By Megan Ruge Living and arts editor
Amici Musicae of Leipzig, Germany performed in Stretansky Concert Hall on Feb. 21 as part of the Martha Barker Blessing Musician-in-residence series.
The group is considered the No. 1 force in the performance of the choral and orchestral works of Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig, Germany, the location in which Bach was church music director for 27 years of his life.
“[The performance] is a unique chance to experience the performance tradition of Bach music first-hand because those people come from the city of Leipzig where Bach lived and worked for 27 years,” lecturer in music Ilya Blinov said. “So it is a unique chance for all of us.”
The performance consisted of several of Bach church cantata’s. Oxford Music online defines a cantata as “literally a piece to be sung, as opposed to a ‘sonata,’ an instrumental work to be played. The term applies to a variety of genres, but most usually to ones featuring a solo voice, with instrumental accompaniment and quite often of a quasi-dramatic character.”
Associate professor of music Marcos Krieger gave an introduction to the history of the program. This allowed the audience members, who might not have background knowledge of the composer, to get an idea of the program before it was played.
Blinov said this group is “the source of how this music is performed because they are a part of the tradition.”
The performance began with one of Bach’s earliest works, “BWV 4: Christ lag in Todesbanden,” which means “Christ lay in the bonds of death,” a piece written for Easter Sunday.
The performance ended with “BWV 196: Der Herr denket an uns.” Krieger said the piece’s first movement sounds like that of a processional, leading many to believe it might have been written for the wedding of Johann Lorenz Stauber, the minister in Dornheim who married Bach and his first wife.
“The conductor is from the choir that Bach himself conducted almost 300 years ago,” Blinov said. regarding the authenticity of the group and how they conveyed Bach through their music.
“How you phrase this, how you phrase that. That playfulness of phrasing, that clarity is absolutely incredible,” Blinov added.
While at Susquehanna, the group offered a master class that allowed students to work with members of the group. Master classes are an opportunity for students to work with professionals in a given field to further the skill set and knowledge they have for the future.
“The soloists, the alto and the tenor, worked with our singers and they specifically worked on the phrasing. They worked on pronunciation, they worked on the sound and again it’s invaluable,” Blinov said.
Blinov added that the repertoire focused on in the master class was not Bach, but was in fact German music, which is the group’s area of expertise.
“It was German repertoire and these musicians could give wonderful insights,” Blinov said.
The group also offered insight to orchestral students.
“There were two cellists. The 23-year-old male, Jakob, studies cello at university. The 19-year-old female, Paula, studies medicine. We worked on a piece by [Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov] that the Susquehanna orchestra will be performing in April at their concert,” first-year Vicky Meneses said.
The group is currently on tour and will be headed next to perform in New Jersey. For this performance, Amici Musicae has invited several Susquehanna students to perform with them.
The students invited to perform are senior Sean Stead, sophomore Rebekka Rosen and first-years Pepper Joulwan, Sarah Franzone, Briana Heinly and Meneses.