Bach Trios, from Meyer, Ma, and Thile
Three close collaborators bring Bach's music into their own distinct sound world, and Masaaki Suzuki leads the Cantata No. 74 on The Bach Hour.
On the program:
Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter, BWV 650 - Chris Thile, mandolin; Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Edgar Meyer, bass
Cantata BWV 74 Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten (translation) - Yukari Nonoshita, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Makoto Sakurada, tenor; Peter Kooij, bass; Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, conductor
Trio Sonata No. 6 in G, BWV 530 - Chris Thile, mandolin; Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Edgar Meyer, bass
Concerto for Three Pianos and Strings, BWV 1063 - Christoph Eschenbach, Gerhard Oppitz, and Justus Frantz, pianos; Hamburg Philharmonic
Each of the three musical voices in this Trio Sonata by Bach is the very definition of “musical omnivore.”
In other words, they’ll play anything, as long as it inspires them.
And for all the folk and bluegrass, classical concertos, indie rock, and envelope-pushing new music they all play, one composer remains at the foundation: Bach.
Mandolinist Chris Thile, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and bassist Edgar Meyer are coming up on The Bach Hour.
I’m Brian McCreath; welcome to The Bach Hour, from Classical Radio Boston WCRB, part of WGBH. Great musical performances are the result of a pretty simple formula. Start with the vision of a composer, and add performers with chemistry. But it’s really not that simple, is it? The reason amazing performances stick in our minds is that both parts of that formula, the composition itself and the people who perform it, are infinitely variable. And sometimes, those variables line up in such unexpected ways that the result is utterly unique. Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer have an undeniable chemistry, and on the program today, you’ll hear more of how that plays out in Bach’s music. Also on The Bach Hour is the Cantata No. 74, Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, or “Whoever loves Me will keep My Word.” And you’ll find a translation of the text for that piece from Emmanuel Music when you visit Classical WCRB dot org, where you can also hear this program again on-demand. Again, that’s at Classical WCRB dot org.
The Cantata 74 is one of countless examples of Bach re-working an earlier piece - in this case the Cantata 59 - for a new context. It’s the same idea with Bach’s prelude on the chorale “Come, thou Jesus, from heaven to earth,” which is based on an aria from the Cantata 137. With their own take on it, here are Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 721]
That’s one of six chorale preludes Bach published just a couple of years before he died. They’re known as the Schuebler Chorales, and this one - “Come, thou Jesus, from heaven to earth” - was performed by mandolinist Chris Thile, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and bassist Edgar Meyer. And you’ll hear much more from them later in the program.
I’m Brian McCreath, and you’re listening to The Bach Hour, from WCRB.
When you think of the cultural impact of Christmas and even Easter in our time, it seems odd that, in Bach’s time, a third Christian celebration was equally significant. In all, Bach wrote no fewer than nine cantatas for the three-day festival of Pentecost, when, as the story goes, the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples. Theologically speaking, it’s the birthday of the church.
Bach’s Cantata 74 looks at this celebration not by telling the story, but rather by expressing the implications of it for a believer. Jesus’s own words launch the piece through the chorus, confirming that his spirit will live in anyone who’s open to it. The soprano soloist responds in an aria that embodies that openness and the desire of a believer.
After the bass soloist confirms the relationship, once again through Jesus’s words, the tenor celebrates with a stunning aria that not only expresses the believer’s joy, but also a threat, singing that “Satan will try to damage Your faithful very sorely.”
The bass then sings words from Paul’s letter to the Romans, confirming that those who believe are free from Satan’s threat, a fact celebrated by the alto soloist, who sings, “Nothing can save me from the chains of hell except your blood, Jesus,” with those chains coming through in the music in the form of a trio of oboes and a furiously difficult violin solo.
Remember, you can find a complete translation of this piece by visiting us online at Classical WCRB dot org.
This performance of the Cantata No. 74 features soprano Yukari Nonoshita, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooij. Bach Collegium Japan is conducted by Masaaki Suzuki, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC - BWV 74]
Bach’s Cantata No. 74, for Pentecost, in a performance by Bach Collegium Japan and conductor Masaaki Suzuki, with soprano soloist YYukari Nonoshita, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooij.
Coming up, three friends come together in what one critic calls “instrumental mayhem.”
You’re listening to The Bach Hour from WCRB, online at Classical WCRB dot org.
When mandolinist Chris Thile, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and bassist Edgar Meyer got together for a series of concerts and recordings, they called it the Goat Rodeo Sessions, because they figured anything could happen. Later they got back together for Bach’s music, and if the results aren’t quite as random, the combination of their three instruments still struck Mark Swed of the LA Times as something like “instrumental mayhem.”
Here’s how it sounds. This is the Trio Sonata No. 6, originally written by Bach for his own main instrument, the organ, and played here by Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC - BWV 530]
Bach’s Trio Sonata No. 6, originally for pipe organ, and played here by mandolinist Chris Thile, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and bassist Edgar Meyer, from their Bach Trios recording.
Here’s another coming together of three musical superstars, but this time all on the same instrument. This is Bach’s Concerto for Three Pianos, with soloists Christoph Eschenbach, Gerhard Oppitz, and Justus Frantz, along with the Hamburg Philharmonic, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 1063]
Bach’s Concerto for Three Pianos, performed here by soloists Christoph Eschenbach, Gerhard Oppitz, and Justus Frantz, with the Hamburg Philharmonic.
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.