
Richard Webster, conductor
Presented in collaboration with the Music Institute of Chicago

Friday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.
Anderson Chapel, North Park University
5149 N. Spaulding Ave., Chicago
Festival Finale: “Sensational Singers”

J. S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 544
J. S. Bach: Motet “Fürchte dich nicht,” BWV 228
J. S. Bach: Motet “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden,” BWV 230
Georg Philipp Telemann: Suite in A minor for recorder and strings  
J. S. Bach: Cantata “Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens,” BWV 148

Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano
Ryan Townsend Strand, tenor
Lisette Kielson, recorder
Richard Webster, organ
Bach Week Festival Chorus
North Park University Chamber Singers
Members of Bella Voce
Bach Week Festival Orchestra
Richard Webster, conductor

Tickets and Information
Single-admission tickets to each of the three main concerts $50 for VIP seating, $40 adult general admission; $25 seniors, $15 students. Subscriptions to the main concerts are $100 for VIP seating; $80 adult general admission, $60 for seniors, and $25 for students.

All tickets for the April 26 Candlelight Concert are $25 and include a glass of champagne and a selection of gourmet chocolates.

Tickets can be purchased online at bachweek.org or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email [email protected]

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