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Trevor Pinnock and a Bach Masterpiece, Re-Imagined

Conductor Trevor Pinnock, sitting against a brick wall in sunshine, wearing a lavender scarf
Gerard Collett
Trevor Pinnock

On The Bach Hour, the renowned harpsichordist and conductor draws on decades of interpretive experience to conduct Bach's Partita No. 5, re-imagined for chamber orchestra.

On the program:

Chorale Prelude on Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 687 (arr. Kurtág) - Márta and György Kurtág

Cantata BWV 170 Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust (translation) - Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Petra Müllejans, conductor

Partita No. 5 in G, BWV 829 (arr. Thomas Oehler) - Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble with guests from the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory, Toronto, Trevor Pinnock, conductor

TRANSCRIPT:

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Brian McCreath This is harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock’s first recording of Bach’s Partita No. 5, released in 1985.

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And this is Trevor Pinnock’s recording of the same piece, released in 2023.

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Brian McCreath Known for decades as one of the standard-bearers of historically informed performance, Pinnock and his young musicians from the Royal Academy of Music and the Glenn Gould School paint Bach’s harpsichord music with a graceful orchestral brush, coming up on The Bach Hour.

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Brian McCreath Hello, I’m Brian McCreath. Welcome to The Bach Hour from WCRB, Classical Radio Boston. While there is no shortage of arrangements and transcriptions of Bach’s music, few of them have been undertaken with the intimate knowledge Trevor Pinnock brings to the composer’s harpsichord music. He worked with composer Thomas Oehler in a “re-imagining” Bach’s harpsichord Partitas, and you’ll hear one of those pieces later in the program. Also coming up is the Cantata No. 170, Vergnügte Ruh’, beliebte Seelenlust, or “Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul.” And you’ll find a link to a translation of that piece from Emmanuel Music at Classical dot org.

Some of the most fascinating music of the post-World War 2 generation of composers is that of Gyorgy Kurtag. But Kurtag has also made deeply moving arrangements of Bach’s music for piano four hands, which he would often play with his wife, Marta before her passing in 2019. This is their recording of Kurtag’s arrangement of Bach’s chorale prelude on “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir,” or “Out of deep anguish, I call to you,” here on The Bach Hour.

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Brian McCreath Bach’s prelude on the chorale “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir,” arranged by Gyorgy Kurtag, who recorded this performance with his wife, Marta, in 1996.

I’m Brian McCreath, and you’re listening to The Bach Hour.

The opening of Bach’s Cantata No. 170, Vergnügte Ruh’, beliebte Seelenlust is a beautiful aria that expresses the words “Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul, you cannot be found among the sins of hell, but rather in the concord of heaven.”

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Brian McCreath But that calming vision of heaven is challenged by its opposite, namely life on earth. And it’s not a pretty picture, as the soloist sings, “The world, that house of sin, erupts only in hellish songs, and attempts, through hatred and envy, to carry Satan's image upon itself.”

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Brian McCreath It’s a cry of pain, which Bach magnifies by leaving out any musical foundation, resulting in a desolate, unmoored sense of insecurity.

For a believer, the cure for that insecurity is leaving behind earthly life to reunify with the divine in heaven, an idea vividly expressed in a final aria on the words “It sickens me to live longer, therefore take me away, Jesus! … let me find this dwelling-place where I myself shall be at peace.”

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Brian McCreath Remember, you can find a translation of the text for this piece at our website, Classical WCRB dot org.

Here is Bach’s Cantata No. 170, with mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, led by Petra Müllejans, here on The Bach Hour.

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Brian McCreath The Cantata No. 170 by Bach, Vergnügte Ruh’, beliebte Seelenlust, or “Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul,” in a performance by mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and director Petra Müllejans.

In the early 1970’s British harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock founded The English Concert, which went on to become one of the world’s premiere ensembles devoted to historically informed performance. And in the meantime, Pinnock established his own reputation as one of the premiere harpsichordists of his time. Eventually, Pinnock moved on to a more educational role, working with students at the Royal Academy of Music, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2022.

And just a year later, the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble, joined by musicians from Toronto’s Glenn Gould School, recorded a set of works their conductor Trevor Pinnock knew very well: Bach’s six keyboard partitas, newly reimagined for chamber orchestra by composer Thomas Oehler. Here is one of those works, the Partita No. 5, here on The Bach Hour.

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Brian McCreath The Partita No. 5 by Bach, originally for harpsichord and re-imagined for chamber orchestra by Thomas Oehler. Trevor Pinnock led the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble and musicians from the Glenn Gould School.

Remember, you’ll find more of The Bach Hour online at Classical 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.