ENF’s Composer of the Year!

Posted on 30th March 2015 by Svend McEwan-Brown

No competition. Johann Sebastian Bach is definitely the composer of the year at ENF in 2015.

Over the course of 6 days and 6 concerts we will hear solo works for cello and violin, a wonderfully beguiling cantata, 2-part inventions arranged for violin and viola and masterpieces from among his organ works. We will hear his work juxtaposed with music so fresh and new it has not yet been made: Hugo Ticciati improvising around the Master. We will hear him alongside living composers for whom he is a deep inspiration: I mean Pärt and Gubaidulina above all. We also hear him alongside his greatest contemporary rival, Handel.

I never set out for this to happen. I am a firm believer that themes stifle the imagination of the programmer, yet, each year at some point in the planning process I wake up and discover that one has emerged despite me. I never regret it once the theme has become apparent: it offers food for thought and a pathway through the concerts, a reason to attend this concert not that one. If someone attended nothing but the concerts featuring Bach at ENF this year they would have a wonderfully rich, diverse and authentically ENF experience.

Bach is a gift to the programmer. One obvious reason is that he wrote so much superb music and in such a wide array of genres from the immense choral works to the solo suites. His emotional range is so comprehensive, from the most ecstatic joy to cataclysmic despair. And let’s not overlook the less extreme moods: contentment, mild anxiety, uncertainty, equanimity, sleepiness, over-stimulation… At the risk of contradiction by someone more informed than me, I say that there is literally a piece of Bach for every occasion.

You can also place Bach’s music in any setting. There is a timelessness and inner strength to it that makes it utterly resilient in any treatment or interpretation. I have heard it transformed into pop and rock songs, jazz, postmodern classics, symphonic arrangements, film soundtracks… It never ceases to be Bach. And at the same time, his music sits fantastically alongside music of any other period, including our own.

There are two unique approaches to Bach at ENF this year that I would draw special attention to, both involving traditional music. I have to thank Duncan Chisholm for telling me about the MacDonald Collection – 18th century tunes (probably from Bach’s lifetime) from the Highlands that were probably originally all songs. Now, minus their words, they survive as substantial melodies for fiddle. Duncan will team up with Philip Higham to find a bridge between the Highlands of Scotland and Leipzig. Facing across Europe in the opposite direction, Maxim Rysanov and Alexander Sitkovetsky will pair Bach and the Hungarian, Bartók. Bartók wrote wonderful short duos for string instruments, mostly inspired by folk dances. Our fiddlers are taking these and working them in and around Bach’s Two Part Inventions – familiar to any keyboard student. What will happen? We will see, but I bet it is brilliant.

For more details on the events featuring Bach, please click on the Programme link from the menu above and select the relevant day. Alternatively, to book tickets directly from Hub Tickets website, click on the concert titles below.

Time Travellers 1 – Monday 29 June, 7.30pm, Dunino Church
Hugo Ticciati violin

Time Travellers 2 – Tuesday 30 June, 7.30pm, Kilconquhar Church
Philip Higham cello
Andreas Borregaard classical accordion

Time Travellers 4 – Thursday 2 July, 4pm, St Monans Church
Duncan Chisholm fiddle
Philip Higham cello

Time Travellers 5 – Saturday 4 July, 11.30am, Crail Church
Alexander Sitkovetsky violin
Maxim Rysanov

Handel & Bach – Saturday 4 July, 7.30pm, Cambo Barn
Dunedin Consort
John Butt

Bach at the Organ – Sunday 5 July, 2pm, Crail Church
John Butt organ