Bach and Family Ties

The deep connections that can only be forged through a family are at the foundation of a performance by violinist Janine Jansen and her father, Jan Jansen, on The Bach Hour.

On the program:


French Suite No. 5 in G, BWV 816 - Till Fellner, piano

Cantata BWV 26 Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (translation) - Yukari Nonoshita, soprano; Robin Blaze, alto; Makoto Sakurada, tenor; Peter Kooy, bass; Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, conductor

Chorale Prelude on Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig, BWV 644 - Simon Preston, organ (Metzler Organ at Trinity College, Cambridge)

Sonata for harpsichord and violin in C minor, BWV 1017 - Janine Jansen, violin; Jan Jansen, harpsichord

TRANSCRIPT:

[MUSIC]

Brian McCreath (BM): For all the beauty and invention you hear in any of Bach’s music, there’s another essential part of it you don’t hear:  family.  Johann Sebastian was brought up in an extended family full of musicians, giving him a day-to-day experience that was like a springboard for his own genius.

[MUSIC]

Violinist Janine Jansen also comes from a musical family, and what you’re hearing is a collaboration of two generations through Bach’s music.

[MUSIC]

Family ties bring together Bach, Janine Jansen, and her father, coming up on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC]

Hello, I'm Brian McCreath;  welcome to The Bach Hour from 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston, a part of WGBH Boston. It’s easy to think of musical genius as a beautiful aberration, the product of a lightning bolt from beyond the known world.  But just as Bach’s genius really built on the foundation of at least four generations of musicians, Janine Jansen’s stellar career as a concert violinist is in part a result of her own musical upbringing.  Later in the hour you’ll hear Janine Jansen and her father, Jan, in a sonata by Bach.

Also on the program is Bach’s Cantata No. 26, Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, or “Ah, how fleeting, ah, how insignificant.”  You can find a translation of the text for that piece at our web site Classical WCRB dot org, where you can also hear this program again on-demand.  Again, that’s at Classical WCRB dot org.

For now, here is one of the ways Bach built his family’s musical legacy.  This is a keyboard piece taken from the notebook of works he assembled for his second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach. Till Fellner plays the French Suite No. 5.

[MUSIC]

That’s Till Fellner with Bach’s French Suite No. 5.  That piece is one part of  the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, assembled by J.S. Bach as a way to further the musical abilities of his second wife.  

Just a couple of years after writing that French Suite, Bach wrote his Cantata No. 26, Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, or “Ah, how fleeting, ah, how insignificant.”  It’s our earthly lives that are fleeting, compared in the text of the opening chorus to a mist that suddenly appears, and then quickly disappears.  To reflect this capriciousness in musical terms, Bach sets up a kinetic instrumental texture, with scales and lines crossing and re-crossing each other, nothing remaining in one place for very long.  Even the chorale tune on which Bach based the piece is in the upper voices, seemingly ready to fly away at any minute.

The mist of the first movement turns to liquid in the second movement, as the tenor compares our lives to rushing water, something you can hear in the melody itself.

[MUSIC]

Later the bass soloist warns against the seductiveness of earthly treasures, and the way Bach communicates that through music is pure genius.  He sets the aria as a Bouree, a type of French dance that’s meant to represent earthly pleasures.  But it’s in a minor key, with a trio of menacing oboes trading phrases with the soloist.

[MUSIC]

What was a seductive dance has now become twisted, maybe even evil.

If you’d like to see a translation of this piece from Boston’s Emmanuel Music, just visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org.

Here is Bach’s Cantata No. 26, with soprano Yukari Nonshita, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooy.  Masaaki Suzuki conducts Bach Collegium Japan, here on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC]

The Cantata No. 26 by Bach, Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, or “Ah, how fleeting, ah, how insignificant.”  The soloists included soprano Yukari Nonshita, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooy.  Masaaki Suzuki conducted Bach Collegium Japan.

Those fleeting, kinetic qualities Bach built into the Cantata 26 are also built into an organ prelude based on the same chorale tune.  Here it is, with organist Simon Preston.

[MUSIC]

A prelude by Bach on the chorale Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, performed here by Simon Preston.

Coming up, violinist Janine Jansen plays Bach with a collaborator who knows her better than anyone:  her own father.

As impossible as it is for us to fathom the depths of J.S. Bach’s genius, there’s no question that whatever natural gifts he possessed, they were nurtured to their fullest extent by his extended family.  His father was a town musician in Eisenach, and after Bach’s parents died when he was eleven, he spent the next few years with his brother, an accomplished organist. 

Dutch violinist Janine Jansen also comes from a musical family.  In fact, the cantata performance you heard a few minutes ago featured her uncle, Peter Kooy.  So when she got the chance to record some of Bach’s concertos and chamber works, she turned to a collaborator who knows her better than just about anyone else in the world:  her own father.  Here is the Sonata No. 4 in C minor.  Janine Jansen is the violinist, and her father, Jan Jansen plays harpsichord.

[MUSIC]

Violinist Janine Jansen and her father, harpsichordist Jan Jansen, with the fourth in a series of six sonatas for violin and harpsichord by J.S. Bach.  That performance of the Violin Sonata in C minor is included in a collection of concertos and sonatas Janine Jansen recorded with several friends and relatives, among them her father and her brother, cellist Maarten Jansen.

Remember, you can hear this program again on-demand when you visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org. 

Thank you for joining me today, and thanks also to audio engineer Antonio Oliart Ros.  I’m Brian McCreath, and I’ll hope to have your company again next week here on The Bach Hour.