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The Sebastians Tenth Anniversary NYC Concert Series begins with a celebration of the concerto—flashy, funky, and fun. Come hear a large assortment of soloists shine in this dazzling program featuring two Brandenburg concerti by our namesake, J.S. Bach, and quirky concerti by by Pisendel and W.F. Bach.
It can be surprising to remember that the concerto is a relatively modern form—a more recent creation than the sonata or fugue, and astonishingly young compared to the toccata or prelude! The word concerto was used in the early baroque to describe sacred pieces for voices and instruments in which the instruments had their own parts (as opposed to merely doubling the voices). In the late 1600s, the concerto grosso form became more common, in which an orchestra is divided into soloists (“concertists”) and the others (“ripienists”). Corelli’s concerti were particularly popular, along with concertos by Geminiani, and Torelli, and seemed to spur many other composers to think about showcasing the virtuosity of solo instruments in contrast to the rest of the orchestra. Antonio Vivaldi was known for his concerti, which built on Corelli’s division of solo and tutti sections and use of sequences to prolong musical material, and standardized the structure with repeating instrumental ritornelli for the full orchestra, which alternated with sections for the soloist or soloists. J.S. Bach spent a long time studying, arranging, and performing Vivaldi’s concerti, which we can see in Bach’s concerti.
In fact, J.S. Bach was the first composer to write any concerti featuring the harpsichord, and it is easy to see the evolution the form took in the ensuing centuries, eventually becoming a centerpiece of the pianist’s repertoire. Bach’s son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach wrote four harpsichord concertos, all rather odd pieces!
The later baroque period saw an incredible mix of concerti for solo instruments—like Pisendel’s. Pisendel was considered one of the finest violinists in all of Europe, the dedicatee of works by Telemann and Vivaldi, among others. It’s even possible that Bach’s violin concerti were written for Pisendel. We can certainly see evidence of his unbelievable skills in the violin writing of his ten concerti. Like W.F. Bach’s harpsichord concerti, they are odd pieces with unusual shapes and irregular phrases, which may explain why they are rarely performed today. For this performance, we had to go to the manuscript and make a modern score, since none had yet been made.
At the same time as the solo concerto was becoming ever-more prominent, the older-style concerto grosso continued to be used throughout the eighteenth centuries and beyond. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti are themselves concerti grossi for a wide variety of solo instruments. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 uses a solo group of violin, oboe, recorder, and trumpet, all with prominent solo lines. Brandenburg No. 4 uses a solo group of violin—perhaps the most insanely virtuosic of Bach’s concerti—and two recorders (which Bach labels fiauti d’echo, though no-one knows why!). The Concerto for Violin and Oboe is one of Bach’s most charming, with a particularly sensitive first movement, a stunning second movement siciliano, and a stern, contrapuntal finale.
The concerto is in many ways a representation of society—the balance between being a star and a team player, sometimes with other stars around you (as in a concerto grosso). All the members of the Sebastians are soloists in their own right, so we can’t wait to showcase so many soloists in this program!
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2
Toccata in D minor for harpsichord, BWV 913
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4
Johann Georg Pisendel (1688–1755)
Violin concerto in G minor
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–84)
Harpsichord Concerto in A minor, F. 45
Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto for oboe and violin, BWV 1060R
Josh Cohen*, trumpet
Daphna Mor*, recorder
Margaret Owens*, oboe and recorder
Nicholas DiEugenio*, Daniel Lee*, Edson Scheid, violin
Stephen Goist, viola
Ezra Seltzer, cello
Nathaniel Chase, contrabass and G violone
Jeffrey Grossman*, harpsichord
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Vivian Mayers stepped in for violinist Nicholas DiEugenio for this performance.
Safety and COVID-19
The safety of our performers, staff, and audience are of the utmost importance to us. More details are below, but the main points in our COVID safety plan are:
- All performers, staff, and audience members will be fully vaccinated—acceptable forms of proof are listed below.
- All staff and audience members will remain masked. Musicians have all been tested multiple times this week and may be unmasked.
- Not feeling well? Change of plans? Please stay home and you’ll receive a link to the digital broadcast a week or two after the performance.
Detailed COVID-19 Protocols for September 10, 2022
All our staff and musicians are fully vaccinated. We require proof of vaccination to attend our concerts in person. Your proof can be a photo or copy of your CDC vaccination card, the New York State Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus, or any similar official vaccination record.
We ask that audience members please wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth while inside the building. If you do not have a mask, we can provide one. Performers—all vaccinated and tested multiple times throughout the week—may unmask while performing.
By purchasing a ticket and attending a concert, you acknowledge that despite all reasonable precautions, there are risks in attending live musical events and you agree to accept those risks yourself. You release the Sebastians (legally, Sebastian Chamber Players, Inc.) from any claims based on your attendance of one of our concerts. Your in-person concert ticket also grants you access to the virtual concert experience—available a week or two after the performance. If you are not feeling well, have been recently exposed to COVID-19, or have recently tested positive for COVID-19, please stay home and rest. If you have any questions or need assistance, we are always reachable at email@example.com.