Walter Bitner

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BACHanalia 2018

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The 12th annual BACHanalia – our city’s annual Bach festival – will be held on Friday, March 16 from 4 – 10 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville. Once a year, musicians from many parts of our community come together to present this unique six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.

BACHanalia is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.

Once again this year, I was given a special glimpse of the program in advance of this year’s concert, which I leak to you here, Off The Podium readership. We’re in for a tremendous evening of music-making!

For those of you who have not attended before, a few details:

  • Admission is free!
  • Come for the entire event, or come and go as you wish (see the schedule below for this year’s selections).
  • Delicious homemade food will be available for minimal cost. These refreshments will be served and consumed in the church’s parish hall, where the concert is piped in so that patrons can grab a bite to eat without missing any of the music.
  • As in years past, BACHanalia 2018 t-shirts will be available for sale, featuring this year’s logo (above).
  • The music is presented continuously, alternating between two performance spaces: the chancel and the choir loft, so there is no “dead” time between sets.

It is one long, glorious, eclectic, paean of devotion to Sebastian’s music, and there is no other event like it in Nashville.

BACHanalia features both traditional – “mainstream” classical as well as historical performance – interpretations of Sebastian’s music alongside unusual or even radical settings or instrumentations. This year’s concert includes:

  • a complete church cantata
  • a complete motet
  • 2 complete partitas for solo violin
  • a complete sonata for violin & keyboard
  • a complete concerto for unaccompanied keyboard
  • a complete violin concerto
  • a complete Brandenburg concerto (No. 2)
  • several complete works for organ

We will also hear many, many movements from a broad selection of larger works. Unusual instrumental combinations include harp ensemble (and harp soloists), bassoon quintet, saxophone quartet, and jazz combo. Notable historical transcriptions that will be performed include Ferruccio Busoni’s 1893 transcription of the D minor Chaconne for solo piano, and the Adagio from the C Major organ toccata transcribed by Alexander Siloti and Pablo Casals for cello & piano in the 1920s. There is also an unusual transcription of the Allegro Moderato from the E flat flute sonata for tuba & piano!

Musicians and ensembles participating this year include members of the Nashville Symphony, the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra, Parthenon Chamber Orchestra, the “Bach Double” Orchestra (Suzuki students), Portara Ensemble & Nashville Concerto Orchestra, Vocal Arts Nashville, Avila Soul, Bassoonery, Nashville Saxophone Quartet, Harpistry; faculty from local universities, organists from area churches, and many other members of the Nashville musical community.

backstage at BACHanalia 2017 with the lute trio: (l to r) WB, Francis Perry, Cameron Welke

This year will mark my sixth and seventh performances at this annual event: I’m slated to play recorder on Cantata BWV 39 with Portara & the Nashville Concerto Orchestra, and I will also perform the Italian Concerto on solo piano.

I am very much looking forward to these experiences.

Last year I played treble lute in a lute trio on two beautiful arrangements of chorale preludes transcribed by my colleague and fellow lutenist Francis Perry (we both studied with the same teacher, the late, great Patrick O’Brien). In one of Francis’s arrangements my part had for a number of measures a series of half notes soaring above the busy passagework the other two lutenists were playing. Confident enough in my ability to play this section well without reading my part, I glanced up from the music on my stand to look at the audience, and realized why I love performing at BACHanalia so much. The audience was listening with a rapt and devotional attention that gave back to us support, affection, and a shared love of Sebastian’s deep and renewing genius. For me, that moment expressed the essence of why this event is so special.

Thank you so much to the musicians of Nashville for this tremendous event, to Christ Church Cathedral for hosting it every year, and to all of the volunteers who make it possible. If you see them, please take a moment to express your gratitude to Susan Dupont, Joel Treybig, Carolyn Treybig, and everyone else who has contributed to nurturing, organizing, and producing this unique, beloved annual event for twelve years now. We are so fortunate.

Here’s a synopsis of the schedule, which is not quite complete yet and subject to change. As I learn about corrections or updates I will make them below.

4 pm

Fantasie in C minor (Fantasia pro Organo à 5 Vocum), BWV 562
Michael Velting, organ

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from BWV 147, arr. Sam Levine
Sam Levine Quartet

Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
Denise Baker, violin

Prelude und Fugue, BWV 857
Nashville Saxophone Quartet

5 pm

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra
Christopher Norton, artistic director & conductor
Joel Treybig, trumpet
Carolyn Treybig, flute
Grace Woodworth, oboe
Elisabeth Small, violin

Largo from Sonata No. 3 for Violin, BWV 1005
Prelude in Bb from The Well Tempered Clavier I, BWV 866
Sarabande from Partita No. 1 for Violin, BWV 1002
Prelude and Fugue in Eb from The Well Tempered Clavier II, BWV 876
Harpistry: The Nashville Harp Ensemble
Carol McClure, director
Samantha Schrecker, Vicki Searl,
Amy Shafer, Nathan Springman, Emily Stewart, harps

Buss und Reu from St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
Sarah Bronchetti, mezzo-soprano
Jennifer McGuire, piano
Geb’ mir meinen Jesum wieder from St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
Ruben Roy, baritone
Jennifer McGuire, piano

6 pm

Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043
Bach Double Orchestra

“Quia respexit” from Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
“Bereite dich, Zion” from Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248
Jennifer M. Coleman, mezzo soprano
Grace Woodworth, oboe; Kris Elsberry, piano

Adagio from Toccata in C Major, BWV 564
Sari Reist, cello
Alessandra Volpi, piano

Fugue in Eb major, BWV 552b (St. Anne)
Gregg Bunn, organ

Sonata No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1016
Teresa Hargrove, violin
Sandra Murray, piano

7 pm

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225
Vocal Arts Nashville
Matthew Phelps, Artistic Director

French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816
Michael Gebhart, harpsichord

Chorale Prelude: Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehre, BWV 662
Woosug Kang, organ

Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39
Portara Ensemble & Nashville Concerto Orchestra
Patrick Dunnevant, conductor
Walter Bitner, Yvonne Kendall, recorders
Stephanie Bettig, Keith Sorrels, oboes
Edkelley Sanford, Katri Gilbert, violins
Marie Winget, viola
Larissa Maestro, cello
Mickey Rybiski, double bass

8 pm

Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
Emily Hanna Crane, violin
The Parthenon Chamber Orchestra
David P. Sartor, conductor
David Johnson, Anne Landis Jetton, Nancy Alvarado, Mary Black,
Nikki Wilson, Parisa Sarfehjoo, Gyorgyi Sutt, Paula Kay Beswick, violins
Cheri Drummond, Tina Simpson, Sara Johnson, violas
Lindsey Smith-Trostle, Meghan Berindean, cellos
John Ownby, Mickey Rybiski, double bass

Allegro Moderato from Sonata No. 2 in E Flat Major, BWV 1031
Chris Vivio, tuba
Anne Marie Padelford Robidoux, piano

Chaconne from Partita in D minor, BWV 1004, transc. Busoni
Matt Phelps, piano

Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006
Elisabeth Small, violin

9 pm

Italian Concerto, BWV 971
Walter Bitner, piano

Prelude in B minor, BWV 544
Nicholas Bergin, organ

Presto from Italian Concerto, BWV 971, arr. Mordechai  Rechtman
Pat Gunter, Wilson Sharpe, Harold Skelton, Andrew Witherington, bassoons

Fugue in G major, BWV 577
Michael Gebhart, organ

Sarabande from Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004, arr. Melanie Alvey
Avila Soul

*       *       *


Our Friend Sebastian:

Our Friend Sebastian

The Brandenburg Concertos


Martin & Sebastian

The Italian Concerto

Bach on the Lute: 70 Years of Recordings, Part I


Sebastian’s Music in Nashville:

BACHanalia 2016

BACHanalia 2017

BACHanalia 2018

BACHanalia 2019

Christmas Oratorio at West End United Methodist




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