Bach is back and bigger than ever. Connoisseur Concerts’ 17th Northwest Bach Festival begins tonight with an organ recital at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral. It will end next weekend, some 21 events later, with two performances of J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” conducted by Gunther Schuller.
This year marks Schuller’s third season as the festival’s artistic director. Schuller received the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for music and was recently named Composer of the Year by Musical America. Schuller has brought together such Spokane performers and visiting soloists as bass John Shirley-Quirk for this year’s performances.
In addition to the Bach Festival’s four concert performances, there is a series of Bach Seminar lectures and master classes by festival performers at Eastern Washington University and a vocal master class at Whitworth College.
Although tickets are required for all Bach Fest concerts except tonight’s organ recital (which is free), most other events are free.
“The recital is our contribution to the community for its support of the Bach Festival,” says Grant Smith, president of the Connoisseur Concerts board. “Naturally, we’ll give those who come to the recital a chance to contribute further, and we think they’ll want to.”
“Bach’s Organ Fireworks” - The Bach Festival opens tonight at 8 with an organ recital by Stefan Kozinski. Kozinski’s program will include the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the Fantasy and Fugue in G minor and the “Great” Fantasy in G major.
Along with Bach’s own fireworks, Kozinski is also performing Bachinspired compositions by Mozart, Schumann and Franck along with Dietrich Buxtehude’s Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp minor.
Kozinski, trained at Princeton University and at the Juilliard School, is well-known in Spokane as a composer, conductor, arranger and pianist. He served as artistic director of the Northwest Bach Festival from 1987 to 1992 and has performed as organist in the festival for the past three seasons.
The organ at Our Lady of Lourdes is an unusual one, inaugurated just last year. The instrument combines what is really three instruments: a small gallery organ in the choir loft at the rear of the cathedral built in 1914, a similar-sized instrument added in 1973 in the transept near the front of the church and a large new Allen digital electronic organ added last year.
“Dazzling Solo Bach” - Sunday afternoon at The Met, some of Bach’s chamber music masterpieces will be played by violinist Kelly Farris, cellist Colin Carr, viola da gambaist Margriet Tindemans and harpsichordist Ilton Wjuniski.
Wjuniski was born in Brazil and trained in Europe where he studied with Huguette Dreyfus, Kenneth Gilbert and Gustav Leonhardt. While a student at the Paris Conservatory, Wjuniski won a first prize in each of his four years there. He now lives near Paris and teaches at the Conservatoire Claude Debussy and the Ecole Nationale de Musique in Bobigny. This is Wjuniski’s third season performing at the Bach Festival.
Farris, a graduate of Juilliard where he studied with Ivan Galamian and members of the Juilliard Quartet, is concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony, first violinist of the Spokane String Quartet and professor of music at Eastern Washington University. Farris will Bach, play Bach’s Sonata in G minor for Solo Violin.
Carr, born (like the Beatles) in Liverpool, studied with Maurice Gendron and has won the Naumburg Award, the Piatiagorsky Memorial Award and was first-prize winner in the Young Concert Artist’s International Auditions. He has been a member of the faculty of the New England Conservatory in Boston since 1983. Carr will perform three of Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello.
Tindemans, one of the world’s leading players of historical stringed instruments from the medieval rebec to the modern cello, was born in Holland and has played and recorded with several early music groups, notably Sequentia. During the festival she will perform on the viola da gamba, an instrument that looks like a cello but has more strings and had a fingerboard with raised frets like a guitar.
Tindemans teaches at the University of Washington where she leads its early music ensemble. She will be joined by Wjuniski in Bach’s Sonata in D major for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord.
“A Tribute to Anna Magdelena Bach” - After the virtuoso music of the festival’s opening programs, Bach’s more intimate side is reflected in Wednesday’s program at The Met. Wjuniski and Tindemans, along with soprano Janet Brown, will perform music written by Bach for his wife Anna Magdelena and their children.
Brown replaces Boston soprano Jeanne Ommerle who had to bow out of the festival because of a health crisis in her family. Brown began her career in Boston where she was a student at the New England Conservatory. An Affiliate Artist at Syracuse University’s School of Music, Brown has performed early music with Banchetto Musicale, the Handel and Haydn Society and Early Music of Boston, as well as opera with PepsiCo Summerfare and the American Repertory Theater.
Each of the Bach Festival concerts will be preceded by a pre-performance talk by Verne Windham, music director of public radio station KPBX and former principal horn of the Spokane Symphony.
MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: The NW Bach Fest, opens tonight, runs through Jan. 22. Tickets: $16, $12 for seniors, $7 for students Program information, 326-4942; EWU’s Bach lectures and master classes, 359-2241; vocal master class at Whitworth, 466-3280.