Bahrami Plays Bach in Leipzig
In a performance at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany, pianist Ramin Bahrami is the soloist in Bach's emotionally probing D minor concerto, and John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Cantata No. 45.
On the program:
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 - Peter Blanchette and Peter Michelini, archguitars
Cantata BWV 45 Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist (translation) - Robin Tyson, alto; Christoph Genz, tenor; Brindley Sherratt, bass; Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 - Ramin Bahrami, piano; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly, conductor
Brian McCreath: When conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra embarked on a major Bach recording project, they took a modern approach, but also drew inspiration from the ensemble’s own history, which can be traced back to the time of the composer himself. But when it came to the keyboard concertos, the soloist they chose was one whose roots would have been, to Bach, like a different planet.
Rahmin Bahrami was born in Iran but left that part of the world to pursue a new life in Europe. He found kindred spirits in Leipzig, and the musical results are coming up on The Bach Hour.
Hello, I'm Brian McCreath; welcome to The Bach Hour from Classical Radio Boston WCRB, a part of WGBH. Riccardo Chailly describes his Bach recordings from Leipzig as having the approach of a “Third Way,” inspired by the historically informed performances of early music specialists and executed on modern instruments. So it is that the concertos Bach wrote with the harpsichord in mind find their voice - for Chailly and the Gewandhaus musicians - through the concert grand piano, played by Rahmin Bahrami. And the most dramatic of those concertos is coming up. Also on the program today is the Cantata No. 45, Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist, or “It has been told to you, mankind, what is good.” You’ll find a translation of that piece from Boston’s Emmanuel Music when you visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org, where you can hear this program again on demand. Again, that’s at Classical WCRB dot org.
Before all of that, though, here is another of Bach’s harpsichord works, reimagined for a modern instrument. This is the Italian Concerto, performed by Archguitarists Peter Blanchette and Peter Michelini, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 971]
With 11 strings stretched over a guitar-like wooden body, the Archguitar was invented by Peter Blanchette to create an distinctive balance between the ancient sound of the lute and the modern sound of the guitar. For this transcription of Bach’s Italian Concerto, Peter Blanchette was joined by Peter Michelini.
We’ve all heard the phrase “keeping to the straight and narrow,” an expression so widely understood that you may be surprised that it comes from the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. And it’s in the very next passage in that Gospel - one that inspired Bach’s Cantata No. 45 - that Jesus mentions one way of staying on the “straight and narrow”: stay away from false prophets.
The Cantata 45 actually begins with words from Micah, in the Old Testament: Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist, or “It has been told to you, mankind, what is good.” And if all this talk of rules is already beginning to weigh you down, Bach’s setting of those words pulls off just the opposite: inspiration.
It’s after that brilliant opening chorus that things get a bit more oppressive to our modern ears, when the tenor soloist sings, “Soul, consider how to save yourself, reward follows upon obedience.”
And this is where Jesus’s words from Matthew come in. But rather than simply say, “avoid false prophets,” Jesus - through the voice of the bass soloist - says to those who are hypocrites, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you wicked ones.”
It’s harsh, and unforgiving. But hope arrives when the alto soloist affirms not only that a warm relationship with the divine is possible, but also that the divine is actually there to help the believer fulfill that relationship.
Remember, you can find a translation of the text for this piece at our website, Classical WCRB dot org.
Here is a performance of the Cantata No. 45 with alto soloist Robin Tyson, tenor Christoph Genz, and bass Brindley Sherratt. They’re joined by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in a concert performance conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 45]
This performance of the Cantata No. 45 by J.S. Bach was recorded in concert at Christ Church in Rendsburg, Germany, on August 13, 2000, during the Bach Cantata Pilgrimmage. The soloists included alto Robin Tyson, tenor Christoph Genz, and bass Brindley Sherratt, and they were joined by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.
Coming up, pianist Rahmin Bahrami and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra find a “third way” through a Bach concerto.
Earlier in the program you heard the sound of the archguitar, a modern invention by Peter Blanchette that finds a middle ground between the ancient and the modern. It’s not unlike the Bach interpretations of conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, who channel the kinetic energy of early music specialists through the rich, sonic prism of the modern orchestra. For their recording of the concertos Bach wrote for harpsichord, they turned to Iranian-born pianist Rahmin Bahrami, creating a recording Grammophone magazine described as having a “compelling viscerality without ever seeming aggressive.” From that collection, this is the Concero in D minor, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 1052]
That’s the Concerto in D minor by Bach, originally for harpsichord and performed here on the modern piano by Rahmin Bahrami, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and conductor Riccardo Chailly.
Remember, if you’d like to hear this program on demand, just 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.