Wed 12.6.2019 09.00 pm National Library, Helsinki

Eine kleine Bachmusik

Lute Night and Aria at the Library

J. S. Bach

FiBO Players:
  Hanna Haapamäki, recorder
  Anni Elonen, violin
  Jussi Seppänen, cello
  Eero Palviainen, lute


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), who worked in Leipzig from 1723 until his death, did not only work as Cantor at St. Thomas, but also as the musical director of four churches in the city. In 1729, the year his St. Matthew Passion was premiered, Bach was also appointed leader for the city’s Collegium Musicum. It was a musical society founded by Telemann in the beginning of the century, where students, amateurs and local or occasional visitors made music together with professional musicians. Bach would give concerts with this group every week on Friday nights at Café Zimmermann. The greatest lutist of his time, Sylvius Leopold Weiss, who lived in Dresden among other places, is known to have visited Zimmermann’s to play. The coffee house concerts presented a great number of Bach’s chamber music, harpsichord concertos, often with Bach’s sons Friedemann and Emanuel, and cantatas that Bach composed so many of that they could be performed in church each Sunday and church holiday for five years.

Bach, opposite to many of his contemporaries, marked the intended instrumentation very clearly in his compositions. On the other hand, Bach was also a great lover of arrangements. Arranging, re-working and transposing pieces to other keys was customary during the Baroque, and Bach was not unfamiliar to modifications regarding neither his own nor his contemporary composers’ music. Bach created several versions and instrumentations of a great part of all his chamber music. Especially his over 200 maintained cantatas offer quite a lost-and-found store in this aspect. The master composer was clearly looking for various ways to express an idea through different emphases and timbres. With this kind of recycling, it is possible that Bach also wanted to make sure that his best music would be listened to more than just once.

In this night café, exceptionally on a Wednesday, four eager local musicians gather with their arrangements; amateurs or professionals, you would have to come and see for yourself. Luckily we have found a local replacement for master lutist Weiss, but conductor Bach and his harpsichord are unfortunately unable to join us this time. Apparently some fugue is still unfinished…

Duration: 1 h (no intermission)