Conversations with scholars on the life, times, music, and legacy of J.S. Bach, sponsored by Bach Society Houston.
50 Years of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute
This episode is generously sponsored by the American Bach Society (ABS), which supports the study, performance, and appreciation of the music of J.S. Bach in the U.S. and Canada. The ABS produces publications and a video lecture-concert series, sponsors conferences, and offers research grants and prizes. Information on membership, open to all, is available here.
This month we hear from Dr. Christina Fuhrmann about the history, mission, activities, personnel, and holdings of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute (RBI) at Baldwin-Wallace University, which recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The RBI houses rare sources related to J. S. Bach, his family, and contemporaries; historical reference materials; scores; recordings; and sources related to other noted figures in Western classical music. The Institute also sponsors conferences and performances, supports and collaborates with scholars at many career stages, and publishes musical editions and research. Dr. Fuhrmann is editor of the journal BACH, the RBI's important English-language journal, and gives us an inside look at the workings of a key site for Bach studies in the United States.
In our conversation, Dr. Fuhrmann references some virtual exhibits that indicate the breadth of the RBI's holdings:
1) RBI librarian Paul Cary’s virtual exhibit on the manuscript copy of the Well-Tempered Clavier, in the hand of Bach’s student H. N. Gerber, and
2) Dr. Fuhrmann's class’s virtual exhibit on Classical and Romantic era items at the RBI.
Cantata BWV 131, Historical Listening Modes, and a New Essay Collection
In this episode, Dr. Bettina Varwig of Cambridge University joins us to discuss a wide range of Bach-related topics, starting with Cantata BWV 131 (Aus der Tiefen rufe ich), which Bach Society Houston will present in a streamed Passiontide concert later this month (March 2021). We also hear about Dr. Varwig's recent research into how Bach’s Leipzig congregants listened to his cantatas in ways that differ from the “attentive listening” model now associated with Western classical music culture. The conversation concludes with a preview of the essay collection Rethinking Bach, which Dr. Varwig is currently editing for Oxford University Press.
Read more about Dr. Varwig here.
Instrumentation, text and translation(s), and additional resources for BWV 131 can be found here and here.
Stream Bach Society Houston's Passiontide Vespers performance of BWV 131 and other works on March 28, 2021, at their webpage or Facebook page.
Audio example used in episode is from an archived Bach Society Houston performance of BWV 131.
A New Bach Bio and the Solo Violin Works
In this month's episode, we hear from noted scholar and harpsichordist Dr. David Schulenberg of Wagner College. He joins us to discuss his new biography of Bach, recently published by Oxford University Press. We'll hear about the process of researching and writing this kind of book--including challenges and surprises--as well as why we need an updated biography of this formidable subject.
We also draw on aspects of Dr. Schulenberg's new biography to discuss J.S. Bach's Violin Sonatas and Partitas, which Bach Society Houston will perform in Spring 2021. Listeners will hear about the historical context and notable stylistic features of these six works, aspects of which Dr. Schulenberg helps us hear by playing excerpts of his own harpsichord transcriptions.
For more about Dr. Schulenberg, including recordings and scholarship, visit here. For Bach Society Houston's upcoming concerts, including Bach's complete solo violin works which you can stream beginning in late February, visit here.
Anna Magdalena Bach and Her Notebooks
Earlier in November, Bach Society Houston performed works from the two Anna Magdalena Bach Notebooks; you can watch the concert here. These notebooks, which originated in 1722 and 1725, respectively, were owned by Anna Magdalena Bach, J.S. Bach’s second wife. These two manuscript collections contain keyboard and vocal works of varying levels of complexity, composed by multiple people and entered into the notebooks by different scribes, including Anna Magdalena herself. In our own time, some of the more elementary pieces in the books are still well-known as teaching pieces for piano students. The notebooks are one of the few surviving sources related to Anna Magdalena Bach, who has been the subject of research, conjecture, devotion and fiction across centuries and continents. With us to talk about Anna Magdalena's musical and domestic life, her Notebooks and other sources related to her, and how we know what we think we know about her is Dr. Andrew Talle. Dr. Talle is Associate Professor of Musicology at Northwestern University and a scholar of music and society in eighteenth-century Germany. He is author of the book Beyond Bach: Music and Everyday Life in the Eighteenth Century. Stay tuned at the end of the interview to hear more about his new research into popular music in the Leipzig of Bach's time.
Resurrection, Community, and Song in 16th-Century Europe
To finish Season 4, we hear from Dr. Erin Lambert, Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. She joins us to talk about her book, Singing the Resurrection: Body, Community, and Belief in Reformation Europe, published by Oxford University Press. Our conversation covers how the Reformation fragmented late medieval belief about the body, resurrection, and community into a kaleidoscope of differing confessional notions which then found expression in song. We also talk about Erin’s research process and where her book fits with, and how it interrogates, existing Reformation historiography.
Sara Levy and the Music of the Bach Family
This month, we're diving into the world of Jewish salon culture in late-18th- and early-19th-century Berlin, a setting where women such as Sara Levy shaped the transmission and reception of Bach family music. Our guest on this episode is early music scholar and performer Dr. Rebecca Cypess, who joins us to discuss new research about Sara Levy in the book Sara Levy's World along with two related recordings by the Raritan Players: In Sara Levy's Salon and Sisters, Face to Face: The Bach Legacy in Women's Hands. Together, these projects provide new perspectives on the complicated musical and cultural agency of a notable upper-class Jewish woman in Enlightenment Germany.
A Great Podcast Find 🎶
Refreshing and Enjoyable!
Thank you 😊
Was pretty disappointed in the "Hearing Bach in the 21st Century" episode. The conversation seemed to be mostly intent on criticizing an unknown straw man who evidently sometimes reads spiritual meanings in Bach's music that aren't there. The horror! When they finally got around to analyzing the Mass, the guest just said that some movements are in an older style, and some are in a newer style. No examples, no musical excerpts, he didn't even say which movement was which. Would prefer a podcast more intent on building up than on deconstructing.