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Labor Day Concert: Martin Schmeding

As part of the series of jury concerts taking place over the week of the Boston Bach International Organ Competition, jury member Martin Schmeding of Leipzig plays the annual Labor Day concert at First Lutheran Church, a program of music by Bach, Bruhns, Frescobaldi, Grigny, Krebs, Medek, Mendelssohn, van Noordt, Scheidemann, and Steigleder.

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Boston Bach International Organ Competition

The inaugural Boston Bach International Organ Competition takes place September 2-9 and is open to emerging artists of any nationality who have completed their schooling and are between the ages of 26 and 37. Sixteen contestants will arrive during the last week of August to prepare for the three rounds of the competition. The BBIOC is quadrennial like its Leipzig counterpart, and is intended to

  • promote further artistic development of players already engaged in professional careers,
  • increase the general public’s awareness of the breadth and scope of Bach’s organ music; and
  • showcase Boston as a leading center of historically informed organ building and performance practice, and home to many internationally prominent organists.

The jury consists of Arvid Gast (Lübeck), Chair; James David Christie (Boston-Oberlin), Christian Lane (Boston-McGill), Hatsumi Miura (Yokohama-Ferris), Christa Rakich (Hartford), Martin Schmeding (Leipzig), and Carole Terry (Seattle). Competition rounds take place in order at Old West Church, Church of the Advent, and First Lutheran Church. Jury concerts will be held in order at First Lutheran Church, King’s Chapel, Harvard Memorial Church, Trinity Church, and the Church of the Advent. Arvid Gast plays a Sunday afternoon concert out in Worcester at St. Joseph’s Chapel, Holy Cross College, and a winners’ concert will cap the week at First Lutheran later that evening.

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2018 Young Performers Festival: The B’More Bach Ensemble

The B’more Bach Ensemble (Peabody Conservatory) performs music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries. Today’s program consists of arias for soprano, duets for soprano and baritone, and trio and solo sonatas for baroque flute and violin with harpsichord and baroque cello continuo.

Part of EMA’s 2018 Young Performers Festival at the Bloomington Early Music Festival

This concert will be livestreamed via Facebook Live.

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A Well-Tempered Clavier Full Of Character

Rebecca Pechefsky performs Book Two of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ on her new recording.


Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book Two
Rebecca Pechefsky, harpsichord
Quill Classics QC 1013-2

By Andrew J. Sammut

CD REVIEW — While not necessarily underrepresented on record, Bach’s second volume of The Well-Tempered Clavier doesn’t garner as much attention as his first book. In her liner notes for this release, harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky points out that volume two, coming about 20 years later, builds upon the first volume’s technical challenges; students may have needed to build up their chops for this sequel, which was also never published in a definitive score. Whatever the reasons for WTC Book Two’s secondary status, Pechefsky makes an engaging addition to the catalog with confident, characterful interpretations of Bach’s “other” 24 preludes and fugues composed in all major and minor keys.

Bach’s journey across the key spectrum is, of course, responsible for much of this music’s interest. Pechefsky even discusses the particular tuning she decided upon for this release and highlights the “jangly…colorful and tangy” sound of certain keys. Prelude 1 in C major does provide a bright introduction to the set, and the voices in Fugue 2 in C-sharp minor close in on themselves for an attractively claustrophobic contrast. The E-flat major pieces are serene and graceful. The E major ones sounds downright earnest. The spiky F-sharp minor Fugue seems like 18th-century avant-garde. Yet it’s definitely Pechefsky guiding the tour of Bach’s brambles and his other harmonic experiments here.

Flowing lines and crisp rhythms are the real attraction. For the Prelude 5 In D major, with its fanfare-like ascending figures, she catches the swagger of Bach’s rhyming phrases before the still stately but more pensive Fugue 5 In D major. Pechefsky avoids the excessive mannerisms that irk many reviewers of this storied literature. There aren’t any halting agogics making things stop and start over again or over-enunciated staccato phrases. Instead, the subtly-underscored suspensions of Fugue 4 in C minor convey a sense of constant cascading pressure. Prelude 6 in D minor picks up harried momentum via spindly lines over a bulwark bass line. Prelude 7 in E-flat major unfolds sweetly, gently stepping in its rhythm and probably the most aria-like part of this recital. Prelude 8 in D-sharp minor, with its pinpoint articulation, meticulous attention to detail through the end of every phrase and precise but organic feel might be the disc’s most virtuosic moment. The pumping motor rhythm of the Prelude 15 in G major is the most sheer fun — without any hint of a sewing machine.

Pechefsky performs on a double-manual harpsichord constructed by Yves Beaupré based on a French model made by Blanchet and Hemsch. Its tone is full, with a slight edge and clean decay that further clarify intricate passagi. Its transparent sound and distinct timbre in each register aid in the overall clarity of this recital. Fugue 21 in B-flat major is a good spot to appreciate the instrument: The soprano voice rings out while the bass colors the lines from within rather than booming underneath them. Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Brooklyn, NY, provides just enough resonance to carry the sound without washing it out. The engineering is close enough to sound like you are sitting in the first pew (not on the instrument). The music remains front and center, treated with respect as well as deep personal engagement throughout.

Andrew J. Sammut has written about early music and traditional jazz for Early Music America, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, All About Jazz, and his own blog. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

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